The taste of the last child's bone marrow was almost lost, a mere echo of flavour on her thick, black tongue. The faint scent of blood, stray particles that hung in the stagnant water, stirred her senses, serving only to taunt her. Her distended belly ached and rumbled, the gnarled, yellow claws of her toes swirling the grey-green mud beneath her feet. Grey-green, like her own flesh, pallid and cold as the water in which she floated.
Ginny's world was dark, cold and lonely. She could remember, dimly, when she first made her home in the pool, that other things lived there. Fish, frogs, insects – creatures as hungry and as cold-blooded as she was, slipping and slithering and snapping at her as she swam. All long gone now, devoured by Ginny as her hunger overwhelmed her. Now there was nothing to do but wait.
The water stirred, the gentlest current rippling to the depths in which she hung, weightless. She turned her head, little more than a skull from which a few wisps of green-black hair protruded, swirling in the dank water. Her nostrils flared, her tongue protruded, testing the water. The current came again, stronger this time. She snapped her head up, blinking her yellow, rheumy eyes at the glimmer of light that managed to fight its way through the murk. Something was up there. She could taste it – warm, wet, animal.
Ginny kicked her twisted legs, propelling herself upwards, the smoothest of movements, honed by centuries of living in this narrow, fluid world. The scent increased in intensity along with the currents, as whatever was up there struggled. An injured bird, trying to right itself? A drowning rat? No, something far sweeter. She could taste the sweat and grime of the feet of a boy, playfully kicking the surface of the pool.
Did he not know? Had his parents not warned him not to play in dangerous waters? Where things like her sat and waited, their bodies warped and twisted but alive. Undying creatures, as undying as the hunger that gnawed endlessly at their guts. She kicked her way towards the surface, but it was almost too much. It had been so long since she last ate, her body felt almost as dead as it looked.
Her fevered mind, clouded by hunger and warped by age and loneliness, had scarcely room for any thought but the need to reach the surface and grab the boy, to drag him down and tear at his flesh with her claws and sharp teeth. Teeth the colour of the algae that clung to the surface of the pool, obscuring her from the world beyond and it from her.
Yet, in her mind, thoughts from ages past, came unbidden, suddenly stoked by the boy's delightfully pungent presence. How could he come here, to her pool, and so brazenly flaunt himself at her? Did he have no friends to tell him about the curse of these waters, no teachers or priests or wise women to warn him about what lurked beneath?
Perhaps he was brave. Perhaps he would fight, like she had, so very long ago. On that barely remembered morning when she had run, laughing at the very idea of a monster in the pool, but secretly wishing to see if it was real. When she had kicked her own feet in the stagnant waters and felt those claws grab her, claws of a creature who had not expected a mere child to hold a knife in her hand and furious, unstoppable anger in her heart.
Slowly, painfully, she reached the uppermost reaches of the pool. She could see him, his muddy toes, kicking and splashing in the filthy mire. She ran her black tongue over her pallid grey lips, reaching out with her bent, clawed fingers, and grabbed the boy's delicious feet.
She pulled, but the boy would not come. Her head broke the water, desperate to take her prize. Almost blinded by the morning sunlight, she could see the boy, holding on to the thick grey branch of a tree. He was screaming, but it was more than mere fear in his scream. She pulled again, rising up, her green teeth bared –
The rock hit her, hard, cracking her skull. Again and again, the force of the blow stunning her, the light of the sun blinding her, the pain and shock overcoming her. She felt the boy slip, his grip giving way, and with a splash he fell into her world, but it was too late. The final blow split her open, and Ginny, finally, gratefully, drew her last watery breath.
Jeremy, his feet bleeding from Ginny's claws, his hand cut from the rough branch he had held and the rock he had wielded, dropped into the pool. Unnatural, impossible currents pulled him down, and he held onto Ginny's cold body as the pool took him. He wished he'd listened to the warnings about the pool and its curse...
Jeremy floated in the depths of the pool. The last morsels of Ginny's rank flesh sat in his broiling stomach, his appetite driven by a raw hunger and desperation. He needed something more than that if he was ever going to stop this hunger. Perhaps some other child would ignore the stories and come to play in the pool.