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SURF AND TURF

by John Ouellet 7 months ago in Horror · updated 7 months ago

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SURF AND TURF
Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

It was just for the weekend. Drive him down from Boston, show him around the Cape, spending as little time as possible in Falmouth, then flying back to El Paso. It wasn’t Angela’s idea; it was Abyasa’s, a topic she’d never suggest and had worked hard on avoiding. But then she made the mistake of telling him she had family on Cape Cod. It happened during an evening stroll while he was visiting her in Galveston. He lamented that he was here in this country alone without family or Indonesian connections. To make him feel better she half joked that having family around wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. He wanted to meet them. After all, they were getting close. Nothing imminent but there was certainly an attraction brewing, something seductive between them.

She thought she had a plan. She worked out the details. In her head it seemed to mesh. But her mother and father were at best indifferent; her brother, antagonistic. For sure she’d be holding her breath for forty-eight hours.

“They’re a bit different,” she told Abbie on the ride down.

“I like different.”

“Yeah, but they’re ... really different.”

“Don’t be harsh. When I moved here from Java I was the same.”

It’s what she liked most about him, he was genuinely a good guy, willing to see the best in people. He called himself Abbie, a sound American name. “Abbie Hoffman and Abby Van Buren. Male and female,” he said. “Can’t go wrong.”

They arrived in Falmouth close to nine at night. The house was empty. Angela was relieved. After a late dinner where she had the shellfish platter and he had the ribeye they took a walk along Old Silver Beach. She had him nervous as she playfully ducked in and out of the surf. “It’s dark,” he told her when she laughed at his concern. “You don’t know what’s out there.”

“That’s true. Great Whites up here now.”

“Great White what?”

“Sharks, ninny. As in Jaws.”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“Wow. Don’t like seafood and don’t know sharks or movies. You certainly were a sheltered child.”

“True enough. But what do you know of babi pangang and the Ahool?”

Abbie didn’t sleep well. He rarely did when away from home. It was three in the morning and still no noise from downstairs indicating Angela’s folks had come home. He rose carefully to look out the window. The moon was full. He walked to the kitchen. If caught he would feign hunger, sorry for being so brash. It was dark and still. No signs anyone had come or gone in the past hours; no shoes or clothing or packages. He passed a partially open door. He dared peek in. It was a bedroom with a twin-size bed. Empty with no bedcoverings or pillows. No dresser or bureau. A second bedroom the same. Moving on he saw no photos on walls or shelves.

He opened the front door. It was promising to be as the forecast predicted, mid to high nineties. “Don’t get too excited.” Angela told him. “Nineties on the Cape isn’t the same as nineties in southwest Texas.” It was a running joke between them. Both loved the heat; his desert dry, hers coastline moist.

He hated the ocean with its impossibilities and endlessness, with its constant threats of tsunamis and floods. He had lived through enough of them, He lost his family to one, a story with consequences he was not able to share with Angela. He doubted he ever could.

Outside he could smell the salt water on the breeze. They were on Flume Pond, a short distance from Buzzards Bay. A trail through a conservation woodland led down to it. It was open dawn to dusk. He found it highly improbable that pond police were sitting down there, literal bumps on a log, waiting for trespassers to happen by.

The trees filtered the moonlight, sending down slivers of light that cut the darkness. He stumbled though the trail was flat and fairly clear of brush. There was a small dock up ahead. His progress towards it was halted by a sudden splash. Too loud to be a fish.

He waited behind in a shadow, ready to procced after several minutes of silence when a figure emerged from the pond, long black hair, tall and thin. Naked. A woman, her back to him. She stretched her hands skyward as she arched her back. She held the pose impossibly long, her calves straining, her buttocks taut, her shoulders expanding. Like an expertly framed portrait, the moonlight and shadows caught all the right angles. He stared in appreciation and wonder.

Her hair, wet and clingy, was picked up in a sudden breeze. But there was no breeze that strong this night. Her hair then erupted in thick ribbons as if boiling on her skin. It crawled down to her waist, her legs. He crept closer to assure himself it was only a trick of shadow and light. He stumbled on a tree root, falling face-first, cracking his nose and forehead. He came to his feet in a stupor. The disturbance was enough to have the women turn sharply. Only it was no longer a woman. It was no longer a person, no longer anything Abbie had ever seen before. His mind was in shambles, but it appeared to him to be a giant leech. The moon hit it full now, as if a spotlight had been trained on it. It continued to transform, growing a long snout and dark, round eyes. Black and gray scales covered it from head to ... tail. No, not a tail, part of its body. A snake, with rows of saw-like teeth that it flashed as it hissed at him. Suddenly it collapsed to the ground, savagely writhing on the dock, swaying then jabbing its deadly snout at him, a milky-white mouth coated in thick mucous gasping at air, its lethal teeth snapping so dangerously close he could hear them grating against each other.

Abbie came to in Angela’s arms, still lying on the trail. Dried blood on his face and now on her nightgown. He remembered the fall. He remembered it being from something terrifying. It took him a moment to remember what that was. It came back to him when he saw the tall, thin woman with shimmering black hair standing behind Angela.

“It’s you,” he screamed, scattering out of Angela’s grasp.

“I told you,” the woman said to Angela. “Soon as he saw me he began to scream like that.”

“But it wasn’t you. I mean, yeah, it was, but then it wasn’t. It was ... sick.”

The woman flinched. “Ouch. I’m sorry to offend.”

Angela stood and reached out to Abbie. “Abbie, I don’t understand what happened here but this is my mother. Mom, Abbie.”

“I always prided myself in having an acceptable body, especially for my age. But being a good hostess I’ve put clothes on. Not nice to horrify guests.”

Abbie buried his face in his hands. “What the fuck? It was so damn real.”

They sat for an early breakfast. Angela’s mother’s name was Ambrosia. Her father was Amos. Her brother was Ambrose. “All A’s,” Amos said. “Alphas, all of us. Mine? ‘Brought by God.’ It fits, I think.”

“Stop it, dad,” Angela said.

“True enough. And hey, now an Abbie. No coincidence, I think. What’s that short for, Abernathy? Ah, yes, Mouth of the River Nethy, in Scotland.”

“Abyasa. Means clever,”

Abbie said.

“Ah, very good.” Amos said. “Best to be named for a personal attribute rather than a geographical location.”

“Father, here, is very much into names and origins, in case you hadn’t caught on,” Angela said.

“Yes, I find it fascinating.”

“And we find it deathly boring,” Ambrosia said. “Eat your salmon and calamari omelet before I take it.”

After an hour nap Allie had settled down. The breakfast conversation was light and animated. They were very educated. Books topped every flat space in the house. Mostly science and ecological books. History, too. Missing in person and in narration was Ambrose. No plate was set, no omelet prepared, no hint of his existence, no concern of his whereabouts. Abbie sensed the tension there and let it pass.

Abbie begged off touring the Cape for a few hours of laying in the sun. He was awakened by a loud argument from the area of Flume Pond. One voice was Angela’s; the other he surmised by the heated tone was Ambrose.

The two were on the dock. Ambrose stood naked, pointing his finger at Angela’s face. The gist of the conversation was Abbie’s visit. A sidebar was Ambrose’s insistence on going for a swim. Ambrose was close to six-foot-five, dwarfing Angela. His shoulders were cartoon-superhero thick and ridged. Ditto for his arms and legs. Abbie approached, embarrassed to be meeting this way. He averted his gaze, a bit surprised that Angela had not.

“This him?” Ambrose was not impressed. “Puny. aren’t you.”

Angela’s face went granite. She was so much shorter but that stare had Ambrose retreating. “Told you to keep him out of my way.” He pounded from the wharf, and damn if Abbie didn’t feel it quake beneath him.

“Your family’s big into skinny dipping, aren’t they.”

“Kind of a family thing.”

“Well, when in Rome.” He began to pull her T-shirt over her head. She stopped him. “For them it’s a family thing; I told you it’s a bit weird here.”

There was a late dinner. Again seafood. Either they were always fans or they grew accustomed to it. Abbie smiled through it; he couldn’t wait to get back to Texas beef. “Heard you met Ambrose,” Amos said. “Ambrose, means immortal. All I can say is we certainly hope not.”

“Father not a fan of your brother?” Abbie said as the climbed into bed.

“Not a close relationship there, never was. But I have to say I agree with him on all things Ambrose.”

Another night of clock watching and wondering. He had met all three. Two puzzled him; one scared him. He lay awake going over the home’s layout. Five people, three bedrooms, only one furnished as such. So where were the three others bedded down? Sure Angela was asleep, he made his way down the hallway. Both bedroom doors were closed this time. Opening them and peering in would just be creepy, especially in light of witnessing mother and brother naked.

He heard the front door rattle. He ducked into the bathroom. It was Ambrose. No mistaking those heavy feet. Abbie stayed inside, waiting for Ambrose to pass him by. But he didn’t. He headed to the basement. No light went on. There was movement along the concrete floor. Then quiet. He waited twenty minutes.

It was inordinately cold, even for a basement, as if air was being blown in from a mountain cave. With no windows it was coal black. He shivered uncontrollably. He wanted out but needed to know what kept Ambrose down here. He walked his hands along walls that were surprisingly rough with holes carved into them, as if scaling a cliffside. He reached into several. Finding a deep one he stretched in up to his armpit. It touch something cold, wet, and slick. He withdrew his hand quickly when he felt flesh rising and falling. This was no dreamfish reaction. He was in full control of his senses. Just as he was last night when he met Ambrosia in transformation. Whatever this creature was, it was real and alive.

He stood before the cavernous hollow, peering in, when in an instant a huge reptilian head shot out at him, his face barely escaping a lethal shredding. Just as quickly it retreated back inside.

Angela stood with her arms folded as he raced to the top of the stairs. “What were you doing?” she demanded.

He leaned against the wall, gasping, trying to collect himself. “We gotta get out. I saw it. I saw it down there.”

Behind him a rush of footsteps made it up the basement stairs. Abbie pulled Angela back. Amos, Ambrosia, and Ambrose stood on the landing. “Not very clever of you to wander around strange homes,” Amos said.

***

“You three couldn’t hold it together for two days,” Angela said.

“Ah, it was him sneaking around,” Ambrosia said.

“I should have just chewed you up when I had the chance,” Ambrose said.

“Will someone tell me what the hell’s going on with this family?”

“Not really a family,” Angela said, “more of a genus.”

“Actually species is a better word,” Amos said.

They were at the kitchen table. For once, all five were present, and it wasn’t cozy. Angela reached across the table and cupped Abbie’s hand. “Let me explain,” she said. “And please, just let me finish.”

“I have a lot of questions.”

“I know. Hopefully I can answer most of them, even if the answers make no sense to you.”

“Nothing you tell him can make this right,” Ambrose said. “I told you it was a bad decision. I can just chew him up now, get rid of witnesses, and we all get back to sleep.”

She ignored him. “You familiar with the word, metamorphosis? A physical change, human into animal or an inanimate object or ... a creature.”

He nodded.

“The details are hard to explain. Not sure I can. But metamorphosis can work the other way, as well. Animal to human. That’s what’s happened here. We are what scientists have called congers.”

Abbie’s eyebrows wrinkled with a question.

“Eels. European eels to be specific. Some of us have transformed quite nicely; physically, mentally, emotionally.” She shot a disdainful look at Ambrose. “I have. I have because of you, Abbie. I need you to know that. These other three, not my family, I must add, haven’t worked real hard at it. They still need, or think they need, to transform back and forth. And to sleep tucked in cold, dark caverns. And eat nothing but fish and shellfish.” She glared at the others.

“Don’t look at me that way,” Ambrose said. “I didn’t ask for any of this shit to happen.”

“Not a fan myself,” Ambrosia added. “Dealing with people in the water is tough enough. On dry land they’re just dreadful.”

“I find them silly enough to be delightful,” Amos said. “It’s amazing to read how much they don’t know about seventy percent of their world.”

“Done?” Abbie asked.

“In a nutshell, less you want to get into a metaphysical discourse.”

“You said, ‘us.’ You too are a ... what was it?”

“Conger.”

Abbie nodded. “And you lied to me even after what I saw last night?”

“It’s not like that, Abbie.”

He stood. Ambrose jumped to his feet. “Out of my way,” Abbie said.

“You ain’t goin’ anywhere.”

“I need some air.”

“You need to be dinner. I’m famished from all this excitement.”

“Let him go,” Amos said.

“You’re not leaving?” Angela said.

“I don’t know. I need to collect my thoughts.”

Ambrose protested. “He leaves here we’re as good as dead.”

Ambrosia said, “Would you believe a story like this? They’d locked him up.”

Angela followed him outside. She grabbed hold of his arm but just for a moment. It was not a time to be demanding anything of him. Besides, she had the car.

He was back within the hour. “We have to talk,” he told Angela as she met him at the door. “All of us.”

He ushered them into the small living room. He excused himself, returning after a few minutes. “I don’t know if I was brought here as a guest or as dinner,” he said, standing before them.

Angela began to protest. He held his palm out.

“I’ve got to say I’m a bit put out, but rather than leave I have an alternative plan.”

Angela smiled.

“See, I do know a thing about metamorphosis.” He leaned into the hallway for a scabbard from which he pulled a long machete.

Ambrose laughed. “Think that thing’s gonna keep me from tearing you apart.”

“No. Just keep you in this room long enough. I checked the weather report when I bought this machete. Near a hundred. I turned the thermostat to ninety.”

“Abbie, no,” Angela said.

“You won’t last long enough yourself for all of us to be ready for curing,” Amos said.

“Who said anything about curing? I have no intentions of letting you dry out.”

Within three hours all four were near unconscious. “It’s time,” Abbie said. He lifted the shriveling Ambrose by the arms, leading him into the bathroom where he had filled the tub. “Do it.” Ambrose gasped. “And this time I’ll finish you.”

He set him into the tub of water. Ambrose let out a sigh of relief, staring up at Abbie, hate and vengeance in his eyes as his body began its transformation.

Abbie stood before the window as the mid-afternoon sun seared through. He reached his arms to the sun, craned his neck, and breathed in deeply. His skin darkened as it stretched into a scaly armored coat. He fell to the floor as his arms and legs thickened, a huge whip-like tail emerged. Last to turn was his skull which cracked as the neck billowed and the jaw push forward. He turned to Ambrose, horrified but too weak to let out a warning to the others.

It took less than twenty minutes. Abbie came back into the room, to the three now near death. He lifted Amos whose eyes were begging. “Abbie please,” Angela muttered, raising her hand to him. He leaned down, kissing it softly.

“I always wondered about this strong attraction between us.” His yellowed forked tongue darted out at her. “And, darling, you were right, seafood is delicious, a nice supplement to a Komodo Dragon's diet. And for all you’ve done for me, I promise, I’ll save you for last.”

Horror

About the author

John Ouellet

Retired Special Agent FBI. Resides in Michigan. Originally from Boston Mass area. Novels: The Captive Dove and Cats & Dogs. Website: jOuelleteMontayne.com

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