Fiction logo

The Pond

An SFS 7 Story

By Bernadette JohnsonPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 9 min read
3
The Pond
Photo by Andreea Chidu on Unsplash

Jessie walked down a stone corridor. She tried to open a dark-stained wooden door. It wouldn’t budge. She tried another. No luck. She tried the next. It flung open. A classroom full of kids turned to her with emotionless eyes. Their teacher said, “Can I help you?”

“I’m looking for Dr. Patel’s calculus class.”

“You want building three.”

“Can you tell me how to get there?”

The teacher turned back to her pupils without answering and said, “Turn to page four hundred and seventy two.”

Jesse backed out and closed the door.

She rounded a corner to the right. Suddenly her surroundings were more cheery. Colorful posters and child’s drawings lined the hallway. The doors now had little windows. She was definitely getting further from her college math classroom. She had to get to a test. But she didn’t even remember signing up for calculus. Dr. Patel had been her trigonometry teacher.

She heard a giggle up ahead. A little girl with long brown hair stepped in front of her and said, “Jessie. Come play with us.”

A girl with red hair poked her head around the corner and said, “Don’t go with her. Follow me.” She ducked back out of view.

“Sarah? Is that you?” Jessie followed her.

This corridor was different. Now it looked like their home hallway.

“Where’d you go?”

“In here,” said a voice near the end of the hall.

Jessie walked toward it and stopped at the last door, which was slightly ajar. She pushed on it. It was a bedroom. A grown woman with red hair swung from the ceiling fan, a rope around her neck, turning slowly. When she faced Jessie, her eyes opened, and she said, “Stay with me.”

“Aaaaaahhhh!!!” screamed Jessie.

***

“How could she do it?”

“She didn’t do this to hurt you,” said Dr. Ballard. “She had a problem and it got the best of her.”

“I know,” said Jessie. “But it’s hard not to take it personally. She was my sister and she didn’t confide in me.”

“About any of her issues?” asked the doctor.

“No. Well, yes. She once told me there were two of her and she didn’t know which was going to win. But I mean she didn’t say anything leading up to the—.”

“Suicide,” completed Dr. Ballard. “People, especially those with mood disorders, aren’t always great at talking about their problems and seeking help.”

“She did it in my room. That seems—pointed.”

“Yes,” nodded the doctor. “Perhaps it was because she felt closest to you. She probably wasn’t thinking through how it would feel to you.”

Jessie frowned.

“How’s the sleep problem? Any better?”

“I’ve slept five hours this week. But the less I sleep, the fewer nightmares I have.”

“You mentioned you’d been taking melatonin.”

“I was,” said Jessie. “Stopped a few days ago. It was making me sick to my stomach.”

“It can do that, and cause restless sleep and nightmares. Do you want me to prescribe Ambien?”

“No,” said Jessie. “My childhood sleepwalking misadventures were enough. I don’t want to add sleep eating and sleep driving.”

“There are other medications,” the doc said, taking a pad and pen off her side table. She scribbled on the top sheet, tore it off, and held out a prescription. “It’s a mild sedative that’s been around for decades. And somnambulance isn’t one of the side effects.”

Jessie took the paper and nodded.

“You’ve been practicing the sleep hygiene we discussed?” asked Dr. Pollard.

“Yes,” said Jessie. “I still end up lying awake.”

“Staying in the place where it happened could be a contributing factor.”

“I moved into my parents bedroom.”

“Have you considered a complete change of venue?”

“Moving? Can’t really afford it. The job situation is why we both ended up moving back in with Mom and Dad. I suppose I could sell the house now that—,” Jessie trailed off. “But that could take a while.”

“It doesn’t have to be a permanent move. Maybe a hotel? A friend or relative’s house? Know anyone with a vacation home?”

Jessie hesitated. “There’s one place. My parents have—had—a small house out in the woods. We took annual trips there. Around now, actually. Mom liked the snow on the trees.”

“Sounds remote. It might be an ideal place to relax.”

“It’s not a place I was ever able to relax.”

“How so?”

“It freaked me out. There was…strange stuff.”

“What sort of stuff?”

“Chills. Feelings. Noises. Things getting knocked off tables. Sarah said it was a ghost. She called her Winnie.”

“Did you believe her?”

“At first. Especially after I almost died. Woke up standing on the pond in my pajamas. The ice broke and I went under. Sarah fished me out.”

“She saved your life.”

“Yes. But she said something crazy. Said Winnie wanted to kill me to have company, but it was okay now because she’d made a deal with her.”

“What sort of deal?”

“She never said. But nothing happened after that. Later I figured Sarah had been messing with my head. That the pond incident was just what happens when a kid sleepwalks onto thin ice.”

The doctor nodded. “That’s all very interesting. Unfortunately, our time’s up. We’ll pick up here next week. You should consider the vacation home. It might prove therapeutic, and at this point, we need to throw everything we can at your sleep problem.”

“I’ll think about it. Thanks.”

***

Jessie got out of her car and pulled a shoulder bag out of the back. She walked to the front of the small house, unlocked the door, went in, felt for the light switch, and flipped it. The living room. Couch, chair, old TV, shag carpet. It was just as she remembered it.

She shut the door against the cold, unwound her scarf, took off her coat, and hung both on a coat rack just inside the door.

Jessie looked at a picture on the wall. Her, Sarah, and their parents, taken out back during one of the family vacations. The pond lay behind them.

She touched Sarah’s face. She turned away and heard a thump behind her. She looked back. The photo was on the floor.

Jessie knelt to pick up the picture and looked around. “Winnie?”

She stood, shook her head, and rehung the photo, and went to the bedroom to unpack. Her parent’s bedroom. She and Sarah had always taken the sofa bed in the living room.

But they didn’t mind because it meant TV until well past bedtime. It’s how they managed to watch so many horror movies their parents never would have allowed if they’d known.

Jessie went to the bathroom, put the new bottle of pills in the medicine cabinet, and shut it, bringing her weary face into view. The dark circles were her new faithful companions. Since the nightmares.

Nightmare Sarah was more tidy than real Sarah. She had hung herself from the fan, but at some point it gave way. Jessie found Sarah on the floor, bits of ceiling everywhere, the fan dangling.

Jessie went to the living room, turned on the TV, and flipped channels for an hour. She settled on a romcom. Then a cop show. After that a cartoon.

She went to the bathroom, took a pill, ran the water, and drank a little from her palm to wash it down.

Jessie grabbed a pillow and blanket from the bed and went back to her and her sister’s sofa, but didn’t pull it out. She surfed until she found a slasher film. Set at a camp. Sarah would approve. She stretched out on the couch, rested her head on the pillow, and pulled the blanket over herself. She was asleep by the third slaying.

***

Jessie awoke. The TV was still going. Reality baking show. She looked toward the end of the couch. Sarah was there.

“Why are you watching a baking show?” asked Jessie.

“Can’t work the remote. I’m dead, remember?”

“Yeah.”

“How was the funeral?”

“Not fun. But good turnout.” Jessie rubbed her eyes. “Want to find another flick? Something scary?”

“I want you to wake up,” said Sarah.

“I’m awake.”

“No, you’re not. In a minute Winnie is going to lure you to the lake again.”

“Winnie’s not real,” said Jessie.

“She is. She’s been in my head since that day you almost drowned.”

“Is that why you…?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know. It was tough, living with someone who tried to kill your sister.”

There was a knock at the back door. Jessie got up and walked to the kitchen.

“No.” said Sarah. “Come back. Let’s find that movie.”

“I’ll see who it is,” said Jessie.

She opened the door. It was cold, but bright. There was a party in the back yard. She didn’t recognize the people.

“Wake up!” Sarah yelled as Jessie walked into the yard.

Jessie heard whimsical music. Way at the back of the yard was a merry-go-round, spinning and flashing.

She ambled toward it. She noticed a girl on one of the horses. Eleven or twelve, with long brown hair.

Sarah stepped in front of Jessie. “Don’t go any further.”

“Come on, Jessie,” said the girl. “It’s fun out here.”

Jessie stepped through Sarah, who yelled, “It’s Winnie! You’re on the pond! Wake up!”

Jessie felt the ground shift. She woke and looked down. She was a few feet into the frozen pond. Cracks formed. She fell backwards onto the ice and shuffled on her hands and feet, getting wetter and wetter, but finally making it to the edge. She looked across the pond. Nothing was there.

She sat for a moment, then said, “What do you want, Winnie?”

I want you to be my friend. All I ever wanted was for you and Sarah to come play with me. Or take me with you.

“Take you with us? Is that what Sarah did?”

Yes, but she was so mad. It was no fun. We never did anything fun.

“Did you—did you kill her?”

No! She did that. To get away from me.

“Do you want to come with me?”

Yes. Yes please. I promise I’ll be good.

“I’ll let you if you promise not to do this to anyone else. Just me. We live out our lives, and move on.”

Okay!

“Promise?”

I swear!

“Is Sarah still here?”

Yes.

“Can—can she come with us?”

I don’t know. She’s awfully mad at me still.

“I can talk to her. Calm her down. I’d like to know more about you.”

Okay. Sarah can come, too.

“What do I have to do?”

Just let us in. Don’t fight it. We’ll do the rest.

Jessie closed her eyes, then inhaled sharply.

Get inside before you freeze, said Sarah’s voice.

Jessie rolled herself onto all fours, stood, and stumbled toward the house.

“Are you both here?” asked Jessie.

Yes, said Winnie.

Yep, me and the twerp are in here, said Sarah.

Hey!

“It’s okay, Sarah. Unless you know something I don’t about her. She like a demon or something?”

Winnie giggled.

Nah, said Sarah. Just a little girl who died on the pond.

Then why’d you treat me so mean?

You tried to murder my sister.

I guess, conceded Winnie.

“I think we’ll get along,” said Jessie. “Wanna watch a movie?”

Yes, please. And then we’ll go back home?

“Yes, tomorrow,” said Jessie.

Yay!

“It’s good to hear your voice, sis. I’ve missed you.”

Me, too.

Jessie stepped into the house and shut the back door.

“What do you want to watch?”

A comedy, said Winnie. I don’t like anything too scary.

We’ll fix that, said Sarah.

I’ll have nightmares.

You’re a little ghost girl. You’re invulnerable.

“Like Superman with no kryptonite.”

That we know of, said Sarah.

Who’s Superman? asked Winnie.

“Guess I know what we’re renting.”

Short Story
3

About the Creator

Bernadette Johnson

Bernadette “Berni” Johnson is the author of The Big Book of Spy Trivia, many tech articles, movie reviews, short stories, and two novels in perpetual editing.

You can find her blog, other work, and mailing list at bernijohnson.com.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments

There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2023 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.