A group of six teenagers went to the beach on a murky day after it had stormed. There were a few others at this time, as the crisp air made the water chillier than it already would be on a 40-degree day. Aside from the long beach, there was a strip mall of pizza shops, gift shops, restaurants, and stands selling classic summer novelties like popsicles and ice cream cones. It was like a ghost town; the only noise was from the rustling waves that rose higher and higher from the striking breeze. The workers didn’t bother to show up today. The only open place was a tiny shack between two gift shops that gave psychic readings.
The six friends, teenage dirtbags who ditched school to cause trouble, were captivated by the possibility of learning their futures. They joked that their futures were already doomed considering they failed to show up to classes that basically gave an ‘A’ for pure attendance. The guys hoped to hit on the poor woman who was stuck here on such a dim day, and every day. The girls wondered who would be their husbands, and if they could steal her crystal ball. The teens walked into the shack, which was small, square, and white. There was nothing on the bare, chipped walls. The only things to fill the space were a rectangular table covered in thick purple tablecloth, a grey single-person sofa on each side, and a woman with outrageously large green earrings sitting in one. They left their beach bags in a square bin that was attached to the exterior of the shack.
“Welcome,” the woman said with a surprised tone, as if she hadn’t seen anyone come in here in years. She wore a long-sleeved purple button-up dress that matched the tablecloth, but painfully clashed with those flashy green hoops. Her off-red curly locks were frizzy and her old pale face tired. This was the last place she wanted to be. After seeing her depressed demeanor, the guys refrained from, and were even scared of, being jackasses.
There was no crystal ball that the girls could steal, but they didn’t think the poor woman deserved to be stolen from anyway.
“My name is Lucia, and I’ll have one of you sit in my chair at a time,” she said casually. “I take a hold of your hand and tell you something about you that you may not even know about yourself. Who wants to go first?”
The group of six stood still, half disinterested in playing into her magical game, but touched with curiosity and chills. Suddenly, a massive gust of wind erupted and grazed their backs, shaking their bodies and alerting them with the rough sound of quick tires on the road. The teens whipped around and glanced at a scratched up, rusty grey truck that seemed to sense their observation and began accelerating away.
“Jackass,” Lucia scoffed. “Comes around every few days, probably to check me out because he’s so lonely.” The teens were caught off guard with this driver and his inflicted wind chills, that they barely listened to Lucia.
“I’ve seen him walk around here a lot, though,” she continued, “to buy little snow globes for his wife who died a couple years back. She loved those things. Any little trinket like that.” The girls gave sympathetic smiles but were still shaken.
“And I know all this because he sat right in that chair and I read him,” she said, but then proceeded with a laugh, “Just kidding. I met him before his wife died, and they’d come a lot in the summer for romantic walks on the beach and a little splash. They came to see me at first for a couple quick readings, but that grew into a friendship. They saw how lonely I was and probably felt bad for my pathetic life. But they were sweet people. Yeah, every time they came to the beach, they came to visit me.”
“Jesus, lady,” one of the guys, Rick, groaned. “We didn’t ask. We didn’t ask who died or who that drunk driving maniac was. Just do your thing and entertain us.”
“Rick!” Stacey, his girlfriend, yelled and slapped his arm.
“Sorry. This is kind of freaky, but, sorry. Yeah.”
“Want to go first?” Lucia asked, a little peeved.
“Totally.” Stacey sat down on the sofa and let Lucia hold her hand. There was silence for a moment, which Rick likely broke with chuckling.
“Uh oh,” Lucia whispered, but her countenance showed she didn’t mean for that to come out.
“What’s wrong?” Stacey asked with a nervous laugh.
“Well, I believe you’re going to die as soon as you leave this shack today.” You couldn’t hear anything but the fresh, calm wind.
“Oh, bullshit,” Stacey responded.”Who am I gonna marry? Is it Rick?”
“You’re not gonna marry anyone,” Lucia murmured in disbelief. The teens looked around at each other with nervous smiles.
“Wow, thanks for that,” Stacey responded.
“Let me try,” Rick said as Stacey got up and he took her place.
A couple moments of silence.
“You’re going to die as soon as you leave this shack, too,” Lucia said with a shiver. “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what’s going on.” She stood up, rushed over, and grabbed everyone’s hand. First she grabbed Ellen’s, shook her head with an anxious sigh, then Katie’s, letting her head down when she found her result, then Bryce and Matt, who smirked at her shocked face.
“I’m so sorry,” she finally said. “Your last moments are in this shack. You’re all going to die here.”
“Okay, show’s over, that was cool, but we don’t fall for it,” Bryce scoffed.
“I’m sorry, it’s true,” Lucia said with a cry. “You only gave us that bullshit because we pissed you off!” Rick yelled.
“I would never do that,” she pleaded. “You guys were being total dicks but I would never wish this upon you. Never… in the years that I’ve done this job, have I read this thing… this, awful thing.” Her voice had gone from pleading and urgent, to soft and regretful. “Maybe I just shouldn’t have told you. Maybe if I didn’t say it, it wouldn’t happen.” As the teens heard the remorse in her voice, they became confused. Did Lucia actually know the truth?
“Did you ‘read’ anything else from us besides that we’re gonna die?” Katie asked mockingly.
“Yes, but I knew it was just basic stuff you wouldn’t wanna hear,” Lucia answered. “I found out you have an ocean sunset drawing on the wall in your house that reminds you of your grandmother, but this just overshadowed that completely.”
“Jesus,” Katie whispered.
The teens froze and all began to breathe heavily and their eyes teared up, except for Rick.
“That’s such a simple thing anyone could’ve known!” he argued. “I mean, everyone holds on to crap in their house from people who died!”
“No,” Katie whimpered. “Rick… No.”
“Come on, man,” Matt told Rick, sympathetically to Katie.
“Whatever, screw this,” Rick responded. “I’m out.
“Fine, Rick,” Stacey groaned, not really believing Lucia’s words but felt bad for Katie so she decided to stay. “It’s not like we’re getting married anyway!’
Rick flipped off the group and stormed out of the shack. His friends watched him go, and they watched him shake his head, and they watched the heavy anchor marking the top of the Seaman’s Gift Shop break loose, and they watched its fall line up perfectly with Rick’s path, and they watched it pound him on the head with a painful dissonant clank.
His friends screamed. Lucia fell to the ground in agony. They froze in their places in shock.
“YOU!” Stacey screamed at Lucia in tears before she ran out of the shack almost as fast the scratched up, rusty grey truck ran over her. No sound could come out of their friends’ mouths. They stared at each other with the most terrified, yet confused looks.
“What is going on…?” Lucia felt like she would drive herself to utter madness.
The rest of the teens fell to the ground after seeing Stacey and Rick’s bodies on the sidewalk, indeed married. However, Ellen, the quiet member who tagged along just to fit in, pondered at the terrifying sight of that truck which did not, but sped up, and sped away. A few minutes of gasping for air followed, before Lucia got up and said, “I’m so sorry, everyone.”
“It’s not your fault,” Katie whispered and shook.
“What do we do now?” Bryce asked, horrified that the thing he had smirked about moments before, wasn’t a joke.
“I think we have to stay here,” Matt said.
“Maybe they’re not dead?” Katie wondered with a cry. “Maybe we can go help them.”
“No, don’t fall for it,” Matt warned. “I don’t know what evil force or whatever is doing this, but if we go, we die.”
“How is this not her fault?” Bryce demanded of Katie, glaring at Lucia. “She knew it would happen, so shouldn’t she have used her stupid magic powers to stop it?”
“No, just stop!” Katie cried. “She knows things about us! She knew I had that drawing. Not just a drawing, but an ocean. With a sunset. Oh my god, not just that, but it was for my damn grandmother. She knew all of it! She doesn’t have magic powers. She just… She just, sees things.”
“Jesus, stop crying!” Bryce said. “They’re not dying. This is so stupid. I’m going out to help.”
“Bryce, you can’t!” Katie argued.
Bryce ran out to his friends and first stopped at Stacey’s lifeless body. He felt himself start to shake. His hands slowly fell to the ground beside Stacey and his head slowly turned to look in the distance at Rick. He saw no movement of his friend. Bryce stood up at the realization, at the need to accept the truth.
“Come back inside!” the other three teens yelled at their friend. They didn’t know if they heard the obnoxious truck tires in the distance or if it was just their minds leading them to delirium.
Bryce wasn’t moving. He was standing. Not moving. His friends were dead. How? How did Lucia fool them? His friends stared at him out the door, crippled with concern, and before they knew it, Bryce was on the ground. He had fainted, head first, onto the skull-shattering pavement.
Katie screamed and, without thinking, sprinted out the door before her friends could grab her, hoping that Bryce was miraculously not dead. Before she could grasp him, the sound of the rusty tires came into the distance. Ellen and Matt knew that this time, it wasn’t just in their heads.
“Katie, listen to me, you need to come inside now!” Matt yelled to her, but he wasn’t sure she could hear over the screeching tires. Katie still stood over Bryce, not moving, studying him, accepting he and everyone else was gone and would be gone.
“Katie, GET INSIDE!” Ellen screamed as the rage drew nearer. Neither she nor Matt could read Katie’s mind.
Katie knew Bryce was gone, and even though she wouldn’t have enough time to react to the truck coming anyway, she was okay with leaving too. And there she went.
“Close the door!” Lucia yelled as Matt and Ellen broke down once again.
“Why does he keep coming back?” Ellen demanded through her tears, pointing out the door as the truck sped away, as Lucia closed it.
“What are you hiding?” Matt tried to open the door again, but Lucia pushed him away. As she was closing the door, Matt caught a glance of a short, wrinkly old man standing next to the parked disgusting truck, waving at him with a malicious grin.
“I saw him,” Matt said.
Lucia responded with misty eyes, “Saw who?”
“Don’t play dumb with me.”
Ellen wiped her tears. “What’s going on?”
Lucia had nothing to say, but she certainly wasn’t crying anymore.
“Thank you for realizing that I can, in fact, read the future.” She wiped the tears she had desperately regurgitated out of her eyes.
Matt and Ellen stood in fear, Matt with a touch of anger and Ellen with pure terror.
Lucia continued slowly, arrogantly with frustration, pacing back and forth across the shack.
“You wanna know how talented I am? So incredible that I overshadowed everyone, and society left me to suffer in this ransacked orphan room. I knew the exact moment that anchor would fall in correlation with the wind, and I knew exactly what to say and when to say it to overflow your poor friend Rick’s temper so that he’d storm out and meet his… deserving end.”
“That can’t be true,” Lucia snapped. Matt simply glared.
“Shut up!” Lucia yelled. “My grimy friend Bernard out there knew exactly when to plow down your annoying other delinquents, just like I knew exactly when to send them out. Bernard and I have followed you all on your weekly trips to this beach summer after summer, enough to know that your little baby Bryce is the most anxious one of the group, and made many jokes about his panic disorder as you waded in the water, and he feared the sharks.”
“Why us?” Matt demanded, with his arm around Ellen, who cried to the point of shaking.
Lucia let out a cackle. “Ya’ll tormented Bernard’s wife! I met them and they were the sweetest people on earth. But one day, cute little Lorraine came to the beach on her own while Bernard had to deal with rushing for another job because he wrongfully got fired from McDonald’s. You and your pals found her so vulnerable because she was a poor woman. I watched you from this shack, grabbing her sunglasses and cursing at her, slapping her. You knew how hard her life was, you knew she didn’t have the gas money or the beautiful cars to journey on up an hour to this paradise like y’all do. I watched my friend cry in front of all you children as the passerby protected her and shamed you.”
“We didn’t mean to hurt her, we were just messing around, we were stupid!” Matt cried.
“She killed herself, you son of a bitch.” Lucia’s face was stone cold. “Because you didn’t do this once, not twice, but tens of times you were around her. Every time her husband disappeared into a shop, it was your feeding time. Whenever you saw her alone, you went for it.”
“We’re so sorry.”
“Yeah, now that she’s dead. I told Bernard what I’d seen, and he tried his best to heal her. But sometimes, people are too evil. You were all evil. In fact, I wanted to know why you were all evil. So I followed you home. I saw the new drawing of that beautiful ocean sunset on Katie’s doorstep. She opened it up and exclaimed, “Grandma’s artwork is here!” as she entered the door.
Ellen whimpered, “Please let us go.”
“You,” Lucia growled. “Let me tell you what I know about you. You have nothing better to do than hang out with idiots because no one else wanted to be your friend. They were the only ones who let you follow them. I followed you home, too. Even your dad doesn’t want you. And you too, Matt. That’s why both of you have always gotten along so well. Aww, bonding over how pathetic and meaningless your lives are, and what goes on behind those closed doors.
“Shut up!” she yelled back.
“Wow, that was the loudest I’ve heard you speak. Good job!”
“You punished us enough, Lucia. Let us go.”
“Well, of course I’ll let you go,” Lucia said with a warm smile. “Except, you know what’s gonna happen.” Her satisfied grin disturbed them to the worst extent. She waved goodbye at them with a playful laugh before leaving her orphan shack and meeting Bernard outside, who also waved goodbye at them with a terrifying grin. Matt and Ellen watched the two grab everyone’s bags and venture away with them.
“Put those back! Come back!” the two yelled and almost ran out but froze at the doorway. They yelled as Lucia and Bernard entered his truck, they yelled as they sped away, and yelled even as the truck disappeared and there was nothing left to yell at. And then there was quiet. Matt and Ellen looked at each other with heartbreak. They knew Lucia was right. They had nothing. They never had anything. Not even their friends. They never did. Without this wretched day, they would’ve gone home to abusive single parents who neglected them, and the only time they’d get attention was to do something useful to them, when their hands were too old and dry to do it themselves. They’d rather die here than in their broken homes. So, the two friends joined hands and walked out of the shack, across the street, over the rustling sand, through the water- ridden mud, into the freezing engulfing sea, further and further until they couldn’t walk anymore.