Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Mermaid House: Part Two

THIS NEIGHBORHOOD ON THE fringe of San Francisco was otherworldly. Leander, whose favorite films were strange, elegant, and elemental, loved it. He drove his creaking Chevy to a parking lot that had no apparent owner because of its weedy state and got out to walk around. He didn't see many people -- an elderly woman weeding a garden;a kid on a bike. There were a few lights in the houses, most of which had For Sale signs on the lawns or seemed forgotten altogether in cloisters of gnarled greenery.
    He wandered up a road shadowed by more of those twisting trees and found the shipwreck of a house.
    It was far back behind a screen of blackberry bushes. It had once been white, but was now gray with age, its slate roof smeared with lichen and rotting leaves, a giant spiderweb glittering across the veranda. The lower windows had boards across them and the upper ones were broken, with tattered curtains drifting in and out, giving glimpses of darkness. The house seemed to invite attention while whispering Beware.
    Leander shook his hair from his eyes and aimed the video camera at the house.
    A young woman stood on the veranda.
    Her hair was black and dripping, her silvery dress clinging to a slender body that seemed slightly attenuated, as if the camera lense were distorting her. There was a tattoo on her forehead, twining above eyes that were black and malevolent --
    Stumbling back, he lowered the video camera -- there was no one on the veranda. How had she moved so fast...?
    "What are you doing?"
    "Ow." The ringing in his ears made him flinch as he turned and gazed at the girl who sat on a low wall, watching him. "Um...hey..."
    She had a cigarette between full lips. Dressed in a black sweater, jeans, and Doc Martens, she looked pretty in a subversive way. Heavy brown hair tumbled around a pale face, dark eyes smudged with smoky liner. She was his age, about, but regarded him with a cynicism that seemed older. She tilted her head. "I said, what are you doing?"

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