NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS HERE (2012)
Christie saw Clara walking toward the pond. Even though she had tried to feed him to the monster that she loved, he couldn't let her die. He jumped up and ran after her, clutching the silver knife.
"Words!" the auburn-haired girl shouted after him.
"Clara!" His breath tore at his lungs. When he spoke her name, he felt as if his voice box was being shredded. He saw the shadow rise in dark tatters from the water, immense, arching toward her.
"Clara!" His voice tore as the horned shadow grasped her and dragged her into the water. He shouted the most powerful words about water that he knew, those of Thoreau:
"The water understands . . .
Ill-used, it will destroy.
In perfect time and measure destroy
With a face of golden pleasure, elegantly destroy."
He felt as if things were burning his skin, saw his outstretched hand inked with words written in a language he didn't know.
The leaves continued to fall. The watery shadow was frozen, Clara in its embrace.
"Clara." Despite the terror holding him at the sight of that impossible tableau, Christie reached for her. She turned. Her eyes were black holes. There were cracks in her face.
She whispered, "Please."
He slammed the silver knife up, into the area where the monster's skull should be. The blade cut through the stilled water that formed the kelpie as if through a wave. His arm holding the knife vibrated. He let go and fell back.
The monster burst apart in a scattering of diseased-looking black fluid.
And Clara, now a figure of bones and parchment skin, sank back into the water.
Christie's mind had stopped working.
"Phouka." He heard the orange-haired boy say. "We're losing him."
The auburn-haired girl crouched before Christie. There were freckles across her nose. He noticed that even more than the wraith-silver of her eyes. Her voice ws gentle. "She died a long time ago. She was the lure. This place"--she indicated the hotel behind him--"was a lure. Dark things like to play tricks. Next time, you will be able to deal with such strangeness. For now, FORGET."
Christie blinked. He sat in the cold morning, facing the pond behind the hotel. A line from Keats drifted through his head: Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.
"What are you doing out here?"
He looked up to see Leon and Marisol striding toward him from the hotel, which looked pretty and perfect in the rising sun. He pushed to his feet and wondered what he had been doing out here.
"I went for a walk. I think I fell." He touched his sore jaw. "Can you check my eyes and see if I have a concussion? Is one of my pupils bigger than the other?"
"Let's just get you back to the hotel." Marisol hooked an arm through one of his.
As they moved away from the pond, Christie glanced back at it and wondered why he felt lke crying.
At the convention center, he met the five other young winners at a luncheon. Leon and Marisol kept to themselves, mostly. Christie recalled how silent the audience had been as Leon and Marisol read their poems, as if enchanted.
The two sat in his room as Christie was packing--he 'd found his mud-stained suitacase on his bed. He didn't remember putting it there, or how it had gotten mud on it. He wonderd how hard he'd hit his head when he'd fallen.
Marisol hugged him outside the hotel as his cab drew up. Leon clasped his hand and grinned. "Maybe we'll see each other again."
"Why wouldn't we?" As Christie slid into the cab, he recognized the driver who had brought him here; the tall, stern-faced woman with the black braids.
"Airport," he told her, and smiled. He couldn't wait to get back home.
Leon and Marisol turned back to the hotel. As the sun glazed the windows with red, the hotel changed. The glamour that had cloaked it, even in the day, faded. A transparency of the hotel's true state overlaid it, solidified, and it became the building that everyone saw--abandoned, sinking into ruin. The graffiti across its doors read NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS HERE.
Hand in hand, Leon and Marisol walked into the hotel, and faded.