Nothing Good Ever Happens Here (2012)
Christie pushed out the doors, into the garden.
Clara was walking down the path, toward the pond.
He had kissed her. He had felt her warm skin against his, her heart beating against his chest. Maybe she wasn't a ghost, but a dead ringer for an ancestor with the same name. "Clara!"
She kept walking.
A chill grazed the back of his neck. He turned, the fear brewing into an angry, horrified defiance.
The Barrington Hotel rose behind him, abandoned, partly boarded up, profaned by graffiti. Its topmost windows were black and gaping. The wind moaned through it with the mournful eerieness of the abandoned.
He turned back, swallowing hard.
Clara had fallen.
He dropped his suitcase and ran to her. When he reached her, she looked no different. He crouched beside her. "Clara, what's going on?"
Her eyelashes fluttered. She whispered, "Please help me to the pond."
"Please. Before it's too late."
He assisted her in standing. Her arm curved around his shoulders. Her skin was warm. She was not a ghost.
They trudged quickly through the garden, around the hedged roundabouts, toward the scraggly part, where the trees huddled around the pond. The tin roof of the makeshift temple glinted. Pale toadstools had sprouted in the soil.
Christie heard someone humming softly near the pond. "Clara . . ."
"It's all right." She stepped away. She took his hand and led him up to the temple. "We're safe here. They won't find us."
"They?" Christie glanced over his shoulder, back the way they'd come. "Clara, please tell me what--"
He heard a noise from the pond, as if something immense had surfaced. Another chill raked over his clammy skin.
Clara sat before the altar, gazing at the goat skull. "I love him, Christie."
From the vicinity of the pond, a voice that sounded like an animal trying to speak called out, "Clara . . ."
Christie's guts knotted with terror. Moonlight frosted Clara's skin as she turned her head and looked at him. "It'll be all right. I promise. He'll drown you and you won't feel a thing."
Christie leaped out of the temple and ran.
His foot caught on a root. He went down, his chin smacking painfully against the ground. His ears filled with a buzzing sound--
He twisted around and stared at what stood near the pond, flickering like an old black-and-white film, a tall, shaggy figure, ram horns curving on the sides of its head. Its eyes glinted like the reflection of light across a blade.
Christie scrambled up, dizzily slid onto his hands and knees, whispering, "No . . . no . . ." as his brain balked at what was happening.
A shadow fell over him.
He scrambled away, pulled himself up by grabbing a tree branch. He didn't want to look at whatever horror had come out of that pond.
"Christie . . . Hart." That same animal voice spoke his name. He turned his head.
A very dead young man who resembled a 1930s movie idol stood there, his hair and suit dripping water. He was smiling, holding out a hand. "Don't be afraid. You can't get away. It won't be so bad if you don't struggle."
Christie sagged against the tree. He was wheezing now and his skull felt as if something had crashed into it. He wanted the terror to end. He just wanted . . .
"Christie." Clara walked past the thing pretending to be a smiling young man. She stretched out her own hand and said sweetly, "Come on."
"Kelpie." The female voice, stern and young, broke the spell that held Christie. He almost wept with relief as the auburn-haired girl and the boy with the orange hair emerged from the night.
The dripping apparition turned toward them and flickered like a candle, half of his face revealed to be a skull with something moving in one eye socket. The voice was a growl. "This is not your lady's territory."
"No." The auburn-haired girl stepped forward, steely-eyed. "But you are endangering all of us with what you are doing here. There are too many missing children."
The dead young man tilted his head to one side. The shadows of ram horns threaded with bioluminescence curved from his long brown hair. "This was my place before your lady came."
Christie could understand the words they spoke, but his mind was registering a language he couldn't identify.
Then the drowned young man slid into darkness, which pooled toward Christie's feet.
Liquid black hands reached out and grabbed Christie's ankles. He shouted, his voice tearing. He fell onto his back and was dragged toward the pond. He clutched at grass, at weeds--
Something was flung onto his chest--a wooden scabbard with a curved knife in it. He seized the hilt, flicked the scabbard away. The blade shone silver. He reared up and slashed at the darkness dragging him. The phantom hands released him. He rolled away with a sob.
Then the orange-haired boy was crouched before him. "Use your words, boy. Poetry."
Christie scrambled back. He couldn't see the thing from the water, the old god or the monster, whatever it was.
"You need to do it." The red-haired boy who looked like a Botticelli angel with golden eyes pointed at the pond. "We cannot destroy our own."
"Can't I just leave--"
"Leave and it'll keep drowning and eating people. We can't hurt it. Only you can."