The Pond

(Hey all. I thought it would be fun to share a story that I haven’t edited yet. I wrote this today in one sitting in about 2 hours, and I haven’t gone through and made changes. I’ve scanned it for spelling mistakes, but that’s it. If I get some feedback on it I’ll probably post an edited/more complete version of it later.
On a side note, I didn’t realize until I was almost done with the story just how much it resembles a Lovecraftian version of Little Shop of Horrors, but I decided to finish it anyway.
I’d love it if people would give me critiques. What’s missing? Does it need more characterization, a slower build, more characters, more mystery about the thing in the pond? Anything else I could do to improve it? Let me know.
If you can’t think of anything, that’s fine, just sit back and enjoy some cosmic horror, Lovecraft style.

The Pond – By E.W. Morrow

I used to worry, after the first few times, that the bodies would be discovered. Foolish, I know, but isn’t that the way of the world? We spend all our time worrying about trivial things while the real problems, the real dangers, lurk just below the surface. Out of sight, out of mind. Of course, one day the hidden danger will surface, and then we’ll kick ourselves for not giving it the respect it deserved.

In my defense, when I began I did not know how deep the pond was. My dreams were full of dark visions of waterlogged, algae coated corpses bobbing just below the murky surface. In my dreams they would whisper to each other in noxious strings of malice laden bubbles that never made it to the surface. One day, when there were enough of them, they would rise from the shallow waters and find me, drag me back to the water and hold me there in their clammy embrace forever.

Like I said, foolish. I am not so lucky that such a mild fate awaits me there. I still do not know how deep those waters run, but I know it is far deeper than any pond should. And I know that there are far worse things lurking in it than my own crimes could ever create.

I fed it again last night, but I fear that soon I will have to do so again. The weather has been unbearably hot this month, and this past week it rained nearly non-stop. I know many were happy for the reprieve from the heat, and should I have been fortunate enough to live anywhere else, I would have agreed. But there is a reason that thunder stirs me from my dreams of dead men, and a reason my waking hours are more terrible than my dreams. Rain disturbs the pond. It churns the water, raises up the algae and decaying organic matter and brings the smell of death to the surface. This is true of any pond, but in mine, worse things are disturbed. You will find no ducks or geese swimming on the surface of the pond after a rain. Humans, alas, are not so intelligent.

Yesterday, I saw a group of children playing by the water’s edge. Their parents were quite some distance away, chatting inanely about the weather. Stupid people. I watched the children playing, watched them throwing stones and sticks into the water, and I knew that I could get to them before their parents even knew what was happening. I wondered which one I would take, if I had to, and whether the others would thank me for it after. Probably not. They never do.

The children squealed when there was a splash and a plop and ran back to their parents, each one trying to yell louder than the others. There was an argument about whether it had been a turtle or a frog. Nobody watched the water. Nobody saw the ripple become a wake that sped to the center of the pond and vanished. Nobody but me.

I didn’t always give the pond humans. It started with animals. The first had been a dog, and an accident. He’d slipped his leash one evening and ran into a bed of reeds at the water’s edge. The reeds had thrashed suddenly, there had been a yelp and some splashes, and then I never saw the dog again. When my sister came back from her vacation I told her it had run away. I even put signs up around the neighborhood and went with her to the shelters looking for it. I never told her what really happened. Never mentioned the slimy, ropy thing that disappeared into the depths as I approached. Never commented how, the next day, the evil smell around the pond seemed to disappear.

After that I started giving it things a few times every month. Always after a hard rain, always when it smelled of putrid death. There were a few cats I’d coaxed into my apartment with a bag of treats I’d bought at the pet store along with a white rabbit and a pair of ferrets. For some reason it never occurred to me to try anything that was already dead, like a ham or a turkey. Somehow I just knew that the thing in the water wanted warm meat.

For the first few months I saw mercifully little of the creature. All I caught were quick glimpses of something black and slimy, something that glistened in the moonlight and wrapped around it’s prey like a ball of snakes. But I was finding it harder and harder to catch animals to throw to it. Eventually the pet store would grow suspicious of the numbers of small furry animals I was purchasing. During the days I would visit the pond, and I’d watch the children playing along it’s edge, blind to the danger they were in.

I don’t know when I made the decision. To this day I’m not sure I ever actually did. I think I just kept on going until it was too late. That’s what I tell myself, that there was never a point where I could have turned back, that suddenly I just looked back and the point of no return was spinning off into the distance behind me. It’s a comforting thought. But then, it doesn’t explain why I went to the park that night, or why I took the bottle of whiskey.

I never learned his name. He was just a homeless man who I’d seen there from time to time, who’d hit me up for spare change or a bottle of beer, whichever one I had on me. I just sat on the bench and waited. He limped up a few seconds later. He smelled like stale sweat and sour milk. It was almost refreshing, smelling something that good after the pond. I handed him the bottle and we talked. Or rather, he talked, I listened. When the bottle was empty I said I had some more, and we got up and started walking.

I like to think we would have kept walking if he hadn’t told me to wait just as we passed the pond. He’d drank most of the bottle and needed to relieve himself. I gestured to the pond without saying a word. He gave me a crooked smile. That was the last time I saw his face, and that’s how I remember him, smiling a crooked smile. He trudged to the edge of the water and I heard him jangling with his ratty old belt. A moment later there was the steady trickle as he emptied his bladder into the water.

It reared out of the water then, inched it’s way toward the soggy ground the beggar stood on. He must have had his eyes closed, because he didn’t react to it’s appearance. I saw it though. It had a mouth, of sorts, and it puckered and slurped along the ground, as if tasting it’s way towards him. It was jet black and covered with mossy green patches. And it was long and thin, like a tentacle, or a snake, and it bulged slightly near the end, near the mouth. All along it’s length tiny versions of itself sprouted and writhed. It rose up, sucking at the air, closing in on the space near the beggar’s head. When it got close enough I saw that the appendages had tiny mouths of their own. Each one was covered in what looked like little hairs that swayed independently of one another. It was only too easy to imagine each one of those hairs having microscopic mouths of their own, and tiny waving growths. The creature was a living fractal, a Mandelbrot demon. Each part of it was just a smaller version of the whole. Wildly I found myself wondering whether the thing in front of me was the whole creature, or whether this abomination was just one tendril of a massive, endless beast. My mind swam as I tried to imagine it’s bulk sitting at the bottom of the pond, perhaps linking itself to a vast network of caves and underground rivers, sending bits of itself out all across the town, the state, the country, even the world. Maybe growing so large that it burst through the seams of reality, sending only the smallest portion of itself into our dimension to feed.

I was so lost in thought that I almost didn’t see the second tendril creeping towards me in the gloom. If the moon hadn’t been out, hadn’t gleamed on the sticky mucus covering it, I probably wouldn’t have seen it at all. Luckily I managed to stumble away just before it wrapped itself around my leg. I fell and scrambled through the mud. I shouldn’t have looked back. I know that now. I should have dragged myself to my feet and ran and ran and never come back to that spot again. But something in the back of my mind made me turn, made me scan the ground fragrantly for the tentacle that could still be following me. When I finally saw it, it wasn’t coming after me anymore. It had doubled back and wrapped itself around the old man I’d led to the water’s edge. More and more tendrils were rising from the water, more than could possibly hope to fit around the poor man. An impossible number of sticky, pungent, sucking shapes reared and thrashed in the water, and countless more writhed below the surface. The thing lifted the pitiful, writing mummy of the old man above the water and convulsed. Then, bit by bit, it dragged him into the water.

I fainted then. By some twisted miracle I was still alive when the morning found me. I was covered in my own vomit and smelled of urine, but I was alive. The surface of the pond was placid, almost serene, save for a single nobly object near the water’s edge that disappeared with a plop the second I saw it. I staggered home in the pale light of dawn, and collapsed on my bed without showering. I slept for the entire day and night. That was the first time I dreamed of the pond. It wasn’t full of the dead, not yet. There was only one person in those waters: the homeless man smiling his crooked smile and staring at me with dead eyes.

As I said, it was foolish to think that the bodies would be discovered. The creature obviously consumed all of the evidence, but after the first few times I always worried that one of them, or one part of them, would be found and I would be hunted down. I have since moved on to other, more important, concerns.

I try not to learn their names. Those who’s names I do learn I try to forget. Last night her name was Cheryl, and I think it will be some time before I forget. I hope that I will, just as I hope that nobody remembers the two of us drinking together, hope nobody saw me slip something into her drink, hope nobody saw us leave together or make it to the pond. She was in my dreams last night, plotting my demise with all the other corpses at the bottom of the pond.

But I’m fine with that. I’ve learned to live with it, learned to tell myself that the pond is safe for children to play around while I stand watch over the waters. One day the dead will come to me, one day there will be so many corpses in the dream pond that they no longer hide beneath the surface. On that day, I shudder to think what I will do. At least I know that I will always have one source of food left to placate the Mandelbrot demon in the pond. I only hope that someone will come after me, carry on my work, and keep the world safe for a little while longer.


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