“You’re getting all worked up for nothing, baby girl!” Sheila yells from behind. During my swim back to the shore, she drifts farther out. Her head is barely visible under the cool moonlight.
And she is probably right. It was more than likely the boys playing a trick on us, but what kind of friend and cousin would I be if I did not respond to such a commotion? All I need is Stephen using my ignoring their joke as an excuse to never speak to me again.
“Karl? Stephen?” I call into the dead night, slowly walking across the rugged beach.
My eyes scan the dark bank. Rotten logs and driftwood cast long shadows, connecting the obsidian water to the tree line, leading up to the forested crags we trekked to get here. A capsized white boat lies cracked down the middle farther down the beach, its resident rodent hisses at me before disappearing into its dusty den.
A short, quiet giggle comes from within the thicket and something grazes my shoulder. “Guys,” my voice is shaky, “this isn’t funny anymore. Stop with the games.” No response.
Goosebumps bubble up on my arms, making me realize I’m walking the bank nearly naked. Then I see it again, the moving shadow. This time I hear it grunt and hobble out of sight in the forest.
Soggy, hurried footsteps suddenly sound from behind me. As I try to make a run for it, the footsteps get louder and faster. The sand is getting damper as I am forced to head to the water’s edge. I blindly race down the bank, my heart in my throat. An owl nearly decapitates me as my sprint startled the giant thing. I don’t take a second to recuperate, and I continue to run for my life.
Unfortunately, the wet sand is pulling my feet down, forcing me to stop and fumble over. On the way down, I slice my leg on a sharp boulder.
I look back at my pursuer. It was Sheila. Her body was covered with mud. The only way I can tell it was Sheila was for her pink bikini. Without it, she’d appear to be a crazed, figure of dark mud and soot chasing me down. I let out an exhausted cry.
“Goddamn, girl! It’s just me! I split my foot on some glass on my way back to shore and had to crawl a lot of the way, which made me filthy dirty.” She grins, her white teeth shining through the mud. “You okay?” I take her hand and get back up on my feet.
Shaking my head, I reply, “Something’s wrong, Sheila. I can’t find them.” Tears well up in my eyes. “I can’t find them!”
Sheila planted her palms on my shoulders and shook. “That’s what I was trying to tell you! They’re back now. See?” She motions back at our little spot on the beach. Sure enough, Karl and Stephen were crouched around a furious fire roasting wienies and downing Coors.
Arm in arm, we limp back to the site. I never realized how much muscle Sheila had until now. Her sinewy body tensed against mine, making me feel like a shrimp in comparison. It is no wonder men preferred Sheila over me. All I had was brains and a somewhat slim body. She was a fucking amazon.
Only, when we get back, I realize it’s not Stephen and Karl at all; rather, it’s two scraggy old men wearing some terribly printed –
“SHIT!” The men were wearing the boys’ face! As if it were some sick and twisted Halloween trick. Blood still seeped from the flimsy flesh masks, down the imposter’s hairy chest. Their thick hands are caked in red slime.
I try to break free of Sheila’s grasp but fail, discovering that wasn’t Sheila either. In the flickering light from the fire I can see very well that it was never Sheila. This woman’s face was too round to be Sheila.
Her hot breath blistered my skin. “Why do you want to leave, puddin’? The fun’s about to start!” The men laugh as the woman thrusts my head in the sand and digs her sharp toenail in my thigh.
They pin my writhing body down and suddenly I feel a sharp pain on my head. As my eyes roll and the world turns black, I hear their maniacal guffaws. I fade into unconsciousness with their hearty bellows and putrid stench filling my senses.