Womphus black flies buzz in a loose circle above Cooper’s head like buzzards over a piece of roadkill. Coincidentally enough, like buzzards to roadkill, the flies are attracted to Cooper by the stench rising in invisible plumes from his body, mostly from his armpits. He walked his way up Fricker Drive – running down The Hill of the Neverending Stride is one thing, but to run up it? Such requires a certain level of unhingedness Cooper has yet to attain, despite what his parents might think or say – and he planned on taking a slow, somber walk down to the reservoir, but things didn’t exactly go according to his plan. He was walking slowly as he traded the concrete walkway along the pond for the mouth of the old logging road, and when he passed the beginning of The Dirtbiker’s Path he was definitely doing a power walk, but then he got to the rocky hill and his feet took on a mind of their own, luring him into a run. Then, suddenly, Cooper found himself laying in the dirt down by the Wanaque Reservoir, at the same spot where he and David took their last fishing trip. The spot where they met a horrifying lake monster called The Serpent. The spot where Cooper lost his dad’s fishing backpack, which has apparently been stolen by somebody as it’s no longer lying in the spot Cooper left it when he fled. The spot where David’s life was stolen along with that backpack.
Cooper groans as he lifts himself up into a sitting position. He looks left down the shoreline, then right down the shoreline. The lazy waves of the Wanaque Reservoir lap up against the sandy shores, although the sand is more pebbles than sand. Once, when Cooper was still really young, he and David came down here and tried to build castles out of the pebbles. They failed spectacularly, but it was still fun. David made it fun, David always knew how to make things fun, even when Cooper was angry. Especially when Cooper was angry. But now…
“Ugh,” Cooper groans, letting his head fall back into the dirt. “Why’d I even come down here… to remember David? I don’t need to be at the place he died to remember David. I’m constantly remembering David. This is just making it worse…”
A thought appears in Cooper’s mind, something that Mister Williamson said earlier on,‘Life is very ironic.’ Yeah, it sure is – Cooper thought that being hurriedly taken out of his environment following the death of his brother was the thing that made coping with said death so hard, but now that he’s been back in his old house, now that he’s back at the spot where The Serpent came out of the water and grabbed David? It’s only about two thousand times harder. Hard like iron; if that’s not ironic, Cooper doesn’t know what is.
“All right now, get up, Cooper,” Cooper says to himself after slapping the seventh mosquito to land on his left arm alone. “We came, we saw, we were conquered. We might as well go back and finish the therapy session.”
Cooper gets up, but doesn’t immediately start walking back. One look at that tall, steep hill he’ll have to climb – the hill David didn’t want to climb, the hill that made him take his last cast, the cast that hooked The Serpent, ‘Why couldn’t he have just climbed the hill?’ – convinces Cooper to take one last look at the water. Just for the hell of it, ya know? He’s pretty hot and sweaty too, it would feel good to rinse some of the yuck off his face before he walks back and gets all sweaty again.
And so he does go to the water’s edge, he strips his shoes and socks off and wades in up to his ankles, then to his shins, then his knees even though the cuffs of his shorts get a little wet. Cooper doesn’t mind it. In fact, he doesn’t even think of it – he doesn’t think of anything, his mind is totally blank, his gaze captured by something hidden underneath the water.
Cooper, forgetting he’s wearing clothes at all, dives right in and opens his eyes to the sting of the reservoir’s somewhat clear water. The thing’s not very deep – maybe sixish feet down, maybe eight – but it’s not the dive that gives Cooper a challenge. It’s the glowing thing itself, he’s wrestling with it but it seems to be stuck to the bottom of the lake, if only he had… his dad’s knife! Cooper reaches into his right pocket, which proves to be a challenge in and of itself because of the water and all, but finds nothing. It must have fallen out during his tantrum at the doctor’s house, or maybe when he was running down here. It doesn’t matter – well, it does matter, but not too much compared to the torturous burning which consumes his lungs like rage in the heart of a misunderstood child. He can’t wrestle anymore, he has to come up for air.
Cooper breaks the surface and treads water, angrily punching and slapping the surface. “Fuck!” he shouts, “Why did I have to fucking drop the knife?! Fuck!” He backstrokes a few feet then looks down – the glowing thing is still there, still glowing beneath the surface. If the thing is what Cooper thinks it is, he can’t be in this water too much longer, otherwise… he doesn’t want to think about otherwise.
“Okay, calm it down,” Cooper says to himself. “Remember, sometimes bad things have to happen so good things can happen. If I had the knife I might break the thing. I just have to try again.”
Taking in a massive lungful of air, Cooper dives down to the glowing thing and wriggles his fingers beneath its base. The thing itself is smooth and hard like a big river stone, but the gunk it’s attached to is… well, it’s definitely not hard. It’s got a shape to it, but it’s… it’s so slimy and gunky and sort of squishy, but like… not. It’s so blegh, so disgustingly blegh. It’s like one of those nasty floating dull-orange egg-sack-lookin’ bryozoan colony shits that he sometimes sees when he swims in Treeburg’s other lakes, the things that look like they came from another plan–
The glowing thing pops out of its gross cradle with a thuncc. Holding it under one arm, Cooper swims for the surface and then for shore. When he’s at least twenty feet onto land he falls to his knees and sets the glowing thing down to catch his breath. It’s a lot heavier out of the water, but he thinks he can carry it. He might have trouble getting up that hill, but it’ll be worth it.
Before Cooper picks the thing back up, he takes a moment to examine it. It’s shaped sort of like a football, except the corners are significantly more rounded, and it’s about twice the size of a normal football. It’s mostly translucent, like colorless gelatin but blurry, and the outside is thick and tough. It has a pulsating orange core, too, a core which glows like the rising sun.
“Oh yeah, I know exactly what you are,” Cooper says between pants of caught breath as he swivels the thing around in his hands so he can get a good look at it. “You’re an egg, and your mom is a fuckin’ bitch.”
Speaking of said fuckin’ bitch, Cooper doesn’t want to give it a chance to find its nest empty while he’s still down here. He takes his shirt off and drapes it over the egg like he was dressing it, then he pushes the egg over and grabs his shirt by the bottom hem and cautiously lifts it. The top of the egg pokes out of the collar a little bit, like a grown adult trying to fit his head through the collar of a toddler’s sweater, but it stays snug. Still… Cooper doesn’t quite trust that. Leaving the shirt on the egg, Cooper picks it up with both hands and starts jogging up the steep hill.
When he’s halfway up the hill, Cooper hears what can only be described as a banshee’s wail, a terrible scream that he’s heard only once before, that can only be made by one specific monster, and as far as Cooper is aware, banshees don’t exist. Cooper sprints up the hill with all his might, and when he crests it, he sprints over the plateau between the two mountains, he sprints down the old logging road, he sprints until his feet are numb; he sprints so fast that he doesn’t even realize he misses the righthand turn at the swampy junction he needed to take to get back to Fricker. Cooper just keeps sprinting and sprinting and sprinting, and he doesn’t stop until he comes to the clearing at the end of the stretch of the old logging road he never explored before. It’s not the unfamiliar woods that stop him, nor is it the old ratty shack standing at the end of the road. No, it’s the man staring at him out the little dirty window next to the moldy plywood door of the ratty shack. The man in the black ski mask with eyes far more bulbous and hollow than that of The Goddamned Fucking Serpent. Cooper wants to turn and leave, he wants to run far, far away, but his legs are grape jelly, his feet are concrete blocks, his heart is a jackhammer in his chest. He barely has the sense left to breathe.
The man’s head disappears from the window. The door opens with a sinister creak. Aside from the ski mask, the man wears no clothing. His flabby body is slathered in mud and leaves, his teeth are browner than said mud. He slowly walks across the clearing towards Cooper, whose knees are threatening to buckle and bring him to the ground. Then he would never escape the man. Then the man wouldn’t even have to chase after Cooper to have his way with him.
The man stops when he’s six inches away from Cooper. The smell pouring off his muddy body is utterly atrocious. Cooper’s eyes begin to water, and he wants to look away, but if he does, the man might make a dirty play, so he’s looking up at the man’s head. If he brings his gaze down he’ll see that which he’ll never unsee, and then his eyes wouldn’t be watering from just the smell. Then Cooper would be crying, and he might never stop crying. The man might like his crying.
“Watchu got?” the man asks in the voice of a hippopotamus. He reaches low and takes the egg out of Cooper’s hands, then rips the shirt off it and gives it back to Cooper. “Looks like beck’fust. Thanks buh-dy.” The man pats Cooper on the head like a dog, then turns around and goes back into his ratty shack, letting the moldy door slam loudly behind him. The sound of thin wood slapping thicker wood seems to break Cooper from the trance; the boy turns around and darts back down the wide trail, not even bothering to put his shirt back on.
After taking the turn – now a lefthand turn, and never mind the mud he runs through, Cooper just needs to get the fuck out of these fucking Fricker woods so he can never come back – Cooper picks up his speed and doesn’t stop running until he gets back to his old house on Fricker Drive. He ran so fast that his pace didn’t pick up going down The Hill of the Neverending Stride, and can you blame him? He saw a monster in the forest today, a monster far worse than the one he was expecting to see.
Hello Commons, this has been the third subchapter of the twelfth story from Convenient Incidents, an anthology of fifteen interconnected short stories which revolve around a man by the name of Hilter Odolf Williamson.
Convenient Incidents is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Convenient Incidents is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Convenient Incidents and would like to help support my work, click here and buy an autographed copy of the book (or anything else!) from my store. Alternatively, you can snag a cheaper (and unsigned) copy from Amazon by clicking here OR you can buy the ebook for even cheaper here.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. Be well Commons~