By Joshua Scribner
Copyright 2016 Joshua Scribner
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This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
There were things you learned when you were ugly and poor. One of those things was to keep your head down at school. Janice knew this.
She did her best to sit away from the other kids. When the teacher called roll, she raised her hand instead of speaking. Most days she could go unnoticed. Last Monday hadn’t been one of those days. Someone had farted, and when Mrs. Fedders had asked who the culprit was, several kids had pointed at Janice.
“Do you need to go the bathroom, Janice?” the old woman had asked, making the entire classroom of seventh graders laugh.
Janice had shaken her head, knowing they were all looking at her, with her pear shape and second-hand clothes. She probably smelled like a fart anyway. Mom went to the laundromat about once a month, and Janice usually had about three outfits that fit at any time.
“Are you sure?” Mrs. Fedders had asked. “You may need a change of panties.”
She’d never heard people laugh so hard.
There were times like that, when there was nothing she could do. Sometimes you had to just take the abuse quietly and hope the joke wouldn’t be funny to them for too long. It was better not to fight. And it was better to always keep quiet.
But right now it was hard.
A dead girl had come into the room.
Sadie was not fat like Janice. She was small and rail thin. But she had a great big head, and her brown hair was always bushy and unkempt. The other kids had always said she was retarded.
Sadie wasn’t retarded. You’d know that if you got her to talk. But she was afraid to talk to anyone but Janice. Or you’d know she wasn’t retarded if you just looked at her eyes. They weren’t dull. They were big, blue and bright.
Sadie’s mom and her live-in boyfriend were drunk or stoned or both most every night. Sometimes they did it at Sadie’s house. Sometimes they did it across the street, at Janet’s house, with Janet’s mom and her mom’s boyfriend.
Whatever house they were in, Janice and Sadie had always hung out at the other. That way they didn’t draw attention to themselves from any of those people or the people who came by to buy dope.
The police hadn’t looked for Sadie for very long after she disappeared. Sadie’s Mom didn’t push the issue and neither did the teachers at school. Some seemed to assume that Sadie had run away. Others just didn’t care. It wasn’t always easy to tell the difference between those two groups of people.
Sadie had been gone for about eight months now.
But now she was back. And just like it had been before the ugly little girl had gone away, no one but Janice seemed to notice her now.
Sadie’s usually bushy hair was caked with mud. It looked like a filthy mop on her head. Her clothes were gone. Her skin was bruised. Her lips were draw into an expression of horror. Her little chest was bobbing up and down. Her eyes were as big and blue as Janice had ever seen them.
There was no way the kids in that class or the teacher should have been able to ignore the naked girl. The shit smell alone should have been enough to send them all running.
But clearly Janice was the only one that could sense the dead girl.
But she couldn’t do anything about it. If she screamed, they’d laugh at her. If she said what she saw, she’d be sent home.
James, Mom’s man, would show her what happened when a girl who lived with a drug dealer did something crazy that could attract social services, or worse, the police, to their house.
All there was to do was sit there and hope the dead girl went away. It was hard to ignore her old friend, though. Sadie held up a bruised hand and beckoned for Janice to come. She opened her mouth, and no sound came out. What came out looked like sewage water.
The apparition didn’t disappear like it seemed an apparition should. Instead, Sadie turned and walked out of the room.
Something was said. Janice thought she might have heard her name in it. Everyone laughed.
Janice turned her head forward and looked down.
Janice had once woken up from a nightmare and screamed for her mother. That was three years ago. James had been with them for a month. He’d come in with the belt.
Now she knew better.
This time, she’d not woken up from a nightmare. It was more like she’d awoken to the nightmare. James didn’t allow lights on at night, not unless they were partying with others. And if they were partying with others then she was alone anyway. They still partied with Sadie’s mom and her guy. Janice would sleep in whichever house where they were not partying.
They were not partying tonight. But there was a light. It was emanating from the dead girl.
Sadie stood there in a glow. She was naked again and was dripping water onto Janice’s bedroom floor. She was standing by the door, beckoning for Janice to come.
Janice closed her eyes. She put her pillow over her head with her face in the mattress. She chanted into that mattress, “She’s not real. She’s not real.”
It was kind of like a trick she’d taught herself. Sometimes when the other kids were really messing with her, she chanted in her head that she wasn’t there. Sometimes when James was coming after her with a belt, a stick, or just his words, she chanted in her head that she couldn’t feel a thing. She’d found this worked. She’d found it worked better when she spoke the words out loud. Sometimes she did this after a whipping, into the mattress, just like she was doing now, and it dulled the pain. And now, she hoped it would make the ghost go away.
But then she heard the creaks in the floor. She heard the squishy sounds of wet footsteps. And she heard these things loud and clear. They were louder than the chanting.
The first thing she felt was the cold. And it was an icy cold, the kind of cold that you never felt in this part of the country, not even around Christmas. Then she felt an even stronger chill. It came in the form of a dainty hand on her neck.
Janice screamed, but it was into her pillow.
The hand was gone. She could feel its remnant chill, but the hand was gone. She wouldn’t look up, though.
She restarted her chant. “She’s not real. She’s not . . .”
She heard the creeks again. She heard the squishy steps. But these things were fading away.
She feared that Sadie might have been real. And if she had been real, then the water she’d gotten on the floor would have been real. If James found it he’d blame Janice.
But she couldn’t bring herself to get out of bed and clean it up.
There was no mess on her bedroom floor the next day. She should have known there would not be. When Sadie had visited the classroom, she’d not left the water behind.
With parent teacher conferences, there was no school. Janice knew her mother wouldn’t be attending the conferences. And if she did, she’d just see that Janice was moving along fine. She could have pulled perfect grades, but she’d not wanted to stand out. She stuck wither her Bs and Cs, good enough to get by and go under the radar.
James had to work today. He did stop by her room before going off to his landscaping job. “Get your fat ass up. I know you don’t have school today, so I want this house spotless when I come home.”
It wasn’t hard to do that. She always kept the house clean. That minimized how much he got onto her for it. Of course, when he wanted to nitpick her because he was in the mood to mess with her, there was nothing she could do anyway.
She worked for about an hour on the house.
Mom was in bed. Mom would be largely indifferent to her if James wasn’t there. If James was there and he was pissed, Mom would deflect attention to Janice, of course, pointing out anything she could. The woman wasn’t above making little messes in hidden places and then pointing them out to James. She wasn’t above lying either.
“Look what Janice thinks she’s too good to do. I told her several times to do it, but she doesn’t think she has to mind me.”
“That’s because you’re too soft with her. Come here, Janice, so I can show Mommy how to deal with a little fat bitch.”
But Janice wasn’t going to worry about that now. She wasn’t going to worry about the dead girl either. No, there was a place where she could go.
Nobody really liked to go in the nearby woods. There were snakes in the brush.
But Janice took a long metal pipe with her. She’d found it years ago and kept it by a tree stump right at the beginning of the woods. She used it to poke the ground in front of her as she moved. If you left a snake alone, it was usually obliged to return the favor. She knew what it was like to just want to be left alone. She went around the ones she found.
There was a clearing in the woods. She was sweating by the time she got there.
That was fine, though. This was her safe place. No one and no thing had ever bothered her here. Most of her good feelings in life came from memories of being here. She thought that would somehow keep dead girls away too.
She took off her old backpack. She took out her book and the old water bottle she’d refilled. She sat with her back to the same thick tree she always read against.
She didn’t know how long it took, but it couldn’t have been long. Her life sucked, but the lives of the characters in the books were usually much more interesting. She read out loud, giving the words she read more power. And soon, she was able to exchange her life for the lives of those characters.
She flipped through the pages unconsciously. The forest was background. Nature didn’t bother her, and she didn’t bother it.
Then, on this hot day, she felt the cold.
She looked up.
Sadie stood near the edge of the woods, staring at Janice with those blue eyes. She looked like she was opening her mouth to speak, but instead of words the toilet water came out.
“No,” Janice screamed. “You have to leave. You can’t come here. This is my place.”
She’d brought Sadie here when she was alive. Sadie had not seemed to mind the snakes either. Sadie had known the value of seclusion.
“I never should have brought you here,” Janice cried. “Then you wouldn’t have been able to find me.”
Sadie’s skin was not like the dead skin it had been before. It was the milky white it had been in life. She lifted a hand to her neck and just pointed at it.
“What?” Janice asked. “What the hell do you want from me? Can’t you see I just want to be left alone?”
Sadie’s neck pulled open and blood spilled out. She stood there like that, like the injury couldn’t really hurt her. Then it was like the mucky water just appeared all over her skin. It washed down her hair and caked it with mud. Her skin was muddy too, but the injuries that came were still visible. It looked like something invisible was stabbing her. And the cuts were coming in a very recognizable shape. It wasn’t like she was being stabbed by an invisible knife. It was more like she was being bitten by an invisible mouth.
Then a huge chunk of flesh in the shape of an alligator mouth disappeared from Sadie’s stomach.
Sadie started to walk toward Janice. The flesh from one of her thighs disappeared. Janice could hear the ripping sounds as it was taken away.
Janice screamed and closed her eyes. She covered her ears and chanted. “You’re not real. You’re not real. You’re not real.”
And this time it worked. The chill was the first thing to go.
She opened her eyes.
Sadie was gone.
She thought of leaving. But where would she go? There was no safe place to go to. No one was going to comfort her. No one would hold her and make her feel safe. All she could do was pick up her book and read.
She tried, but that didn’t work now. She was afraid to go into the book. She was afraid that Sadie would come back and drag her away while she wasn’t paying attention.
So she just sat there. And all she could do was relive in her mind what she’d just been through and feel the horror and disgust over and over again.
But after a while, it didn’t seem as scary. At least, just the memory wasn’t enough to cripple her mind. And she could see it now.
“Oh my god. You wanted to show me. You can’t talk so you showed me.”
It had looked like Sadie’s throat had been slit. Then she’d been fed on.
“Someone killed you, didn’t they Sadie. They killed you and put you in the swamp.”
Janice would spend the rest of the morning in her reading spot. She no longer considered it her safe place.
She read too. But it wasn’t like it usually was. She entered that world, but it wasn’t like she was absorbed by it. It was more like having a daydream as opposed to the regular dream it usually felt like. She knew it was because her mind was watchful. Part of her was horrified that Sadie would show again. Part of her wanted Sadie to show again. If this thing really was Sadie, and if there was something it wanted to tell her, then she wanted to know what that was.
Around the middle of the day, she went home. Mom was still in bed. Janice made herself peanut butter sandwiches and ate them quickly. She refilled her water bottle and packed a couple of extra sandwiches for later.
She then made her way back to her spot. She would sit there all afternoon and into the early evening. She knew she’d be in trouble if she went home now. It was Friday night. It would be better to wait a few more hours, let them get good and stoned, and then go to whatever house they weren’t in. She had a penlight in her bag. She often used it at night, when she couldn’t sleep and wanted to read. She always flipped it off when she heard footsteps. She would never chance having a bigger light on, something that James might notice even before looking in her room.
She remembered one night she’d been reading by that light and heard him coming. She’d clicked off the light, rolled over and pretended to sleep.
He’d come in anyway. And for several minutes she could hear his breath and just hoped he’d go away.
He had gone away, but not before he spoke. “Why are you so fat and disgusting? You should lose weight. You’d still be ugly, but at least I wouldn’t have a fat step-daughter I had to look at.”
That was the first time she’d been glad to be fat. She didn’t like to think about what he would have done to her otherwise.
Sadie had never been fat. She’d been ugly. But not fat. Janice had used to wonder if anything worse than a berating had happened to her friend. She’d never asked, though.
But on that Friday night, Janice used the penlight in the safety of the woods.
Maybe it was the darkness around her that helped. But she was, once again, able to become deeply absorbed in the book. She didn’t come back out until she’d read the last page.
Then she brought her head up to the pitch black and wondered just how late it was.
She heard the brush move as she went through it. She took her time, thinking that if she made enough noise and moved slow enough, whatever might get in her path might have time to move out of the way.
She made it out of the woods, where she first crossed by Sadie’s house. That’s where the music was coming from. So that was where she knew not to go. She went to her house, where it was quiet and the lights were off.
She moved from outside, where the street was lit by lamps, to the pitch black inside of her house. She was in the living room when she felt the big hand on her head.
“Caught you, you fat bitch.”
James had her by the hair. He pulled her through the house. He threw her into her room.
She braced herself for the beating of her life.
It didn’t come, though.
This house was old. The doors all locked with big metal keys. After she heard the door slam shut, she heard James lock her inside.
“Teach you to come home late,” he shouted.
She noticed now that his words were slurred.
She was glad to hear his footsteps stomp away.
There was no way out of her room now. James had nailed the window shut a while back. Shutting her door was extra punishment, because then she didn’t get the air from the air conditioner in the living room.
She doubted she could fit out the window anyway. And right now, she was just glad he was leaving her alone.
She was miserable, the heat smothering her. She kept waking up to catch her breath and sip from the water bottle. Luckily, James had not taken her bag when he’d thrown her in the room.
But then there was a chill. She welcomed it. There was finally comfort, and she could rest better. But then a little logic crept into her drowsy mind, and she realized what the source of the cold would be.
She felt water splash down on her. Janice opened her eyes.
Sadie stood above her, looking down. The injuries from before were not visible, but they might have been there, under the muck that stained her glowing body.
Sadie’s mouth would open, letting out a gurgling sound and spilling the water onto Janice.
Janice wasn’t so much afraid of her friend anymore. She was saddened by the pathetic sight of her.
“What happened to you, Sadie? Who killed you?”
Sadie continued to look like she was trying to speak for a few seconds. Then she lifted a hand and pointed.
Janice saw where she was pointing and said, “I can’t go out the window. James nailed it shut.”
Sadie cranked her filthy arm.
The ghost only moved her arm faster. Then she walked across the floor and stood right next to that window. She pointed again, and now there was the sickening sound of her dead hand thumping that window.
Janice thought of James. Could he hear that? If he could, he’d blame Janice and beat the hell out of her.
“I can’t, Sadie. Please be quiet.”
That only made her friend hit the window harder. She was still trying to talk. The water was still gushing out her mouth.
“Okay,” Janice said, just to appease the ghost.
She got out of the bed and walked to the window.
Sadie faded into something far less substantial. Then she went through the wall. Janice could still see her, though. Sadie was right outside the window. She’d materialized again, and was again thumping on the window.
A few years ago there had been a book fair. All the kids got a certificate for reading so many books. Janice had read the most and gotten a plaque. She’d been younger then, and not known better than to draw attention to herself.
But she still had the plaque. She kept it hidden in her closet, afraid if James saw it, he’d find a reason to break it or throw it out.
She got it out of her closet now. It was the only thing she could think of that was hard enough to break the window.
She got even with that window and cocked her arm back with the plaque in it.
But the window was small. It was going to be very hard to get out it. She’d probably cut herself too and get blood all over the place.
James would wake up and get to her anyway. And breaking a window might get her the worst beating of her life.
“No,” she said to the beckoning ghost. “I can’t do it now.”
Her best chance was that only she could hear the thumping. She’d been the only one to see Sadie in class the other day. Maybe she was the only one that could hear what Sadie did.
Even though it was hot, Janice got in bed and covered her head with the pillow. She waited for the thumping to stop.
She didn’t know what time it was when her bedroom door finally came open. But she knew it had been light outside for quite some time now. Janice was out of water. She felt like she was about out of sweat too. Yet she somehow needed to pee.
She was relieved to see it wasn’t James standing there. No, it was Mom this time.
She looked horrible. It was like her whole pale face sagged. She held crumpled cash in her hand. “James said go to the store. Buy coffee and cigarettes.”
The hung-over woman dropped the cash on the floor for Janet to pick up.
Janice waited for her to walk away. Then she gathered the money off the floor. There was way more than she would need. But she wouldn’t dare steal any. Even as wasted as James had gotten last night, he would still manage to know how much money he had. He could spare it, Janice knew, just like he could spare the cool air now rushing into her room. He didn’t make much at the landscaping job. But selling acid and mushrooms had a good return, she’d heard him say. But it was money he couldn’t account for on his end of the year taxes. It was money he had to waste. And he damn sure wouldn’t waste any on her.
Seeing James wasn’t up, Janice took the time to pee. Then she made her way to the corner store. They knew her there, and knew she was buying the smokes for someone else. They didn’t card her when she bought the cigarettes. She did get a dirty look from the old woman behind the counter. Janice knew it was because of her stink. Janice had taken the time to pee, but had known better than to take the time to shower. If James would have heard the water going, he was not above pulling her from the shower by her hair.
She walked home and got the coffee started. She left the cartoon of Camels by the pot, so they’d find them when they got up. She quickly gathered more food and water to put in her bag. She got a new book too. She always got her books from the second hand store. She took the money from Mom’s purse from time to time. It was only the change. Mom had never mentioned that she noticed it missing.
Janice made it out the door before James got up. She made it into the woods and through the woods to her place. She sat down and got into the book.
It was easy to get through the day, but then night started to come. She started to think about James and what he’d do to her when she came home late again.
Most of her life was motivated by fear. She knew that. She’d been afraid of all the other kids and how far they’d take their ridicule and cruelty. She sometimes dreamt of them attacking her and taking off her clothes. But they didn’t rape her. They poked her with sticks and talked about how disgusting her fat rolls were and how dirty she was. She feared the teachers. There were teachers who were nice to her, but many weren’t. It was like they knew they didn’t have to treat her like they treated the other kids. They knew she’d never tell, because she knew what would happen at home if she did.
But it wasn’t fear that she was letting motivate her right now. Right now, she had to wait. She had to see the ghost again. She needed to resolve this, to bring it to some conclusion.
So she sat and read in the darkness. She was past getting lost in the story again. She heard things in the woods. And when she did, she’d shine the little light that way.
Logically, she knew it was just animals. There were many creatures that moved around at night. That was when they hunted, and they wouldn’t be hunting her.
But logic didn’t really matter much right now. Her safe place had already been violated at night. And now it was no longer a safe place. It no longer felt magic to her.
The ghost didn’t come with a noise. It was its cold that caused Janice to look up.
Sadie was there. And this time she was not caked with muck. Her mouth was not gushing fluid. In the glowing light she stood in she almost looked pretty.
“What?” Janice asked. “What do you want from me?”
And the ghost finally spoke. “Come,” was all she said. Then she motioned with her hand and turned.
Janice got to her feet. She walked slowly up to the ghost. She got close enough that she could reach out and touch Sadie. But something inside her said not to do that.
Sadie got on the move. She went into the woods. And she wasn’t moving home. No, she was moving deeper into the woods.
Janice did not use her penlight to check below. She used the glow from Sadie instead. She didn’t use the pipe either. She heard animals in the woods, and those animals seemed to be moving away. They either feared or simply respected the cold ghost.
“Where are we going?” Janice asked.
Sadie would not answer. She just kept moving through the woods.
The thought of turning back crossed Janice’s mind. She didn’t think she wanted to, but even if she did, it would be hard. Without the pipe, she wouldn’t be able to clear the path in front of her. She wouldn’t have the protection that the ghost provided.
“What happened to you, Sadie?” she asked. “I knew you wouldn’t run away. You would have been too afraid.”
Sadie still would not answer.
There was a funk rising in the air. Janice knew what they were approaching. “Why are we going to the lake, Sadie?”
She moved more swiftly through the woods than she ever had. Then they were upon it. Sadie’s glow touched the water. Then Sadie walked into the water.
Sadie turned around. “Come,” she said, her voice louder than before and shaking.
“No,” Janice said. “I don’t want to go in there.”
“Come,” Sadie screamed.
Janice started to cry. “No. I’m afraid.”
Sadie waved with her arm.
Still Janice stayed put. “Did someone kill you, Sadie? Did they put you in the lake?”
With that, Sadie moved back toward the bank. She stopped just before she got there. “Come,” she said softly. “It’s okay.” She held out a hand.
Janice remembered how Sadie had led her safely through the woods. She remembered how the wildlife had scattered. Maybe this would be okay too.
Janice walked up to the bank. She would not enter that water unless she was touching her friend. She reached an arm out over the water’s edge.
A beast jumped right through her glowing friend. The alligator clamped down on Janice’s arm. It pulled her into the lake.
Thoughts of suicide had often come to visit. She’d been more than a little tempted by them. Death would mean no more James, and no more of the kids at school.
But she’d hoped she could just take some pills, fall asleep and die, or maybe just slit her wrists and bleed out.
She had never wanted to be eaten alive. The gator’s bite alone was more painful than anything James had ever done to her. And it dragged her under with that bite.
It let go. But that was brief. It was only getting a better grip. It sunk its teeth into her head and neck.
That pain was there for a few seconds, and then the gator was twisting.
She actually heard her neck break.
The pain was gone. But she had to wonder why she was not dead.
But then something very strange happened. She could taste something. It was salty and meaty. It tasted wonderful.
She was spinning. She spun until she was able to pull away what she had in her mouth. Then she was chopping on it. It cracked and broke in her powerful mouth. And she was not only chewing with hunger now. She was chewing with rage. She thought of James and she bit down. She thought of the kids at school and chewed. She thought of her teachers. She thought of her pathetic mother who’d never protected her from anyone. She finished what was in her mouth. She found more. She spun until she ripped another appendage from the body. She ate that and then ate the other appendages.
She didn’t know what was going on. But she was happy. And she wasn’t living a surrogate life provided by some author. No, this was all her. She was the beast.
And Janice the alligator ate every piece of her old body.
The pleasure of eating had worn off as quickly as it had come. And now she felt something like nausea.
When she was younger, she’d snuck some chewing tobacco. She’d swallowed some juice and soon felt like there was something very repulsive in her body, something unnatural that her body had to eject.
And that was how she felt right now.
She wanted to be on land. She thought that had to do with who she used to be. Being sick, she would feel the most comfortable being where she was used to being. She crawled up on the bank.
Being there, she didn’t feel as fast or as strong as she had in the water. It was like she could feel her own weight here.
But that wasn’t the worst. The worst was the nausea.
She felt like all she had eaten exploded from her. She threw up on the bank.
Her night vision as a gator was very acute. It was like she had flashlights on her eyes. She could see what she’d vomited out.
And she’d really done a number on her body. Everything was unrecognizable. Even the bones had been crunched and chewed down to fragments of what they used to be. But there was something else there, something that was not mutilated. Sadie’s ghost lay in the vomit. She looked like she’d just been tired and decided to lie on the ground.
A sound came from above. She recognized it immediately. It was the sound of many wings flapping. She heard several caws too. Then the crows were landing in her vomit.
They didn’t seem to mind her alligator presence. They just started pecking greedily. She thought there were a least a dozen of them. They didn’t seem to mind the presence of the ghost either. They didn’t even seem to notice it. They moved through and inside of the transparent ghost body as they ate death from the ground.
Janice no longer felt sick. She was hungry again, but thought it could wait. She needed to see what happened next. The ghost slowly faded as the birds ate. Then, when the ghost was gone, the birds left too.
Janice went back into the water to hunt.
Life as an alligator was okay. She mostly hunted and ate. There were no other alligators in this lake. At least, she’d not found any. She liked that. There was no one here to judge her.
She would have thought she would miss reading. But she didn’t have time to miss it. Hunting was a fulltime job.
And it wasn’t that she couldn’t satisfy her hunger. It was that she couldn’t satisfy her rage. She wanted to kill everything in the lake and everything that got too close to it. She thought this was part of being an alligator, but more than that, she thought it was in part the life she had before. She was making up for all that bottled up rage.
Then, one day, she was stalking the bank, creeping up to an unsuspecting creature that had roamed a little too close to the edge of the water.
She knew the dog was probably somebody’s pet. And that wasn’t going to stop her. In fact, it was a big part of her motivation. She wanted to touch the world of people, to hurt it.
But the dog had spotted her. It started to whine and paw at the ground, like dogs did when they were overly excited. But the stupid thing wasn’t running away.
But it was night, and at night she saw better. And she could make out something. There was blood on the dog’s mouth. That in itself wasn’t a big deal. Dogs killed. Dogs ate.
But there was something else that caused her to pause in the water, where she was now within striking distance. If she wanted to, she could have that dog in the water in a split second. She could be feeding on it a little while later, breaking its bones with her powerful teeth.
But that dog had a black feather hanging out of its mouth. It was almost like it was trying to show it to her.
She couldn’t kill it. Not just yet.
And then there was the thing that brought certainty. The dog’s eyes suddenly became blue and bright. She knew those eyes. She was looking into the eyes of an old friend.
Then the dog darted away.
Janice was glad for that. She would have had to make a hard decision otherwise.
She didn’t know if alligators in general could have mixed emotions. But she, as an alligator, had mixed emotions. Most of the time she thought of her former life and all the abuse. And when she did this she hunted faster. She ate more ferociously. Other times, she thought of her old friend, and imagined her running around as a happy dog, getting pets here and there, being able to run away and hide if necessary. That made her happy, because she thought that life would make Sadie happy.
But then there was the jealousy. Sadie got that life. And Sadie had been the one to bring Janice here. And why? Was it because Janice was the one person who would have cared enough about her to follow her ghost down here? Had Sadie simply wanted to take advantage of her only friend?
Thinking that, Janice would become the monster again.
As the nights passed, she wondered if someday she would be able to escape. She didn’t feel like she could project an image of herself, or send her spirit out, or whatever Sadie had done. But then again, Sadie had been dead longer, in the gator’s body longer. Maybe it was something that would develop. Or maybe it was something Sadie had been able to do as a person and had just never told Janice.
So Janice would have her brief periods of happiness. Mostly, she alternated between ravenous anger and times of depression where she’d just float at the top of the water, hoping some person would come by and shoot her. Had Sadie really tricked her? Had the one person she’d ever loved and trusted simply betrayed her? That made this world feel very lonely.
Then, one night, she could hear a commotion coming from the bank.
“Come on,” a female voice said.
“Where are we going?” a man said back.
The male voice was very familiar. James had come down here with the girl.
Janice came to the surface, but just enough to see.
The woman was closest. She was backing toward the lake. From what Janice could see of her, she was a very pretty woman, with long blond hair and a slender body. She was wearing a skirt.
“Come here,” the girl said. “I want you to fuck me by the water.”
“Whatever you want, you little slut.”
“That’s not very nice.”
“I don’t have to be nice anymore. No one will hear you scream out here.”
The girl laughed. It was like she didn’t think James was serious.
This was a bit maddening. The ultimate prize was just out of reach. The one person whose death might satisfy her need for vengeance was close. But he wasn’t close enough yet. If Janice surged out to attack, James would be able to get away. Besides him being too far away, the girl was in the way.
“There are gators in that lake,” James said. “I’ve seen one. I fed a little girl to it, you know. No one will ever know what happened to her. No one will ever know what happened to you.”
“Stop teasing,” the dumb girl said. And she seemed to mean it too. Was she high? Could she not see that James wasn’t lying?
The girl backed up a little further, and now she was within striking distance. But she was still blocking James. If she didn’t move, Janice would not have her shot at the asshole. She’d not get to kill the man who had killed her only friend. She’d not get to eat the worst of her past tormenters.
Janice would just have to wait. She’d have to hope that James got close enough and that she got a clear shot at him.
Janice thought she’d have to kill them both. Otherwise, the girl would go back to town and warn others of her presence. Hunters would come back and kill her. And after killing James, she doubted she’d be depressed enough to want to die, not for a while anyway.
She could kill them both, she thought. If they got close enough and went to the ground, she could probably get the right angle and lock parts of both of their bodies in her jaws. Then she could pull them both under and drown them.
That was the plan.
The girl lifted the back of her skirt. She did it like she might just be reaching back to scratch herself. But when she did it, she showed the lower part of her bare butt. And there were teeth marks there.
Janice had been bitten by a dog before. She knew what the teeth marks looked like.
James rushed the girl and took her to the ground. “You really want to be fucked by the lake, bitch?”
That was the last thing James would ever say. Janice surged out and snapped down on his head. She pulled him into the lake.
Janice let the woman hold her in her cupped hands.
“I think you know how it works now, Janice. You’re free to be whatever you want. I followed this pretty girl around for a while. She was mean to girls who were like we used to be. Now she’s a dog.” Sadie, who was now beautiful, laughed.
Janice wanted to hang out with her friend for a while. But more than that, she wanted to feel what it was like to fly.
Sadie must have realized this, because she tossed Janice into the air.
Janice flew away. She wanted to thank her friend. But for now, all she could do was caw.
Weeks later, she’d thank her person to person. And they were both beautiful.
“The gator?” Janice asked.
“I took care of it. I reported it and it was killed.”
“So he’s gone for good.”
“I think so.”
Janice smiled. James had turned out to be the most satisfying meal of her life.
About the Author
Joshua Scribner is the author of 18 published novels and five 50-story collections. He currently lives in Michigan.