Bogleech.com's 2018 Horror Write-off:
The Pond in Blair Nelson Park
Submitted by Jenna Crawford
Nadine Stadtler looked up from her mug of tea, gawking at her son with a look of sheer bafflement. She blinked twice, and then asked, “Lives in the pond?”"I don’t know...” Adrian fidgeted, adjusting his aviator frame glasses. “It’s hard to describe. I see a person hanging around in it sometimes.”
“Well, some people go there to feed the ducks,” assured Nadine.
Adrian rolled his eyes. He replied, “I know, but do they stand in the middle of the pond in the late evening?”His mother became quiet again. She looked down at her mug, then her cherry red manicured nails, and then back up to Adrian. Softly, she asked, “Honey, are you starting to “see” things?”
“I’m not crazy, mom!” Adrian shouted, throwing his hands in the air. “I know what I’ve been seeing!”
“Has...anyone else seen this person?”
“Not yet...” Adrian turned to the row of coat hooks along the wall, and pulled off his denim jacket. “I’m gonna go tell Roman about it. Maybe he’ll stay up with me and try and see it.”
“Okay, but remember you have work tomorrow,” Nadine called out. But her son had already left the living room doorway, with a slam of the front door following him.
* * *
“The pond by the train tracks, eh...?”
Roman stood at the counter of the Co-Op gas station, tapping his tanned fingers on the polished countertop. He paused for a moment, thinking hard, and then shook his head.
“Nah. Sorry, dude. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone in it.”
“Weird...” Adrian finished searching through the rack of nacho chips and looked up. “The pond was built, like, only seven years ago, right? You’d think someone else would’ve seen it too.”
“Well yeah, of course, dude,” he assured as he tucked a lock of his blonde hair behind his ear. “You’re not the type who makes up crap for fun.”
“Yeah the...geez, Ade!” Roman said with a tint of disgust. “Did you grab all the richest snacks in the store on purpose?”
“Kinda,” declared a smug Adrian. “I gotta stay awake tonight. I’m gonna camp out by the tracks and get a picture of the pond.”
“Eugh...” Roman began scanning, starting with the stack of pepperoni sticks. “You do you, I guess.”
“Oh, I will. And c’mon, Roman, Slim Jims are high in protein. You love that shit.”
“Yeah, and I love candy, but I don’t eat handfuls of cane sugar.”
“Pff.” Adrian pulled out his wallet. “You’re welcome to bum one off me anytime, though."
* * *
The sky began to glow a warm pink as Adrian pulled into Blair Nelson Park. He brought his bike down the hill towards the pond, and parked it on its side. The early autumn heat had gotten to him, so he sat back on the hill, and pulled a bottle of water from his shoulder bag. Before he knew it, he had drank almost a third of it when he forced himself to cap the bottle. There was no telling how long Adrian would have to be there; he had to conserve his supplies.
It felt as if nightfall took forever to settle in. Adrian had listened to enough podcasts for one evening, and he couldn’t stomach any further pepperoni sticks or nacho chips. He idly stuffed a hand into his shoulder bag, discovering all the empty wrappers. Sighing, he gathered them in his hands, and got up to take them to the trash bin at the top of the hill.
As soon as Adrian reached the bin, a faint but weighted splash came from the bottom of the hill. He froze, letting go of the candy wrappers; he watched them flutter softly into the trash, making the moment last as long as he could. He didn’t know if he wanted to turn around.
Another splash. It was a small one, like someone slapping or kicking the water.Adrian knew he was the only person at the pond that night. If anyone had just arrived, there was no way they could’ve gotten down to the water without Adrian spotting them. Whatever he was wondering about the pond, he knew he’d see it right behind him. He took a deep breath, paused, and turned around.
Nothing. The surface of the pond ripped idly. Adrian stared intently at it, watching the ripples expand and fade away.
He had just started buckling up his shoulder bag when there was another splash. Without thinking, Adrian glanced up to the pond, and then froze.
In the centre of the pond, there stood a nude figure, and it took a long moment for Adrian to realize it was a woman. She was waist-deep in the pond’s water, staring back at him from over her shoulder. Or, at least, her face was pointed over her shoulder; her head was turned too far to the side to make a natural glance. Her skin was white and turgid, speckled with pond dirt; algae and mug were caked into her long blonde hair. All that paled in comparison to her face, which was lined with thick bruises that had long since turned olive green and grey. Her jaw hung open, revealing bright white teeth, pooling over with thick sludge that Adrian hoped was just mud.
Everything moved so quickly. It felt like Adrian was watching a slideshow of the neighbourhood that was going too fast; he only realized he had gotten back on his bike when he reeled from the impact of swerving off of the curb. Adrian forced himself to keep biking forward, breathing in and out so hard that it felt like his throat was being torn.
He made it as far as the entry to the cul de sac where he lived, before the bike spun out of control and he landed on his side in the road. He shambled out from under the bike’s frame, crawling on now-torn jean knees, before spitting out a mouthful of bile onto the pavement.It’s real, Adrian thought between gasps. Something really is in the pond.
* * *
“Hey, Ade, how goes th-- dude, what the hell?!”
Roman dropped the tire pressure gauges he was stocking. He stood in horror, eyeing the shorter teenager who had just entered the gas station. In spite of Adrian’s clean, prim uniform, he had thick bandages wrapped around his knees and left forearm. Slowly, Adrian lifted his left hand and waved as smoothly as he could.
“Mission was a success,” he said tiredly.
“A success?!” Roman sputtered as he picked up the gauges. “What the hell was in that pond, an alligator?!”
“No, it was...” Adrian trailed off as he stepped behind the counter. “...It was something I don’t even know how to describe.”
Roman looked back at him, wary. “...Can you try?”
“I mean, sure.” Adrian glanced over his shoulder and through the window to the gas pumps. “Hey, uh, if we get any tire changes while I’m on shift, can you handle them?”
“Yeah, no problem. I’ll tell Christine about the, uh,” Roman gestured helplessly to Adrian’s bandages. “Those, when she comes in.”
“Thanks, dude,” nodded Adrian. He inhaled and began, “So, I went out last night around 9:30...”
“There’s...there’s no way this thing is “living” in that pond, dude,” he breathed. “I think she’s undead.”
“Ghosts and stuff can still kinda live, man; it’s called an afterlife for a reason!”
“Whatever,” Roman sighed, setting down the napkin drawing. “I believe you, either way. You’ve never made up something like this before.”
“Thanks, man,” Adrian half-chuckled. “I haven’t told my mom about her yet, just that I ate shit on my bike on the way home.”
“I don’t think you wanna make her think you’re crazy, too...” Roman’s eyes flashed. “Did you get physical proof? Did you take a photo of her?”
Roman seemed to understand what he was thinking. Roman waved dismissively, saying, “Dude, it’s okay. I get it.”“I’m just like...what do I do about this? Who am I supposed to tell?”
“Is she hurting anybody? Like, a poltergeist or whatever?”
“I don’t know...” Adrian sighed, stroking the bandages on his forearm. “I didn’t get any dangerous vibe off of her, just that I didn’t wanna be there, y’know.”“Hmm. Well, th--” Roman was cut off by the realization that a customer, a trucker, had just entered the gas station. He turned away from Adrian and began greeting him warmly.
The trucker approached the racks of chocolate bars by the cash register, when his eyes fell upon Adrian’s bandages. He exclaimed, his voice raspy, “Whoa! What the hell happened to you, kid?”
“Ah, nothing,” Adrian said, forcing a laugh. “But you should see the other guy.
The group laughed, but Adrian couldn’t shake a heavy feeling of unease that had hit him ever since he drew the woman in the water.
* * *
Adrian’s shift ended at 10 PM, and as darkness quickly fell over the neighbourhood, he made a quick detour to Blair Nelson Park. He had an idea that could either end up completely awful, or an unprecedented success.
During his lunch break, he had trawled the internet on his phone for any relevant information about ghosts and spirits. After combing through endless articles about “ghosting” and relationships, he wound up in a forum thread discussing how to leave offerings for spirits. After running through it with Roman, he went to the nearby supermarket after work and bought three stemmed roses. They had been tied together with a white ribbon the supermarket supplied, and they were tucked into his water bottle that hung out of the side of his shoulder bag. Adrian was having doubts, but he had to give it a try.
The sky was a deep magenta haze when he pulled up to the same spot as yesterday. He mounted his bike, and took the roses out of the water bottle before capping it shut. Shaking, with sweaty hands clutching the flowers, he apprehensively stepped up to the pond’s edge.
“Hey! Uh,” Adrian cleared his wavering throat. “I-I’m sorry. For like, freaking out. S-Sorry.”
He laid the flowers at his feet, the stems poking into the stilled edge of the pond water. Not sure what else to do, he took a few steps back, and then bowed before the pond.And it was done. He flung himself back onto his bike and headed back up to Stonebridge Common. If it worked, he’d eased things over with the woman in the pond. If it didn’t, then, well, he’d only wasted nine dollars or so.
But that night, Adrian had one of the worst, yet most fascinating, dreams he’d ever experienced.
He was walking through a corridor that almost looked like one of the halls in his high school. The walls were made of the thickly-painted white brick, but with coarse scratches blasted in, as if someone had run up the hallway while pressing a sander against the wall. The sounds of his steps echoed around him, and he was quickly coming up to an open door on his right. In spite of the bright-white florescence above, a dull blackness edged out of the doorway. Adrian hurried up to it and stepped inside.
The room felt small, but he couldn’t be sure; the walls and ceiling were a shade of black so dark he couldn’t see much further beyond. The floor was almost all-black, too, save for an enormous red oval on the floor before him. It was such a stark, bright shade of red that it almost seemed to faintly glow. Breathless, Adrian carefully approached the oval, but stopped when something pale began to emerge from its centre. It was rounded, pale, and almost looked like porcelain. Only when a pair of dark green eyes emerged did Adrian realize it was a feminine face.
He yelped and jumped back, but kept staring as the face slowly emerged. The green eyes, beset upon dark bags, carefully examined the teenager as she emerged. Adrian, on the other hand, was reluctant to look back; he did take note of how in spite of her weary demeanour, she had near-perfect makeup, complete with a beauty mark just below her left eye.Slowly, her face moved upwards, giving way to equally pale neck and shoulders. As she rose, Adrian realized she was topless, and turned to the side in a panic. He held his hand flat like a divider against the side of his face.
“I appreciate your decency,” the woman said with a sigh; the air raggedly left her lungs, and she seemed so horribly exhausted. Slowly, she let her body sink back into the viscous red pool. With tired eyes, she stared up into the blackened sky as her hair spread out in platinum streaks.
“Wh...” Adrian began to apprehensively ask. “What happened to you?”
The woman turned her weary face towards him. She inhaled, and sighed again; her upper body rose from the pool and Adrian turned his eyes away. From the quick glimpse he happened to get, he startlingly noticed that her hair and skin were clean, free of whatever residue the pool’s liquid would otherwise leave.
“A man happened to me,” she said, smiling, but it was all a sarcastic gesture. “A man who sure could learn about decency from a boy like you.”
Adrian brought himself onto the ground and sat, cross-legged, facing the woman’s left. Once he was comfortable, he felt the ground with his hand, trying to assure himself that the pitch blackness wouldn’t give way under him. The woman’s slow movements in the oval pond made gentle waves, the liquid too thick to move too drastically.Staring ahead at the blackness, Adrian asked, “Is...is he why you’re in the pond?”
“Absolutely,” she breathed. “He’s one of those types who think he can just toss a woman into the trash anytime he wants.”Trash. Adrian’s stomach sunk as soon as she said the word. As unease washed over him, he asked again, “Y-You’re really in the pond? Like you’re not just a vision, you’re in there?”
“Yes,” she replied, drawing nearer. Adrian turned to his right and saw her pale, placid face at the edge of the oval pond, right beside him. He looked into her eyes, and felt his unease peel away, leaving only an implacable sadness. She blinked, slowly, nodding reassuringly as the red ooze around her wavered.
“Ah, ah,” she said with a smile. “Three’s a lucky number, so no more questions, okay?”
Adrian parsed his lips shut. As he stared back at her, he realized she was slowly sinking down into the red pond. He gasped, sitting up onto his hands and knees, and helplessly watched as she gradually slipped away.
“N-No!” He shrieked. “Don’t go away yet! I wanna help you!”
“You still can. Just try,” she whispered.
The red ooze slowly sunk over her face, and soon enough, she was gone. The red pool was still once more, like a dish of pudding that had settled on a plate. Adrian knelt at its shore, breathing hard. He reached out a hand – only then did he notice his bandages and wounds were gone – and carefully began to reach into the ooze.
Adrian woke up, his body violently tossing side to side. Sunlight was pouring in from behind his bedroom curtains, but he didn’t stop to take note, as he threw himself out of bed and out of his room. He shambled down the stairs and into the kitchen, where his horrified mother stood, gripping her bowl of cereal.
Her eyes darted between Adrian and the doorway. She asked, almost with a whine, “Ade, honey, are you okay?”
“Y-Yeah,” he gasped, grabbing a cup for some water. “Just a really bad dream.”
* * *
There was something Adrian wanted to do that he couldn’t run by anyone else. He couldn’t tell Roman about it, and he especially couldn’t tell his mother. He had some spare change and the morning off, so with his anxiety running wild, he got on the bus and went down to Broadway Avenue.
As soon as he got off at his stop, he sighed in relief; the dingy old payphone beside the Extra Foods was still there. Months ago, he and some friends had walked by it when they were in the area for a movie, and its existence had been in the back of his mind for a long time. Now, the payphone would be more useful than it had probably been in a decade. Adrian stepped up to the small black cabin, looking over his shoulder; the Extra Foods parking lot behind him had no security cameras. He was safe for now.
Hands shaking, he dialed the city’s non-emergency police number. It rang, a gentle click; no more than a few seconds passed before a woman picked up on the other end, and asked, “Saskatoon Police, how may I help you?”“Y-Yeah...” Adrian said, calmly as he could, trying to make his voice sound deeper. “I wanna report some suspicious activity.”
“All right, sir, what would you like to report?”
The woman on the other end froze for a moment. “...Go on, sir?”
“Yeah, this was ‘round...” He paused to think of when he first started seeing the woman. “...Uh, maybe two, three weeks ago. I was out walkin’ my dog when I saw a guy wadin’ in the pond in Blair Nelson Park. Looked like a tall feller, and sure looked like he was holdin’ a big bundle.”
“Can you describe the bundle, sir?”
The woman sounded intrigued. “All right, sir, can I get your name for th--”
Adrian sighed, he almost felt the fake accent leave his throat like a bad vapour. Before turning to leave, he noticed a napkin someone had dropped on the ground. He grabbed it, took it to the payphone, and hurriedly wiped at the number keys and the receiver. Once he was confident that it had been smudged clean, he strode away, tossing the napkin into a trash bin on his way back to the bus stop.
* * *
First, there was the police van going down Stonebridge Common. Then there was the whole cul de sac around the park being blocked off. And then, there were trucks and cars of all kinds flooding in and out of the corner of Stonebridge. It had only been a week, but things snowballed faster than anyone could have expected.
“This is majorly fucked,” Roman said, peering down at the local newspaper. “You were right, man. And I guess now they’re gonna do a Fifth Estate feature on this?”
Roman leaned over the gas station front counter, and pointed at a paragraph on the page, but Adrian couldn’t look for long; it was adjacent to a picture of the woman – a 25-year-old sex worker from Rosetown named Anita Theriault, who’d been missing for about a month – and her eyes looked just as tired and piercing in her living photos as when he saw them in his dream.
“Do they know about you?”
Adrian looked up quickly to meet Roman’s gaze. Putting on a cool front, he shook his head, and said, “Nah. This is just some incredible luck.”
“Shame, maybe they could’ve got you your own ghost hunting show...” Roman returned to reading, and then nodded stiffly at something he’d taken in. “Good. They’ve got a few people in custody.”Adrian had seen the reports already...the police had taken in a young rich upstart whose father owned a bunch of car dealerships, while he only had three previous assault charges. Places in Stonebridge and Rosetown had already started handing over surveillance footage showing him and Anita in the same places, and now, all that was left to wait for were the DNA results from the autopsy and an established timeline. There was so much lingo, Adrian could barely stand to follow it.
“Yeah...that’s good,” Adrian added.
“The paper won’t even describe what those fuckers did to her, it was that bad...” Roman spat. “I hope they burn.”
“Yeah. For sure.”
Roman glanced over to see a woman and her two kids coming into the gas station, loudly discussing candy. They were obviously on a road trip. He stood up, collecting himself, getting prepared to go over and cheerfully greet them.
There was one thing throughout the whole investigation that put Adrian at ease – Anita was out of the pond. The police were doing something about her, and her family now had her remains. Wherever she was now, Adrian only hoped that Anita knew he’d tried. All he wanted for her now was the peace she deserved.
But still, there was one thing that put Adrian off, and would continue to do so for a long while; he’d caught a look at the car dealer’s son by accident that morning – he’d been trying to avoid even remembering his name, out of respect for Anita – and he couldn’t bring himself to even bring it up to Roman.
Adrian’s eyes coasted to the mirrored wall behind him, and he felt his throat stiffen. He pulled off his glasses and in spite of his short-sightedness, studied his face; he had an oval-shaped face, soft cheekbones, and black hair that always seemed to be going up in the air. He could pass for a younger, softer-faced version of the man who killed Anita.Roman asked over his shoulder, “Hey Ade, can you grab me the coupon code booklet?”
“Y-Yeah!” Adrian said, snapping back into reality. “No problem.”
He knelt down to look through the papers and binders under the counter, giving himself one more moment to think. Most likely, he had started to conclude, she was looking for that guy. And she must’ve thought I was him.
With a free hand, he shoved the coupon book up onto the counter. With put-on cheerfulness, he added, “Here you go, dude.”
Just a case of mistaken identity, Adrian said to himself. I’m sorry, Anita. You couldn’t get that last revenge you wanted. I just hope I could help a little.