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Still Afloat

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8:25 am

You looked at your phone’s clock for the nth time, your leg shaking violently over your knee. Your impatience grew, trying to rationalize how the morning rush must have had your mother stuck in a row of vehicles all the way down here. You couldn’t be too mad and for whatever reason you assured yourself she would be arriving soon.

From above the bench you had seated yourself on, you looked up from behind you, your neck tilting backwards to read the sign above you.

Castle Rock Behavioral Health Center

You sighed, turning around and looking down the parking lot in front of you. You awaited patiently for your mother to arrive to pick you up after a month of being admitted to this hospital. You had insisted to her over the phone a week or so ago that you were well enough to return to your home back in southern Maine, but she was stubborn on having you come and staying the remained of the fall back with her in your childhood home of Derry. Wanting to prevent any further argument, you sheepishly agreed to stay with her couple of weeks just until the waters settled. A part of you was a bit relieved you didn’t have to return to your established life back in the city just yet, but another part of you was a bit wary of returning to Derry.

Derry wasn’t like most small towns in Maine. At first glance it appeared like any other New England-esque type of town, with the most exciting event being an annual carnival hosted during the summer and winter. Under its layers, you knew the people of Derry were a bit messed up. Racists, homophobes, religious fanatics, individuals living on the rim of society. Part of your anxiety was knowing very well gossip had already begun with your admission at the inpatient program in Castle Rock. You shook off a though of everyone thinking you were ‘crazy’, knowing this type of treatment was a taboo subject to address.

You weren’t ill, you just had a hard time managing your anxiety. Or you just wanted to get away from everyone for a while.

A small honk woke you from your thoughts, as you saw your mother pull-up on a vehicle not from this decade, waving at you. You gathered your bags and belongings and treaded into the vehicle, driving onwards back to Derry.

On the road, your mother made small conversation on how a neighbor of her coworkers had been searching for weeks for her missing daughter, a 11-year-old girl who had apparently last been seen walking across some railroad tracks leading into the forest. You would have continued to listen in on details, droning in an out, but admittedly you were too distracted with your own thoughts and catching up on everything on social media. You wanted to make sure nothing too revealing had been said about you.

“(Y/N),” your mother began, making you slightly look up from your phone. “Are you doing okay love?”

“Yes, mom.” Your voice was monotone. You weren’t lying however, you were fine, but hearing the same iteration of the question over and over had conditioned you to respond in such a manner. “The doctor said I was doing fine, there was no reason for me to stay longer.”

“Okay,” your mother began, shifting her gaze over to your and then back on the road. “I just want you to know I love you very much, and if you need to tell me anything-

“Yeah, mom I know. I love you too. But please don’t worry about me. I’m fine, honest.”

She sighed, but a small smile appeared on her face. “Okay honey, I trust you.” She continued to drive with you in silence for a couple of minutes or so. You swore you could feel the tension in the air, knowing very well what was about to be said. “You haven’t seen that man again?”

“No mom, I know already. The man wasn’t real.”


 

The drive back to Derry would be a challenge.

You experienced a strange moment of disassociation once you entered your childhood home. It had been a couple of years since you had left Derry to pursue your career in a city towards the south of Maine. You had a notion your home was familiar, but at the same time, you had been gone for so long you felt like a ghost walking through a gallery of childhood memories. Your old bedroom was no better. It was riddled with boy band posters, amateur photos you had taken from high school, weird trinkets you would collect from the forest (animal bones, shiny pebbles, dead beetles, dried flowers, deflated red balloons from the carnival), old dusty books and a pillow of a turtle you had for some reason never gotten rid of. You thought as to why your mother didn’t just get rid of the junk in the room.

You pinched your hand slightly and began placing your belongings back in your old room. You contemplated on how long you should stay, or how soon you should return to your home, having guilt gnaw at your for having your mother take care of you again. But again, you shook off the thought immediately. One of the things that was imbedded into your coping mechanisms was to avoid any type of negative thinking, especially the ones where you talked down on yourself. Part of your admission to the hospital was towards bettering your self-deprecation and returning to a part of yourself where you had been quite content. The man is not real.

You reminisced your life in the city, your school, your job, graduations, birthdays, special events, the social life you had created, your boyfriend, which you had broken up with after a disastrous relationship-

You smacked your cheeks, bringing you back from your train of thought. You needed to prevent yourself from treading in that dark part of your mind, you thought. You quickly dug through your bag and took out a small red notebook and a pen. You flipped it open, looking for the next blank page available. You bit your lip and quickly jotted down a thought you had.

I feel bad I lied to my mom about this, but I don’t want to see her so upset anyone. I know what I saw that day, and I feel this…thing is still inside of me. I will continue to suppress it as much as I can. I need to remember that I’m still alive despite whatever this thing is.


 

A man walks in the busy streets of downtown Derry , where shopkeepers have begun to close their stores with dusk settling in. The soft rustling of leaves can be heard, birds slowly chirping down into their nests, faint footsteps echoing across a street corner. From the distant, the sound of static coming from a radio can be heard down the sidewalk. It is a news station, and the trained ear could make out the following voices within the waves:

- the victim, 11 year old Destiny Heinz, continues to be missing for 23 days now. Locals report hearing the whining of a young girl by the Derry quarry; however, investigators have found no signs of young Destiny. Destiny was last seen by the railroad tracks towards the east side of town, wearing a school uniform from Derry Elementary. The Heinz family asks for any hints or clues which can provide helpful for the ongoing investigation. We ask the citizens off Derry to keep a cautious eye out for their family members, as this marks the 12th disappearing since July. Call your loved ones, trust no one, make sure you let your children out after dark, make no effort in wanting to investigate further. Miss Destiny is down here floating well.

The man continues to walk down the streets of Derry, inhaling the sweet scent of the night air, noting a change in its atmosphere. There was someone here, or something that made the man’s insides churn. Something had called to him; something wanted his attention drawn towards this. Whatever it was, it was something he had not encountered in over a millennium.


 

“Mother, you can’t keep me locked up in here all day. I need to see people, normal people!” You exclaimed, following your mom around the home as she dusted various furniture.

“(Y/N), please understand you are still recovering and getting adjusted to your medication. I read what your taking can make you feel a bit sick the first couple of weeks-“

You rubbed at your temples in annoyance. It was bad enough you had to be watched 24/7 back at Castle Rock, you did not to be restricted by your own family here at home. You needed to get some fresh air, look around, interact with others, even if it was with the residents of Derry. “Mom please, what in the world is going to happen to me? At most I’ll just feel like throwing up maybe. Now, you’re not letting me call work yet, you’re not letting me look for a part time job here, you’re not even letting me get into contact with any of my friends-“

You mother sighed, finally caving in after an argumentative morning. She took in a deep breath before speaking. “Okay, (y/n). Go ahead, I mean, I don’t know what you’re going to do here in Derry. But, you have to please just tell me if you have any weird side effects.”

You gently grabbed onto her hand and squeezed it tightly. Your mom looked up at you as you gave her an assuring smile. Little by little, it seemed like you were coming to your old self. “Thanks mom, I really appreciate your concern.”

“Please be careful (Y/N).” She remained quiet briefly, looking at you with obvious concern. “I know you want to go back to those woods, but you know how many people have disappeared, and I don’t want you to go around again talking to-“ she stopped mid-sentence, realizing what she was saying and covering her mouth with her hand.

You crossed your arms, sighing heavily. “It’s fine mom,” you said to bring down the intensity of the situation. “It doesn’t bother me. But I just want to go on a walk. By myself. Like a well capable adult. Please.” You emphasized that last part.

“…alright.”


 

A man who was not exactly a man slithered through the busy streets of Derry in the morning, on a mission to pursue something of interest. He was tall, pale faced, he had large bewitching blue eyes, and short dark hair which softly fell just over his eyelids. Any female walking past him would have taken a double take and the unnatural attractiveness; no men in Derry looked like him for sure. The locals had a notion of him, but with ongoing Derry traditions, no one bothered to inquire where this man had shown up from. He meandered through the town square, not particularly eyeing anyone specifically, but following the strong intuition he had caught a waft of the previous night.  Not much picked at the man’s interest, but this was intriguing to say the least. There was a strong yearning to find out who was responsible for the disturbance he had sensed through his unexplained notions.

The man had awakened from a very deep and long slumber recently, but this was routine for him for a very long time as well. As with any living being, the man was unbelievable parched and hungry after such a long rest. The scent of a woman in a dark alley, a child hiding under their covers, a teen hiding in a restroom stall, a man kneeling in a church pew, those were the smells that brought the man to lick his lips. However, there was another stronger lingering sent in the air. The scent of-

Cowardice.

He giggled to himself, covering his mouth with his large and slender hands, hiding a smile full of rows of sharpened fangs. Instinctively, he caught sight of an individual who stood out indefinitely through the morning crowd. It was unexplained why he found himself lured towards them, but something within the shining void inside of him told him to proceed forward, cautiously, carefully, and with utmost precision.

A hunter had marked its next pray.


 

Downtown Derry had not changed much since you had left. Everything still reminisced of outdated shops and a pseudo-1950s feel to it. Again, there was some comfort in returning to familiarity, and a little town like Derry would give anyone that sense of comfort.

Unfortunately for your case, Derry was one of the primary reasons why you had been hospitalized in the first place. People don’t care about hearing of the success of individuals who have packed up and left their home for a more successful and meaningful life. But when something juicy such as hearing the neighbor having an affair, a homosexual couple moving to town, or a young girl who was found muttering nonsense in the forest, then everyone knew like the back of their hand.

You had attempted your best to keep off from social media and avoid any news spreading of your recent trip to Castle Rock, but you knew something like that was inevitable and would spread like wildfire. Someone would hear it from a friend or would state a small bird whispered to them.

On your way to one of the diners you had frequently gone out with family back in your youth, you felt the lingering weight of people watching you (or at least that’s what your mind had whispered to you). You first wanted to disregard it, understanding your paranoia sometimes taking the best of you. However, it was hard to ignore once you noticed people whispering while shooting you some obvious disapproving glances. You could not believe people had just been so nosy already. You didn’t need to an explanation as to why everyone was acting so strangely around, you knew exactly why.

You entered the diner swiftly, camera on hand, and made your way all the way towards the back at the most isolated corner you could find. You instinctively began to engage in controlled breathing, seating yourself down at a small round table and making sure you averted your gaze towards anyone. You picked up a menu from the table that had been sticky from coffee and maple syrup and casually glanced over it. You attempted your best to appear unbothered at the situation, and you knew exactly how to manage it without making a bigger scene out of it. A waitress had come over to ask for your order, to which you quickly responded for only a coffee. You didn’t plan on staying too long after all. You swiftly observed around the diner as your coffee was poured, taking note off your surroundings. You attempted your best to convince yourself everyone was simply minding their business and not focusing their attention to you, but a nagging thought continued to pull at you. At the corner of your eye, a person had walked up towards you, making your heart race a little.

“Well, what a…surprise.”

Your stomach fell heavy as you turned. Ms. Elisa, your neighbor for years right across your mother’s home, loomed over you with a heavy look on her face. She was a woman probably in her 50s who had been infamous for her unfriendly persona. There was no indication on her face she was happy to have encountered you. She was never a very welcoming person overall, but you knew she had something to say. Your heartbeat began to increase slightly.

“Ms. Elisa, it’s nice to see you again. I hope you’re doing well.” You began with your best attempt to sound cheerful. It was not very convincing.

“(Y/N), I didn’t think to be seeing you back in town.” She said bluntly.

Your memory began to jog back to your youth. Ms. Elisa was never exactly fond of you. You recalled she had a variety of flowers in her garden of all different colors, which were just calling you to be plucked out. It was an established rule in the neighborhood that Ms. Elisa did not enjoy people loitering and stepping on her lawn and garden, she was very keen on her green thumb. Your oblivious kid self, as an aspiring photographer, would sneak towards her porch when she had been preoccupied inside her home, and would snap photos of her flowers with an old and loud Polaroid camera. Ms. Elisa would relentlessly holler at you to get your grimy boots off her lawn, which would send you running in a giggling fit. Truthfully an innocent act from a child, but she had taken it like an invasion of her privacy. Your mother had to scold you several times to ensure the cops wouldn’t be called out on you. Maybe that’s when you started getting like this, you thought.

“Yeah, just visiting my mom. It’s been a while.” You surely wanted to avoid any conversation  

She nodded. “Well, I can only imagine it’s very daunting for you to return to our little town after being a big city girl.” It was hard to ignore the condescending tone in her shrill voice. What were you expected to say now?

“Yeah, I had forgotten how small Derry is, but I won’t be here for too long.” You shifted your eyes, taking a quick sip from your warm coffee.

“Mhm, well, hopefully you’ll be on your way…very soon.”

There was obvious emphasis towards the last part. Now she pissed you off.

“Um, look I’m sorry.” You said, placing your coffee aside and shifting towards her. “I’m not sure what you want me to say-“

“I know what happened to you. Everyone knows.” She leaned in, her voice lowering.

“Excuse me?”

 “They say they found you in the woods muttering all kinds of nonsense. Half. Naked.”

You lowered your face into the palm of your hand, taking in a deep breath in composure and to prevent yourself from going off. “Ms. Elisa, this isn’t an appropriate place to-“

 “You should have stayed in the psych ward at Castle Rock. No one wants you here dearie.” Her voice shot like icicles at you, her eyes locked onto yours once you had glanced up.

You gritted your teeth and held onto your breath at an attempt to calm yourself down from yelling at the belligerent woman and cause a scene. This was one of the reasons why you had left Derry. The people here are wrong, they are sick, and they are all... You took a deep breath. “Do you think I’d want to be here? You think I want to be in some hick town like this? I left because I couldn’t stand old, fat cunts like yourself.” There was no reason for you to have insulted her like that, you thought, but your anger took the best of you.

“Of course, on top of crazy, also trash. But that’s always been the case with you, you entitled bra-“

You would have probably swung your fist right into her old wrinkled face it hadn’t been for the tall looming figure who had come up behind you during the commotion. You felt a strong hand grip on your shoulder, causing you to jolt back slightly. The woman in front of you, notably flustered, also took a slight step back at the gentleman now leaning over your shoulder. With an unnatural intensity, his gaze was fixed on your harasser.

“Excuse me m’am, it’s awfully rude of you to bother his young lady in such a way.” His deep but soft voice vibrated along the skin of your neck.  You were frozen, stuck in between two walls. Tension heavily filled the air around you.

Ms. Elisa chuckled nervously. “Oh, you two know each other?” Her best attempt to sway the conversation.

“Perhaps. Is that an issue?” There was a frightening tone in his voice, causing you to jolt out of his grasp. You looked behind you, your eyes meeting with intense blue.

“Hey, buddy, do you mi-“ He cut you off mid-sentence, placing one single finger on your lips. He winked playfully at you, looking back at the notably confused woman taking in the suggestible scene.

“Please don’t come near her again. Now leave.” A flash of gold which was too fast for the human eye to perceive glinted in his gaze. Ms. Elisa, glass eyed, and head lowered, quickly stormed out of the diner without much say. The other individuals in the diner averted their attention as well, as if the both of you did not exist in that moment.

You looked around, mouth agape and in awe as too what happened. “What the fuck…”

“She won’t bother you again.” He gave you a cheeky smile, coming in full body view in front of you. You gulped at the ridiculous tallness and physique of the man. There was no way a man of this appearance belonged in Derry. Suddenly, the atmosphere in the diner seemed to have become slow and silent.

You raised your eyebrow and crooked your head. “Do I know you?”

He maintained his irksome smile looking straight into your eyes. “I don’t believe so, I don’t know you either. You just seemed like you weren’t enjoying having that woman come at you in that matter.”

“Well, you got that right; I don’t know what her problem was.” A knot began to form in your throat after holding back from the encountered. You swallowed it back down, forcing yourself back from potentially bawling insanely in front of this stranger. Instead, you covered your mouth to hide your trembling lips. “Ugh, this goddamn town…but thanks.”

“May I?” He asked, motioning to sit across from you in the other empty chair. Normally you would draw anyone way, especially men who wanted to try something with you. You weren’t looking for a romantic relationship now. The baby blue eyes looking at you and the full lips slightly pursed upwards convinced you otherwise. You nodded as the man took an eager set. He sat straight up, directly looking at you, almost childlike.

“Robert,” he began. My name is Robert, but I like Bob. It’s shorter.”

“Oh, uh. I’m (Y/N).”

“(Y/N).” He repeated your name coolly. “Now, we aren’t strangers anymore, huh?”

You politely nodded, but you were already beginning to plot a way to make an exit before overstaying your company. You had suddenly lost your appetite and wanted to isolate yourself for a bit.

“Did you do something to upset that woman?” He asked cluelessly.

“Apparently.” You muttered, sipping more of your coffee as obnoxiously as you could. “I guess having a little anxiety makes you a nutjob suddenly.”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“Um, it’s not important.” You stayed quiet for a bit, hoping the awkward atmosphere would draw him away. Alas, he continued to stare clearly and directly at you, prompting you to fill in the empty space. “…but again, thank you for stepping in back there. I think I would have thrown my coffee at her or something if she kept at it.”

He giggled. But it wasn’t a giggle you would expect from a man who was easily over six feet tall. It was a goofy, playful giggle, like a kid who would laugh at some toilet humor. “That would have been exciting!”

You raised your eyebrow. “This coffee is scalding hot; I think I would have maimed her.”

He shrugged. “She was making you upset. How else could you have made her leave?”

“You serious?”

He nodded. “Good thing I came in.”

You admitted, his words made you slightly giggle. “It’s good to know Derry isn’t full of assholes for once.” You remained quiet for a bit, your mind shouting at you to not begin to disclose so much unnecessary details with this stranger. “To be honest…it feels like everything is against me lately.”

“I’m not.”


Your ears perked up.

“I just met you. So no, I don’t think I am against you.”

His words were oddly placed again. He seemed nice enough. If the circumstances were completely different, you would have been extremely flattered to have this tall, attractive stranger come to your rescue and begin having a seemingly average conversation with you. You lowkey craved something like this after spending a month at Castle Rock. There was a refreshing mood at the thought of wanting to start things all over, starting from the beginning and meeting new people, forming new relationships, forgetting about everything that happened.

However, there was something a bit off about him. It was probably better for you to take your leave before anything else could begin to ensue. After all, you wanted to make sure you left Derry and all of what happened these last couple of months far, far behind.

“Yeah, um. I think I should probably go.” You said softly, avoiding your gaze towards him and beginning to gather your items.  

He immediately leaned in his arm towards you, grabbing your wrist with his large, slender hand. He felt very cold, causing you to jump slightly. A small grin appeared on his face as baby blue eyes looked up at yours.

“I would like to take you out.”

You stopped in your tracks and your mind froze briefly for a moment. “What?” Did you hear that right? Did this stranger you had just met for a minute or so just ask you out? Was he insane?

“Uh…a date, right? You seem like a nice enough lady. What do you think?” He asked quite eagerly, maybe confident you would accept without any doubt. Your stomach became more nauseous. There was certain limit you had allowed others to enter your little personal bubble and he had essentially disregarded the clear-cut line.

“Hey, look. I’m sorry but I’m not really looking for a relationship right now. I’m not…in a very good situation let’s say.” You said sheepishly, slowly pulling your arm away from his grasp. He retracted his own arm, his face suddenly becoming flat and emotionless. You swore the walls surrounding you two had begun to shrink inwards. His gaze did not shy away from yours, which you admitted was a bit hypnotizing. You had never met or seen a man like this before, especially in Derry, which made you both nervous but slightly intrigued.

“I’m not looking for commitment either.” He began with firmness in his voice. “I won’t stay here in town for long, but you seem like someone I’d like to talk to more. Humor me?”

Your face became flushed. Darn it, he was good. You cursed at yourself for falling so easily for a stranger like this, or to even consider saying yes. Had you completely forgotten about ridiculously high incidents of kidnappings and missing persons in Derry? Surely, a guy like this was in some shady type of business or wanting to take advantage of you.

 He noticed how focused in thought you were, to busy to notice the small glint of gold in his eyes. He grew slightly impatient. Steady…

You sighed in defeat. “Okay. Fine.” You crossed your arms attempting to look a bit more intimidating than you believed yourself to be.

“Lovely.” He smiled victoriously. “Meet me in the town square by the stage tomorrow? Before sundown…”

“How do I know you’re not up to something bad? You know Derry is infamous for people disappearing…” You tested him, knowing full well what you were potentially getting yourself into.

“How do I know you’re not up to something bad?” He repeated, almost mockingly. You squinted your eyes in annoyance.

“Well, that’s gonna be a big fat no then buddy.”

“You can trust me.” He said, again, in a boastful and confident tone. A wicked smile appeared on his face, luring you in further and further.

Part of you knew this was in no way a good idea. What extra baggage would you unload on this unsuspecting guy. Would it just be better to play it safer and just avoid anything like this altogether?

Or do you need something like this, something seemingly normal, to forget everything instead…?

Part of you admittedly wondered how his lips would feel.

“Alright, tomorrow then.”

With much gusto, he nodded approvingly to you, walking out of the diner. Once he had left, the murmurs and small conversations within the establishment seemed to have returned much to your dismay. You looked down at your hands which had not seized from shaking throughout the entire encounter. Your doubt began to settle in once more. You had now committed to have meeting this man you had pretty much just conversed for 10 minutes, with no other indication of what his intentions were.

I’m such an idiot.


 

 

Derry 3:00 am

A police car stationed at the town outskirts on the look out for late night drunk drivers and suspicious activity gets a call in of a domestic disturbance. An anonymous caller indicated strange yelling from a woman coming from one of the houses down their street. The details given stated there is no other notable noise to discern from the situation. Just a murderous screech then nothing.

-all units in near norther Derry by the barrens please report to apparent domestic dispute. Street is North Wilson Ave. intersecting with Neibolt St. House has been identified, 13455 N. Wilson Ave. Reports stating approximately 2:50am when screams from inside the home were heard. All units, please report…all units…make… make sure you check the fridge. Sounds to me like someone had a little fiasco with some leftovers…I can assure you however, everything has been accounted for…not a single limb left…maybe just one left inside for later…make sure to check the expiration date on that…Elisa McCarthy…age…54…female……ahahaha…old …

Cop cars scurried onto the property of identified suspect, Elisa McCarthy, with a handful of law enforcement lock and loaded. The commotion from radios and police sirens was heard from down the street, causing some neighbors to come out and investigate what had awoken them in the middle of the night. Whispers traveled through the fresh night air with talk of potential homicide or suicide, nothing in between. Truthfully, the curiosity stemmed from what method was used to finish off the woman who had lived down the street for majority of her life. From the information provided from officer to officer and neighbor to neighbor, there was no indication of what other strange entity might have been present during this night.

An early police report given by one of the first responding units stated the following:

Property identified as the home of Elisa McCarthy, age 54. Reports indicate a “chilling scream” coming from the property. Police arrived on scene; no answer when doorbell rung or when Ms. McCarthy was called out. Door was kicked in; property was searched or individual and any sign of scuffling or altercation. Officer on scene indicated a trail of unidentified red substance leading towards kitchen of household. No signs of individuals in household. Trail led towards a white refrigerator unit in kitchen; door was covered in poor ineligible writing with red substance and an arrow pointing towards opening of refrigerator. Best words made out were “FrESh.” Inspection of refrigerator unit revealed part of a suspected human forearm, seemingly torn off and dripping from in stated substance. No official investigation begun; forensics has been alerted. Area will be closed off.

 ----

From across the street, a block or so down, you were hypnotized in a deep sleep. A gloved hand hovered over you with imaginary strings attached at its fingertips. The fingers danced sporadically over your forehead, intently providing the depths of your mind with vivid images of the individual known as Robert, the same man you had met just that morning. The creature looming in your room ensured there was no suspicion or paranoia within your human notions or his intentions with you. For now, his prey needed to grow fond of him, become closer, become enamored, become blinded by that false sense of security.

Drool dripped like heavy syrup from a pair of ruby red lips, revealing rows of long, jagged teeth and fangs. The pay off would soon become so worth it, so tasty…