VANDALISM? CORRUPTION? HAVE NO WHERE ELSE TO TURN? NO STORY TOO BIG OR SMALL THE OSN WILL INVESTIGATE! Please email news tips to Hildelysiak@gmail.com
Editor’s Note: I am still in Arizona so this issue of the OSN will be a short story. I hope you like it.
By Hilde Kate Lysiak
Sally sat on her bedroom floor with moving boxes piled all around her. She had just moved from Brooklyn, NY to Javelina, Arizona—talk about a big change. Sally hadn’t explored the town, or even walked outside yet, but she new she was going to hate it here. Not only did she have no friends, but it was a much smaller town. There was nothing to really do. She had begged her parents to allow her to stay in Brooklyn. But she was just a kid. And parents don’t listen to kids, even when they are right. Her Dad told her that the move was for the best. That they would meet new people and see new lands. Sally was happy in Brooklyn, but no one in her family seemed to care.
In Brooklyn, Sally had so many friends and would always have something to do. She was never bored there. Here all people liked to do was hike and watch birds. It never snowed, even in January, and there were lots of bugs and spiders. The town was named after the javelina—an animal that looked like it came from the marriage of a giant pig to a rat.
The animals disgusted her.
She did not consider herself a nature person. She didn’t even like to get dirty.
It felt like a ghost town. Javelina, Arizona had no stores and no one was ever around. Getting to the nearest coffee shop meant having to hike through steep mountain paths full of prickers.
Finally, Sally became tired of depressing herself with thoughts of Brooklyn and decided to explore. She left the house and within a few steps found a dirt path.
Sally had been following the path for at least an hour when the path stopped at the edge of a tall cliff. It was so pretty it almost hurt her eyes.
Beneath the cliff was crystal clear lake. The scene mesmerized her. She sat on the edge of the cliff gazing into the lake, unable to look away.
The lake so blue it looked electric.The branches of the trees below looked like they danced in the breeze.
The longer she stared at the lake, the more she began to feel a strange desire rising out from the bottom of her toes.
She needed to jump. Right off the cliff. And she needed to do it right now.
Slowly she got closer and closer to the ledge. The cool blue below was calling out to her, pulling her in. She inched to the point where her toes were hanging off the edge of the cliff but then, suddenly, she snapped out of it. The cliff had to be at least 350 feet down. Sally wasn’t sure if she’d die because of the lakes depth but knew she would probably get hurt. What had she been thinking?
It was like she wasn’t even herself. She had to get out of there!
She quickly ran down the path, avoiding the bushes of prickers and huge trees that had grown into the middle.
When she got home she sat on her new bed for a little. Just thinking. Thinking about how much better it would have been if she stayed in Brooklyn. She put her hand to her face and felt a round scar on her forehead. She did not know how she got it. She was too upset to really give it too much thought.
She started again to think about her new town. Javelina, Arizona.
It was an awful little town.
But she knew she had to face the truth, that she was here, not in some big city. There was one last hope she had for a better time in Javelina, as little as it might be—school!
On her first day in school, she met a few girls that she did not really like, but she thought she had to start somewhere. In her old city she would never have trouble finding friends. A lot of people liked her there. But here there just were not a lot of options for people to hang out with. At her new school there were 6 girls out of the class of ten kids. In math class she saw two of the kids picking their nose’s.
Another two of the girls were sleeping in the middle of class. When the teacher found out that they were not paying attention, they were sent to the principal’s office. There were two girls that were not doing anything questionable so those were the two Sally decided to become friends with and she got their numbers.
During her first the weekend it was over 110 degrees—way hotter than it had ever been in Brooklyn, even in the summer. It was so hot no one could leave their homes, well no one wanted to, at least, Except Sally.
She thought about the lake again. She thought that this day would be a great time to go for a swim. She had tried not think about that weird experience the other day.
Sally walked outside into her backyard, trying to distract herself. There was nothing as far as her eye could see—just brush and bamboo and some cactus. The sun was so hot she instantly felt the sweat pouring down the sides of her face. Sally had enough. She didn’t care about what happened the other day at the lake. She told herself she was probably just imagining it.
She went inside, threw her bathing suit on, sat down on her bed, and got her phone out of her messenger bag to text her new friends, Alley.
Hi, it’s Sally. It is so hot outside, want to go swimming?
Alley didn’t respond. Sally waited a few minutes then decided to text her other friend, Lucy.
Sally: Hey, it’s Sally. want to go swimming at the lake near by?
Lucy: No, you should not do that!
Sally: y not? it’s so hot outside
Lucy: Just don’t ok
Sally: but y
Lucy: if I tell you you won’t believe me
Sally: Just tell me
Lucy: Fine, this sounds crazy but its true I promise. My friend’s uncle’s grandma loved to swim in that lake, until one time her parents would not let her go, but she really wanted to so she snuck out and swam in the lake, she swam farther then she ever had before but it got dark. She was missing for a month, until she was found at the bottom of the lake with monster plants tied around her feet, it was all over her wrapped around her like a mummy, except instead of toilet paper it was monster plants that will do the same to anyone else who swims in the lake
Sally: That’s crazy
Lucy: I knew you would not believe me but I swear on my life its true
Sally: Have you ever met your friends uncles grandma?
Lucy: No one has seen her since 1970 when she went MISSING
Sally put her phone down. Nonsense, she thought.
Lucy was determined to go swimming.
She packed her bag and headed for the lake.
But as she was walking, she could not stop thinking about the story Lucy told her.
Was it true or was it was a lie?
Sally shook her head. She had convinced herself it just a joke.
It sounded like something parents say to keep their kids from swimming across the lake.
But then Sally had another thought.
Why wouldn’t Lucy’s parents let her swim across the lake?
Nonsense, she told herself again.
Sally began walking down the path.
Finally she got to the lake, but then, right before she stepped to the ledge and looked into the crystal blue water, she got a feeling—a terrifying feeling, like no one was safe. She tried to explain the awful feeling she had to herself.
Something inside of her was telling her to go home. It was so powerful, it made her feel like she might cry..
Suddenly she started running. She ran as fast as she could until she got home.
When she got home she went right to bed, even though it was 6:00 pm.
Before falling asleep she looked out the window and it was pitch black when just a minute ago it had been so light.
The next day, when she woke up, she was still scared. She did not know what to think of what happened last night. She stayed in her bed for a few hours. Just thinking of that feeling she got last night—that terrifying feeling. Finally, she came to a solution. A plan to get over her fear. A good plan. She would go down to the lake. Walk down there with thinking a single thought about what Lucy had said. Or of the day when she almost jumped in off the cliff.
It would show her that there was nothing to be afraid of, and she would have a fun, fear-free swim.
She needed to stop freaking herself out.
She got on her bike with her grey bag, where she kept her phone and sunglasses. She tied her bag to the handle bars of her bike and began to pedal. She thought at this point she would pedal bravely to the lake, but that did not happen. Instead of getting faster and faster on her bike she got slower and slower.
It was like she was riding through the gross pea soup her grandma used to make. She tried not to be afraid, she really did. But it did not work. She was scared for her life, even though she did not know why. All she knew was that she was terrified.
She was not even half way to the lake when she decided to go back.
Once back in her room, she could not sleep, She was so focused on that feeling she had gotten the first time she went to the lake. She suddenly busted into a fit of anger, knocking things over in her room, thinking how much she hated being in Arizona. She thought about how she had hated this awful town she had been forced to move to, how much better it would be if she had stayed in Brooklyn with all her friends.
She ran as fast as she could out her room. Then, she saw a brief flash of her parents near the front door.
Were they panicking or happy? She couldn’t tell. Maybe they were yelling at her. She would not know. She felt in a trance-like position. She did not feel responsible for what she did.. She felt a hand grab her before she left the door. She broke out of it and ran out the front.
When she got outside it was pouring rain. All the roads were almost flooded. She ran through the road which was up to her knees, soaking her light blue dress.
She ran up the dirt trail through all the loops and turns, right to the cliff. She sat right on the edge of the cliff looking into the clear water. Suddenly, she saw something below.
It was a girl. She was about Sally’s age.
The girl was bobbing in the water.
This girl looked familiar but she couldn’t get a good look at the face.
Then she saw something out of the corner of her eye. It was down below.
They were looking up at her, grunting and snarling in a way that made it sound like —- but it couldn’t be — laughter.
It sounded like a thousand mice dumped in a frier.
Sally was terrified. She did not know what to do but cry.
Cry and run.
When she got home, her parents were waiting at the door. They were angry.
“Where have you been we were looking everywhere for you? We told you not to leave— why did you not listen?” Sally’s mom said.
“You told me not to leave?” Sally said confused.
Then she just sadly went up to her room. And that is when it occurred to her – her head was bleeding.
That night she could not go to sleep. She was up all night thinking about everything that had happened since she moved here.
What about the body in the water?
Could the javelina’s really be laughing?
Why was my head bleeding?
And all those feelings she got… All those awful feelings that made her feel so unsafe.
There were a lot of things that did not make sense.
But then it hit her. The idea that if it was all real, she never helped that girl. Maybe the girl fell in the lake and did not know how to swim. Sally did not get help or do anything. She was surely dead by now since Sally did not help.
She did not know what to do. So she finally went to sleep. That night she had a dream that she was back in Brooklyn. In her old room.
She was so happy, but when she tried to open her bedroom door it was stuck. She could not leave her room.
She pounded and banged on the door. “Let me out. Let me out,” she screamed at the top of her lungs.
Two people who sounded like her parents had appeared already in her room. They began yelling, “Put her back!”
That was the last thing she remembered before she woke back up in room in Javelina, Arizona.
She started to think about her friends in Brooklyn. She had a flashback to the last time she saw them. They were swimming. She remembered how fun it was, then began to cry. She would never see them again. She felt like she was losing her mind. She could not tell what was real. It was all so hard to figure out. Like a never ending puzzle that not even the smartest of people would understand. No one ever would. Especially not Sally.
A week passed and nothing happened. A whole seven days when things were some what normal. Sally went to school. Got ignored at school.
She came home, did her home work. It took her almost two hours, though. She was so focused on what happened before that it was difficult to try hard at any thing normal.
She ate dinner. She would not say anything. Just sat and ate. Her parents wouldn’t talk. They say in silence as if always mourning a death.
On Friday she finally came to a conclusion. She would just not go up the trail anymore and stay away from the lake or anything weird to begin with. It was that simple all along. All she had to do was just that. And then she would be safe.
She raced down the stairs to eat dinner.
“Hello mom, how was your day?” Sally asked everyone at the table cheerfully.
“You are a monster. It is all your fault.” Sally’s mom said smiling.
Sally’s smile disappeared.
“What?” Sally said, trying to figure out what was going on.
“What do you mean honey?” her mom said.
“What you just said, you said it was all my fault. What was all my fault?” Sally asked.
“You should know,” her mom responded.
“I do not know. Know what?” Sally said confused.
“Did I say something honey?” her mom asked, again.
Now she was smiling wide. So wide it scared her.
Sally ran and ran out the door.
She didn’t have to think.
She knew where she was going.
Sally ran up the trail, through the prickers, and saw the cliff near. She did not want to break the pact with herself, but she did not feel like she had control over where she was going. Suddenly she looked over the edge of the cliff.
Then she saw the body. Somehow, it was still there.
She squinted her eyes again to see the face. But she still couldn’t see it.
Sally closed her eyes.
The air felt cool against her skin.
Then she heard another noise. It was coming from the shore down below. It was a pack of Javelinas. They were watching. Grunting happily, as if making a symphony of grunting music to the girls lifeless body bobbing in the water.
But this time the sound didn’t scare her.
The Javelina’s were waiting patiently for the body to drift to shore.
They don’t look so disgusting after all, Sally thought.
Then the floating face turned towards her.
It’s eyes were open, but vacant.
It’s skin a lifeless pale blue.
The blood was coming from a long cut, on just about the same spot on her own head..
Now Sally knew the face.
Of course she knew that face.
She had always known that face.
It was HER face.
That bloodied, bloated head was her own head.
Then the she saw the long weeds wrapping around her arms, her legs, pulling her under.
The last thing she saw before the body was pulled down, beneath the water — was it’s lips — HER lips —curl into the hint of a smile.
Sally smiled back.
And then she heard the laughter. But it wasn’t coming from the Javelina’s.
And it never was.
It was coming from Sally.
And she was finally home.
So happy to see you back! I’ve missed your work.
Glad you’re OK! I’m an Aussie following your career. Keep up the great work!
PS: What a nicely creepy story. Hope you write more .
Great story. It’s wonderful that you are doing investigative journalism AND writing short stories. I look forward to reading more of your work in any genre.
And I hope it’s going much better for you in Arizona than it is for Sally. 🙂
Hi Hilde, I just discovered your journalism today by way of various Twitter posts. I watched several news reports and then found this wonderful and freightening short story. It reminds me of the feelings I had after the several times I had to move with my family as a child. Isolation, lonliness, lack of groundedness, and many more themes are all expressed so beautifully (and scarily) thru your story. I hope that writing your story has helped you with these feelings. Be strong and keep up the fight for what you know it right.
Good morning, Hilde! Good story, unexpected ending. Keep writing fiction – you’ll be a pro by the time you reach junior high. And don’t worry if a particular story may seem weak to you once you’re finished – the more you write, the better you’ll get at it.
You have a nice style that’s influenced by your journalism career, which is a good thing – several novelists, including Thomas Harris of Silence of the Lambs fame, got their start as journalists.
One nitpick: Remove the apostrophes from “Javelina’s”. Apostrophes indicate possession (Annie’s chair, Frank’s time machine), not plural status (Annie’s chairs, Frank’s time machines). Run it past an English teacher, or get a copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style (you can download a PDF for free at various websites) and keep it handy.
Keep going and keep writing!
nice job hilde 😀
I miss your constant posts. I hope everything is Ok. I worry about you