Subject#04: The Drowned Boy
Redacted eye-witness statement
Security Level: Burn after reading
I was driving home from work and had made a stop at the gassy. It had been a long day and so, peckish as I was, I got myself a Big Ben. Should’ve listened to the gospel, though, because I burned my lip as I bit into the damn thing. The mince spewed out of the pastry as I flinched and cursed. It landed on my crotch. The whole scene was a travesty. Always blow on the pie.
I pulled over into the lay-by while this happened. I didn’t have the radio on today, and I remember thinking that was unusual of me as I took note of the way the rain was ratatating on my car. As if the shock of the burn had awakened my senses, I became more aware of my surroundings and could smell the river in the air-con. That’s when I heard it. Pop. Pop pop pop pop. Pop. There were six “pops.” They were faint, but vivid. And very curious. At first, I had thought it was beginning to hail, but that thought was swiftly brushed aside. Hail doesn’t sound like the popping of bubble wrap. The faint popping was distinctly different from a sound of nature. And that realization made my stomach tighten. Or perhaps it was just the hunger.
I set my pie aside on the dash of my car and opened my door. The thundering sound of the rain poured inside, almost muting the ding-ding-ding dashboard alarm flashing a red door symbol to which I paid no attention. Against my best judgement, I stepped outside. Instantly saturated. Even my briefs felt soaked through. A chill ran up my back, but I shook it out with my arms. That’s when I noticed the lights dancing in the trees just over the ridge. I hadn’t seen them from the lower vantage point of my driver’s seat. Alternating red and blue, irritatingly out of sync with the dashboard dinging. A sense of ease washed over me as I moved around my car to the passenger side, where I could no longer hear it. Just the rain, like sizzling bacon, screaming in my ears. My eyes did not falter from the illuminated trees. I was fixated on them. And curiosity got the better of me.
The smell of the river grew ever stronger as I stumbled up the bank, losing my footing in the mud and grasping naively at the ground. It smelled stagnant, like a musty old home left at the mercy of the elements for decades without a visitor. It was almost acrid. I’d finally made it to the top of the ridge, all hot and bothered, and out of breath. Soaked to the bone. My arms jutted outward one last time to avoid toppling right over. I stared into the void. Into the rain-laden air in front of my face; the scene I had sweated up this bank for blurred just beyond.
As my stance relaxed, my eyes focused. There were two cop cars and an ambo pulled off to the side of an access road that led down to the riverside. I had figured as much from the lights I had seen in the trees. But nothing had given clue to what I would witness alongside those vehicles. Like I said, curiosity had gotten the better of me. As it always does. Growing up, Mum would always recite, “Curiosity killed the cat, you know? Don’t be the cat, Michael.” Well, they had found a boy in the river. It was an ugly scene.
They must have pulled in mighty hastily, judging by the skid marks cut into the earth. My guess would have been that the cop car on the right got there first; it seemed somewhat parked intentionally, and the treads in the mud were minimal. The other two vehicles were farther from the gravel. Inches deep ditches carved by their tires. With over a vehicle’s length from the road, it was clear they had continued to move after the wheels had stopped turning. The doors were left ajar, and the seats were saturated. Understandable in an urgent situation, but some time had obviously passed since their arrival. Why hadn’t they closed the doors to save their bottoms a watery fate? Because they were dead, that’s why.
All they know now is a watery fate. Floating through the ether of existence down, down, down to the depths below this plane. To feed them. That’s why they’re gone. To feed them. We should all . . . forgive me, I’m . . .
Their corpses lay at the edge of the river. All of them were shot in the head. The paramedics by the officers, I’d say, and the officers by their own hands. This much was unquestionable. Their firearms, however, were left sullied in mud only a few feet from the vehicles. Peculiar, twisting pathways were drawn in the muddy earth, like tentacles leading to the bodies surrounding the boy. The boy stood, ankle deep, in the river. He almost didn’t look like a boy, but his height would have me guess he was about eight or ten years old. That was, before he died, of course. Once that happens, I suppose you stop ageing, right?
His face was mostly missing. His empty eye sockets stared right at me. Swinging in the breeze, his jaw looked as though it might fall off at any moment. His torso was all puffed up, like the StayPuft Marshmallow Man. His skin was pulled tight – where it wasn’t hanging off him – and translucent. The veins looked like a dark web of tar holding his flesh together. God knows how long he had been drifting in the water, but from where I stood, it sure looked like ol’ Davy Jones had done a number on him. And spat him back out, no less.
He had been sent here, that much is clear to me. Nothing else is. I could still only hear the screaming of the water falling from the, now darkened, heavens. No longer could I feel it hitting my face, nor any part of me. I couldn’t feel my own skin. As I was examining the boy with horror and inquisition, I gasped. Not at the sight of his fingernail-less, gnarled hands, but at the sudden knowledge that I was no longer standing atop the ridge I had scampered up so eagerly however long before. I was standing right in front of him, only a few feet away. How much time had passed? I couldn’t tell you. How had I managed to get down there without falling, slipping, tumbling or noticing? I really cannot say. I have absolutely no recollection of it. And although I could not bear to take my eyes off of the waterlogged boy, had I turned my head over my shoulder, I’d bet my life there would have been a peculiar, twisting pathway drawn in the muddy earth, like a tentacle.
I cannot rationalize it. I felt obliged to the boy. Compelled by him. An overwhelming craving to fulfill his every desire of me replaced any sense of self I had. I remember cackling maniacally, as I knelt in the water. The boy swung his arm at me like a cricket pitcher, striking my shoulder and then over my head and down on my other shoulder. It was as if he was conferring unto me a knighthood from the depths. And then I waded into the river.
I was pulled out of the ocean by a fisherman not two hundred meters from the river’s mouth. He kindly brought me back to land, and I walked right here. That’s all I know about what happened. I am truly sorry about your comrades. But they need to feed. And they are very, very hungry.
Fisherman sought for questioning.