The River (remastered)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Short story about two argumentative siblings who enjoy traveling down to the Dekishi River. However, neither of them realize that something malicious may lurk beneath these dark waters.

"I will be posting this on RoyalRoadl.com"

Submitted: November 10, 2018

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Submitted: November 10, 2018

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“Detective, you’ve found something?”

“Yes, deputy, I have. More on ‘The River’ case. Tragic, really. I finally got the latest killer to talk, and it’s just the same as always. I swear, no one comes away from that damn river with their mentality intact.”

“And the only thing you found was the records on that little boy?”

“Yes, the descriptions point to patient zero, the first case reported like this. A long time ago, a savage boy dragged his brother down to the river at midnight, then strangled and drowned him mercilessly. Strange, indeed, because just days after that incident, the shameless brother goes crazy, ties a brick to his ankle, and drowns himself. Even worse, as you and I both know, there are other cases. It’s like the place is cursed.”

“And to add to the mystery, it only happens at that one point of the river, where it all started and hasn’t stopped. Now, who was the latest victim?”

 

*****

 

It was a bright afternoon in warm summer, and the Dekishi River was as tranquil as ever. Small birds cruised about, or floated on the water’s surface, and several bugs crawled along the gravel along the bank. Every now and then, a silver fish would shoot through the water’s weak currents. Around this river, the gravelly bank separated it from a lush forest of pine trees and short sugar canes. It was a very calming place, to say the least, with the soothing sound of soft chirps and flowing water, and the lovely scent of the woods filling the air.

Today, there were only three people. There was my mother, a researcher, who was keeping to herself further downstream. Then there was my annoying little sister, Juno. Finally, of course, there was me. I am Ai Shinohara, a basic twelve-year-old with the typical oriental look; very short dark hair, dark eyes, and medium-tan skin. My sister had the same look, only her hair was a lot longer and neater, and she tried her best to look like a prissy little tramp. Trust me, we were polar opposites.

I loved to be messy and adventurous, running to wherever a thick forest or body of water was. I would climb trees and swim like a fish, or race myself down the bank. Beauty was not a priority whatsoever. Sweat was my shampoo and mud my bar of soap. Scars, bruises, and scratches were just precious mementos. On the other hand, Juno hated all of the above. She had clean skin and shiny hair, and may be the only nine-year-old to do makeup as good as a supermodel, which I thought was cheesy and dumb. Her favorite color was blue, meaning that was her main color scheme in those frilly outfits. Mud, lizards, water, trees; anything I liked, she hated. She just liked books and television documentaries, like a freak.

This meant Juno was like a little brat at the river, and I hated her for it. How can she not find this place fun? She can’t spend all her life indoors, either!

As for this very day, Juno was reading a thick book nearby, trying to find comfort in the shade of a large tree. Meanwhile, I took a break from swimming and stayed next to our mom, trying to learn about something I was confused about.

I spoke with a tone of childish curiosity, “Why have we been coming here, instead of going to our usual spot on the river?”

My mom answered, but didn’t even look away from her binoculars. “It’s because instead of studying the fish habitats, I’m moving onto birds, meaning this spot is the best. They’re shy, even more than fish, and there’s never anyone else down here.”

The thought made me uneasy. “That’s creepy! Why doesn’t anyone come down here?”

“I don’t know,” my mom blankly replied. “Maybe because other parents don’t like how deep it is. It could also be because of how far it is from the main trails. Either way, it’s a good thing! Now you don’t have to share with anyone else.”

Juno sneered, “Ai can have it.”

I rolled my eyes. “Shut up, Juno. You’re just going to be miserable no matter what, you brat.”

“Be nice to your sister,” my mom scolded.

I muttered under my breath, “Maybe she shouldn’t be so annoying.”

“Shut up!” Juno snapped.

“You shut up!” I retorted.

“Both of you, please!” My mom hissed. “You’re going to scare the birds.”

Juno sighed, closing her book. “Why are we even out here? Couldn’t you leave us at home?”

“Some of us like to have fun,” I remarked.

My mom spoke before another fight broke out, “It’s because I don’t trust sitters, and Ai likes being here.”

Juno groaned. “But…”

While they went on to argue about why they should or shouldn’t be here, I just muttered and angrily thought to myself. My mom barely cared about us, and then there was Juno. She might’ve been somewhat alright to others, but I found her to be little more than the most annoying person on the planet. She was a snobbish little crybaby, no better than those floozies who mock you for your really short hair or boyish clothes, or just your general ugliness and flaws. Yet every other day, she called the way I live to be awful and inhuman? What I’d give to have her alone for five minutes, without my mom to keep us separated.

I tried to calm myself by moving from the edge of the forest to the ankle-deep portion of the river. I sat with my feet in the chilly water, and began poking through the dirt until I found a slightly flattened stone. With my sister and mother still talking, borderline arguing, I continued blocking them out as I tossed the stone.

‘PINK! Pink! Pink…’

The sound of the stone skipping across water seemed louder than it should have. Perhaps something with the acoustics of the place? Either way, I found it soothing. I started poking about for another stone, and eventually found and threw the perfect one.

PINK! Pink! Pink…’

This one skipped far, bouncing further and further down the river. However, the mood changed quickly.

I became confused, my brows furrowed, as the stone hit something that wasn’t water.

It was a small boy, standing in the knee-deep part of the river. A creepy little thing, he was, too. He was about seven or eight years old, covered in dirt, mud, and algae. His skin was unnaturally pale and blistered, his neck bruised heavily, and he was a tad bloated. Soaked brown hair covered his eyes, and he did not move a muscle. He was staring down at the water, as if contemplating over going in deeper.

I glanced back with a quickness, wondering if my mom would be interested in helping. However, I shuddered, almost falling backward as I realized that no one was there. Perhaps they left without me? Or moved further down the river? Either way, it could’ve easily been that I just didn’t hear them say that we were leaving.

I hesitantly turned back, looking at the motionless boy. I then called, “Hello? Are you alright, kid?”

No response, or even a twitch.

I felt my brows furrow, and I finally stood. “Why are you just standing there? Look, if you’re lost, then-”

Suddenly, his head shot up to look straight at me. I shuddered as I saw a pair of frosted white eyes, almost empty of all life. Something nightmarish and odd, as if they were staring deep into my soul, and pulling on the strings that manipulated my fears. Perhaps he was a kid, but something was very not right, here. He had the eyes and aura of something dark, possibly dangerous. I knew from my favorite Japanese folktales that even the smallest things could have something corrupt within.

The weight on my chest was crushing, requiring much of my strength to choke out breathless words. “What- er, I mean, who are you?”

Still, utter silence. He only stared with those chilling, inhuman eyes.

“What do you want?” I continued, trying to get some kind of answer. This time, I was luckier.

His hand slowly rose, his index finger extended. He started swinging his entire arm in certain ways. It took me a moment to realize that he was spelling out large letters, and kept repeating until I finally got the answer. That answer was very shocking.

J-U-N-O

I took a step back, gulping nervously. “Wh-What do you want with Juno?”

The response to that was a horrid, sinister grin. Something only a sadist would have.

But then it all stopped.

I blinked once, and the boy had vanished into thin air. Not even the water was disturbed.

“Ai Shinohara, answer me NOW!”

I winced at the sound of my mom’s voice, angrily yelling. I slowly looked back and found her glaring down at me, right where she had been. It looked like she just now got up. Had she been here the whole time, after all?

My mom continued to yell at me, “What do you think you’re doing?! Scaring the life out of me, and your sister, and ignoring me is unacceptable!”

I didn’t even know what to say, but needed an explanation. “What happened?”

Juno approached me with an angry look. “‘What happened’?! Moron, you just started yelling and talking with no one, and completely ignored anything we told you!”

Was I just seeing things, this whole time? Or is it a question about what I was not seeing? Either way, I just repeated the same question in mind. ‘What happened?’

 

** Midnight**

 

That night, I was too tired to fight sleep. Once I gave into the darkness, it was just a matter of waiting until the next day. Mom’s rumor had it that she would have to go back for more pictures of whatever a ‘pileated woodpecker’ was. First, though, a dream came to me.

In this dream, I stood at the Dekishi River, at the same spot where we had been, earlier. To my discontent, the time in the dream matched the time in the real world. The silver moonlight was barely enough to let me see anything, and no star poked through the darkness of the sky. The air was frigid, making me shiver and cross my arms. I could feel my throat grow dry as I exhaled visible breaths. Around the eerily dark water, instead of an enchanting forest, all I saw were ominous trees that loomed over me like evil black towers. Worst of all, a layer of thick fog obscured anything beyond ten feet.

Was this even a dream? Everything felt far too real. If it takes a mere pinch for one to wake up, then conditions like these must’ve been more than enough to do the trick. And yet here I was.

The sound of chattering teeth mixed with my words. “H-Hello? Is anyone there?” I looked around, becoming desperate. “Can anybody hear me?! Please, I don’t know how-”

‘Hee Hee!’

I took a sharp breath of fright as I turned to face the source of that little outburst. There, I froze. I could see a barely-visible figure in the midst. A girl that wore a skirt, and had long hair that was pulled back.

“Hello?” I spoke. “Who are you?”

No response. She simply stared at me, but the fog prevented me from seeing much of her features. Although, I admit that she was somewhat familiar. I continued to talk desperately, trying to persuade her to help me.

“Please, I need to get home. D-Do you know where I can find the main trail?”

She giggled, then twirled to where she faced away. As fast as she appeared, she began running away with a quickness. I immediately recognized that stupid laugh, too.

I spoke urgently, “Juno? What are you doing here?! Get back, now!”

When I couldn’t see her, I began to chase her. No matter how much or how fast I ran, though, I could just barely see her; she was still far ahead. Getting no closer with my effort baffled me, and my legs were beginning to tire. I was much faster than her, so how was this even possible? Despite that fact, I kept going.

It was strange, too. I thought she was annoying, not worth having around, and yet here I was. I wanted to stop from how exhausted I was, but couldn’t. I guess, as much as I hated her, Juno was still my sister. I didn’t like the thought of being around her, but I also didn’t like the thought of seeing her frozen corpse on the bank of this godforsaken river. This kept me determined, and I ran faster.

However, I shuddered as I saw the dark silhouette of another smaller child. It was motionless and watched with bright, near-glowing white eyes, but did nothing else as I ran past it. I glanced back to be sure nothing was following me, and I was right.

Soon enough, though, I saw another child, shrouded in darkness. When I ran past this one, another one appeared on the dun horizon.

Another one spawned to the left, and three more to the right. Two generated in front of me, and they just kept appearing. They watched me without moving a muscle, like an audience of death.

Though my eyes had been firmly fixed on my sister, I realized that I could no longer see her. Black silhouettes had me surrounded, getting closer and closer with each step that I took. I tried shoving them away, but it was like trying to push away cold air. I touched nothing, and they did not move. Blackness began to cover what little light there was, snuffing hope while at it.

That’s when I stopped running. I could no longer tell which figure was Juno. Already, I’d lost her.

 

**Noon**

 

Evidently, my mom was on a breakthrough with her research. That meant we had to go back to the river, in that same secluded area, after the night I had such a strange and unnatural nightmare. Mom and Juno kept asking why I was acting different, but I didn’t bother with an answer. Only dismissed it all and thought to myself.

As I tailed Juno, walking down the warm riverbank, I rubbed my eyes and yawned. Only two hours of sleep had left me exhausted. My legs wanted to give out and collapse, as if I had been running all night.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized what was happening. Something wasn’t right, and for once, I wasn’t just angry at the threat. I was infuriated, sure, but was also hit with the strange sensation of worry. On top of that, I was worried about Juno, of all people. This was unnatural, but I ignored that, too. I was simply sick of the mockery, and wanted this nightmare to be over.

“Damn it, this stupid- ug!”

That was the well-known sound of our mom complaining about broken equipment. As such, Juno ran off with a quickness, going to help her. The sight of others, especially Juno, running made me cringe, and I just slumped to my knees. I continued to think, but only got angrier.

In a matter of days, this grotesque thing had turned the gorgeous river into a hell, and turned my mind int a mangled mess of tangled thoughts. I don’t even know what I was doing, anymore. Was I attacking this thing, or protecting Juno? Would I keep having to face this, or would it end if I found a different way to bargain? Was there something wrong with me; something in my mind that had me rewired to think this way? Was I being paranoid? Was this even the right thing to do?

Either way, I knew what I had to do. As much as I hated Juno, I didn’t want to see her get hurt. She was my little sister, and maybe years of fights and arguments wouldn’t be forgotten, but this wasn’t over such stupid things. Something was targeting her, making her unsafe and vulnerable, and I was the only one acknowledging it. I was the only one to help. Judging from the encounter yesterday, I might’ve been the only one who could.

Enraged, I shot up to my feet. I screamed as I threw a rock, “Show yourself! Come out, you coward!”

All the water lay still, and unbroken silence filled in the atmosphere.

Sure enough, seconds later, there he was.

The boy, that little boy with the demon’s eyes, was at the center of the river, where the water almost reached his lips. He glared as I threw another rock, missing my target.

“Leave us alone!” I yelled. “Go away!”

He grinned, letting murky water flow through his teeth and into his mouth. As he wore that sinister, sadistic grin, he shook his head, as if denying me. I was furious to see his hand rise above the water, pointing in Juno’s direction.

I uncontrollably screamed, “Fuck you!”

With adrenaline washing away my exhaustion, I leaped into the water and coiled my fingers around his neck. After forcing his small body underwater, I squeezed until I felt sinews snapping underneath the skin, and his ‘thudding’ pulse getting fainter and slower. I could feel the flow of jugulars, and kept squeezing tighter until I cut their circulation. Knowing what this thing was, and wanted to keep doing, I found immense satisfaction in that moment of destroying it.

“Leave us alone! She’ll never be one of you. Stay away from my sister!”

Just like that, the body suddenly went limp. However, just as quickly, I felt the adrenaline wear off. Shock and dread consumed my mind, paralyzing my shaking limbs. I felt like ice was in my veins, and my stomach was twisting itself in knots.

“Wait,” I murmured, trying to catch my breath. “Did I just kill a little kid?”

I pulled the body to the surface. The second it broke the surface, revealing itself to the world, I let out a bloodcurdling scream. I panicked, pinched myself, hyperventilated, but nothing changed. The sight would not go away. The boy would not reappear. The real world was right in front of me.

I was looking at the body of my sister. I was staring at Juno’s corpse, and worst of all, my own handprints on her small neck.

 

*****

 

“Sick little thing, she is, killing her own sister with such brutality. Don’t you agree, detective?”

“Suppose so, deputy.”

“Now comes the most important question, at least to me. What happened?”

“I don’t really know. Poor Juno was retrieved, and her open casket will be held this friday. The mother’s already killed herself after losing her girls.”

“And the killer? Ai, was it?”

“Yes, Ai Shinohara was taken in for interrogation. She was shaking like a leaf, and could barely talk. Looked like a madman. When she suggested that a demon did it, prosecutors had her taken to a mental institution. It didn’t last very long, though.”

“Why do you say that?”

“At midnight, her first night there, the warden heard her screaming at a ‘demon.’ He inspected and found her strangled to death.”

“She strangled herself, or was another patient involved?”

“No, deputy. There was a mistake in the system. Nothing’s too clear now, but the fingerprints matched that of some little boy’s.”


© Copyright 2019 Raven Akuma. All rights reserved.

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