Selja

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Aaron takes his friends for a remote day trip in the Lake District, but it quickly gets very morbid.

Submitted: March 27, 2016

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Submitted: March 27, 2016

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The seething August sun is pulsating in the sky as we rattle down dry roads in Aaron’s old Corsa B. The towering conifers surrounding us offer little protection from the sweltering heat, to my dismay. I'm in the front, the window rolled down in a weak attempt to cool off a little. Aaron is driving, his hands leaving smudges of sweat on the wheel as he winds us through the trees, maps tucked and scattered across his lap. Marni is sprawled across the back seats, sighing and complaining about the heat, her third ice lolly dribbling down over her pale fingers. She says something along the lines of, “Aaron, how much longer?”

I adjust my hearing aid, and then look over at him, wondering the same thing.

“Not long. Just be patient. I'm trying to concentrate,” he says in his usual irritable tone.

Marni rolls her eyes at me dramatically and turns her attention back to her ice lolly.

Aaron frowns at the sprawling grey road in front of us, and I shut my eyes, letting my head loll back. I soon drift into a hot, uncomfortable sleep, and when I wake, the car is immobile and my fringe is plastered to my forehead. Car doors slam, and Marni passes my window, stretching like a cat after a long nap.

Aaron has brought us to a secluded area in the Lake District which he used to visit with his family. He's been pestering us to come all summer.

 

He loads himself up with deck chairs, towels, and a half empty cool box. He probably shouldn't have left it in the back with Marni. I titter to myself, but I keep my mouth shut, because he already seems stressed. His grey T-shirt is wet with sweat and I don't think he’s smiled once since he picked us up this morning.

 

Once we're down by the lakeside, beers in our hands, cooking in the merciless sun on our rusty deck chairs, everyone relaxes a little. Marni eases up on the winging, although she’s out of lollies and doesn't like Aaron’s beer. Aaron is quiet, as usual, but looks content.

After maybe half an hour, Marni announces that she wants to swim. There's an island a way across the lake, and it looks exciting, she says, pointing. We look, shading our eyes with our hands. It does look interesting, a little cluster of murky green, and in swimmable distance too, although it could take a while. I look at the water, swallowing. Swimming has always made me nervous, although I'm fairly good at it, because I have to take out my hearing aid. This is obviously something I rarely do, out with my friends.

But the island sits there on the lake, overflowing with thick trees, not a soul in sight. It's practically begging to be explored. Marni had already peeled off her clothes and stands in her bikini, looking at me expectantly. I nod, with a grin, pulling off my T-shirt. Our eyes fall upon Aaron, who’s turned pink in the sun, and he pulls a face.

“I don’t know, I think I'm burnt,” he sighs with a pained look.

“Come on, A, you've been begging us to come for weeks,” Marni moans.

“If you guys go, I'll follow you when I'm feeling better,” he replies.

“Ugh,” Marni sighs.

“Shut up, just go. I'll be there soon,” He opens another beer with his teeth.

“OK,” she says, defeated, turning to me.

 

I take out my hearing aid.

 

I put it away in my rucksack somewhat reluctantly, and the world becomes quietly muffled and completely different. I'd thought it was quiet already in this secluded, still little area, but this is different. Cut off from the world, I look up at Marni. She gives me a reassuring smile, her green eyes glittering with excitement.

I kick off my flip flops and we hobble over the pebbles to the water. I feel better as soon as it’s lapping at my toes, ice cold, soothing and refreshing. Marni is already waist-deep, waving my in enthusiastically. I glance back at Aaron, who's shut his eyes, before wading in to join her.

We swim alongside each other for a while, until I slow down, feeling uneasy. I stop, kicking to keep myself afloat, looking back towards the shore. We've come much further than I thought, and Aaron’s usually unmissable yellowish-blonde hair is nowhere to be seen, although I can still see the rusty blue car sitting further back, in front of the wall of trees. I scan the area for Aaron. Maybe he started swimming and dove under, or went a different way, I think to myself, but my heart is beginning to race and I can feel an anxiety attack creeping up on me. I try to turn around to look for Marni, but I can't see her anywhere. My breathing quickens, throat dry. I try to yell her name, but the silence surrounding me is dense and suffocating. What if she’s gone under? For a second, I think I feel something brush against my foot. What if she's drowned? The muscles in my legs begin to ache. Did something brush against my foot again? What if she got pulled under? Where the fuck is she? Panicking, I frantically look all around me, splashing hysterically, and let out a sob, before my eyes fall upon movement. It's Marni.

She's on the shore of the looming island, jumping up and down, arms stretched out above her head in an exaggerated wave. When she sees that I've noticed her, she sighs with relieve and her face dances into that reassuring smile.

“I'm here,” she signs, her hands glistening wet, and I swim until I can feel pebbles beneath my feet again. Once I reach the shore, we sit beside each other for a little while and she helps me to calm down.

 

Marni and I have known each other much longer than we've known Aaron, who we met in college. No-one else went near him, and I didn't want to at first, to be honest, but Marni was insistent and we took him under our wing. His clothes looked unwashed, he was awkward, he swore profusely and was always asking us for money to buy lunch, but he was funny, and he was interesting. He fit in with us like a little puzzle piece.

 

She stands up and turns towards the forest. It's thick and dense, the trees hugging each other, and as we approach it I begin to hope the sun penetrates this green canopy as it did the ones we drove beneath earlier. It doesn't. The air chills as soon as we slip in between the dark trunks, and pine needles prickle and stick to my wet soles.

As I watch Marni creep along in front of me, I feel as if I've been swallowed by the silence. It's physical, wet and warm, engulfing me. Suddenly Marni stops, bends over to pick something up, and then whips around to face me.

“What's this?” Her lips move, and she looks at me, frowning a little. Between her forefinger and thumb is an empty cartridge from a bullet.

I sign to her what is is, feeling uneasy. She turns the grotty thing about between her fingers, reading out ‘22-250’ from the bottom.

I look around, eyes focusing on the greenery, twigs, rotten leaves, thick mud, and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

She shrugs and flings it back amongst the pine needles, turning to continue through the trees, which I begin to feel are hindering my vision as I strain to look all around me, swallowing apprehensively. Marni remains enthusiastic, almost skipping, pointing at monstrous fallen logs and old dirt paths. I'm on edge, alert, wanting her to slow down.

We walk for a number of minutes and I stare at her pale feet, mud smudged all over them, pine needles stuck to the delicate skin. She looks like a flimsy piece of paper against the harsh dirty browns and vibrant greens of the forest, her legs almost glowing as they wriggle past groping dark branches and over mossy logs.

 

All of a sudden I see red. Her translucent, glistening thighs are defaced by the vivid rouge. She quivers for a few seconds, before collapsing backwards against me. The fronts of her thighs are revealed to me, and my mouth tastes of copper. She is breathing heavy, screaming, crying at the pool of blood growing in her lap. She's screaming words now, struggling to face me. Eventually she frantically signs one word to me, repeatedly. “Shot,” her hands tremble uncontrollably, “shot”.

I think about my hearing aid sitting useless in my rucksack as I press her hands down over her wound and lift her limp, sweating frame up into my arms, turning around. My thoughts leap and race, along with my heart, and my stomach churns violently. What the fuck is happening? Why would anyone be out shooting on such a minuscule, desolate island out here? I begin to lumber back between the trees the way we came, my throat dry, legs like jelly. It seems like a million roots and stumps have emerged in the last few seconds, and I stumble across the uneven ground as if I'm drunk. Marni is sobbing and hacking, clawing at my skin, her shaking fingers digging into my moist shoulders. Her face is twisted into a painful grimace of agony and her skin looks grey and clammy. I want to stop, to sit down and cradle her, but I know we have to get out of the way.

When I think I can see water in the near distance, another thought tears through me: what are we going to do when we get there? We can't swim back. We can't call anyone. Aaron is too far away to hear us if we shout.

I stagger on, my arms beginning to throb and ache, until finally we burst out of the trees and I collapse onto my knees and onto little stones, which bite at my skin and pierce it. Marni’s blood pours out across the bleak grey and I look up across the lake, towards the shore from which we swam. Marni won't make it back there like this. Panic gropes at every inch of me. My arms go limp and Marni flops onto the stones. I can feel her looking up questioningly, wondering why I've dropped her. She whimpers.

I see Aaron's car pulling out from the space he chose, the sun flashing off its grimy surfaces. I don't see him. Just a little, blue metal shape disappearing.

 

He drives away.

 

A moment later, the shadows of two figures appear on the stones in front of us, silhouettes of two men, formed by the raging sun behind us. Before I can turn to see who it is, to beg for help, a searing and unbearable pain grips my lower gut from behind, and my heart sinks. This time I heard the gunshot. As my body folds over beside Marni, the shadows dance closer and rough fingers curl into my hair, holding my head by the scalp. I think I'm vomiting.

 


Selja

 

Verb

1. to sell

 

Etymology

 

From Old Norse selja ?(“sell”), from Proto-Germanic *saljan?.



(Definition and etymology from Wiktionary.org)


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