You may or may not have noticed, but I'm not very good at balancing my life. I get completely immersed in aniblogging and anime fandom for a few months, then completely immersed in reading and writing fiction, then consumed by hunting down free, appropriate otome games... you get the picture. Oh well. Maybe I'll learn balance in the next few years. Maybe. In the meantime, thanks for having patience with my ADHD way of posting (hey, I do have ADHD, even if it is mild and doesn't make me hyperactive).
Anyway, here it goes...
- At His Whim - Prologue
Nothing ever happens in Sisters. In this Old West-themed town, the stores all close by six, and the restaurants follow shortly after. McDonald’s created the biggest scandal of the decade… until someone burnt it down in the middle of construction. Locals worry more about cougars and wildfires than burglars and killers. They don’t blink when they see a horse at the bank’s drive-thru window, and they just laugh when people dress up as cowboys for Halloween. If someone dresses up in a cowboy hat and boots on October 31, chances are that no one will realize they’re in costume; there are real ranches in the area.
Sisters nestles itself in the Cascade Mountains of Central Oregon, on the edge of the High Desert. Its citizens hide out or skip town when the tourists come for the Quilt Show. Their mantra is: “Come, spend your money, and leave.”
Yes, nothing ever happens in Sisters. Sure, there’s the Rodeo, the Quilt Show, the Antique Show, the McDonald’s scandal, and the B&B fire. But other than tourists, fire, and wild animals, there’s not much to worry about. Most often, the only things threatening kids are their own poor choices. Parents feel pretty comfortable letting them walk around the neighborhood alone. That’s why eight-year-old twins Danny and Lila were alone when the storm rolled in and the pool closed early. The twins changed with everyone else, but Lila was held up in the bathroom. When the pool’s gate guard covered the pool, locked the gate, and left, he didn’t realize that two swimmers remained.
The sky grew darker and darker. The lightning and thunder came closer together. Danny waited just outside the girls’ changing room and watched the sky with increasing unease. When Lila finally emerged, the rain and wind hammered them. They shook the gate and yelled for someone to come, but the storm negated their voices, and the gate guard was already home.
Lila jumped at a particularly loud thunder clap. She didn’t fear the storm, exactly. Still, she’d prefer to watch it from the safety of her bedroom.
Danny gave the gate a final, hopeless shake. “We’ll have to climb over!”
She eyed the nine foot fence. “I don’t think so,” she shouted over the wind.
“There’s no other way!”
“But it’s slippery, and high!”
“Come on! You can do it.” Danny demonstrated by climbing up a couple feet. His flip flops made him slip a little, so he came back down and took them off. “Just throw your shoes over the fence, and you’ll be fine!” he told his sister.
She shook her head and backed up a step.
“Lila!” Danny shouted, exasperated. The idea of climbing the fence in this weather didn’t appeal to him, either, but he wanted to go home.
“Maybe you can go home and get hel-EEK!” Her suggestion turned into a shriek as a tendril of water wrapped around her ankle and pulled.
Danny turned around. “What?!”
“My ankle!” She staggered back and shook her right foot, eyes wide with fright. “Get it off! Get it off!”
It was June, and should have been sunny for another four hours, but in the storm, it was dark enough that Danny had to squint to see what she was talking about. “What in the world…”
It slithered around her calf and tugged. Lila fell forward with another shriek, and Danny just barely kept her from hitting her head on the cement. The water wound up her leg, under her pink shorts, and around her waist. It pulled her toward the covered pool, wrenching her right leg until she screamed. Danny planted his feet, gripped her wrists, and heaved, trying to fight whatever controlled the dark tentacles of water wrapping around her.
The tendrils continued up, under her shirt, and, to their horror, around her neck. It tightened, but did not stop there. It spread over her face, into her eyes and mouth. She kicked, and Danny pulled harder, but the thing dragged her back, unfazed. It took her arms next and reached for her wrists and for Danny’s hands.
She couldn’t breathe. It grew harder and harder to struggle. Her remaining clarity of mind began to fade away.
Danny fought in vain to hold on as the water creature pried his fingers from her wrists. “No!” he screamed, trying to grab her again as she fell under the pool covering. “No!” He dropped to the ground, determined to swim after her. Right then, he noticed the thick water cord running from the other side of the pool to a figure just beyond the fence. He realized that the figure, not the water, was his enemy.
He leapt to his feet and sprinted toward the fence, anger boiling inside him. Who dared hurt his sister? Who was trying to drown her? The man in a trench coat watched, unworried, as the desperate boy approached the chain link fence. But, somehow, Danny realized that his enemy had reason to worry. He instinctively knew that the fence posed no barrier to him, so he crossed his arms in front of his face and charged.
The rain sizzled and the man lost connection with his water as Danny melted through the fence in a flash and barreled into his opponent. Trench Coat barely defended himself against the powerful waves of heat emitted from the boy. When, despite the sheets of rain and cutting wind, a flame sprouted, Trench Coat knew he was unprepared for battle. He ran.
Danny turned on his heel and ran back to the deep end. He pushed back the cover, dove into the pool, and opened his eyes, searching the dim water for his sister. There! She was unconscious a few feet in front of him. He hauled her up to the surface. For one terrifying moment, he couldn’t find the gap in the cover. Then he was through. He gripped the wall and continued kicking as he pulled Lila’s head out of the water. God! Help me! He prayed for God to lend his strength. Through some combination of adrenaline and divine help, Danny managed to push her up onto the cement.
He quickly followed her and pulled her further away from the pool. She wasn’t breathing, so he did what they did in the movies - pumped her chest. He managed to do it hard enough in the right place, and after a few repetitions, she coughed up water.
“Oh, thank goodness.” Danny let out a whoosh of air and helped her sit enough to cough and sputter until the water was out of her lungs. “Are you okay?”
“My leg,” she said hoarsely. He barely heard her over the howling wind, but he saw what she meant. Her right leg was twisted in an awkward position, and it hurt more than anything had ever hurt in her life.
He looked at it, but the movies hadn’t taught him what to do with a leg injury. If it was bleeding, he could deal with that, but this was different. “Anything else?”
She shook her head and shivered.
“Alright,” he decided, “I’m going to pull you into the bathroom. You can’t walk, so we’ll wait out the storm in shelter.”
He dragged her into the women’s changing room. They sat against the wall and held each other. Danny wished he had a dry towel to wrap around her, but made do with his arms. He did his best to soothe her. Please, God, make the storm stop.
The storm didn’t stop, but their parents grew worried when the kids didn’t come home. Thirty minutes later, they found Danny holding his unconscious sister, barely holding in frightened tears. Tears of pain streaked down Lila’s cheeks.Both children went to the hospital. In a few months, they seemed fine. You could only see Lila’s limp if you watched closely. They were physically unscathed. Yet that day changed them for life, and its ramifications haunted them even decades later.
So... What did you think?