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The Midnight Pool

Updated: Apr 10, 2021

NYC Flash Fiction Challenge #1

"The Midnight Pool"

By: Jenna Dickson

Prompt: Ghost Story/Lipstick/Public Swimming Pool

“Mary’s a witch,” Katie whispered behind her shoulder as they crept slowly down the darkened sidewalk. Behind her, Lauren rolled her eyes. “If you mean Mary is a bitch,” Lauren said with her voice pitched to carry, “Just say she is a bitch.” Leading the trio through the gloom, Mary turned with a frown. “No backing out this time! Sorry I made you leave the party, but it’s not like Connor is into either of you anyway.” Lauren and Katie both glared at Mary as she turned to survey the locked chain link gate blocking their path. Briefly testing the links, Mary crouched low and cupped her hands around the lock.

Mary’s long black hair obscured her hands from view, but after only a few moments, the lock sprung open. She pushed the gate and smiled archly at the other two girls in invitation. Lauren swallowed nervously, but nodded once to Katie and they followed Mary into the dark public pool area. The empty rows of beach chairs were eerie sentinels in the darkness and the patio tables materialized unexpectedly in their path. “Ow!” Katie snapped angrily as she blundered into a chair, but the other two girls ignored her. Staring as if transfixed, Mary stood at the edge of the pool watching the water while Lauren hung back nervously.

There was no moon and the mirrored water was inky black and completely still. Mary crouched down and swirled her hand in the pool. Ripples expanded across the surface and caught slight gleanings of light from the distant town. Mary smiled and swirled her hand more vigorously so that the whole surface of the swimming pool roiled unnaturally. “How are you doing that?” Lauren asked apprehensively as she watched the water lap over the pool’s edge. “Daniel drowned here last summer, right?” Mary paused to ask haughtily. When she pulled her arm out of the dark water it dripped down her hand like blood. “And you agreed last night that you would do anything to talk to him one more time. Make sure he is at peace,” Mary frowned when Lauren remained silent. “Lauren loved him!” Katie defended her friend, “Of course she wants to make sure he is at peace. You’re just being kind of creepy, Mary.”

The water continued to swirl strangely in the blackness. Mary reached into her pocket and frowned. “I can’t find the chalk. Did you see where I dropped it?” Both girls shook their heads, but Lauren pulled out the little purse she always carried and rummaged through until she found a pen. “How is that going to write on cement?” Katie hissed at her. Lauren shrugged and pulled out a tube of bright red lipstick. Mary sighed in exasperation, but reached out to accept the lipstick from Lauren. Kneeling over the pavement, Mary laboriously began to scrawl symbols near the water’s edge.

As the lipstick crumbled and broke under the pressure of being used as a writing tool, Mary bent lower over her work and resorted to smearing the lipstick with her fingers to complete the final symbol. The water in the pool was bubbling and steaming as if it was a potion in a cauldron. Mary smiled because that was exactly what it was.

“Is Daniel’s ghost going to appear soon?” Katie asked bravely, but could not fully hide the quaver in her voice as the water continued to steam and boil. “Well, it’s a spell,” Mary explained as she stood up to survey the two girls. Lauren’s eyes were wide and she was shaking in fear. Katie was looking at Mary as if seeing her classmate for the first time. “And spells need all sorts of ingredients,” she continued ominously as she pulled a knife from her bag. Lauren was frozen in shock. Her mouth moved wordlessly as she tried to scream and Mary grinned as she advanced on her. Katie was faster and whirled to run, but Mary flung out her hand with a muttered incantation and the girl crumpled boneless to the ground. Lauren finally managed to scream as she watched her friend fall. “You really are a bitch,” Lauren growled angrily as Mary approached her with the knife. “A witch, actually,” Mary corrected her pleasantly.

“It’s been over a hundred years, but I still remember how the smoke from my sisters’ burning bodies clouded the sky before I was tied to the stake along with them. The spell I cast to ensure my return is only part of what I have in store for this awful town,” Mary explained softly as she pressed the knife against the girl’s throat. “You were never going to summon Daniel, were you?” Lauren whispered as tears formed in her eyes. Mary smiled. “I’m a bit old for high school drama,” Mary spoke lightly as she drew the knife across Lauren’s throat, “And sacrificial resurrection spells are kind of my thing.”

Lauren’s eyes were still wide with surprise and horror as her blood gushed over the lipstick symbols. Her hands scrabbled frantically against the pavement as she fell. Feebly, she tried to crawl in a desperate attempt to get away from the dark witch, but her leaking blood continued to pool on the pavement. When she was finally still, the blood soaked symbols began to smoke and sizzle until all that remained was black ash. Unceremoniously, Mary stooped to drag Katie’s body and splash it into the dark water.

The water thrashed and churned violently so that waves of water came over the edge and lapped against Mary’s feet. Out of the dark pool, smoky wraiths formed on the surface. As they glided over the water they steadily gained form and shape so that by the time they reached the cement, Mary was ready to greet her two long lost sisters come back from the dead. “We’re going to have so much fun,” Mary said with a feral grin. The two spirits smiled and all three figures turned their sights towards the street.

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