Saturday, February 6, 2010
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Apparitions by Raven Bower
Hunted by a killer who knows no mercy.
Stalked by the vengeful dead.
Caught between reality and visions...will Bailey fights to piece the puzzle together before it crashes down on her. Is the man staying in her boathouse friend...or foe? And what part does he have to play in the macabre game unfolding around her?
Under the shadow of the murder's blade Bailey strives to discover the truth using faith and arcane knowledge. While at the same time the fury of the scorned dead creeps ever closer...
Bailey stopped swimming forward and turned back to the boat, treading water to stay afloat. "What is it, boy?"
Thor never went into barking fits while they were on the lake. He'd usually wait patiently for her. On occasion, he'd lap up the cool water. Other times, if she'd been in too long by his estimation, he'd jump in himself and swim with her.
Pulling her wet hair off her face with her hand, she squinted at the water between her and the boat.
A stringy mass floated just at the surface of the water, barely visible under the light blanket of swirling mist. It looked like a clump of thin seaweed. The lake boasted a few species of aqueous plants, so a mass of them rising wasn't all that discomfiting, not nearly enough to have caused such a reaction out of Thor. Until she realized...
It was moving.
The warmth leached out of her. The floating mass steadily struck a course towards her. That was...impossible. There wasn't enough of a wind to cause anything but the slightest ripple in the water. It was an enclosed lake with no currents. Seaweed didn't move on its own. Unless it wasn't seaweed at all.
It moved closer.
Andy found the spare oars under the seat of the second rowboat just as Thor had started barking out on the lake. He cussed and roughly pushed the boat from the dock.
Why couldn't she have a motor boat?
He plunged the wooden oars into the water and paddled. He hadn't manually propelled a boat in years. Thankfully, it was an ability that, like riding a bike, came back quickly after a few moments.
He could see Bailey - frozen, her eyes glued to the surface between her and her boat. He was too far away to see what she was looking at without his binoculars, and he didn't want to stop rowing to pull them out. Better to get there in time and deal with a surprise than get to her too late. He'd already let down Erika. He couldn't stand by and let Bailey be harmed. She turned suddenly and started swimming towards the opposite shore. Her movements were strong, determined and frantic with none of the fluid grace she'd had earlier.
He paddled harder, faster.
He pulled alongside Bailey's boat, grabbing the towline and tying the two boats together.
"Quiet." He glared at Thor.
The dog's deep, guttural barks resounded across the lake and ricocheted off the trees, increasing their volume beyond what his ears could handle. The dog refused to stop. He kept right on at it, staring ahead of them, eyes fixed between them and Bailey. The coat on his neck bristled upwards, nails screeched and clicked on the boat as he pranced in place.
Between the added weight of the dog and the drag of the second boat, Andy's progress slowed. Pumping his arms ever faster, he was able to close the distance. As he did he saw a dark, writhing clump floating...no...not floating...moving directly behind Bailey, going right towards her.
He opened his mouth to call out a warning.
She jerked under the water.
A cold hand clamped onto Bailey's leg, sharp nails gouging deep into the flesh of her calf. Pain radiated up her leg clear to her waist. Rushing water cut off her yelp, flooding her mouth and nose as she was yanked downward, the thing hanging on to her leg like a lead weight. She gagged on the influx of warm, gritty lake water that forced its way down her throat. Panicked, she flailed towards the surface. She could see the glimmer of the morning sun pierce through the fog and dance on the ripples of the surface. A pale, crystalline light that faded as it reached down towards her.
Thor's barks were muted and surreal, echoing through the water, as if he was everywhere and yet nowhere at once.
Her lungs burned and strained. It felt like they were about to burst. She had to reach the surface, had to breathe.
The creature below her yanked her downward yet again, its dark hair fanning out in the water�floating, undulating, seeking�the strands reaching towards her like tapeworms in search of a host. With its eyes glaring with malice, images of the demons she'd been researching flashed through Bailey's mind. This thing wasn't unlike them. Its mouth leered at her, its pale hand dragging her further down into the depths.
Thor's barks dwindled, bubbles from her frantic thrashing rose soundlessly towards the surface. Her heartbeat pounded in her ears.
There was no air left in her lungs to scream, and even if there were, the attempt would kill her. Her silver crucifix pirouetted gracefully within the bubbles, its chiseled edges gathering light, reflecting the soft rays, and with them came a glimmer of hope: she had to fight.
Pummeling, twisting and kicking, she fought desperately to break free. The blow from her foot caught the creature flat in the face. Its grasp loosened. Their decent slowed for a moment, just enough. Swiping her arms upwards, she propelled herself towards the dimming light. Her mind grew fuzzy, barely able to focus on anything except for the vague notion that she had to reach the end of the light shafts or die.
The strength of her arms and legs dulled. Her limbs felt numb, weighted.
Focus. Light. Go up. Kick.
Her mind repeated those simple commands but failed to rationalize why. The edges of her vision blurred. A large shape loomed over the surface, blocking out the light.
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