THE POND IN THE FOREST
“What is this place?” Laura demanded, pausing with the poker still clutched in her clammy hands.
The figure paused and looked back at her, silver eyes shining with malice. “It’s a museum of sorts … a private collection.”
“See for yourself.” He pointed toward a lever set into the wall.
Laura looked from him to the lever and back again. “You try anything,” she said, “and I’ll bash your head in!”
The hooded figure made a sound. A groan? A laugh? She wasn’t sure.
Laura crossed the room, her footfalls squelched by the layer of ooze that covered the floor. With
one hand, she pulled the lever downward.
Light filled the room.
Cages. And in them: people. A lot of people. Some were men, some women, many children. Dozens of them, one per cage. They squinted at her, as if unaccustomed to the light. The nearest cage held a little girl, no more than eight, her angelic face twisted by fear and suffering
“Help us,” she whispered.
“What is this place?” Laura exclaimed.
“I told you,” the figure replied flatly. “It’s my collection.”
She didn’t want to look at him, but she had to. It was as if her gaze was pulled by a string. And she saw him, saw him clearly. Saw his bulging silver eyes, which seemed to protrude several inches from the sides of his thin, hatchet-shaped face. His mouth was a lipless “0”, constantly moving, as were the gills — yes, the gills — visible just below where his ears should have been.
This time she didn’t hiss. This time she screamed.
“It used to be ours,” he said, sounding strangely wistful. “My sister’s and mine. Every specimen we collected together, snaring them to our pond in the forest. Goldfish made such wonderful lures. We’d built a life. We were happy. Until they came …”
He pointed toward two of the furthest cages. In the first, Laura saw Brian. He looked haggard and terrified, his pale face staring out at her through rusted, vertical bars. And, in the next cage over, the beautiful Amanda – silently sobbing, her eyes vacant with suffering and despair.
“They came together,” the collector said. “And we took them both. But the boy was quick and clever. He broke free and …” The creature’s voice choked a bit. “Killed my sister before I cornered him.”
“It was an accident!” Brian called. “We had a deal!”
They had a deal, Laura thought bitterly. “To trade me for Amanda,” she said.
Brian averted his gaze.
“Yessss,” the collector hissed, an odd, fishy sound. “But never would I have kept such a bargain. Oh no. Once you see my menagerie, there’s no going back. So I let him have his precious mate, and then, as they fled, I snared them anew. Now … I have all three of you.”
“Laura, I’m sorry!” Brian called. “It was … the only way! I never meant –”
Laura ignored him. To the collector, she said, “Open the cages.”
But he only laughed, a terrible sound.
To continue the story, go to The Reading Nook.
About Ty Drago
Ty Drago makes his home in Southern New Jersey with his beloved wife and son. He also has a beautiful daughter, but she makes her home elsewhere these days (sniff!). His short fiction has appeared in several locations, including AMAZON SHORTS and HAUNTS. When he’s not writing, he spends his time working as a business analyst for a large pharmaceutical company. His newest novel THE UNDERTAKERS: RISE OF THE CORPSES is now available.
You can find Ty on Twitter, on his blog, on Goodreads and you can order his books here.