A Ghost On The Water - Part One

Shadow

A Ghost on the Water

By Stacey Dighton

Part Two....

    The water’s edge is cloaked in an inky web of darkness. I park the car by the office and leap the fence. The marina may be exclusive, but the security is a little lax.

    I spy Arabella and Gabriel’s yacht. There’s a dim, orange glow from the deck and I picture them with their influential friends, probably sipping cognac and snorting finely cut lines of high-grade cocaine. My dislike for them is only usurped by my concern for Reba and her sister. Reba might only be an employee, but she’s a damn good actress and reasonably priced to boot. I need her fit and well for the shoot in the morning. In the morning? What am I thinking? This is morning.

    I count down the jettys. Fourth along, she’d said. I’m wearing stupid flip flops, cargo shorts and a crumpled old T shirt. It’s not cold but it’s not warm either. The water is calm, placid. Strange reflections shimmer on its pallid surface like abstract, postmodern paintings. Unfamiliar faces glare up at me from just beneath; dark, forbidden eyes, mouths wide-open as though uttering terrible, soundless screams. I spy what I’m looking for. The moniker is painted in finely stenciled italics.

    The Argo.

    Reba is on deck and beckoning me with seductive fingers. She’s dressed in a white, flowing chemise. At first I think she’s a ghost. I turn to see if I’m being followed but I have no idea why. This feels like one of those situations that Layla used to warn me about. Strange women in unusual circumstances. Stay well away, she would say, but I know she would want me to help too, wouldn’t she? That poor girl could die in there.

I approach the boat as Reba disappears inside.

    “Reba, it’s me.” I’m on deck now. “It’s Dan. How is she? Your sister I mean. I hope I’m not—"

    I stop dead in my tracks. My wife, Layla, stands in the middle of the small cabin. She’s wearing the exact same clothes she wore to dinner that night. That terrible night. Red, ankle length dress, thin straps, hair swept to the side, a single clip with a red rose holding it in place. My breath catches in my throat.

    “Layla?”

    “Who?” Layla says, but it’s not Layla anymore. It’s Reba. The white chemise has returned.

    “Reba, I—”

    “She’s not here.”

    “I don’t understand—”

    “Reba. She left, a few moments ago. On the motorboat.”

    My mind’s a mash of thoughts, scrambled like yesterday’s eggs. It was Layla, I was sure of it, then Reba, or at least I thought it was. What did she say? Reba’s no longer here? If that’s true then who the hell is this? The stranger holds out a hand. I grab it.

    “I’m Sky. Reba’s my sister. Twin sister to be precise.”

    “You were sick.” I say, backfooted. “Reba called me, just twenty minutes ago. She was worried. That’s why I came over here in the middle of the night.”

    “She’s always doing this,” the stranger, Sky, says. “Getting strange men to come to the yacht to meet with me on the back of one story or another. She thinks I’m lonely.” She turns her back on me and gazes out across the rippling waves. “What did she tell you? Heart attack? A gruesome wound? That I’m hiding from an abusive partner?”

    “Drugs,” I say. “She said you’d overdosed.”  

    “She hasn’t used that one in a while.”

    I turn to leave. “I need to go. This has all obviously been some sort of sick prank. One which I have no time for. I have an early start and—”

    Suddenly a hand on my shoulder, Layla’s perfume in the air. I turn.

    “Don’t leave,” she whispers. “I think I know where she’s going.”

    “So what? I don’t care,” I say, but the words taste bitter. I’m embarrassed by the whole situation. What did I really come here for anyway?

    “But I do. I care,” She says, “She’s got away with this for too long.” Her gaze connects with mine and she’s Layla once more. “Will you help me?”

    I have no choice.

    #

    The Isle of Dia lies like a giant turtle, lazy and languid, an ominous black shadow on the horizon. The yacht is quick despite its size, and I can now make out the distant plume of the motorboat’s wake.

    “She’s heading to Agios Georgios,” Sky says. “To moor the boat. We have a place on the hill.” She points towards a small cluster of dwellings on the steep incline. “She’ll be going there.”

    “And what next?”

    “We confront her.” She says, steadfast. “I confront her.”

    I check my watch. It’s almost a quarter after three. This is taking way too long. Sky is turning the rudder and the boat’s speed suddenly decreases rapidly.

    “What are you doing?” I ask.

    “We can’t get any closer. The water’s too shallow.” She’s moving towards the boat’s stern. “We’ll row to shore,” she says, lowering the dinghy. “Come on. It’ll be fun.”

    “I don’t know about this,” I say, unsure.

 

    “Get in. I’ll lower the anchor.”

    I do what she asks without resistance. I still have Layla on my mind, the ghost of her perfume on my clothes. I step into the dinghy, trying hard not to spill into the water. I sit down and grab the oars.

    “I’m ready!” I call out, but I already know I’ve been duped. The engine is humming and the yacht is drifting away. It’s accelerating, turning. “Sky. Sky! What the hell are you up to!” I catch a glimpse of her face. The change is startling. Her eyes are dark now. Her mouth is drawn down in a sneer, strange red smears on her cheeks. Her hair now contains a hint of silver. She doesn’t look at me.

    “Shit,” I curse. “Shit, shit, shit.” I can’t believe I’ve been so stupid, so desperate. I;ve been chasing a wife who I buried, trying to recapture a life that was taken so abruptly from me. What have I become? Am I really this pathetic?

    I grab the oars and row. I can’t just sit out here in the water, waiting for the sun to come up. I’ll confront Reba, find out what she was trying to achieve with this ridiculous stunt. I need her after all, for my film. I’ve banked everything on this one stupid movie.

    When I hit the shore I tie the dinghy to the bulkhead and trudge inland. I realize I have no idea which house belongs to these two insidious sisters. I scramble up the rock face, but it’s hard to see. A wild dog bays somewhere to my right and I whirl away. Bracken claws at my cheeks as rocks tumble under my fingers. I glance towards the water, but I can no longer see The Argo. The island is deserted. There are no houses, no dwellings, just abandoned, dilapidated shacks. The only vessel at the harbor is the dinghy I just arrived in. There is no motorboat. There is no Reba. I’m alone out here.

    I feel the spatter of rainwater on my cheeks and forehead. Great, I hiss under my breath, now I’m going to get wet. Thunder clouds are building overhead. I make a decision. Enough is enough. I’m going home.

    When I reach the jetty I look back towards the hill. There’s someone or something at the summit. A long, sleek head, blazing eyes, fangs like knives. I shake my head, close my eyes, but when I open them it’s still there. I’m exhausted, hallucinating. I turn back to the dinghy and spy the motorboat racing back towards shore. Reba is at the wheel, or is it Layla?

    A streak of lightning flashes overhead and strikes a mast on the high cliff at Gouves. I spy another lizard-like creature at its peak. Fire spills from its lips and molten rock pours over its talons like hot tar. It grins at me through blood-soaked fangs. I feel a tug of familiarity.

    I leap into the dinghy and start to row. I need to get back to my home, I need to wake the hell up. I look over my shoulder and realize, with building terror, that the first lizard-monster is just a few hundred feet away. The motorboat is now in the middle of the channel, somewhere between Dia and Gouves. I paddle towards it. Layla is onboard, I know it.

    The water starts to swirl and undulate. I row for everything I’m worth. I have a lizard creature behind me, and another on the clifftop ahead, and yet between these two demons my wife is in mortal danger. A vicious whirlpool is building to a crescendo all around her. The motorboat doesn’t stand a chance. I picture it snapping in two like dry kindling.

    “Layla!” I cry out. “Wait!”

    The monster at my rear steps into the tide. It’s commanding the sea, I realize with a growing dread. The whirlpool isn’t a coincidence. My mind puts the pieces together. I’ve studied Greece long enough to know the fable. The tale of the warring sisters of the sea; the ocean swallowing demon Charybdis and the soul devouring beast, Scylla. Reba and Sky. This can’t be real.

     “You must choose, Daniel,” Scylla cries from the clifftop. “You must choose the life you most desire!”

    Layla’s boat is listing violently now. I can hear her petrified screams. “Danny!” she cries, and it’s my wife’s voice, I swear it. Tears build at my eyes. It’s her, despite everything I know, despite the still agonizing memory of her body being lowered into the ground, of the cold, waxy feel of her once soft skin. “Help me, Dan!”

    I turn my head to shore. The lizard has mutated and morphed and is now Reba once more. She beckons me. I turn to the cliff where Scylla has now transformed back to Sky. Her hair billows in the storm, her eyes wide, saliva running from her open lips. She’s hungry.

    “Come to me Daniel!” she cries. “Forget this life that has treated you so cruelly!”

    The whirlpool is sucking at the tiny motorboat with watery, foamy lips. Layla is hanging from its side, her arms desperately reaching for me. I paddle hard now, despite the waves spilling into the dinghy and soaking my clothes. I must get to her.

    “I am waiting, Daniel!” Charybdis cries.

    “Choose me!” Scylla calls.

    “Help me, Dan!” Layla screams.

    We’re inches apart now, my wife and I. Together we spin violently in a ferocious cyclone of seawater and tears. It’s my Layla, my love. My heart breaks a little. Our fingers touch but I pass through her like smoke. She’s not there at all; just a desperate, lingering memory. I turn back to Charybdis and glare at her through a hazy fog of realization. She is grinning through red, painted lips, her vampire like fangs thick with the flesh of the departed. There is blood on her cheeks and chin,

    “I have chosen,” I say, as the cold water envelopes me. Layla is near, just beneath. I go to her.

THE END