Welcome to Beware! Dark Seas Halloween showcase, an annual author & artist showcase that features talented creators. Come back each day, the entire month of October for a scare! Prepare for dark stories, myths & legends, and creepy creations that will make the hair on the nape of your neck stand up straight. May the water have mercy on your soul.
BY Tim Collins
Cammie watched the television from the second-floor Juliet balcony with her teddy bear tucked in the crux of her arm.
Although she rarely understood the shows her parents watched from the first-floor couch, it made her feel grown up. Part of the family.
The good family.
She crept down the stairs in her Minions footie pajamas.
“Daddy, why is Mommy crying? Did you make her sad?”
Streaks of black mascara stained Mom’s red, puffy cheeks.
Little Cammie startled Dad. He dropped his iPhone onto the leather couch. It nestled into the cushion groove separating Mom and Dad.
“Cammie, honey, what are you doing out of bed?” His voice straddled the line of annoyance and anger.
Cammie snuck out of bed when Mommy’s sobbing soiled the quiet night. By her accounts, it wasn’t often, but Cammie couldn’t recall the last time she slept through the night. Usually, the yelling drew her from her warm bed. Away from the sleeping nightmares and into the waking ones.
This was the first time Cammie ventured downstairs from her second-floor perch since that hot summer night.
The night she learned about the bad family.
Her arm healed. Crooked for weeks, but Doctor said it would straighten in time. Dad said it would straighten faster if she’d minded her own business and stayed in bed.
Cammie rubbed the jagged scar on her forearm where the bone poked through to the outside. Doctor gave it a name, but Cammie didn’t want to remember. She only wanted one thing.
“I wanna watch TV with you and Mommy.” Cammie bent her knee, twisted her foot on her toes, and batted her big blue eyes at Dad.
“It’s late, Cammie. We have a busy day tomorrow. You need your rest.” Dad nudged her with his open palms. “After some early morning fun, your mom and I have a meeting. Miss Lily is going to babysit you. I know how much fun you two have together.”
Cammie stroked her stuffed pink bear. “I need to make sure Mommy is okay.”
“I’m fine, Sweetie. Please go back to bed like your father asked,” Mom said through her Kleenex mustache.
“But why are you crying?”
“Just something from the movie.” Mom kept one eye on the screen.
Cammie didn’t understand why her parents watched stuff in black and white when the colors worked perfectly well on other channels.
She stared at the ginormous screen and watched as the movie man placed his hand on a train window.
“His mommy is going to be mad at him for getting fingerprints on the window.” Cammie remembered all the times Mom yelled at her for doing the same thing. Dad called her OCD. Cammie knew lots of words for a second-grader, but ock-da, as Cammie pronounced it, wasn’t one.
Cammie jumped up and down pointing at the TV. “And now the lady is doing it on the other side of the window! Oh, they’re gonna be in so much trouble.”
Tears streamed from Mom’s cheek, dripping from her chin and darkening the light brown pillow in her lap.
A moment later both the man and the woman on television were crying while shouting words to each other through the window.
“Are you sad because they are getting fingerprints on the window, Mommy?” Cammie asked.
“No, Honey. They were best friends who realized they were in love, but they waited too long to tell each other. He’s on a train leaving to fight some bad guys and is probably never coming back. Them putting their hands on the window like that is their way of telling each other they are soul mates and will be together forever in each other’s heart—” Mom wiped away the tears from her face and then inhaled what Cammie estimated to be about a gallon of snot— “It’s so beautiful.”
Dad gathered Cammie in his arms. “Alright, Peanut, that’s enough love lessons for you tonight. Let’s get you back into bed, so your mother can finish her movie and that bottle of wine, so your old man can get some sleep of his own.”
“Does Mommy have a soul mate, Daddy?” Cammie rested her head on Dad’s shoulder, but her entire body stiffened like a board.
“I think so, Sweetie.” Dad squeezed her tight. Cammie believed her insides might explode to her outsides. “Maybe more than one, but she doesn’t realize it. I’ll be happy when she does. We’ll all be happy when she does.”
The second floor wasn’t as lonely now that Dad slept in the bedroom next to Cammie’s instead of with Mom downstairs. At least tonight, Cammie didn’t think there would be slamming doors waking her.
“Rise and shine, Peanut!”
Cammie rubbed her eyes as she dragged her tattered bear down the stairs.
“Eat up quick. We need to get you dressed and down to Munson Pond before it gets too crowded.” Dad flew around the kitchen. He banged pots and pans for no reason while Mom sat with her forehead in one hand and a steaming cup of coffee in the other.
“God, you can be such an asshole sometimes, Pete,” Mom muttered between gulps of coffee. “I should thank you for killing any hesitations I had about our meeting this afternoon. Besides, it’s too warm to skate. The ice is going to be thin and slushy.”
“Maybe you should bitch to tea.” Dad spun away from Cammie as he spoke.
“What did you say to me?” Mom slammed her World’s Best Mom mug on the counter. Waves of black crested the rim, dribbling onto the white-marbled granite.
“Switch to tea.” Dad frisbeed a coaster across the counter. “And use a coaster.”
Cammie prepared her breakfast these days and headed for the pantry to grab her favorite leprechaun adorned cereal box.
“Ow!” She screamed, hopping in chaotic circles holding her toe.
“What happened?” Dad asked, craning his neck for a better look in her direction.
“I stubbed my pinky toe on an empty bottle.” Cammie hopped on one foot for so long she was sure she was the new Guinness records champion.
Surely, she deserved a medal.
“Looks like someone’s Mom couldn’t get the empty into the recycling bin.”
“Stow it, Pete.” Mom held the coffee close to her mouth but didn’t drink. She popped three little white pills into her mouth and swallowed hard. “Can we get going?”
Cammie loved ice skating with her parents, although she couldn’t understand why they didn’t all hold hands any longer. A small part of her didn’t mind. She would be eight in a few months and could skate without help these days. Stopping presented a challenge, but in her opinion, that’s why there were other skaters on the pond. Dad called them bumper cars.
Despite the unseasonably warm morning, Munson Pond played host to half the town in Cammie’s estimation.
Lots of bumper cars!
Her parents trailed behind her the first lap around the pond. The only words spoken came from Dad who warned her to stay away from the thin ice signs.
After two laps, Cammie noticed a little boy in a red jacket holding hands with both his mom and dad.
“Skating alone isn’t any fun,” she muttered.
Cammie dropped back and grabbed Mom’s hand. On the next pass, she snagged Dad’s bulbous fingers and refused to let go of either parent.
“Isn’t this fun?” Cammie smiled. “Good family.”
“Yes, Sweetie,” Mom said, raising one side of her mouth.
“Although, not as fun as an entire bottle of wine,” Dad smirked. “A good bottle too. I believe I brought that back from Sonoma last year.”
“Seriously, Pete? You’re going to bring that shit up again.” Mom skidded to a halt while Dad continued. Cammie stretched like Gumby between them but held on tight until everyone tumbled to the ice.
“If it were just one time, then no, I wouldn’t bring it up. But come on Claire, that’s what, the fourth bottle this week? That’s not to mention the girl’s day out last Sunday. I’m sure you were good for a few drinks under God’s watchful eye.” Dad tossed Cammie’s hand aside. Her arm followed like a tetherball, spinning Cammie down to the ice.
“Maybe if you paid as much attention to me as you paid to your new secretary we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Mom said through perfectly white gritted teeth.
Cammie scrambled to her skates and found her gloveless hands dangling alone.
“Well, maybe if you didn’t live in a movie, spending your days pining online to your pretend friends about finding a soul mate, I wouldn’t have to.” Dad crossed his arms and huffed steam from his nose. Cammie imagined him an ancient Chinese dragon defending a massive pile of gold from would-be marauders.
Mom’s defeated shoulders dropped.
Dad pressed. “Yeah, that’s right. I read your emails. All of them! By the way, Y-O-U apostrophe R-E means you are while Y-O-U-R shows possession.”
“Well Y-O-U apostrophe R-E an asshole and you can shove Y-O-U-R fancy wine up Y-O-U-R tight ass!” Mom shouted.
Cammie couldn’t follow what was happening, but she felt uncomfortable and skated away from the pair. The only thing comforting her now was the dark pink Lily Pulitzer jacket Grandma bought her last year. She missed her teddy bear, she removed her coat and cuddled it like her bear.
Words and gestured flew between Mom and Dad as Cammie skated away.
After three minutes of fierce verbal combat, a commotion even louder than the couple’s insults prompted a temporary truce between Mom and Dad.
“Pete, where’s Cammie?” Mom asked.
All four eyes frantically scanned the worn ice.
Dad stopped an untalented skater as he hurried toward the entrance. “What happened?”
“I think some kid fell through the ice!” He tried to pull away, but Dad restrained him.
“Boy or girl? What did they look like?” Mom’s screamed.
“I dunno. Young kid. Wearing a reddish coat maybe.”
Mom pushed Dad to the ice. His skate pick caught in the ice during the fall and he twisted his knee awkwardly.
“This is all your fault!” Mom said.
She bolted into the crowd.
Dad tried to stand but crumpled in seconds. “Damn ACL!”
“Cammie, hang on honey, I’m coming! Mommy’s coming!”
Dad watched as Mom pushed her way through the crowd. Two skaters fell, and Dad heard the ice groan.
Mom’s shrill faded as the commotion escalated. Dad saw people plunging branches into the icy dark water. Folks frantically waved to the shore beckoning for help.
Dad pounded on the ice, sobbing with each hammer fist strike.
The screams faded into each other. In the sea of bodies, Dad couldn’t tell where one rescuer began and another ended. Mom escaped his vision in the waves of jackets.
Twice more he attempted to stand without success. Inch by inch he dragged himself toward the crowd until he caught a glimpse of a little girl out of the corner of his eye. He looked left and saw a girl Cammie’s size kneeling on the ice with a bare hand pressed against the transparent sheet of ice staring intently into the frigid waters below.
“Cammie?” Dad hesitated. “Cammie is that you?”
Cammie watched as her Dad crawled across the ice. “Hey, Daddy. I lost my jacket. I dropped it, and a mean boy threw it over by the thin ice sign. Please don’t be mad.”
“It’s okay.” Dad sighed and the pain in his leg no longer mattered. “Peanut, are you okay? Your hands are going to get frostbite pushed against the ice. What are you doing?”
“Come see, Daddy. You’ll be so happy. Mommy found her soul mate—” Cammie smiled wide and glanced away from the ice for only a second— “It’s me!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR tim collins
I am a nine-year veteran writing finance for thestreet.com and Agora Financial with work published as part of James J. Cramer’s best-selling book, GET RICH CAREFULLY. In November 2017, my flash fiction piece, TIME IN A JAR, was published in the 2017 issue of FROM THE DEPTHS.
I live in Austin, TX with my beautiful wife, teen son, identical twin daughters, and three slobbering furballs. When not writing, I’m…oh, who am I kidding? I’m always writing.