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Dark Twists and Surreal Turns

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Everything feels so out of control. But what if it wasn’t your fault? What if the monsters that plague you had a solution?

The suspense of what is real and not real is palpable as you fixate on the main character, Shern Baxter, devolve and try to make sense of why her life is crumbling.

We’ve all been there. This psychological suspense horror thriller is full of the distractions you need right now, and show that sometimes, there is a solution, but it might not be the answer we expected.

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Description

Dark Twists and Surreal Turns Preview:

Water droplets hang from my skin, preparing to take the final plunge to the drain. Beyond the gym shower curtain, I hear the talk and laughter of others finishing up and resuming their evening activities.

Happy voices.

Voices discussing family, a recent movie, losing weight, gray hair.

Today is my second and last day of water aerobics. The first class went well enough at the beginning—me in my glamorous off-the-sales-rack one-piece swimsuit and the others in similar shades making small talk around the edge of the pool. Then the instructor came and told us to get in the water.

Me, get in the water.

Me.

After embarrassing myself by leaving those older women behind, those frail-looking women who had more courage than I, the complete failure of what I’d done dawned on me. The pool couldn’t be more than four feet deep, and the water sparkled crystal clear, showing off tile like pearly whites. How childish I feel—me at 26 feeling afraid of a kiddy pool that old fogies swim in.

I watched Die Hard and The Fugitive and steel my nerves to go back the following day. There is nothing to fear there, I tell myself, sitting safe on the couch—nothing horrifying at all lurking in the chlorine.

But the next day the water seems darker, determined though I am in stepping into the pool.

Come on, the old ladies say to me.

It’s not that cold.

We’ll be right here with you.

Nothing’s gonna get you.

You’re going to be fine.

I stick a big toe in and know this is not the day my fear gets conquered—I settle for the shower instead.

Forty-five minutes later, I listen to their voices fade when I finally reach for my towel.

Even the instructor is gone, leaving the showering room all to myself. Sink mirrors fogged with steam. Sinks drains clogged with fine hair.

I hang my swimsuit on the towel rack next to my clothes. I quickly get dressed even though mine was the last swim class of the day in this loathsome place. Silence makes my wet footsteps echo through the locker room. I spin the combination lock and start pulling out my purse when I hear it. A scraping sound. Something hardly noticeable in a room full of people but loud enough to be heard when no one is around.

My hand freezes, fingers clenching a purse strap. Senses on full alert, Captain.

Breathing quickens. Brain plans the fastest route to the door. Twenty seconds, tops. But what about monsters?

I hear another scraping sound on the tile. It abruptly stops.

How fast can monsters run?

*          *          *

Pounding headache.

That’s what I remember most about the conference.

That and the gardens.

Midday on the second to last day at the resort, I sat with fellow colleagues from the department as research presentations were made. All those people dressed in business attire, waiting to impress one another with their data. Normally those kinds of settings allow me to remark on how pathetic they are except I was sitting smack dab in the middle of it, waiting for my turn to impress the faculty. The voices didn’t help. The late night degraded my defenses and common sense, allowing hallucinations to take on a more active role than normal. Right then, the voices were prominent, happily listing ways I could kill myself if only I would take the time to vacate the room.

Mark began to present. He had more to drink than I last night; his hand trembled while pointing to different figures on his poster. Words seemed hard pressed as he struggled to form coherent sentences. Double staining and graphs and proliferation assays littered the poster, creating a very impressive collection. They were the only thing keeping him in the ballpark.

A few seats to my left, Dr. Lepner raised a hand, interrupting the disjointed flow of Mark’s speech. His face seemed a little blurry to me but that was not my main concern. Someone placed their hand on my shoulder. The touch made the voices grow louder. I tried to remember who was sitting behind me but couldn’t. The hand’s owner whispered, “He’s a sitting duck up there.”

“What exactly is the premise of this research and does it have any practical use?” Dr. Lepner asked. A fair question Mark could have answered anytime. From the look on his face, however, I could tell the words meant nothing to him. He tried to answer anyway.

The hand started to squeeze my shoulder and I felt a multitude of sharp objects fly through my body and travel up to my brain where the voices were so happy that it was the end and there was dancing—

I jumped out of my seat, feeling the hand slide off. Professors and colleagues watched my approach to the platform. Nobody told me to stop. I calmly stood beside Mark and answered Dr. Lepner’s question. Some of the professors stared at me with wide eyes—this is not the me they were used to. All they had been exposed to was the shy girl working in the lab, working on experiments and trying not to screw anything up.

Another professor asked a question and I answered that one too, then another, then another. I was feeling pretty good about myself despite what the voices were saying until all my energy left and suddenly I was in danger of fainting. Mark put a hand on my back for support. It worked; the sense of touch sliced through my chest and provided enough motivation to leave the room. Light clapping reached a brief crescendo.

Fresh air brought salutations as I stumbled outside where Marcie waited in her car. “Presentations over yet?” She smacked her gum for accent. Birds were chirping, the grass was green, and the cars looked content in the parking lot as I leaned against her back passenger door and tried to breathe slowly. I hoped the episode would fade soon.

Marcie rolled down her window and grinned. “Guess you were at the party too last night?”

I decided to lie. “What party?”

Mark burst through the doors, followed by Jamie and Andrew. Marcie jerked a thumb their way and said, “Their party.”

Mark looked confused and angry. The voices loved it ‘cause they thought just maybe he’d go for the kill. “Why did you do that?” he asked. I closed my eyes and tried to regain some kind of mental balance. The fact that my lifeless body hung from a nearby tree did not help. “I was doing a pretty decent job and you had to come up there and make me look like a jerk!” I imagined his face to be bright red.

“You were already doing a good job of that,” Andrew answered. “And running after her was the cherry on the cake.”

“So, you ready to leave Jamie?” Marcie asked. “The place closes at five.”

Jamie walked around to the front passenger seat. “You guys want to come?”

Mark slid me over against the trunk of the car while Andrew climbed in the backseat. Despite the anger, Mark’s touch felt unusually gentle and that time, there were no stabs of pain.

I opened my eyes and saw Mark get into the car and make Andrew shove over. He motioned. “Get in.”

Marcie accelerated and we left the conference in our dust.

*          *          *

There are multiple scraping sounds now. My body is still frozen, brain too overcome with fear to force movement. The scraping noises aren’t coming toward me but moving to the back of the swim locker area.

Come on, I remember the old ladies saying.

It’s not that cold.

We’ll be right here with you.

Nothing’s gonna get you.

You’re going to be fine.

My eyes focus on the locker. Quite a shoddy paint job. Keys have scratched smiley faces and words and crazy squiggle lines that zigzag all over the place. I can’t believe I left my purse in this pathetic locker. Even though the lock helped I bet it wouldn’t have taken long to break in. I could have lost my credit cards and driver’s license and favorite deck of playing cards.

Card playing has always been a fun pastime. It forces you to interact with other people and makes it so much easier to relax. How many people ask deep penetrating questions at a poker game?

Enough talk. Enough chitchat.

I can see the door out of the corner of my eye, the wormhole to reality, the safety zone. Tightening the hold on my purse, I jerk it out of the locker and run. Fear propels me down the row of lockers with superhuman speed, brain only focused on that door, that light at the end of the tunnel, that small passageway for salvation, that—

Stray shoelace drives me downwards.

Momentum slides me across the tile.

The door, that blessed opening of freedom, comes streaking and jams me into the doorframe.

Consciousness fades and monsters come out to play.

Welcome to the wonderful world of me, Shern Baxter.

 

Ebook will be made available immediately after purchase. With purchase you get 3 chances to download the story.  Story is in .pdf format. No refunds for digital download products.

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