This story is by Hannah Jenkins and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Blood on the Bayou
-All Tricks, no Treat-
This is not a pleasant story of heartwarming hobgoblins and happy endings. Nor is this a story for the easily repulsed. No, this is a vicious tale of murder and transformation in the swamps of the Louisiana bayou. And it begins in Anna, Texas, on a balmy All-Hallows eve.
His name was Rodney. He drove a crumbling blue chevy and reeked of Marlboro reds and Budweiser. Why in Dolly’s name she accepted a ride from this man who oozed of scoundrel, she’ll never understand. Alas, there she sat, his overwhelming musk of sweat and cigarettes enveloping her like an unwelcome lover. The AC was sputtering in retort to the southern heat, and little pearls of sweat were beading down her brows. Her denim shorts, which she felt were now too short under the eyes of this unabashed man, clung to the sticky plastic seat covers.
“Mind if I roll the window down a bit more?” Libby requested, doing her best to breathe only from her mouth.
“A hair won’t hurt I s’pose.” His cigarette flickered, shooting tiny balls of fire her way. He looked over at her, pausing uncomfortably long on her legs, then her belly to her bosom and back again. Libby coughed and met his eyes. Black eyes. Malevolent eyes. She now regretted hitching this ride, but it was only a few more hours to go, she could withstand this creep a tad longer. She’d dealt with his kind many times working behind the bar.
She was hitchhiking her way from the miniscule town of Anna to the bustling Big Easy, specifically, the French Quarter of New Orleans. An old friend of hers had set her up with a bartending gig at an old bordello turned bar. She was in a hurry to change her life, and the magical atmosphere of New Orleans was calling to her. The faster she got away, the better.
In between long highway stretches on the I-10, they passed quaint towns, all busily immersing themselves in the ghostly spirit of Halloween. She saw strewn together carnivals, the smell of fried foods and cotton candy wafting in the windows, a blessed reprieve from the stench of the truck. She saw corn mazes and picked over pumpkin patches, and hayrides full of costumed, horny teenagers.
Then they were alone again. Two strangers on this desolate highway. All around was velvet blackness, the occasional passing car and the embers of his cigarette, the only light. She was pondering the life that awaited her in Louisiana, while Patsy Cline’s ‘Crazy’ cooed from the radio.
Without warning, he veered off the interstate onto a makeshift dirt road, just big enough for his truck to shove through the thicketed forest that was encompassing them.
“This isn’t the way. Sir… Rodney!” She tried to keep her cool, to appear unafraid, but her voice cracked all the same. He remained silent, his empty eyes on the road. He turned the volume up to an insufferable level. “Crazy…I’m crazy for feeling… so looonely.” The words leaked from his mouth like a warning. She was trapped in this junk vehicle with a god damned lunatic. Libby shoved against the locked door with the weight of her body, to no avail. “Let me out of this truck. Now! Please, damnit.” Her angry pleas fell on deaf ears. The panic rising in her was disorienting as she fumbled around in her bag for her switchblade, all for naught; she could barely see her own hands in front of her face. The truck slowed to a crawl and stopped. She banged against the door again, then the window. Nothing. She put her back to the door and kicked him with all the might she could muster. Still, nothing. A slow smile spread across his face, taunting her. He laughed a guttural groan, and slowly lowered all of his weight onto her, crushing her calves and feet under his forearms. He was fumbling with the buttons of her shorts when Libby stabbed at his eyes with her thumbs. He jerked away, shrieking. “You bitch. You dumb bitch!” He crouched over. This was her chance. She scrambled over him, unlocking the driver-side door.
She flung herself from the truck. Where she was, she hadn’t the slightest idea. Sprinting now, heart pounding in her ears, she heard him shout “I’m coming for you, long legs, and once I get you…” He was bounding after her, his boots crunching on branches. In a flash she was pummeled to the ground. Her head rebounded off something hard and she felt warm blood dripping from her temple. Woozy, vision blurred, she looked up at the depraved man above her. She saw a flash of silver, a wrench? He raised it above her head, and the world went black.
Libby’s eyes blinked open, slowly, fighting against the dried blood that had crusted them shut. Her body was mangled. What he had done to her while she was unconscious, she couldn’t think on that right now. Her hands were bound tightly with rope. He had dragged her body back towards the truck, she could hear Monster Mash playing in the background. The headlights shining in her eyes so she could barely make him out. He began ruthlessly wrapping her legs in the same rope. Tears streamed from her face; her throat too dry to speak. He flung Libby over his burly shoulders and marched onto a dilapidated, creaking dock that led to…where? She wondered in utter dread.
He flipped her in his arms easily, black eyes boring into hers. Too stunned to speak, beaten and bound, she quivered hopelessly. Still, she searched those evil eyes for a spark of sympathy. There was none. The silence seemed to drag on, when finally, he whispered. “Watch out for the gators.” He dropped her into the swamp below, the thick cold water consumed her. Fear swallowed her. She could see nothing, hear nothing. She began to choke on the brackish water as she sank lower, lower, lower into the murky depths. As quick as it began, she had drowned, her last moments a morbid terror.
Libby’s eyes opened; the water no longer opaque. She could…see! From below the surface, she could see the sun rising in brilliant crimson hues above her. But was she alive? How in the hell was she breathing…underwater? Hands no longer bound, she shoved herself up from the muddy swamp floor. As she did so, she had the strangest sensation in her legs. It wasn’t quite pain, but it most certainly wasn’t comfortable either. In place of her lithe set of legs was a grotesque, mossy green tail covered in sharp scales. A TAIL?! She screamed, loud, no bubbles escaping her mouth; a scream which she could hear with complete clarity.
She ran her hands along the scales, simultaneously mortified and mystified. She yearned for the surface, her tail swaying, rising up and up. Libby broke the surface and howled. For so long she screamed in disgust and confusion. She tried numerous times to drag herself up by the roots of some bald cypress branches. Each time she floundered onto the bank, pain she had never felt shot through her and she began to choke as if she were drowning once more.
Only the water brought salvation. All day and night she swam along the bayou, which seemed to stretch and wind on endlessly. After a while she swam with a bizarre, euphoric ease, propelling through the water like a natural born predator. She swam among alligators, their golden eyes and rough snouts resting along the dark surface. They paid her no mind.
She had died, that much was certain. Was she in hell? She could not leave the water; she could not breathe on land. Her hands had become webbed, rows of slits on her ribs. This was a nightmare and yet… she was entirely captivated. Bemused as she was, where there was suffering and terror only hours before, now was confusion, exhilaration…and rage. She was incomprehensibly full of rage. Rage for the man who had brutalized and murdered her. Rage for herself. Rage that she had been so close to her new life.
Bound to this mucky swamp, a woman turned monster against her will. Would she live on? Would she perish soon? The only thing she knew for certain was that she was hungry. Ravenous for revenge, for the blood of those she now envied on land. Forevermore slithering and slinking along the bayou, a vengeful siren fated to watch life pass her by from afar. All tricks, no treats, she mused deliriously. Some Halloween….
A mermaid is created from love and magic, in the ethereal waters of endless oceans. But Sirens…sirens are born from violence. Reborn from atrocious ends in watery depths. Disastrous murderesses from the start, their hearts filled only with lustful rage and the taste of blood. Libby’s story carries on as she lurks in the swamps of Louisiana.
Julee Nicklaus says
I think you have a win here, Hannah!