[This Friday in his weekly flash fiction challenge Chuck Wendig asked for a story under a thousand words in seven acts, and after a certain amount of thought, I wrote one. This is not that story. This is the story I wrote the next day; which also had seven distinct movements of plot that matched up exactly with what Mr. Wendig had prescribed. I hadn’t intended to write another story in seven acts, it just sorta came out that way. And since this story sucks less than the first one I wrote, I humbly present it for your consideration.]
It was an early spring that year, or perhaps it might be better said the winter had never truly come. There had been days when the wind blew a chill from the north, nights when heaters had been turned on, but they had been sparse even for a region well-used to mild winters.
And so it was that one David Gabriel found himself looking into the murky, algae-infested waters of his pool one day late in February and thinking that it was about time to get the pump running again.
The pool sat above the ground, and it had not been cheap. David Gabriel knew this because his wife had purchased it two summers past, and charged it to her credit card. Like many of her other credit card purchases, she hadn’t consulted him about it, and like with many of her other credit card purchases they had gotten into quite an row over the expense. He would have made her take it back to the store, but by the time he’d found out about it she’d had the pool set up and half full of water, and at that time the minimum payments had only just been getting difficult to meet.
But all that was water under the bridge, or (he joked to himself) at least passed through the pool filter a goodly number of times. And if even if they were still paying for that pool and a hundred other things his wife hadn’t quite been able to resist charging on that ever-so-handy credit card, what was it to him?
It wasn’t until the next day, when he went out to check the pump, certain that the filter would already be clogged full of algae, that he discovered the strange and wonderful thing that the newly filtered water had uncovered.
At first he was sure it had not been filtered. Quite to the contrary in fact. Because when he looked into the pool the water that had been pea-green yesterday, now held the hue of midnight darkness, as if a gallon of ink had been emptied into it. He wondered if it could be some kind of prank and then dismissed the idea out of hand. There was no one he knew who cared enough about his existence one way or another to play such a prank on him. And it was only then that he looked again and fully understood what he was seeing. The water was dark, yes, but it was far from cloudy. It was clear, and clean and…deep.
Of course it was impossible (or so he told himself). A pool simply did not get deeper over the winter. A little settling might occur perhaps, but this? This was completely unbelievable.
It was still unbelievable when he tossed a smooth white pebble into the pool and watched it sink far deeper than it had any right to sink, so deep in fact that it vanished out of sight. He knew he should have been astounded by this discovery or at the very least a little frightened, but in truth he found himself fascinated by the whole thing. He went into the house and found a spool of cotton string and tied a spoon to the end for ballast The spoon he dropped into the pool and let the string unravel. For nearly five minutes he stood there feeding out more and more string until the spool was almost completely empty. And then he felt the string jerk and the spool jumped in his hands. He almost lost his grip, but his hands reflexively tightened around the spool, and a moment later the tension relaxed. When he tried to let out more string, he found the pull of the spoon was gone, so he carefully wound the string back onto the spool. When he finished he found to his amazement that in the place where the spoon had been there was a ragged end; almost (he thought to himself) as if it had been bitten off.
He went inside to contemplate this odd turn of events, and while he was sitting and thinking the phone rang. He saw it was an unlisted number and let it ring.
Collection agencies. They were relentless, calling at all hours of the day, and only last week they had somehow managed to track him down at his work. They were soul sucking relentless predators (he thought) no better than legalized loan sharks.
Sharks. The word stuck in his mind, and grew, into a plan.
When Carol got home from her shopping, the plan had hardened into a purpose. The days were getting warmer (he told Carol.) There was no reason on this night in late February that they should not go for a swim in the pool.
Carol seemed suspicious of his pleasant manner at first but shortly she agreed that it was unseasonably warm, and that a swim in the pool might be just the thing. But when she stepped off wooden deck that surrounded the pool she sank into the dark water with a bubbling shriek and then came thrashing back up to the surface, sputtering for air.
It was deep (she told him.) How could it be so deep?
But David didn’t answer. Instead he picked up the pole that usually held the leaf rake and used it to push her out toward the center of the pool.
She screamed and asked him what he was doing, but he only smiled and brought the heavy pole down hard over her head. She cried out softly and then sank down into the dark water.
David looked over into the pool, and for a just moment he thought he saw something sleek and white and impossibly large flash past below the surface of the water.
For a long time he sat there on the deck looking up at the endless ocean of stars. But after a while the wind began to blow colder, and so he went back inside, alone.