“Look at the sky, Donnie. The vast expanse of stars above us really puts into perspective just how small and shitty your pool really is,” Lauren says, splashing me in the eyes.
“Remind me why I put up with you?” I reply.
“Because I have such great ideas, like that we should hop your fence and use your neighbor’s pool instead.” She flashes me a grin, but I can’t quite return one.
“You mean Garrison’s pool?” I ask, gesturing to my right towards Garrison’s yard. There’s not really any need to clarify, as the view from my back porch into his yard reveals that Garrison has the nicest private pool I’ve ever seen in person. I guess engineers make some good money, even the crazy ones.
“Yep, that would be the one.”
“Nah,” I say, running my hand through my wet hair. “Garrison’s real paranoid. He’s probably set up some kind of elaborate security system with an alarm or something back there. Let’s just hang out here.”
“Come on! Don’t be such a girl,” Lauren goads me with a wink.
I really don’t want to do it, but frankly I’m a little nervous Lauren will start thinking I’m lame if I always say no to things like this. “Alright, fine,” I say, climbing out of my pool and walking up to my porch to grab a chair. I place it next to the wooden fence and step up on it. “I’ll go first and you come on in after, alright?”
Lauren nods her consent. I push myself up onto the fence, swing my legs over and drop into Garrison’s yard. I let out a little sigh of relief when no alarm sounds. Though I suppose it could be a silent one…
“Move over,” Lauren orders, pushing herself onto the fence after me. I step aside and she drops down next to me. I look around at Garrison’s well-manicured yard and his beautiful pool, partially shaded from the moonlight by wall of tall pines. I follow Lauren stealthily towards it.
“Alright, now be quiet so we don’t wake him,” I implore her as she lowers herself into the water.
“Relax,” she says, kicking off from the pool wall and gliding out silently into the deep end. I watch her for a few moments before climbing in after her. She’s so pretty in the starlight.
The breeze is chilly on my wet skin, so sliding underwater is delightfully warm. I breath out and sink down towards the bottom of the pool. I just keep going down and down–how deep is this thing? But there–my foot hit something. But it’s not the bottom. It’s moving, sliding along against my foot like…a snake!
I convulse with fright and start swimming frantically upwards. But it’s hooked around my foot, trying to hold me under. I kick out hard and it slides off of my foot, and I manage to shoot up to the surface. I burst into the air and take a few frantic breaths as I look around for Lauren. “Snake! There’s a snake!” I warn her.
She shoots me a confused look that morphs into a big smile as she points behind me. “You mean that snake?”
I spin around and see it–the pool sweep, now skimming the surface along the side of the pool, dragging its long, snakelike pump cord behind it. I’m an idiot.
“Try to relax there, Donnie,” Lauren whispers in my ear, wrapping her arms around me from behind. “I’m not gonna keep swimming with you if you wet yourself in here.” She laughs and backstrokes away from me.
I turn back to face her, treading water gently to stay afloat. “You know, I–” my words are cut off when a cord wraps around my neck and tightens. I start to thrash as it tries to pull me under.
“Donnie? Donnie!” Lauren cries out, swimming back towards me. I’m trying to pull the cord off of my neck but it’s just too tight. I can’t breath. My God I can’t breath! Lauren reaches me and starts pulling at the cord as well. We pull it loose for a second but it tightens back up before I can duck my head out of it. It dips me underwater and when I fight my way back to the surface I can’t see Lauren anymore. Did it grab her too? Oh God, Lauren! Please be alright! Please!
It pulls me back under and I feel my strength leaving me. How can this be happening? How can this be–loose! The cord goes limp in my hands and I pull it off over my head. I resurface and look around desperately for Lauren.
And there she is, panting by the side of the pool with the end of the pump cord in her hand. She just unplugged it. I would laugh at the simplicity of it if I wasn’t still so petrified.
“Are you alright?” she asks, sounding close to tears.
I can’t quite bring myself to speak, so I just swim over and hug her as my response. After a few moments I manage to ask, “Have I told you I love you lately?”
She hugs me a little tighter. “Love you, too, Donnie.”
“Glad to hear that, ’cause I think I did wet myself in here.”
Laurens laughs weakly, and we climb out of the pool. I collapse onto the flagstone with Lauren beside me, trying to catch our breath. I look up at the stars and listen to a soft purring that fills the air.
The purring turns into a roar. I tremble and drop my head to the side. Sure enough, there it is–the riding lawn mower.
When not scouring the Gobi for death worms or munching on tarantulas in Siem Reap, Karl Lykken writes both fiction and software in Texas. His flash fiction has been featured in Nanoism, Every Day Fiction, and Deadman’s Tome.
Image by Michael Pardo