My name is Noah. The last name isn’t important. I’m telling you this because I can’t keep the secret any longer. It’s gotten to be too much. I guess it all began with an above ground swimming pool in your typical WASP-y suburban neighborhood in Southern Ohio. The pool came with the house when my parents bought it. It was about five feet tall and sat in the backyard beneath an old oak tree. I can remember sitting in a little yellow float in it as a child and bobbing around while my mother would sing to me. In fact, that’s all I can remember of her. She went away with some other man to God knows where when I was five. My dad raised me alone from then on. The pool was covered up and I was never allowed to touch it. I always just figured it brought back painful memories for my dad. He never really moved on and was always kind of weird after the fact.
When I was sixteen I was a junior at a Catholic high school of maybe three hundred students. I didn’t really have any true friends. I had a few acquaintances that I’d talk to sometimes. I was sitting at a small table with some of them prodding at a stale blueberry muffin on my lunch tray and stressing about a math grade when I was very literally stabbed in the back and my day improved a great deal. Her name was Rona. She was a senior with long brownish hair. She was very pretty and had a slightly crooked nose and apparently very poor hand eye coordination. She had been attempting to jot a reminder down in her notebook with a blue ballpoint pen. As she was walking past me her hand had somehow managed to slip and slam directly into my back, somehow still gripping the pen. You had to give it to her. Not only did she manage to pierce through my shirt but she actually broke the skin. I still have a small mark from the incident just beneath my left shoulder.
“Oh my gosh, I’m so fucking sorry!” she squeaked adorably. I was just relieved to find the attack had not been intentional and above all else a girl was talking to me.
“It’s chill,” I said while attempting my very best cool guy impression. I don’t remember everything but by the end of the day I had her number written on the back of my hand with the same pen that had started everything.
We ate lunch together for a few weeks after than and it turned out we both loved Kaiju films, those memes where they paint over pornography, novelizations of bad movies and making fun of Tom Cruise among a few hundred other things. She only lived a few blocks away so we’d walk to and from school together and hold hands. It was probably the best time in my whole life. Unfortunately, she had a very large and nosy family and my dad didn’t allow strangers over so finding any real alone time was a bit of a struggle.
When my dad had to spend the weekend in Chicago for a business meeting, I leapt at the opportunity to have Rona over. She showed up around five Saturday evening. She had told her parents she was staying at a girlfriend’s house to work on a school project. When I opened the door, she was wearing this really pretty black dress and what was honestly probably a bit too much of a nice flowery perfume. I took a few of my dad’s Miller High Life out of the fridge and watched the original Star Wars trilogy in my bedroom which I had cleaned for the first time in months for the occasion. I struggled to think of something flirty to say. I went back and forth in my mind between the poetic and the perverse but ultimately remained silent. It was maybe a little after midnight when she shook me awake seeming more than a little annoyed.
“Isn’t there something you’d rather be doing?” she inquired. I thought for a moment though I knew my answer and then in a state of panic said something entirely different.
“Yes. Let’s swim.” Looking back I should have known that a pool which had been covered by a black tarp the better part of my life would be unlikely to hold any sort of water let alone be fit to swim in. I wish this story ended with me seeming like a dumbass.
That might have been a funny story. This is not a funny story. We went out to the backyard. We took off our clothes. I pulled back the tarp, and found the pool was indeed full of slightly warm water which looked pretty clean from what I could tell by the moonlight. I involuntarily glanced over my shoulder, fearing my father would be standing there infuriated at this act of teenage rebellion. I breathed a sigh of relief when he wasn’t. Then I just looked at Rona as she stood naked, and beautiful in front of me. It’s a wonder I wasn’t drooling like an idiot. I felt like I was in a dream. Then she ran up the wooden pool steps, and leaped into the water and the nightmare began.
There was a scream as she was quickly pulled under. It was followed by a lot of frantic splashing. Then seconds later there was an impossibly silent stillness. I waited for her to laugh, and say something to the effect of, “Got you!” There was no laugh. There was no, “Got you.” Just more fucking silence. I darted to the edge of the pool. I saw her, but it wasn’t her anymore. She had no skin. I could see parts of her bones, all white and clean looking. Nibbling at her midsection was a single goldfish. It wasn’t even particularly large. Looking at it there was absolutely nothing to mark it as being special in any way. But as I watched in shock and terror it quickly and without any assistance stripped her lifeless body of all flesh. I puked and then stumbled mindlessly back into the house. I collapsed on the living room sofa, and broke down into a flood of tears.
My dad found me sitting silently on the sofa when he returned home the next evening. I tried to make words happen, but could only produce incoherent stuttering. He looked at me in confusion, and then glanced out at the backyard, and the uncovered pool. Rona’s dress was still lying on the ground. “So you met Trevor?” he said knowingly. We never spoke about it again. I still dream about floating in bloody water most nights. Sometimes, she’s there. Sometimes, it’s only me. The fish is always there even when I can’t see it. It’s always waiting in the back of my mind to strike at my sanity. I tell myself it was all a dream from the start, but I know it was real. I know I’m the reason she’s gone. I know I can never take it back or make it better. I wish it had been me. It should have been me.
Written by Gomez Capulet