Before anyone else had a chance to react, Walter had thrown the glass door open and was charging out the door, head up, chest out ready to take down the intruder. Jen’s hand wrapped around air when she tried to reach out and stop him.
“Walter, stop! What are you doing?” Her voice trembled and she shivered from the salty breeze blowing in the door.
“Fuck this! I’ll take care of this guy. Then we can enjoy our vacation.”
“Wait up, Dude,” Brandon called as he followed Walter’s retreating form out onto the shadow-filled beach.
Jane, not one to cower behind while the guys took care of things, went out after them. She caught up to them a few yards down the beach, but whoever or whatever Brandon had seen was gone. They were alone with the roiling waves lapping at the shore only a few feet from where they stood. Jane looked a question at Brandon, but he only shrugged.
She looked down the beach in both directions, but it was deserted and from what she could see, there hadn’t been enough time for the figure to make it to the trees surrounding the house. Not only that, the nearest house to theirs was at least a hundred yards away on either side. It was as if the figure had just disappeared or had never been there to begin with.
“Dude, you sure you saw something? Maybe you inhaled a few too many times on the way down here.” Walter was grinning now and punched Brandon in the arm.
“I swear to God, there was someone standing right here.” Brandon was still shaken, not in the mood to just let it all go as some kind of funky high.
“Jen! Come jump in the ocean with me,” Walter called as he ran toward the water, pulling off his shoes as he went.”
“You’re insane,” Jen called back. She walked up to Brandon and Jane, her arms folded across her chest. “It’s not funny, you trying to freak us all out like that, Brandon.”
Jane looked at her friend, her eyes opening wide. “You think he was just playing around?”
“Well, yeah.” Jen shrugged her shoulders and walked forward, ignoring the accusing look Jane was leveling at her.
Jane turned to Brandon, “Let’s go inside. Being out here gives me the creeps.”
“I’m sorry babe. I really did see someone standing out here.” He put his arm around her and they started walking back to the house.
“Hey, guys, I don’t think it’s safe to swim in the ocean after dark,” Jane called back to Walter and Jen.
Silence answered her call but she was too freaked out to wait around for them. They were perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, she reasoned, and she continued walking back to the house, held tight next to Brandon’s comforting presence.
Jen ignored Jane and kept walking towards Walter. She was pissed at Brandon for freaking them all out, even if it was just a joke. She’d really believed him; had actually thought she saw a shadow before Walter took off out the door, but when she blinked, it was gone. Now, she realized, it was all just bullshit.
She was watching Walter jump in the waves, laughing like a maniac and she couldn’t help but laugh at his antics. She shook off the irritation at Brandon’s deception and decided to join Walter. She reached down to pull off her shoes and when she had successfully removed one, she looked up, but before she reached for the other foot, she noticed the waves in front of her were empty. Walter was gone.
“Walter?” she called. Her eyes frantically scanned the waves as she hopped on one foot trying to get her other shoe off. When it was finally off, she started forward, continuing to scan the water where she had last seen him. “Walter?” She called again, this time with more force. “Walter, this isn’t funny!” The water was lapping at her feet now and the twinkling stars in the night sky did little to brighten the dark night that had settled on the lonely stretch of beach.
“Walter!” she screamed, knowing her futile cries were doing little to help, but not knowing what else to do. She was just about to run back to the house for help when something cold and hard grabbed her ankle and yanked her off her feet.
A terrified screamed settled on deaf waves as she fell hard on her butt, the iron clamp on her foot dragging her into the waves. Her hands scrambled at sand and rocks that cut into her palms. “Walter, help me!” she screamed, trying to kick at the unseen force with her other foot. The waves crashed up to her chin then receded back into the depths and she knew the next time the waves came, they would carry her with them. She could barely feel her heart crashing into her chest and the tears that were streaming down her face blended with the salty ocean spray.
Just as suddenly as it began, the clamp lifted from her foot and she was free. “Oh, God,” she cried, as she scrambled backwards, away from the strength of the oncoming wave. Once she was safely back on the beach, she fell back and cried, shivering in terror and relief. She knew she had to get back to the house and get help for Walter, but any strength she had was expended in her fight to free herself from the deathly grip dragging her into the waves.
She finally opened her eyes and another scream dislodged itself from her throat and crashed into the silence.
Walter was standing above her, silently staring down at her.
“Walter, what the hell? Where were you? Why didn’t you help me?” His face was lost to the deep shadow of the night, but she continued staring at him, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. It finally dawned on her that it must have been him! He was the one dragging her into the ocean as some kind of sick joke and all the terror instantly turned to rage.
“You fucking jerk! It was you!” The handfuls of sand she still held in her fists flew into him, but he continued to stare at her, sand billowing around him with a sudden gust of wind. She picked herself up, shoved him once and turned to head back to the house. “Stay away from me!” She yelled behind her as she stormed back to the house, leaving her shoes behind.
Walter stood motionless as a shadow slid across his face and settled into his coal black eyes.