Welcome to another edition of Wednesday Briefs! This week, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to write a speculative fiction piece. I think I managed it, but you’ll have to let me know in the comments. The piece is under 1000 words so it meets the flashing criteria. It’s also set somewhere I’ve visited, making it extra-special to write. I hope you enjoy it!!
Fontana of Mischief
Denise L. Wyant
I peered out the car’s windshield, anxious for my first view of the Fontana Wellness Center and the surrounding lake.
“I can’t wait to try the mineral baths,” Julie, my bestie, exclaimed. “No water’s too hot for me!”
Darcy and I laughed. Iceland was known for its geothermal springs and hot pots—what we know in the States as hot tubs—and I was pretty sure they’d be a lot toastier than the ones back home.
Feeling mischievous, I turned, facing Darcy in the backseat. “Are there rocks surrounding Fontana? If so, maybe we’ll see some elves.” I winked, knowing anything supernatural freaked out my former college roommate.
“Don’t go messing with the elves, Merrill,” she retorted. “Our guide this morning warned us about them. All the bad things that have happened to people and machines when they try to build roads through big rocks.”
I shook my head. I didn’t believe in ghosts. I sure as hell didn’t believe in elves, or huldfólk as they were known here. “There’s got to be a logical explanation that our guide failed to mention.”
“Girls,” Julie snapped. “Enough, we’re here. Time for some relaxation . . . and no more talk of elves.”
We’d been soaking in the mineral baths for nearly twenty minutes, enjoying the feel of icy snowflakes landing on our noses and cheeks. A sign warned about staying too long in the hot water, but I was so comfortable that I didn’t want to move.
Something nudged my foot. “Darcy,” I mumbled. “Leave me alone. I’m totally relaxed, and I don’t want to be disturbed.”
“Merrill.” Something—likely a finger—poked my shoulder. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but Julie and I are going to dry off and get a snack.”
I grunted, a not quite ladylike sound.
Julie’s voice intruded next. “You shouldn’t stay in here too long. It’s not good for your high blood pressure. Plus, you’ll be alone. We’re the last three in the pool.”
Of course, she had to bring my blood pressure into it. Ugh. “I’m good here. Really. Give me ten more minutes.” I shifted to the corner of the small pool and got comfortable again. I hoped the distance would keep my friends from harassing me further. I did care what they thought, and I appreciated their concern, but the blood pressure deal was genetic. I exercised and ate right so I wasn’t concerned.
Such a perfect place . . . I wondered if I could bottle it and take it home with me. I arranged my towel so it acted as a pillow and soon drifted off to sleep.
A tug on my leg startled me, but not enough to wake me. Stubborn, that’s me. I planned to enjoy every last minute of relaxation.
A more forceful yank pulled me under the water. I sputtered, trying to catch my breath. All I managed was a mouthful of heated water. Slamming my eyelids open, I searched the murky depths, but couldn’t determine what held me in its grasp.
I fought, kicking out with my legs and using my arms to pull myself toward the surface. Nothing seemed to be working. I felt my heart beating out-of-control. Stars danced at the edges of my vision. Despite my racing heart, blood wasn’t getting to my brain. Oxygen wasn’t either. What a great time to remember biology, Merrill! How about working on saving yourself?
I managed to get my head above water for a split second before being forced back under. No matter how hard I kicked or squirmed, I couldn’t free my ankles from their unknown prison.
As my air began to run out, I didn’t think about my family or friends. Stupid me thought Iceland sure would be a nice place to die. Surrounded by beauty and magnificent, if rocky, landscapes. Then my morbid self wondered how much it would cost to fly my body back in a casket.
A cackle sounded inside my head, and I jerked. Does everyone lose their sanity at the very end?
I succumbed to my fate, letting my body go limp. A strange conversation filled my brain. I could have sworn I heard a melodious voice whisper, “She’s dying!” Another voice, deeper but just as smooth replied, “And this is your version of fun? You’re such an idiot, messing with the human this way.”
I woke, coughing and sputtering, my body draped over the side of the pool. I rested my forehead on the concrete after a particularly harsh coughing fit.
“Oh my God!” Darcy screamed.
“What the hell happened to you?” Julie asked.
I looked up, noticing concern in their faces. My brain felt water-logged. I struggled to form words.
“Are you okay?” Darcy knelt next to me, resting her hand on my shoulder.
“I-I don’t know. Something pulled me under the water.” I started coughing again. Apparently I still had water left in my lungs.
“You were the only one in the pool,” Julie said, her tone matter-of-fact. “What’s with these rocks? Did you put these here?”
Next to my left elbow were three perfectly rounded, smooth rocks stacked one on top of the other.
I shook my head. “I didn’t do that. No idea . . .” My voice trailed off.
Darcy gave my shoulder a squeeze. “Let’s get you out of here.” She paused. “And Merrill, don’t be picking on the elves anymore.”
Before I could form a smart retort, I heard a cackle in my head, and “She’s right, you know.”
Yep, I knew. I sure did.
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