01 Feb I’ve been a search and rescue diver for 12 years Part 2
I wanted to just forget about the things I saw. But, no matter how hard I try, I can’t erase them from my mind. I’d like to think that I’m a good man, but there comes a point where sheer terror outweighs one’s sense of decency no matter how good you are. I think I’ve reached that point.
I wasn’t planning on writing this, but more things have happened, and I found something…horrible. There’s no other way to explain it. I don’t know how much longer I can remain here. I can’t sleep anymore. I just keep dreaming about those fucking things I saw.
I’ve been plagued by nightmares about them for the past two nights. It always seems so real. At first, I’m asleep in my bed, then suddenly those arms are rising up from the darkness around me, pinning me down and covering my mouth. I struggle, but they’re so strong. I especially remember the fucking smell. It’s like old grass clippings and rotten fish mixed together. The next thing I know, I’m awake, retching with tears streaming down my face.
However, even those terrible dreams are nothing compared to what has happened in the past two days. Especially compared to what I saw last night. I don’t know what to make of it. I’ve packed my bags. I think I might leave soon. I need to get away from this fucking place.
A couple days ago, not long after my initial post, I received a call about a body found near the river. I felt a cold sensation in my gut when I got there and realized that it had been found right where the boy disappeared.
I approached the bank to see Moose and two others standing over what a body. Their backs were to me, and I could hear one of them speaking angrily. He was practically shouting.
“Shit. Shit. Shit.” It was Clyde, one of the other more experienced SAR divers. As I got closer, I saw that the other one was Ryan. I felt chills run down my spine. All three of the senior divers were in one place. I recalled the things Moose said to me last week as well as the knowing glances I’ve seen those three share. Something was up. “Do you think it was him?” Clyde asked.
“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” Moose said.
“I heard voices by the river last night.” Ryan said suddenly. The other two went silent and stared at him.
“The lures?” Clyde asked. His voice was hushed, and I could barely make it out.
Ryan nodded. “Almost definitely.”
“That breaks the agreement, though,” Clyde said. “He’s not supposed to use those anymore.”
“Well he is, for whatever reason.” Ryan turned to Moose. “Any idea what’s going on?”
Moose started to respond when a twig snapped beneath my weight. The three older men whirled around to look at me. That iciness was still in Moose’s eyes, but I also noted a twinge of fear.
“About time you got here,” Clyde said from beside him, seemingly unaware that I had been standing there for a while. “We’ve got bad news.” He stepped aside so I could see the body more clearly.
My blood ran cold the moment I laid my eyes on it. I was already reeling from the conversation I had just overheard, and the sight of the body only compounded that confusion. It was Michael, one of the new search and rescue divers. He laid on his back in full scuba gear minus a mask. I moved forward and knelt beside the body. Michael was new to search and rescue, and he had actually recently attended a few classes I taught. Tears stung my eyes as I stared down at him. What the fuck happened?
As if in response to my silent question, Moose spoke up. “For some reason he was diving in the river. We think he got swept up in a strong current and hit his face on a rock, knocking his air regulator off and causing him to drown. We haven’t found the regulator or his mask anywhere.”
I continued to stare down at the dead man in front of me. “Why was he in the water?” I asked.
The three men exchanged glances. “We don’t know,” Clyde said. “We think he may have been looking for that boy we never recovered.”
I knew they were lying. Michael was one of the most straight-edge divers I’d ever met. He would never break a minor safety regulation, let alone go diving alone in rough waters. It just didn’t add up.
Additionally, there was another reason their claim didn’t make sense. Michael had been out of town visiting family on the day the boy went missing. Why would he come back if he wasn’t even there for the initial search? He wouldn’t even know where to look.
I knew not to argue though. I didn’t want them to know I suspected anything. Clyde and Ryan were unaware I’d been to Badwater, assuming Moose kept his secret. From what I could tell, he had. They acted as they always had toward me.
Just then an ambulance pulled up. The others left me alone with Michael’s body while they talked to the driver. As I looked at the body, I realized something was off. There weren’t any contusions on his face. If the current had actually dashed him against a rock, there should at least be a bruise. But there was nothing. His face was completely unmarred.
At that moment I noticed something strange. A bruise peaked out from the neck of his dive suit. I pulled the rubber down to reveal a splotchy blue and black mark that circled his neck. It looked like he had been strangled. My thoughts immediately turned to those strange hand things I had seen at Badwater. But if that’s what killed him, then why did they let him go? Was it a warning?
A deep sense of dread settled into my stomach just then, and it’s only gotten worse ever since. After the ambulance took Michael’s body away, I returned home feeling drained. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything that day and only sat in cold silence. I slept fitfully that night, plagued by the nightmares I mentioned earlier.
Most of yesterday passed in the same cold silence as the day before. I felt numb. The conversation I had overheard between the older divers kept playing over and over in my head. What did they mean by lures? Who was this him that they kept referring to?
I recalled what Ryan had said about hearing voices near the river. That must be the lures they had been talking about. As I sat there, my numbness faded and was replaced with anger. Michael was dead and it had something to do with Moose and his secrets. It probably had something to do with those lures too. I grabbed my coat and headed out the door. I was going to see what Ryan had meant when he said he heard voices.
I wish I hadn’t gone. I should have just stayed home and let it go. There are some things in the world that should just remain unseen.
I wandered the riverbank for thirty minutes, hearing nothing but the sounds of nocturnal animals. I was about to head back when I heard something just out of earshot. It sounded like someone’s voice. The sound grew louder as I headed up the bank until I could finally make out what it was saying.
“Help! Please, I can’t swim.”
Instincts took over and I began to sprint in the direction of the voice. I eventually lost track of where I was and stumbled blindly through the underbrush, barely even using my flashlight and relying on my hearing. Finally, the voice came from the water right next to me. It sounded like a child. I was about to wade into the river when something stopped me in my tracks.
I listened to the voice carefully.
“Help! Please, I can’t swim.”
It was the exact same words, over and over again, as if it was being played on loop. The tone was exactly the same every time. It didn’t sound right. They were yelling, but it didn’t sound like someone who was actually scared. There was no urgency to their voice.
My heart pounding in my chest, I shined my flashlight along the river. That was when I saw it.
A face pressed out of the mud of the riverbank. Like the hands I’d seen, it was seaweed green and roots grew from its edges and into the surrounding earth. It was like someone had constructed a human head out of algae or moss. The mouth opened and closed, repeating the same call for help over and over again, while the rest of the face remained flat and emotionless.
My whole body shook as I stared at the thing. Just beyond it, in the water, I saw two of those hands reaching up from the shallows, grasping for anything and everything. A cold realization came upon me. Michael must have heard that thing’s calls for help and immediately suited up, only to dive in and find himself dragged under by those groping hands. This is what Ryan had meant by lures. I felt sick to my stomach as I watched the eerie face continue to yell.
The cries grew quieter and more spaced out until the face became completely silent. Then, without warning, it retreated into the earth, burying itself in a thin layer of mud. I shuddered to think about that thing just beneath the surface. Then I realized that there could be more. Who knew how many of them were lurking just below me?
I sprinted back to my car, disgust driving me more than fear. When I got home, I sat up all night thinking about what I saw. I managed to sleep for a couple of hours just before sunrise but was woken by the nightmares once again.
I don’t know what to do anymore. There are twisted things happening here and, even if I did have the power to stop them, I don’t think I want to face this darkness alone. It feels like some great puzzle and I’m missing the one or two pieces I need to bring everything together. I’ve packed the bare necessities into bags which now sit by my front door. I think I’m going to leave. Problem is, I don’t know where I would go. I don’t have family outside of town, and I don’t exactly have a fortune in my savings account.
Still, some part of me feels obligated to stay. Both out of curiosity and because I owe it to Michael. Hell, not just Michael. I owe it to the countless people who have likely fallen victim to those things in the river. Isn’t that why I took this job in the first place?
I have much to think about. If this is my last post, know that I moved away and never looked back. If I do investigate further, I’ll try to keep you guys updated, so long as those fucking hands don’t get me first.