Face Your Fears: Aquaphobia

Over at NoSleep there’s a special collaboration project going on right now called Face Your Fears: 31 Days – 31 Authors – 31 Fears. I proud to announce that I’m the author of today’s fear: aquaphobia! You can read the story below, and don’t forget to check out the website above for even more fears and to dig into the much deeper mythology that is developing beneath the surface!

AQUAPHOBIA- PATIENT RECORD YA091811A

Patient Name: Yamada, Ami

Age: 20

Sex: Female

Diagnosis: Aquaphobia

The following diary entries were recovered from [redacted] Estate on 10/09/2018 by Foundation Agent 19.

Saturday, September 29th

My therapist, Dr. Jenkins, told me I should start keeping a diary, so here we are. She said it would help me sort out my thoughts and feelings. Help clear out my head. Help me get over my fear. If only it were that easy.

So. Let’s clear out my head. I came here a few weeks ago, but the first time I came here was when I was a child. My father bought the estate when I was young and we came to stay here during the holidays. Now it’s mine. It’s the only thing I have left. Ever since mother died…

She left it to me. I wish she hadn’t. She never believed me when I told her something was wrong with the place. It claimed my younger sister’s life. Then it claimed hers. And I’m going to be next.

The first time we came was during the summer holidays of second grade. My sister wasn’t in school yet, and she followed me around everywhere as I explored this amazing wonderland that was now ours. The estate came with its own forest and lake attached, and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that we would own such a place. I wish my father had been more suspicious of the cheap price. Nothing comes cheap without a reason…

We were sitting by the lake, tossing stones across it and talking about all the things we were going to do that summer when a young boy approached us from the trees.

“You shouldn’t go in there,” he said. He was small and sickly looking. Not much bigger than my sister.

“Why not?” I asked. I didn’t fear him. I was too young to fear him. I was more curious than anything else. Where had he come from? Why did he look so pale?

“Something lives in the water. Something bad.”

I looked at the lake. The reflection of the sun wavered on the surface of the water. It was beautiful and it was vast. I imagined its depths went on forever—that a secret society unknown to man lived at the bottom of it.

“You’re lying,” I said. But he shook his head and pointed over my shoulder.

“It’ll come for you too. Like it came for me.”

I looked in the direction he was pointing, but when I turned back, the boy was gone.

“Hey, where did he go?”

“Sis, I wanna go back.” My younger sister, Mayu, tugged at my sleeve. She huddled closer, her eyes looking fearfully not at the lake, but at the spot the boy had just been standing.

“Yeah, sure. Let’s go.”

We told our parents what happened, but our father said that no-one else lived in the area. Our closest neighbors were miles away.

“But there was a little boy,” I said. “And he told us to stay away from the lake.”

“That’s just silly,” our mother said. “And you’re scaring your sister.”

We went back to the lake the next day, but it was tainted. The glow it held just a day before was gone, replaced with a cold darkness; a fear I couldn’t quite place or shake. I searched the trees for the boy, but he wasn’t there. It was just me, my sister, and the lake.

Mayu was only four. She had already forgotten about the boy and spent her time splashing in the water by the lake’s edge. I kept a close eye on her. That was my job as her older sister, after all. In time, I forgot about the boy as well, and joined her in swimming in the cool waters.

My sister and I went to the lake every day that summer. But then, three weeks after we got there, and just a few days before we were to return home, my sister tripped. At least, that was the official story. She was standing on the small pier, dropping stones over the edge, when I heard her scream. I turned in time to see her fall into the water. I screamed and ran to the edge, but she was gone. The water was clear; I could see the dirt and weeds at the bottom, but my sister was nowhere to be seen.

I jumped in, my heart pounding in my chest. The water swallowed me, beckoning me in further. I was only a child myself; I didn’t know how to dive or hold my breath. I struggled, breaking the surface of the water and flailing my arms.

“Mayu!” I screamed her name, over and over, but she was gone. I panicked, pulling myself back up onto the pier and running back to the house to tell mother.

Father found Mayu several hours later, lying by the other side of the lake. Her body was cold and her lungs were full of water. The official cause of death was drowning. We returned home early, but things were never the same after that. My mother withdrew into herself, and my father threw himself into his work. I was left alone more often than not, and unable to get the image of my dead sister out of my head, I developed a fear of the water. I couldn’t even bathe. Water, any water, reminded me of the look on my sister’s face when our father brought her back. Her bloated, wrinkled skin turned pale-blue. The water that seeped from her eyes and ears and nose. The look of horror, forever frozen in her eyes.

What did my sister see in that lake? What did she experience that caused her final expression to freeze in such a grotesque manner?

“It’ll come for you too. Like it came for me.”

That’s what the little boy said, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that he wasn’t just pale and sickly. His skin was the same color as Mayu’s.

“It’ll come for you too.”

Sunday, September 30th

Dragging these memories back to the surface hurts more than I thought. I keep seeing Mayu’s face like it was just yesterday. Any time I close my eyes, she’s there. Mouth open. Gaping at me. Water trickling down her chin. Lifeless eyes screaming at me. ‘Why didn’t you help me? This is all your fault.’

I went weeks without bathing before my mother dragged me to see a therapist: Dr. Jenkins. A nice woman who always tied her hair in a bun and spoke to me as an equal, not a child. We worked together and over several weeks, and then months, I was able to to conquer my fear of the bath. I was even able to walk by the pool at school and not breakdown in fear. I was able to, mostly, return to normal life.

But then my father died when I was 16. He was never the same after Mayu died, but for some reason, he refused to sell the estate. My mother and I then started to drift apart when I entered college. I moved away to live in a dorm, and I heard that she was spending more and more time at the estate. She eventually moved in and started living there, alone.

It was my fault for not seeing her more. For not talking to her more. She grew lonely, I know. She wanted to be close to Mayu again. That was all I could think of. Why else would she return to that place marked with such tragedy?

“There’s something here. I’m going to find out what happened. I love you.”

Those were the last words my mother ever said to me. A few days later I received the call. A few weeks after that, I was informed the estate was mine.

I’ve been here a few weeks now. This place that took my family from me. Something called me here, and I was unable to resist it. I gave Dr. Jenkins a call, and I went to see her a few days ago. Her hair still sits neatly in a bun, although she has a few more wrinkles around her eyes than last time I saw her.

But the fear came back. I felt myself succumbing to it and I didn’t want to fall again. She helped me the first time, and I hoped that she could help me this time too. I sat in her office, looking around and feeling like a child again. Only this time I was alone. Entirely alone. A blue notebook sat on the desk in the corner, and as I reached out for it, she came back into the room.

“Ms Yamada,” she said. I withdrew my hand. “So nice to see you again. Please, sit down.”

She picked up the notebook and I sat down opposite her.

“I’m not sure what to do. My father didn’t want to sell the estate, but now it’s mine. I’ve been staying there, trying to get my thoughts together, but it’s like… This is going to sound weird, but it’s like it’s calling to me. At the same time, every second I’m there, there’s this growing fear inside me. I see Mayu everywhere I go. Her face, the… the water…”

She flicked through the pages. “Are you afraid that your aquaphobia is returning?”

That was what she called it when I was a child, although the word was too big for me to understand then.

“It rains a lot at the estate,” I said. “Increasingly, day by day. I can’t go outside. It’s like it’s keeping me there. From the top floor I can see the lake in the distance, just barely, and…” I stopped. The boy’s words came flooding back.

“It’ll come for you too.”

“I tried to take a bath last night, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I filled a glass with water from the tap, but when I looked at it I just saw…” Mayu’s face. Bloated. Wrinkled. Pale.

“Everywhere I look there’s water. Waiting to claim me. Waiting to take me like it took my sister and my mother.”

The doctor smiled and grabbed a boiled egg from a bowl on her desk. She cracked it on the edge and sat back, peeling the tiny pieces of shell from it.

“You’ve made a lot of progress these last few years. I’m very proud of you. Do you remember what we spoke about the first time you came here?” she said. I nodded.

“The water isn’t evil. The water isn’t anything. It’s just water.”

She smiled and finished peeling the egg. “That’s right. You’re older now. Wiser. I know you’re scared. Who wouldn’t be? You lost two of the most important people in your life to horrific tragedies, and at the same place, no less. But you can’t let that fear take over your life.” She started writing something in the notebook, then took a bite from the egg. “I want you to start keeping a diary. If something scares you, write it down. All of it. As much detail as you can muster, even if you think it means nothing. It’ll help you clear your head and get your thoughts in order. But most importantly, I want you to remember the strategies you used as a child. We overcame your fear then. We can do so again now.”

Tuesday, October 2nd

I spent yesterday hidden under the bed covers. The rain is getting worse. I’m worried the outside might flood, and then I’ll be stuck here. I’ve been practicing my breathing techniques, but they’re not working.

I saw Mayu. She was standing in the corner of the room, dripping on the carpet. Her eyes were gone, replaced with empty, dark sockets. Flesh sloshed off her cheeks.

“Why?” she said. “Why didn’t you save me? It’s so lonely here. Help me.”

Why is the rain so loud?

Thursday, October 4th

Mother’s in the attic. The rain won’t let up, and it’s started to leak through the roof. I went up to the attic to place some buckets and she was standing by the window.

“Why didn’t you save your sister? She’s been waiting for you all these years.”

Her skin was blue. Bloated. Her eyes lolled aimlessly in her head.

I’ve locked the attic hatch, but the water keeps seeping through. I can’t stop it.

Why won’t this rain end?

Saturday, October 6th

I called Dr. Jenkins. I don’t think this diary is working. Things are getting worse. We were supposed to have a session today, but I’m flooded in. I can’t even leave the bedroom. The house is cold. Wet. The walls are leaking. Dr. Jenkins said she would come out here to see me instead. I’ll be fine once she gets here. I’ll be safe. I just need to hold out until she gets here.

The call is getting louder.

There’s so much water.

Sunday, October 7th

I woke up by the lake. It’s still raining. I don’t know how I got there, but I saw Mayu standing by the end of the pier. I ran to her, screaming for her to come back to me, and this time she didn’t jump in. She turned to me and smiled.

“Don’t worry. We’ll be together soon.”

I turned and the little boy was behind me. After all these years, I’d forgotten his face, but I recognized him instantly.

“I told you.”

I ran. I ran through the trees, and with each step the earth tried to pull me into it. I struggled, grabbing the trees to wrench myself free. Puddles attempted to swallow me whole. Raindrops fell from the tree branches into my eyes and blinded me.

I heard something behind me. Something coming from the lake.

I saw my mother in the kitchen window. She was crying.

I knew I shouldn’t, but I turned around. Something was chasing me. Not ghosts this time. Something real. My mother was shaking her head, but I couldn’t stop myself. I wanted to see what had destroyed our family. What had taken my mother and sister from me.

The forest was empty. Through the pouring rain, I could see nothing.

I shivered.

It was there. I couldn’t see it, but I knew it was there. Hiding somewhere among the trees. Waiting for the right moment to strike.

It needs the water to survive. To move. To live.

I don’t think I have much longer left. Dr. Jenkins, where are you?

Monday, October 8th

Dr. Jenkins isn’t here yet. She said she’s been delayed, but should be here soon.

I’ve plugged up all the faucets in the house. I’ve taped the windows and doors. But what good does any of that do when the water is coming in through the roof? Through the walls? Through the floor?

It’s everywhere.

I saw something in the trees earlier. A face? I don’t know. Someone, or something, was there. Watching me. Waiting for me.

Calling to me.

The water.

Something in the water.

Dr. Jenkins. You were wrong.

It is evil.

It’s coming for me.

I’ve started to leak too.

Face Your Fears

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