Friday 16 October 2020

Dark Fiction: Parched

Dark Fiction: Parched

By Casey Douglass


The day they drained the big reservoir behind my house, I was standing on my patio, enjoying the warm summer breeze. I saw the workers moving around like ants in the distance, the clanks and bangings of their yellow machinery sounding like a distant war stepping into motion.

The reservoir is an oval shape, about three miles across the longest part. It was a novel sight, when the water level began to drop. I thought it would be slow and hard to notice at first, but it only took around thirty minutes. From beauty spot to silty mud fest in less time than it takes to cook a nice roast. Then the police swarmed in.

I watched these for awhile too, bulky figures in waterproofs wading out into the centre of the newly revealed depths. There were a cluster of massive boulders in what you could call the middle. I guess they served some kind of wildlife purpose, or maybe they protected important machinery. I never did find out. It was when the squelching figures reached these boulders that the activity really kicked up a notch. Shovels and buckets were rushed out, and a strange vehicle chugged its way out to them with a big container on the back.

By evening they’d found all of the bodies. Three women and one man, assaulted, battered and apparently weighted down with blocks. They dubbed them “The Bikini Murders” because they all had their hands and feet tied with shredded bikinis. They never did catch who did it, and I have no idea how whoever killed those people managed it. The reservoir has houses around ninety percent of its circumference. It’s also a busy water-sport location. Even during the night there are often many lights skudding around on its waves.

It’s now three years on, and the reservoir still hasn't been refilled. I don't know why, the bones and everything else were bagged up long ago. The air is arid and dry, and even in the most pleasant of summers, the landscape feels like it’s leeching the moisture from any living thing silly enough to be near it.

You get the odd tourist, someone who has come to have a look at the parched ground of the reservoir, to traipse around and kick up the dust. Dry, cracked, pale earth peeling back in the glare of the sun. How interesting. They never stay long, unless they happen to be a metal detectorist or similar, doing something that takes a lot of time. We get a fair few out here. I’m not sure what they expect to find. I recently discovered that the whole base of the reservoir is artificial for around ten metres, and then it is metres of concrete below that. Maybe they hope people threw some coins in and made a wish? Or they fancy they will find some grizzly evidence missed in the murder investigation. All I know is that they are out there a lot, and I can’t stand to be, because of the thirst.

I always feel so fucking thirsty! Always! It doesn't matter how much I drink, or what I eat, my throat feels like sandpaper, and my body feels like it’s withering away. I’ve tried to sell my house, to move to somewhere, anywhere else, but The Bikini Murders are still too closely in recent memory. I'm stuck here, doomed to die and shrivel in the baking sun. Even the birds have left, which is an eerie thing to notice. You can’t unnotice how quiet it is. Thirst makes your brain strange, makes it get locked into ruminations and dark thoughts. It wasn’t long after I noticed that the birds had fled that I wondered if this was even the landscape I was used to, if I’d not been popped into some new, warped reality. I didn’t seriously think so, but the thought kept spinning.

One thing I discovered a few days ago though, one grizzly thing, is that there is something that helps the thirst. I discovered it by accident when I was eating. For some reason I chewed my food in a silly way and bit my tongue. It bled quite forcefully, filling my mouth with blood. I coughed and spluttered as I rushed to the sink to spit it out, but on impulse, I swallowed it before I got there. It wasn’t until later that evening, with a throbbing tongue and a buzzing head, that I realised it was the first time in years that I didn’t feel thirsty.

I don't know what this means, and I don't like the avenues my mind is going down. I find myself wondering if any blood will do? Will animal blood help? Is another human’s blood better? Will I ever get desperate enough to kill someone, just because I'm thirsty? Is that why the killer who committed The Bikini Murders killed? Maybe this dryness doesn't relate to the reservoir, maybe it seeps out of the environment in some other way. I just don’t know.

I’m sipping a little cow blood from a shot-glass as I write this. I have a friend who works in the meat industry and who was able to get me some. I didn’t lie about why I wanted it, I thought the truth would sound less fantastical than any lie I could come up with. It also reassures me that someone else knows how I’m feeling. Someone who I can trust and who might see any signs of my urge advancing down those other fearful avenues before even I do.

Maybe I’ve read too many vampire stories. Time will tell. The cow blood doesn't taste unpleasant, but knowing what it is keeps making my gorge rise. If it will work in the same way as my own blood, I just don’t know. I hope it does. I’ve got to try.