Borders: between dry land and flowing water, daylight and night, something haunts the river’s edge in the fading light.
The River’s Edge is an eerie modern horror story of the best kind: evocative of the mysteries we’ve always suspected, hidden in warnings to stay away from the water’s edge and mind the current and always be home before it gets late. It’s also the kind of story that will leave you feeling that the world has been made a better place.
Content warning for brief mention of stalking and MRA/incel ideology.
Through a screen of grey, leafless alders, he could just make out the river. Silty water the color of chocolate milk stretched into the distance where a series of shoals and sandbars had captured a bountiful harvest of driftwood during the monsoon season.
Now it was almost winter. The snow hadn’t arrived yet, but ice rimmed the banks and floated downstream in little rafts of slush. The icy river whispered eerily as Eric ducked through the alders and peered over the edge. Brown water. Brown mud. Brown driftwood. Brown leaves and grass. Grey and brown tree trucks, since little grew down here but alder and cottonwood.
What a dreary place. No one else had chosen to spend their evening here, bathed in the last wan rays of the November sun. Perfect for doing a little planning.
He headed upstream, winding his way through the loosely spaced alders. Nothing moved in the thicket; only the shush-shush-shush of traveling ice and the occasional distant engine broke the silence.
She’d thrown his clothes and computer out on the lawn. The door to her apartment has been re-keyed. She refused to answer his calls.
The police had been unsympathetic; it was her apartment and she had the right to tell him he was no longer welcome there. Eric seethed remembering it. How dare she! After he’d been such a gentleman to her, no less. The nerve of the ungrateful cow!
His online friends had been full of advice: he shouldn’t grovel, apologize, or promise to change. Only beta losers did that. No, he needed to assert dominance. Females needed to be shown who was in charge! It was the only way to make her respect him.
He should have done it when she first rebelled against him. The next best time would have been when she kicked him out, but the sneaky cow had done it while he was at work. He’d had no opportunity to refuse to leave.
It’s not over yet. Eric grinned despite himself. She kept a spare key at her mother’s place, and her mother rarely locked her back door. All he’d have to do was slip in while mom was at work and borrow it. Easy-peasy.
Humming to himself, he skirted a dense thicket of alders. The river gurgled hungrily against the ice below the cut bank where he stood. He should turn back soon; the sun had fallen behind a cloud as it set, and the light was beginning to fade. The temperature had begun to drop and an icy breeze whispered through the trees.
He’d be waiting for Heather when she came home from work on Friday, he decided. That way they’d have all weekend together, and he could show her what a huge mistake she’d made. He’d prove that she could never get away from him.
The silty soil crumbled beneath his feet, sending him sliding down to the river’s edge. Ice water filled his shoes; alder roots twined around his ankles like grasping fingers. He tried to scramble back up the bank but the roots seemed to tighten their grip, pulling him inexorably back toward the water.
He glanced down at his feet and panicked. The roots were not protruding from the soil, as he’d thought, but up out of the river. Then the tangle moved in the dim light, and all pretense of rational thought abandoned him.
Eric screamed in terror, clawing his way toward safety, but the soft bank only crumbled under his hands. Root-like fingers constricted until bone cracked, dragging him back to the water’s edge and into the icy flood. The river enveloped him, drowning his screams in cold mud.
For a few moments the water churned with his frantic struggles; then all was still. Silence reigned once more on the river’s edge.
The River’s Edge copyright 2019 Leland Lydecker