Country of Origin: United States of America
Seas. Escapades. Journeys.
These are the things one lives for. These are the things that Melissa Jennings’s mother wanted her to strive for. When she did, she found herself in the middle of a rowboat abandoned by her crewmen for the crime of being a woman who wouldn’t “put out.” The churning waves lifted and dropped the small rowboat over and over again as the sun beamed down on her clothed form. Queasiness filled her stomach, and it was only because she hadn’t eaten in days that she was not emptying it into the ocean. Her whole body was sticky and grimy from the caked-on sweat, and she wondered how and why life decided to put her into a Shakespearean comedy.
The only good fortune in her life right now was that, prior to being tossed overboard, it had been her job to supervise the ship’s charts, and if she was remembering right, there should have been an island close to where her ex-friends dropped her off.
Yet, as she gazed out at the ocean with blurry vision, she saw nothing but the same lifting and descending waves. Her urine wasn’t going to save her for long. She had to do something.
Melissa slowly moved the hand that was resting on her forehead. She swallowed dry spit down her throat and nearly had another coughing fit. Dying at sea didn’t seem so bad, she supposed. At least the nearest shark could tip the boat over and then she’d be useful to nature. Or maybe a whale would find her unmoving body and use it as a toy. There weren’t any piranhas in the ocean that she could see, though if there were, she wouldn’t be surprised since she couldn’t fully trust her eyesight at the moment.
She rose from her laid-out position and cracked her neck. As temporary relief coursed through her neck and shoulders, her eyes spotted a dark spot in the distance. As her eyes cleared, the waves of heat dissipated. Relief filled her as she spotted her salvation.
Thankfully, her ex-friends didn’t deprive her of a paddle. Melissa grabbed it and pushed through the ache of her muscles, and a rush of adrenaline let her row her way towards the shore. Eventually, she reached a point where the waves began to push her, so she stopped rowing. Luckily, the island was only a few feet away. Then, all at once, her boat started to lift.
Melissa groaned; she spat out the sand that clung to her lips, rose from her knees, and dusted herself off. She found new scratches on her arms and legs after her rough landing. The island began to spin, and she knew she needed to find food before her body became a permanent part of the landscape. Leaving the overturned lifeboat, she carefully journeyed into the forest in front of her.
A mental image of her map revealed that this island was called Radovid. Melissa had never visited, but according to her ex-friends, it was a popular destination for shipmen that wanted to disappear with their whores for a few days. The island sat in the middle of the great Pacific between two main islands, Nautilus and Euphrates. There were several other islands in between, but those were not nearly this big. Most of them had views where you could see the other side of the shore.
Radovid was nothing like she’d ever seen. This island was large and filled with lush trees. Melissa expected to see tall coconut, avocado, mango trees, papayas, or hibiscus shrubs. Instead, the only ones she could identify were lily trees. Literally, trees with white lilies for leaves. Melissa oriented herself to make sure she was actually alive. She smelled the shore, felt the crunchy grass beneath her feet, and the knots in her upset stomach were very real. Maybe lily trees were a new experiment that the earth hadn’t introduced to the populace yet.
Unfortunately, these lilies did not smell like the ones that grew in her mother’s front yard. Oh no. These smelled musty. The scent assaulted her nose as she traveled further into the island. As if things weren’t bad enough, she hadn’t seen a single fruit or vegetable since she arrived. In fact, there weren’t any animals, either. A sea of lily trees surrounded her now, encasing her in a valley of brown, lime green, yellow and white. She huffed out a frustrated breath.
“Hello?!” Her voice echoed up, up, up, past the canopy of lilies.
Thank the heavens that she wasn’t allergic to them.
The more she roamed, the more Melissa’s nerves began to spike. There wasn’t a single person, animal, or other form of plant life. Every single tree was covered with those same white lilies. Thankfully, they blocked out the sun and provided some much-needed shade, but the sour stench of the flowers was making her lightheaded. Returning where she came from proved to be useless. Somehow, her sense of direction was skewed. She couldn’t remember where she left her boat. The waves of the ocean were the only faint traces of reality that Melissa had left, and she intended to keep them. She followed their sound further north.
Up ahead, a bunch of trees blocked her path. There was just enough space to squeeze through. As she did so, she pushed on the tree to her right. It moved effortlessly. The tree trunk bent as if it were a wet noodle. Wide-eyed, Melissa pushed herself through, watching as the tree returned to its original straight position.
Melissa turned around and saw what had to be the darkest place on the island. She found herself standing in a circular room of foliage. Around her was a thick wall of vines with teardrop leaves and lilies scattered throughout. Their sour stench stuck onto Melissa’s skin. She fought the urge to hurl the only two things in her stomach: air and anxiety. There was a chipped and cracked stone well sitting in the center of the room. Dirt occupied the ground as well as the ceiling, which was odd.
The dirt crunched under Melissa’s feet as she approached the well. Its dark center came closer into view as she walked toward it, and a heaviness crept into her heart when she looked down into the pit. There was nothing, not a single flicker or anything. No water. No plants. Not even lilies! Blackness met her head-on.
God, this heaviness within her chest was awful. Melissa grabbed her chest, and her breathing slowed. Suddenly, water swelled in her eyes. She turned to face the entrance…which was now closed shut. An examination of the room revealed that there were no exits whatsoever. “Hello?” she called. Nothing. The trees that she passed through were no longer there. Melissa only saw more green veined walls. Her voice heightened in pitch: “Hello? Hello!”
Snickering came from behind her. As she slowly turned, the snickers increased. They varied in pitch and tone. Each one was terribly horrifying. Her eyes hyper-focused on a lily directly across from her, on the wall.
The lily had black eyes, a tiny nose, and shark-like teeth that shimmered as it suddenly started laughing.
Every single lily stared right at her and commenced a chorus of maniacal laughter. Melissa screamed and turned around, finding herself face-to-face with a wall of laughing lilies. She retreated to the stone well and leaned against it. The lilies started vibrating as they laughed. Their eyes rolled to the back of their heads – petals? – until they disappeared, leaving nothing but their awful mouths.
Tears fell freely from Melissa’s eyes. She looked inside the well and lifted her knee to enter. A large face that matched the lilies with wide eyes and an amused smirk stopped her dead in her tracks. It opened its mouth, “Hello, Melissa.”
Melissa screamed again, falling to the ground. She screeched so hard that her voice cracked. The well started vibrating as it laughed along with the lilies. The laughter started to merge together. The range of pitches and tones became one soul-shattering, deep tone that plummeted any hope that Melissa might have had.
The lilies stopped laughing. They simply stopped. Their smiling mouths shut and then dropped to the ground. Piles of mouths plopped to the floor. Melissa curled into a ball and stared at them with horror.
One twitched. Then another. Then another. In a burst, the laughter continued. The mouths bounced on the sides of the wall until they started heading closer and closer to her. Terror kept her frozen in place.
“Stop it,” she whimpered. “Please stop it.” No amount of sea and survival training could have prepared her for this. No amount of her mother’s protective training could have protected her from this. If there were stories about this damn island, then she certainly hadn’t heard any. If anyone ever survived this place, why hadn’t they made books or newspaper articles about it? It could’ve saved her life!
The mouths bounced and bounced, their sharp teeth coming closer and closer towards her.
“Stop it, now!”
The mouths stopped. Some of them froze in midair.
Melissa quickly wiped her eyes and face, her mouth agape as she examined the strange creatures. She quickly stood and started to catch her breath. She turned left and met the eyes of a woman with ashy hair, melted skin, exposed muscle, and rotting flesh on her mouth, fingers, and the corners of her eye. She leaned on the side of the well and gave Melissa a strange, almost welcoming smile.
Melissa was too shocked to run or to scream, not that it would make a difference in this hellish enclosed cave anyways. She stood completely still, staring at this woman, though the sight of her almost made Melissa sick all over again.
The woman was clearly human at one point, that much Melissa could tell. How did she end up on this godforsaken island? How had she become this monster that stood before her? Melissa then thought that perhaps this monster had once been exactly like her, stranded here by greedy seamen who only saw her as an object to be had. Maybe this woman had also refused to be their commodity. Maybe Melissa was doomed to the same fate as this humanoid monster that continued to stare at her intently, still with that faint, discomforting smile on her rotting lips.
Then, the woman laughed. Her laugh roared through Melissa’s ears, immediately bursting her eardrums. The mouths started their horrible laughing and bouncing once more. One finally made contact with Melissa’s leg. Another one latched onto her arm. She let out a horrified, blood-curdling scream. Desperately, Melissa tried pulling the mouths off of her, terrified at the thought of dying at the hands of this foul creature.
More and more, the mouths munched and munched until there was nothing else left of Melissa Jennings. With a satisfied smile and a full belly, the melting woman disappeared back into her well. Silence fell on the island, and the mouths returned to the lilies, who smiled once more.
Thank you to Chloe Waugh and Kacper Janusz for their inspired edit on this piece and everyone else on the Fiction team.
If you are interested in submitting a piece to the DG Sentinel, please visit our submissions page here.