An ocean-drenched, atmospheric horror debut! Liv’s best friend disappears on their first night aboard their dream semester-at-sea program—but is he really sick, like everyone says, or is something darker lurking beneath the water?
Start reading an excerpt of Those We Drown by Amy Goldsmith now!
An Introduction from Author Amy Goldsmith
It’s in chapter 3 that Liv first begins to experience some unease about the supposed trip of a lifetime she’s embarking upon. With introductions now out of the way, the SeaMester group get together in one of the cruise ship’s glittering lounges to celebrate their first night aboard. Here we properly meet Constantine, and Liv initially decides he is a pretty but insufferable snob. He is somewhat polarizing throughout the book, with his snarky disdain for cruises and his hot-cold treatment of Liv. But as the story progresses, we discover there may be a reason for this chilly exterior.
As the evening starts to blur around the edges, Liv has a spectacular falling out with her best friend, Will, who has definitely been overserved. After seeing he has been reeled in by one of the Sirens, Liv suggests he head to bed, worried he might make a drunken mistake. And that is where Liv’s problems really begin. . . .
Those We Drown features a particular type of creeping horror, where the protagonist suspects something sinister is going on but can’t fully prove it, and this can be a tricky balance to maintain as a writer. You don’t want readers screaming at your protagonist’s refusal to see what’s right in front of them, but go too subtle, and you lose the chills. It’s also important to ground events in reality—I mean, if you approached the captain of a cruise IRL, relaying events similar to those that occur in Those We Drown, and demanded to leave the ship immediately, they’d probably suggest you’d had a bit too much sun!
Now it’s finally summer, the season of beach reads; what better book to read on your vacation than my eerie speculative horror? Although if you’re on a cruise, you may want to think twice. . . .
Those We Drown
by Amy Goldsmith
Minutes after I entered the Aphrodite Lounge that evening, my mind was made up. I loved it here. I belonged here and wanted nothing more than to live permanently aboard the Eos, forever drifting about the Atlantic in a shimmering evening gown.
Around me, the room glittered and twinkled like a mirror ball of plush crimson and gilded bronze. A vast bar of polished white marble segued into gloriously gaudy gold seashells at either end. And beyond the bar, the ocean glimmered, onyx dark, outside the windows.
Will was already comfortably ensconced beside Raj, wearing an unusually smart striped shirt that brought out the disarming blue of his eyes. Adora and Con were perched like exotic birds at the bar, dressed to the nines in that way that appeared annoyingly effortless. Adora in a long paisley dress that swamped her tiny frame, the kind that would make me look like a frumpy chintz sofa rather than the delicate bohemian goddess she resembled; Con in expensive-looking knitwear over a checkered shirt. Beside them stood two of the glittering Sirens chatting animatedly to a broad, grizzled walnut of a man dressed all in white. The ship’s captain, I reckoned. The girls wore wispy silken slips held up by barely-there straps, their cascading golden hair silky and sleek. Feeling distinctly underdressed, I stared down at my battered Jordans and leggings, agonizing over whether or not to change. But into what?
“Liv!” Will grinned, making space for me beside him. “Got you a drink.”
“Thanks.” I sank into the plush booth. His hand brushed my knee as he slid over a glass of sparkling wine, the glass frosted with condensation. I blinked, looking at him in surprise, but he didn’t seem to have noticed the touch. A flush of warmth shivered through me, light dancing over water. I hoped there’d be an opportunity to talk later. Properly talk.
Cintia sloped into the booth next, wearing exactly the same casual wear as before. She raised an eyebrow at my full glass.
“You know, where I’m from, you gotta be twenty-one to drink. I’ll have a soda.”
“International waters. Eighteen’s legal here, and Justin’s cool,” replied Will with a shrug.
A little too cool in my opinion. Will was already looking tipsy.
“Hey, I get it, though—I’m no good with all this either,” she muttered to me, stifling a yawn.
“With what? Socializing?”
It struck me as strange that a girl who looked like an off- duty model could be at all socially anxious. Also, was it so obvious I was the fish out of water?
Cintia nodded. “It’s pure torture. This and the whole glam thing. It’s not for me. To be honest, I’d rather be in my cabin eating Doritos and watching Bravo.”
“Least you fit in here,” I commiserated. “Everyone thinks Will and I are charity cases.”
Cintia gave me a mischievous smirk. “Nope, not Will— I see him sitting there in his Ralph Lauren shirt. Just you.”
I winced. “So, it’s that obvious?”
“No. I mean, yeah, but no one cares. If you’ve actually got money, you don’t spend all your time thinking about it, y’know?”
Adora drifted back to our table in a cloud of sickly perfume. I was surprised and mildly alarmed when Con squeezed into the space beside me.
“You guys are getting along well,” remarked Raj, giving Con an unsubtle wink.
Adora gave a dismissive wave of her hand. “Please—I at- tended the same school as his sister.”
“Yes, vague acquaintances,” muttered Con.
“So, who’s going to introduce us to those guys, then?” Will said with a smirk, nodding over to the table of Sirens. He’d clearly forgotten our earlier run-in.
“Smart move of the ship, employing them,” said Raj, casting a glance around the room. “Most people here look ready for assisted living.”
“So ageist,” I murmured, annoyed with them both.
“Con knows them, don’t you? Or one of them at least,” Adora said with a sly grin upon her perfectly painted mouth. “Rather well, or so I’ve heard.”
Huh. Who didn’t Con know?
He said nothing, only gave the slightest shake of his head as he stared down into his drink, completely ignoring her.
Adora blithely carried on. “And, Liv, you’re already acquainted with another. I doubt they’d be anywhere near this place if they weren’t being paid. From what I’ve seen, they’re generally lounging on some billionaire’s yacht in Portofino.” She grinned charitably at Will, then lowered her voice. “Let me fill you in since Con’s gone shy. The uber-tall one is Thalia—she’s an heiress. Her father’s the Marquis of Stanton or Stauton— something like that. If you recognize her, it’s because she was a finalist on one of those dreadful talent shows last year—singing, of course. The curvier one with the dark roots is Leda—she’s a model. Well, her dad owns the agency—make of that what you will. And the tiny one is Lexie. Some kind of fitness guru, I think.”
“Influencers. Load of superficial bullshit,” said Cintia darkly. “The kinda crap they peddle doesn’t influence me.”
“Now, now,” said Raj chidingly. “Do I detect a little jealousy?”
“You’re not wrong,” she replied with a ready grin. “The day some guy decides to pay someone like me to hang on his yacht posing with nothing but a quart of diet tea is the day hell freezes over.”
“Speaking of money,” said Adora, pouncing from nowhere. “Olivia, you’re the only one of us here for free, right?” She trapped me across the table with vivid green eyes.
I shifted in my seat, my hand gripping the stem of my wine- glass tightly. What exactly was her problem?
“Yep,” I said breezily, trying to act entirely unruffled. “I guess the guys at SeaMester were so impressed with my talent, I was allowed on here gratis. Lucky me, huh?”
Adora looked down at the table with a thin, unpleasant smile.
“Ha. Yeah, but nothing’s really free, though, is it?” she countered. “I mean, we’re all probably paying for you, one way or another.”
“Adora,” warned Justin, blessedly appearing behind her like a guardian angel. “Olivia is here on account of her academic prowess, exactly like the rest of you. No one here’s any more or any less deserving than the other, so let’s shut that conversation down right now.”
“It’s Liv,” I muttered, wishing, not for the first time, I was witty enough to come up with a snarky retort faster than four hours later when I was back in my cabin alone.
“I’m going to the bar,” announced Constantine, who to my mortification had been carefully watching this exchange. “Liv, help me carry some drinks?”
As much as his delivery sounded like a direct order to the staff, I still got up, grateful to slip away from the spotlight of Adora’s disdainful stare.
“Don’t mind her,” he said once we reached the sanctity of the bar. As Con confidently ordered another round of drinks, I waited for the bartender to ask for his ID, but he only nodded at Con, his manner almost deferential. I looked up and self- consciously smoothed my dark hair in the mirrors above us. Constantine’s eyes boldly met mine, the corner of his mouth turning up in a smirk.
“Who?” I said innocently, then pulled a face. “She’s a complete cow. Where does she get off asking me stuff like that?”
“Dor exists in a bubble. She’s not even sure what day of the week it is most of the time. Her mum’s a Reiki instructor who spends every waking hour traveling the globe visiting retreats, and her dad believes in harnessing the energy of the moon to cure all known diseases. Both of them treat her like some kind of inconvenience.”
That didn’t muster the sympathy in me he seemed to expect. “So you know her and the infamous Sirens too? Popular
He looked in their direction and gave a vague shake of his head. “I only know them through my dad’s business connections. They’re . . . they’re not for me.”
I gave a surprised laugh.
“No? I mean, damn. If they’re not for you, who is?” Now dimly aware I might have accidentally entered the realm of drunken flirting with that remark, I looked at the wineglass in my hand that had been refilled for me all evening and decided this would most definitely be my last.
“Are you genuinely interested or are you making conversation in order to ward off the inevitable awkward silence?” he replied. His words were clipped and cold, but his eyes were amused.
“Interested? In you, or your answer? And is the silence inevitable? I thought we were doing quite well.” I sipped the dregs of my drink, silently thanking it for my wine-induced wit.
He paused, smirking. “The latter, and yes, I suppose we are.” Then, precisely as the awkward silence was manifesting it- self, Will appeared behind us, his glittering eyes seeking mine
in the mirror.
“Ah, there you are. So, Liv, are we going to talk or what?”
I looked back at him in surprise. As much as I wanted the
talk, I wasn’t sure if I wanted it when either of us was tipsy.
“Right now?” I hissed, sneaking a glance over at Con, who was pretending to scroll through his phone. What was Will playing at?
He lowered his voice, then ran a distracted hand through his dark hair. “Yeah, why, is it not a good time?”
I must have been unconsciously avoiding eye contact with him the entire way here because when his blue gaze locked on mine, everything in the room seemed to whine away to nothing.
“No, it’s just—talk about . . . about what exactly?”
Truthfully, I knew exactly what. But I wasn’t ready for this, not yet and not here. We had the whole trip ahead of us. It was definitely something we should avoid right now, with strangers and alcohol in the mix. All of a sudden, the vast room seemed too hot, my clothing constrictive, my body sweaty and clumsy, the ground no longer steady beneath my feet.
His eyes flickered over to Con again, his gaze darkening. “Right. I get it, I get it. Never mind.” He swiped his drink
from the bar.
I watched him swagger away, a pathetic part of me wanting to run after him and apologize.
“Friends, hmm?” remarked Con with a raised eyebrow, not even bothering to look up from his phone.
“Whatever,” I muttered, heading back to the group.
The next few hours passed in a blur of increasingly drunken conversation. The kind that seems like amazingly smooth and witty repartee at the time, but that you recall the next day with ever-growing levels of cringe. On my return to the table, people had switched seats again, so I was wedged on the cold side of Raj and Justin’s endless hockey banter for what felt like hours.
I was debating whether or not to have one more drink, if only to prevent myself from dying of boredom, when a ringing voice sliced through the hazy hubbub of the room like a golden beam of light.
A sailor’s life is a merry life,
They rob young girls of their heart’s delight,
It was a sweet voice, lilting and delicate. Beautiful in its sheer effortlessness yet full of half-guessed-at emotion. The sound of someone well versed in heartbreak.
I peered over the crowds, searching for its source.
Leaving them behind for to weep and mourn, And never knowing when they will return.
By the end of the very first line, every other voice in the room had stilled too, as if embarrassed into silence by its comparative ugliness. Beside me, even Raj and Justin had finally stopped talking about hockey. But the singing stopped as soon as it had started. I wanted to groan aloud with disappointment. Around me, applause swelled. I looked over to where it was directed.
It was the feted influencer table. I should have guessed. Thalia was modestly waving away the applause and pleas for an encore.
And beside her sat Will.
“What’s he doing over there?” I muttered, nudging Justin.
Justin turned to look at me in surprise, as if only just realizing I was there. He grinned. “Looks like Will got himself a private performance.”
“Lucky guy,” murmured Raj.
Will was sitting between Adora, no doubt his ticket in, and Thalia. He looked lost to her.
Even I had to admit they looked well matched. He was indecently attractive tonight in his fancy shirt, his black curls gleaming and combed neatly to the side. He’d always been so inoffensively good-looking that most of the time I didn’t even notice it until other people pointed it out.
I wanted to be happy for him. And I’d accepted we’d make our own friends on the trip. I’d always been more introverted than him and was already conscious of not being a social burden or anything, piggybacking on his naturally gregarious nature. Besides that, whatever first impressions I’d gained of them, the fact that Thalia was an influencer didn’t automatically make her shallow or unintelligent or any of the other unpleasant things people seemed to assume. Let’s face it, jealousy was never a good look.
“That life isn’t as great as you think, you know,” said Cintia across from me, noticing the direction of my stare. “They only ever show you what they want you to see. There’s a darker side to it all. I mean, for every fan, they probably block about a hundred trolls. And I’d hate to think of the delights that wind up in their DMs.”
I gave a vague nod and looked back over to Thalia. She looked as if she’d bounced off the cover of a high-fashion mag- azine. Her flawless face was angular, her features strong, framed by silky bangs of dark blond. It would be easy to cruelly dismiss her, say it was all freebie Botox and sponsored extensions, but even from here I could tell how genetics and bone structure had played their part.
But the more I stared, the more I realized something was off about how she was interacting with Will. There was something sly about her furtive smirks to her friends. The way she reared back away from Will every time he leaned closer, reminding me of a bored cat toying with its prey.
Wine or not, after a few minutes of watching this, I slowly filled with a cool and righteous anger for him.
“I’m going to go and say goodnight,” I said to Cintia, get- ting up. She said something in warning that I didn’t catch.
When I reached Will, I knew immediately that he was drunk.
I’d seen him drunk countless times before, at a million friends’ parties, but tonight he was properly wasted. Beside him, Thalia sat sedately, her chic black slip accentuated with a bright silk scarf, her posture upright and perfect. Long, pale fingers that ended in pointed black talons played with the golden chain of her handbag. Chanel, of course. She raised her eyes to coolly meet mine, and my mouth dried up. I’d never seen eyes so blank and so dark—a deep black—as cold as the ocean beneath us.
“Oh. It’s you. So now you wanna talk?” slurred Will, noticing me.
He said it in a dull way that I knew meant he wanted me to disappear. I’d annoyed him earlier, that much was clear. But I was his friend, and I’d like to think he’d do the same for me if I were sloppy drunk and Constantine ( just for example) were leaning away from me as if I were something unpleasant he’d stepped in. Besides that, drunk people fell overboard on cruise ships all the time—or so Mum had been endlessly warning me. What kind of friend would I be to leave him in this state with a stranger?
“Hey, I’m off to bed in a bit,” I announced with a bland, cheery smile. The awkwardness rating for this encounter was already violently ticking off the scale. Thalia stared at me, then gave a theatrical snort.
“Wow. Was that an invitation?”
Her voice was deeper than I remembered, husky and confident. I glared at her.
“No. This is my friend. I’m reminding him we have an early start tomorrow morning, that’s all.”
The second bit was a total lie, but there was no way Will would have known that in his current state. Thalia shifted farther away from him. “Sure, well, if you’ve got to go . . .”
“What the hell are you talking about?” he murmured. He could barely focus on me, his cheeks flushed pink. I blinked at the harshness of his words.
“Will. You’re like crazy drunk.” “And?”
“And I think you need to go and sleep it off.”
Thalia stood with a bored sigh. “I’ll be at the bar if you want to continue our conversation,” she said, looking at Will, deliberately ignoring me.
Will put his head in his hands and groaned, distinctly pissed off. I stood before him like a limp noodle.
I had no idea what to say now.
“God, I knew this would happen,” he said, trying hard to focus on my face. I swallowed. I had an inkling of where this was going, and I definitely didn’t want to hear it. Not now. Not yet.
“Will—Will, hold up a sec—” I started, but he barreled on.
“I’ve said it . . . You’ve said it . . . We’ve both said it. It was a mistake. And I know you’ve got the wrong impression, but—”
“The wrong what? Will, are you on drugs?” I interrupted, trying to claw back ground. “Look, I don’t care if you want to hook up with hashtag try-hard over there, but tonight is not the night, my friend. It’s our first night. You’re trashed and you’re going to make an idiot of yourself if you don’t go to bed. And I’m not just going to leave you here like this. ”
His brow furrowed. “Like what? Having fun? And it’s not our first night. It’s my first night. We do not need to spend every minute of this trip together.”
“And we’re not? Or hadn’t you noticed. I’m just trying to watch out for you—I mean, what if your drunken ass topples off the side of the boat?”
“The side of the boat? Liv, sounds like I’m not the drunk one here.”
He managed to look up at me then, catching my eyes with his intense blue gaze, lowering his voice, suddenly sympathetic.
“Come on. Let’s talk about what this is really about, huh?”
A picture fell into my head then, neatly slotting into place like an old-fashioned slide, projecting unwelcome images upon the wall.
A balmy summer’s night, the two of us parked up in Will’s dad’s old Mercedes, the sea spread out like silk before us, lit with a luminous aqua glow by the moon, and a sky full of stars. Whispered laughter and a freeing confidence, that belief you can do anything, the type that comes with drinking too much cheap vodka from the corner shop. The smell of the new pine car freshener so clinically strong we’d had to wind all the car windows fully down, letting in a sultry ocean breeze. I was tipsy. I was emotional. A bad party. The culmination of a bad month. And then—
“Fact is, I can do whatever I like, and I don’t need you breathing down my neck this entire trip,” Will went on. “God’s sake. You know, I knew this would happen. I mean, let’s face it, would you even have come if I hadn’t been here too?”
I was wrenched back into the present. Now he’d gone too far. “Afraid what would happen? That you’d get wrecked the first night and embarrass yourself? Yeah, I was afraid of that,” I fired back. “And yes, of course I would have come without you! This is a massive opportunity for me. Not everything is
about you, Will!”
He narrowed his eyes, exhaling noisily.
“Isn’t it? Might want to tell yourself that. Why are you like this lately? Why can’t you be . . . fun Liv anymore? Look at where we are! But of course you manage to find a way to ruin it. Jesus, just . . . just piss off, will you?”
Will was raising his voice now, and people around us had stopped their own conversations to watch the show.
I didn’t know whether to keep trying—at least try to calm him down again—or to give up, gather what was left of my dignity and run. I couldn’t look in Thalia’s direction, but I could practically feel her staring at us from the bar, a sly smirk on her face as she listened.
Hot tears blurred the sight of him, his familiar face soured in a sneer as he continued full-on yelling. A wave of unpleasant heat enveloped my body as his words washed over me. I could feel the eyes on us. All these people—these strangers—staring. The length of this trip, the endless drinks, the impossible opulence of the surroundings, felt sickening suddenly, like too much rich cake.
Liv. Get. A. Grip. Tell him he’s talking crap, for a start.
And I wanted to, I needed to, because he was wrong—so wrong—but as it happened, I couldn’t say anything. Not once I’d seen how Will was looking at me. Angrily—like I was nothing more than an inconvenience. I knew that when I spoke, my voice would crack and the tears would start to fall, and I’d look even more pathetic. So instead, I turned and stomped unsteadily toward the double doors that led out to the hall, a smothered shriek of cold laughter clearly audible behind me.
Tears rolled from my eyes so thickly, I could barely see as I stumbled down corridors in the vague direction of my cabin.
It wasn’t only because of Will.
I’d been painfully, breathtakingly anxious all day and had drunk far too much to compensate. I was exhausted, and as much as I hated to admit it, I was already homesick. I groaned aloud. How pathetic to miss home and worse—my parents—so soon. It was probably a legitimate maritime crime.
My phone hung uselessly in my hand. If I were back home, this would be about the time that I called my mum. But while the introductory texts Cintia and I had swapped earlier had gone through fine, the Wi-Fi I’d reassured my parents about seemed to have trouble managing long-distance messages.
I’d already taken several wrong turns and ignored the murmurs from concerned passengers, kindly asking if I was all right, before I finally chanced upon the corridor where my cabin was. It stretched out far ahead of me, silent and unwelcoming, the lights now low. Leaning against the wall, and trying to collect myself, I wondered how late it was. Since I’d boarded the ship I’d lost all concept of time. Clumsily, I rummaged in my tattered backpack (Chanel handbags were as far out of my league as Mars) for my key card.
The voice drifted down the silent passage, wrapping itself around my wrist like a spectral hand, rooting me to the spot.
I froze, mortified. Fully aware of how my mascara had slid down the blotchy mess of my face, leaving me looking like a deranged panda.
It came out more harshly than I’d intended.
Footsteps padded down the hallway as he drew nearer, but I remained frozen, my gaze fixed on my door. Even after just one day, I recognized that voice, and in my current state I wanted to avoid facing him for as long as possible.
“Are you all right?” Constantine asked, stepping closer. “I, uh, said I’d come check on you. Your friend is quite . . . quite the character, isn’t he? Is he always like that?”
Great, so everyone in the group had heard us too. This trip was getting off to an amazing start. And why hadn’t they sent Justin? Or someone nice, like Cintia?
I wiped a finger under both eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath. Reminded myself that I needed this trip to go well.
“Yeah, yeah. Sorry about all that back there.” I forced a laugh; one of the most pathetic sounds I’d ever made. “Will’s a bit wasted. Should have known better than to tell a drunk they’re drunk, right?”
Well, look at us. Already exposing ourselves as the drunken lower-class louts everyone expected us to be. Downing as much free booze as we could get our hands on, then starting a screaming match in a bar while everyone around us daintily sipped champagne and exchanged I told you so glances. I swallowed down another sob, disguising it as a cough.
“Quite,” Constantine answered. “Justin’s dealing with him. Whatever was said, he shouldn’t have shouted at you like that.”
Reluctantly, I turned to face him. Even in the semidarkness of the corridor, he looked exquisite. His short blond curls now slightly awry, cheeks flushed pink with drink, his sea-gray eyes glittering in the low light. Truthfully, I wanted several things from Constantine at that moment, but his pity was definitely not one of them. I was about to tell him this—well, the last part anyway, but apparently, he wasn’t done yet.
“Look, I also wanted to say . . . Don’t be intimidated. By
us, I mean.”
He continued to watch me, half lounging against the wall. He’d removed his sweater, his checkered shirt unbuttoned at the neck, the sleeves messily rolled up, strands of his golden hair glowing white in the light of the wall lamps.
I stood straighter, clearing my throat noisily.
“Us?” I asked warily. “What do you mean by us?” I didn’t realize we were . . . divided in some way.”
He stepped closer. His eyes glinted silver in the low lights of the corridor.
“We’re not. Not exactly. You know what I mean, though.” And I did.
What he meant was don’t be intimidated by our wealth. By our expensive educations, the finest money can buy; by our fine ethical clothing and designer luggage. By the trust-fund safety net that allowed them to sashay easily through life while girls like me wobbled on a tightrope, terrified to make a single mis- take and fall.
“What makes you think I’m intimidated?”
He gave me the barest ghost of a smile. “Are you always this difficult? I was trying to be nice. All I said was don’t be.”
“Well, I’m not. Least of all, by you,” I blatantly lied. “You know, the nineties emo movement called and want their world- weary act back.”
He gave a soft breath of a laugh.
“Is that right? Well, since you’re evidently fine, I’ll leave you be, then.”
“Thank you so much,” I said with aggressive cheerfulness, already busy fumbling with the door to my cabin. I followed it up with a hissed “dick” as he walked away, hoping he heard.
I lay awake for hours on the hard foreign bed, the unholy triptych of my drunken fight, new surroundings, and soured wine circling my mind endlessly, like dirty suds down a drain.
An insistent part of my brain assured me that Will would knock gently at the door at some late hour, spilling soft apologies over the threshold. That we’d make up, that he’d climb onto the bed (on top of the sheets, of course) and together we’d watch some lame documentary about serial killers until the dawn came, and everything would be sunny and exciting and new again.
Even the gentle, restless seesawing of the ship didn’t lull me as everyone told me it would. It only made me more aware than ever that I was stuck on what was essentially a giant piece of iron in the middle of an enormous ocean hundreds of miles from anywhere, and I’d just had a blazing argument with my only friend in this entire place.
When I did eventually fall asleep, my dreams were full of the intent faces of the group. Staring. Judging.
Don’t be intimidated by us.
Their expressions now questioning, confused. A grim Greek chorus.
Why is she here?
She’s just a replacement—
If only that girl hadn’t gone missing . . . Why does she have to be here?
She doesn’t belong here. She isn’t one of us.
A slow, sustained dripping gradually woke me, as insistent as a soft shaking.
At first, I ignored it and screwed my eyes tightly shut, desperate to return to sleep, the place where my head and stomach hurt decidedly less.
A leaky tap, I told myself. No big deal.
But the sound nagged at me, refusing to allow me to tumble back down to my hangover-free oblivion.
The bathroom door was shut, I remembered that much. Reason being, the cabin was so small, if the door was open, it made access to the rest of the room tricky. But the bathroom door being shut didn’t match up with that loud, incessant drip- ping. It sounded as if it was only a few feet away.
Did ships spring leaks?
Was that slow, steady dripping about to turn into a cavalcade of drenching water, leaving me drowning, floating only a centimeter from the ceiling in this small cube of a room?
I cracked open an eyelid.
When I’d got into bed earlier, the room had been pitch- black. I remembered that, even in the state I’d been in, but now the edges of the sparse furniture glowed with a warm golden sheen.
A light was on somewhere.
I struggled up, confused, my throat parched and sore. Im- mediately I noticed the source of the light. It spilled brightly from under the closed bathroom door. Well, I was right about that at least. The door had been shut. But I was 99 percent sure I hadn’t left the light on. All right . . . more like 75 percent. But that was beside the point. If the bathroom door was closed, then where was the dripping coming from?
Reluctantly, I moved my head in the direction of the sound.
My lungs seemed to immediately empty of air. My scream a panicked wheeze that lodged in my throat.
Sitting in the armchair beside the desk was Will.
He was wearing the same clothes as earlier, but they were shiny and dark now, absolutely drenched. Water dripped from the ends of his hair, vanquishing his curls and enhancing their glossy shade of black. His face was the unhealthy white of mushroom flesh, lips tinged with gray. Large, fat drops plopped from his pale, spongy fingers, to be instantly absorbed by the carpet below.
I scrabbled back.
“Will! Shit. What happened? Why are you wet? Are—are you okay?”
Part of me wanted to go to him. To climb out of bed and offer him a towel.
But it was impossible. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even blink, let alone leave the sanctity of my bed and go over to him. And I knew why.
I was afraid.
Slowly, he raised his head to look at me. His eyes, normally the bold, arresting blue of summer skies, shone like cold silver coins in the half-light.
“Will . . . I . . . I—”
My voice froze on my lips as I shivered violently. The room was ice-cold.
Will didn’t move. Didn’t say anything. Just sat in that chair, his hands rigid on the armrests, staring at me with those cold silver eyes. Beneath him, the carpet was dark with damp.
Something here was very wrong. And then he spoke.
“The sea provides, Olivia.”
His words seemed as if they had been dredged up from the bottom of the ocean: rusty and serrated and ancient. It sounded nothing at all like Will.
“I’ll get someone,” I breathed. “You—you don’t look well.”
But we both knew I was lying. I couldn’t escape. I wasn’t about to get anyone. I couldn’t leave the bed. I couldn’t even move. All I knew was that I couldn’t go anywhere near the Will-thing that was sitting in that chair.
“The sea provides,” he repeated in that awful, grating voice. “But only if you feed it.”
He was so pale—an unhealthy, glistening milk-white—the same color, same texture as raw squid.
“You’re not real,” I murmured. “When I shut my eyes, when I go back to sleep, you won’t be there anymore. You’re next door, Will. You’re passed out on your bed, snoring.”
He chuckled then, more of a gurgling sound than anything resembling humor, water streaming down his face like desperate tears, and drummed his fingers on the arms of the chair. His nails were dirty, the ends ragged and yellow with what looked like bits of green seaweed or algae trailing beneath them. I shuddered violently; my body wracked with fear.
“They don’t want us, you know,” he said, his voice lower and gleeful now, as if he were divulging a secret. His smile was unpleasant, his teeth larger and much more yellow than I re- membered them. “They’re greedy. They took what was offered and damned us all. Maybe they didn’t think it was real, didn’t believe it, but soon they’ll have no choice.”
He began to stand, a sluice of water falling from his lap and crashing to the carpet as he did so. My breath came in short, harsh bursts.
“No,” I said, my voice hoarse and shaky, as he took a lurching step toward me, wobbling unsteadily like a drunk. Whatever he was, he was no longer Will. His hands were outstretched, flabby, the fingers too thick—bloated now. Whatever he was, I knew he couldn’t get near me. I couldn’t stand the thought of those cold, moist fingers touching me. I shrank back against the headboard, desperately looking for an escape from the tiny space.
From somewhere close by—outside the room, down the corridor, I couldn’t be sure—I heard a faint disturbance. Dim shouting, a loud banging followed by panicked screaming.
“No. No, no no no no. No!”
Was it me? Was I the one screaming?
I took a final, breathless glance at Will, closer now, too close. Leaning over me. His smile wider, revealing a mouth crammed with too many teeth, brackish-looking seawater streaming from it in dirty rivulets. Layers and layers of teeth. His mouth an enormous dark circle of death.
Then the darkness rushed in like a night tide and, uttering a strangled cry, I let it carry me away.