FOUR

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There was something eerie about that lake. 

No life could be found upon glimpsing under the calm surface; no seaweed, no small fish trying to evade the waves her legs awakened as she kicked the water to float above a bottomless pit of darkness.

Her heart jumped inside its cage as irrational fear numbed her senses for a fleeting moment. Somehow, the warning words of Mrs. Houston held more power now that water embraced her body.

A sense of sadism was painting disturbing thoughts in her mind, using paranoia as its favourite brush.

Coming up for air, Lynn sighed and glanced at the distant house.

"It looks different from here," commented Oliver in a quiet voice as he stopped next to her. "Darker."

That was the word.

Perhaps it was the cloud hanging above the old structure; perhaps, the shadows of the trees as they danced to the rhythm of a solitary breeze. Lynn couldn't be certain, but she could've sworn the house swayed and pulsated — alive, with a mind of its own.

She blinked, and the illusion broke. Yet the shadows of the trees kept gliding across the stony façade, like hungry fingers in desperate search of something to hold on to.

"Almost feels like it's watching us," she murmured before taking her eyes off, not wishing to keep designing a face upon its rough skin. But those wide windows continued staring at her, like a predator ready to pounce on its callow prey.

Oliver glanced at her from the corner of his eye. "I never had the chance to ask, by the way. How's your mother?"

Lynn scoffed in response. "Stubborn as always; she keeps refusing to get an appointment with a psychologist. She's spending more time with my aunt, though — which is nice. I think she's finally allowing herself to move on."

She's stopped crying, she added mentally.

Oliver hummed in understanding and placed a hand over her wet shoulder. "I'm glad to hear that."

Her lips twitched ever so slightly.

"It's been five years, Ol. But some wounds never truly heal."

"You know I'm always here if you need someone to lean on," he affirmed.

His boundless kindness never failed to touch her, to make her feel better no matter the situation. Taking a deep breath, Lynn swivelled to send him a grateful smile.

Her expression froze.

There was no one behind her; not Oliver, not any of her other friends. The waters were calm, softly whispering to her paralyzed body. She waited, counting the seconds as they ticked by. But no sound pierced the deafening silence; her mind buzzed with questions as she found herself alone.

Panic struck like lightning, cutting across her lungs and leaving her gasping for breath. Spinning in circles, she allowed desperation to tear a shout from her. But her voice was swallowed by a haunted wind which blew from every direction. Forcing her legs to kick harder, Lynn flapped her arms beneath the wild waters in a frantic attempt to win a battle against the growing waves.

"Lynn!"

Twirling, she searched her surroundings for Oliver. Her eyes met his wide ones, and the fright swimming in them pushed her to put aside her own fear to assist him. But a wall of water blocked her path and sent her whirling under its oppressive power. Water invaded her nose as her body was forced into a merciless sequence of somersaults.

At some point, she became lost like tears in the rain. The jaws of the lake opened to swallow her in, sinking its teeth into her ragged body to shake her wildly as dark dots started filling her vision. Her lungs burned with lack of oxygen as her energy was sucked out of her, claimed by the unnatural force that was playing with her.

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