Water spurted out while convulsions took a hold of her body.
As air returned to her frozen lungs, Lynn rolled on her side and pressed her wet face against the grass. She wheezed, coughed and breathed in sharply. Until the deadly water was sliding down her chin and her stomach twisted like a snake rolling over itself. With a wince, she closed her eyes and let the soft grass comfort her sweaty body.
Soft - not frozen beneath layers of snow and ice.
Realization arrived hand-in-hand with a sense of awareness about her current surroundings, and her eyelids cracked open to let the cascade of colours melt her pain away.
"Get a towel or a blanket, Nick. She's freezing."
The familiar voice of Oliver brought peace to her heart, and she tilted her head to meet his concerned frown.
They were alive, breathing. Her friends.
Tears threatened to escape their prison behind her puffy eyes, yet they never saw the light - she felt too drained to even cry.
"What happened?" she rasped out, wincing ever so slightly as the words scraped their way out through her sore throat.
Dana was there to engulf her in one of her rare, bone-crushing hugs. Her petite body shook with long, racking sobs as tears spilled out.
"You dived in and wouldn't come up." Stepping away, Dana proceeded to reward her with one of her familiar, bruising punches. "Just what the hell were you thinking, Lynn?"
Her anguished eyes filled Lynn with compassion. There weren't many times when Dana was brought to tears, which made her heart shake with guilt as she realized she was the cause of her distress.
"Let's talk inside," Oliver interjected while wrapping around her the wool blanket that Nick had returned with as the women were hugging. Helping Lynn to her feet, he supported her exhausted body with ease and started walking towards the watchful house. "Mark and Nick will help me make some hot chocolate, right?"
Behind her, Mark made a noise of complaint. "I hate cooking, man."
"Sucks to be you," commented Nick, never one to let gloomy moments drag for too long, in a sing-song voice. "Watching cat videos and pulling pranks is all you do. No wonder you're single."
"You're single too!"
Nick shrugged. "I'm still a flower. You ain't getting any younger and are going to be left on the shelf at this rate."
"I'm only two years older than you, twat. But you know what, Nick? You're right." He paused and cleared his throat. "Hey, Da--"
"Not in a million years."
Unable to stop herself, Lynn chortled. As she stepped inside the house and the watchful stare of the trees was blocked by the front door, her body shivered in the warm atmosphere.
"Why don't you go for a shower? You won't stop shaking," Dana suggested as the three men disappeared in the kitchen.
"You grab a chair and make yourself comfortable in the friend-zone, Mark," rang Nick's teasing voice before the door closed.
The idea of a warm shower sounded too good. Dana was right; she couldn't shake off the cold. It was embedded in her blood, freezing her aching body and keeping her in an endless string of shivers.
They walked up the creaking stairs in expectant silence, as the remembrance of the frozen lake and her dead friends mingled with the comforting company Dana provided. Confusion clawed at her mind, slowly driving her insane as she attempted to find an answer that would dissipate the whirlwind of prodding questions.
YOU ARE READING
*ONC 2020 SHORT LIST* Something evil dwells in the black lake by the misty woods, something that will claim the souls of those who dare to dive into its realm. Lynn Morris is ready to enjoy some well-deserved holidays in the company of her closest...