The marsh had been extremely pungent this afternoon. All day it had stunk, but this afternoon it seemed to be so much stronger. Brad noticed the smell continued to grow as time slowly ticked away. His partner, JW, didn’t seem fazed by it one bit. The old man was much accustomed to the tidal scent of the low country. The man grew old on this smell.
Brad, on the other hand, was relatively new to it. And he hated it. Having moved from up north near Chicago, he had yet to be indoctrinated in the coastal South’s muggy summer evenings and marsh-stink. He was use to city smells like traffic exhaust and refineries. How he ended up down here in Savannah was a story in itself.
His ex-wife was born and raised here, so of course once they got married, they had to move back here. She just had to be near her family. Brad left his good-paying office job in the city to come down and work for his father-in-law‘s landscaping company. Which was fine, he had no problem working for the man or hard labor, except for the fact that once they got divorced, he lost his job too. She cheats on him, so he loses his job. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
And that’s pretty much how he ended up here on this god-forsaken boat in the middle of the stinking marsh. More or less. When the economy tanked, he didn’t have many choices on the job front. A friend found him this job and when you’re broke, you’ll take anything.
“Does it always smell this bad?” he asked.
“What smell?” huffed the old man.
Brad heard him swear under his breath. He decided to ignore it, as the two men had already had their post-civil war conversations. It’s amazing how after over a hundred and fifty years, the resentment for each other still lingered between the north and south. Brad didn’t even consider himself a Yankee. He was originally from Virginia, which if you knew your history, was a part of the Confederacy. But if you come up from up north and you have an inkling of an opinion, you just became a “damn Yankee.” Brad could care less what the old redneck had to say.
Their small fishing boat puttered along the coastal waterway. He didn’t have all the names down yet, but if he remembered right, this was Turner’s Creek. It had been a pretty unsuccessful day. All they were returning to dock with was empty nets and sour attitudes. Brad saw the dock off in the distance. Too far it seemed. This day seemed to have lasted forever. In the hot Georgia heat, five minutes seemed like forever, much less ten hours. The only thing that mattered to Brad right now was the frosty six pack of cold beer at the house.
Brad walked to the front of the boat to the anchor hoist. It was rusty and slow, but still better than dragging the chain up by hand. He had the anchor on the deck by the time they pulled up to the dock. The two dock hands, Julio and Alberto, were there waiting on them, ready to secure the boat and the equipment.
They were good guys, illegal, but good guys nonetheless. Brad didn’t know what loop holes they jumped through to get their jobs, but that’s the thing with illegal immigrants; they’re cheap labor. And the guys didn’t care. Most of what they made, they sent back to their families in Mexico and what they didn’t, they spent on tequila and beer. Brad spent many a night getting tanked with the two amigos.
As Brad began to put things away, the two dock hands and JW began to secure the boat to the floating dock. He put the few fishing poles they had back onto the racks, but as he did, he noticed something floating nearby the shore. At first, he didn’t recognize what the shape was, but very quickly his mind figured out the familiar object. It was a human body.
“There’s a body in the river!” he yelled, jumping into the shallow, brackish water.
The three others took notice of the alarm in Brad’s voice and ran along the shore to where Brad was standing. He reached the body, which he now knew to be a young, Asian woman’s. He grabbed her by the shoulders, yanking her down-turned face out of the water.
“Miss! You alright?!”
Her body was limp. Cold. Lifeless.
“Lady?” This time more concern filled his voice.
Nothing. JW kneeled down at the shore. His face had softened. It was no longer the stern, grumpy face that he sported at all times. This face was much gentler. More concerned.
“Brad…” he said.
“LADY!” Brad screamed, giving the woman’s body a firm shake.
“Brad,” JW tried again.
“We gotta do something. CPR or something!” Brad shouted.
JW just shook his head.
“Brad,” he started. “She’s gone…”
Brad couldn’t believe him. He kept looking at the girl’s pale white face, thinking to himself that she couldn’t be dead. This can’t be real. This isn’t the way his day was supposed to end. Hell, this wasn’t the way her life was supposed to end.
Not like this. Not like this, he thought to himself.
He closed his eyes tight, trying to see if he could wake up from this nightmare. He tried to put himself somewhere else, somewhere happier. At home, with his beer. But as he was trying to focus his mind elsewhere, he felt movement in his arms.
His eyes shot back open to see the girl beginning to stir back to life.
“She’s alive!” he yelled.
The others lifted up their heads to see. Julio and Alberto began to smile and light up, but JW look worried. Something was not right in his mind. Something was not right.
“She’s alive! She’s alive!” Brad yelped.
She moaned again, this time louder and longer. She seemed in pain or agony. Her hands slowly but stiffly grabbed onto Brad’s arms. Her body seemed rigid and tense.
“Miss? You all right? What happened?” John asked rapid fire.
She froze. Her head slowly tilted to the left, looking Brad directly in the face. When she moved her head, she revealed a fatal looking wound in her neck. It was a dark purple and reeked of infection.
“Ma’am? You okay?”
Brad began to grow uneasy. That wound looked like it should have killed her. Actually, there should be no reason to why she was moving right now. It was then that the look of concern on JW’s face made sense. This woman should have been dead.
Her eyes shot open. They were pitch black; her pupils non-existent. Brad tried to set her back down, but her grasp tightened around his arms as she began to pull him in closer. He struggled to push her off of him and began to panic.
“Lady, let go!” he yelled.
There’s no way she should be this strong, she’s so tiny, his mind raced.
But despite her small frame, the woman pulled him closer, her jaw moving up and down. JW jumped into the water and began to try and pry the young woman off of Brad. Both men struggled to fight off the tiny woman’s unwelcome advances. JW slipped on the river bottom, falling backwards and giving the girl enough momentum to plunge forwards.
She sank her teeth into Brad’s neck.
He screamed as the others watched on in horror. She continued to bite down on his neck. Her teeth taking out huge chunks of meat. Brad no longer fought back. He felt his body slip into shock. The pain both excruciating and numbing at the same time. His eyes began to roll back into his head, his body convulsing. JW rushed back to his feet, while Julio and Alberto ran away screaming. He grabbed the girl, this time successfully pulling her away from Brad. But as he pulled her off, she turned, using the motion and sunk her teeth into JW’s face. Brad sunk into the water, breathing his last remaining breaths. Blood spurted from his exposed jugular, turning the surrounding water a brownish-red.
JW was now screaming as the girl began to eat his face. He could barely hold her at bay. The blood poured down his face, his eyes burning. He used what last bit of energy he had to give one final push, knocking the deranged woman off of him and over to the side. He could barely see, his own blood obscuring his vision. His face seemed numb around the bite marks.
He scrambled back a few feet on his backside. Wiping what blood he could away from his eyes, he noticed that there were now two shadows standing over him.
Brad’s neck was no longer bleeding but the same dark, purple as the girl’s open wound. His eyes were also now black and he moaned in agony, just as the girl had earlier.
“Brad?” JW asked, wondering if his partner could still understand him.
Brad, or whatever you call the shell of him, looked at JW with a dead stare. His mouth began to move up and down, teeth clattering. The two shambled towards JW and began to finish what the girl had started.
JW screamed but quickly went silent as Brad ripped into his abdomen, spilling the old man’s intestines into the mud. The two dead kneeled down and began to eat the man while he was still alive.