Floodwaters approach Annalee's house, but an even bigger threat is about to reveal itself in Kristina R Mosley's creepy short.
She paced in front of her kitchen sink, her light brown ponytail swaying back and forth. Her waterproof jacket swished when she moved, and her rain boots squeaked as she stomped. She glanced at the duffel bag on the couch, easily accessible should she have to evacuate quickly.
Her stomach growled, and she looked at the clock on the stove. It was 1:15 and her friend Keith was running late. He had offered to take her to lunch, but since she didn't want to leave her house unattended, he said he would come by with something. That had been an hour earlier.
"Guess I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth," she mumbled.
Someone knocked on her living room door. Thinking it was Keith, she yelled out, "Come in." The door slowly opened.
"Hi Annalee," an unexpected male voice said. Carl Statham, her next-door neighbor, stood in the doorway.
"Oh, hi, Carl. I thought you were someone else," she said, walking into the living room. "Come in out of the rain."
The small, balding man entered her house and stood by the front door. He took off his glasses and wiped them on his jacket. "I'm afraid I can't stay. I just came to ask if you've seen Freckles."
Annalee thought for a moment. She usually had to chase the Stathams' terrier-mix out of her yard at least once daily, but she didn't remember doing so since it started raining. "No, Carl, I sure haven't. Is he missing?"
"I'm afraid so. We were keeping him in because the water's getting closer, but he got out the back door yesterday. I hope he hasn't run away."
"Aw, poor thing. I'll keep an eye out for him."
"Okay, thank you. Sorry to have bugged you." Carl opened the door.
"No problem, Carl. Take care," she said with her hand on the doorknob.
"You, too," he replied. He returned to his house.
Annalee closed the door. "Yeah, I'll keep an eye out to make sure he doesn't come back," she grumbled. "Damn thing tried to bite me last I saw it."
She lifted the curtain of her living room window a bit and peeked out. She didn't see any sign of her neighbor's dog or Keith's red pick-up, but she did notice that the rain had stopped. She breathed a sigh of relief. Well, she thought, the water will rise a few more feet, but I should be okay.
Annalee clomped back into the kitchen. "I guess I could feed the raccoon while I wait," she said aloud. She rummaged through her cabinet and found a can of tuna. After opening it, she went through the laundry room and out the back door.
"Hey, raccoon," she called. She knew she shouldn't feed a wild animal, but she felt sorry for the creature. It had to be out in the rain, and the flooding probably prevented it from getting its normal food. She bent over and tapped the can against the concrete porch step. The clinking echoed off the trees, breaking the silence. The raccoon didn't appear.
"All right, suit yourself. I'll leave it out here for you." Annalee placed the can on the step and returned to the house.
Just as she walked inside, someone knocked. She trotted over to the front door and opened it. Before her stood a large strawberry-blond man with freckles all over his face. He held a white paper sack in one hand and a cardboard drink carrier in the other.
"Hey, Keith, come on in," she said, taking the food from him. "Did you have any trouble getting here?"
"Some," he said. He took off his jacket and placed it on the coat rack by the door. "Jefferson Street's closed."
Annalee set the food on the kitchen table. "That's the street behind this one," she said, a hint of concern in her voice. "I'll probably be okay, right?"
"I don't know. You'll just have to see."
She shrugged and divvied up the food and drinks. Keith sat down at the table. "How much do I owe you?" she asked.
"I don't want your money, Annalee."
"Are you sure?"
"The offer's going... going... gone." She sat down and took a sip of her milkshake. Banana, my favorite, she thought. She pulled some of the paper away from her chicken sandwich and was about to take a bite when she heard a dog barking outside.
She sighed. "Do you hear that?" she asked.
"Yeah," Keith replied.
Annalee threw down her sandwich and angrily scooted the chair away from the table. She stomped to her kitchen window. Carl Statham's brown and white dog Freckles stood in her yard, facing the floodwaters that were just a few feet from her house. She turned to her friend, who now looked outside with her. "I need get the damn dog back over to the neighbors." She walked over to the back door.
"Why don't you ever call animal control, especially after he tried to bite you?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. Carl's a nice guy; I wouldn't want him to have to pay a big fine." She opened the door. "C'mere, Freckles," she called in a friendly, high-pitched voice.
The dog looked at her for a moment, then turned back to bark at the water.
"Come here, boy," she said again.
This time, the dog didn't even look at her.
"Freckles," she growled. "Come here you -" Something large and brown shot out of the water. The object was about fifteen feet long and about one foot wide. The strange thing had white suction cups underneath.
"Son of a bitch," she whispered. Is that a tentacle? she wondered.
The tentacle snatched up Freckles and dragged him beneath the water. Annalee screamed. Something grabbed her from behind. She struggled against the force pulling her into the house.
"Hey, it's just me," Keith shouted, dragging the frantic woman the rest of the way into the laundry room. He slammed the door shut. "What the hell was that?"
"Did you see how it just pulled the dog under? Was that a tentacle?"
"You don't think it was an... octopus? I mean, it can't be, right?"
"Well, you saw the same thing I did," Keith asked.
"I guess so," Annalee replied, her eyes wide.
"It had to have been in the river, but how did an octopus get in the get there? Aren't they saltwater creatures?"
She looked at her friend. "I'm not concerned with how it got in the water so much as how I get it away from my house."
Annalee walked to the kitchen window and peered out. The floodwater was murky, but she saw long brown tentacles floating just below the surface. She followed the length of one of the appendages, but she couldn't find the creature's head. How big is it? she wondered. How deep is the water?
Something knocked against the back door. Both Keith and Annalee screamed.
"It wants in," she shouted. "We have to get out of here!"
They ran out the front door and into the yard. Their eyes drifted from Annalee's small gray car to Keith's large red truck. "Which do we take?" he asked.
"Your truck. You have four-wheel-drive and stuff."
They hopped into the automobile. "Okay, let's go," he said. He started the pick-up and backed out of the short driveway. He stopped.
"What are you doing? No cars are coming."
"Road's flooded on both sides. We can't get out." He drove back toward Annalee's small white house.
"But you're driving a truck. You can get through this."
"It only takes a couple of inches of water to wash an automobile off the road, and that was more than a couple of inches."
Annalee opened the door. "Fine. Let's just go back in the house." She slammed the door and ran.
Keith followed her into the house. "Okay, what do we do now?" he asked between gasps.
She glared at her friend. "How should I know?" she yelled.
"Just calm down."
"Calm down? How the hell am I supposed to calm down when there's a freaking octopus... thing in my backyard?"
"Well, we need to do something," Keith said softly.
"What would you do?"
"Call the cops?"
"And tell them there's an octopus in my yard?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"Better than doing nothing," Annalee said. She walked over to the partial dividing wall between her living room and kitchen where the phone sat. She picked it up and dialed the police. It rang fifteen times before anyone answered.
"Hello? Uh, Homer Police Department," a breathless female voice said.
"This is Annalee Allen at 702 Tucker Road. There's something in my yard."
"What kind of something?"
"I don't know, some kind of animal. I need help out here."
"The dog catcher's busy right now. Leroy Carter's hog got out and is wandering around Main Street."
"I didn't think farm animals were allowed in city limits."
The dispatcher sighed. "Apparently, they are. I can send him over after he gets the hog."
"This can't wait!" Annalee screamed. "This thing's dangerous. It ate my neighbor's dog."
"If you're concerned, maybe you can stay with a friend until the dog catcher can come out."
"Lady, water's across the road. I can't get out. Besides, I don't think the dog catcher can get this on his own. It's a giant octopus or something."
The other woman sighed into the phone again. "Listen here, I don't have time for this," she said angrily. "There are people who need real help, and you make a prank call. Goodbye." There was a click on the other end of the line, followed by a dial tone a few seconds later.
Annalee put the phone back on the receiver. "Well, that was a waste of time."
"Before the dispatcher accused me of making a prank phone call, she said she didn't know when someone could come out."
"What do we do now?" Keith asked.
"Sit in the house and hope the water recedes quickly?"
Annalee paced in front of her television for a few moments. "No, that won't work. I've never been the kind to sit idly by, especially when help's not coming."
Keith looked at her suspiciously. "What are you thinking, Annalee?"
"We fight the thing."
He jerked his head back as if she'd hit him. "How do you suppose we do that?"
"No clue. I've never fought an octopus before. How do you stop one?"
"Salt?" Keith offered.
"I think that's slugs, but thanks for trying." She then gasped, and her eyes widened.
"Oh, great, you have an idea," Keith muttered.
"Sure do." Annalee walked into the laundry room. She opened a red toolbox by the washing machine and pulled out a coiled rope. She rushed back to the dividing wall and tied one end of the rope to the beam that ran from the wall to the ceiling. She tied the other end around her waist and ran back to the laundry room.
"What on Earth are you doing?" her friend asked.
"You'll see." She took the mop and the broom from the corner of the room and held one in each of her hands. "Open the door, Keith."
"No way. This won't work. You'll get killed."
Annalee sighed. "We've been friends long enough to know that there are two ways of doing things: the right way and my way. Let's try my way, shall we?"
Keith shook his head and opened the back door.
She stepped onto her porch. "Hey, calamari, come here!" she called.
Brown tentacles burst from the water and reached for her. Annalee knocked them away with her makeshift weapons. The octopus grabbed the broom from her right hand, nearly pulling her arm with it. She now held the mop with both hands. Each time a tentacle moved toward her, she hit it as hard as she could.
One of the appendages wrapped around her right leg and pulled her toward the water. She fell on her back. The collision knocked the wind out of her. She let go of the mop and struggled, wheezing, into the house She entered the house and leaned against her dryer, never shaking the octopus's grip. The rope pressed into her abdomen. Each time the creature tugged, she bumped into the wall.
"Keith, help!" she screamed.
He ran into the kitchen and returned with the largest meat cleaver Annalee had. He hacked into the tentacle. Blue blood sprayed all over the room, Annalee, and Keith. Soon, she was free, and the offending limb shot back into the water.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yeah," she replied. She threw the tip of the tentacle into the water and stood. She and Keith watched a trail of blue form in the murky water. There was movement in the trees. Ripples drifted away, back toward the river.
"Is it leaving?" she wondered.
"Looks like it," Keith replied. "I guess we were just too much for it."
Annalee glared at him.
"What?" he said. "If it weren't for me, that thing would've pulled you in."
"Yeah, but I did all the work up until that point." She limped to the kitchen and sat down at the table. She wiped her hands on a napkin and picked up her sandwich.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm eating before my food gets cold and my milkshake melts. Would you care to join me?" She gestured to the seat across the table.
Keith shrugged and walked over. He placed the cleaver in the sink, washed his hands and sat down. As he picked up his burger, he stared at Annalee.
"You have something on your face," he said, pointing to his.
"Oh." She picked up a napkin and dabbed at her face. Blue smeared on the paper. "Did I get it?" she asked.
Keith smiled. "Yeah, sure." He took a bite out of his burger, and the two friends ate their meals in silence.