A Short Story by Daniel J. Smith

Copyright ©1997 All Rights Reserved

The old man appeared from nowhere. Mark's heart jumped at the sudden
specter of the hunched and shriveled man on the
other side of the gate. "W-where'd you come from, man?" Mark was
annoyed by his own stutter.

The Realtor was miles away, barking incessantly into her cellular
phone. With the back of her blue silk suit to Mark, she hadn't
noticed the whispering old man.

"Stay away from the pool, young man. Flee this property! This is a
place where violent crimes and unclean spirits once danced
in malevolent splendor. Be certain the menace lingers." The old man's
voice trailed off at the end of the warning. His blue veined
hand clasped his own throat as if the words brought him pain. His
words, spoken in a thick Rumanian accent, echoed in Mark's
mind.

Mark felt a presence behind him and twisted his thin frame around. He
was startled to see the Realtor had lumbered over to the
gate of the pool yard, right behind him, without his hearing. "What
did he want, Dr. Layton?" Her voice was a piercing siren in
the calm of the gardens and nearby forest. "He was warning me against
this place. The pool to be precise. He said something
about crimes being committed here?" "Oh, never mind him Dear! That
silly old man must be ninety, he's probably senile!" She
clucked loudly, amused by her own words. She prattled on even as Mark
rolled his eyes and dismissed her sales pitch. Mark
hated sales people. Snakes and scumbags, he always said. Only caring
about the commission, never the human involved.

As he turned away from the woman, toward the pool yard, he noticed the
old man had vanished in that moment. Mark
wondered how the old guy with his twisted skeleton had disappeared so
quick, where did he go? He must have known a secret
pathway through the looming wall of ancient Hemlock standing vigil at
the property line. Yes, he must have slipped into the
crushing foliage through a path he'd walked before. Mark forgot the
old man's warning as he opened the heavy wrought iron
gate to the pool yard.

The gate swung smooth on it's ancient hinges. In spite of the lack of
care and lubrication over the last few decades, it didn't
squeak. "Is there a caretaker running this house?" He blurted with out
listening for the answer. "No sir. Our company comes by
periodically to keep things presentable. You know, we have our boys
come out and mow the lawn, trim the hedge out front,
sweep the walks, rake the leaves. I come out myself and replace burnt
out light bulbs, and I even washed the front windows
once!" On and on she went.

Mark's full attention was captured by the wild beauty of the pool
yard. He was transported back in time as he drank in the
splendor of the landscape. He could hear the chamber orchestra's
lilting elegance waft through the mixture of precious vines and
blossoms. Sticky burgeoning garlands drip their sweet honey onto every
molecule of air. It's nineteen twenty three, Mark is
standing nude on the diving board, preparing a swan dive to thrill the
blonde goddess reclined on the comfortable chaise where
they had moments ago made exquisite love. His sinew pulled tight over
his lanky frame, he appeared as Adonis posed on a
pedestal, waiting for the sculptor to finish. The woman traced the
silky whiteness of her torso with her fingertips as she watched
her man perform. She purred as she tasted his love still moist on her
trembling lips.

"Watch this one, Flora!" He sprang from the board in slow motion, high
into the air. The tight muscles of his nude form moved
gracefully through the air like a panther leaping from a bough. His
dive was perfection, he slipped into the water like a whisper.
Staying beneath the surface, he swam to the far end of the pool.
Breaching the calm surface near the wall, he exhaled, a hiss of
air and water sprayed into the moist evening air. "What do you think?
Olympian?" He winked. His laughter filled Flora with joy.
"Yes, my exquisite one, Olympian indeed!" She sprang from her resting
place to join her lover. Her body glistening with sweet
perspiration as she slipped into the tepid water. Her undulating
silhouette moved slowly under the surface with each kick of her
long legs. Her aim was true, she swallowed Mark's waiting body with
her own. The heat from her thumping heart drew Mark
into her passion. They were swooshing through the water as mating
otters. Swirling from one end of the pool to the other
without breaking the bond.

"Doctor Layton? Are you all right?" The pesky Realtor pushed Mark from
his dream. "Yes, I'm fine. How long since the pools
been used?" Off she goes again, "Oh, my dear! It's been at least
twenty years, maybe thirty. You know the old woman that
owned the house disappeared thirty years ago, back in the sixties. She
was pushing seventy when she vanished, she must be
dead by now. You know her daddy built this house for her in the year
nineteen hundred and nineteen. She lived here alone for
some time, just her and her servants. Then one day she was gone! There
was talk among the servants of mysterious doings, you
know, seances and such, before she vanished. They say her lover
abandoned her the week before they were to be married. I
heard her father had him murdered! Such scandal for those times! My
goodness. But never mind about that, you'll probably fill
in the pool in and put tennis courts here, we'll just rip out all of
these old gardens and.." "NO!" Mark shouted into her shocked
face. "I won't be tearing any of these gardens out, and certainly
won't be filling the pool in! This is the most charming part of the
house!" The Realtor seemed flushed, "Well, just come inside for a
moment Doctor Layton, let's look around the house. We'll
get you a glass of cold water, are you sure you're all right?"

Mark abruptly turned away, and walked further into the pool yard,
exploring it's niches and secret gardens. Luxurious in it's
landscaping once, the pool area was growing wild and full. Slate
pathways that once led to fountains and specimen gardens
were overgrown by the specimens. Many were impassable. Mark strode
along the lazy L' shape of the pool, absorbing the
history. His mind painted vivid pictures of the former elegance of the
lush pool yard. The vast lush gardens surround the pool
with bulbous, plump blossoms too many to number. A ripe potpourri of
heavy fragrances dripped like fluid from the air. Mark's
mouth watered. He could see the beauty of the pool and it's
surrounding yard as it was, and how he would make it again.

"Doctor Layton, I really didn't think this pool would be much of a
selling point. It really needs a lot of work, just look!" Her
hand covered her mouth and nose as she gestured toward the pool. He
said, "I think it's lovely. Just lovely." His face crimped in
thought.

The pool itself was in massive disrepair. In all those years, the blue
basin collected many things. Nearly three feet of stagnant
water had collected in the deep end of the lazy L' shape. The thick,
murky green color of the fluid was a sharp contrast to the
bright blue of the cement walls. The walls shot seven feet to the
mosaic of tiles around the lip of the pool. The pool floor gently
inclined along the angle of the L' to the dry shallow end. The thick
green water stopped about twelve feet up the rise. A
decaying menagerie added it's compost to the putrid cauldron. Mice,
squirrels, moles, rabbits, toads, had all spilled their
essence into the pool.

Not everything in the pool was dead. Mosquito larvae pinched sideways
through the thick liquid. Warmed nicely by the
mid-summer sun, fed thoroughly by the high nutrient concentration in
the water, they grew to enormous size. A few feet away
from the dark green edge of the water, a hapless raccoon's bloated
corpse pulsed with hidden life. A war between rot-gorged
maggots and angry yellow hornets raged with fury beneath the coon's
matted coat. The swollen raccoon shared the shallow end
with hundreds of crispy toads. Blackened by the sun, they were like
burnt toad cookies pulled from some demented witches
oven, toes curled toward the sky. Then there were flies. Black and
biting.

"Yes, the flies have been particularly bad this summer, we're hoping
the dry weather we've been having will clear them away.."
Blah, blah, blah, etcetera, etcetera, the Realtor babbled on. "Sure",
Mark thought, "dry weather and cleaning up this horrid
mess will clear the problem right up".

As he stepped around the far side of the pool the Realtors cellular
phone bleated, she flipped it open. Off she went again,
prattling incessantly about nothing to some poor sap. Mark's glance
was captured by a spark of luminescence beckoning from
a deep green enclosure. He waded through the vines and ferns,
whispering someone's name.

The struggle through the brush heightened Mark's anticipation as he
reached the end of his trek. Thick sap filled vines broke
and pulled away as Mark tore through them. The spark of light was
coming from here! The glow grew stronger as he pulled the
ivy away. He knelt to study his prize. A glistening white and pink
statue. Enrapt by the magnificent beauty of the statue before
him, he had to touch, had to feel the cool stone. A small blue spark
snapped at his fingertip as he began to caress the statue.
Her smooth skin pushed out of the spongy ground as though she had
grown there. Her legs pressed firmly together, one a bit in
front of the other, knee bent. The generous curve of her ample
buttocks accentuated by the superbly tapered hand resting on
her left hip. As Mark ran his hands slowly down her four foot frame,
he could almost sense the statue quiver with excitement.
Strange memories swarmed his mind.

The statue was white alabaster, perfectly sculpted in the likeness of
a flawless beauty. Marks fingers traced her torso with a
loving touch, as his mind flashed snapshots of endless lovemaking with
Flora. Her smell, her touch, her taste filled his senses.
His caress flowed past her ample breast, to the little hollow at the
base of her sublime throat. "Is that a pulse I feel?" He asked
himself. What a lovely throat, to kiss, to lick, to taste her salt.
That was where the human likeness ended. The flower erupting
from that perfect throat was huge, pink, and solid rock. It appeared
as an open umbrella grown upside down from her lovely
throat. Mark could not shift his gaze from her form.

"Doctor Layton!" The Realtor barked. "Shall we look INSIDE the house?"
The woman showed disgust at Mark's display for
the statue. Her expression questioned his sanity as he spoke. "That
won't be necessary. I'll take it." Flabbergasted, the Realtor
was for the first time in many years, at a loss for words. "S-shall we
sign the papers at my office then?" "Yes, yes, I'll be along
presently. I know the way back to town, don't wait for me."

As the Realtor crunched the gravel driveway, slapping at the flies,
she whispered to herself. "Scandalous! I've never seen such
perversion! Tsk, Tsk, Tsk." Her tongue tisked many times as she shook
her head while walking back to her car.

The night was upon them. Mark slid into his Jag, strapped himself in,
and drove slowly away from the house. He wondered
absently if the Realtor had noticed his prominent arousal when she
startled him at the statue. "Fuck her if she can't take a joke!"
Mark laughed as he set off to the Realtors office.

As he drove the gravel road, he couldn't stop thinking about the
statue. Visions of the pool yard and the pool swam into his
consciousness. Once again he way carried off through time, back to the
roaring twenties. A life of privilege and contentment
was his. His and Flora's.

"Come along, Darling." She beckoned. "Let's take a swim." Her smile
gleamed in the afternoon light. It shamed the roses. Her
robe slipped over those splendid pale shoulders, then fell to the
ground. One hand on her throat, she reached out with the other,
"Join me lover. Please join me." Mark was quick to oblige, the buttons
sprang from his shirt as he tore it away. Flora giggled as
he nearly fell over getting out of his boxers. Time stood still,
silent. Mark moved to the edge of the pool without walking. He
went to her, floating through the air. He willed himself to her, over
the cool green grass, nearer the pool. "Flora." He said.

Mark thumped rudely from his daydream the moment he slapped face down
in the shallow end of the pool. The coppery taste
of his own blood oozed thick from the laceration his porcelain caps
ripped in his upper lip. His first thought was of his precious
porcelain caps, then of the blood, then the pool. "How the hell did I
get here?" He hadn't remembered driving back to the
house, or coming back to the pool yard. How did he come to nose dive
into the crispy toad covered basin? The rancid
raccoon's pungent stench slapped Mark like a wicked stepmother. He
gagged violently. The sight of the smarmy bloated animal
would have been enough, but the smell! He was racked with tremors as
he stood and tried to climb out from the blue death pit.

Mark's breath stopped in mid-gag as he saw the crimson river flowing
from his face was being sucked into the greedy concrete.
It soaked in as fast as warm mother's milk into a hungry baby. Mark
felt weak, physically drained. He sat hard on the floor of
the pool. His teeth bit hard into his blood soaked tongue, drawing
more juice for the pool. He became too lethargic and light
headed to care about the agonizing wound in his mouth. He slumped and
fell hard on his left, slamming his succulent head into
the pavement. It sounded like a cantaloupe dropped out a third floor
window. Darkness came unnoticed to the pool yard.

Later that night, as the Realtor paced her office, she worried that
her mouth had blown another deal. "Why can't I control my
mouth?" She wondered aloud. Mark was very late. "Did that pervert get
lost?" His car phone and pager went unanswered. She
paced, flipping her cell phone open, pushing redial, and slapping it
closed. "Damn it!" She stopped to drum her fingers on the
counter. Suddenly her deadly frown broke into a plastic smile. "That
son of a bitch must still be at the house!" She grabbed her
jacket and bag as she sprinted out the door.

As she spun wildly into the drive, she nearly slammed into Mark's Jag.
It sat on an angle just back of the hedge, blocking the
entire path. She pulled herself out and ran over to the Jag. The
driver's side door was wide open, casting an eerie yellow glow
into the night. She peered in. Nothing. Slamming the door, she said,
"Shit! What the hell goes ON here?" She called for him,
"DOCTOR LAYTON!" Not even a cricket answered. "That asshole." She
crunched along the long gravel drive to the iron gate
of the pool yard. "MARK!" Her calls were futile.

Suddenly goose flesh crawled on her like ants at a picnic. A feeling
of unwelcome overcame her. Dread filled her lungs. She
turned an about face at the gate, and sprinted to her car. She had not
heard the leaves rustling on the far side of the pool. Near
the dark end, the deep end, a slow building groan could be heard.
Crackling, snapping, wriggling. Pushing laboriously from the
musk laden earth, just to the left of the statue, was a new eternal
flower. The bright yellow snap-dragon thrust slowly from the
earth's yielding crust. Soon Mark would be complete. He would stand
beside his beloved Flora, forever.

Huddled just off the pool yard, hidden deep in the Hemlock shadows,
the shriveled old man sobbed silently into his twisted
fingers. "Why won't you take me back Flora? Why?" He wept louder.
"Your father made me take the money. He said
he'd kill me if I married you. Why can't you forgive me?"
"Homosexual necrophelia is no laughing matter!", said Frank in
dead Earnest!!