The Watery Horror by Peter F. Guenther

There had to be a reason for all of these kids to be committing suicide.

From Television News Story, July 13th:

Another teenager has apparently taken his life in the rash of copycat suicides which have plagued the city for the past week. This teen went to greater lengths than the others we've seen. He was riding the Metro from DC into Virginia when, on the bridge over the Potomac, he forced an emergency stop, forced one of the train car's doors, and plunged into the river below.

Several passengers on the Metro attempted to restrain the youth before he jumped to his death.

(Cut to clip of Metro passenger; man in early middle-age, beginning to bald.)

"He pulled the emergency stop, you know, and then the door release. When he started to pry the door open, a couple of us tried to stop him. I grabbed his shoulder, but without even looking, he threw me off and I landed a good ten feet away. By the time I was standing again he was gone. I mean, this kid was strong -- way stronger than he looked. I dunno how he forced that door open -- I didn't think they could do that."

Interviewer: "Do you have any idea why he jumped?"

(Another passenger interrupts.)

"Yeah, man, I was sitting next to him, and he kept muttering the whole time. 'They've kept their promise!' he said. 'It took seventy years but they've kept their promise. I can join them now.' Stuff like that. The guy was nuts, man -- and it looked like he hadn't been sleeping well either. His eyes were all . . . glazed over. Never blinked either."

(Switch back to newscaster.)

As in all of the previous cases, no body has yet been found. The teen, submerged in the Potomac, where his body is believed to be held by underwater trash. The river is being searched tonight. Authorities believe they know the identity of the teen from relatives' reports, but they are withholding the name at the moment.

In an odd follow-up to our previous stories, none of the bodies have yet been found. At this point, ten teenagers, from mixed backgrounds in city and suburb, have attempted to drown themselves. All are believed dead, but again, police have been unable to locate a single body.


From the Diary of Justine Leones:

July 14

Richard committed suicide yesterday. My parents told me about it this morning. I can't believe it! Why would he do this to me? Wasn't he happy? It seemed like he was. At least until a couple of weeks ago -- but he still didn't seem unhappy. Just preoccupied. His mind was always somewhere else. He'd never tell me why, though. I'd ask him and he wouldn't tell me. He couldn't have been sleeping well, either; he started falling asleep all the time, in the middle of the day.

Some of my friends are saying that he started doing drugs. They say that's the only thing that makes sense -- why else the mood swings, why the sudden sleepiness? But I know Richard wasn't doing that stuff. He never would; he hated drugs and what they'd done to some of his friends. But if he wasn't doing drugs, why did he change so much?

While I'm thinking about it, I realize that his appearance didn't just change because he looked sleepy. His skin got paler, almost gray, too; and his eyes were swollen beyond a lack of sleep, I think. Maybe he had some disease that no one knows about yet.


The police stopped by. They wanted to ask me about Rick, seeing as I was his girlfriend and all. They wanted to know if he was depressed; if I knew of anything that was upsetting him later, if I had broken up with him or he had problems in his family. What could I tell them? He loved his family. I loved him. He made good grades last year -- or at least better than what he's used to. He was looking forward to things, like the concert we were supposed to go to next week. Why would he do this? I just don't understand.

Oh, and they wanted to know if I knew any of the other kids that drowned themselves. I never met any of them! Half of them don't live anywhere near here. If Rick knew any of them, I'd know about it, too; but he didn't.

July 15

It's been two days now and they still haven't found Rick's body. I can't believe it. It's bad enough that he's gone, but they can't even prove that the guy that jumped was really Rick. I mean, people's descriptions of him fit and we haven't seen him, but how do we know it's not some other guy?

I'm so upset over all this. I've started having nightmares about it. Last night I dreamed of Rick drowned. He was still underwater and I was down there with him and his body was changed from being down there so long. His eyes were bulgy and he limbs were . . . just wrong. I don't know. He wouldn't talk to me either; he wouldn't tell me why he did it, just kept gesturing for me to follow him. I tried to get away but I couldn't move.

I want to get out of this city. I never liked DC to begin with and now it's just terrible without Richard. And it's so hot, and worst of all, it's really starting to smell.

July 16

I had the dream again last night. When I wouldn't follow Richard he came nearer, and I could see just how much the water had done to him. And all the other kids who've drowned themselves lately, they were all there too and they looked like him. They all started to drag me along. I could smell them, too; they were rotting underwater, like seaweed and dead fish and stuff.

I finally woke up, but when I woke up the smell was still there. That's when I realized what the city smelled like -- dead fish. They say it's just because of all the hot weather and no wind for a while, but why should the city smell like that many fish?

The police still haven't found any bodies, not in the Potomac or the other places where other kids drowned themselves. There are now seventeen kids people have seen drown, and a bunch more they think did the same thing because nobody's seen them in so long. A couple of the last kids I'd met at parties and stuff, but I still can't figure out what any of them had in common. Why are so many of them killing themselves?

We got a call from Uncle Frank last night. He heard about Rick and he's taking a trip down here. I think he's hoping to cheer me up. I love Uncle dearly, but I don't think much could cheer me up right now.

July 17

My mom's all on my case because I'm not doing anything. She says I just sit around moping all the time, that I need to get out and get my mind off things. Why should I? She never even liked Rick. She's probably glad he's dead. I'm so fed up with all this.

I hate the smell of this city! It's all over my clothes and my hair and me now! Ugh!


I just got off the phone with Tiffany. It turns out her cousin is another one of the kids that drowned himself -- only her family hasn't told anybody. They don't want the attention. They searched the water for him and couldn't find him, so they know he's got to be dead by now. If families aren't telling the police, like Tiffany's, I wonder how many kids have really done this now?

But that wasn't why I was writing this. I'm starting to get scared because Tiffany's been having dreams like mine. Only Richard's not in them, it's her cousin and some of the others. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that we're having the same dreams; that fishy smell is enough to put the ideas in everyone's mind, and everyone's mind's been on the deaths lately.

Still, I don't like my dreams. My eyes are starting to look bloodshot and swollen, because I'm not getting enough sleep. I've noticed a bunch of people like that now. Only kids though; the adults look fine. I haven't heard anybody's parents talking about nightmares either.

July 18

Five more drownings yesterday. Still no bodies. I don't know why I even bother to write that anymore. They're talking about opening up the schools next week and making everybody come in and get counseling. The teachers are saying no way, though.

A girl from my school was one of those yesterday, but I didn't know her. And there's something else starting to happen -- people are disappearing. A few guys were out walking last night and never came back, and there are other cases like that. They weren't anywhere near the water though. They were older, too; ten or twenty years older than anybody they've seen drowning themselves.

I hate this summer. The smell is all over the place; even when I shower I can't get it off my skin. And Rick's gone; I'm so lonely. I feel like I don't know anyone anymore; everyone's acting all weird. And half of my friends aren't here anymore; their families took them away on vacations to get them away from all these suicides. At least Uncle Frank's coming tomorrow.

July 19

Uncle Frank is here. His train got delayed right after he left Arkham, but he didn't get here too late. He came off the train all smiles, but when he saw me he stopped and got this real worried look. I mean, I know I haven't been sleeping well (the dreams keep coming, same thing every night), but does it show that much?

When he hugged me, he accidentally pulled out some of my hair. I don't think he noticed, but I saw it on the station's floor as we left. Just came right out. I tested later -- a little tug on some hair and it's gone. What's happening to me?

As I'm writing this, I can hear Uncle talking to my parents. He sounds really upset about something -- not upset, really, but . . . emphatic. I don't know what they're talking about.

Oh, in my dreams, Richard and the others have started talking to me, but it's not English, and it's not Spanish. It's no language I've ever heard before. They keep chanting the same thing over and over again; it sounds like -- well, there's no way I could write down those sounds they're making. It's all "Tyooloo" this and "fuhtoggon" that.


I found out what Uncle Frank was talking to my parents about. He thinks we need to take a vacation for a while. He's offered his house in Massachusetts to us for a few weeks, and my parents can't really afford to take the time off work, but he's convinced them to do it. We're leaving tomorrow already!

I thought I'd be glad to get out of the city, but I'm not. I don't want to be away when they find Rick. Why can't they find him?


Statement of Francisco Leones to Police:

I don't expect you to believe a whole lot of what I have to say, but then, I don't care. I have nothing to prove to you people. You saw the results of what I did and why I did it, and I think that's enough. If you can't accept what I have to say, you'll just have to come up with some other explanation.

I grew up in DC, you know. A long time ago, when the city was a lot less built up. And I still know this city; I can still feel when it's right and when it's wrong. When I came on the train a week ago, I knew something was very, very wrong.

When I was young I used to walk along some of the rivers and creeks in the area. The Potomac -- it was a lot cleaner then. The Anacostia. Rock Creek. The various places you had your "drownings." Each had its own call to me -- but not a call like these children felt. They were beautiful things; they had life about them. The tiny frogs. The fish. Each had their place. And we destroyed it. We fouled our own nest, and now we suffer from that foulness. Life is out of whack in our cities now. Sooner or later, something like this had to happen. We live in a delicate balance on this earth, and when we tip that balance, we can invite terrors we never suspected to exist to come take some kind of revenge. That's what happened here. The Deep Ones have lived on this planet for longer than mankind, but we opened the doors of our city to them.

Ever been up to Massachusetts? The coast? Didn't think so. Beautiful place, but of course it's got its dark side, too. There are lots of mysteries there we can't solve, or don't even know exist, that we would try to solve them. I know of one of those mysteries; the Deep Ones. They're intelligent creatures that live out in the ocean, far below, and wait for the day when their beloved ocean conquers all and they rule supreme. Again. We'd call them evil, just as they'd call us evil. Our ways of life are inimical. We cannot thrive without harming them and pushing them deep into the oceans; they cannot have total reign without drowning our cities. And, of course, a balance escapes us.

I've studied these Deep Ones for some time. I'm on the faculty of biology at Miskatonic University, and while my published papers deal with more scientifically documented species, my true interest lies with these others.

They've tried to destroy humanity, you know. A few centuries ago, they figured that if they can't beat us, they can drown the humanity out of our blood by breeding. They starting making allies and mating. They were lured to the coast of the US by the greed of a few men. Again, no balance; that greed loosed a tide of horror that we're still wading in. When they failed in Innsmouth, they decided that success depended on their taking control of the human race very rapidly -- before people would realize what was happening and take steps to counteract it. The key to this was to take control of a large metropolitan area. And so they brooded, deep in the ocean, for seventy years. And once their plan was complete they unleashed it on Washington DC. They came close to success, too. For all I know at this point, they achieved it.

Enough background. You don't believe any of this anyway. Let's tell the story like you want it told.

As I said, I've studied the Deep Ones for some years, investigating sightings, once in a while being able to observe them myself. I have a cottage not far from Innsmouth and it's got a good view of Devil's Reef . . . I consider my knowledge of them to be as advanced as any living human's; sometimes I even kid myself that I understand the way their minds work.

When I heard the news reports from DC, it was one of those times. It fit very neatly. In an average year in the US, about a dozen people commit exactly the kind of suicide you've been having. Somebody, either in late puberty or pretty old, just wanders out into the ocean or some body of water leading to it, submerge, and are never seen again? It's one of those things that isn't supposed to happen, so people invent stories. Reasons why the person committed suicide. Why the body was never found. So these incidents don't get much attention. But to have so many in short order . . . that gets attention.

What could cause behavior on such a large scale? When such "drownings" occur, it's because the person who did it is returning to his Deep One roots. Usually, he's a pretty close descendant of a human-Deep One pairing. But to get so many instances, all at once, in a single metropolitan area . . .

My first thought was that there had been a major breeding campaign by the Deep Ones and that these children were the offspring of it. Something caused them to mature more quickly and return to the ocean. But no -- I did some historical research, and nothing that happened in the late seventies and early eighties says to me that the Deep Ones were breeding here. For one thing, the children came from all over, not just this area. And at the time, there weren't strange "monster sightings," mysterious pregnancies, misshapen miscarriages -- nothing to suggest a strong Deep Ones presence. And when I saw my own niece starting to go through the transformation . . . She had no Deep One blood. Of that I'm sure.

So the Deep Ones had found a way to cause evolution -- or devolution -- in humans. And naturally, it would happen to teens. They're the ones growing the most. Raging hormones. Flip a few hormonal switches and that growth turns off one path and onto another. So how did they get these hormones to such a large population?

My first guess was right. Water. It's their natural element, for one thing, but it's also the most universal thing. Almost everyone in an area depends on the local water supply. Nothing else could affect such a large population so quickly.

A quick check of the maps proved me correct. All of the kids who had "drowned" were in areas serviced by the same system of water treatment plants. So I reached my conclusion: the Deep Ones were putting some kind of hormone or hormone-altering substance in the water. A quick lab test of the water proved me right; there were some very odd, very potent biological substances there.

So I paid a visit to an old friend who's an engineer at a DC water treatment plant. Not the plant I felt sure was affected, but this guy had a high enough rank that he could get me access to that one. I met with him one evening and presented my findings. Not the "who" and the "why" -- simply what I had found in the water, the levels at which it was present, and that it had an effect on the mind that could induce odd behavior, even these suicides. I bent the truth a little. Anyhow, he was anxious to spare his employer negative publicity, so he consented to letting me tour the affected plant. I was eager to get going, so I convinced him to take me that night.

The plant had a very small staff at night; a few engineers to supervise it, some security, some janitorial help. We knew at once that something was indeed amiss, because every one of them we found asleep at his station. It was not a natural sleep, either; there was some drug there to help them along. Not a one could be roused.

My friend and I went deeper into the plant to do some investigating. Naturally, a place like that has a fair amount of water around; leakage, condensation, and so on. But kelp? And wet, webbed footprints? It was when the footprints began that my friend suspected I knew more than I was sharing. He was all for calling the police right away; I reminded him that he had wanted to avoid publicity and nothing would bring it down on him like calling the police. He was getting really nervous, so I suggested that he go to the main office and wait for me. He wouldn't have been much help to me beyond that point anyhow.

Once he had taken my advice, I drew my hidden assistant -- a Glock 9mm. If I had known the odds I was up against I wouldn't have been so bold.

I began to follow the footprints warily, knowing that sooner or later I would run into one of the things I had studied for so long yet loathed so intently. It was a hellish duty I had; to be in such close quarters with the Deep Ones made me shudder as I walked. There was one thought that kept me going: I owed this to Justine and to all her friends. If I didn't take care of this problem, young innocents would suffer and, for that matter, all our future was at stake. So I kept going, in the face of an overpowering fish stench that made me want to retch, so strongly did it overcome the competing chlorine. I kept going, following a trail of footprints that should not be, footprints that our ancestors dreaded so much that the revulsion is ingrained in us.

I had gone a few turns further and began a long, straight corridor when I realized I had misjudged my opponents. I didn't know when the change had happened, but there was one fewer set of footprints. They had left a guard and that guard was now behind me. I knew I had to take him out, even though in the other direction there were untold numbers. I just hoped I could do it stealthily.

My mind processed all this in an instant. In that instant, however, the guard had crept up on me. It was only a sloshing footstep that gave him away. I wheeled around, leading with my gun, only to find huge glassy eyes and a fishy face staring into my own. The reek of decayed sea life hit me from his breath and I all but reeled. He had my gun arm and was reaching for my neck with the other, probably to break it.

I dropped faster than his arm could follow and went onto my back, lifting him into the air and pushing him back with my feet. I had gone far enough that my right arm was then free, so I fired right into his face. That awful visage split with a wet tearing noise that continued after the bullet hit, and the creature went down. As the sound of the shot reverberated through the treatment plant, though, I knew I had no hope of surprise. I spun around and continued in the direction I had been going, my only chance being to catch the rest of the Deep Ones still bunched up. I made a few more turns, following the footprints into some unrecognized part of the plant. The concrete hallway ended on a metal balcony; as I reached that balcony I looked down and saw, amidst several gigantic cylindrical tanks, several of the fish-men, their green backs and grayish-green bellies glistening in the plants' lights. Every one of those lidless eyes was staring at me as I emerged.

The balcony was as good a place as any to make a stand. The only problems were that I didn't know if any others were behind me, and I didn't know where they got in, in the first place. I began firing, half aiming, half shooting wild as my mind reeled in the face of such an enemy. I don't even know how many there were; maybe two dozen. I just know there were more than I had planned on. Maybe a third of my shots hit home -- I saw several go down -- and stray shots punctured one of the tanks and starting a slow flow of water.

A few of the Deep Ones reached the bottom of the grilled stairs as I ejected the empty clip and rammed another home. I knew I had to be a little more careful with the rest of my shots. I fired effectively then, dropping most of the advancing horrors. Before I could change another clip, though, one of them charged me and began to grapple. I struggled under its grip, trying to wiggle loose. It had a disadvantage: it was slippery. The strength of its grip was too great, however, and I could not break loose. I began to kick at it, to push it away; nothing worked. I got it against the railing and tried to scrape it off there; I failed, but in trying I managed to break the rail. We plummeted; I maneuvered on top of the beast, so that it broke its back and my fall. As I got up, dazed, I was surrounded by a half-dozen of the Deep Ones though. I began to run. I had no goal other than to get away from them. I managed to put a little distance between us before they began to catch up, as we wound our way through the plant, jumping over or ducking under obstacles. I reloaded as I ran. It felt like I ran for miles, but the plant isn't that big, even with the circles I probably made. I made one more turn and found -- a locked steel door. My clip had ten bullets and I believed the fish things to number only six. As they came around the corner, I picked them off, but two were tough. I made good shots but they still lumbered at me. I panicked and fired several times, emptying my clip, only to find two more left. I kicked powerfully at the face of the nearer one, getting in a good hit; it stumbled back into the other, but both continued to advance.

That's when you guys showed up. In the midst of my running, you had plenty of time to arrive after my friend's call, but I guess I've no right to complain about your timing.

So there you have it. You've seen the dead bodies there at the plant -- funny how quickly those bodies decompose, isn't it? You've seen the modifications they've made to the plant, modifications we found afterwards to pump their hellish hormones into the city's water as it goes through the last phases of chlorination. How do you explain those, unless you accept the truth of what I've said?

So we've detached that apparatus from the plant. It was there for three months before we found it. Why is it no one in that plant noticed? Are they incompetent? Lazy? Or in league with the fish-devils? This could happen again, you know; security is not great there and the menace is still lurking out there in the water. They've got a few dozen of the city's children to add to their numbers; the few I killed don't matter much.

And you know what's going to keep me awake every night for the next few years? Even though we've prevented any further damage to the population, how much has been done? What are those hormones going to do to the children who drank them for three months? Is there any reversing them?

Written Statement of Sgt. William McKenzie, District of Columbia Police:

As far-fetched and emotional as it sounds, the details provided in the preceding transcript are, to the best of my knowledge, substantially true. At approximately 11:39 pm last Thursday, three units arrived at the scene, summoned because of reported intruders and gunshots in the water treatment plant. What we found there accords with Mr. Leones' story: a high-ranking employee of another plant was there and admitted letting him in. At several places in the plant were rapidly decomposing bodies. They had not been there for long, but were in very bad shape. Although not very identifiable, they were clearly not human. Two unidentified suspects, which had been in the process of assaulting Mr. Leones, fled upon our arrival.

I pursued them as best I could, but was unable to keep up in the face of the disturbing smell and slippery floor. Despite losing the suspects, I found their trail very easy to follow and did follow it, accompanied by my partner, to a remote corner of the plant. The tracks, which were only questionably human, led up to an access panel. Upon removing the access panel, I found a ladder. Wet marks on the ladder indicated that the suspects had fled downward. My partner radioed for backup and prepared to follow me down the ladder.

At the bottom of the ladder, we found ourselves in a low tunnel. We followed the suspects' footprints down the tunnel; I'm afraid I cannot give a more accurate account of direction than that. The details of my descent and precipitous escape are lost in the face of what I encountered.

We followed the track through several connecting tunnels, until finally we found a remote section where part of the wall had been removed. A further tunnel had been dug into the earth beyond the wall. My partner did not want to enter it, but, believing myself to be relatively close behind our suspects, I felt a duty to. Not far into the earthen tunnel, I found my partner was no longer behind me. Later, I was to discover he had turned down a turn I had missed.

The tunnel I was in soon descended. I followed it with increasing misgiving. I had serious doubts about the stability of the tunnel in light of the wetness of the earth. However, I continued. At some point the dirt ended and the walls of the tunnel became rock. Here the tunnel had been carved out of the rock with great care. Although the tunnel was small, I believe the creation of it must have taken some years. It was also filled with a fishy scent, stronger even than what I had previously experienced.

Soon that passageway entered into a system of natural passageways. At this point I was acutely aware of the possibility of becoming lost, but decided to check a little distance further. I decided that if I took only right turns, I could easily reverse my course.

Five turns and several hundred feet in, I came upon a huge cavern. The whole was lit by some kind of natural phosphorescence, lending an eerie and disturbing effect, but allowing me to turn off my flashlight. Before coming in sight of the opening, I had heard guttural voices speaking a language I did not recognize, so I turned off my flashlight and approached cautiously.

It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the light, but as they did, I recoiled in horror. I will describe the rest in chronological order as I saw it and I will attempt to be objective; I do so with great difficulty.

The air was pervaded with moisture, which also ran along the walls and about the floor. I believe there was a large pool off to my left. Almost straight ahead, about twenty feet away from me, were several individuals. I say individuals; they were clearly not human. Their humpbacked posture, wide mouths, green skin, and ridge along the back precluded any possibility of humanity. Their hands and feet were webbed. They were the source of the guttural language I have already mentioned.

Apparently, two of these were the ones I followed. They were reporting back to a superior what they had seen. This scene occupied my attention for some time.

It was only slowly that I began to realize what formed a background for this dialog. What I had at first thought to be a part of the far wall of the cavern, I noticed moving somewhat. The movement was regular; I soon realized that it was a motion of breathing. As I peered more intently in the dripping green gloom, I could pick out the lines of the thing more distinctly. Then, all at once, the horror hit me: What I was looking at was nothing other than another one of the things more near at hand; however, this copy, slumped on the ground, must have measured over one hundred feet long! Various tubes, whose function I cannot claim with certainty but which I can guess, ran out of the creature and upwards.

This sight was quite a shock to me; as a result, I gasped. Several of the assembled creatures heard the noise and turned sharply to see. Apparently I was not well hidden in the cave mouth and they saw me. As they began to approach, I turned and fled. I flipped on my flashlight and began to follow the walls. Several times I slipped on the damp floor, bringing their pursuit that much closer. I made it back into the carved stone tunnel, and then into the earthen one. My flashlight was quite powerful and I was able to shine it in the eyes of those behind me a couple of times, dazing them momentarily. However, this did not keep them away for long.

It was in the earthen passage that they caught up, clawing at my ankles. By kicking repeatedly, I was able to keep their webbed hands off me. At one point, I stopped, rolled over in the close confines of the tunnel, and fired twice. This slowed down pursuit for some time; I believed the bodies blocked the cavern entirely, cutting off pursuit by that route.

In my journey through the tunnel, crawling with my flashlight in my mouth, I apparently turned down another opening I had missed before. When I reached the end of the tunnel, I found myself outside, emerging from a hill not far from Georgetown.

It was immediately after I emerged that I saw the final fact which I must report here. Where I stood afforded a clear view of the Potomac River. It took several moments for the image before my eyes to make sense, but the Potomac was filled with bobbing shapes. These were more of the creatures I had seen in the cavern, swimming to shore; I presume they were going to search for me in the tunnels and outside them. There were easily three hundred of the things in the river, however, their eyes gleaming in the moonlight, and I knew then, and I know now, that every one of them lives in the Potomac river or connecting caves under the city, waiting for the day they can rise up and purge the planet of us.

Send your comments to Peter F. Guenther


© 1998 Edward P. Berglund
"The Watery Horror": © 1998 Peter F. Guenther. All rights reserved.
Graphics © 1998 Erebus Graphic Design. All rights reserved. Email to: James V. Kracht.

Created: October 5, 1998; Updated: August 9, 2004