The Nerd Fest organization of writers, visual artists, cosplayers, and other nerds ran a writing contest with the theme 'water'. The Balcony's very own Jody T. Morse took first place with her short story "The Water Children". Since Nerd Fest is a closed organization, the story was only published for their membership. However, there are many Jody fans that wanted to read her watery creation. So, we decided to post it for you all, here. But we do advise you all join the Nerd Fest group on FB, if you enjoy this sort of story.
Huge thanks to the Nerd Fest crew and judges for seeing this hybrid, uniquely structured and themed story for all it is and could be. Enjoy!
The Water Children
From: Hawkins Wallace Evans
To: U.S. News Outlets
For Immediate Release: August 29, 2017
Every year, hundreds of children disappear from docks of lakes, banks of rivers, and our nation’s coastlines. Some of them manage to send or leave messages. However, none of them have ever been found and no bodies ever recovered.
For the past three years, my work as an investigator with the Coalition for the Water Children (CWC) has taken me across the U.S. to gather evidence, verbal accounts, and interviews about these victims of the alleged “American Mermen” (AM). This file contains, in summation, everything I’ve gathered thus far. Lean as it is.
Why reveal the CWC’s existence now and bring my findings to light? My ten-year-old niece, Emma, went missing from a summer camp on the banks of the Agua Fria River. It’s been over a month since she vanished. I no longer care about the NDA I signed, the threatening gag orders from Margaret Cornwall (Director of the CWC), or my personal safety. I just want these horrific stories told. I hope that their exposure might help bring our sweet Emma home. Formalities and red tape be damned.
There will be naysayers who declare these papers to be lies, falsehoods, and the trickery of a heart-sick, desperate man. I have no hard evidence or proof to present to a court of law or jury of my peers. The CWC and the government have either destroyed everything or are keeping evidence under lock and key. What I do have is a gut feeling, my notes and files, and a deep-down knowing that this is not a hoax, joke, prank, or mistake. This is all too real. These beastly creatures do exist, and I intend to find them. As well as our Emma.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Photo Evidence – Filed on July 7, 2014
Sitting on the dock, with my toes in the water, something began to bubble and churn under the surface. It erupted in white froth and foam. Then the something grabbed me. I was pulled down—away from the air, the light, and all I’d ever known. They’d claimed another “victim.” Another child supposedly lost to the mythical Mermen of America. As scary as the initial event was, now I wouldn’t trade my existence for anything. My submerged home, with them, is where I belong. I’m free from my horrible, old life and I’m never going back.
~ Juliette 15P
Follow-up notes by HWE: No Missing Persons Report (MPR) was ever filed in Florida for a “Juliette”. I do think the “15” may be in reference to her age and the “P” might indicate the initial of her last name, but I have no evidence to back up these theories – at this time. The message was found when a Florida Parks and Wildlife crew pulled up dilapidated planking to replace it.
Eye-Witness Account – Filed on December 1, 2014
Kahanamoku Beach – Oahu, Hawaii.
Name: Sandra “Keiko” Kim-Smith
Address: Moana Surfrider Hotel on Kalakaua Ave, Room 215
Phone Number: I don’t have one. You can leave me a message with Yoko at the hotel.
Tell us what you saw:
At dawn I paddled out from my usual spot near Diamond Head Monument. I was amped until I saw it was only ankle busters all the way out. About an hour after sun-up though I spotted a bomb. Not being a clucker or paddlepuss, I went out to meet it. But just when I was about to backdoor some shit aggro barney dropped in on me and snaked my ride. Harsh move. But I let it roll and decided to deck it for a while to calm the tsunami raging in my gut.
A few duck dives and Eski rolls later, I spotted another epic wave. Sadly after dropping in I took a gnarly hit and wiped. Decided I was headed in for the day—needed to get to my touristy snorkel clients by noon anyway. But then I saw a hollow I couldn’t pass up and locked in. While in the barrel’s green room, I saw them. At first I thought it was a pod of dolphins or school of epic massive tuna swimming the ride. But, no shit, these were dudes. A dozen of them or more.
They were wearing some kind of fins on their backs, flips on their feet, and nose guards. Skin seemed tinged gray-green but hard to tell. And their eyes were black like a shark’s. Totally absent of whites. But, no doubt, these were dudes. No shit. Impressive dudes. That’s really all I can tell you. Never saw them again. Next day was when that tourist kid went missing from Sand Island. Thought it might be connected so wanted to report it. Felt like my civilized rock-on duty.
Follow-up: When we tried to find this witness about a six-months after she filed the initial report, she couldn’t be located – despite an extensive search. We did find an old roommate who said Sandra was “a solid chick who would never harsh anyone and is probably off somewhere juicing the soup.” Whatever that means. Cold lead. Dead-end.
Interview – Filed on August 10, 2015
Conducted with Mr. William Stotch and his wife, Eleanor, on August 3, 2015 at their home in Sugar Bush Knolls, OH.
Hawkins Wallace Evans, Interviewer: Thank you for speaking with me, Mr. and Mrs. Stotch.
William Stotch, Interviewee #1: Call me Billy and her Ellie.
HWE: Okay. Thank you for that courtesy, Mr. Stotch. Please, begin by telling me about your missing son. What was his name? And, if you could, please tell me his age.
WS: Alan. Named after my pa and seven. The kid, not my pa.
HWE: And this all happened four months ago, correct? Please let the record show that Mr. Stotch nodded his head. Mr. Stotch, if you could please verbalize all answers, the recorder will pick them up. Thank you.
WS: Oh, yeah. Right. Sorry and call me Billy, dangumit.
HWE: Right. Sorry. No worries. Let’s proceed. Tell me a bit more about Alan, Mr. Stotch.
WS: Ellie, why don’t you answer. You’re more of a talker than me and, hell, you knew the boy better than I did.
HWE: Let the record show that Mrs. Stotch is shaking her head vigorously and waving her hands in an apparent gesture of refusal. Mrs. Stotch has suddenly burst into tears and is now wiping her nose with her pink shirt-sleeve. Strike that from the record. Unnecessary information.
WS: Fine. I’ll tell him about the boy, El. Just stop your snivelin’. Mister, Alan was a weird kid. He didn’t wanna do normal boy things like piss on Farmer Hadley’s electric fence or blow up frogs with firecrackers. Alan, he, well. Damn, I’ll come out and say it. He liked to read books with no pictures and play the flute. The goddamn flute.
HWE: For clarity, Mr. Stotch, are you speaking literally or in euphemism?
WS: I don’t got any idea what a eupha-whatever you said is, but the kid liked to blow in a dangum metal tube. He wasn’t right in the head. Not a Nancy-boy or anything, I don’t reckon. But not all together right either.
HWE: Are you saying this because he liked to read and play a musical instrument?
WS: Well, hell yeah. There was other stuff too. He spent hours braidin’ his mama’s hair and he made pies for the church bake sale. What seven-year-old boy wants to do crap like that? I was about to send him off to a place where they say they can fix messed-up kids like him. That’s when he disappeared.
HWE: I see. Let’s move on. What do you remember about the day he went missing? Where was he? Around what time did you notice he was gone?
WS: You ready to talk yet, El? I ain’t doing this all on my own. It was your idea to call this whack job. Now he’s here and you clam up tighter than a virgin whore. Should’ve known. Mister, what’d you say your name was? Harold? Hadley? Wait, no, was it Hawkeye? Man, I love the Avengers.
HWE: My name is Hawkins Evans, but you can call me whatever you’d like. Back to Alan and his disappearance, please. I have to catch a plane back to Phoenix soon.
WS: Well, if I recall right, we all gathered for supper and he didn’t show up. I assumed he was curled up in the oak out front with a goddamn book or he’d gone over to play Barbies with the neighbor’s daughters. Sissy boy. But, nah, he wasn’t either of those places. So, we went on and ate. Pork chops and slaw that night, ‘cause it was a Friday. When he wasn’t back by dark, I got pissed and made Ellie start makin’ calls. Only Nate, from the bait shop down by the bend in the crick, said he’d seen the kid earlier in the day.
HWE: Is that Nathan Winsel from the Jug ‘o Jigs store?
WS: Yup, that’s him. Nate and I go way back. I even helped him name his shop. You know what jugs means, don’t you? It ain’t about buckets and pails, if you know what I mean.
HWE: Yes, I think I do. That’s a euphemism, Mr. Stotch.
WS: If you say so, city slicker. Eu-fan-zizm. Anyway, Nate said he heard some splashin’ down around the bend when he went to haul out the trash out, around noon. But he figured the old alligator-snapper under the bridge got a muskrat or catfish. That bastard’s huge! The turtle not Nate. But Nate ain’t all that small himself. Anyhow. That all happened right after Alan used the shop’s washroom to shake his weasl—relieve himself.
HWE: I couldn’t find much in the public files about the case. Did the local sheriff’s department or Ohio state troopers ever find anything related to Alan’s disappearance?
WS: Nah. Nothing. Zippo. Zilcher.
Eleanor Stotch, Interviewee #2: He’s gone to a better place. Somewhere he’s loved and appreciated for who he truly is.
HWE: I’m sorry, Mrs. Stotch. Could you repeat that, a little louder? What do you mean? Do you know where Alan is or who has him?
WS: Ah, hush up, El. You don’t know jack about where that boy ran off to.
HWE: Please, Mr. Stotch, could I hear what your wife has to say?
WS: I guess. She ain’t got nothing important to spout. Never does. And, dammit, call me Billy.
HWE: Thank you. Sure. Mrs. Stotch—Ellie—what do you know about your son’s disappearance? Any detail will help with the investigation.
ES: Alan told me he’d found new friends. Friends that offered for him to come with them to someplace where he could read and play music and be happy with other kids like him. I never met ‘em. But he disappeared the day after he told me about them.
WS: Woman, you don’t know what you’re talkin’ about. Crazy babble from a crazy person.
HWE: Ellie, has Alan tried to contact you since he left?
ES: No, but I know he’s safe. Call it mother’s intuition.
WS: Woman, you ain’t got no intuition—motherly or otherwise. I think it’s time for you to go, Hawkeye. Iron Man’ll be lookin’ for you.
HWE: Thank you, both. I need to be going anyway. But if you think of anything else that might be helpful, please contact me at the number on this card.
WS: Yeah, whatever. Will do, Hawkley. Ellie, when’s dinner? I’m starving’ and now I’m cravin’ chops and slaw. Get in that kitchen where you belong, woman.
Evidence – Reported and Filed on April 28, 2016
*A sealed baby-food jar was found in a fisherman’s net and brought aboard a crabbing boat named the “Lucille”, in Tillamook Bay, OR on April 2, 2016.
Help! SOS! The mermen got me! I temped them and they got me! Ugly, green men with strange eyes and fin-like hands and feet. They put this thing on my face that lets me breathe under the water. Then they took me to a cave. They feed us—me and the other kids—seaweed and fish. After I escaped and made it onto a barge full of garbage, I found this paper and wrote this note. I don’t know where we are. Please find us. There are lots of us kids. Tell Mama & Callie I love them. This is Thomas Downey from Pacific City, Oregon.
Oral Account - left on the voicemail of the French Quarter Firehouse in New Orleans; September 2, 2016
I seen something weird last night. Had to call and tell somebody. A lady threw a baby down the embankment of the Mississip. Um, sadly, I was too drunk to get to the kid. I crawled in the right direction but couldn’t make it. As I lay there, um, I seen the lady run off then this hand come out of the water and snatch the baby. Took it into the river. Yeah, I was three sheets, but I know what I seen. Somebody best look for that lady and that drowned baby. The hand that took it, um, wasn’t right. Not human. Scaly and green and webbed, like a duck foot or frog’s toes. The Mighty Mississip, or something in it, took that baby. After the lady chucked it, of course. Don’t know which is worse; the creature or the lady but—
Evidence – Found washed up at Brackett’s Landing, WA on February 12, 2017
If anyone finds this, Thomas Downey here. I sent another message about a year ago. I’ve decided I like it with the mermen and wanna stay. So, stop searching—if you even are. The mermen are nice. Nicer than my dad and evil step-monster. I’ll miss Mom and Callie. But there are no bullies here. No one makes fun of me or hits me. Most of the other kids are happy too. I’d heard about the mermen before and thought they were bad guys. Now, I wonder if people—human people—aren’t the real bad guys. We’re better off down here. I’m better off here. Goodbye. Good luck.
Final Note from Hawkins Wallace Evans
Despite what Thomas Downey says—I suspect Stockholm Syndrome—we have to find these kids, including my Emma. Please help me, if you can.