A Serial Story
by Elizabeth Willsmore
Anya . . .” The name whispered through her thoughts. “Anya . . .” The sound came again, more strained, as her body reflexively tightened in preparation for the final utterance. “Anya!” Gramps’ deep baritone arched through Anya’s dreams like a shock wave, jolting her from her slumber as, panting, she reemerged from the nightmare.
Tentatively, Anya reached a hand up to touch her face, feeling the hot sticky sweat coat her fingers, and felt the familiar knot of anxiety settle in her stomach. Shivering, she stretched across the bedcovers towards the small table lamp on the dresser, flicking the switch to flood the room with bright white light. Anya wearily climbed out of bed, tucking her trusted teddy bear, Cuddles, under the covers, before clambering across the cold tile floor the hallway leading to her small bathroom.
As she turned on the water, the knot in her stomach began to build, engulfing her chest and forcing its way into her throat until finally she had to squeeze her eyes shut against the terrible tightness in her body. Anya crouched on the shower floor, feeling the warm water pelt her body with comforting redundancy, as the world morphed, the shower floor replaced by rai-soaked sand, the water becoming angry raindrops. The beach was deserted, but just past the coastline a small rowboat bobbed on the waves, the tiny figures scrambling to hold themselves aboard in the torrential storm.
Anya shivered, partially as a shield against the wind but more so in preparation of what would come next, and how the helpless feelings which overtook her merely increased with each flashback. Shoving a tangled curl from out of her eyes, Anya’s gaze was drawn to a figure close to shore, where she could barely make out Gramps’ salt and pepper mop of curls. She felt her legs move of their own volition, blood pumping in her ears as she sprinted to the water’s edge.
“Anya!” Gramps cried out, frantically paddling for the beach. “Anya, get back!” Despite his athleticphysique, hardened from years of working on cars and fighter jets, the waves dragged him down, trapping him in a watery vortex.
“Gramps! Gramps hold on, I’ll find a boat!” Anya felt herself scream the words as she had a million times before, as she sprinted across the beach to a small, rickety row boat not yet launched. Gripping the oars tightly, she tried to convince herself that if she could just save him this time, the nightmares would go away, that even if he were still dead in real life, this horrible nightmare would at least be over. But Gramps was too far away, his body a mere speck now in the distance, his voice still calling her name, over and over,
“Anya . . . Anya . . . Anya . . .”
Suddenly, the beach scene faded away and Anya was back on the shower floor, shaking, and gripping tile like it was her life force. Shuddering, she took in deep breaths, forcing the knot back down her throat, her entire body clenched with the effort, until it shrunk back to its manageable lump in her lower abdomen. Gasping, Anya lay down briefly on the bottom of the shower, gulping in air until she unsteadily forced her way back to her feet, turning the water off as she stood.
The sudden jingle of her cell phone snapped Anya from her exhausted daze.
“Who the hell could be trying to reach me at this hour?” she muttered under her breath, wrapping a worn blue towel about herself and trudging into the bedroom. She picked up the phone and glanced at the time. 4:30 AM, it read in big block letters. Anya clicked the green “receive” button in annoyance, before answering with a disgruntled
“Hello?” “Hi there,” a silky feminine voice answered. “I’m trying to reach Anya Cooper, is this her?”
“Yes, this is she,” Anya replied, not evening attempting to disguise the anger in her voice.
“Oh lovely! This is Susie Shipton, I work for Clark Industries, and we’d love to contract you for our latest project.”
Anya blinked for a few seconds, trying to wrap her mind around why the hell someone would have the nerve to call about a job she hadn’t even interviewed for at 4:30 am. Taking a deep breath, she replied “I think you’ve got the wrong person, I didn’t apply for anything at Clark and regardless it’s incredibly rude to call someone at 4 am.”
“You are Charlie Cooper’s granddaughter, are you not?” This time the woman’s voice changed, getting lower, gruffer, and with a slightly threatening edge to it.
“Well that’s just none of your busin-“
“And forgive me if I’ve got this wrong, but you are the engineer who designed the Sea Wall, which, if I’m not mistaken, collapsed and killed your grandfather in the ensuing flood?”
At the last sentence, Anya froze, the flashback still so palpable she could almost taste the salt of the roiling waves. She’d never admitted it out loud, but hearing this strange woman confirm what Anya knew everyone, including herself, was thinking made her stomach drop like a huge boulder.
“How do you know about that?” she whispered, anger and fear hanging on every syllable.
“I thought so,” the woman replied confidently, her voice changing back to its silky high pitch. “Well then, Anya, I look forward to seeing you this morning at 9 am at our Seattle office, on the corner of Pike and 6th. Have a great day now, bye-bye.”
“But I didn’t make an appointment!” Anya’s reply was cut off as the woman hung up, leaving her standing there, hair dripping slowly onto the carpet, holding her cell phone and wondering whether or not she should show up.