Tony Tremblay

The May Special Guest Writer is Tony Tremblay

Feel free to visit Tony HERE



by Tony Tremblay

A sense of unease weighed on Emily as she stared out over the ocean. The atmosphere on the beach had changed, turning oppressive. A slight breeze cooled her sun-broiled skin. For the life of her, she couldn’t figure out why she felt so unnerved, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t shrug it off. Reaching up, she caressed the small gold cross hanging from her neck.

She glanced over at her husband Carl, who was building sandcastles with her son. While her thirteen-year-old, Stephen, enjoyed the sculpting and the playful banter with his father, her youngest, Samantha, sat a few feet away from them scooping up fistfuls of sand and letting it flow through her fingers. At seven years old, Samantha was a mischievous child, a free spirit who possessed the curiosity of a feline and questioned everything, endlessly it seemed. Emily kept an eye on her; there was no telling if Samantha would wander off and get too close to the shoreline.

The island they were vacationing on was not large or commercialized, which was what attracted them to it in the first place. It didn’t offer many amenities other than a decent hotel and a first-class beach located in a small, private cove surrounded with palm trees. There weren’t a lot of tourists on the island, which left Emily and her family plenty of space to play and relax. The beach itself was spectacular with the cleanest white sand she had ever seen buffering the hotel from the ocean. The saltwater was sparkling clear with only a touch of cobalt—appearing as fresh as any pond or lake back home in the mountains of New Hampshire. Best of all, the water was pleasantly warm and refreshing, a far cry from the freezing temperatures they had left behind.

Samantha stopped playing and rose to her feet. After a few moments of twirling and imitating the seagulls that flew overhead, she walked over to her father and brother. While they tried to involve her in the construction of their castle, Samantha wanted no part of it. Instead, she moved a few feet from them, stopped, and then looked out over the ocean.

Then, just as Emily had feared, Samantha began to saunter toward the shoreline. Emily was on her feet in seconds, chasing after her daughter. Samantha was quick though, and she was already into the water up to her knees before Emily could get to her.

Reaching her, Emily scooped Samantha up with one arm, preventing her daughter from wading any deeper. But Emily’s forward momentum prevented her from coming to a complete stop and she lost her balance, causing both of them to tumble into the surf. Emily’s head brushed the sand when they went under. There, a large shard of glass from a broken bottle jutted up from the ocean’s floor, filling Emily’s vision. She stood quickly, hefting Samantha and holding onto her tight. She silently thanked God that neither she nor Samantha had landed on the glass. Walking back to the beach, she swept the thin blonde hair out of her daughter’s eyes. She seemed none-the-worse from the experience and Emily kissed her forehead. “What’s the matter, honey? You don’t want to play with Stephen and your dad?”

“No, Mommy. I want to play with that woman.” Samantha lifted her finger and pointed to the sea.

Emily followed Samantha’s gaze.

“Honey, it’s probably a boat or a dolphin…” she began, but froze when her eyes caught sight of a figure in the distance. At first glance, it did appear to be a woman and, oddly, it looked as if she were standing upright on the surface of the water.

Indeed, it was a woman, nude, her hair dark, wet, and long enough to cling to her waist. Even from a distance, she could see that the woman’s breasts hung heavily from her chest. Emily’s focus went to the bottom half of the woman. She concentrated on the woman’s feet.

She has to be standing on something!

“Can I play with her Mommy?”

Emily was about to give Samantha a hastily thought-out “no”, when her daughter’s eyes suddenly went wide. Samantha once again pointed at the woman and then said, “Oh—look!”

Beneath the woman, a wide column of water lifted her skyward.

Emily stared, her mouth agape. From where she stood, the column appeared to be round, at least twice the diameter of the woman and its surface as smooth as ice. The water at the base was undisturbed. There was no spray from the small waves as they collided with the column. It was as if the ocean were diverting around it. Emily wrapped both her arms around Samantha as the column rose, lifting the woman up further into the air. For a brief moment Emily had the impression that the woman was falling, but then she realized that the column had stopped rising. The woman did not react to the cessation of movement and remained still. She looked down upon Emily and Samantha.

Emily turned toward her husband. He and Stephen were absorbed in their work, neither of them aware of what was occurring offshore. She swept her gaze beyond them and across the beach. The other tourists were continuing about their business of sunbathing and chasing their children. She couldn’t count one person who was looking out over the water in shock or amazement.

Were they the only ones who could see the woman and that gigantic column of water?

An urge to shout overcame Emily, to get Carl to look toward the sea. With Samantha still tight in her arms, she turned back to face the ocean. When she saw what was happening, she thought she was hallucinating.

In the brief time she had looked away, the column had widened. It was now a huge wall of water, as wide as the entire beach was long. At its ends, the wall veered in, bracketing the beach at ninety-degree angles. Behind Emily, all had gone quiet. The adults, the children, even the seabirds were silent and they all stared in wonder at the ocean. Carl and Stephen stood looking out over the water, her son pointing at the wall with a look of amazement while her husband had turned toward her in fear. Their eyes met and a chill ran though her body. She wanted to reach out to Carl, to hold him for what she intuitively knew would be the last time, but a strong compulsion to face her fear overcame her. She turned from her husband toward the ocean. Focusing on the woman, Emily immediately regretted her decision.

Below the woman, large gouts of water, resembling solid tubes, exploded out from the length of the wall. The tubes, too many to count, were as wide as boulders and racing through the air, and they were headed toward the beach.

Emily turned away in a panic, cradling Samantha and throwing herself to the sand. Lifting her head, she managed a single sob as she watched her husband and son crushed beneath one of the tubes of water. They were gone in an instant, washed away in the unrelenting tide of water that followed.

The tubes reached them all—men, women, their children, hammered into the beach sand, and then swept away. Emily braced herself, praying that her body would provide enough of a cushion to spare Samantha a crushing death.

The tube of water that came for them somehow missed its target, making contact with the beach a few feet before them. The sand beneath them shook, and then less than a second later the tide swept them forward.

Emily struggled to grip Samantha as they propelled through the water. She had a tight hold on both of her daughter’s arms but she could feel Samantha slipping away. Something was tugging at her daughter, trying hard to loosen Samantha from her hold. With every tug Samantha slipped further down Emily’s arm until, with a strong yank, Samantha was ripped from her grasp. Emily screamed, and seawater rushed in between her parted lips.

Reflexes kicked in, and Emily gagged from the water that she had swallowed. Stomach heaves assaulted her body, and she found herself spasming. She fought hard against it, trying to keep herself from expelling what little air remained in her lungs. She willed her legs to kick, to try to lift herself to the surface, but the current was too strong.

Nearly out of air, Emily stopped struggling to save as much oxygen as possible. After gagging a few more times, the convulsions subsided, and she found herself drifting along with the current. An overwhelming feeling of calmness descended upon her, and the rapid sensation of being pushed forward in the water diminished to the point she thought she was barely moving. She tried to focus, desperate for one last look to find Samantha.

Emily wished that she had simply closed her eyes and let her mind drift away into the darkness.

Bodies, with their heads bowed and their arms hanging uselessly in front of them, spun leisurely in the water around her. The dead were everywhere, in a macabre dance as they drifted and then bounced off each other in slow motion. Most were seriously injured, from missing limbs to severe lacerations. Blood, still oozing from their wounds, created small, puffy, and red-tinted clouds that slowly dissolved in the water. When the gentle current turned the bodies, exposing their faces to her, Emily cringed. Most of their facial features were beaten to pulp. Eyes were missing, noses flattened, and pieces of bone could be seen jutting through their flesh.

Before the water could claim her, she came to a sudden stop—a pressure against her back, something solid, unyielding, holding her in place. Moving her hand to her back, she realized it was the trunk of a palm tree.

Gathering reserves she hadn’t realized she still possessed, she wrapped her hands around the trunk and began to pull herself up, forcing herself to climb.

When she broke the surface of the water, the air racing into her lungs hit her like a sledgehammer and her chest erupted in pain. A coughing fit followed but she held on to the trunk. When her body settled enough to where she had control over it, she put her forehead against the palm’s rough bark and relaxed. After a few minutes of rest, she lifted her head and gazed past the palm tree.

A short distance away stood a series of buildings. She recognized them as part of the resort, but oddly, her view was skewed. For some reason, she was looking down on the buildings.

The resort had not suffered any damage from the tubes nor did it look as if the tidal waters had reached it. She noticed people—staff from the look of their uniforms—all gathered at the front of the hotel and pointing up in her direction. None of them made a move toward her or the beach.

Why is the resort so far down, and why are they all pointing at me?

After lowering her head slightly, Emily gasped. Only a few feet beyond her, the ocean ended abruptly, vanishing into thin air.

In a panic, she clung so tightly to the palm tree that the muscles in her arms began to lock up. When she was convinced her hold was secure enough to prevent her from drifting off to the edge, Emily turned her head around, to look back at where the beach had been. She saw nothing but a flat expanse of ocean. It was as if the wall of water had come ashore and then run up against an invisible barrier.

Emily maneuvered herself around the palm tree to get a better look. When she settled on the other side, her back now to the resort, she poked her head around the trunk of the tree. She gasped at the site.

Emily was on top of what looked like a gigantic fish tank.

Gazing out over the water, she noticed that many of the dead were floating on the surface. Thoughts of Carl, Stephen, and Samantha stabbed at her heart, and her tears mingled with the seawater.

A movement around one of the bodies closer to Emily caught her eye. It was a man, belly up with his arms stretched wide. His body bobbed a few times, and then it was gone, pulled down into the depths. She watched as, one by one, the same thing happened to other bodies. Sobbing, she waited for whatever was in the water to reach her.

Small waves brushed up along Emily’s right side. They weren’t powerful, but they were strong enough to catch her attention. She turned in their direction. Ten feet away the seawater boiled. Dozens of large bubbles were pushing their way up through the water and then bursting when they made contact with the air. Something was coming from below. When it broke through, Emily turned away.

A woman was rising out of the water. Her features were bloated, her skin tinted blue. Small sections of her body were missing, including most of her fingers and toes. The woman continued to rise until the soles of her feet were even with the surface. She stared at Emily, her eyes milky and bulging from their sockets.

At the sight of the woman Emily wanted to let go of the tree trunk and swim away, but her hands refused to let go. Her heartbeat accelerated and she began to tremble violently. A scream fought its way up her throat, but before she could take a deep enough breath to expel it, her head grew heavy and her mind clouded over. Her heart rate slowed and her shaking subsided.

This muddled feeling lasted only a few more moments before it vanished as quickly as it had come. She began thinking clearly again and, oddly, she found herself less fearful of the woman. Emily faced her, staring deeply into the woman’s opaque eyes.

“You survived.”

The words were not spoken aloud but had appeared in Emily’s head.

The woman approached Emily, gliding inches above the surface and stopping a few feet before her. An image of Jesus walking on the water flashed into Emily’s mind.

“Ah, the man called Jesus,” the woman noted. “I have seen the image of this man several times in your people’s minds, but this is the first I have seen it associated with traveling over water. He is usually thought of in the moments associated with imminent death.”

She’s in my head. She can read my mind.


The woman’s reply was clear, though it possessed a faint echo, originating in the back of Emily’s head. It also spoke in Emily’s own voice.

Though Emily realized there was no shielding her thoughts from the woman, she felt more comfortable speaking aloud. “Why? Why did this happen?”

After a few moments of silence the woman spoke.

“You are frightened of my countenance. Before I answer, I want you to feel at ease. Briefly, close your eyes.”

Emily did as she was told, and when she reopened them seconds later she reared back at the sight. Standing before her was the Virgin Mary.

This visage of the Holy Mother was a duplicate of a picture that hung in Emily’s church. She was clothed in an ankle-length white flowing gown, with a matching veil that completely covered her hair. An expansive blue robe, long enough to touch the water, was draped over the woman’s shoulders. A strip of blue fabric was cinched across her waist, with the knot tied in front, its two ends hanging free. Her face was beatific, and the bright glow emanating from behind her head left little doubt as to whom the woman wanted Emily to identify her with.

The woman’s appearance was sacrilegious, but Emily had to admit it was preferable to the rotting body that she knew actually stood before her. In the recesses of her mind, Emily heard the woman speak.

“I see this is more pleasing.”

Emily nodded.

The woman echoed Emily’s earlier question. “Why?” A pause, then, “We do it because, like you, we need to feed.”

Emily’s gut roiled. Visions of hideous creatures feasting on her family immediately came to her, and her face contorted in revulsion. Seconds later the image vanished, and Emily could recall them only vaguely as the woman continued.

“No, that is not who we are. We do not feed on the flesh. We take our nourishment from your life’s essence, what you call your soul. It sustains us, allowing us to survive for long periods in the deep. We thrive on your emotions, your moral deliberations, your guilt, and your joy. We relish your ambiguity, delight in your successes, and we question and analyze your failures. We are, in essence, the Christ figure that you have mythologized. We appraise your transgressions, evaluate your responses to them, and we acknowledge your remorse. We grant you absolution. Your souls are the repository of who you are, what you have been. We absorb your souls and you become one with us. It is the only way to insure your eternal, peaceful existence; otherwise, contrary to your beliefs, your souls perish along with your flesh.”

Emily trembled, her head shaking violently in denial. The woman’s words upended the very tenets of her religion, but as she looked around and viewed the carnage surrounding her, doubt took root in her mind.

If there is a God, would he have allowed this to happen? And, th-these-creatures, surely they could not be God or God-like!

“No.” The word was spoken firmly in Emily’s head, followed by, “We are not your God.”

“Then, who?” Emily asked.

“We are The Recorders. Our mission is to gather information. We will be called back one day and asked to share all we have learned, to share all that we have become. When that time occurs, the souls we have taken possession of will not only continue to feed others, but they themselves will be nourished in the sharing.”

“The Recorders? Who are you recording for? How long have you been here?”

“We arrived in three sixty-five A.D.—your calendar—in the region you call Alexandria. After we feed, it takes many years to digest and absorb your souls, so in most cases there are long interludes between harvests. As time progressed so did your science and social skills. We had to adapt or be discovered. Using an empty human vessel, we contact our feeding grounds in advance, make arrangements with them, and offer the majority of their population safety from a harvest as long as we fed on the few. We have found that the threat of annihilation, along with a demonstration of our abilities, always leads to negotiation in our favor.”

Emily turned to face the resort below her.

The Virgin Mary nodded. “Yes, they were prepared for us.”

Tsunamis. They come in the guise of a tsunami.

Once again, the Virgin Mary nodded. “We do, but not all tsunamis are of our making. Most of them are natural occurrences, harvesting far more souls that we could possibly feed on. With your science so well advanced, you now possess your own recording devices, so we feed in more secluded locations to avoid detection.”

“Where do you come from?”

Emily saw what could pass for a smile as the woman replied, “That is not your concern at this moment.”

Emily paused, and then asked, “What are you going to do with me?”

The Virgin Mary looked down on Emily, this time with a smile Emily thought to be genuine.

“You are a survivor,” the woman began, “and you can remain a survivor if you choose. Shortly, the water will recede and you will be able to continue with your life as it is. However, your husband and children are with us. They, too, will continue to live on. You have a choice to make, but you do not have much time to decide.”

With those words, the Virgin Mary began to glide away from Emily. As the woman retreated, her body descended into the depths.

Emily did not react. She continued holding onto the palm tree and watched in silence until the top of the woman’s veil disappeared and only calm water remained.

Emily was exhausted. She wanted to rest her forehead against the tree trunk and take some time to think about what had just happened, but as she moved forward she noticed that the water surrounding the trunk was receding. Emily loosened her hold and let the water guide her to the ground.

When Emily’s feet touched the beach sand, she relaxed and leaned against the tree for support. She scanned the beach. The water continued to backtrack toward the sea.

You will have a choice soon, and not a lot of time to make it.

The woman’s words echoed through Emily’s mind as she watched the ocean ebb. The water made steady progress, and in less than five minutes she thought the beach would be restored to its former size. Emily turned, looking back toward the resort. The staff must have believed the threat over as they were making their way toward her. She saw a mixture of amazement and guilt on their faces, and she wondered how they could all live with themselves after the collective decision they had made. Now, she had a choice of her own to make.

She could pull herself away from the tree and approach the hotel staff, accept their pity, their offers of assistance, and then move on with her life. There would be a price to pay for this, and it would be steep. She would be forever trying to suppress the images of the death and destruction during her waking hours, and unable to banish the terror of it all in her nightmares. The images of Stephen and Carl crushed into the sand and the horror of Samantha taken away could never be shared with anyone back in New Hampshire. No one would believe her.

As she had done so often in her life when she was besieged with doubt, she grasped the cross hanging from her neck. Instead of gaining solace from the icon, Emily felt empty, lost. The gold cross had always been a tangible reminder of her faith, giving her strength or, at the very least, hope in times of trouble or confusion. Now it was just a piece of cheap jewelry weighing heavily against her chest. For a brief moment, anger flared. How could she have been so misled all these years? How could she have been so naïve and trusting?

Emily looked out over the beach. The water had receded quicker than she had thought it would, and the shoreline almost looked as it had before the tsunami.

Gazing up, Emily saw the woman, the true form of the woman, standing on top of the ocean a short distance away. The woman’s stance appeared casual, neither beckoning nor reproachful. She was waiting.

A vision appeared in Emily’s mind. Though the image fluttered as if it were drifting along casually on an ocean wave, she had no problem identifying it. The three of them—Carl, Stephen, and Samantha—were all standing together on a mountaintop staring off into a night sky glittering with starlight. They appeared to be at peace, and judging from the looks on their faces, in a state of spiritual awe.

Emily made her choice.

She tore the cross from her neck and threw it to the ground.

Gathering her strength, she sprinted to the shoreline. When the water was up to her knees, she dove in, swimming toward the woman. Kicking her legs hard and taking broad strokes to reach her, Emily pushed forward. The thought of reuniting with her family provided enough fuel to keep her tired body from burning out. Her life would not be worth living if she couldn’t feel the warmth of her husband’s love or experience the joy her children brought her. This was her chance to be reunited with them, and she would not be denied.

When Emily had covered half the distance to the woman, she felt a tug on her left leg. She ignored it at first, but when it happened again she couldn’t dismiss it. Whatever had been tugging at her pulled her completely underwater. After flailing for a moment, she rose back up and treaded water. An odd tingling in her left thigh had her hand reaching down to it. She felt nothing wrong so she continued along the length of her leg. When her fingers brushed her ankle she paused, a feeling of dread passing through her. The flesh at her ankle was torn, and it felt stringy. Below the ankle, her foot was gone. Stunned, she probed the area, and when her fingers touched exposed nerves, pain ricocheted throughout her body. The water around her was turning red. There was another tug, a more powerful one this time, and she was dragged deep into the water. She looked down, and saw that her leg, up to her knee, had been torn from her body. Her mouth opened in a scream and seawater rushed in. Her body bucked wildly as she gagged, and the torrents of blood pumping from the stump made the water too hazy to see through.

A voice, sounding like her own, entered her mind. There was no mistaking its mocking tone.

You are very gullible.”

Confusion now kept company with Emily’s pain. Why would this woman go through all this trouble to torment her? The woman had plenty of opportunity to kill her earlier, why had she been toyed with?

The answer to Emily’s questions came swiftly.

I enjoy playing with my food.”

As she tried to make sense of the woman’s words, new images flashed in Emily’s mind. They were of the last moments of her life, only in reverse order. She saw herself swimming toward the woman, seeking salvation and hoping to be reunited with her family. Then she was on the beach, watching the resort staff making their way toward her. Next, she was holding on to the palm tree and watching as the dead were dragged down into the water. She watched as Samantha was pulled from her hands. Following that, she saw her husband and son crushed by the giant tubes of water. The next image to fill her mind lingered longer than the others. It was of her floating motionless in the water, a large shard of glass protruding from her head as the water darkened, and Samantha nearby, crying.

When that last image flickered away, Emily realized who the woman really was.

Emily slowly brought her right arm to her chest, then, reaching out with her fingers, she placed them just below her neck. Her fingertips moved tentatively, searching for what she believed would be her true salvation.

Emily’s fingers came up empty.

The next words she heard only served to increase her suffering.

Unlike faith, old habits die hard, don’t they, Emily?”

Tony Tremblay is the author of the short story collection The Seeds of Nightmares, and the novel The Moore House (2019 Bram Stoker Award Nominee). Tremblay has a new collection dropping this spring from Crossroad Press, and a novella and new novel due in 2020 from Haverhill House Publishing. The author has worked as a reviewer of horror and genre novels for Horror World, Cemetery Dance, and Beware The Dark. He is also the host of the cable television interview series The Taco Society Presents (available on YouTube). Tremblay lives in New Hampshire with his wife.