N.A. Bergeron studied journalism and public relations at the University of Arizona.

An avid horror fan, she would cite H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth as her favorite horror story. Her writing tends to be an amalgamation of coming-of-age fiction, horror and literary fiction with a dark twist.

In her spare time, she can be found watching old slasher films with her “son.” And by son, she means Fonzie, her 20 year old tabby.


by N.A. Bergeron


It was hard to remember what life was like before the swamplands. I carried only a vague notion of it with me; that was a side effect of the swamp, you know.

It made you forget things. Important things; those necessary bits of information that form an identity.

I started forgetting things like the name of the street we lived on as kids or my mother’s maiden name. I’d look to my brother in these moments and we would mirror each other’s sad, troubled look. Often times I found that if I didn’t remember something, he didn’t, either. The government workers, or rather what was left of them, said that that was typical of the swamps, as far as they understood them.

It affected some more than others. There was something in it (and whatever it was) would rise into the air from those murky recesses and it would contaminate everything: the air, the livestock…your ability to remember.

The remaining workers set up their new headquarters in what had once been a post office. You could report there every week, for food, supplies and relevant announcements. They warned us all about swamp madness. Sometimes, you could see it coming down the line before it totally and irrevocably possessed someone.

I lived with my brother and my girlfriend, Joanne. We had been in line, waiting for a month’s supply of non-perishable wafers when we heard it.

An old man let out a guttural scream.

I knew I remembered him from somewhere but struggled to recall how. He was with his wife. She had been in the process of picking up their rations when he started groaning and clawing at his clothes with his hands. You could see the veins in his neck bulge. His eyes went from milky to clear, as if suddenly activated by something.

Desperately he tried to explain himself via these unintelligible primal sounds. He pointed to the window—out to the dark, emerald green waters of the swamp.

He made a sudden movement, as if he was about to run out and into the heart of the swamp. His wife nervously looked around, trying to coo something in his ear. She stroked his hair. She begged him to stop and did not release her grip on him until he finally did.

He returned to his normal, catatonic state. His eyes became glazed again. Ashamedly, she gathered up their rations and the two swiftly exited together.

I looked at my brother. I remembered the man but couldn’t place my finger on who he had been and what he had meant to me, before the swamps formed.

“He was your elementary school bus driver,” Joanne said.

I looked at her. I focused on her features and her mouth as it moved. I knew she was right, but I couldn’t recall it for myself.

I looked back up and out the window. One of the workers boarded the man and his wife in a rowboat, to get across the swamp back to their little stretch of woods.

Somehow, Joanne had managed to remember more than was typical. Before the swamps, she had loved puzzles, games and anything of the sort. She had a real knack for remembering names, dates and places. I wondered if maybe that was why she hadn’t been as affected in the same way as I had.

After we got our rations, the workers made an announcement. If one of your family members gets the madness, you are to do everything in your power to save them. If you saw signs of madness, it was best to report it to the workers, so that they may assist you in combating it.

I do vaguely remember some things. I seem to remember that subtle changes began before the swamps. The rains that fell weren’t the same as the rains I had grown up with. They weren’t the relaxing, cleansing rains that permeated the air with a lingering, floral sweetness.

Instead, the new rains were never-ending; harsh, aggressive rains that pelted the lakes, turning them into rotting, soup-like marshlands.

At the start of it, I longingly mourned the past as the bleakness of my new reality set in. But after I had difficulty remembering, I no longer mourned anything as deeply. How could I, when I was no longer aware of most of the past?

We began to spend our time indoors watching TV, trying our best to repurpose the rations into something edible, something pleasant. We would sit around, drink, and try to remember. Except for Joanne. She regaled us with stories. Sometimes they made me laugh, even if I couldn’t remember, because they still sparked something like excitement in me.

Other times, I think she resented me for not remembering. “Remember, it was when we spent that week in Cape Cod?” She nudged me in the ribs playfully with an elbow.

I smiled but shook my head.

“You really don’t remember?” she asked, exasperatedly.

“Tell me more,” I said.

Joanne studied me, sadness and frustration marring her features.

“Forget it,” She said, although she knew I already had. She stood up with her bottle in her hand and walked over the front door. She peered outside, over the porch, into the swamps.

Under the cover of night, they gleamed brilliantly like black oil.

If you were quiet enough and stayed still for long enough, you could hear them buzz. There was a slow, soft roar under the surface. Was that what produced the gas that emanated and made people forget and go mad?

Joanne told me that before the swamps, we used to go hunting for food. Joanne had a garden. She grew turnips, tomatoes, and strawberries. After the swamps, the workers said the ground was rotten, that we best not eat anything that come from it. Same with animals; if they’re drinking that nasty swamp water, you best not hunt them. They only have so long to live with that swamp sickness in their bellies.

As she peered out into the blackness, I put my hand on her shoulder. Even if I couldn’t recall everything as vividly as she could, I hoped she could understand I was still in here, somewhere, and if nothing else, I still remembered her.

“It’s almost like they’re growing,” she said, in awe and horror.

I squinted out at them.

“They weren’t always this big,” she explained.

“What is big?” I asked.

“The waters in the swamp. They’re expanding.”

“Well, they can’t afford to get much bigger or we won’t have any dry land left,” I told her.

That night we lay in the sweltering heat under an old, futile ceiling fan. At night, you could hear the roar of the swamps more clearly. It was as if whatever was in them was more active at night.

In the darkness, I thought Joanne had already fallen asleep but as I turned onto my side I saw her eyes were wide and full.

“It’s so hot,” She groaned anxiously, writhing around uncomfortably.

“Give the fan a minute,” I said calmly, pointing to the rickety, old thing.

She scoffed. I was already drifting off when she sat up suddenly, as if awakening from a nightmare.

“Maybe we could leave the window open, just for tonight,” she said as she gazed out of it all the way from her corner in the bed.

I sat up and rubbed my eyes. I looked over to the window and saw the swamplands. Murky as ever. “You know we’re not supposed to,” I told her softly.

She didn’t move her eyes away from window. “Just for tonight,” she begged, clasping one of my hands in hers.

It isn’t recommended to be outdoors or to have open windows; that’s how the noxious stuff gets in. But I figured, if it was out there, enough of it is probably already in here, anyways. And it would make Joanne happy.

“Just for tonight,” I said. I got up out of the bed and struggled to unlock the hatch. I raised the window up. A waft of the salty breeze flooded in.

Joanne looked content, still sitting up. As I crawled back in bed, she rested her head on the pillow beside mine, placed her hand in mine and gave it an anxious squeeze. Slowly we both drifted off to sleep in each other’s arms.


The next morning I was awakened by a strong, salty-smelling draft. It rattled the window hinges and howled uniquely. The wind, like the rain, had also suffered sinister changes.

It was no longer a gentle caress. It had a strange, albeit distinct howl.

I hadn’t yet opened my eyes when I extended my hand, reaching for Joanne. Her side was cold. I opened my eyes and found it empty. The sheets still held the imprint of where her body had slept.

“Joanne?” I called out in the direction of the bathroom. My call elicited no response. I turned onto my other side and looked at the window. It was still wide open as it had been the entire night.

I stumbled out into the kitchen and found my brother, watching the news and smoking a cigarette calmly.

“Have you seen Joanne this morning?” I asked him desperately.

He stared at me in confusion. “No, I don’t think I have,” he said, returning to his cigarette. “I don’t think that bedroom door has opened at all, but I’m not positive. I am not sure of anything these days.”

I ran back to my room as he slowly and ever-calmly followed. As I frantically got dressed, he stared over at the open window.

“You left the window open all night!” he cried incredulously.

I stuck my head out the window and tried to look out onto the land and swamp surrounding it. “Joanne!” I screamed.

Nothing returned my calls but the slow, steady roar of whatever resided underneath the swamps.
I looked down and saw the barefoot prints that could have only belonged to Joanne were marked in the mud right below our window.

I went immediately to the post-office to report Joanne’s disappearance. My brother waited in one of the plastic chairs in the lobby while a couple of workers sat me down in an office. They explained to me that, in recent days, the swamplands had grown increasingly volatile, inspiring more cases of madness. If Joanne was out there, there was a good chance she would not have made it through the night.

“Did you open the window or did she?” one of them asked me without blinking.

For some reason, I felt induced to lie. “She did,” I said.

Why did I not want them to know it was I who had opened the window? Would they think that I was starting to come down with whatever madness inspired Joanne’s midnight escape?

“Have you been feeling any kind of anxiety or irritability?” another asked me.

“Not that I recall,” I answered truthfully.

They gave me a box of non-perishable jams and crackers and instructed me to go back into the lobby to wait with my brother. They said they would be making an important announcement soon.

I joined my brother and we sat in silence until all of the workers came out. They asked everyone to stop what they’re doing and give them their attention.

They explained that the swamplands were, indeed, growing. They had become more aggressive and ever-poisonous. There was an emergency plan to evacuate the town.

They had procured a large ship that could accommodate all of us. We would be taken to a new place, hopefully an uninfected place where we could start anew.

We were all told to go home, pack only our essential belongings and report back to the post office so that we could secure our spot on the ship.

Once we got home, my brother packed his things as he listened to the news reports. I went into my room and packed a few of my things while trying to avoid looking at Joanne’s.

I found myself struggling to stick to what I ought to have been doing. I looked out the window and saw that the fluorescent orange sun was setting. Without opening the window, I tried to look down at where she had left her footprints. I wanted to see them again.

“Get away from the window,” my brother said, perhaps annoyed by my sentimentality. “I want to get there early so we can get a good seat, we don’t know how long the trip will be.”

He took a sip from his flask before offering it to me. I took a quick swig of whatever he had concocted and tried to relax. It was time to go to the post office. I had to accept that Joanne must have gone into the swamp. It was not for me to know why.

When my brother and I got there, we saw a large line, bigger than rations day. I saw faces; some caught my attention more than others. I wondered if they had meant anything to me before the swamplands. If Joanne had been there, she might have been able to tell me who they had been.

The workers were going through everyone’s items; making sure they were safe for travel. It was a tedious process. Still, the line slowly and surely moved.

I kept looking back at the glass doors. I could see the swamp. I tried to imagine Joanne and what may have happened to her. I felt my heart rate increase tenfold. I looked back at my brother and wondered if he could sense my unease.

As we got closer to the workers’ security check, I felt my hands go clammy. I felt an inexplicable sense of dread, not relief, wash over me. It resulted in a cold sweat, a terrible rise of palpable anxiety.

I kept looking back and outside the window. I wondered if at any point I may see Joanne’s dead body float by, ravaged by the toxic waters. I remembered again the night she begged me to open the window. I remembered how wide her eyes had appeared that night.

It was an awful dilemma; being doubly afraid of my home and equally afraid of the uncertainty of my future. I checked my pockets. I had forgotten my canteen. We were getting closer to the gate.

“I need to go back,” I whispered to my brother.

He stared at me in horror.

“We can’t. We’re almost to the front—we can’t risk it,” he said, motioning to the long line that had now formed behind us.

I grabbed his hand, something that seemed to surprise and unbalance him. “Please, please go with me,” I said.

He stopped for the briefest moment; as if he had dared to entertain such a stupid idea before quickly discarding it. “No, we can’t. Don’t do this,” he pleaded.

Then he looked at the workers. “I don’t want to have to report you,” he whispered sadly.

I realized it has come to this: everyone was loyal to the workers because everyone depended on them to take care of them…even my own brother. I looked at him, wide-eyed—maybe with the same expression Joanne had donned when she asked me to open the window.

“I’ll be right back. I just have to get one thing, I promise,” I said, trying to say anything to get him to not report me.

He begrudgingly let go of my hand and I ran out of the line. The workers may have called out to me but I was already outside, running frantically.

The moon was out; it gleamed over the darkness of the swamps. The swamps: where Joanne was. My longing for her was overwhelming. Of all the things I had forgotten, I didn’t want her to be one of them.

I didn’t stay on the path that would’ve led me back home. I ran into the swamp to find Joanne. I felt the gooey waters rise around my knees. The way the water saturated my clothing was sickening; so uncomfortable. I tore at my clothes with the claws of my hands until I was nude.

All of my belongings—the ones that I had always treasured carefully—didn’t mean anything to me anymore. I tossed my backpack into the water and watched it slowly sink into the green murkiness.

I stumbled around the swamp, naked and deranged. I wondered how long I would live for before I succumbed to whatever was in it. In an animalistic fashion, I floundered and waded through the waters, grabbing onto trees and branches.

Then I saw a naked figure in the swamp, hunched over. Even without seeing her face, I knew it was her.

Her spine was curved and her hair was matted. She had been gnawing on a rabbit when she turned around to see me and still held the mangled, dead thing in her hands.

I screamed her name in her direction. She stopped chewing. She tilted her head, listening acutely to me.

And then my heart missed a beat as she returned the call, recognizing me.

We ran to each other and embraced. Those guttural sounds of madness had become a language I aptly understood, one we shared. We cried and howled in-between holding each other’s faces in our hands, emitting sounds of joy and victory before sloshing off into the dark swamp together.