The storm whipped cold raindrops into my face, making it hard to see. At one point I almost lost my sense of direction. Lightning was flashing all around me, and the thunder grew louder with each clap.
Finally, I saw the lights from the windows. I thought about knocking on the door, but then I remembered what Chris had said about his mom. I was afraid she would simply slam the door in my face if I asked her to talk to Chris.
So instead I snuck around the back, checking the windows along the way. Through the window, I saw a man with a moustache sitting in the living room watching TV. In the kitchen I saw a woman doing the dishes.
The next window showed me a kid’s room. Chris was lying on his bed, playing on his computer. I tapped the glass gently. At first, Chris didn’t hear me, so I tapped a little harder. He turned his head and looked directly at me, his eyes widening.
I waved and signaled for him to come and open the window.
He didn’t move—he just shook his head.
I waved at him again.
He got up, but instead of coming to the window, he went to a drawer and took something out. He came over and opened the window ajar. “What do you want?” he asked, giving me a suspicious look through the wet glass.
“I just want to talk,” I said, pulling up my collar. I was soaked to the bone. “Would you please open it all the way?”
“You’re not coming in,” Chris said. He leaned forward and looked down at my feet. “And I won’t talk to you before you touch this …”
The thing he had been hiding behind his back was, of course, an anchor. He stuck it out the window.
“Sure, no problem.” I took the anchor, turning it over. “Satisfied?”
He nodded and looked a little bit less uneasy. “Give it back to me, please.”
I handed him back the anchor, and he opened the window all the way.
“Was that some sort of test?” I asked.
“Yes,” Chris said. “And you passed. I had to be sure you hadn’t become one of them.”
“Who is ‘them’?” I asked. “You have to tell me what you know, Chris. I think we might be in danger.”
“If you put up the anchor like I told you, and you stayed inside at night, you should be safe, and there’s no need to—”
“We didn’t put up the anchor!” I interrupted. “And at least one of us has been outside last night.”
Chris’s eyes gleamed with fear.
“Tell me what the hell is going on around here!” I demanded.
“All right, all right,” Chris said. “But keep your voice down. My mom—”
“Yeah, I get it. Your mom will kill you if she hears you talking to me. I’m sorry, but I’m tired of you guys and your secretiveness. Now, spill it!”
Chris bit his lip for a moment. Then, he started talking. “I don’t know when it started. Maybe it has always been like this. But you and your friends chose the worst time to come here. It only happens once a year, and never more than three nights in a row.”
“What happens?” I whispered.
“The tide, of course. It floods the whole area. But I guess you noticed by now. Everyone around here knows about it. You can see it on the barometers, they warn us about it, so most of the people leave home while it’s happening. We used to go to my grandparents’, but my granddad is very ill, so my parents decided to stay home this time. We have put up plenty of anchors, so no harm can come to us.”
“Who is trying to harm you?” I asked. “Who are they?”
Chris was about to answer, when lightning flashed, illuminating everything for a split second. The thunderclap followed immediately.
“They are lost souls,” he whispered. “They have been cursed to live in the ocean.”