Mark and I each grab for an oar and dash to the shore through the shallow waters of the lake. We huddle back to back with our paddles raised in the air as the sky fills with these winged monsters. They circle the sky like bats, only much larger and scarier. I can handle bats; this is different.
They multiply in midair as their increased numbers block the light of the sun. The sound of growling and hissing terrifies us. My teeth chatter, and my knees quake as I examine the landscape for an escape route. The hills are too far and if we start panicking; I fear that we will become breakfast for the flock of nasties swooping overhead.
As they glide back and forth from underneath the sun, a lone ray of blinding light shines in my eyes. My memories drag me back to the first night I found the courage to go out dressed up wearing makeup.
“License and registration, please,” the officer had said, his flashlight shined in my eyes and I couldn’t see his face.
“What did I do, sir?” I asked, my voice was low and gruff in those days.
“Whoa. You’re a dude?” He mis-gendered me in a tone painted with disgust.
“Actually, I’m transgender, sir. I am a lady and should be treated as such. My gender or sexuality should not be in question. Have I broken the law?” This officer required a brief education in matters of the Constitution so I had obliged.
“A lady. That’s hilarious!” he snorted.
Look pal, I’m just coming back from a nightclub. Is that wrong? Or is there some special reason you pulled me over?” Having the last word had been a curse fallen over every member of my family, especially me.
“Don’t take that tone with me, you freak.”
“What did you call me?” I questioned while on the brink of erupting into unrelenting fury. The word ‘freak’ symbolized my father and the frequency in which he abused that term when speaking about me.
“You are this close to getting arrested.” The officer placed his index finger and thumb together leaving a narrow space between them.
“You still haven’t told me what I did wrong. Why am I being detained?” My voice trembled as confusion and angst washed over my spirit. I thought for sure that this bigoted misogynist would haul me off to jail for whatever reason he could explain.
“I clocked you doing sixty, and the posted speed limit is fifty-five. Did you drink any alcoholic beverages this evening?”
I had a few drinks, yes, but I felt compelled to withhold the truth. I answered without delay, “no sir.”
“Well, I have a right mind to have you blow. I bet you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” This awful smile appeared as his ugly fat face stretched. He snickered as if his little joke was amusing.
“No sir. I’m not that kind of girl. Sorry to disappoint,” I responded loud and clear.
“That’s because you aren’t a girl. Are you? You’re an ugly freak, aren’t you?”
I wasn’t sure how to deal with that question, but I tried, “I don’t think so. I’m simply trying to find my place in this world, and people like yourself make it difficult. Are you giving me a ticket?”
“That depends,” he had announced as he suspiciously spun his head in different directions and continued, “… on how cooperative you are. You get me?”
“Just write me the ticket you hypocritical fuck bag!” I wailed, which wasn’t a great idea.
“You think I meant? You’re a disgusting pig. That’s it. I will arrest.”
“I’ve been recording the conversation on my phone,” I lied, “let’s see how you’re buddies react to your innocent comments. I wonder if they’ll believe that you weren’t trying to extort sexual favors out of me.”
“Good day sir,” he marched away and bounced into his squad car. He had sat there as I pulled away, following me with his filthy eyes. Evil lurks in every corner of the world, and I found out how difficult transitioning would be despite what I had imagined.
“Raquel,” Mark cried, grasping my arm and attention as the beasts fell upon us.
As they near, I notice their sharp white teeth hanging over jet-black jaws soaked with drool. The creatures’ heads were human sized. They resemble winged pugs with evil wrinkled faces. They had four limbs with sharp daggers for claws.
Mark swings his oar back and forth missing my head by an inch. An animal stretches out its claws towards my face and I swing my oar in a panic. I get lucky and strike it, sending the howling beast flying in the reverse direction. As the rest of them plunge in, we both fall to the grass and shield our faces.
The rumble of thunder accompanied by piercing squeals of terror startles me. As I uncover my eyes, I notice some of the creatures retreating to the hills while others drop out of the air crashing into the earth. Hundreds of thuds and thumps vibrate around us as animals hurl themselves into the ground. I squint and notice that same gray cloak and those cold gray eyes peeping at me.
“Raquel, now it is time for you to learn your purpose here in this place,” declares the old woman. The same person who we tried so urgently to find, somehow found us first and…
“You? You saved us?” Mark’s voice exudes puzzling wonderment as the ancient lady chuckles with pleasure. The stench of her breath curls my toes. I turn my face but the stink is inescapable.
“Who else would have saved you? You haven’t an ally nor a friend in this place,” she claims still entertained.
“Why would you help us?” I ask.
“I created such beauty in you, my darling. Did you think me evil?”
“Yeah, we kinda did,” I reply and Mark nods his head in agreement.
To be continued . . .