I Can Swim

I Can Swim

Pretty gothic pale brunette woman

By: James G. Boswell 

Note: This is a preview from the scary short story collection e-book, “Deprived …and Other Stories.” To find out how the story ends, you can buy the collection on Amazon for $2.99. Click here to buy on Amazon.

“When I was a little girl, maybe four years old, my mother picked me up without warning as I played outside and threw me into the deep end of our pool, fully clothed. I kicked and screamed while I furiously tried to keep my head above water. In between desperate gulps of air, I saw her standing there, staring at me. She had her hands on her hips and her face was drawn with a stern look of judgment. It was clear to me even then that she was testing me. She would continue testing me in various ways throughout my life as I grew older.”

Mallory calmly took a sip of water from the glass that sat on the desk in front of her in the board room of the law firm where she worked as an attorney. Across from her sat the firm’s president, Janine, as well as three of its board members, Mort, Stan, and Frank, who collectively made up the firm’s managing partner selection committee.

She continued, “I spent my entire life trying to please my mother, but nothing was ever good enough for her. I skipped a grade in high school, and she just complained that I didn’t earn enough scholarships to pay for college. I was Magna Cum Laude as an undergraduate and earned a full ride to Loyola Law School, and she merely pointed out that it wasn’t Harvard. I graduated at the top of my class in law school, and all she said was that real-world results are the only thing that matters in life. Finally, after I became a partner at this law firm, one of the largest law firms in the world, and the youngest partner in its history, she just shrugged and asked me what real skills I actually possessed. Without thinking, I replied, ‘I can swim.’”

Despite the fact that she maintained a well-poised demeanor as she spoke, Mallory was secretly in agony. Her head was throbbing, her muscles ached all over her body, and waves of nausea assaulted her stomach to the point where she thought she might throw up. However, she didn’t show her physical discomfort at all. Instead, she simply sat there, cross-legged, looking every bit the well-put-together young professional that she was. She concluded her monologue by saying, “And so, I believe the greatest quality I have to offer as Shook, Lathrop, and McDermott LLP’s next managing partner is my resilience.”

“And your billable hours,” said Stan with a smirk. Janine looked at him with a raised eyebrow, but he just shrugged and said, “What? She’s a rainmaker. Can you imagine the kind of business we could pull in with Mallory at the helm? She’s a star.” Mallory smiled slightly at the compliment, but she forced herself to maintain a stoic composure. She didn’t want to seem overconfident.

Janine chuckled as she shook her head and said, “Stan, you know this committee’s deliberations are supposed to be confidential.” Then, she smiled at Mallory and said, “We have one more question for you, Mallory. With your incredible track record of success, what is it that sets you apart from other lawyers, and how would you impart this upon the lawyers at this firm to help them be more successful as well?”

Without hesitation, Mallory responded, “It’s simple, the answer is research. ‘Knowledge is power’ as they say. I learn everything there is to know about every case I’m working on, and then look for ways to use that knowledge to my advantage. If I were managing director, I’d make sure all the firm’s attorneys understood the value, and the power, of research.”

The committee members each nodded in agreement and approval, and Janine said, “Thank you very much, Mallory. We appreciate you meeting with us. We’ll finish evaluating candidates soon, and you should know our decision in a couple weeks.”

Mallory stood up and turned to leave. Just as she began to open the door, she heard someone whisper her name, “Mallory…” She turned around and said, “Yes?” wondering if there was one more question they’d forgotten to ask her. However, the four committee members looked at her with puzzled expressions – nobody had said anything.

Mallory sat in her doctor’s office as she waited impatiently for the doctor to arrive. The pain and the nausea she felt during the meeting had been coming and going intermittently for the past several weeks and she wanted it to stop. She’d meticulously researched medical textbooks and journals and, though she would’ve been ashamed to admit it, Google, for some kind of explanation as to what malady was plaguing her, but came up empty. Over-the-counter pain pills and stomach medications helped a little, but she needed a genuine solution as soon as possible.

She’d been working insane hours for the past few months to make herself as competitive as possible for the managing partner position at her firm. It now seemed that her entire life was an endless blur of contracts, depositions, and lawsuit filings. She’d taken to sleeping at her office most nights, and even packed extra suits and dress shirts every weekend to bring with her on Monday mornings. She subsisted mainly on coffee and fare from the office vending machine as she was too busy to be distracted even by the human need to consume food. This sickness that was now causing Mallory so much discomfort needed to come to an end, if for no other reason than because it wasn’t helping her succeed.

There were six people being considered for the managing partner position, but Mallory knew through the office grapevine that the selection committee was only seriously considering her and one other person. That person was her archrival, Jennifer, whose perfectionism mirrored Mallory’s in every way. In Mallory’s mind, everything came naturally to Jennifer. Her cases always seemed to end in her clients’ favor, and she rarely lost when she went to trial. Mallory envied her deeply, though she was just as successful herself. Mallory needed to prove that she was a better lawyer than Jennifer, a better lawyer and better professional, which was why she simply didn’t have time to be sick.

“This doctor had better get here with some good news quick,” she thought.

Just then, the door opened, and Dr. Rosenstein walked briskly into the room with a clipboard in her hand. She said, “Your blood test came back, Mallory. You’re definitely not pregnant.”

Mallory rolled her eyes and said, “I could’ve told you that.”

“Yes, well you know we’ve got to rule these things out. Other than that, I can’t seem to find anything wrong with you. Besides a slightly elevated blood pressure, you’re the picture of health, which I frankly find quite surprising considering how much weight you’ve lost in such a short amount of time. Are you eating enough?”

“Come on, doctor,” Mallory whined. “I’m in pain and I can’t afford to deal with it right now. The whole-body aches and the nausea just seem to be getting worse. Look, I’ve barely been eating lately, and I admit I’ve been drinking way too much coffee, but those can’t be the only reasons I feel terrible. The pain is so intense, and it’s different than the pain of a caffeine overdose, which I can assure you I’ve dealt with many times. And the nausea just feels so… foul, not like what you feel from not eating enough or eating too much junk food. Can’t you just prescribe something for me?”

Dr. Rosenstein eyed Mallory for a moment, and said, “No. I think you’re simply under too much stress. Is everything going alright at work? Are you having any relationship issues? Boyfriend problems?”

Mallory sighed with mild disgust and said, “None of that, no. I’ve been working a bit more than usual lately. I’m up for a promotion, but other than that everything’s normal.”

Dr. Rosenstein shook her head and replied, “Well, I wish there was something I could do for you, but I think you just need to relax. Take a vacation as soon as possible and get more sleep and exercise. The long-term effects of too much stress can lead to serious health problems, even for someone as young as you.”

Mallory slumped into her chair dejectedly. She was really hoping for a quick solution, but it seemed that none would be forthcoming. Just then, she noticed something poking out from under the doctor’s desk. At first, Mallory couldn’t see what it was, but it seemed to be moving slightly. She realized that it was a finger, gently tapping the floor next to her foot. A hand then shot out from under the desk and grabbed Mallory’s ankle, its grip like a hard, cold metal vice. The hand’s flesh was grey and covered in horrible oozing scars. Mallory leapt out of her chair and screamed.

The doctor looked at Mallory with an expression of mild surprise, then asked, “What was that all about?” Breathing heavily, Mallory began to say she saw a phantom hand grab her from under the desk, but then changed her mind and said, “Nothing, it was nothing. I thought I saw something that wasn’t there. That’s all.”

Mallory sat at her desk in her office as she typed furiously. She needed to finish the contract she was working on as soon as possible. The clock on her wall showed that it was 3:30 a.m.

The phone rang, startling her. Mallory glanced at the caller ID as she grunted in frustration. It was an internal office call from Janine’s extension. Mallory stared at the phone as she furrowed her brow in confusion. Janine had left the office several hours ago, and so had everyone else. Mallory thought she was alone.

Hesitantly, she picked up the phone, and said, “Hello?”

Janine’s voice came through the speaker and said, “Hi there, Mallory. Working late again? You really want that managing partner position, don’t you?”

Mallory paused. It sounded like Janine’s voice but there was something off about it. The voice had a playful, mocking tone that Janine had never used before. Also, it seemed to waver from being too deep at one moment to too high the next, as if someone was imitating Janine’s voice and coming close but not quite matching it perfectly.

Mallory didn’t say anything, and then the voice continued. “What’s the matter? Don’t know what to say? You seemed to have all the answers at the interview the other day. That reminds me, I have some follow up questions for you, but I need to ask you in person.”

The voice changed completely as it spoke the last few words. It became raspy and menacing, and no longer sounded like Janine at all. Then, it continued, “Why don’t you come to my office? Or better yet, how about I come to yours?”

Before Mallory could say anything, she heard a click and the call ended. She slowly put the phone down, thinking about what to do. Then, a sharp pain arced across her temples as a pang of nausea struck her bowels and she collapsed onto the floor. As she lay there dry heaving, she heard her office door open and the sound of footsteps walking towards her desk. She was paralyzed by pain and fear. Terrified, she looked up to see who it was, but then the footsteps stopped, and she heard nothing for several moments. The pain and nausea suddenly went away, and she was able to pull herself up. Slowly, she raised herself up and peaked out from behind her desk. Nobody was there…

Click here to find out how the story ends and to read many more tales of terror by purchasing the e-book, “Deprived …and Other Stories” on Amazon for $3.99.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial