We went as far as the car would take us.
By the time we had walked up to the cliff top it was approaching dusk. It’s a nice spot for picnics, I’m told. You can see all the way to Europe. When we used to go there as a child, I would always go down to the beach and swim. One time, I recall my parents being in an awful panic because they thought they’d lost me. I’d been out of their line of sight.
The cliff top was bare and featureless. Beyond it, just the vast black shape of the sea. One of them was there, as expected, to meet us.
It looked like a woman at first. As we stepped closer, we observed that it seemed to be clad in tattered, dirty-looking garments that hung closely about its person, like drapes. Its face was covered almost entirely with some sort of shawl. Its features weren’t visible. They prefer to hide.
Perhaps it was male. Perhaps intersex. You can never quite tell. It made motions with its hand.
Oh yes - before I forget. I’d like to take a moment to thank [REDACTED] for letting us speak this evening. I must say, I’m very pleased with the turnout. I’m glad so many of you could find it in your no-doubt busy schedule to come out tonight. It’s pleasing to see so many well-respected individuals and researchers in the crowd.
But now. I want to tell you what it told me. I have here the piece of paper. A message. This was left in my sister’s house.
One day they came to her door. The children. Asking to be let in. She was kind, my sister - and did. They ran into her house. Ran to where the water was - then disappeared. Their eyes were a deep watery black. Now they were inside. My sister found the note in the bathroom. There was nothing on it.
That evening on the hill, a deal was brokered. Like so many deals. If you swim, your water is theirs. Your blood is theirs. And we heard the voices from below, calling us. Calling for our kin.
That skeptic professor speaking earlier tonight, you may recall? He mentioned Capgras delusion - a condition where sufferers believe friends and relatives have been replaced by strange impostors? He classified it as a mental aberration.
Well. I was never replaced. It is not replacement. More… repurposing. It doesn’t matter if you die. If bones are broken, they can be reshaped. During the fall. Once they take your corpse beneath, the reshaping begins.
138 people in this room tonight. You have all swam in those waters. For your complicity, you will each lose kin. Where your loved ones are, we are now too.
Tonight, you can all go home. You are safe; all spared. But when the call comes, the call to drive to the sea, you will go. For we must all return. To swim.