toni-frissell-underwaterJuno glared at the apparition and cursed the bulky helmet that limited his view. But that bulky helmet was all that protected him from the radioactive waters of the cooling tank.

They couldn’t see her from the surface, even though she hovered and swayed just below that point. She only showed herself to the divers, the elite who performed the necessary maintenance in the deadly depths.

Of course, that led the rest of the team to think that the divers were just perpetuating one big inside joke. But it wasn’t a joke to Dania… she had quit after seeing her just once.

Juno had no reason to be in the tank at that time. His only motive was the apparition herself. There had to be a reason they all saw the same thing…a woman, dressed in a white skirt and button-up the front blouse with a heavy necklace circling her throat. She did not appear to be in distress, but rather…surprised.

Cameras had not caught her, and research had not come up with any horror story of someone drowning or dying a terrible death and then haunting the place. The facility itself was only four years old. Before that, the place had been nothing but hard lunar scrabble and solid rock. For three and a half years the facility had operated with a perfect safety record and no “weirdness.”

That morning they were prepared. Cameras, sensors, doubters, believers, skeptics and all were assembled. Juno entered the tank, and there she was. He signaled, and the crew above water answered that they saw nothing. He walked directly under her and tried something new. He took a pole and reached up to touch her.

The image blinked. She thrashed, then in slow motion she reverse-fell out of the tank. The team on the surface continued to peer down, seeing nothing, but Juno fired his emergency thrusters, launching himself out of the pool. He still saw her…teetering on the edge, then she seemed to catch her balance. She walked backwards, like a film in reverse, until she reached the far door.

As soon as the door closed, it opened again, and all heads turned in that direction. “And this is the tank?” a woman in white asked, followed directly by one of the veeps from corporate. All eyes were riveted on her, and not a single one of them spoke as she walked calmly towards the edge of the tank and peered in.

Juno struggled to get his helmet off, but it was too late. “No!” he yelled into his comm, broadcasting the word over the room’s speakers. The word startled the woman, and she teetered on the edge, her face almost comically surprised as she fell into the tank with a splash.

And disappeared.

So, every Friday Rebekah hosts FlashFriday on her blog. We have until midnight to write something inspired by the prompt (the picture above.) We also have a word limit which is purposely rather small, like just a few hundred words. It is HARD to write a complete story in just a few hundred words. It almost always ends up feeling like an excerpt from a longer piece.

I usually go over the word limit and then edit down to what it needs to be. This makes for a tighter story, although sometimes I have to eliminate something I really liked.

I needed to eliminate 150 words from this. If you’d like to read the shorter version, it’s on Rebekah’s blog.

This story isn’t related to any other.