In the dreams that didn’t make her wake up screaming, Velma remembered Fred taking the oars and ribbing Shaggy good naturedly about not getting in the boat.
“It’s not me, man,” Shaggy had said, “it’s Scoob! He’s, like, rooted to the spot!”
Scooby had planted himself, claws in the wooden deck, hackles up, absolutely refusing to get into the ship’s boat. Not even food would tempt him. The dog had growled at anyone who came near him, even Shaggy.
Velma had suggested that Shaggy look through some of the documents she’d brought aboard, because if the appearance of a mysterious land mass in the middle of the Pacific wasn’t a real-estate scam, she’d eat Fred’s ascot. They’d all smiled at that. Fred had rowed them to the island, and that was generally where she woke up, glad not to be covered in sweat, glad not to be screaming.
She didn’t have that dream often.
They’d bumped into the Church of Fooloo in Providence, where they’d unmasked the mysterious Fish Demon as the Church’s Worship Leader, Father Dave Gunn. The Fish Demon had been sighted around Riley Cove and the gang’s investigation had uncovered the fact that the Olmstead family, who had once owned the Cove, were being forced to sell their private beach having fallen on hard times.
The Church had wanted to buy the Cove, but the family had put it up for Auction and so Gunn had hit on the Fish Demon scheme to drive away interest.
Fred’s trap, involving fishing nets and counterweights, had suceeded in trapping Shaggy and Scooby. But Daphne’s quick thinking and her use of a pair of vintage glass floats as bolas had ensured Gunn was unmasked.
Unusually, Gunn hadn’t cursed them as meddling kids. He’d simply stared into Fred’s eyes and quietly insisted that the Church of Fooloo would not be denied.
Velma remembered that they’d laughed about the whole scheme being fishy from start to finish.
Daphne used to keep a dream diary. It was her sort of thing. No one read it until afterwards. Velma wished with all her heart that she’d been the sort of girl who did sleepovers and shared makeup tips and secrets, and giggled over boys because then she might have understood things were more serious than normal. They might have had a clue about the Church, and the significance of Riley Cove. They might not have gone.
As Fred applied himself to the oars, Velma caught Daphne in an uncharacteristic moment of poise failure. Daphne, who held herself to frankly ridiculous standards, looked grey skinned. Her eyes were circled with dark bags and just for a moment her cheeks looked hollow. She noticed Velma’s glance and smiled, instantly banishing any hint of weariness from everywhere except her eyes.
Daphne’s Dream Diary
Had the mermaid dream again. Haven’t had that one since the case at Riley Cove. Just like last time, I’m somewhere tropical because it’s so warm and I’m sitting on a hill overlooking a beach. It’s evening, and there’s singing coming from the water. When I look down to the rocks, I can see people on the shore dancing and, in the water, there are mermaids swimming. They’re doing the singing and it sounds so lovely I just want to run down and join them.
The Mermaid dream again. I can remember feeling light, like I was floating in the ocean, and the song surrounded and lifted me.
Mermaid dream. More detailed now. I can see the people on the beach and they aren’t dancing. It looks like they’re playing…trying to throw one another into the surf. With each one in the water, the mermaids sing louder and more clearly.
They don’t want to go in the water. I can’t imagine why, but people struggle to not go into the water even though I know they should.
The surf is pink with their blood and they scream and scream and scream but nothing stops the mermaids and their knives.
The tide washes their limbs ashore and the pink foam leaves a mark half way up the beach, all that clean white sand forever bathed in human redness. At sea he stands, free from his unceasing deathsleep, and our knives and hands make short work of his tribute! He is beautiful! He consumes us utterly and he is beautiful!
On the days she doesn’t wake up screaming, Velma thinks about Shaggy and Scooby.
She remembers Shaggy pulling her out of the water, the bravest moment of his life when he was the only one who would go on deck and the only one who would haul on the rope. And later, when people wanted to know what happened to Fred and Daphne, he was the one who stood beside her with his hand on her shoulder quietly offering his support.
He was around, even if it was at arm’s length, for years afterwards. Until her third breakdown, because he’d begged her to leave it alone even when he knew she couldn’t. That was when he and Scooby moved to Denver.
“It’s, like, the highest and driest” he’d explained. She understood. Neither of them slept well any more.
The last time they’d seen each other, she was a few days out of the hospital and he’d begged her to let him take the books away. Velma could remember the tears, just two, that he’d shed for her in silent frustration. Then he’d said it.
How he couldn’t, wouldn’t, lose another friend to chasing monsters. How he wanted her to be well, be whole again.
He didn’t beg, he just said the words and waited for her to respond. He wasn’t even angry.
Not like she was. Angry at Fred for thinking, even for a moment, that new land in the middle of the Pacific ocean might be the goal of a stupid fringe church of weirdos. Angry at Fred for rowing them there, angry at herself for being captivated by the strange architecture and becoming lost in the angles that she’d only read about in books about very esoteric pure math. She was angry at Daphne for leaning on the door which swung serendipitously open – although later, Velma would claim it had been waiting for her – and tumbled her into the darkness. She was angry at Fred for diving in after her, dragging Velma along with him, and angry at them both for wanting to investigate a little deeper.
She was angry at the Church of Fooloo for leaving a telltale robe where Daphne could reach out and grab it when she needed to clean her face, and at Fred for seizing on this clue as the validation for his theories. She wanted to cry and beat her fists against his chest for having gone on, following the sound of singing to the terrible chamber where they saw…they saw…
Luminous grey, the fishbodied men dancing in the slow circle. Red, dripping, the sacrifices a literal hot mess on the ebon floor and the wrench of realisation when the wall move that it was no wall, but the opening eye of somethingawful, something monstrous and frightful that made mockery of the careful Smithsonian timelines Velma had so loved as a school tripper. Something that fixed her to the spot with sudden awareness of just how small, how frail, how insignificant she is. And had it not been for the other howl, the far off cry of terror and longing from a ridiculous Great Dane that by some miracle came down the uncanny passages, she would have stood, as Fred and Daphne stood, as the questing tentacles found them out.
She was angry at herself for running.
She was angry at herself for throwing herself heedlessly into the ocean, swimming with insane resolve for the ship as an explosion of tentacles followed her into the bright, salt, sun and sea world.
Mostly, she was angry at herself for having survived.
The books said she was lucky, that the sacrifices – so many of them, her friends included – had done little more than induce a momentary wakefulness in that creature beneath the Pacific. She knew that one day – one day soon, if everything she had learned was to be believed – the stars would come right and it would rise again. Unstoppable.
The last mask she’d torn away had been her own, and now there was nothing to hide behind: no ignorance, no pretence that kids could meddle and muddle and somehow win through. The greatest real-estate scam of all time, that Men are masters of their world, was close to ending.
Want to hear this story – and one of the worst Shaggy impersonations in recording history – read by the author? You can, at Soundcloud.