The Reach

📅 Published on July 17, 2021

“The Reach”

Written by Chisto Healy
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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Dan stepped towards the water’s edge with a smile and a stretch.  “It really is beautiful out here.  Thanks for inviting me.”

“Don’t,”  David said, grabbing his arm.

Dan looked down at the arm on his, then up to the man it belonged to, meeting his all too serious gaze.  “What’s your deal, man?  We came down here to hang out and swim.”

“Nelly is in that water.  If you get too close, she’ll pull you in,”  David told him firmly.

Dan laughed.  His laughter fell quiet, and his smile disappeared when he realized the other man’s reaction didn’t match his own.  “You can’t really be serious.”

“He is,”  David’s brother, Ron, said, walking over to them.  “We didn’t believe it either until we found out the hard way.  He just didn’t want you to do the same.”

Dan let out a frustrated exhale and backed away from the water.  “Alright.  What the hell is going on?  I thought we were taking a few days to get away from the hell of everyday life and coming out here to relax and unwind, to chill.  We have a cabin by the lake, and you don’t want me to go by the water, and you’re telling me you’ve been here before and had something bad go down?  Somebody want to clue me in?”

“Let’s talk about it back at the cabin,”  Ron said, his eyes on the water.  “Come on.  Just come inside, and we’ll explain everything.”

Dan studied him for a moment.  He looked over at David’s pleading eyes, and he sighed.  “Yeah.  Alright.  Fine.  This better be good,”  he said.

Dan followed the two brothers up the dirt walkway and the wooden steps beyond to the front door of the cabin they were sharing.  He threw the door open and went to the bar, immediately pouring himself a glass of whiskey.

“The alcohol isn’t gonna kill me, is it?”  he asked as the others entered the room.

“Depends on how much of it you drink,”  David answered.  He strolled over to the fridge and retrieved a beer for himself, popping the top on a bottle opener stuck to the freezer door by a magnet.

“Grab me one, too,”  Ron said.  David handed him the one he just opened.  Then he grabbed another for himself.

They all took seats around the warmth of the fire burning in the woodstove.  “So tell me what’s up,”  Dan said, sipping his whiskey.

“Her name is Nelly Long Arms,”  Ron started.  “She lives at the bottom of the lake.  When people get too close to the water, she grabs their ankles and pulls them in.  She drags them down and eats them.”

Dan rolled his eyes and took another sip of his drink.  “Even if that is true, I wasn’t close enough to the water.  I was a good five feet away when your brother grabbed me, freaking out.”

David glared angrily at their friend.  “Her name is Long Arms for a reason, moron.”

Dan wiped his face and shook his head.  “This really sounds like kid stuff, guys.  What are we doing?”

“It was kid stuff once,”  Ron responded.  “We didn’t rent this cabin.  We own it.  We used to come here as kids.  We were twelve years old when it happened.”

“We brought our friend Keith with us,”  David chimed in.  “It should have been fun.  Mom and Dad had always told us not to go near the water.  They had said that Nelly would grab us if we did.”

“We listened because we didn’t want to get in trouble,”  Ron took over.  “But we thought it was bullcrap, too.  Keith said parents told their kids things like that just to scare them.  He wanted to swim, and we wanted to be liked, so we decided to say screw it this time.”

Dan’s eyes moved back and forth between the brothers.  He went to sip his drink and realized with a frown that the glass was empty.  He sighed and put it down on the floor by his feet.

“Keith reached the water first,”  David told him.  “That’s the only reason we’re still alive.”

“It’s true,”  Ron said with a huff, downing his beer and following it with a belch.  “Damned greenish-gray arms came out of that water so fast, unlike anything you can imagine.  They grabbed old Keith by the ankles.”

David nodded.  “He fell on his back first, hit the ground hard too.  He was screaming, but not for long.  She pulled him under the water, and it filled his mouth and probably his lungs.  There was just some gurgling and bubbles as he disappeared under the surface.”

“We just stood there, staring at the water, not knowing what to do,”  Ron said then.  “We were in shock.  We never thought for a million years that it was true, that Nelly was real.  Keith never came back up, Dan.  He went down and never came up.”

“Cops couldn’t find him either?”  Dan asked as he got up from his seat and made his way back to the bar for a refill.  He thought about it and just set the glass down and seized the bottle, carrying it back to his seat with him.

“They didn’t find Nelly or Keith,”  David said, heading back to the fridge.  He looked at his brother.  “You want another?”

Ron shook his head.  “Nah, I’m good.”  He leaned forward and stared into Dan’s eyes.  “They found bones at the bottom of the lake, man, bones and teeth.”

“Jesus,”  Dan said, taking a gulp from the whiskey bottle.

“There was a lot of them,”  David said upon his return.  “They dated back several years.  They were able to use the teeth to connect the bones to a ton of missing people and children.”

“The cops didn’t believe us anymore that you did,”  Ron said.  “There was enough evidence for them to believe our parents were murderers, though.  They were tried and convicted; life in prison.”

Dan’s eyes grew wide.  “You guys are serious?  You never told me any of this.”

David turned his beer up.  Then he wiped foam off of his mouth with the back of his hand.  “Yeah.  We’re serious.  We lived with our aunt and uncle until we were eighteen.  Then you know, college and grown-up life.  Turned out we still owned this place.  I never thought to check.”

Ron warmed his hands by the fire even though the room wasn’t cold.  His chill was internal, the shiver of frightening memories tickling his bones.  “We both thought about this place forever, thought about what we saw that day.  We didn’t tell anyone else because we didn’t think anyone would believe us, but we talked about it to each other.  We’ve relived it in our nightmares.  We’ve tried to drown it with drink.  Now, after all these years, we couldn’t take it anymore, man.  We both decided that we needed to come back.  We needed to know for sure if what we saw that day was real or not.”

Dan just shook his head slowly and worked on the liquor in his hand.  He didn’t know what to make of any of this.  It seemed insane, but somehow the brothers were pretty convincing.  It was their body language, the look in their eyes, their tone.  They were screwed up by this place, no matter what happened that day, twenty years ago.  He was trying to piece things together in his mind.

“So part of you wonders if maybe you’re wrong,”  he said, looking at the fire instead of either of the other men.  “Shared hallucinations have happened before, especially with children.  You said yourself just now that they never found Nelly.  They didn’t even find your friend.”

David shook his head.  “No.  Dan, not finding Nelly didn’t make us think that she hadn’t been there.  Look up the legends.  She comes up in different lakes.  There’s magic to it.  She probably just went somewhere else and took Keith with her.  I bet his bones are down there now, or at the bottom of a different lake somewhere.”

Dan looked at Ron, scrutinizing him.  “You believe this, too?  That part sounds a bit unrealistic.”

“I don’t know, man.”  Ron leaned back and let out an exasperated exhale.  “I know I’ve never been able to let it go.  That’s why we’re here now, for the truth.”

Dan took a deep breath.  “Sounds like Nelly’s reach is a lot longer than five feet,”  he said.  “If you can’t go near the water without getting dragged in, what do you plan to do?  Oh my God, you didn’t bring me here to -”

David’s angry glare returned.  “Of course not.  If that was our plan, why would I have stopped you from getting close?  Nelly’s the monster, not us.”

“So you brought me to the lake where there’s a witch living under the water who eats people, for what?”

“She’s not a witch,”  Ron told him.  “She’s fae, a lake faerie.”  He got up from his seat and walked to the window, pointing to something outside.  “That’s our plan.”

Dan got up on unsteady feet, showing just how much alcohol he had ingested.  He stumbled over to the window and looked out at what his friend was trying to show him.  All he saw was a small white painted wooden rowboat.  That couldn’t have been what they were talking about.

“Tell me your plan is not that tiny-ass boat.”

Ron took the liquor from him and sipped from the bottle.  “Our plan is that tiny-ass boat.”

David walked over and stood on Dan’s other side.  Dan turned to meet his eyes.  “On the off chance this is all real, I am not going out onto that lake with you both in that tiny-ass boat.”

“Don’t worry.  We don’t want you to,”  David told him, patting him on the back.  “If something happens to us, we still want the truth to get out.  We need someone to witness whatever happens when we’re out on that boat.”

Ron pulled his eyes from the window to turn and look at him.  “I brought a camera with a nice zoom, so you don’t have to get too close.  You can record the whole thing.  Whatever happens when we’re out on that boat, you’ll be able to prove.  Dad was killed years back by some other inmates, but maybe what you get on that tape can help free our mom.”

“You think she’d want to be free if her children are dead?”

“We have to try,”  David said.  “Like you said, Nelly’s reach is a lot longer than five feet, Dan.  If we don’t find out the truth, she will never let us go.”

Dan sighed and ran his hands through his hair.  He stared out at the small boat and its paddles.  “If she can reach you on land, how do you even plan to get the boat into the water?  What’s to stop her from snatching you right out of it?  This is crazy.”

Ron gave him a genuine smile then.  “You think we didn’t think this through, but we did, my friend.  That’s why we brought a revolver, a flare gun, and we each have hunting knives.  If that bitch comes up out of that water, she’s going right back down into it.”

After another deep breath, Dan nodded.

“Take a little time to sober up, but we don’t want to attempt this when it’s dark, so don’t take too long,”  David said.  “The camera is on the table when you’re ready.”

Dan watched the two brothers leave the cabin.  Then he watched out the window as they sat in chairs facing the water, checking their weapons.  It was hard for Dan not just to keep on drinking.  The whole situation felt insane to him.  He was anxious and uncomfortable.  He wanted to get away from his stress, not go monster hunting.

He felt angry with the brothers for not cluing him in on why they were coming here and what they wanted from him.  Of course, he understood why they didn’t.  He wouldn’t have believed them, and if they somehow managed to convince him, he would have declined the offer to participate.  Still, he felt that he should have had that right.  He felt manipulated.  It made him want to go out there and tell them that he wasn’t going to do it, tell them that they could find somebody else.  The problem was, their story got to him.  If there was something in that lake, he wanted to know.  He wanted the answers, to see the proof.  If he left, he couldn’t very well do that.  Cursing, Dan set the bottle on the bar where he got it from and went to take a cold shower.

An hour later, the brothers turned in unison to look with nervous anticipation as Dan emerged from the cabin.  He saw the way they were looking at him, and he gave a half-smile and raised the camera, showing them that he was on board.  Both men seemed to sigh with relief.  When he reached their chairs, Ron said, “You can sit right here.  You should be able to see everything that happens from here, and I don’t think Nelly can reach you.”

“You don’t think?”  Dan’s words were laced with fear.

“You’ll be fine,”  David told him, wanting to comfort him before he changed his mind.  “We’ve both been sitting here for a long time already.  It’s safe.”

Dan nodded to them, but he didn’t look confident at all.  He felt even less confident than he looked.  Ron gestured to his seat with his hand as he stood.  Dan swallowed a lump in his throat and reluctantly took the seat.

The two brothers faced the water.  They jumped up and down, growling and shaking their arms out, trying to get themselves psyched up to face the worst evil they had ever known, the evil that had stolen their childhoods and poisoned their adulthood.  Then they met each other’s eyes with a steely gaze and stayed that way for a moment.  When they broke it off, they turned back and ran to the boat.  They pushed the rowboat from behind, running with it until it crossed the edge into Nelly’s territory.  Dan watched anxiously from above, through the lens of the camera, the image trembling from his unsteady hand.

They jumped quickly into the boat when it hit the water, looking frantically about.  They expected to be attacked, their hands on their weapons, but nothing came.  The boat just rocked gently on the water, and they sat there for a moment, hearts thundering, childhood trauma envisioned in their minds.  They panted and tapped their feet nervously, allowing their breathing to become more normal.

“We’re alive,”  David said to his brother.  “We’re alive.”

Ron nodded.  With a calming exhale, he said, “Stay vigilant.”

He started to paddle, taking them further out towards the center of the lake.  David’s hand massaged the handle of the flare gun he held.  His eyes combed the water, looking for movement, something to tell him where the damn thing was hiding.  He was so scared of seeing her too late.  He knew enough to know that they wouldn’t live to regret it.

Dan watched through the lens, the red button lit to signify that it was recording the events.  He felt so scared for his friends and wished that the three of them had been doing literally anything else at that moment, but he knew that they were right.  If something did happen in that water, they needed proof.  People needed to know.

There was a splash behind the boat.  Ron whirled around, gun pointed outward.  David leaned to his side, trying to see past his brother.  There was nothing there, but the water was still rippling with the remnants of recent movement.  She was there.

They watched the spot she had been and the area around it with laser focus, their weapons ready to fire in a blink if it came down to it.  They didn’t notice the thin fingers reaching up quietly behind them, breaking the surface of the water and wrapping around the edge of the boat, just behind where David sat.

Up on land, in his chair, Dan saw what his friends didn’t.  He knew that he should call out to them, warn them, but his breath caught in his chest.  He had maintained a hold on the idea that none of this was real until this moment.  He felt like the sight in the camera’s lens had broken his mind.  The fingers that climbed the boat were inhumanly long.  There was no denying the brothers’  claims now.

It wasn’t until the pale green, bone-thin, left arm stretched upward behind David, black fingernails reaching towards his hair, that Dan found his voice.

“Behind you!”  he screamed.

The brothers whirled around, ready to fight, just in time to see the long arms retract and fold back into the water, disappearing from view.

“Jesus, she almost got me,”  David said, panting, one hand over his pounding heart, the other trembling with adrenaline while wrapped around the flare gun.

“We can’t face the same direction anymore,”  Ron said, nervously turning to look behind him.  “We need to cover both sides.”

Just then, there was a soft scraping at their feet.  They went against the rule they just made, and both turned inward, peering down at the inside of the small boat.  It sounded like something was scraping the other side of the wood.

“Damn it, she’s taunting us,”  David growled.

Dan watched through the camera as Ron stood and pointed his revolver at the floor of the boat.  He shook his head at the sight.  He’s insane, Dan thought.  He’ll sink them out there with that thing.  Please don’t do that.

“Are you nuts?”  David snarled, glaring at his brother.  “Put the damn gun down.  It’s a boat for God’s sake.”

“It won’t matter if we go down if we kill Nelly first,”  Ron said, the intensity of his tone matching the look in his eyes.

“That’s a big if,”  David said.  His eyes stayed focused on the scratching at their feet.  “You don’t think she can scratch all the way through, do you?”

Ron’s lip curled as he warred internally over whether or not to pull the trigger.  “If she does, I’m definitely shooting,”  he said quietly but firmly.

Both men staring at the incessant scratching failed to notice the arm that rose up from the water behind Ron, hand formed into a claw, fingers prepared to grab.

Dan was watching from his seat.  His eyes bulged, threatening to pop out of his head and rolled down the shore to the water.  He realized what was happening.  Whatever they saw or heard at the center of the boat made them think that Nelly was in that place, but they weren’t considering her arms.

“She can stretch,”  he said more to himself than anyone else.  “She can stretch!  She can stretch!”  He was screaming it then.  He stood from his seat, and he was jumping up and down.  He was waving his arms but trying to still remember to record.

Nelly’s thin fingers curled their way into Ron’s dark hair.  By the time he felt them, it was too late.  David saw his brother being yanked backward, and he lunged forward, pulling out his hunting knife.

Ron reached above himself to grab at the wrist of the arm that was tugging at him.  He was taken off of his feet, and his legs kicked wildly as he tried to keep from being removed from the boat.  David leaned over him and started sawing at the hand that held his brother.

Dan held the zoom button to enlarge what he was seeing.  A face emerged from the water behind Ron.  It was a woman’s face, long and twisted, jutting cheekbones and bulbous eyes.  Her arms weren’t the only thing that could stretch, Dan realized, as the woman’s pale lips opened impossibly wide.  She cried out in pain through her yellowed teeth.

“Let him go, Goddamn you!”  David screamed as he continued to attack Nelly’s hand, his brother’s hair still curled around its bony green fingers.  Beneath him, Ron was bent awkwardly, his back arched, his head being tugged towards the water and feet kicking at the boat’s center.  Ron reached behind himself and blindly fired his gun into the water in an effort to get her to let go.

On land, Dan jumped with a start at the sudden crack of gunfire.  He was so afraid.  His hands were shaking so profusely that he wondered if anything he was shooting was even going to be worth a damn.  He wondered how angry the brothers would be with him if they survived this, just to find out that the proof he had gathered on their behalf was useless.

He watched in terror, then, as Nelly’s other hand reached up over the side of the boat.  Her shrieks of pain continued even with the sharp bangs of the gunshots ripping through the afternoon air.  The new hand grabbed the collar of David’s shirt.

In one good tug, David was dragged over the side of the boat, his flare gun falling to land on the floorboards before he disappeared under the surface with a huge splash.  Ron screamed then, knowing that his brother had been taken by the immortal creature despite his inability to see it due to the strange angle he was being held out, by the torn bleeding hand that was tied to him by his curls.

Dan was frantic now.  He was moving back and forth, zooming in and out, trying to see what was happening to David.  He felt like he was going to watch both of them die and capture it on video.  The idea of that was sickening and made his stomach lurch.

Then David broke the surface of the water with a gasp.  Dan was about to thank God when he saw Ron finally lose his struggle and get pulled overboard.  He realized then that she just needed to get David to stop cutting her.  Ron was still her target.  But that also meant that she could be hurt, killed.  Dan took a few steps forward and yelled, “You hurt her!  You can kill her!”

David was wading, gasping for air and looking around in a panic for his brother or the woman that meant to kill them both.  She had dragged him far from the boat, but he was equally far from the shore.  He could see Dan jumping and yelling, but he couldn’t hear what he was saying.  He knew that he was a sitting duck where he was, and he needed to get out of the water, one way or another.  He made his decision and swam for the boat.

To his surprise, he reached it without interference, and he dragged himself over the side, collapsing onto the floor where he laid, breathing heavily, glad to be alive and terrified for his brother in equal shares.  He came back up.  Maybe Ron would too.

David found himself shivering from the chill of the water.  He sat up, his heart beating a drum of war against the walls of his chest.  He saw the flare gun at his feet and grabbed it up hastily, clutching it in his trembling hand.  His eyes danced like fireflies all over the glistening surface of the lake water as they searched for any sign of either his brother or the thing that took him.  He saw nothing.  The water was calm, still.

Something burst from lake, water spraying over David, who instinctively shielded himself with a bent arm.  There was a thud as something landed in the boat with him.  He knew that it couldn’t be good.  The pounding of his heart increased.  He was afraid to look but knew that he had to.  Lowering his arm, he stared forward and saw his brother’s severed head staring back at him, mouth open in a permanent scream, a small fish flopping around inside.

David’s scream was anything but silent.  He bellowed his fear and hatred and agony.  Dan could hear him from the shore.  He couldn’t see what his friend saw, but the sound of his scream was telling enough.  He knew that Ron was dead.  He suddenly realized that he had been stepping forward and felt scared for himself.  He shivered as a chill of sudden fright danced up his spine.  Shaking it off, he quickly backed up until he felt the chair behind him once again, and he fell backward into it, unable to take his eyes off of the water and the small boat drifting at its center, David screaming inside.

Dan watched as the bony green fingers rose from the water at the boat’s side.  They moved slowly and silently like a snake, the arm stretching and moving until the black fingernails were hovering over David’s bent head as he cried for his loss.

David spun quickly and grabbed the hand in his own, interlocking his fingers with those of the fae monster.  He snarled and sank his teeth into the pale flesh of her bony arm.  He twisted his head back and forth, ripping her flesh as he did, tearing at it and tasting her filthy blood in his mouth.  Her face rose from the depths again, breaking the surface of the water to scream her agony.  David’s eyes flashed with the fire of hatred.  He raised his other hand and fired the flare right into the center of her open mouth.

Nelly’s mouth glowed pink, with a bright flash of white-hot light and the sizzle of the flame that caused it.  Her eyes bulged, and she closed her mouth around the flare, her green skin suddenly luminescent as she burned from within.  She yanked her hand back from him as she fell beneath the water with an explosion of light that spread like angel blood throughout the lake.  Then it disappeared and was gone.

David was watching from the boat as Dan watched from the shore.  Both men were wondering the same thing.  Did we get her?  Is she dead?

The light of the flare was gone.  Nelly was gone.  David’s nervous eyes combed the water for any sign that she still lived.  Moments of impossible tension passed.  David’s heart beat like the clicking seconds of an analog clock.  Nothing happened.  He thought her body would float to the surface, but truthfully he didn’t know what happened when you killed an immortal fae.  Maybe the light had been her exploding into dust that now resided on the lake bottom with the bones of those she killed.  Deciding that he couldn’t wait forever, David sat back down in the boat and began to row for the shore.

Dan saw David rowing back towards him, and he felt so relieved.  His heart still ached for the loss of Ron, but he was glad to see that this terrible day was about to be over.  He stood from his seat and walked to meet him.  He still couldn’t believe that any of this was real.  The idea that they had actually done it, that they had faced a fae monster, killed it and caught the whole thing on video, was another level of mind-blowing.

As he approached the shore, David and the boat coming in, something happened.  The boat flipped with David inside it, and he disappeared into the water without a sound.  Dan froze.  He stood there staring at the upside-down boat floating in the water of the lake, still coming towards him.  Should he be taping this?  He raised the camera and watched through the lens.  Maybe David was still alive and just under the boat where he couldn’t see him.

Dan took slow, careful steps backward, trying to put distance between him and the water’s edge but not wanting to take his eyes off of the camera, off of what was happening in the lake.  He continued to record as the surface rippled and Nelly rose forth until she was standing above the lake, hovering in the air, the flare still glowing hot pink in her belly.  She was naked and emaciated, her ribs showing between the flaps of loose green skin.  Her bloodshot bulbous eyes stared at him.

Finally, Dan lowered the camera.  He stared back at her in fear, wondering how far she could really stretch.  He felt the chair behind him, but he didn’t sit.  He stood there, just as she stood over the water, and they stared at each other in silence.  Dan swallowed.  He sweated and shook, urine running down his leg to soak his foot.

Then her arms lashed out, stretching over the shore to grab him by his ankles and tug him towards the water.  The camera fell from his hand, and he slid across the grass and dirt, screaming as he went, his own fingers clawing at the earth, trying desperately to halt his descent.  Nelly dropped back down into the water as he neared it.  With a final scream, Dan was pulled down into the depths of the lake, leaving nothing but a few bubbles of his final breath behind.

A moment later, a single hand reached from the edge of the lake, stretching over the land, crawling across it like a pale green spider until it found what it was looking for.  It grabbed the camera and then shot backward, disappearing back into the lake.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Chisto Healy
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Chisto Healy

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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Giovanni Moreno
Giovanni Moreno
2 years ago


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