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underwater official cover

“Looks like a winner,” Peter said, pointing towards one of the effigies, a woman with flowing hair that covered her bare breasts with her left arm. “She’s probably heavy, but I ain’t afraid to drag her up. Probably worth beaucoup credits. I think she’s close enough to the railing for me to reach.”

“I think it’s too much. How are we gonna get her on the boat?”

“Watch a master, kid.” Peter hopped over the rail in one effortless motion. Reaching towards one of the trees, he snatched a purple strand of beads from the limbs, snapping the branch in the process.

“Show me your tits.” He tossed the beads at Louis, missing his target by several feet. Peter almost lost his balance but steadied himself with a heel against the rail. “Take those home to the missus. She’ll blow ya for sure.”

“I want to get her real jewelry. Make it official.”

“You don’t want to do that. Next thing you know you’re not allowed to go out drinking, you have to toss your pornos out with the spoiled milk, and then your boys can’t even come over for chess. Down the road she’ll want kids, and they’ll come out with webbed fingers because of all the fucking radiation in the air.”

“You’re so damned negative all the time. We’ve been living together a while, and it’s good.”

“Shacking up is totally different than marriage.” Peter reached out, but the statue was just beyond his fingertips. He sighed. “You marry her, and her parents will start visiting all the time. They’ll be all up in your shit, telling you how to live your life.”

“Her parents died in the Fifth Wave,” Louis said. He held her as she wept that night.

“We’ve all lost people,” Peter said. “That’s why it’s better not to get attached.”

“I love her, man.”

Peter huffed pulled back and realigned his footing. “I don’t know who lied to you, but this world wasn’t built for love.”

Louis cringed at Peter’s stubbornness. Arguing with the man was useless—he was as stubborn as he was slow in an airboat. Bending over, he scooped up the Mardi Gras beads and shoved them into his pocket.

Peter reached out again. Adjusting his footing worked. He leaned over and rested his palm on the statue’s head. He looked back at Louis and smiled.

“Keep your Jenny. I know who will be in my thoughts later when I retire with that literature I found.” He wrapped his arm around the statue’s neck and tried to lift her up. “Damn, she’s a tough broad.”

Louis laughed. “Told you.”

“Look, not another word outta—”

The murky water underneath Peter erupted. A large alligator sprung up like gray-green lightning, grabbing his torso with a hiss and glistening white teeth. Peter’s ribs crunched inside the gator’s massive jaws. Screaming, Peter lost his footing on the rail. His body swung with the gator’s weight, but Peter, arms hooked around the indifferent cement stare, would not release the statue. The gator started rolling, bisecting Peter with more crunching and tearing before vanishing in the dark water with the lower half of the man’s body.

 

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