Disclaimer: If you recognise it, I don't own it.

AN: Evelyn's story, with reference to the Japanese Ring 2. "You let the dead get in,"/ "If you play in the water, goblins will get you."

Sea-Change

There are many ways for the dead to get in. Certain times of the year are times to take seriously, to make sure doors are locked, to wear disguise, to fill the house with light. Crossroads are places to be avoided after dark. Mirrors are never trustworthy, and sometimes need to be covered. Water conducts more than electricity. There are many ways for the dead to get in.

One way is as simple as a teenage girl with a grandmother who is stupid and knows nothing, a girl who's young and fearless and sees no reason why she shouldn't swim in the ocean. Evelyn plays in the sunlight, salty water splashing salty sweat, and Evelyn swims in the moonlight while the old woman sleeps in her chair. Evelyn's hair is wet more often than not. She lies on her back in the cold ocean and looks up at the moon, and the water laps around her and cools her to its own temperature until she's as much a part of the sea as any oyster, as any floating spar. Evelyn breathes and the sea breathes with her. In the dark water, things that have forgotten how to breathe gnaw without cease on their desire to remember. The dead swarm restlessly near the surface; there's more below, things that have never been human and things that have forgotten being human so entirely that they are fiercer in their craving, more desperate in their fervour to learn how to be anything at all. Longing floats in her black hair, remorseless passion is snarled in Evelyn's wet black hair.

She turns over and over in her bed, sheets and blankets rough after the slick salt sea. Her long dark braid wraps itself around her neck. Evelyn doesn't notice. She's dreaming. Sunshine, berries, fingertips stained, kicking at the ground, swinging on the fence, the long grass waving in the hot wind – tea from a blue and white cup, a brilliant blue jewel on her finger, such a fondness for it – a long day, where, don't know, can't remember, but a very long day, thirsty now, and the first sip of beer, a sigh – hungry, waking, hungry, nothing to eat, who is expected, don't know, don't know, don't know – someone is expected, someone is not coming, someone has given a flashing blue ring, someone has poured a cold glass of beer, someone is coughing without cease, something is dreaded, something is coming, something is wrong – tea, wine, berries, beer, bread, a smile, what is missing, whose eyes are those, whose hands are these, who is it caught in the weeds?

Evelyn's bright eyes dull and the skin beneath darkens and sinks. It's harder, every morning, to wake her, and some days Evelyn's grandmother wonders if she has woken at all. She watches the sea, watches Evelyn watching the sea. Evelyn stares for hours at the waves breaking on the shore. She barely eats. Her cheekbones become sharper, but her waist thickens. She forgets to brush her hair, to button her cardigan, and when told she will do these things as though sleepwalking, or allow her grandmother to comb out her long black hair in front of the old oval mirror on her nightstand. The old woman's hands develop a tremor and the comb stutters its way through hair roughened by salt water. The girl in the mirror is as distant as the dead.

No one sees Evelyn now. By day her grandmother keeps her close to home, feeds her what she can, pretends not to notice how tight the cotton dresses and woollen sweaters have become. By night the old woman hears Evelyn walk barefoot from the house. The dead have Evelyn now.

She hums a song she learned in a dream to the tiny swimming thing inside her. The sea welcomes her hot skin, whispers chilly secrets in her ear. Soon we'll leave these waters, the tiny thing promises her. Evelyn floats, entranced, and listens to her baby's small, excited voice. Her baby leaps like a dolphin. The bliss of form, of movement, intoxicates a thing formless for so long. Her baby holds onto Evelyn's breath, her heartbeat with its tiny fists, using them to drag itself into this world. The envious dead drift below in the cold. A breath of a fingertip brushes Evelyn's cheek. She is not afraid.

The old woman folds dresses let out as far as they can go and underthings innocent of a trace of blood into her own small suitcase. It has been months. Things can no longer be ignored. Evelyn's shoes, her dress, her cardigan are laid out on the porch beside the suitcase when she comes home. It's just before dawn. The door is locked. Evelyn's grandmother watches from an upper window as the girl kneels to trace the rose stitched onto the small case. She stands slowly, awkwardly. Her long, black hair falls in wet locks over her white face. Her nightgown clings obscenely to her distended stomach, her full breasts. She could be a pregnant woman or a drowned girl, her body bloated in death. She looks up and the old woman shudders, because this is the worst part of all: Evelyn is still beautiful.

Evelyn is far from home before the heat of the day forces her to rest. She sits on the case beside the road, cradling her stomach. She doesn't feel the thirst in her dusty throat or the blisters rising on her feet. She doesn't feel much of anything. Soon, the swimming thing exults, and does its dolphin somersault. Eyes to see, ears to hear, a nose to smell, a tongue to taste, hands to touch! A time to die, Evelyn reminds her baby, but she is met with scorn. Not me, it vows, not this time, not ever again, not me ever again, and Evelyn smiles because she has no fondness for this thing that has bewitched her. Run then, Evelyn smiles, run and run until you fall back into the waters of the world beyond this one. Run until the ground gives way and the water rises up to meet you. There is an appointment we all must keep, in Samarra. Whichever way you run, you run to keep it.

Not me, the small thing rages, not me, not me, not me! Evelyn hums the song the dead taught her, running a hand soothingly over the bump in which the tiny thing swims.

Yes, even you, Evelyn reassures her baby. Even you, Samara.