Online Exclusive

Tuesday, September 12

My sweet, dear Cindy,

I am sorry for not writing sooner. To be completely frank, I was afraid of receiving a response and knowing for certain that you’re finished with me. I am very troubled by the way we’ve left things.

I am posting this letter at the train station, so by the time you read it, I will probably have just arrived into town. I am pleased that you invited me to your party on Saturday. Don’t fret!!!! You won’t regret it. I promise not to spoil the fun. Here is my proposition: on Saturday night, after, we can walk together to the wharf and I can explain to you in person. I know that will clear everything up. It is the full moon on Saturday, did you know that? Did you plan your party around that? I hope you did. And I hope you can forgive me. I wasn’t myself that day.

I’m sending you all my love and have just finished eating a huge pile of waffles in your honor!!! Topped with raspberries and heavy whipping cream—I believe seventeen waffles in all. There was a very elegant woman sitting at the booth across from me who kept trying to catch my eye, but you know how vain I am about these things. I was probably just imagining it. I actually feel like I might be sick, so will need to handle that before boarding. I’ll leave it here! See you soon (please, Cindy).


~ ~ ~

Thursday, September 14

My lovely Cindy,

I have just arrived in town; it is around 4pm. What a strange little place to have chosen for this party! You mentioned years ago that you had an aunt who lived here, is that right? Is she still alive? I don’t know why I keep pausing to listen for your responses. Oop, I just did it again!! And now again! I can really feel you here, even though this area is rather desolate and everything feels grimy. I don’t mean this as a criticism. It is actually kind of quaint, like we’re all in the hull of a ship. But I swear I can smell your shampoo in the air, Cindy, and that salty tang that your skin and lips used to get. I understand why you came so often. I could see us living here, in another life. Time moves differently in these seaside towns, wouldn’t you say? Milky somehow.

I have seen very few people, only a group of strange children who seemed to be singing a song to me as I walked along Main Street. Is this a local custom? The hotel in town was filled up and somehow they lost my reservation, so I was sent by foot along the cliffs (very treacherous!) to a charming little bed and breakfast run by an old, peculiar woman, we shall say! (I am on my best behavior, Cindy, let it be known!) Still, there is something smelly about the place, like it has been pulled up from the ocean. I am told it used to be a lighthouse. “NOT OPERATIONAL!” the woman was quick to shout. “NOT FOR FIFTY YEARS!” I asked if she knew about the restaurant where your party is, and if she’s heard of a Cindy from up north, but she just grinned, then both nodded and shook her head. I think she may be hard of hearing, poor thing. I’ll have to ask about the lighthouse tower tomorrow. I’ve always wanted to climb up inside one of those. Do ships come here often?

Your Louisa

There are residents who live at the inn year-round, which is always spooky to me. And, honestly —I may as well be truthful here on the page—there is something rather creepy about the woman herself. Her eyes aren’t right. Oh, how terrible. I wish I could erase that, but here we are, stuck with my ink and my mean-spirited observations. You know it makes me sad to see old women still working when their backs are hunched over and they should be sprawled out in a garden somewhere.

Are you very busy with your arrangements, Cindy? I keep hoping to run into you.

Your Louisa

~ ~ ~

Friday, September 15


It is now Friday afternoon. I must say, I am a bit disappointed to have not heard from you yet. I know at least my first letter has probably reached you, and this town is so small it wouldn’t have been hard for you to track me down. I find myself wanting to double-check the dates of everything, but my train ticket and your invitation were not in my purse when I got back to my room today.

I went over to the wharf this morning to see what all the fuss is about. It is much smaller than I thought, just a crab restaurant and a battered old whale-watching shack. The sign outside reads, “Whale Watching, Glass Bottom for Full, Uninterrupted View. Inquire Inside.” I almost took it as a present for you. The restaurant had detailed plastic replicas of their dishes in a case outside—you know how I love those. A greasy-looking fettuccini alfredo, a strand of noodles lifted by a suspended fork, a fish soup with one massive head floating on the surface, eyes open. It seemed familiar to me somehow, comforting. I do think I would eat there if someone else paid.

Nearby was also the sweetest little candy shop, with a mechanical taffy puller in the window, just cranking away. No one behind the counter, at least that I could see. I would have bought something otherwise!! The taffy looked shiny and tough, like a huge tongue exercising itself or the arm of some muscular, deep-sea cephalopod. It made me sad at first, how effortful and unrelenting its days must be. Although, perhaps it feels good, Cindy, to be stretched like that in endless circles, around and around, while blurry faces come and go, stopping every so often to watch.

This reminds me—I had the strangest dream last night. You and I were standing in a dark, empty corridor at the aquarium back home, looking at a lit-up tank through thick, warped glass. All kinds of jellyfish floating by. They were translucent, impossibly delicate, drifting, their tentacles behind them like entrails in the water. All sizes too: one was as big as the entire tank, but we only ever saw it once. Jellyfish seem like visitors from a kinder universe, don’t they? Or stretched out, living candy. They pulsed their little umbrella tops to push themselves forward, and gradually their glowing strands became the hair of an ancient woman. We could tell she was talking, but it was garbled somehow, and when we leaned forward, the glass was gone. We were treading dark water, our faces nearly touching the ceiling! The hair started multiplying, and suddenly the whole room was filled. It was wet and tangly, and I could feel it creeping under my eyelids and up my nose and sliding down my throat. It looked like your hair, Cindy. Isn’t that something?

When I woke up, my own hair had come out of its braids and was in my mouth. I must have been chewing on it because it was wet and smelled of sulfur and raspberries. I immediately started writing this to you by the light of the moon (romantic!) so I wouldn’t forget. Here is what is strange. When I woke up, I could have sworn I saw you by the wardrobe in one of those huge old prom dresses. Your hair was tied up, and you smiled at me, your teeth glowing like television sets. And then there was something outside my door. Is, I should say. It’s still there. Something creaking, and I feel . . . I see blinking through the keyhole. I think that old lady has been listening at my door, Cindy, I’ll come out and say it. I think she’s there now. I am too afraid to check.

Your Louisa

~ ~ ~

Saturday, September 15

Cindy Cindy Cindy,

Saturday afternoon. Dusk, I guess. I know it was you today, outside my window, down across the street near the cliffs. You didn’t turn at first when I called your name. Your hair was wet and so much longer than I remember. Maybe that’s what good sea air does for a person. Were you in the middle of getting it styled? I am really trying, Cindy. Let me just say it—I know there’s no party happening tonight. I called the restaurant, and the line was crackly, but the host didn’t know what I was talking about. Why have you brought me here? If you want humiliation, here it is. I know I am pathetic, I know I am nothing and make everything stale and humid and you have hated me for longer than you ever liked me. Is this what you want? Why were you at my window, Cindy?

Just now, the old woman came squelching up the stairs. She was crying, and when I tried to comfort her (for I am still a kind person, Cindy, despite everything I have done), she touched my cheek and tilted her head. And kept tilting it, her chin stretching slowly, impossibly toward the ceiling, until I quietly said I needed to nap and closed the door. I can see her feet still, facing my door. She hasn’t moved at all. I would have heard the squelching.

There’s something wrong with this place. The carpets are always damp and I can hear the metallic crank of that taffy maker somewhere upstairs, the circular, relentless scraping. I keep reminding myself that these old houses have mold and mildew and probably loads of carbon monoxide. If I am in danger, Cindy, you must help me.

~ ~ ~


I left my room (the old woman was gone, thank goodness) and walked back to the wharf, just in case you were around. Today everything looked different. Much older than yesterday. The crab restaurant was boarded up, and the plastic food display outside was strange. The display glass was not broken, but inside there were splinters of broken glass and wood and one live baby crab scuttling over the artificial food, hiding in the steamed artichokes with garlic butter, eventually disappearing behind the lemon chive dipping sauce. I went to the whale watching shack, but a handwritten note on the window said “Naughty!” and the sign in front was faded everywhere except for the words “Uninterrupted View. Inquire.”

I was feeling quite ill by this point and decided it was time for me to leave town. I have a feeling you already know what happens next, don’t you Cindy?

I came to the train station. It is, of course, boarded up and out of use, and has been for a while, for—I can’t bring myself to write it—half a century. That’s what the sign says, Cindy. I am going to be sick again. I keep tasting your hair in my mouth, vanilla and raspberries and something sulfuric underneath. I see the candy store ahead, and a woman wearing my jacket is peering into the window. Where is my jacket?

~ ~ ~

To the woman with wet hair that I saw in the street today, the woman who didn’t turn around, you are not Cindy. I don’t know what you are, but I will find out.

~ ~ ~

Sweet Cindy,

I came into the candy store just now. It was unlocked, and a little bell jingled brightly when I opened the door. It is very warm inside, and I am very grateful. It certainly gets cold at night by the open water. The wind is picking up, and everything is dark except for the moon. Does the moon seem bigger here to you?

I’ve waited for several minutes by the cash register, and thought I saw movement down the hallway, but no one came. There is a light, steady dripping noise from somewhere in the back, and a cavernous echoing sound. The sound of you humming too, which I thought I would never hear again. I have been hearing your voice all day, Cindy, did you know that? The way you would whisper to me in the early mornings while I kissed your eyelashes, the soft confident sound of you ordering off breakfast menus, the rasping noise you made on that last day wh—

There was just another jingle, but I cannot turn to look.

I watch the taffy puller instead, spinning and spinning, over and under. It is soothing, really, even as the floor peels away and becomes sand and carpet, even as the lighthouse flickers on in the distance and begins to sweep over the cliffs and waves, cutting through the dark display window in a slow, ancient loop. And yes, I can hear glass shattering and footsteps and the sound of something wet and heavy dragging. I pull hair from my mouth. A baby crab scuttles over my foot. Something is beginning, and I know I will not go home and that I deserve this, or you think I do.

Something is standing beside me as I write this. I didn’t mean to do it, but that doesn’t matter now, I suppose. I am going to pick up a taffy now and eat it, Cindy. I know it is not taffy. But this is what comes next, right? I will slowly stretch my arm out, and then I will turn my head to look.

Keila Cone-Uemura is a writer, actor, and musician based in Los Angeles, CA. She is currently working on a short story collection and a ghost-filled musical.