• The DVD case popped open with a satisfying click, the shiny disk just begging to be put into the Playstation. Tara had seen this movie so many times she knew every line, every scene, and yet she could never get enough of it. She slid the DVD into the console and waited for the disk icon to load up on her dashboard.

    The Ring flickered to life on the screen, followed by the menu options. Tara loaded up the subtitles before starting the film. Her couch was a cosy nest of blankets and throw pillows just begging for her to come curl up. Snacks cluttered the coffee table. Tara put her phone between the bowl of chips and a container of hummus and got settled.

    Rain lashed at the windows beside her, setting the mood perfectly. Tara got excited chills as the intro began. She grabbed the chips and munched away as the movie began to set the scene.

    Tara loved everything about this movie, right down to how corny it was at times. It wasn't the best movie she had ever seen, but she loved it nonetheless. Its Japanese origin was incredibly fascinating, and Tara had seen every instalment in the series, including the recent Japanese remake of the English version. Some might call her obsessed.

    Tara ate and watched with rapt attention as the plot began to unfold on screen. She was content and cosy in her cocoon of blankets with a bowl of popcorn on her lap. About half an hour into the film, Maisey came out of the kitchen with a steaming slice of banana bread for her. She set it amid the other snacks and leaned down for a kiss. Tara savoured the taste of her coconut lip balm for a long time after.

    The movie didn't much scare her anymore, but there were scenes that definitely gave her a chill. One poignant one came suddenly, when she watched poor Samara be pushed into the well on her family's property. What could that have been like? The descent alone would have been hellish, the landing more so. How scraped up had she been from hitting the rock walls on the way down? How deep was the well? Did she hit the bottom?

    "I wish I knew what that was like," she murmured to herself, reaching for another snack on the table.

    At once, the screen went fuzzy, like she had lost the channel she had been watching. But it was a DVD she was watching, so how could this be possible? Had she sat on the remote and changed the input? No, there it was beside the chips. Tara picked it up and pressed input, but found herself on the right channel.

    The picture cleared, snow becoming a fuzzy view of a well, so washed out of colour it was nearly in grey-scale. Tara blinked a few times as though it might clear the picture and put her film back on. She recognised the scene, though. It was the very one that came on just before Samara took her victims' lives. Why, though, was it on her screen?

    Fingers slipped over the lip of the well, battered and dirty, clutching at the stones that made up its edges. A head followed. Agonisingly slow, she dragged her body out of the well and landed unceremoniously in the grass. Then she lurched to her feet and began a steady shuffle toward the screen. Tara's heart leapt into her throat, hammering away. This wasn't part of the movie. She had seen it dozens of times, she knew for sure this was not meant to be happening now. And yet, there she was, plain as day, lurching toward the screen as though she might crawl out of it.

    Tara sat in frozen terror as Samara reached the edges of reality, then slipped her hands right through as though the screen was made of water. Tara couldn't move. She could only stare as Samara dragged herself across the carpet. One mangled hand came up and clasped Tara's arm, and everything went white.

    Then, she was falling. Stones scraped at her back, her arms, her front as she ricocheted off the walls on her way down. The fall was impossibly long. Tara screamed, and it echoed around her, making her ears ache.

    Water enveloped her in a sudden, painful slap. Bubbles rushed around her body. At once, her question was answered. She struck the bottom with such force it pushed the air from her lungs. Her shoulder popped from the impact. She tried to cry out, but it came out muffled. Filthy, slimy water coated her tongue. When she regained her senses enough to move, she pushed off the bottom and broke the surface. Goosebumps erupted from head to toe. She fumbled around her face and neck, trying to find the thing that was suffocating her. The thick fabric came away with much difficulty and she pitched it into the darkness. Above, there was a thin circle of bluish light. Then, slowly, it became a crescent as something was pushed over it. The cover of the well. It inched toward the other side.

    "No, please!" cried Tara, reaching for the heavens as though someone might pull her out of there.

    No one did, and the well was closed up in a heartbeat. Muffled sloshing was all she could hear, and above, a wobbly, thin line of light was the only indication of direction she had. Her hope was gone. She was trapped.

    The water was freezing cold, lapping at her chest from her sudden entrance. Her arms stung, as did her back. When she touched her left arm, her fingers came away sticky and warm. Though she couldn't see it, she suspected she was bleeding.

    Helpless, hopeless, Tara cried. She couldn't help herself. She never handled stress well, and this was beyond stressful. This was horrible. How she had gotten there, she had no idea, just like she had no idea how she would get out.

    Terror bubbled to the surface, and Tara began to scramble at the walls, trying to find purchase. The slimy stones, though, offered no holds and only served to tear back her fingernails. The pain hardly registered, but the sensation sent a sickening stab to her belly.

    Cold, defeated, Tara slumped against the wall and sobbed harder for all the good it would do. She wanted to slide to the floor, but the water was too deep for that. Instead, she put her hands on her knees and let her tears fall freely into the water. The hood that had covered her face drifted over and wrapped around her arm. She flailed, screaming, trying to get it off her. It took a few tries, but finally it hit the wall with a wet slap.

    What was Maisey doing then? Did she even know Tara was gone? What if she never returned, what would Maisey do? She would be utterly heartbroken. Tara's heart ached at the very thought. She had to get out of there.

    Again she clawed at the walls, this time finding a few spots to jam her fingers and bare toes. She only made it a few feet, though, before plummeting back into the frigid water of the well.

    Time was immeasurable in the well. She only knew when night fell when the ring disappeared. Again and again the light disappeared. She lost count of the days. There was nothing to eat, nowhere to relieve herself but the water, nothing to drink but that same water. Over and over she sobbed at her situation. She regretted her wish, her desire to know. She regretted her obsession with those movies. Nothing could be as horrible as what she was going through.

    Days became a week, became two. Tara held it for as long as she could, but could not avoid relieving herself in the very water she had to drink. She became violently ill, and the water became undrinkable. She stood amongst her filth and tears, weakness overcoming her body. More than once she passed out, only to be woken by the violently cold water once more. Maisey was the only bright spot she could find, and even that was tinged with sadness. She would never see Maisey again. She was trapped, wasting away in her own filth. Her skin was pruned beyond belief, painfully so, bloated with filthy water.

    Any hope of seeing sunlight again left her completely. The only bright side she could find in her situation was that, unlike Rachel in the movie, Samara's bones were not in the water with her. She had felt around for something to do, finding nothing more than silt and clay and stones.

    Tara lost all track of time. Her hunger was impossible to think around. If there was anything even remotely edible down there, she would have gobbled it up in a heartbeat. Now, she found herself weak and trembling from cold and starvation. There was no avoiding it. She would die down there.

    Her fragile voice could barely carry a tune, but she sang nonetheless to soothe herself. Darkness pressed in on the edges of her consciousness. She stumbled over the words, the tune, her memory a sieve that lost more than it held at that point.

    She was ready to sleep, finding herself welcoming the darkness, the weight pressing her into the water. She was so tired. So defeated. Her hands were raw from scratching at the walls. Her hair was matted and heavy, weighing down her head. Yes, sleep sounded lovely. She sank into the water and shut her eyes.

    Tara woke screaming, thrashing at the blankets that had once been her safe space

    Tara woke screaming, thrashing at the blankets that had once been her safe space. Maisey came running from the kitchen and threw herself onto the sofa next to her. Comforting arms encircled her, drawing her near. Her hushed voice urged her to peace.

    Slowly, Tara came down from her terror. A dream. It had all been a dream. Foolishness filled her with guilt at scaring her girlfriend like that. She wrapped her arms around Maisey and held her tight against the residual terror. Her hands were intact, normal, her perfect manicure glittering in the lamplight. There was nothing to be scared of, she was safe. It had all been a dream.

    She soothed Maisey's concern when she regained herself enough to sit up. She explained her nightmare in great detail, skipping nothing of her ordeal. Maisey listened with concern in her eyes.

    "Maybe you should skip the horror movies tonight," she murmured, squeezing Tara's hand.

    "Maybe you're right. Come on, let's make dinner."

    Maisey rose and guided Tara to unsteady feet. She let herself be guided into the kitchen. Relief was winning out over her terror.

    Something caught her eye. Something just under the edge of her sleeve. Frowning, she paused.

    "Be right there," she murmured, and Maisey went on with a shrug.

    Slowly, Tara reached for her sleeve, fingers trembling as she drew it back. There, on her arm plain as day was a deep violet bruise. It was a hand print. There was no doubt about it. The outline was crisp and clear.

    "It's mine," she murmured to soothe herself, then went to line up her hand over the mark.

    It didn't match.

    Her left hand was larger than the one on her forearm. Not to mention, the thumb print was on the wrong side. She had been grabbed by a right hand, on her right arm. There was no way the hand print was hers.

    Tara hit the ground as blackness overwhelmed her.