Copyright 2015 C. Rae Maybee
Published by C. Rae Maybee at Shakespir
There were always stories about this lake. Standing on the edge of the lake, watching the water quietly lap at your feet you just knew that there was something wrong with the damn lake. Even if its been ten or twenty years since you’ve heard the stories, like me. They were mostly told to little kids by their older siblings meant to spook them. I had no older siblings, other kids had told me the stories to scare me and I had passed them down to my younger brother. And I had not returned to this lake for twenty years while my brother had never returned at all.
It had been an eerily peaceful affair. A bunch of us had sneaked out in the middle of the night to go swimming in the dark. I was thrilled to be disobeying the rules. We weren’t supposed to be out after dark and further even the adults didn’t like us going to lake. So that’s of course where we headed when we escaped. The only thing that put a damper on things was my little brother. He had saw me leave and followed us to the lake. I was so angry with him, to have him tailing us to the lake, the annoying snot nosed kid, three years younger than myself. We dove in and tried to lose him, swimming out to the middle of the lake. I didn’t think he’d follow us, so I tossed some careless taunts his way as we stopped. My brother idled on the shore for a few moments before he entered the water and went under. I never saw him come up. No one saw him come up. There wasn’t a struggle, no sign that he had been in trouble. We thought he had surfaced elsewhere in the lake, hiding from us. We called for him and he didn’t answer. We searched through the water, swimming to the place that we had saw him disappear. There was no sign of him.
The thrill of the night wore off quickly. My heart dropped and never resurfaced, just like him. After not being able to find him for some time, we finally went home, terrified. I had been presented with the task of telling my parents that their youngest child was missing. The police were called. The authorities found him the next morning, floating face down. Drowned. Dead. Gone.
They barely accepted my story, but what choice did they have? But I know they blamed me for his death. I had taken him to the lake, I had taunted him and dared him to go in the water when he had just wanted to hang out with his big brother and his friends. I watched their marriage fall apart around our heads, the death of child was too much stress for their relationship to take. They divorced two years after, just was I was leaving for college.
But his death was hardly the first death to occur in the lake. Since then though, the authorities had took to sending officers out every night to patrol the perimeter of the lake every few hours to check for any teenagers with something to prove. If anything had happened to those officers on that assignment, if they ever encountered anything other than partying teenagers, nobody knew. What officer of the law would admit they were scared of a lake like they were a bunch of kids?
That was certainly the thing though. There had been no sightings of any kind of creature that would have made the research easier. In fact nobody claimed that there was any kind of monster in the lake. There was something wrong with it, that was for sure, but a monster was never mentioned. No one said it, but the lake was thought to be evil, as though it had its sentience like it wanted to keep you forever, drag you down into its depths and suck the life out of you.
But I didn’t buy it. I thought that something had drug my brother down to his death and held him there while we searched. How could we have not found him unless there was something preventing him from being found? Something had murdered him in cold blood. I researched. There were so many things that lurked in the waters of the world. Kappas, kelpies, merpeople, serpents… it turns out the list is endless. People have been afraid of the water for a long, long time. Especially in regards to their children.
I stepped into the water. A jolt went through my legs as my skin made contact with the frigid water. I ignored it and took another step, and another, until the water was up to my chest.
Then I took a deep breath and dove.
From the shore the water looked murky and dark, but from below I could clearly see the tops of the trees towering over the lake. My goal was not above but below, into the heart of the lake, whatever the thing was. Whatever shot straight to the reptilian part of our brain warning us to stay as far way as we could.
I rolled so I was facing downwards and kicked my feet. I moved in a way I hoped was quiet, my heart thumping in my chest. Just because nobody claimed to have seen it didn’t mean there wasn’t a thing down there, and I wanted to surprise it.
However, it soon became clear that in the murk of the water I must have somehow gotten mixed up in my directions. There was now a shimmering view of the tops of trees and sky straight where I was headed. I thought I had been swimming downwards but my sense of direction must have been thrown off in the dark water. My lungs were already beginning to burn, so perhaps this navigational mistake was fortunate. I kicked my feet to propel me towards home, wondering why the thing in the lake was letting me go towards the surface. Perhaps it would grab me, pull me down into the darkness at the last moment, just as I had tasted air. Maybe it was only into children, like a grindylow.
The surface still looked so far completely, out of reach almost as though I had made it to the bottom of the lake in one dive. But I had only been swimming for seconds, the lake was a couple hundred feet. There was no way I could have covered that kind of distance. I swam as fast as I could but still couldn’t tell if I was covering any ground, the light of the sky seemed further and further away. I stretched towards it as I felt my lungs burning for air.
I looked down and below my feet I could see the shimmering image of trees and sky, a mirror of the image above me. My breath escaped my lungs.
How could there be two surfaces?