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Drowning Kate

by Charlie C 11 months ago in Horror
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What Lurks Beneath the Lake's Surface

It was the same childish ghost story Matt always told whenever they stayed out anywhere away from civilisation. Still, with cheap beer in them, they all giggled as if he wouldn’t end it with the same twist.

Matt pointed to lake beside them. “And they say, some nights, you hear her screaming for help, just so she can lure you to your death in this very lake!” He made an exaggerated face, and Kerry slapped him playfully. The others keeled about laughing.

“When we went camping in the woods, it was Little Lily, the dead girl who fell out a tree,” said Kerry, sipping her beer. “What’s this ghost called?”

Matt put on another exaggerated face. He had features like rubber, Ben had noticed, which made him snort out a mouthful of drink. The others erupted in laughter again.

The five of them met every summer for a week spent in the wilderness, or whatever passed for it nowadays. This year, Ben had chosen a campsite up the road from the lake, but the lake’s beauty had captivated them all. They’d arrive at the campsite tomorrow, he figured. Tonight, they’d sleep under the stars like their ancestors had.

He glanced to the lake, as Matt play-wrestled with Kerry. In the dark, it seemed a void cut into the land, pure blackness absorbing all light.

“Drowning Kate,” said Matt. “Yeah, you all better look out for Drowning Kate.”

George crushed an empty can under his foot, only stumbling slightly. “Only thing I’m looking out for is somewhere to sleep.”

Ben’s girlfriend, Yolanda, snuggled up against him, reminding him of how late it was, and how they still needed to reach the campsite tomorrow morning. George tousled his hair on his way to the sleeping bags, burping out good night.

Yolanda kissed Ben on the cheek, then went with Kerry to get changed. Matt and Ben were left alone by the lake, and they both turned to stare at it. Ben blinked, suddenly more sober than he’d realised.

“Where’d you get that story anyway?” asked Ben.

Matt chuckled, always so amused. In that moment, Ben despised him for how effortless his happiness was, even though they’d been friends for years now.

“Just a ghost story my dad told me,” said Matt. “I guess people have been telling it as long as there’s been people living around here.”

The lake didn’t even seem to reflect the stars above. It sat like a sheet of black glass, and Ben wondered how deep it was. He shook his head.

“Hey, Ben, you okay?” said Matt. “You know, if you need anything…”

Ben scowled. “I’m fine, Matt.”

Matt drew back, like a puppy slapped by its owner, not understanding. Well, he’d always been a bit clueless, shambling through life and coming out a winner. He already had a good job at his father’s firm reserved for when he graduated. What did Ben have? Debt, a useless degree, one parent dead, the other absent from his life.

Oh, he had his friends, but what good were they? Most of the year, they were silent. Then he had to remind them of their yearly meetup, and their responses trickled back as if they had a million other things…

He sighed, rubbing his head. It never helped to go down this spiral.

“Trouble with Yolanda?” asked Matt, leaning close.

Ben winced. He couldn’t look away from the lake, but he wondered what Kerry might be whispering to Yolanda. Perhaps she was telling her about his drunken admission of love for Kerry when they’d been in school. And then they’d laugh when Kerry said she’d started dating Matt only a few months later, acting as if they whole thing had been a joke.


“I’m just tired, Matt,” he said.

Was Matt trying to take Yolanda away? That was probably part of his power-trip. He’d already taken Kerry away, then introduced him to Yolanda as if he was doing him a favour.

Matt shifted close, patting Ben on the shoulder. Like a dog, Ben thought. But he tried not to dig further into this sudden anger.

“While the girls are away, I wanted to let you know something, Ben,” said Matt.

Beaming, Matt pulled a box from his pocket. Only when he snapped it open did Ben’s eyes dart from the lake to the glimmer of platinum. He licked his lips. The image of Kerry in a white dress with that ring on her finger tormented him.

“I’m going to ask her to marry me when we’re out of uni,” said Matt. “I want you to be best man.”

Ben looked up, frowning at the lake. Something bobbed in the middle, disturbing the calm surface. Something buried at the bottom had risen, impossible to ignore.


The first scream echoed out. Matt jumped to his feet as Ben started running for the water. A figure flailed around in the lake. A woman. Kerry.

Ben reached the edge of the lake, out of breath. He gasped as frigid water engulfed his shoes and climbed his legs. Matt grabbed his shoulders.

“Ben, what-”

Ben lashed out. His fist cracked into Matt’s face. He stumbled back, horrified, as blood dripped into the water. Then he surged forward, taking Matt’s expensive jacket in his hands. All the while, Kerry’s screams continued from the lake.

He pushed Matt under the water. Blinking back sweat, he stomped on his friend’s back to drive him down. Drunk and dazed, Matt could only flop about underneath him.

Ben looked up again, seeing Kerry’s arms stretching from the water ahead of him. “Hold on, Kerry!”

Bubbles foamed up from under him. Ben punched at the limp form he held, then let go. Matt’s head bobbed up, and Ben left the corpse behind, wading out towards Kerry.

“Help!” she cried.

She dipped beneath the lake’s motionless surface, and Ben staggered on, cold water tight around his chest. It splashed up to his neck. Its metallic taste filled his mouth, but he kept wading forward.

Only an arm’s reach from Kerry, he pushed himself to swim. His arms and legs refused to obey, leaden with exhaustion. He fell towards her, but she sank below the surface with him. As they plummeted deeper, she turned to him, and he knew a moment of terror.


Kerry groaned as she stretched to welcome the morning. A hangover threatened, but at least she could nap while Ben drove to the campsite.

With her eyes still closed, she let the morning wash over her, smiling. It was important to be thankful for good friends. Who else but Ben could’ve picked such an idyllic spot beside the lake for them? That was why she looked forward to the yearly meetup like it was a second Christmas.

Yawning, she cracked her eyes open. The lake lay tranquil and beautiful under the sun, though the light didn’t seem to touch its surface. Rising from her sleeping bag, she ambled to get a better view. Her eyes went to the edge of the water, drawn by a glimmer of platinum and the shape beside it.

Kerry frowned. Happiness smothered, she stumbled a few more steps, then her knees gave out and she fell down, weeping.


About the author

Charlie C

Attempted writer.

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