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Dead Lake

by Craig Williams 4 months ago in fiction

Come Play With Me

Dead Lake

1.

Most people agreed that when little Jimmy Cutter died, the town of Stonefield died, too. Of course, it took some time before most of them realized it. Jimmy’s family had been part of the town since its inception and had been responsible for much of its wealth. Following the death of their only son, they moved out of state, taking their business with them. The town never recovered.

Jimmy was neither the first nor the last child to die. Deed Lake was a popular swimming spot for the local kids and it had claimed enough lives over the years that many had begun referring to it as Dead Lake. The sheriff had tried to ban its use, but the lake continued to attract swimmers of all ages.

When Jimmy died, it was decided that he’d gone swimming alone. No body was ever found, but it had been easier to believe that he’d drowned than to consider any other reason for his clothes to be found by the water. Subconsciously, however, many found themselves becoming suspicious of strangers in town, particularly any who they felt looked at a child too intently.

As months and years passed following the departure of the Cutters, other businesses folded up, families left, and what had once been a prime vacation spot known for friendly people, small-town charm, and stunning scenery simply faded away. And yet, it was to Stonefield that Shane, his brother Andy, and their mother were now heading, zigzagging through the late afternoon traffic with some country station fading in and out on the car’s radio.

“Are you excited? You’ll love it.”

Shane’s mother spoke with surprising conviction and Shane had to wonder if she had somehow forgotten everything she knew about her son. Leaving the only home he’d ever known to live in some Podunk town that the locals had all but abandoned when his mother was young was nowhere on his list of things to love.

“We lived here until I was 15. Just a few years older than you, Shane. It was a great place to grow up. Getting closer to nature will be good for you guys. And the lake!” She slapped the steering wheel. “We would spend three-quarters of the year there. It was fresh and cool in summer but always seemed strangely warm in the spring and fall. We used to joke that it was like a hot spring or something. A group of us used to go skinny dipping every weekend. That’s where I met your father.”

“Gross,” Shane moaned, continuing to look out his window.

“What’s skinny dipping?” Andy called from the back seat. Shane rolled his eyes while his mother paused to think of an answer. If she finally gave one, Shane didn’t hear it, having slipped his headphones over his ears.

No, he definitely wouldn’t love it.

2.

Shane loved it.

The only really annoying part was his mother’s gloating as she hugged her kids to her, one on each side. They were standing outside their new home, looking down over the trees toward the water, which was shining the light of the nearly-full moon back at them.

Shane had to admit that the house was amazing and beyond anything he’d anticipated. After having spent the last 6 years in a cramped bedroom that had somehow become more his brother’s than his own, Shane now had a large room all to himself. He wondered if his mother had somehow won the lottery, or if his father had left them all a huge inheritance, but his mother explained that property in the town was “dirt cheap” in an attempt to draw people back.

It seemed to be working. Several families were moving to the area, and supposedly, some developer was going to be building a bunch of cabins around the lake in the hope of drawing in tourists. Although Shane’s mother had mixed feelings about that, ultimately she’d accepted that it would be a good thing for the old town.

The two boys had run through the house, exploring every inch upon their arrival, followed by the surrounding property. As their mother had promised, almost everything had already been set up for them before their arrival. Now they stood with her, looking up at a sky that had more stars than they had ever seen before.

“Want to see the lake?” their mother asked and they nodded. “Let me get a couple of flashlights.”

It wasn’t a long walk and the trail was easy. Shane stumbled a few times, his brother pressed tight to his side, making it difficult to walk in the darkness. He didn’t say anything though; Andy had been especially clingy since their father had passed. In truth, Shane appreciated the closeness. He felt he needed to be strong in front of his mother, not showing his sadness but when Andy held him he was not only giving comfort, he was receiving it.

The lake was lovely, like dark glass reflecting the sky. A cool breeze carried the smell of wildflowers and the sound of crickets in the trees surrounded them. Shane’s mother walked to the edge of the lake, kicked off her sandals, and stepped in.

“Come.” She motioned to the boys and they only hesitated a moment before joining her. Shane stepped out of his shoes, pulled off his socks, and put his feet in the water. The water was warm. The three splashed around for a few moments before Andy suddenly grabbed his hand.

“Someone is watching us,” he said and suddenly Shane felt it, too. It was the same sensation he experienced every time he had to stand up and speak in front of his class at school.

The crickets were silent.

“Who?” their mother asked, suddenly tensing and swinging her flashlight this way and that. She sighed, seeing nothing. “Ok, guys, I guess we’re all a little tired. Let’s head back. The lake will still be here in the morning. If it’s nice out, you can come down here for a swim.”

The trip back to the house seemed considerably shorter. Once there, the boys cleaned up, changed into pajamas, and brushed their teeth. Once ready, they said goodnight and headed off to their beds. Normally, Shane would stay up later than his brother, but it had been a long day and he was tired. He collapsed into his bed, turned off the light, and fell asleep almost immediately.

He wasn’t sure how long he’d been asleep, but he woke sometime later, Andy standing several feet from his bed, a darker silhouette against the shadows of the room. “Can’t sleep?” Shane asked. “It’s ok, c’mon.” He reached behind him to tap the bed, hitting a warm leg.

Looking back over his shoulder, he saw that Andy was already there, fast asleep.

Jumping in surprise, Shane's hand fumbled across his night table, looking for the light. It clicked on, blinding him momentarily, but he forced his eyes open. Andy was lying beside him and no one else was in the room, but between the bed and the window which he thought he’d closed were wet bare footprints.

Between the bed and the window which he thought he'd closed were wet, bare footprints.

3.

“You’re going to scare your brother, Shane.”

“Mom, it’s true!” The boys were eating breakfast, Shane recounting the events of the night before, with Andy’s eyes growing steadily wider.

“Sweetie, we’ve all been dealing with things our own way. I know that you’ve been under a lot of stress. We all have. Daddy being gone has affected all of us. I’ve had bad dreams, too.” She lowered the pan she was holding. “Don’t make that face at me. I’m not saying I don’t believe you saw something, but it was a dream. No one came into the house. Here, finish this bacon...”

“Mom—”

“Shane!” Her voice had a new edge to it and she rubbed the back of her hand over her eyes. “Don’t. Ok? We have to make the best of this. We are safe here. No one is breaking into our home. What happened to your father...” She sighed and put the pan back on the stove. “Come here. Both of you.” Holding out her arms, she waited for them to stand and then pulled them close.

“We’re safe here. Trust me. I’m here with you and Daddy’s watching over all of us, ok?” She lowered her chin and looked them each in the eye. “We’re going to be alright.”

“Ok,” Shane said, allowing himself to lean against her for a moment and running his hand through Andy’s hair. “I guess maybe it was a dream.”

After they finished eating and cleaning the dishes, the boys went outside and found themselves on the path to the lake without even thinking. “I wanna go in the water!” Andy called, breaking into a run. Shane grabbed at his shoulder, missing, then called after him as Andy raced away. Not wanting to lose sight of him, he had no choice but to run after him, amazed at how fast such little legs could be.

When he reached the lake, he saw Andy, already shirtless and kicking off his shoes. He ran up to him, grabbing his arm as the boy was about to pull off his shorts. “No, we’re not going in the water right now.”

“I wanna swim!”

Shane was still struggling with his brother when he heard a voice coming from the lake. He turned to see a young girl standing there, the water up to her waist. She was topless, perhaps even naked, with her long wet hair plastered against her body. “Play with me,” she said again, reaching toward them.

Shane felt a chill run through his body. He grabbed Andy roughly, forcing him away from the lake and back toward the trail. He stooped and grabbed the boy's shirt and shoes, following behind him. “Go!” he said, louder than he had intended. When he paused to look back, the girl was gone.

4.

“I miss Daddy,” Andy said, lying beside Shane. The two were lying in Shane’s bed. A flashlight was on the night table, pointed at the ceiling, giving them a little light to see each other but not enough for their mother to see from her room.

“Me, too. But he’s not really gone, right?” Andy nodded. “Daddy will always be watching over us, keeping us safe.”

“How can he do that if he’s not here.”

“Because,” Shane said, but paused to think. “Because he’s inside of us. He’s in you and he’s in me. He has you look after me, and has me look after you. You know that I’ll never let anything happen to you, right?” Andy nodded again. “Neither will Mom. We all look after each other now, like Daddy used to. Now, do you want me to finish reading you the book? Yeah?” He smiled as his brother curled up closer to him.

"Do you want me to finish reading you the book?"

When he woke several hours later, the book was laying open across his chest and the flashlight was still on. He’d fallen asleep reading. He stretched and then sat up straight, realizing Andy was gone.

He looked around the room as if he could be hidden somewhere, but then climbed out of his bed, grabbing the flashlight. Was the window open? No, but he felt cold.

Walking quickly to his brother’s room, he opened the door and peeked in.

He wasn’t there.

The chill in his bones growing more intense, he checked the bathroom. Empty. He ran to his mother’s room, hoping Andy had gone to cuddle with her, but he hadn’t. Shaking her frantically and calling out, Shane couldn’t wake her. Had she taken her sleeping pills? He went back into the hall, breathing hard.

He stepped in something wet.

Muddy bare footprints.

The lake.

Turning and running from the house, he flew down the trail toward the water, stones and twigs digging into his feet, the spot of light from his flashlight dancing maniacally before him.

As he reached the lake, he saw Andy, just entering the water, his pajamas laying on the ground.

The girl was there, reaching out to him. “Play with me.” Her voice carried effortlessly across the still night air, now devoid of any other sound.

Shane raced down to the water, grabbing his brother’s arm seconds before Andy could take the girl’s hand. He pulled him back violently, thrusting him toward the shore. Andy stumbled and fell, seemingly in a daze.

“Go!” Shane screamed at him, but the boy seemed to be sleepwalking. He felt the girl’s hand on his shoulder, pulling him. “Andy, go!”

“Play with me...” Her other hand slid around his waist.

Shane struggled to break free, but he felt himself being pulled into the water. Andy was still simply standing there, oblivious to everything. Shane fought. The water was up to his chest. He had to protect his brother.

“Someone must play with me...”

Shane tried again to break free, seeing Andy stepping back into the water. He closed his eyes, tears spilling onto his cheek. “I’ll play with you. Let him go.”

“Shane!”

Andy was calling his name. Shane opened his eyes to see the boy, awake now and crying.

“Andy, go!”

The girl was dragging him deeper. The water was to his neck, but Shane had stopped fighting. His strength was leaving his body. “You’re safe Andy! Go! I’m keeping you safe!”

Shane saw his brother turn and run back up the trail, yelling for their mother.

The water swept over Shane’s face.

And the lake was cold.

fiction

Craig Williams

I mistakenly gave up my dream of writing several years ago, but the fire has been rekindled. I am still quite rusty, but I hope you like what I share. If you do, a ❤️ would be appreciated and a tip would be massive encouragement.

Read next: The Barn

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