The Lake House Trip
Burning Eyes from the Lake...
Dean got out of his uber carrying his bag up to the lake house. It had been a very difficult year, what with the pandemic and all, and he was looking forward to getting away from his small apartment for a few days to stay at the company lake house. The lake house itself was a small reward offered to the salesperson of the month to go and visit for a week and enjoy the wonderful isolation in the mountains. He had worked hard through the year, mostly from boredom that came from working from home and getting out only when one absolutely had to. That said he was looking forward to spending his isolation in a much more open and robust place and the mountain air already was calming his senses. He went and typed in the code he had been given to enter the house and let himself in.
The house was large, with five bedrooms upstairs that was accessed through a floating style staircase in the center of the spacious living room. Off the living room was a large bar which bordered the kitchen with the laundry down a short hall. But the real highlight of the room was the enormous windows that looked out over the lake. Going and standing at the crystal-clear portals to the beauty of the smoky mountains he could see the path leading down to the dock which had a sloop for boats, but no boat moored to it. That was fine with him, he loved the view but growing up in the city he had never really felt all that comfortable on the water. No, he was here to stretch out in the giant house alone after spending most of the year in his little apartment working.
He went upstairs, examining each room trying to decide which one to call home for the week. Selecting the largest which included a small study with an assortment of books he threw his bag down beside the bed and lay on the crisp sheets. He was sure a lot of family men were pretty unhappy with him right now hogging all this space to himself, being in his early 20’s and single a lot of older family men in the company shot his some dirty looks in the Zoom call when he was announced the winner. But he had worked hard for this, and he did not care if he made some grumpy men sad or that their wives likely were angry with their husbands and him. He grinned to himself sitting up on the bed. He had worked hard for this, and he was going to enjoy it.
Dean treaded water gulping in large amounts as he struggled to get free. Something was pulling him down, into the inky darkness. Why was he in the lake he thought, what was going on? He held his breath for as long as he could, but his lungs were burning. He struggled to free himself from the icy grip around his ankle and in one desperate wrench broke free. He swam toward the surface or so he hoped, the water was pitch black and he was disoriented unsure whether he swam up or down, but he dared not stop and let the icy tendril drag him down again. He felt his lungs would burst and he realized he was not going to make it out of the water.
He woke screaming in the bed under the white sheets gasping for air. It was the third night since he arrived in this house and every night, he had dreamed he was drowning in the lake. The bed sheets were soaked with sweat and he panted feeling like he had been truly drowning. He looked at the clock by the bed, 2:00 am, just like the other two nights. He rolled to the other side and put his feet on the carpet. Scrunching his toes in the expensive soft weave relaxed him some and he rose to his feet going to the restroom. He washed his hands looking at himself in the mirror. Dark circles were forming under his eyes from lack of sleep and indeed he felt more tired here than he ever had remembered feeling at home. His muscles were in agony and his head hurt like a bad hangover. He splashed water in his face and looked again at his haggard reflection. Not another night here, he thought to himself. To hell with all this space I am going home.
In the darkness he returned to the room but found himself reluctant to return to the bed. He stepped into the hall and walked down the staircase. The full moon lit the room through the enormous windows. He stepped up the glass and peered through the darkness at the lake. In the moonlight it looked like a piece of glass with no blemish reflecting the large moon in the sky so perfectly that the effect was surreal. The mountains in the distance grew even more apparent in the dim light as his eyes adjusted to it. A crack of thunder could be heard in the distance as a storm broke against the far side of the mountain. He saw a streaking flash of lightning above the peaks which drew his attention away from the lake. He wondered if it might rain the following day before looking back at the large body of water.
There were ripples, right at the edge as if something had crawled up on the bank of the lake. He peered closer wondering what it could be. It was a dark shape, large walking along the bank. He could not tell if it walked on all fours or if it was severely hunched over but it was there in the distance. He thought to himself, maybe a black bear. He had read in the company brochure that black bears sometimes could be seen in the area, and he had even passed a few yellow signs in the uber here showing the silhouette of the animals. As he thought the shape stopped walking and seemed to turn toward the water. But then he realized that it had turned toward him. In the moonlight he could faintly make out two glowing eyes.
It was strange, as if the animal or whatever was staring at him. But also, the moon was high and behind the animal and no lights shone toward the lake itself. He did not know a lot about animals, but he did know that eye shine of predators like cats reflected light, like reflectors on a bicycle. “Those eyes should not be glowing like that,” Dean thought to himself. They were bright white like stars blinking in the inky blackness and like the two they did blink from time to time as they continued to stare directly at him. He dared not look away, he felt like he was playing some awful game from grade school and if he so much as blinked, he would lose. He stared out at the shape as it stared back at him for what felt like an eternity, his heart racing his mouth growing very dry. It’s started as a tickle that rose from the dryness and he coughed once covering his mouth pointing his head down.
There it was, in the instant he had coughed, closing his eyes the black shape had crossed the distance from the lake to the house. He was nose to nose with, if it had a nose and its huge burning white eyes looked like reflections of his own. Startled, he fell backwards stumbling to the floor recoiling, putting his hands up by intake ready to defend himself. There was no sound and the stillness enveloped him like the darkness from before. He risked a peak and the shape and burning eyes were gone. He rose quickly, fighting his fear back to the glass just in time to see the ripple in the water from the “things” return.
The next morning the Uber pulled up into the drive of the huge house and honked. Dean had not slept; indeed, he had not left the living room even for a moment other than to pack his things. He stared for hours that night and all the morning at the lake, but nothing stirred, nothing he had noticed for the first time since his arrival. Birds did not land on the lake; fish did not jump from it and nothing drank from it. The lake, at least from this window was empty and devoid of life and once again a placid mirror but to his relief now of the morning sun. He sighed in relief and grabbed his bag headed for the door.
The black figure dragged him toward the water it’s bright burning eyes illuminating the path forward. Dean struggled but its icy grip was so tight he thought his ankle may snap off. Its touch was freezing, and his leg burned from the icy grip. He yelled for help, but he knew he was all alone. He struggled with all his might, but it was too strong. It had no more form than the night he first saw it. It was the height of a man and plodded along hunched over dragging him to the water in no hurry at all. Then in terror he remembered the water and struggled even more. The figure though paid him no mind and stepped off the bank dragging him under. He treaded water gulping in large amounts as he struggled to get free. It was pulling him down, into the inky darkness. He held his breath for as long as he could, but his lungs were burning. He struggled to free himself from the icy grip around his ankle and in one desperate wrench broke free. He swam toward the surface or so he hoped, the water was pitch black and he was disoriented unsure whether he swam up or down, but he dared not stop and let the monster drag him down again. He felt his lungs would burst and he realized he was not going to make it out of the water.
Sitting on the corner of his bed in the apartment Dean cried in deep sobs. He had not cried like this since he was a little boy. He thought of his mother racing to his bedside in the night to comfort him when he had been having a nightmare. That apartment had been bigger than this one and his mother worked long hard hours to pay the rent, but she had always had time to take care of him. He looked at her picture next to his bed, he wished he could call her now. He rubbed his hands over his face looking again at the clock, it was just after 2:00 AM but he already knew that. It had been two weeks since he left the lake house, but every time that he laid in the bed or fell asleep on the couch he would wake from the same dream. He walked to his window and looked out into the night. Across the city it was full of lights even at night, but he was strangely drawn to a new set of bright white lights on the roof across from his apartment. He froze in fear, his breath would not come and in the stillness, he swore his heart stopped. Two lit flaming eyes stared at him across the rooftops. He blinked and they were gone.
Dean rode in the backseat of the car wondering if he was truly crazy. All his friends and co-workers thought he was. He had told only one other living soul of the monster that haunted him, but the cracks from his paranoia and lack of sleep had affected every aspect of his life so drastically that he did not even feel like the same person who visited the lake house two months ago. Every night, every night he slept he woke from the same dream, he had even begun to see the glowing eyes in broad daylight, when he was at the market, when he was at home, everywhere he went he was haunted. His boss, noticing his state even over zoom, had recommended to him the company therapist, Dr. Sarah. In confidence he had told her everything and she had done her best to help him. Medication, visits to medical professionals, brain scans. She had recommended he take a leave and his boss promised to hold his position for him. He had some savings thank God, but it could not go on forever. Finally, Sarah recommended that he face the fear head on. They had gotten permission and the two of them returned to the lake house together. She had taken a special interest in his case she had told him and wanted to help him chase away these demons. Dean was grateful she was with him; he would not have to face the monster alone this time.
Dean and Sarah got out of his uber both carrying their bags up to the lake house. It had been a very difficult couple of months, but Dean was hopeful that just a night in the lake house would help him somehow. This time he was not alone, either Dr. Sarah would see that he was not crazy or hopefully the dreams would just stop. Not that Dr. Sarah had ever called him crazy mind you. But she was certain that there was a logical explanation for what was happening to him. He shuddered seeing the lake behind the house, but she reassuringly placed a hand on his shoulder and the two of them typed in the code and walked in. As he stood in the living room once again he reflected on how the dreams had recently changed to reflect his slow fade into madness. The last two times he had the dream he had not fought the monster at all, he just submitted to being dragged into the lake.
Sarah woke screaming from a terrible nightmare, something icy cold dragging her into a pitch-black body of water. She shivered from the shock of it. How visceral and real it felt. Her lungs still burned from “holding her breath,” and she felt she could hardly catch her breath. She thought about Dean, last time she had seen him he was downstairs sitting on the couch staring out at the lake. She had gone to bed assuring him that if he needed her, she was only a call away but considering now the eerily similar dream she had just experienced she wondered if it was wise that he was alone. She threw on her robe and went down the stairs but even as she descended, she could feel a chill air and noticed that the couch was empty. She searched for the source of the draft and to her disbelief the door was open to the house leading down to the lake. She stepped cautiously onto the terrace and peered at the water. The lake reflected the full moon like the lake was made of glass. As her eyes better adjusted to the light, she saw a dark figure dragging something along behind it stooped down low. It stopped at the water's edge and turned slowly; its eyes lit like white hot fire. Her heart stopped as she remembered Dean’s dreams. The figure turned back to the lake, and she watched as it drug something into the water behind it.