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The lake

by Morgan Kelly 7 months ago in fiction
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Night of the Super Moon

1.

The middle aged detective took a sip of his peach mango ice tea from a designer coffee shop that most assuredly did not contain a healthy, mid-morning shot of vodka. He stood at the end of the small dock beside the boat launch over looking the largest, brackish water, coastal lake in the United States. The recent rains had opened the pass into the Gulf of Mexico on the Western end of the lake. Jet skiers and boaters, mostly locals, had covered the lake yesterday with out incidence but the super moon last night had pulled on more than the tides. Two young lovers had decided to go for a night paddle, as far as anyone could tell, to the far side of the lake and the only thing that anyone could find of them this morning were the kayaks floating on the smooth surface of the dark water. One by the dock and the other aimlessly down a narrow slough that ran from the North into the lake. Locals called this Gator Alley because of the multiple alligator beds that could be clearly seen but that no one ever saw the alligators in. Strange, he mused.

A younger man in a similar suit and tie walked down the dock and stopped beside him, "You know what pisses me off about this. These people are missing, didn't have any business out here after dark and now I'm gonna miss the game. I mean, what the hell were they out here for? The lake isn't even that damn deep and Tex says he knew them and there's no way they fell over and drowned." The young detective in his blue suede dress shoes sipped his latte and shook his head.

Detective Christian sipped his iced tea and after a disapproving glance at young Detective Blaine's shoes, surveyed the scene. There was a rescue/recovery dive team from the Navy base, the local Lake Powell conservation group who were very familiar with every inch of the lake and beach service guys, that were friends of the two missing, all combing it. Blaine was right, Christian hated to admit. The lake was fairly shallow other than the deep trench in the center where the current picked up when the pass was open and if Tex, who was a calm, level headed fellow that worked beach service, said the two could easily swim the lake then it was most likely true. The missing man's family said he was a very good swimmer but was not experienced with kayaks. The missing woman's family was sure foul play was involved. The woman was an experienced outdoors man and was comfortable on a kayak in any water. They thought given the location and nature of the lake there was no way she got lost or accidentally drowned. "The moon does strange things to people. Last night was the super moon. I'm surprised this is the only call we got this morning," was all Christian said. Another sip and another cursory look around and he announced, "Well, were doing no good here. Let's head back and see what else is going on." He turned and headed back to the cruiser, puzzled but bored with the goings on at this point. Blaine of the blue suede shoes shook his head and followed. Christian already smelled like vodka and it wasn't quite noon. "Nothing will get done today," he thought but followed Christian to the car.

2.

The smell surrounded her. It wasn't something she just noticed. It was like an actual thing that was touching her. The rum and lust induced oblivion that had been her reality a moment before was as gone as if someone had flung the cool lake water on her.

"What is that?" Sarah asked.

"Sorry," Larry half offered against the tender skin of Sarah's neck as he replaced his gentle nibble with the softness of his lips.

" No, seriously. What the hell is that smell?" Sarah pushed Larry back. She peered around them to locate the source of the horrible smell.

The lake was in sharp relief all around them. The super moon had their isolated beach bathed in it's ethereal light. She could see clear across the lake to the boat ramp where her truck was parked. The wind was low and the water sighed softly with millions of diamonds reflecting on it's smooth surface. Was she crazy or was the smell getting stronger?

"Larry, please tell me you smell that. I mean damn. What is that?"

Pulled from the headiness her skin had induced, Larry finally became fully aware that there was definitely something there that had not been when they had paddled up to the strip of sand they called "Their Beach". He looked around amazed again that it was as bright as it was at midnight.

"I don't know," Larry replied. He suddenly became aware that Sarah was on full alert. This took him by surprise because she was never uncomfortable in nature. Anywhere. Ever. She loved the outdoors, night or day and was clearly concerned which frightened him out of his arduous mood. He studied her face for a moment and whispered, "Do you recognize the smell? I mean, what are you thinking?" He didn't know if he wanted an answer.

"I don't know, Lar. It kinda' smells like a hog. Like a really big one." She considered this idea for a moment. Maybe a huge boar but the housing development near by would have run out any really big males. The conservation park was too near and above that was the bay and all the open land and food one would want. She chewed her lip for a moment. A snake den would smell but they would have noticed one when they paddled up and she had never smelled one like this before. It definitely was moving in on them and definitely wasn't there when they got there, she thought. She realized that she was holding her breath and listening for any sort of movement in the scrub oaks that lined the shore just a few feet back from where they were about to make love at the water's edge.

"I think we should go," she suddenly couldn't squash the urge to just get as far away from the smell as possible. Some primal instinct was screaming at her to just go and that was not something she was used to feeling.

Larry, sensing the urgency in Sarah's actions and hearing it in her voice was surprised but not arguing. He pulled her to her feet, after standing himself and held on to her for the briefest of moments, looking at the silent tree line. Sarah pushed away from him and grabbed her paddle and life jacket.

"C'mon, Lar. We really need to just go," Sarah said without looking to see if he was following suit. They had beached the kayaks high because she wasn't sure how strong the pull of the moon would have on the lake. She pushed her kayak into the water and glanced back to see if Larry was doing the same. He was standing there. Staring at the tree line. Could he see something, she wondered. "Larry," she shouted and when he whipped his head around to look at her she jerked hers over her shoulder, gesturing toward the water. Normally, after dark, deep water was not where she wanted to be especially this close to Gator Alley but, in that moment she couldn't have been more set on anywhere else. The lake was their safety and she didn't know how she knew this but it was in her mind as solid as the knowledge of her own name and yes, with out a doubt, the smell was getting stronger. Her hands weren't shaking yet but she knew they would be soon. "Larry, I swear to god I will leave you on this beach," she said and he knew she meant it.

Finally he moved to his kayak. He pushed it into the water and a skate took off right in front of him. He jumped and took in a sharp breath. The smell was strong enough now that he glanced accusingly back at the tree line because it gave no indication that something was moving toward them. He climbed in his kayak and pushed off the beach toward Sarah who was already in waist deep water and paddling away from him with out looking back. He glanced up from the dark water that his paddle was biting into, at the truck on the far side. The Keys! He suddenly remembered taking the small cooler off the front of Sarah's kayak. The rum was in the cooler and he didn't want to keep going to the kayaks to get a drink. Inside with the rum were the keys to the truck. They had both forgotten it in their haste to leave the beach. He yelled at Sarah, " We left the keys! They're in the damn cooler!"

"Shit," she yelled back. She didn't even turn her kayak around. She just reverse paddled and slowly started back toward the shore. "I'll get them," she said. She was about to jump out of the kayak when she heard the low growl start. Sarah froze. She didn't even stop the movement of the kayak toward the shore and didn't move when the small craft bumped into the sandy beach. She just sat there staring behind her over her shoulder into the tree line. There were eyes. Glowing red eyes being very still but definitely looking right back at her. She had a lot of experience hunting but had never been hunted before. She knew instinctively that this was exactly what her prey had felt like moments before the shot was fired.

Larry had clumsily and slowly turned his kayak toward the shore and it took a moment to realize that Sarah was not moving. That something was very wrong. He put the paddle into the water to stop the blue sit in he was tentative captain of. "Sarah!" he yelled. "Sarah, what the hell! Get the cooler! Sarah!" Finally she moved but it wasn't to get out of her day-glo-orange ride on top. She very gingerly pushed the paddle into the sand and began painfully, slowly turning the kayak to face the beach and, at the same time, moving it back out into the lake. She never said a word. Just ever so carefully, like she was trying to dip the paddle into the water without actually touching it, maneuvered the kayak back away from the shore while coming around to face it. He started mimicking her movement. He started paddling backward slowly and stopped yelling. He could feel the tightness of her muscles, the stiffness of her back. He didn't know what she had seen but if it had that effect on her he didn't want to find out. She was leaving the keys and that was all he needed to know to be fine with retreating to deeper water.

Sarah finally started to shake. It was less of a shake, more of a vibration that ran through her at a steady hum. She was aware of an unnatural chill all over her body while her arm pits began the tingling sweat of a fever. The hair on her arms stood up to the point of being almost painful. She tried to relax so that her movements were slow and productive but the muscles in her feet were tense enough to cramp her toes. The growl continued. Low and guttural and unlike anything she had ever heard before and the eyes never left hers and never waivered. This thing was nothing she had ever encountered or heard of and was going to try to kill her here on the edge of a affluent neighborhood beside a busy lake. Her frantic mind told her that it made no sense and there was something integral she was missing in this whole scenario. Larry did not exist in this world she was in. Who the hell was Larry? She was definitely not worried about that right now. She just needed to get far enough off the beach that whatever this thing was couldn't leap on to her and rip open her abdomen. Jesus. She hoped it couldn't swim.

Larry started calling to Sarah. He started with high pitched, frightened blurps of her name. That didn't work. So he switched to low, calm as possible but forceful calls. Something a dad would use just before threatening a spanking. He was concentrating so precisely on getting Sarah's attention that when something bumped into his kayak it seemed like nothing to be worried about. Then it registered that something had bumped into his kayak,.....from underneath. He pulled his paddle up over his head and looked into the dark water. He could see nothing but the bright moon reflected on the mirror-like surface. He put his knees together and tried to be as small as his six foot 260lb frame would allow him to be inside the kayak. Now with fear, "Sarah. Something hit me. Sarah. Something in the damn water hit me." She didn't respond. She just kept staring at the beach. He could see nothing on shore. What the hell was she looking at? Didn't she hear him? There was something in the fucking water. The beach! He suddenly needed to get to the beach. Why the hell were they paddling away from the land into the deepest, fastest moving part of the lake? The Wild Heron houses were what, 200 yards away through the trees? If he started yelling, really yelling, someone would probably hear him. He began paddling toward the shore frantically, totally uncaring of how much water he splashed into his kayak or how much noise he was making because something had just hit his kayak from underneath, ...in the water!

Sarah was right at fifteen feet off shore when someone paddled passed her toward it. "Oh, that's Larry," she thought absently, then "Oh, Jesus! Larry! Don't! Larry! There's something there!" Larry wasn't listening to her and wasn't responding. His broad shoulders dug deep into the water and then used the sandy bottom of the lake to pull himself as far onto shore as possible before jumping out of the kayak. What the hell? Did he not clearly see those damn eyes? How could he miss them? She could feel them on her from here. Larry couldn't. He didn't even drag the kayak up. He just ran to the tree line and put his hands on his knees trying to catch his breath. He turned around and started bouncing up and down, yelling something and waving for her to come back to shore. He was nuts. "This is how Larry dies", Sarah thought, "Eaten by some unidentified creature beside a busy lake, on the edge of a rich neighborhood." Then something hit her kayak. Something in the water hit her kayak. She didn't run over a log disturbed by the rain run off. Whatever it was actually hit her kayak on purpose. Briefly she thought about sharks bumping before biting but there were no sharks in the lake typically. Occasionally a bull shark would venture in while the pass was open and get caught when it closed but they preferred the shallow lagoon near the open and enjoyed the blue crab along the grass line there. This hit fit more with a mako that would pester kayakers off shore in the gulf. The lake water wasn't salty enough for them to survive in though.

When the trees started shaking like a wind had stirred them, the laughter started, soft and mad. Low and quiet at first, as if a scientist had happened across the missing ingredient to the chemical compound he was trying to create but ramping up to maniacal. Sarah wondered if she was actually hearing it or if her mind had slipped and her imagination was taking over. Larry stopped waving and slowly turned to face the shaking trees. Finally his eyes settled on the glowing red embers and he would have questioned his sanity as Sarah was doing except the embers blinked. His bottom lip began to quiver. He was unaware that urine had begun to trickle down his already wet leg.

The water around the kayak Sarah sat in began to churn. Round and around the kayak and it began to rock. Sarah leaned forward and braced the paddle on the front of it between her knees and her ankles by instinct. She looked up but could only see the back of Larry's head and sensed rather than actually saw his whole body shaking. His kayak forgotten and jostled by the choppy water of the lake began to slip away from shore. The paddle slid off of it onto the beach and lay there useless.

The beach erupted into chaos. The trees bent and swayed and the sand flew in all directions. Larry's screams did not drown out the laughter. Sarah let go of the paddle that unbalanced and slipped into the water to be tossed about like a twig in a whirl pool and covered her ears. She could still hear but her brain demanded that it wasn't real and that somehow her small hands clutching desperately and the sides of her head would make the madness stop. She wailed against the insanity. Literally wailed. It was a noise she had never made before and it wasn't by her vocal chords but by her very being, the core of her essence protesting this impossible moment in the universe.

Then silence. Nothing. The laughter was gone. The water began to settle. The trees were still and the smell drifted away. The smell that had harbingered the demise of one Larry that had paddled across the lake on the night of the super moon to make love to the incredibly sexy Sarah on an isolated beach beneath the noses of the rich people who built luxury homes on the shores of a busy, protected coastal lake that occasionally opened up to the Gulf of Mexico after a few days rain or a tropical storm.

Sarah uncovered her ears. She glanced around her and began to sob quietly. The sand on the beach was disturbed and that was the only sign, that she could see, other than the lonely blue sit inside that was floating slowly toward the middle of the lake past Sarah's day-glo-orange sit on top, that there had actually been someone with her. Her paddle was gone. She didn't know where to but it was gone. Still shaking she tried using her hands to move herself toward the boat ramp. It wasn't working and her tears were now blinding her. It would be faster if she swam but she couldn't bring herself to slip into the water.

Something bumped her kayak, from beneath, in the water. It bumped her again. This time the small boat rocked dangerously and she cried aloud. Uncontrollably, she pleaded with whatever was listening to leave her alone and just go away and to please just save her at the same time. Another bump and the desperate wail of a lost child escaped her. It was silenced by an explosion of water. A geyser that reached toward the moon that hung silent, bloated and cold in the Southern sky.

fiction

About the author

Morgan Kelly

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