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By a Lake

By a lake


Estimated reading time — 22 minutes

Truth be told, I’m still not sure how or when I came to this place. I have the memories, the whole chain of factors is all there, it’s just buried and muddled and I find my head swimming trying to piece it together.

Which is why I don’t bother.

I mean, why should I? I have everything I want here at the lakehouse. My pantry’s almost bursting at the seams with cans and other non-perishables. I don’t remember the last time I went on a supply run, but I know I won’t have to for a very, very long while – and for that, I’m glad.

I’m so lucky. The lake is beautiful and I have it all to myself. There aren’t many that can say the same. Every day I go down with a camping chair, sometimes a cushion or a towel, and sit on the beach with some smokes. If it’s the evening I’ll bring a few beers, but I try not to overdo it. It’s not like I’m partying. Imagine that, partying. God forbid. Too hectic for me, no thank you.

I do have internet out here, and of course, it’s terrible. I watch the occasional movie or show, even if they buffer every ten seconds, but I always find my eyes being drawn to the window. To the gentle waters. The lake is a mute mother, my wordless company.

And if that wasn’t enough, my lake is special. It’s strange to put into words – trust me, I know – but recently it seems like the lake’s grown. The opposite shore looks so far away. At first I hardly noticed. Then, after I registered the change, it’s grown more and more for every perfectly still night that passes.

Other people might be concerned, so it’s a good thing I’m not other people. I was going to say I’d hold up in the shoe, but I’ve never been to prison. I did get held in jail for a couple of weeks once, and if there’s one thing I wanted as much as being released for trial was solitude. Manslaughter sure isn’t a pretty label, although it’s certainly better than murder. Well, technically it was gross negligence, but let’s not get into that. Not here.

Anyway, none of that matters. I have my home on the lake. The lake… what was I saying? Oh, right. Like I said, the lake’s getting bigger. I can’t understand how I didn’t notice until the other side was at least five, maybe six times further away than it had been before. Within a few days, I had to squint to see the far shore. It was like seeing Calais from Dover. Just a ferry away. So yeah, most people would be confused, even scared. Not me. The further it is, the better. After all, the past only ever recedes from the now, and my past is anywhere that isn’t here.

Still, it’s got me thinking. When did I come here? I have my dad’s old maroon ‘74 Chevelle parked out front, so there must be a road. I should probably service her. Weeds have grown around her flat tires. I should, and I would, but I don’t feel like going for a drive. The only time I need to is for supply runs, and for now, I’m all set. I wonder where dad’s at now, what he’s doing, you know? He’d adore this place, but I don’t ever remember him visiting. He probably never wants to see me again, after what happened.

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This is good, writing my thoughts like this. As much as I enjoy my own company, blowing off pressure helps, even if it’s just pen on paper. Heh, it’s like having a valve or a spigot on my head that I can turn to release steam. Imagine that.

I’ll probably move this into a computer document, but all I have is a shitty desktop. Paper I can bring anywhere. Well, the beach, mostly. I think I’m done for today, though. I’m looking at the lake’s mirrorlike surface, and it’s telling me I’ve done enough. You can rest now, it says.

_____________________________

God, why me? Why did this have to happen? Shit, I shouldn’t start with reactions and no context. No point in jumbling the timeline of events.

This morning, I was sitting in front of the little overhang on the beach, the one with vines dangling from it. I had a mug of coffee and cigarettes, it was dreamy. Dreamy and serene. Halfway through a white stick, something surged up out of the water, breaking the stillness.

It really pissed me off. I picked up a rock to throw at what I thought was a fish, which is when I saw what had surfaced. Not a fish. I’m not sure I ever believed it was.

Fans of dark greying hair rose and fell with the ripples. A body. A human body, face down, floating a stone’s throw off shore. A sudden wave grew and crested out of nowhere and sent the body on a spinning course directly towards me. It started to twitch after coming to a rest, disturbing the smooth pebbles around it. Then, it got up.

It wasn’t a dead body, of course. Wasn’t even a zombie. I should have been cautious, I should have been horrified. Perhaps I was in the split second before I saw their face.

Mom came to visit. I couldn’t believe it.

Moments before, I was only angry. When I saw it was her, that quickly faded. No one’s ever visited me before, not here, and I always thought they should quell the effort. I wouldn’t appreciate their company. But it was my mom, and I was nothing but happy to see her again.

She seemed vacant for a few seconds, until her eyes went wide. After being washed up she was understandably scared and confused. I’d be just the same. I’d be like that all the time without my lake.

I managed to settle her nerves a little and had her wait while I went to fetch a second chair. I tore the shed apart trying to find one but I couldn’t. I’m so stupid, why would there be another? This place is just for me. In the end, I rushed inside and snatched two cushions from the couch, and hurried back to the beach. Mom was sitting in my chair. There were the inceptive sparks of an outburst, flashing in my head, but it was mom. I couldn’t be angry at her, even if she was intruding. If anything, she should’ve been angry with me. She should’ve been seething with rage.

She wasn’t.

I’d have let her sit there, but I wanted to talk eye to eye, figuratively speaking – I wanted her down at my level. So she came over and sat beside me on the other cushion, and held my hand. I was happy to sit there in silence, so she was the first to break it.

“Remember the zoo?”

I did, and I knew exactly where she was going.

“There was that playground right at the back, and you wanted to go on the spinning disk. The big grippy one with handles where a bunch of kids like you could all squeeze on, and have their dads spin it around.”

“Ugh… grazed the skin off my knees.”

Mom snorted, her eyes drifting as the memory replayed in her head. Even if I was only a boy then, just thinking of it made me embarrassed. Embarrassment, I’d left that on the curb a long time ago, but it was fast and relentless enough to catch up with me when it needed to.

“And you were insistent, so me and your dad let you ride it. If they gave out awards to kids who could scream loudest, you’d get the gold medal. By the time it had stopped you were all frozen up, frozen solid. You’d have a trophy for ‘boy with the strongest grip’ too, I mean really, it even took dad some effort to pry you off of there.”

Looking back at the past was itself a thing of the past, a thought that was emboldened as I stared across the lake to where the other side used to be. And still, I laughed along with her. There are gems to be found in the mud, and although I’m never willing to dig for them myself, I’ll gladly watch another get their hands dirty so I can reap the rewards.

Mom went on for a while, reminiscing, flooding me with nostalgia. I was happy she’d come. I think if it were anybody else I’d have cast them right back into the lake. Maybe she knew that.

I was happy, until she thrust the shovel into the grave of the very thing I hoped I’d buried deep enough to forget. In the same soft voice, she asked me,

“Do you know what it’s like to die of thirst?”

A crack formed.

“Do I- what- mom?”

“Oh, it’s nothing really. Your skin goes all rough and dry, your tongue gets scalloped and swells up like your mouth’s full of wool. I found out what water sucked out of a concrete wall tastes like, though there wasn’t much anyway, even if it was raining out. If you went back there today, you’d probably find the bits of my teeth that were chipped and scraped off.”

The crack widened into a fissure. Mom’s voice was lower now, scratchy, though some of the warmth remained, if that was ever real. And I don’t know if it was.

“How was your getaway, sweetie? To Ben’s cabin? Did you have fun? Did you relish in trapping me in the basement before you left? I’m sure you did. You probably got off on imagining me scared, confused, and dying.”

Mountains split and fell to the chasm as it gaped open . It all came rushing back. The garage door, opening and closing. Rushing outside to get in Ben’s car, and stopping at the last second to make sure everything was locked up – including the basement door, left ajar with the key still in the lock.

“Mom, why-”

I bit back my words as she turned and fixed me with two completely dead eyes. There wasn’t a hint of emotion in them, even as her eyelids drooped. Her lips, however, were curled into a faint smile. When she spoke, her voice this time was a rabid hiss, like she couldn’t keep up with her own words, or her lungs weren’t working right.

“Why? WHY!? What fucking right do you have to ask that, you pasty little shit?”

She leaned in, arching unnaturally towards me to match the growing hate in her voice. I tried to back away but my body wouldn’t listen.

“If you were just one hour, ONE HOUR earlier I’d have lived, but we wouldn’t want that now would we? Oh no, the poor, troubled boy has to get his kicks somehow!”

“That isn’t… you were already…”

Mom contorted her face into a bitter mockery of concern, eyebrows sloped and lips pursed.

“What was it, honeybun? Was daddy too distant, too cold? Was it that fat lump of lard who bullied you at school? Or were you just born this fucked up?”

I found my voice and cried out,

“Stop it! It wasn’t my fault, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”

This just served to animate her further. She reared up, coiled all out of shape. I heard the crackle of dry skin the colour of ash, and when she opened her mouth, her lips split and oozed a foul black fluid. This time, my body replied and I twisted away, jamming my palms into the sand. Before I could get up, bowed fingers latched around my forearm and held me tight. I looked down. Mom had caught me, and dug her coarse, filthy nails into my skin. It burned. It burned so bad that an electric shock went all the way up my arm and I swear I heard flesh sizzling. Without moving her shoulders, her neck stretched out so we were at eye level. In a voice like spiders burning in a fire, she said,

“Oh, sweetie, it’s okay. You’ve got an ouchie, don’t you? I know what’ll make you feel better. Come get a kiss from dear old momma-”

“SHUT UP!” I screamed, thrusting my arms out to shove her away. When my hands drove into her ribs, she stopped, looked down at my hands, then back up to me with a smile.

Then, mom disintegrated.

And no, I don’t mean she just vanished. If only it’d been that easy. The form and shape of my mother collapsed into a mass of tiny writhing bodies. They looked like some kind of crustacean. Little translucent shrimp things that hopped around like fleas on a hotplate and swarmed back to where they came from. Back to the lake and into its depths.

I don’t know why I even wrote about this. It hurt, still does. A disgusting horde of water bugs talked with me for a solid thirty minutes, and I believed it was mom. At least I know it wasn’t her, but the damage is done. I was so close to burying that memory forever, and forgetting what I’ve done.

I’m staying inside for the rest of today. I can’t go near there right now. At least I can see it from this window. Not a ripple in sight. I can see the car, too. It’s pretty. But when I look at it now, all I think of is sitting in the driver’s seat, parked in the driveway, watching faceless people carrying a stretcher with a long black bag on it. I don’t think I moved for a full twenty four hours. Not until the taxi dropped dad home after he flew back from Japan. The only reason he gave me his Chevelle is so I could be gone by the morning and never come back.

In a few days I’ll be back down by the lake. I know it. I’m also pretty sure some of those shrimp things got on me, so I’m keeping an eye out around the house. Ok, I’m done. I’ve spent the last of what I have writing this. I feel like curling into a ball under my bed.


_____________________________

They’re in the house. I swear I checked myself up and down, damn near burned my skin off in the shower, but they still got in somehow. I crushed the bastards but some got away and I don’t know where they’re hiding now.

Whatever the hell these crab-shrimp-creatures are, it looks like there has to be a lot of them to, uh, camouflage themselves? I haven’t seen them try to take the form of a person or anything else. With a few, I can cull them and prevent them from multiplying. If I leave them too long, well, I’m not gonna do that.

It’s been three days since I last wrote. I’ve been too afraid to leave, afraid of those things breeding in unchecked corners, but I need to get out. I can’t stay inside. The walls are heavy. The ceiling’s pressing down on me. Dusk is coming.

I’m going down to the lake, to a spot as far from the overhang as possible. I need to see the lake before it gets dark, to stare into the vanishing point where it kisses the clear sky. This time though, I’m bringing this paper. If there’s anything new or noteworthy, I want to record it as I see it. I can’t rely on my memory.

_____________________________

Made my way out to one of the big moraine boulders in the water. An island of its own, although it isn’t very comfortable. I never usually come out here, but I haven’t seen any of those bugs. It’s pretty dark though. At least I can see the stars. The stars, they’re so far away. When I look up at them it’s like I’m dreaming, wondering what it’d be like to be one, off in some hidden away nebula in the corner of an unnamed galaxy. I think I’ll just stare awhile.

_____________________________

The reflections are gone. I don’t know what happened, but the lake is dark and muddied and ignorant of the night sky. There isn’t a star reflected on its surface. That’s okay, though. I guess the lake just gets like that sometimes. I don’t like to look at it when it’s like that. I’d rather admire the stars.

It’s getting cold, so I’m going inside to sleep this off. Ever since those things masquerading as mom paid me a visit, every day has felt like a nightmare. Hopefully I’ll wake from it by the morning.


_____________________________

Well, today’s been better. When I got back last night, I went in the bathroom to brush my teeth, and was absolutely disgusted to find a stream of those tiny crustaceans practically erupting from the base of the mirror. I didn’t care, I fucking burned them because that’s what they deserve. The scorch marks on the sink will have to wait until later to be cleaned.

Aside from that I slept quite well, and no, I didn’t find any in my bed. That doesn’t mean they aren’t there, they could be, sure. But, out of sight, out of mind. Oh, and if it wasn’t already clear, I don’t blame the lake for what happened. Yes, those things came from it, and I’m sure there’s plenty of horrors gliding around its depths, but there’s also many a beauty to be seen. The lake accepts all, no matter where you stand.

The reflections came back when I went down to shore. In fact, the lake is more flat and mirrorlike than it ever has been before.

I’d put the pen down here if that’s all there is to it. Of course, I saw something.

I was reclined on the soft gravel slope, letting my head drain and empty and my eyes surf across the horizon, taking slow drags of a cigarette and letting smoke billow between my teeth. Then, I spotted a dark blot, breaking the otherwise perfect seam. I struggled to make out what it was aside from, well, a blot that was dark. Whatever it was I could tell it was approaching the shore. Approaching me.

Soon, it became obvious that the shape was above water. Not a thing of the lake, but of land. It was a boat, and the natural conclusion would be that someone was sailing that boat. Who?

They’re close now. From the rate they’ve been sailing at I’d give them a good twenty minutes before they get here. Let’s see if I’m right. I would bet on it, if only there was someone to bet against.

Oh, my smoke’s gone out. Damn. Got ash on the page too, I-

What the hell? My ears just started ringing and it feels like thumbtacks are being driven into my temples. They waved. At first I didn’t register it as such, but they waved. At me. How is this possible? I didn’t think…

Oh no.

They just called out my name. They- he knows my name. How does he know? Who told him? When? Shit, what do I do? If he can come here, anyone can. No. That can’t be right.

He’s here.

_____________________________

So, good news and bad. The good news is that he wasn’t those shrimp things. He’s real. A real, honest-to-god human being. And out of anyone he could’ve been, guess who? Ben. It’s Ben. I didn’t even remember him until mom- until those things mentioned him. It hurt to see him after so long. I can’t help but associate him with the memory, the memory of what I did to my own mother. My rock.

He moored the boat to a piece of dead tree jutting out near the shoreline that didn’t look remotely stable, then jumped out and stood there for a while, taking in the surroundings. The lake house. My house.

After he was done admiring the place, he turned in my direction and made his way over, and said that- why am I paraphrasing? I remember it exactly. These things don’t happen often – that is to say, they never happen. So when they do, it’s only natural that the memory of it is near photographic. Word for word.

Ben looked me in the eyes as he said,

“Nice place. It’s, uh, comfortable.”

I broke from staring and shifted my gaze to the ground. It didn’t feel good, looking at him. The familiarity was scalding.

“Yeah.”

“You come down here a lot?”

Still staring down into round, grey pebbles, I frowned.

“Yeah.”

“I can see why. Man, it’s just… serene.”

Ben peered out across the lake, while my eyes stayed confined to the long ago smoothed stones. Everything seemed so loud. I heard every breath he took like it was played through a stage amp.

The silence was worse, so I broke it first.

“How’d you get here Ben? Well- I mean, by boat obviously, but how long did it take? And how did you even know where to-”

“Dude, I didn’t come all this way so you could hear me moan and groan about how awful it was. And yes, it was, but this isn’t about me. I miss you, man, and I’m not alone – we all miss you. You don’t have to be alone either and, I know you may not think so, but we still care.”

My eyes pulled away from the ground, and I looked at Ben. I looked long and hard into his eyes. God, those eyes. There was no falsity there, and no doubt either, regardless of how hard I searched for it.

Still, it wasn’t enough.

“I’m fine here. This is my peace. If you cared, you’d accept that.”

Ben paused for a moment, long enough for a smile to creep across his face. It wasn’t like mom’s smile, bitter and lifeless. It was only hopeful, and just as genuine as those eyes still were.

“I do.”

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Now, he was the one to look down at the ground.

“I know you’re relaxed here. But is that all you want, to relax? I know what it’s like. After a while, I would start to worry about whether I’d be able to instead of actually relaxing. You spend too long in your own company and it gets stagnant.”

That sharp pain in my head shot back. I didn’t like it, because pain makes me angry. All I could muster as a reply was a simple, quiet grunt.

“Look. I want to help you. But I can only help you if-”

“-I want to be helped.”

Shock flashed across Ben’s face, quickly replaced by something more sympathetic. No, not sympathetic. Pitying. More of the same thing I’d been supplied with in abundance, my whole life.

“I don’t need it. I’m sorry and all, that you came this far for nothing. Please, go.”

He stuttered, like he wanted to try and change my mind, but he gave up.

“Fine, but I’ll be back again. And not because I expect you to decide differently. Just because I still care.”

With that, he boarded his vessel and untied the knot. The boat drifted out onto the lake, Ben standing and watching me with that ever-present smile of his, only now with the barest tinge of defeat that stopped it from reaching his eyes.

He’d left at my request. That alone sort of left me dumbstruck, because I wanted him to change my mind. I want so desperately for someone to do it for me, and I just sent that someone packing. Maybe I’m more like dad than I thought.

And what he said about relaxing; he’s absolutely right. I can’t deny it now the words have been spoken, acknowledged. But he’s coming back, and that sets my heart at ease, because as distant as the past has become, the future might be making a turn. Left, right, doesn’t matter. As long as it gets me off this road.

I just hope it isn’t a U-turn.


_____________________________

Ben, when are you coming back?

It’s been two days, and there’s nothing out on the lake. He probably forgot, yeah, that sounds right.

I know I keep calling it a lake, but now it’s really more like an ocean. There’s nothing to be seen, shore to flat skyline. Actually- wait, I need to check something.

_____________________________

I think someone’s here with me. It was bad enough when I came out and found the road – or, where a road should’ve been – entirely swallowed up by lakewater. But what sent me into shallow breaths was the flattened grass running down the bank beside the gravel drive. The Chevelle’s gone. Someone, something, pushed it into the lake. I can’t see it, but where else could it be?

Doesn’t matter. I wasn’t putting it to any use. It seems like the lake is the only place anything can go anymore.

Oh, Ben’s here. He’s calling my name from outside. Thank whatever trigger made him remember. I can’t wait to talk to him.

_____________________________

Shit, holy Jesus, I- no, I need to double check the locks.

_____________________________

It wasn’t him. I stepped out the front door and saw it in the bushes under the trees. I thought I was looking at a weird stump or log until it moved. God, how do I even describe that thing? Brown, bruisy carapace. At least fifteen, no, twenty legs, all shuddering and twitching like some enormous deformed spider – and that wasn’t even the worst part. When it reared up out of the bushes, where there might have been eyes was instead Ben’s bloody, eyeless head, chopped off and fused at the neck. He- it kept calling to me, even as I stumbled screaming inside.

I’m huddled up in the bathroom right now. I know it’s still out there because it’s crawling on the house. Each step is vibrating through me. I can’t say how many legs it has but they’re sharp and spiny and there’s tiles falling off the roof, smashing on the rocks outside.

Ben’s still calling out for me, although now I can hear the sound of clacking chelicerae beneath. He sounds desperate. He sounds enraged. The things he’s saying – it’s saying – are vile. It’s hurting me. Sticks and stones? Bullshit. I’m sorry, I can’t write and press my hands over my ears at the same time.

_____________________________

The thing finally stopped running circles around the house. It settled by the front door and it’s still sitting there, perched, ready to spring at any sign of the door opening. I know because I can see it through the frosted glass. A dark, hulking haze of malice, only letting out the occasional shudder or click.

This is too much. I need to see the lake, even if it’s just a peep. I need to.

_____________________________

He’s coming, oh, thank god, any god that heard me, and the ones who listened. Only a faint dot for now, but one growing into a mighty, indomitable circle that could roll over even the most hideous of things and flatten them into nothing. Even the thing shivering outside the front door.

I should warn him about it. How? I’m terrified of making a sound, of making myself known. Right now I’m just trying to ignore it. Long enough to shift it into the periphery, but not too long as to forget. I don’t have the luxury to forget anymore, because if I do, there’ll be nothing left.

It’s okay. He can handle it, I’m sure.

_____________________________

I feel so stupid. Ben moored at the beach and walk-jogged up the path to my door. I wasn’t even sure he’d noticed the creature till he looked. He sort of grimaced a bit, but that was it. Like it was a damn mouse or something. This badass motherfucker shoved it out the way so he could get to the door.

And guess what happened?

It disintegrated. Tiny, hopping lake bugs. The shrimp things. I’m so embarrassed, being that frightened of something I could break with a flick of a finger.

Ah, guess I won’t have time to copy these papers over to the computer. Oh well, it’s not like I want to reread these. Is this a journal? A diary? If nobody’s going to read it, then it isn’t anything. Whatever you are, I’m sorry to leave you so suddenly, but I need to go. I can’t spend a minute longer here, and Ben’s knocking at the door. Calling my name. The real Ben.

Goodbye.


_____________________________

The fact that these words are here means I failed. I’m sorry god. I’m so sorry. Ben, everyone, I’ve failed. Even with your help, something I never deserved in the first place, I think it was always meant to be like this. That I would be here, by the lake, forever.

Ben looked surprised when I came outside and asked to leave. Surprised, but happy. How easy it is for someone like him to misjudge panic for enthusiasm. Either way, we bounded down to the beach, to the boat, and for the first time in forever, I set foot on something that wasn’t the beach, or the house. The island.

Just standing in the small rowing boat made my head spin and my legs weak. I kept glancing back at the house, but I’d had enough of it. And Ben, you, you kind idiot. He told me to sit back and breathe while he rowed. I nearly scoffed at him before realising I wasn’t actually breathing. When I breathed out it was like every muscle in my body deflated, opening the gates to a slow wave of dread. He asked about the wound on my arm too, but I just told him I burned it on an oven tray. I could tell he wasn’t convinced, but he didn’t press any further. It still hurts. When I think of mom, the scabs start to throb and flush with heat, so I’d rather just forget.

All things considered, it was calm as could be. Calm as it had ever been. And all the while my fingers were wrapped tight around the rim of the boat. White knuckled, frozen, mind running away imagining all the awful things that might be snaking and swimming about beneath us, past where the sunlight can’t reach. Ben was unfazed, though, so in the end I just watched him, and focused on the hypnotic motion of his rowing.

It was calm until we went far enough for the horizon to roll away and reveal what lay ahead. I physically recoiled when I saw them. Clouds of pure pitch, clusters of them, swollen and lumpy. Below them, a distant and thick haze of rain, illuminated by sparse lightning flashes. The beats of my heart were so fast, so close together, it actually felt like my heart had stopped. The storm coated the horizon from end to end with its dark violence. No way over it. No way under it. No way around.

“We’re not going through that right?” I stammered.

Ben kept his eyes forward as he answered.

“We have to. There’s no other way.”

I could hear it now. Deep rumbling and a downpour so heavy it was like static screeching in my ears, filling my head and burning away thought.

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“N-no, no, I didn’t think it would be like this, I can’t Ben. I can’t. I won’t make it!”

I had to shout over the winds now rushing past us.

“Stop, take me back!”

“No. We’re doing this.”

His voice was low, brimming with resolve, and somehow able to be heard through the gale.

“I won’t let you go back there. I’m getting you out.”

My eyes flicked between him and the clouds.

“I don’t have the strength!”

This time, he turned around to reveal his eyes. Burning with intensity.

“You’re never going to have the strength without doing this first!”

The storm loomed over us and I could only stutter and whine. Foreign emotions exploded in a tornado of pain, fear, and longing. I felt sure in that moment that if I let Ben carry me into it, the world would collapse and crush me like I’d always feared.

He couldn’t hear me anymore over the great cyclone. He couldn’t hear the boat creaking as I stood up. He couldn’t hear my wheezing breath. He couldn’t hear my shoes shuffling. And no sooner did Ben whip around than I had leapt over the stern and into the lake. He screamed a hopeless, wretched scream, but it was cut off and replaced by the muffled sound of the lake in my ears.

I don’t really remember how I got back. There was a pull, like a riptide, or maybe a thermal current. I remember thinking that nothing else mattered except getting away. My arms and legs were flailing, and before long I was tired out. I guess the lake carried me back to shore.

Ben’s gone. Swallowed by the storm, no doubt. I don’t see how anyone could survive out there.

And I am here. So stupid. Why did I think I could last a minute away from here? I’m such a fucking idiot, stupid stupid stupid STUPID!!

Looks like I have the time to type this all up. How much is left? How much time? I’ll just keep writing, keep clacking these keys until the clock stops. No point in splitting these entries up anymore, not that I put dates down in the first place. What is the date? The calendar program isn’t working. The lake is the same all the time so I don’t know what season it is. The same. Always the same.

_____________________________

I don’t know how long it’s been, but I know one thing. The lake is rising. Most of the beach is already gone and it keeps creeping, closer, closer, and even now there isn’t a ripple to be seen. There is something though, beneath the surface. If it’s trying to hide from me then its efforts are misguided, because it’s huge. The big spider shrimp thing from before is like a dust mite in comparison. Whatever it is, massive and dark, it’s following the lake. It’s rising up, too slowly to see it moving. Maybe it’s been rising this whole time, too slow for me to notice. Maybe it is the lake, and the water’s just an extension of itself.

I hear dripping. It’s getting louder. I need to go to the beach one more time, before it’s lost forever.

_____________________________

No… no…. I went outside and that thing in the water started moving. I saw it. Two parts of equal magnitude started to separate, leaving an abyss between them. I think it was a mouth, big enough to eat the island and then some in one bite. It stopped after I went inside.

There’s people on the beach. No, more like ghosts. Are they dead? They might be the same as me. Alone. Have I really been alone this whole time, or were they there too? Why couldn’t I see them until now? They can’t see me. I threw rocks at them and I couldn’t tell if they got hit. The rocks just kept returning to my hand, like I hadn’t thrown them in the first place.

I used to be one of them, I think. A ghost. What am I now? I’m even less. Can ghosts die? Can ghosts have ghosts? I have to stop this. The thing in the water, the leviathan, I think it’s speaking to me. It’s telling me everything’s okay, that I can rest now. Same as what the lake always said. The same, the same, the same, always the same always. The leviathan says there’s no way back, no way but to give up. Dead end road. My car’s gone. Dad’s car, that old Chevelle, sunken to its bed. Dad. Dad, where are you?

Hi dad. I didn’t think you’d visit.

I know, I’m sorry. It’s all I’ve had to think about for years. It was all my fault and I’ve thought about it over and over and over until I couldn’t remember anymore.

Please don’t leave me again. Dad please don’t go out there. PLEASE

Drove away. He drove off in the Chevelle. How is that possible?

He can’t forgive me. How could he? I’m a murderer. He’s never coming back. Ben isn’t coming back either, because he can’t forgive me for what I’ve done. Where did it go wrong?

Mom had the softest voice. Perfect for lullabies. Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear, one step, two step, missing you under here. I miss you. Under here… under… past it all. I’m forgetting it all.

I can feel it staring at me through the window. It’s waiting. It’ll wait for as long as it needs to. God, I’ve waited too long. I waited for the storm to settle, but it never did. It never will. I’m grinding my teeth so I can sit still.

_____________________________

I keep finding broken teeth in the house. Must be mine, but there’s too many. How many teeth do people have? I wonder how many everyone has. How many memories do we have? Who am I even talking to?

Well if you told me more often maybe I’d remember!

Sorry, I would come help at Nana’s, but I need to get ready for the trip. Okay.

Oh shit, I locked you in. I’m sorry. What? You put a box of china down there? Oh right, from Nana’s. I almost left and locked you down there, thank god. Yeah, yeah, I’ll let you out now.

Mom?

Where did you go?

_____________________________

I can’t block it out anymore. The leviathan is screaming at me from the depths of its maw. Endless. Grinding my teeth. It doesn’t have any teeth, just a deep dark pit.

Someone’s knocking at my door.

_____________________________

I opened the door and the water’s right up to the porch. The ground is gone. The trees are dead. The house is only here if I shut the door, but I’m not going to. I have to go.

I’m sorry Ben. Dad, I’m- no, really, I’m sorry. Do what you will.

It’s calling sweetly now. It’s okay. Let’s get this over and done with, hey? You don’t have to be afraid anymore. Thank you. I’m not. I’m nothing now, and that means everything to me. The water is at my knees. Whether I go or not, it’ll swallow me up anyway. Long enough. Waited too long. Too long. Too far gone. Two’s a crowd. The purest solitude is close and soon there’ll only be one. I’ve written and carved myself into the walls of the universe.

I don’t know if I’ve written enough, but it’ll have to do. I’m going now. I’m finally going to be alone. Ben couldn’t take me there, but the leviathan can. Maybe I’ll see you there, mom. I hope not. I’m sorry.

Good night, and I’ll sleep tight.

Credit: A. K. Kullerden

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