Estimated reading time — 10 minutes
My mom had just got a new job as a deputy at a sheriff’s office in a town surrounded by thick woods on one side and the sea off the coast of Washington state some miles west of Victoria. It wasn’t too big, but not staggeringly small. They had a Walmart and the drive to the city wasn’t too hard to achieve.
My school was a one story building with a gym, computer lab, standard size library and about eight classrooms. So getting to class was quick and easy, the only downside being no offical cafeteria, but a fully stocked kitchen. The food was often delivered to our home rooms, where we would report to for lunch break and free period.
Another plus was that we only had four classes a day so we were able to arrive at 10, have lunch, then start our one hour classes. We had our fourty minute home room, where we would gather supplies for the day, finish homework, catch up, use the bathroom and hear school announcements and watch the news on donated tvs. Then the first of our five minute change of classroom started. Being a small school with under fifty students, it was easily managed.
I already had a friend to help me get around. Jacob had been my best friend since we were kids and when he had moved here two years ago, we stayed strong friends over Skype and phone. I broke my lamp in excitement two months ago when my mom told me we were moving to where he was.
Jacob let me know the rules, how to easiest navigate school life and mostly, who was who and how to connect. And who to avoid.
I was packing up my history notes when I finally noticed her in the back corner. She was willowy, with not much of a figure, but not too tall with long dark hair that hid some of her face. She was still writing in her journal. The teacher had long gone already and the school would be closed soon for the night.
“Hey, class is over.” I called.
She didn’t move except her scribbling.
“Hey?” I called again, now nervous I might have to talk to her even more. I didn’t like talking to others if I could avoid it.
I felt Jacob yank me away and out of the classroom. “Dude, no. Don’t talk to her.”
“What? Why?” I asked, rubbing my wrist where he pulled me.
“That Marla Gutierrez. Her Grandpa is scary as hell.” He explained as we walked to his car. We only lived a few blocks away and our houses were across from each other.
Once inside, he started up his old corolla and carefully drove out of the parking lot. “Rumor is the old man killed his wife and son and kidnapped Marla. She never ever talks. Like ever!”
“That can’t be true. Wouldn’t the cops have taken him away?” I asked, knowing how much Jacob liked tall tales and gossip.
“They can’t prove it.” He said.
“DNA test on her?”
“Well…okay, you got me there. But what if he killed her parents. His son went missing and washed up on the lake shore in pieces. They said a bear did it…but you never know.” He said in a spooky voice.
“Lake? As in Lake Derek?” I asked.
“Yeah! Lots of kids go there to mess around. Speaking of whick…Wanna go tonight?”
As much as I hated socializing, I decided to go. If only to keep Jacob out of trouble.
We went to the lake, parking by a chain link fence with a huge hole cut into it. Sneaking through the fence, we saw a group of people smoking and drinking. I recognized a few people from school.
“Cole, meet Macrae. But call him Mac. This tall jerk was my only saving grace I had when I first got here.” Jacob said. I shook the stranger’s hand. Jacob had mentioned him a few times. He was tall with blond hair and light brown eyes. I noticed he had scars on his shoulders but was relaxed and slouched lazily, wearing blue jeans, a sleeveless rock band shirt, combat boots and a shark tooth necklace.
“Jakey! I was gonna go for a swin. Wanna join?” He asked gleefully, as if planning something nefarious.
“Naw, Man. I haven’t had a drink yet!” Jacob said with a laugh. “Take my buddy here on one of your famous adventures. Just don’t get tangled in the rocks again.”
“I got out…minus some skin.” Mac muttered before putting a long arm around my shoulders. “How about it, Cole?”
I gave Jacob a look to help but he was too busy joking around with two other people. I didn’t cone tp annoy my friend. I reluctantly nodded and was led away by Mac.
“Cole, come on. Let’s go visit old Mr.G.” Mac said.
I dug my heels in. “Wait. Isn’t that bad?”
“Naw. Come on.” Mac said, taking off his jeans and shirt. He kicked off his shoes and waded in the water.
I sighed. Might as well just stay in the shallow area. I undressed to my boxers and went in. We wadded along the edge of the rocks. I noticed some looked broken from the wall.
“Weird, right? Use to be connected to the sea.” Mac said and he stood on a boulder above the lake. “They’d find all kinds of fish that swam through this underwater cave from the cove. That’s why the water smells so salty. Plus this lake is a deep goddamn hole. My pop said people use to scuba dive into it. Til the Main Cave collapsed. Blocked off all the other underwater caves. Now it’s just a deep ass lake. Bet ya down there, in what my folks call the Way Deep…there’s something.”
“There’s no way.” I said, scrambling up the bolder. “People would have noticed or something.”
“Then how do you explain the disappearances?” Mac asked with a grin. “In the last ten years, there’s been 35 drownings in this lake. And the bodies never found. Everyone thinks it Old Man Gutierrez. Since he lives out here and acts like he’s hiding something. I bet he axed off his wife that way. Everyone thinks he dumps the bodies in the lake, weighing them down so they can never be found.”
“Seriously?” I asked.
“I kid ya not. I try to get Jakey out here but he can’t swim. Still love him tho.” He slurred slightly. “Plus, I got stuck in them at one point. Maybe I was drunk, but it felt like something was yanking me into the water.”
“Uh…I think I need to get back. I still have a curfew.” I said, trying to find a excuse to get out of the creepy lake.
“Whatever, man!” Mac said. “Tell Jakey I’ll be back soon!”
I nodded and scuttled up the rocks to get my clothes on. As I walked back, I saw a familiar figure.
She was staring at the lake several meters from me. Just standing there on the edge like she was frozen. Her long dark hair fluttered along with her deep red skirt that brushed the dirt around her feet. I thought to call out, but just wanted to find Jacob and go.
I found him coming up the path and told him everything I had seen.
He froze, looking shocked and scared. He pushed pass me. “We gotta get Mac!”
“What? Why? What’s wrong?” I asked.
“You left a drunk guy to swim!” He said and immediately felt guilt come over me.
We went back to the rocks, not seeing him.
“Where is he?” Jacob asked, distraught. I suddenly realized Mac and Jacob must have been closer than I first thought.
“I think he wanted to prank Mr. Gutierrez!” I said and Jacob quickly made his way around the lake.
I was cold from my still wet hair and sweaty at the same time from walking and nerves. We finally made it over to a rough looking lake house. The wood exterior looked murky, the porch littered with dirt and dead leaves. The wooden railing splintered and rotting.
“Is this it?” I whispered too loudly.
“Yeah.” Jacob said in a better volume. “He might be around the dock. It leads into the house.”
He must had done this before with Mac. I followed him to a dock that led into a garage like area I assumed it would hold a boat and open for smooth take off into the lake. The lake went into it, the water going under a thick aluminum steel door into a pool I assumed a boat or canoe would be docked to.
Jacob went to the door and jiggled the handle, finding it unlocked. He slowly opened the door and we gasped at the sight.
Leading from the pool where a worn rowboat was, blood led out of, along the edge and into the house, the door cracked open slightly. From the blood pattern, it looked like someone was dragged. And in the blood smears was a familiar sharktooth necklace.
I covered my mouth to keep in a fearful shout and keep from stating that Mac might be gone. I suddenly realized the rumors about Mr. Gutierrez were true!
I grabbed onto Jacob, who had picked up the necklace and gave a breathy shutter. We had to leave! But that’s when we heard a faint shouting.
It was Mac! He was still alive!
“We have to get help!” I whispered to Jacob.
“It might be too late when they get here!” He said. And I remembered with cold dread we had left our cell phones in Jacob’s car, halfway around the lake. He was right. Gutierrez could kill Mac before we even had the chance to call for help.
We went through the door into the kitchen to find Marla hiding under a table, hugging her knees and drenched. I kneeled next to her and her large eyes fixed on me.
“Are you okay? Have you seen our friend?” I asked.
She looked at us, eyes wide and afraid as she clutched the fabric of her long skirt and nodded.
“Is he alive?” Jacob asked and she nodded again.
“Do you know where he is?” Another nod.
“W-where’s your Grandfather?” I asked.
She pointed to the window and we peeked out to see the grizzled old man going into a shed. We heard a machine start, maybe a table saw, and immediately knew we only had a small window of time to find Mac.
“Can you show us where he is?” I asked Marla.
She nodded and started to crawl from under the table through the door. We thought it was to stay out sight from the windows. She led us through a hallway to a backroom.
She still crawled forward despite us being out of sight from the windows, and we stood up. I noticed newspaper clippings on the wall. Most were about people missing from the lake or even sightings of a strange creature. And framed on the wall, was a news article about a man’s remains being recovered on the rocks near the lake.
There was also a shrine to the same man and an older woman in the corner. They was in several pictures with Mr. Gutierrez. Two newspaper obituaries were laminated in plastic: Alma Gutierrez, who died of breast cancer and Derek Gutierrez, who had been attacked by a bear.
Mr. Gutierrez didn’t kill his family? Or had he staged their deaths? There were too many questions on my head. Jacob walked over to another shrine.
On a table was a large wooden box with chains wrapped around it. The smell was horrible and like rotting roadkill. It had a glass top.
I fought the urge to vomit when I saw it was the torso and head of a woman. Her waist was covered on scales and looked like she had been cut in half, nails long, hair greenish and scales along with two leathery fins next to her in the box. I also noticed the teeth were all as sharp as steak knives. Like a shark. Her body was decomposing, skin leathery and hanging off the bones, the stench that escaped horrible.
On the box, carved on the border, it said
“Fair is fair
Trade a life
Take my child
Take my knife
Rest in pieces
Like your prey
Sleep now, devil
Evil still stays”
Marla opened a trapdoor in the floor and pointed inside.
“Marla…what is this?” Jacob asked hands out.
Marla looked at the shrine and mouthed “Father”
“Derek’s your Dad. Okay…but what is this…thing?!” I asked, voice cracking as I gestured at the box.
She pointed again to the inside of the trap door. I finally noticed the same smell of rotten meat came from there too. But…fresher.
I shook my head. “What is this monster? Why is it here? Did it kill your Dad? What is it?!”
Marla stared at us for a long time before smiling. Her lips opened to reveal the same sharp shark like teeth. In a lyrical voice she said “My mother, of course.”
Jacob pushed me out of the room and slammed the doo behind us. Marla screeched like some alien creature and banged on the door from within.
We quickly ran back to the kitchen, seeing Mac being helped onto the table, wearing a splint made of crudely cut pipes and blankets. Mr. Gutierrez made sure he was okay before whirling on us.
“What the hell are you doing there? You think I put up that damn gate for decoration?!” He shouted before going pale at hearing Marla’s screeching.
“You all need to get lost. Take my truck and get out of here! Make sure no one comes near the lake!”
“That thing in the box…it’s the thing that kill those people back then…” I said, connecting the dots. “It came in from the sea and…”
“Got trapped here.” Gutierrez said, looking for his keys. “It lured my son in. He was such a romantic boy…who wouldn’t want to be friends with a mermaid. But she…she killed him. I went after it. I found it and made sure it would never hurt anyone again…and then I found the baby. She looked normal. Legs and all. She looked so much like Derek did…I thought it was all over until our dog went missing. She had eaten him in the bath. She can’t be out of water for more than a few days or she’ll die like her mother did. But she also can’t help hunting. I let her out to hunt fish and deer but…”
“She started hunting people.” Jacob said.
“I should have…” Gutierrez shook his head, finding his keys and handing them to me. “Marla is still Dereks’s daughter. I can’t…I can’t lose my son again!”
He shoved Jacob. “All three of you get out of here! Get out!”
Jacob and I grabbed Mac, shuffling out to the truck and starting it as Marla’s screams grew louder.
The next few hours were a blur.
We had driven around the lake to the hole in the gate, got into our car and made our way to the nearest hospital. Mac had a bite wound on his thigh, which would leave him with a nasty scar and a temporary limp, but alive.
My mom grilled me on what happened but I never told her. And after she noticed how all three of us were scared out of our minds, she decided not to ask anymore as long as we promised no one else had gotten hurt.
We never went back to the lake. As far as we know, Mr. Gutierrez built a new fence. One that was high, smooth bars with spikes on top. Impossible to climb or scale.
Many people noticed right away it had no door or entry way. As if not trying to keep anyone out, but keep something in.
Inside, the game would run out. The fish would be gone. And Mr. Gutierrez would find his last moments like that of his son.
It would be comforting to think Marla would eventually starve to death. If not for that recent news update about a storm reopening the Main Cave and the recent disappearances.