Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Short-short horror: The Lake

The road ended at the lake edge, descending into the water with no other demarcation or indication that it ended. A speed limit sign was sticking out of the water about fifteen feet from shore. It read "40 MPH."

The Sheriff got out of the car, but she left the key in and the dinging noise grated on Simmons' headache. "Come on," she said, and started walking down the slope toward the water. Simmons didn't want to get out into the drizzle, but it was that or sit in the car with that horrific noise dinging away at his calm like a chisel.

The Sheriff stopped at the waters edge, her hands on her belt, looking out over the water. She might have been looking at the mountain, almost completely obscured in the mist. She might have been looking at a loon. Simmons could hear one calling, though he couldn't locate the bird on the lake. She might have been looking at ghosts, for all Simmons knew or cared. The drizzle was already dripping from his hair into his face, running down his cheeks. It felt like tears.

He stepped up next to the Sheriff and wiped his face. He could see the surface of the road continued on beneath the water, descending into the depths until only the orange double line was visible - and then even that disappeared. "Water level pretty high?"

The Sheriff laughed, a short, sharp thing, almost a bark. "Yeah, yeah you could say that."

He sighed. He hated this place. Hated the dark trees, the almost constant rain, the food - everything. Mostly, though, he hated the feeling like he was always on the outside of the joke, that he was doomed to the isolation of the outsider. He'd had enough of that growing up and had hoped that in his adult life he'd put it behind him. Instead it had gotten worse - adults were just a lot less honest about it.

"So why the hell am I here, Sheriff? Why did you drag me out into the middle of nowhere? Hell this is the middle of the middle of nowhere. I know you didn't want to show me some scenic lake in the rain." He tried to keep his voice flat and devoid of the frustration and anger that were bubbling up. He couldn't afford to antagonize her again.

"Actually, I did want to show you the lake. You remember the map I showed you?" She didn't look at him, which he took as a bad sign.

"Yeah, vaguely." He had only given the map a cursory glance - topographical maps all looked like random swirls to him. He couldn't make them coalesce into any meaningful data in his mind.

The Sheriff pointed out onto the surface of the lake. A line of harder rain was sweeping across the surface, heading their way. Simmons turned up his collar. "That's Rt. 135. It went down into a valley between Chisek Mountain and Gorham Mountain. Around here we called it Sleepy Hollow, after the Irving story. The road went through the town of Starling, basically a wide spot between the road and the river. Maybe 400 people live there. Lived there."

Simmons looked back at the car. The driver side door was still open, but he couldn't hear dinging noise. The headlights were a bright blur in the mist. He looked back to where the road disappeared into the water. "How the hell do you get to Starling?"

The Sheriff drew in a breath. "I guess if you kept driving down the road you'd get there eventually." She pointed further out into the lake. "It's out there somewhere, under a couple of hundred feet of water."

"Oh, oh - like that town in Maine, what was it?" Simmons snapped his fingers a couple of times. "Flagstaff? Yeah, Flagstaff. They built a dam and flooded the whole town. Took months, but they relocated everybody."

"Yeah, like that. Only there isn't a dam here. And the valley wasn't flooded yesterday."

Simmons turned to her, but she still wouldn't look directly at him. The rain started to fall in earnest.

The pic is from the photographer Jason Sexton. You can see his work at http://www.jasonsextonphotography.com/

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