A short story by Michael R. Lockridge
“Did you hear that?” Asked Julia, from the far side of the campfire. Like Tom, she was sitting on her opened sleeping bag, leaning against her pack. Tom had been dreamily watching her through the flames, watching the light dance on her face.
“No, I didn’t hear anything.” Tom answered. He continued to look at Julia, slipping again into a dream-like state. Julia relaxed, also. They were tired from the hike in to Shadow Lake. It was a lonely place, far from the world.
Tom looked on Julia with wonder. He was amazed that she had agreed to come. She had emphasized that it was just a camping trip, not a date. Tom didn’t mind. He had longed for her since first seeing her at the beginning of the semester. Strong, athletic, and handsome. He just wanted to be with her in any way he could.
Here they were. He watched her as she nodded a bit. Then her head came up. She was listening. What was she hearing?
Deep below the dreamy state he was experiencing Tom felt alarm. It did not shake him. It just nudged at him. A disturbance below the calm surface of his drifting mind.
He continued to watch the desire of his heart as she stood up and looked longingly at the lake.
Far away he heard the voices of those who had said the lake was haunted. Why had this beautiful lake never appeared on any map? It only existed in rumor, in shadow.
His slow moving mind dismissed these thoughts, just as it had when he first heard them.
Was that music he heard? It seemed to be coming over the waters.
As he looked at the lake, he thought he saw Julia walking toward the shore. He wanted to turn and look at her place on the other side of the fire, to reassure himself that it was not her stepping onto the water. He couldn’t. The dream state was too heavy upon him.
He just watched as she walked on the waters. This reassured him that what he saw was the edge of a dream. How could Julia walk on water?
She stopped, about fifty feet from shore. Then the great arm she stood on lifted slowly from the water. Tom could see tentacles as the arm tipped upward. Julia tumbled into the water, which churned for a moment, then was still.
The distant alarm sounded again somewhere in Tom’s mind. Somewhere far away. The alarm faded into a quiet, lilting music. It seemed to come from far across the lake.
“Isn’t the music beautiful?” Julia asked. Tom turned toward her side of the fire. There she lay, looking at him with the same desire in her eyes that he felt in his heart. The fire lit her naked body, with flickering shadows defining her glory.
She was just as he had imagined her to be.
He could hear the music, as she moved and stood up. It was beautiful. She was beautiful. She walked around the fire, and offered him her hand.
“Come. Let’s go to the water.”
He took her hand and stood up. He could not take his eyes off of her, as they walked down to the shore.
“Something is wrong.” He said to her. He felt confused. He stopped moving. The music faded into the sound of an alarm. The alarm faded into music again.
She looked at him quizzically. She smiled. Her smile washed all doubt from his mind. She pulled gently on his hand, and stepped onto the surface of the water.