What Lies Beneath
(Thirteen Years On)

by Paul de Denus

October 31, 1954:

We who live in the small hamlet along the northern territory shoreline may have seen something fall from the sky, crash into the deep bowl that was our lake. If we did see, it was quietly observed and in time, understood and obeyed. In communal agreement, we made the necessary sacrifice leaving our offering by the water’s edge. If we did see, nothing was said out loud, only whispered and passed down to the next generation.


October 31, 1967:

New resort developments overshadowed our homes when the outsiders came to take advantage of the wilderness, to spoil our wine-colored lake and woodland reserve. Over the years we listened to their complaint—the lack of wildlife for their aimless hunting, the poor catch of their inept fishermen, and we told them it was just the way of nature, how the universe devises its own plan, and it should be respected, but they did not listen.


October 31, 1980:

There were drownings, five in all, though only two bodies were recovered, two older adults found floating on the surface, partially mutilated. The other three were children. Witnesses had seen them in the lake. An investigation and search followed but the children’s bodies were never found. The waters are deep and can be treacherous, the authorities told us, their indifference showing. The cases were filed away but we knew the truth. Then the mysterious disappearance of two random vacationers and their boats brought the Federals but the cases remained unsolved, as the lake, a deep crater of over 2,000 feet deep, left no clues. There was rumor of something sinister in the water but the talk went the way of campfire tale and folklore. Quietly we continued to leave our offerings near the water’s edge, the pain and devastation on our young families known only to us. The disappearances stopped, but only for a while.


October 31, 1993:

The tabloids and television newsmagazines gave national coverage to what became known as the Lake Dweller, fueling unwanted interest and attention that continued over the years. Strange lights and sightings on the lake were reported, movement in the water. Then several locals again went missing. After minimal investigation by local authorities, they were dismissed as runaways but we knew what we’d done. The outsiders continued to come and search and spread their rumors of monsters and legend, but eventually they faded away when nothing substantial was found. Soon, the public lost interest and the resort developments went the way of ghost towns.


October 31, 2006:

Pollution slowly overtook the lake, the dark waters emitting the rancid stench of something ancient, something long dead. The once wine-color water turned a deep red, blood red. Only a few small families remained on the lake and those of us who stayed understood and continued to leave what was necessary along the shoreline. We understood that eventually, there would be nothing left to give, no offering of any magnitude to suffice and we were prepared to accept the consequences. We understood the way of nature—this nature—and its ultimate cost.


October 31, 2019:

My worn skates cut the thin veil over the ice pond, and I follow the blowing white tornadoes of snow across the glass surface. Something wide knifes beneath the black ice and I sense the deep water below about to boil but I am not afraid.

Paul de Denus writes fiction because non-fiction sounds complicated. He lives in his head in Virginia.
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