The Shadow in the Lake

        “No, of course I didn’t pull him onto the boat!” my uncle yelled while sitting at the bar. He slammed down a small shot glass on the wood in agitation, before even taking it to his lips. “It wasn’t an ordinary hand.”

My father sat beside him and from his reply it could be heard that he, too, was becoming frustrated. “You said it was a human hand and that the hand moved,” he replied, each word enunciated purposely. “You said that it struck up through the water as though there was someone below struggling for their life.”

“Yes, yes,” my uncle snapped, pushing his hands against his face and brushing them aggressively back through the straggles of straw-blonde hair. “It wanted to lure me towards it. I saw it though, as I rowed closer and the sun glanced through the clouds. I saw the mass of its body and it was no human form that I saw.”

The bartender leaned in close. He had heard their conversation; the rest of the room quiet, the voices of the two men desperate. “You know there’s been a couple gone missing, don’t you?” he said. His grey eyes caught on my father and the wrinkles beneath his right eye strained as he squinted it.

“I know.”

“We’ll have to go back,” the aged man pushed.

My father was already standing from the bar and while pulling a cap onto his head he said again, “I know.” He placed his hand on my uncle’s shoulder and patted it firmly, then repeated the bartender’s words: “We have to go back.”

I had been sat in the corner listening to the conversation with the other children. To us it was the urban legend the town needed. The hanged man was drawn and quartered, the banshee’s screams no longer anguished, and Bloody Mary was nothing more than a way to fret our sisters’ vanity.

We followed the adults outside and separated as we went with our respective guardians. I sat beside my father with my uncle in the seat behind, and amidst the silence my mind raced with what we would find at the lake.

Arriving there took little time, it being but a few minutes’ drive from the bar. Once we were all parked, a dozen or so doors opened and slammed shut again and the car headlights were left on to light up the dark water.

They saw the hand in the shallow ripples of the lake. It reached out like my uncle had said it had, but it didn’t lure them, or beckon them towards it, it only swayed helplessly as the slight current willed it to.

Along with the others I began to rush towards it, when I felt someone grab the back of my shirt and prevent me from going any closer.

“The waters too shallow,” my uncle stammered into my ear. “It’s not the same, there isn’t any way it could be the same.” I could hear the blood start to pump quickly through his heart and his breathing become irregular as we watched them pull a body from the lake.

“I know what I saw,” he panted, his grip on my shirt first growing tighter and then relinquishing completely. I was barely listening to him, my attention absorbed by what was happening ahead of me. He knew this and so he turned me towards him, holding my shoulders tightly when I struggled to turn back. “It wasn’t human!” he insisted, looking into each of my eyes imploringly.

He started to speak again, only to be interrupted by the bartender who called him to come closer but for me to stay where I was. I watched as the other children were being led away from the body and I felt angry that they had seen it and I had not.

I looked up to find that my uncle was staring out, a way past the small crowd and across the water.

“Don’t go near the lake,” he muttered as he stumbled backwards to my father’s car. I tried to peer into the distance, to see what he had seen, but there was nothing other than the silhouette of the surrounding trees.

He hurriedly got into the driver’s seat, his primal instinct for survival urging him to act as he did. When the adults started to run towards him, I rushed towards the lake and gathered around the body with my friends. I found myself staring into the empty eye sockets of a drowned female, her mouth gaping open to reveal that her tongue was also gone.

From behind I could hear the men calling for my uncle to stop. I heard the car engine start and the tyres screech but I did not turn to look as the other children did. I stared off ahead and across the lake where the movement of the car headlights had now lit up an otherwise darkened area.

I felt my body grow numb and my legs heavy as I watched a shadow of a hand slowly reach up through the water. It soon became an arm and then to my childish horror and confusion it became something much more. Attached to the arm was a dome shaped head that skimmed the top of the water. It surfaced until two oval black eyes peered across the lake and towards where we stood. I was transfixed and I simply stared at this monster until it sank back below.

After just a few days another body was found in the lake. Just like the last it was missing its eyes and tongue. Despite no evidence, other than his impulse to run, within weeks my uncle had become the urban legend we felt we needed. He was the ghoul that took the sight and speech from the living and drowned them in the darkest waters of the lake.

But, no one else had seen what I had that night. I believed my uncle and perhaps that belief and the guilt that became entangled in it is what led me here.

I can see the hand swaying in the dark waters and I’m asking myself: why did I come back?

I have a confession to make… I have no idea why he went back. I think at some point I thought about making this a longer short story but only because there was something about the concept I liked, although the monster is not my creation. I was inspired by this picture by Matt Dangler. On a side note, I actually find the creature in the picture rather sweet and would happily shake its hand.

There are a couple of things that I would change now. For one, I’m not sure how a wrinkle strains and I also don’t know how the boy could hear his uncle’s heartbeat over all the commotion at the lake. They are only minor details but while reading through they’re parts that I would reconsider if I were thinking of editing this story, which I’m not. You know how it goes on here! Have a natter about it and file it in with the rest of my writing past. All in all, I don’t mind this bit of writing in the slightest and unlike with a lot of what I’ve written I didn’t cringe reading it.

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