By; Kerry A Morgan
Chapter One: Jerry
The road splashed and spluttered with each pot hole the mint green truck crashed its way through. Jerry’s head rocked back and forth with a familiarity only the owner of such a beast would have. White T shirt, dirtied with sweat stains in all crevices, one hand hung over the wheel, a smoke dangling between his lips. Jerry was not a complicated guy.
On this day, Jerry was headed to Lake Pleasant. The one Lake in the entire state of New Hampshire that he hated. Steel tools jangled and jostled in the bed of his truck, as he reached around the steering wheel and shifted the gears from drive to park.
He sat for a moment and just stared at the lake in front of him. He couldn’t see the whole thing, but he could feel it and that was enough to send chills up his spine. His eyes were drawn along the rounded edge of vines, circling trees whose branches hung over the water’s edge. Even the trees didn’t look happy to be that close to the water. Jerry’s eyes were pulled back to the ice which still covered the lake, even though the calendar claimed spring had sprung.
Rubbing his aged hands over rough, tattered blue jeans, he blew a long white puff of smoke, crushed the butt into the ash tray, then yanked on the silver handle exposing him to the crisp air beyond. He stood next to the bed of his truck surveying the damage from the ride. All his tools were strewn throughout the back. He tried to determine his inventory but he caught himself staring at the ice coating the Lake like vanilla frosting. He shook his head in disgust at the thought. This Lake would never be so sweet.
He could hear it, creaking and groaning, making sounds as if it were alive. The wind rustled the leaves just enough to add their voices to the silence. Jerry looked up and squinted into the bright sunlight, patting his left front pocket looking for his sunglasses. The pocket was empty but for his cigarettes. He shrugged his shoulders thinking, “Oh well, might as well..” and lifted the red and white package out jerking it upwards until one of the cancer sticks popped up. He raised the pack to his mouth and removed the cigarette with his lips then he turned the pack around where he’d stashed a book of matches down inside the cellophane. Jerry lit his smoke and cocked an eyebrow at the Lake. “Better to die by something he enjoyed than by the Lake.” He figured.
Jerry couldn‘t shake his gaze from the lake. Why the society hadn‘t put up a fence or something to warn people, he just couldn‘t fathom. He reached into the back of his truck for his red tool box, which had managed to stay closed during the turbulent ride. He hefted the thing out, almost biting his cigarette in two with the effort. Jerry faced the Lake, red tool box in hand, nerves singing as he walked to the shoreline. Jerry dropped his tool box next to the largest tree and knelt down cringing at the pain which had spiked through his knees. He then peered into the mouth of his fear. Three golf ball sized bubbles burped up, startling him leaving the pungent odor of sulfur in the air. Jerry wrinkled his nose and sat back on his heels to grab the gear he would need. He took one last drag from his cigarette and used his teeth and tongue to spit it out. He watched the butt fly from his face, to land right in the dark green water at the edge of the ice. He winced and half expected to see it fly back up at him. Though several ripples began their shortened journey to the soil, with several more fragrant bubbles, nothing else happened. Jerry sighed, “That was stupid.” He scolded himself, with little hope that a nasty smell would be the extent of his mishap. He simply knew the lake too well after so many years to think it wouldn‘t notice his disrespectful addition to its waters.
He opened his tool box and pulled out several small glass tubes with little black plastic lids. He also grabbed a ladle whose handle extended out to sink several feet into the water. He set the jars before him, and pulled out a small notebook from his right shirt pocket. He slid the pen out from the metal spiral and flipped the white creased green cover open, and scribbled furiously. Then he grabbed a sheet of labels writing the depth of water he planned to get a sample of, and stuck it to one of the little jars. He used a stiff puff of dried half frozen grass to keep the jar upright and in place, and took hold of the ladle.
Taking a deep breath, and keeping a close eye on the water, Jerry leaned back over the shoreline, and very slowly sunk the silver ladle into the water. As it dropped into the water his eyes searched for the butt he’d spit in accidentally, but it had disappeared. Jerry reached the depth he needed, waited for just a moment and began to draw the ladle back up when it was wrenched from his grip, forcibly. He yipped at the sting as the silver ladle was ripped from his fingertips to sink to the bottom of the Lake. He shook his hand violently trying to erase the pain, as another large bubble broke the surface of the water and scorched his nose with the awful smell only a decaying egg trapped within its shell for a year, could create.
Jerry tried to back away from the lake but felt a darkness looming over him, blocking out the sun. As his eyes lifted to see the source of the shade, freezing cold water, dripped successively on top of his head. Something wrapped around his waist and squeezed the rising scream from Jerry throat. He blinked his eyes rapidly as he beheld the terror he’d prayed never to witness. Jerry’s entire body was lifted into the air. He spent seconds noting the beauty of the Lake before several bones shattered as his body crashed through the surface.
Minutes passed in silence, before it reached up to the cold, filling in the crevices where broken ice floated, ruining Its’ peace. The surface refroze without wound or crack, its banks pristine with crusted ice once again.
Chapter Two: Kristi
Kristi’s heart pounded with anticipation, giving her pale features a healthy glow. She knew her father would be home shortly and she wanted to get out the door before he did. After slathering lotion over her hands, she pulled and stretched the pink, Isotoner gloves down her fingers. Kristi wriggled her long fingers to secure the fit. A pink and white striped scarf was tediously wrapped around her neck, her arms still sore from her last workout. Kristi stepped into her white furred boots, then grabbed her I pod working the ear buds deep into her ears. Finally, she slid into her puffy pink ski jacket. She grumbled, looking for her favorite pair of shades until she remembered she’d shoved them into the inner pocket of her jacket. Almost ready, she slung her ice skates over her right shoulder. Grasping the handle to the front door, a blast of cold, littered with bits of snow kissed her face as she stepped outside. Kristi took a great big deep breath of the freezing air and laughed, happy to get away from exams and customers who wouldn’t even leave bad tips.
“Free at last.” She sang to herself as she turned the I pod on, and grooved the to song; “Eighteen, and life to go, ooo, whoa…” Crunching through the last vestiges of snow in her front yard, Kristi headed toward the left starting the hour long walk to her secret lake. It was hidden in the middle of the oldest living forest in the state. The road leading to it, was a few miles down the street from her driveway. Once she got to the dirt road which led to the trail to the lake, she could relax. Until then, if anyone saw her, they might ask where she was headed, for this lake was not marked on any local maps of the town. She wouldn’t want her secret to be exposed. It was the perfect lake to practice on, more importantly, alone. Kristi was pretty well known in town for her skating ability, and had taken the state championship with ease. People, especially competitors, would want to know her new moves.
“Eighteen and life’s just start’en, Eighteen and life to go, ooo whoa…“ she sang out loud. She was a hopeless eighty’s music addict and wasn’t afraid to sing about it. She giggled because she only knew the chorus to this song, but sang it loud and proud anyway. The song seemed to fit her mood today, if not her real life, and singing gave her hope that she wouldn’t be stuck in this hick town much longer, college would be her salvation. Kristi’s dark hair whipped back and forth from her pony tail as she walked, creating the illusion of a bounce in her step. Her blue eyes sparkled, anticipation colored a rose to her cheeks. Kristi hit the dirt road, her eyes searching for any peekers, then headed into the heart of New Hampshire.
Nestled within a ring of tall pine trees, Lake Peasants’ surface reflected none of the turmoil under the multiple layers of ice. Layers of green algae extended slimy tentacles up its edges; where soil met with water. Reaching around the frozen mire, the slime searched twisting around sharp corners of hailstone and icing muck to find an opening.
Trudging down the trail was more work than Kristi had expected. There were so many ruts half filled with ice and melting snow, dark mud droplets soon decorated the once pretty white of her boots. She’d been walking about forty five minutes when her heart fell. Up ahead, where she should be able to see the ice covered lake through the trees, a mint green ancient piece of crap was blocking her view. “What the hell…” She muttered dejected. “No one was supposed to know about this lake.” She thought as she came upon the truck.
As Kristi passed the vehicle, she noticed the bed of the truck was a wreck. Tools were spread out everywhere mixed with plastic bottles of chemicals and soda. “Man’s truck.” She said to the trees around her. She pressed a hand up against the window of the driver’s side door, and peeked in. The keys were still in the ignition, a red rabbit’s foot luck charm daggled from the keychain. Kristi noted they were swinging ever so slightly.
Checking around, she tripped her way over to the edge of the water to peer at the heap of more crap by the water’s edge. Several vials and a big red tool box sat open at the shoreline. She snarled at the smell of cigarette smoke and called out to the sky, cupping her hands around her mouth as she yelled, “Hey, is any body here? Hello!” Punching her fists to her hips she waited for an answer. Kristi was standing at the edge of the water looking around the perimeter of the lake waiting to see if anyone would show up. Her muddied boots almost touched the dark green water where little ripples were lapping at her toes as if tasting the grittiness of the mud. When no one showed up, or answered her call, Kristi gave up the notion that she might be interrupting and got ready to skate.
It watched as the girl sat down to lace up her skates. She could not see it shiver, it’s ripples restricted from motion under so much ice. The Lake anticipated her movements. It knew it would bleed. It knew she would scrape herself across it’s pristine surface only recently cleared by the wind. It watched. It hated, and now it would hurt.
Kristi tested the edges of the lake. She could see where the Sun’s warmth had begun melting some of the ice already, but knew that the center of the lake would be fine. Once she found an appropriate spot, she pushed off and lifted her arms to the heat above her. Closing her eyes, she cherished the wind smashing against her face, daring her to stop. In a graceful arc, she scoured the perimeter, and pushed off with one foot, to catch the ice with the other, in a constant battle between which foot got to lead. With a twist of her hips, she was flying backwards, her pink and white striped scarf blowing past her face to follow.
So entranced by her dance across the pond, Kristi didn’t notice the water seep up to fill the grooves her skates created on the pond’s surface. She never heard the ice protest against her blades, creaking and gurgling in anger, for her ear phones were playing another great skating song.
Weight moved back and forth across its expanse, grinding into its frosted skin. It tried to heal itself, replacing that which was lacerated. It needed more of Itself, not less. Yet still It tried. Pushing further than it aught, a trapped bubble found an escape and hunted the source of the depletion.
As Kristi glided across the ice she noticed an odd sulfur smell to the air that hadn’t been there when she’d arrived. Assuming the local paper mill had begun it’s transformation of wood to pulp, she wrinkled her nose and tried to concentrate on the smell of the woods around the lake, and the crisp cold of the snow. Her eyes scanned the sky for the tell tale steam the mill always produced which caused her to miss the dark lump of leather boot barely poking up out of the ice, right in the center of her right skate’s path.
Her silver blade struck, sticking into the iced leather sole, only to release the blade, violently twisting her body end over end from the momentum of speed. Kristi shot up into the air, and then right back down crashing against the hard cold surface. Kristi Metcalf’s face slid against the smooth ice, curving her body around in a great big circle, coming to a stop in the center of the Lake.
It’s pain eased, the tentacles of green slime switched directions. Bending back around to follow one of the scratches the human had created, the green arms groped at the cracks in the ice to get to the dead weight. The darkness above the ice told its mind, where the girl lay. Ice parted with screeching madness as the slime went to work, pushing and grinding until a large sheet floated up in a great wave of green water, creating a chasm. The tentacles of slime touched the brisk air and recoiled. It did not want to leave the warmth of the lake, but It pushed again and the slippery extremity inched it’s way to Kristi’s body. Several feelers lifted out of the water and began wrapping themselves around the girl’s body, prodding and pulling until her mass shifted and rolled into the green water. The sheets of ice settled themselves a top the watery grave, and bled into the seems, to reseal itself. The level of the ice against the banks of the pond raised just slightly, and the lake was sated, having birthed more liquid.
Kristi’s eyes bulged the second her body plunged into the freezing water. Holding her lips together as tightly as she could, she squinted at the ice closing over her, clawing at the edges for a grip. Her gloves were slipping and quickly became uselessly water logged. Her arms were aching with the weight of her coat. She screamed under the ice and water, thrashing her fury at becoming trapped. Her feet became heavy and Kristi realized she couldn’t reach the ice anymore. She was sinking.
Even as terror gripped her heart, she felt thick ropes wrap around her torso, squeezing her tight. A single green tentacle lifted before her, like a snake might dance before a flute. It moved as if it thought with a mind and composed comprehension. The cable moved closer to her face until it touched her sun glasses, which had made the trip still attached to her face. Kristi’s eyes crossed trying to watch what the thing was going to do, but quickly refocused in time to see her glasses being pulled away from her face, released to float away in the putrid water. The tentacle again filled her vision, and as the last breath of air burned away inside her lungs, it plunged into her mouth, crawling down her throat to where she held her own green slimy things.
It tasted something thicker than Itself. Almost like the geysers of rolling heat jetting up from beneath where it lay. It liked the taste, the heat, the height it rose to when it removed the threat of the human, and it wanted more.
Chapter Three: Stratford Metcalf
Stratford arrived home from work early enough that he expected to see his daughter before she took off to skate. She loved to skate and practiced every afternoon that she could. He knew she’d be headed out as most of the lakes wouldn’t be strong enough to hold her much longer.
“Kristi, Hey Kristi?” He yelled up the stairs.
Knowing her car was still in the drive, Stratford’s heart beat with concern. He went back to the closet next to the front door and searched for her skates. Nothing. He’d missed her, and there was only one lake close enough for his daughter to skate on. Before he did anything else, he needed to make sure.
Stratford opened the front door and went outside. He cantered down to the end of the driveway causing his arthritic knees to scream. To the left, nothing, no footprints, no tire tracks, nothing, just the cold winter wind blasting bits of snow into his face. He squinted and looked into the fading light of the sun. “Please not that way.“ he whispered, “Please God, not that way.“ He looked to the right, praying he wouldn’t see what he knew he would.
Clumps of depressed snow disturbed the pristine blanket of white heading down the street. Following those footsteps half way down, he swore. Running a hand through his salt and pepper hair, he would have sworn he aged another ten years when he saw where the footsteps led. The Old Path. The Old Path to Lake Pleasant was supposed to be hidden, and how his daughter could have discovered it, let alone the Lake, confounded Stratford. They had made it almost a whole year without anyone being taken. Now, just days before Spring, his own daughter had found it. It was the only reason he could think of, that she would have taken that direction with her skates.
How she could have possibly known there was a lake back there he couldn‘t figure out. The historical society had been very careful to not put Lake Pleasant on any maps, where an unsuspecting tourist could find it. Let alone any of their town members. Michael was the head of the Society, and he made sure that only those who had experienced the Lake, were a part of the society for the town, as well as the only ones who knew how to get there, aside from the Caretaker.
Stratford knew how dangerous that lake was, and took off running down the path, pulling out his cell phone as he went. He banged on some numbers using his thumb as he ran, and waited for an answer, the pain in his knees nearly matching the worry in his heart.
“Call the witch,” Stratford insisted into his cell phone, “my daughter is in the Lake.”
Stratford heard a sharp intake of breath on the other end of the phone. “What? What did you just say?” a deep growl questioned.
“I said, Michael, that my daughter is at the bottom of the lake. Call the goddamned witch, now.” Stratford was shaking; perspiration soaked his shirt from running to the lake, making the cold worse.. He knew they didn’t have forever to bring his daughter back, and Michael was in charge of calling the ritual participants together. He forced himself to have faith that Michael would gather them all in time. He had less than half an hour to wait counting drive time. He saw the mint green truck of the Caretaker, and searched the area for him, but only found the mess he’d left behind, a very bad sign. Jerry never left litter or his own equipment behind after a job. Something was very wrong.
Stratford stood next to an open red tool box, waiting for the rest of the group on the shore and wished for his wife. Maria Metcalf had thought to go swimming one bright afternoon, not ever to return. It took days to discover her lifeless body on the shore of Lake Pleasant. They hadn’t gotten to her in time, the Lake had claimed her, used her and discarded her.
Now Stratford’s daughter had been taken by the Lake. Stratford’s wife would have known how to keep him calm as people started arriving to save Kristi. She would have soothed him into patience and told him everything would be alright. Kristi was all the family he had left and he refused to let the Lake claim another person he loved. Stratford had survived the journey through the Lake, he would make sure his daughter did too. They would deal with the repercussions together, later.
Stratford sat right in the same place he’d found his daughter’s shoes which were laying amongst little clear bottles. He recognized the handwriting on the labels of the jars and knew the Lake had claimed another before his daughter. Seeing Jerry Sherman’s tools next to the water, without a Jerry to claim them, caused Stratford’s heart to clamor. Stratford gripped his daughter’s frozen boots tightly against his chest. They had spent hours in the cold and it bit through the flannel of his shirt. He held them, and stared at the lake, wondering if Kristi felt as cold as her boots did. He wondered if Jerry was with her down there somewhere. He shivered with the thought. No one remembered their time in the water, but then again, no one had spent as much time in the water as his daughter. Jerry wouldn’t even get the chance to become part of the Society, because Jerry had been claimed just like Maria. Stratford knew it in the core of his being, and with just as much resolution he knew he would not loose his daughter. He just couldn’t.
Forty five minutes went by before the society arrived with the witch, Jane. She was an interesting person, to say the least. She always had odd things around her neck, not regular necklaces mind you, but rocks and puffs of colorful fabrics. Sometimes she even had feathers stuck in her hair, and could often be found walking around with bells on her shoes. Not someone Stratford would have ever associated with under normal circumstances.
She was rather large, promoting a waddle to her stride. Long and thick, straight blond hair that reminded him of Mama Cass from the signing group, The Mamas and the Papas hung down her back. She wore a long red poncho covering darker clothing which floated around her hefty frame. She was definitely strange, but for now, he was thankful for the witch. Stratford stayed in the snow and watched as Jane unloaded a suitcase from the trunk of one of the cars they had come in. She opened the case and Stratford shook his head without amusement. That case held all the tools they would need to rescue his daughter. She might not be your average, everyday person, but she was going to save his daughter’s life, and that’s what mattered to Stratford.
Michael stood behind him and to the right with the other members of the historical society of Lake Pleasant, speaking in low voices. Stratford knew what they were talking about. They had each been through it, the adults, not their children. Stratford looked back across the lake to Jane, who was crunching around the perimeter, placing mason jars down into the snow. The jars held lit candles of all colors, which slowly brightened the area with hesitant flickering light.
It could feel what the woman was doing. They wanted this one back. It could accommodate for it had sated it’s need and impregnated the girl with more of Itself. But the woman was irritating. She walked around just out of its view doing something to its drier parts. It could feel the energy the woman was raising and without warning it was sealed within a circle of powerful vibrations, it couldn’t breathe past the trees surrounding Itself. They didn’t need to hurt It to get the girl. It wanted the girl to go and make more of Itself.
Lake Pleasant did not resist the pull of the witch, as she began calling the members to the edge of the water. When Jane raised her hands to the moon, a silver blade flashed in the candle light. Jane pointed the blade to the cosmos above.
“Hear my command,” Jane called out loud and sure to the historical society members shivering in the cold. They clasped hands creating a half circle, for they did not have enough members to surround the lake completely. As they began the ritual, they knew there would be another member birthed on this night.
Jane kept the blade pointed to the moon, as she stepped out onto the Lake. They heard the ice creak and groan beneath the weight. She began to walk the circumference, one hand held out in front of her, fingers sifting through the air searching for Kristi’s energy. The other hand held the blade toward the bright full moon like a homing beacon. Once Jane had walked the perimeter once, each member reached down to grab a mason jar with a dancing flame inside. They picked up the jars of burning candles, and took one large step in unison, out onto the surface of the lake. The group then placed the jars back down onto the green ice. Lifting their hands above their heads, they clapped twice in perfect harmony, before clasping their hands again to create the half circle.
“Hear my command!: Jane shouted again into the night. She had worked her way to the center of the lake by walking in a great big spiral. Her eyes glowed brightly by the power of the moon. Her eyes weren’t the only things glowing. Her fingers emanated a blue light of their own as well. Suddenly her fingers sparked and crackled and a fire closer to lightning erupted from her hands. “I’ve found her.” Jane shouted grimacing and bending her body like she was waiting to catch a fly ball. That lightning wanted to go somewhere and it wanted to go soon.
The society members, waiting for this proclamation, took a step forward, so they were within the half ring of light dancing within the mason jars. Lifting their hands once again, they clapped together, then put their palms facing the witch before them.
Jane placed a single blue candle, directly on the ice, where she’d found Kristi’s energy, then began walking toward each member. Her red poncho looked like a cape of blood in the strange light. She’d been able to tone down the lightning enough to gather what she needed now. Jane approached the first member from the left side of the half circle, Jack Poole. Jack held his palms out in front of his body and closed his eyes. “Jack, do you freely give of the essence given to you from the Lake, to save the girl, Kristi Metcalf?”
Jack answered her, “I give willingly and with gratitude.” His voice didn’t crack or waver. Jane nodded at him and placed the blade in the center of his right palm. The blade bit into his skin without a sound and he bled onto the blade for her.
Jane walked to the next person, Jenny Parsons. She too had been taken by the Lake, and brought back with this ritual. She answered Jane with the same mantra, as was the requirement for the ritual, and she bled dark and thick onto the blade.
Jane continued around to all the members of the historical society, gathering their blood to her silver blade. Each taste given brightened the blue glow fighting with her finger tips. When she came around to Stratford, he bled onto the blade and offered his left hand as well. The other members had only offered the required right hand, which always bled the essence given by the Lake upon retrieval of the body. “A gift given freely with gratitude is never denied or forbidden. Thank you Brother Stratford, for your generosity.” Jane answered and sliced into his left hand which bled a bright red, mixing life with death onto the silver blade, covered with the other’s darker gifts. Usually, Jane gave the required left handed taste of human essence.
Jane walked back to where the blue candle sat on the ice, it’s flame trembling in the cold night air. Jane lifted the blade to the moon, and then sunk it into the ice with a loud thunk and quiver under foot. The blue glow spread to both of Jane’s hands as she held them over the ice. Her fingers played across the air like she was typing fiercely across a keyboard. She was chanting and backing away from the candle, the glow sparked and crackled from her hands. The further she backed up away from the spot she’d found Kristi’s body, the further the blue glow reached until it was zipping along the ice around the candle, creating a large spiral which cut directly through the ice.
Groans and creaks filled the air around the participants. Trees limbs buckled and blew in response to the crackling blue lightning, ripping into the ice, guided by Jane’s fingers. The Lake underneath them grumbled and burped and the scent of sulfur filled the air. Not one single person ran or even moved, as the Lake shifted underneath them. A perfect circle of ice, cut by the lightning fire from Jane’s hands sank into the lake, creating a large ripple of water, which ran around everyone’s feet, seeping into their shoes with icy cold wet.
For minutes the wind blew, the rustling of the trees around them, the only sound. Then, another ripple of water ran across the groups feet. The water was rising. Another minute passed like an hour, and then a figure appeared, lying in the center of the lake where Jane had cut the ice. The members of the historical society heard the sound of ice grinding against ice, and the circle which Jane cut from the rest of the ice resurfaced, with Kristi’s body on top of it. Stratford waited for the grinding sounds to stop, then ran for his daughter’s body.
He fell upon his daughter’s body, immediately checking for her pulse. Stratford placed two fingers against her neck, and felt nothing. The girl was laying down against the ice, her right arm slung over her head dripping green water. Chunks of ice crusted around Kristi Metcalf’s eye lids, keeping them partially open but at two different heights‘. His arms left his control as he reached out and grasped his daughter, pulling her half way on top of himself. “Kristi. Kristi I’m here. I’m here” he told freezing hair next to his lips. The cold emanated throughout his body as he held her. She crunched against him, limp, but, well, normal looking, he thought.
His nostrils were filled with the earthy scent of musk and dirt, before he realized the witch had knelt down next to him. Her scent matched her odd dressing habits. Stratford wasn‘t sure he wanted this woman anywhere near his daughter, but he knew without her, there could be no ritual. Jane looked at Kristi and placed a hand against her pink jacket pressing against it just enough to allow a squirt of dark green water to ooze out of the end of the sleeve. Jane‘s eyes met Stratford’s with a cool determination. Stratford nodded in agreement past the trepidation filling his heart.
Stratford wrinkled his forehead a deep sigh escaped his lips as he placed his daughter back down on the ice. He waited for each member of the group to reach the two of them, with their candles in hand as they closed the circle.
It healed the pain and waited. It had tasted her, rolled her around Itself and felt something for her flesh it had not ever felt before. Pale, like the moon above, her skin radiated light without anymore warmth. It had liberated her. She had gentle tentacles almost as dark as its own that embraced Its movement and flowed with motion of her own. It’s warmer places held Her close and searched Her body for her own warmer places. Her back arched and It gloried that It could make Her feel. Though every part of Her touched It, It could not get enough of the feel of her shell. It folded and twisted around Itself to catch and taste Her scent.
It discovered that She was made largely of what It was made of. Though It knew It would never partake of Her in the way It first intended, It knew She could aid its quest, its very purpose. It felt joy, emanating from the Being. This Being was different, it was not hard, with bits of rock to poke It. This Being’s tentacles did not choke It or try to remove more parts in favor of their own. Her pieces did not clog and congest It’s breath. This Being loved and it created a sensation It had never experienced. It liked the sensation. It knew Her elation and It wanted to keep it close for the next thousand years. It also knew It could.
It knew She would remember, It knew, It watched, and It loved.
Jane knelt on the other side of Kristi and rolled her onto her back. Nodding again to Stratford, She reached down and gently tilted Kristi’s head back, lifting her chin to an odd angle. Two placid fingers plugged the girls nose and Jane took a long ragged breath of the crisp night air, and blew it right into the girls mouth. Stratford pushed against his daughter’s chest one pump per breath.
Jane the motioned a hand to the next member to give Stratford’s daughter some of their breath, until each member had given of their air to Kristi. Stratford pumped against her chest with each breath. His air was the final breath given to his daughter when she began coughing and sputtering as dark green water seemed to ooze it’s way out of her throat. Stratford lifted her heavy body up into a sitting position to allow the water to drain from her mouth.
“Kristi?” I’m here, baby. It’s okay now.” he whispered to her.
“Dad?” Kristi coughed and spit out chunks of dark green goo from her throat. “What’s going on?” She asked attempting to get the pink and white striped sweater from around her neck with gloves too filled with water to do anything but gush dark muck. As Kristi’s fingers tried to get a hold of the thing wrapped around her neck an odor like burnt matches waft around her like cigarette smoke clinging to the smoker. “Dad. Dad I can’t get it off me.” Kristi’s voice rose with desperation.
“It’s okay, honey just relax.” Stratford said as he unwrapped the squishy, foul smelling knit from her neck.
“Okay, Stratford.” He heard Jane speak from behind. “We need to finish.”
“Dad?” Kristi’s eyes had bled back to her baby blues, though her eyebrows were still crusty with ice. She looked up at her father without comprehension, yet, without any fear as well. Stratford’s heart began to pound. He prayed to the Gods the ritual would still work.
“I’ll be right here baby, it will just be another minute okay?” Stratford stood up and backed away from his daughter. Leaving her to sit on the ice in freezing wet clothing. Her chin slowly descended to meet her chest, her black hair dripping into her lap. A whimper escaped Stratford’s lips as he watched his daughter, he didn’t want to leave her again.
Always the strong one, Jane lifted her arms and began to chant, grabbing Stratford’s hand into a tight grip. Stratford in turn grasped the hand next to his and the group reformed a circle, with the soaked girl in the center.
Jane began chanting, her strong sure voice echoing off the trees surrounding them. “Hear My Command… Through Air do I defy the silence.” The group raised their hands above their heads and clapped twice, in three successive bursts. “Hear My Command…By Fire do I awaken the deep, the chasm from which we have robbed.” With these words all the members of the Lake Pleasant Historical Society picked up their jars of flickering candles, holding them before their hearts. “Hear My Command… With Earth do I gift the abyss.” Jane rang out, reaching into one of her pockets. As she withdrew a hand filled with raw dirt, Jane took several slow methodical steps around Kristi, sprinkling the dirt from between her fingers. Returning back to her place amongst the group, Jane grabbed Stratford’s hand in reassurance. It was almost over. “Hear My Command…” She called out to the night, “Water; Surrender Your Essence, Obey my Charge.”
The second the words escaped her lips Stratford knew something was wrong. Jane faltered, nearly falling down as the lake underneath them growled and sent a great ripple across the length of the lake, underneath the ice. The sheet of ice they were standing on toppled and twisted sending the members floundering for balance.
Kristi slowly raised her head and looked around at the group. With another growl from the lake underneath, Kristi stretched out her fingers like claws ripping apart the flesh of its prey. As the rest of the group was falling to the ice, Kristi stood up unimpeded by the rocking surface.
It felt Her power and responded giving Her even more. It needed Her touch and used bits of Itself to clump and mass together long tendrils which reached and prodded through weeds and roots to rise along its banks for the weaker ice around Its edges. It shot toward the surface and broke through sending sharp chunks of crystallized snow toward the group. Sounds erupted, harsh and shrill against the silence It preferred as the pieces of ice slammed into their bodies. Helpless against It’s Will, bines slid along the surface, to entwine around ankles, arms, and necks until all movement ceased. Only the sound of their ragged breaths could be heard. It held them immobile for Her Declaration of Rule.
Stratford, stunned into silence, watched as his daughter stood up, even as his own head bashed against the ice he’d been standing on only moments before. Kristi looked to the sky and laughed, her pink puffy jacket dripping with a green goo. Her hands were bare, fingers curled and elongated. Dainty nails painted with her favorite pearly pink polish darkened, scorched with the power of the Lake. Kristi’s eyes bled to black and her beautiful black hair looked like strings of kelp hanging around her face.
Stratford despaired as he felt a slimy substance wrap around his ankles. His arms were grabbed and stretched to a point that hurt, his shoulder joints being turned to an odd angle to accommodate that which held him. He couldn’t scream his protest when the algae coiled around his neck and squeezed him almost unconscious. He tried to see the others of the group but couldn’t turn his head. Gurgling, and heavy thuds made the ice beneath him quake and rumble. He was surrounded by the sounds of withering, leather scraping across the ice and Stratford knew the entire group was trapped. His eyes, now bulging with the pulse of his heart, found his daughter’s and he pleaded for her to stop.
But Kristi wasn’t about to stop anything. Kristi, was just getting started.
A New Society
Jane was trapped against the ice, her red poncho bunched up around her head creating a sort of pillow, lifting her up enough to see the action. She fought against the helix around her neck to breathe and stay conscious. Stretching her neck muscles taut left her a little room to maneuver with. She thought furiously, trying to remember if there was any spell, any power she could call upon for help, but she feared it was simply too late. When the society had been formed, they knew their time was even more limited than their mere lives would dictate. The Lake would require payment, for the Gift they had all accepted. Each person who participated in the Ritual knew that payment would come due some day. Jane had hoped they would rid The Lake of it’s Evil before their accounts came due. It was a failure she knew instinctively she wouldn’t have long to regret.
Her eyes rolled back to find Kristi gazing at the cosmos, and she realized what an incredible view of the stars they had, twinkling above them like diamonds ready to fall from the sky and tear them all to shreds. The stars blurred and lost their sparkle. Jane could see the branches of the White Oaks above her swaying in the wind Kristi was creating, for she was no longer looking at the cosmos with wonder. She was looking at Jane.
“Witch.” Kristi said, contempt riddled her voice with gravel.
Jane blinked at her. She could do nothing else.
“We have suffered your kind long enough.” Kristi began again, bringing her clawed hands before her. Jane watched as Kristi walked toward her, a green florescence dominating the air around her. Kristi towered above Jane, standing so close that her feet stepped on Jane’s hair, pulling it tight. Jane could move just enough to ease the pain which had turned into a harmonious song between her freezing body and stretching hair.
Kristi’s mouth extended beyond what it should have been able to. Jane could see right down her throat as little flies found their way out to play in the open air. The darkness beyond that gaping maw took her sanity piece by raging piece. Her consciousness wanted to follow, to find the solace beyond and give back what was so generously given to her, when she’d drown.
Stratford watched in horror as his only daughter stood above the witch and withdrew the Lake’s Gift. Dark green mist drifted lazily out from Jane’s mouth, floating through the air right into his daughter’s mouth. He wanted to scream. He wanted to fight to save the woman he’d thought so incredibly strange. He wanted to fight to save himself, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to hurt his daughter even if he could fight. So he waited, firm in his resolve to accept his end with the dignity his first death eluded from him.
An odd sucking sound began to fill the air with echo’s. Pressure built within his ears as he watched the dark green mist exit from his own mouth. As it pulled away from his body, he felt it pull at his mind until something inside him snapped. Suddenly Stratford felt free and uninhibited. Darkness took him and he was grateful for it’s mercy.
“As It released the humans It gave It’s power to Her, commanding her to make more of Itself. It craved and needed, and begged.
Kristi loomed over the group. Her mouth still extended, her torso jerked, and bucked as the dark green mist entered her body and thrived. Her neck muscles were pulled tight tilting her head back further than it aught to be able to go. Green goo spurt from her mouth like a fountain of slime. Splashing against the ice, canvassing the people, the life of the lake spewed forth and claimed it’s meal. Kristi belched sulfur and reveled in the ecstasy of power.
Geysers of steam burst through the surface of the lake wherever the spew landed, acting like acid on metal. Desperation spread through the group as their minds were lost to the darkness and confusion. Goo covered mouths, petrified in endless varying shapes, bubbled where breath still tried to deny the process of digestion. Globs of flesh slid off skeletal remains, creating an expanse like skin gelatin, solid enough to hold the remaining circle of ice on which the Lake supported it’s queen. Arms disengaged from their sockets. Feet lost toes, hands lost fingers as the goo thickened and frothed in jubilation.
Kristi closed her mouth and stretched her arms out to the white birches, oaks and spruce trees. The circle of ice began to move, floating across the semi solid shoal, depositing Kristi on the nearest shore. She looked back over the Lake at her boiling pot of Sunday human stew and smiled. It would be pleased with her.
It loved. Rolling around within more of Itself was what Its existence was for. It tasted the flesh, sweet and tender. It cherished the feel of bones, crunching against Its sides, cleaning the muck and mire of Its many years. Its level raised and conquered the shoreline. At long last It could escape and find further breeding grounds, but only with the help of Its Queen.
Kristi smiled as she watched the congealed waters inch its way along the saturated ground, to the large tree whose branches hung over the Lake. The sludge crawled up the rough trunk of the tree and entwined itself around vines and twigs creating a crown of algae and thorny bits of tree. A long tentacle gently placed the crown a top Kristi’s head, thorns growing and sticking the crown permanently to her head. A dark green liquid bled from the wounds the thorns created, only to have the algae vines lick at the substance in a constant massage along Kristi’s temples.
Kristi cocked an eye brow toward the Lake at Its question.
Kristi’s smile broadened. “Don’t worry love, tourist season is right around the corner.”