the lake

Short story by Caitlyn Ruston

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I sit, swinging my feet, the wooden boards of the dock cold against my thighs. There’s no wind, everything is still. The trees stand silent and the water below me is calm enough to show my reflection on the surface, if I look closer, round grey stones further down. The sky is monotonous, clouded over in wispy swirls of grey.

I don’t remember how long I’ve been here, but it feels like a short time. I don’t actually recall ever coming out here, but that’s typical of summer days- losing track of yourself as minutes and hours slip by unnoticed, days bleeding, one into the next. I raise my wrist to check the time, only to find that my watch is gone. Odd, I think to myself. All that remains of my waterproof blue watch is a white watch-shaped outline against tanned skin. Looking around, I figure that it must be early morning. Nothing specifically indicates the time, but something in my stomach tells me that it isn’t quite time for breakfast.

Pulling my feet up, I slip into my sandals and stand to look over the lake. It’s all very beautiful, the trees and the sky and the water. The leaves on the trees have flipped over, meaning a storm is on the way. Closing my eyes, I take a second to breathe in the calm. It doesn’t smell like rain. Peculiar.

Opening my eyes again, I begin to turn my back to the lake and start towards the cabin. Before I can turn enough to have the cabin in full view, I find myself facing the lake, my feet swinging off the dock with my sandals beside me, the chill of the boards creeping up my legs. Below me, the surface of the lake ripples lightly and I hear the rustle of the upside down leaves on the trees. That’s strange, I think to myself as I pull my feet up once more and strap on my sandals. Standing up, I shake my head to clear away the newly formed fog, rolling in from the lake, from my ears. I turn again towards the cabin only to find myself facing the lake.

My sandals are off, my feet are swinging, and my thighs are cold. Tiny waves crash up against the dock. The leaves flip about, right side up and upside down. The fog twirls up off the lake and winds through my ears again, making my thoughts a little fuzzy and my sight a little blurry. I shake my head more forcefully this time, clearing my vision so I can pull my feet up, I put on my sandals, and stand to start back towards the cabin.

I turn on my heels, the lake moving, shifting, sliding into my peripheral vision, slowly being replaced with green grass and blue sky and chipped red paint. I’m almost there; I can see the picture in its entirety... and then I’m back facing the lake.

This time my sandals are gone, blown into the water. My thighs freeze against the boards of the dock, waves crashing against my sides and leaves falling all around, clinging to my skin.

I’m slipping as the waves beat against the old dock, the fog pulls me in, the leaves cover my arms and my eyes and fill my nose and my mouth. I can’t fight, I can’t hold on, I can’t even let out a scream.

Down, down, down.

All at once I’m beneath the water, and everything is cold. My body is heavy, sinking lower and lower below the surface, where I can see the sun has come out. My eyes are beginning to darken at their edges, but I can still see the dock. Through the small window of light I have now, I see a pair of feet slowly swinging back and forth, back... and forth.

Then, everything goes dark.

...

When I wake up, sunlight glitters off the lake through my window. There’s not a cloud in the sky, not a leaf on the ground.

Strangely enough, I still can’t find my watch.