"One more week. Just one more week and this will be someone else's job."
He stood back from the edge of the water and looked out across the lake. The water lapped slowly at the earth around it, like an animal tasting a corpse before digging in. The moon hung low, but enough to be seen over the trees, casting the water in an ugly yellow light.
Alvin lifted one foot, his eyes unblinking as he watched the surface of the water, and reached it beyond the perimeter of the shore, into the boat. He made sure his balance was relatively sure before his other foot followed and he was now on the water. The small boat rocked gently with the additional weight and he lowered himself onto the seat.
Satisfied, he set down his bag and the bucket and grabbed the oars. The handles were smooth, worn from years of being passed around all the people that lived along the lake. They gave him a small degree of comfort, that so many people had followed the routine without incident.
The shore receded slowly, the wake of the boat small, but on the glass of the lake they might as well have been ten feet high. Breaths came in slow, shallow whiffs; eyes starting to dart left and right as he glided further out onto the water. The silence was unnerving in the middle of the lake, even the calls of the crickets on the shore seemed to vanish into the darkness underneath the trees that lined the banks, as if the very sound itself refused to tempt the water.
His aged muscles seemed to stiffen more with every stroke of the oars, and he could feel his heart
crawling up inside his chest with every beat.
Then something tapped the boat.
He froze in place, breath forgotten in his sudden fear, the boat drifting along from the last pull of the oars.
Then the buoy floated past, lightly bumping the side of the boat as it moved beyond the marked spot. Breath returned in an explosion of relief, but much of the anxiety remained.
One more week...one more week...
Alvin locked the oars in place and opened his bag, pulling out the cutting board and knife which had come with being chosen for the month of August, along with the boat.
The first fish out of the bucket was a rainbow trout, about ten pounds. One he would have been rather proud to catch himself. There were no fish to catch in the lake, though.
First he cut off the head, then went down the body, blood flowing out across the cutting board and dripping into the bottom of the boat. Once he had five good pieces, he scraped them back into the bucket and grabbed the tail of the next fish. He wished he could have cut them up earlier, in the kitchen sink, but the blood was key to making sure the fish were found quickly.
A sound from shore grabbed his attention, and his finger slipped, running along the edge of the knife and adding his own blood to the pool on the cutting board. Eyes watering, he jammed the finger into his mouth, using his tongue to measure the slice, as well as to keep himself from crying out. It wasn't a bad cut, but he didn't have anything with him to cover it in his bag.
Please don't taste me...please don't taste me...
He tried to think about what he could do with it as he sucked on the finger, unconsciously trying to will it to stop bleeding. His eyes looked out at the shore as well, trying to see the source of the sound that had distracted him.
The cut refused to stop bleeding, and every moment he spent trying to think about his finger was a
moment longer he was going to be out on the water. He gave up, his finger throbbing and bleeding as he returned to the bucket of fish.
"Trevor! I found it!"
The voice carried across the lake, skipping across the water like a smooth rock. Alvin's eyes widened and he turned to where he thought it had come from. Movement in the shadows underneath the Carter's willow tree made him focus; the anxiety in his veins crawling through him like worms, spreading along every nerve.
She was the first to step into the moonlight. In the dingy yellow light, long hair flowed out behind her and bare breasts bounced as she pranced down to the end of the bank and jumped into the water with a loud splash. Alvin's stomach turned at the sight of her treading water, facing the bank, but he didn't dare call out.
"Trevor! Hurry up!"
"Sasha, keep it down. People do live on this lake, you know."
The man followed from under the willow, stumbling a little, the familiar shape of a beer bottle held in one hand. He tossed it off into the water, making Alvin flinch from the splash before the man dove in after the woman.
"So? Everyone's asleep at this point. Look at all the trees, I guess these weird people don't want views of the water."
Alvin was frozen as he watched them swim out further, then embrace. A small speck of self-disgust finally grew large enough to force his eyes away, and then they flicked back and forth, scanning the water for other signs of disturbance. His body trembled as he looked around.
The couple was splashing now, the woman moaning, but something else had caught Alvin's attention. A sense more than anything else, a presence that demanded to be noticed. His eyes started to water from being stretched open, but he refused to even blink as he saw the first movement.
A small wake, barely perceptible on the still water. Over by the bank near Mary Anderson's house. It moved slowly towards the couple as they bobbed up and down, wrapped up in each other.
The bloody knife, cutting board, and pieces of fish clattered into the bottom of the boat as Alvin's body shook. The sound was like an explosion in his ears and as the wake paused, his stomach lurched, threatening to send back his spaghetti dinner. He instantly felt shame at the relief as it then continued toward the trespassing couple.
The woman grew louder as the wake shrunk and vanished, leaving the surface smooth. Alvin's mouth moved, silently calling out a warning that his throat wouldn't release. He tried to swallow, but even that caught.
Then the couple was gone, sucked under the surface. Not even air was passing through Alvin's throat now as he watched and waited.
There were two big splashes, one as the man broke the surface ten feet from where he'd gone under and swimming furiously for the bank. The other was the woman, propelled straight up out of the water, letting loose a garbled scream through a mouth full of water.
A thin shadow shot up out of the water after her, grabbing one leg and pulling her back down, almost slapping her against the surface of the lake. Then she was gone underneath again.
The man continued splashing and swimming until he reached the bank, pulling himself completely out of the water and up onto the grass in front of the willow.
"Sasha!" Sasha, where are you?"
Alvin knew she wasn't going to rise up again. His brain was screaming to grab the oars, row back to the house, get in his car and get out of town. To leave and never come back. Not a single part of his body replied. His heart ached in his chest with as hard and fast as it was pounding. He hadn't even noticed the warm liquid pooling inside his jeans.
The man was now on his feet, standing at the edge of the lake, calling out his girlfriend's name. His voice echoed across the now still water. Then the creature launched out of the water, knocking the man onto his back. There had been no big splash, no huge disruption of the water. It just emerged, as if it was an extension of the water itself, flowing up and taking form on land.
It stood over the man. A thick, snake-like body held up on three sets of long, spindly legs. The body continued back into the water, part of it waving back and forth, making small waves some ten feet out from the shore. A short neck wove back and forth, a wide, flat head looking him in the face. Then its head split open and lunged forward, enveloping the man as he screamed. The whole body undulated backward, sliding back into the water, dragging the man with it as he flailed uselessly, his screams muffled inside the creature's throat.
At the surface of the water, it flung the man back and forth, slapping him against the top of the lake. Then it vanished down into the depths, dragging the trespasser with it.
Alvin sat in the boat, trembling violently, the bucket of fish all but forgotten. Within moments, the surface returned to its smooth, placid look. A mirror, perfectly reflecting the yellow moon above. He knew he had to get back to the shore, get off the water. There was no way he could move fast enough though, not in the little rowboat.
His hands covered his face as he closed his eyes, trying to gain some kind of composure. Even with his eyes closed, he couldn't get rid of the image of the woman's body launched out of the water as she screamed, or the man, pulled right off the bank.
He pulled his hands away, suddenly aware of his finger again, still dripping blood.
He lifted his head and swung around, scanning the entire surface of the lake. Surely it couldn't smell his blood under the water.
Nothing stirred. There were no small wakes on the glassy surface. No sign of anything coming for him.
Gotta get away! GOTTA GET AWAY!
He was moving before he knew what he was doing. Alvin grabbed the handle of the bucket and threw it behind him as hard as he could, then his hands were on the oars before he even heard the splash, powering the boat to turn and move in the other direction as fast as he could, his finger throbbing, bleeding more, running down the handle of the oar.
He hadn't counted on facing the direction he had thrown the bucket during his escape. There was a second splash where the bucket had shattered the surface, and then the familiar v-shape of a wake heading towards the dingy he was rowing.
Alvin's heart was about to explode in his chest, trying to power his escape, to make the boat move even faster. He turned his head, trying to see the shore of his property from the corner of his eye, then looking around for something closer.
His body froze again as he saw the second wake approaching him. Then he puked into the boat as he saw the third.
Collapsing into the bottom of the boat, Alvin grabbed the knife and tried to make himself as small as possible, ignoring the wetness in the bottom of the boat, the fresh vomit, the blood of the fish he had cut up.
Its power source gone, the boat slowed to a gentle drift. Then softly bobbed on the water. Alvin lay there, his breath coming in shallow gasps. His hand squeezed the knife as he thought of his wife laying in bed, probably reading, waiting for him.
Oh God, Anna, I'm not coming home...
He forced himself to take a slower, deeper breath. Then he felt the bump on the bottom of the boat. Then another.
"GO AWAY!! GO THE FUCK AWAY!!!"
He looked up at the yellow moon, full in the sky. Then he saw the first of the clawed fingers reach over the edge of the boat and slowly grip the side. Two long, black fingers, reaching over, pointed nails digging into the wood. Then another pair gripped the other side. Then another pair down near the keel. Another. Another. Nine separate pairs of clawed fingers gripped the rim of the rowboat.
Alvin waited for them to try and grab him. They didn't. He didn't know what they were doing until the first slosh of water fell inside the boat. They were pulling the whole boat under the surface.
"Oh God! Fuck, no! No! NO!"
Silence returned as the boat and Alvin were swallowed by the lake itself.