So, with all the focus on promoting my debut novel and the business of writing, it has been a little while since I touched upon anything horror on here. Even longer since I gifted my readers with a writing sample. I figured I would kill two birds with one stone with an extra blog post. So, without further ado, a sample from one of my next works: Black Lake (Title subject to change.)
Dylan Walker sat quietly in his small rowboat, the cutting board balanced precariously across his knees as he sliced the bass into chunks. The blood ran off the board and down his leg, staining the jeans and making his nose wrinkle with the smell, feeling, and the knowledge of the stern talking to he was going to get from Sara when he got home. One piece of fish slipped between his fingers, the edge of the old knife digging into his thumb and drawing blood from a fresh source. He paused, sticking the hurt appendage in his mouth and sucking on it. His tongue ran along the cut, testing the pain and the depth of the wound. It wasn't bad, but he had nothing to cover it with him in the boat. He sucked on it again, swallowing back the miniscule amount of blood that he got before packing the cut with saliva. It would still probably bleed out a little, but in his mind, having his own spit in there was better than anything he could pick up from the fish. He held the finger up in the moonlight and sighed a little.
The moon was full, casting the lake in a soft, blue light. It was like a painting. Trees overhung the sides of the lake all the way around, protecting it from most of the attentions of tourists and people from nearby towns. The water was like a plate of glass except for the ripples his small boat made as it lightly bobbed. The water almost seemed to glow under the light. A more secluded lake, Dylan doubted there was in the entire United States.
He finished cutting up the fish and slid the pieces off the cutting board and into the water. Then he laid back for a moment. His head leaning back until it touched the bottom of the boat. He imagined he could hear the movement through the water underneath him as the pieces of fish were snatched as they drifted down into the depths. There were no fish in the lake at all, the only wildlife consisting of frogs, salamanders, birds and the occasional amphibious mammal which happened to stumble upon it.
It had only been last summer, a trio of pre-teens from one of the nearby towns had been chased off by a beaver. The kids hadn't known how lucky they were. The beaver disappeared not long after that.
Dylan sat up, grabbing the oars and sliding them into place as he headed back home. The way was illuminated by the light of the moon, gently caressing everything it touched with a softness that was rare for the small lake. His hands gripped the wood of the oars, feeling the rough wood underneath his palms as he rowed. He had lived on the lake for almost twenty years now, and had only been chosen for this duty four times before. The duty lasted for a month per person at a time, but the ritual was over a hundred years old. At one point it was suggested that it had even started with the native americans who had lived on the lake before the europeans had arrived. There was no evidence that the native americans had ever lived in the area, though.
He made his way towards the large dead oak tree which Dylan used as the marker for his property. The creak of the oars in their locks was the only sound on the water. He paused and looked out across the lake again, watching for the glass to be broken and the illusion of peace to melt away. There wasn't even a soft breeze, convincing the spring leaves to wave lightly to him. Dylan hadn't seen it himself, but there were certain facets of the lake which made its presence obvious to him. One of those facets was present tonight as he watched, holding his breath, the only movement from one end of the lake to the other being the slow dragging of his eyes, back and forth. The absolute silence.
Dylan had worked as a fisherman for most of his life, taking trips up to Alaska and back twice a year. Things could get pretty hectic on the boats, but one thing he had learned over the years, was that nature abhorred a vacuum. Silence was the ultimate vacuum, and nature had always seemed to abhor it more than any other. No matter where he was or what was going on, he had never experienced a perfect silence as the one which existed on this lake.
After a few minutes, Dylan gave up waiting for something besides him to move and returned to rowing, ducking his head under the branches of a willow and feeling the boat strike the edge of the lake with a soft finality. The chore for the night was finished. He stood up, took a few careful steps through the boat and made the short hop onto the dirt. He turned and reached out, grabbing the boat to pull it up out of the water.
The soft earth under his foot gave way, dropping his shoe partially into the water which lapped at the edge of the lake. He inhaled sharply, the whites of his eyes expanding as they shot open and he fell back onto the ground, scrambling to get out of the water. A hundred feet away he finally stopped, surrounded by soft grass in the pale moonlight. His pulse raced and his breath came in short, quick gasps. He scanned the water and the bank frantically, watching for any sign of movement. Nothing happened. The boat continued to bob lightly at the edge of the bank. He lay there for several minutes, waiting, watching. Slowly, his pulse slowed and he allowed himself a single, deep breath of relief.
The boat would wait until morning.
He pushed himself to his feet and slowly backed the rest of the two-hundred feet to his back porch, not turning around until he felt the wood under his shoes. Even then, he glanced back over his shoulder as he opened first the screen door then the solid oak shield which served as the barrier to inside. A shiver ran through him as he looked at the silence. The perfectly level piece of glass which reflected the moon's soft light.
Dylan stepped across the threshold, shutting the screen door and twisting the lock into place. Then there was the true door, which finally blocked his view of the lake through the branches of the trees which lined his properties bank. The deadbolt clicked into place, followed by the soft jingle of a chain lock. A breath escaped him as he closed his eyes, another shiver rushing through him, as if the cold of the water which had splashed against his shoe was an infection, racing through his system.
He shook it off, looking around inside the kitchen. The light was on, but it seemed to be the only one. Sara must have gone on to bed. She had left a change of clothes sitting in his chair at the kitchen table, though. He smiled, the love for his wife of twelve years, pushing away the cold fear which had been threatening to grip him by the throat. He slipped off his bloody jeans, folding them carefully so as not to get the fish blood on anything else before setting them aside so he could pull on the pajamas that had been waiting.
Slipping into the mudroom where the washer and dryer sat, he dumped his jeans in with a cup of soap and started it. It was wasting water to wash them by themselves, but it wasn't like they were watching every penny. He paused in front of the mirror, inspecting his old but still muscular frame. His beard had long ago turned to grey, though he still managed to hold onto a few streaks of the cinnamon hair he had lived with most of his life. His hazel eyes reflected experience and a kind of gentle peace with the world, which was echoed by the lines and wrinkles in his face. He found it rather sad that his daughter hadn't seen fit to give him any grandchildren. He thought he would make a good grandpa. He shook his head to that thought. Kids would want to go swimming.
He moved back into the house proper and down the hallway, a soft light greeting him as he rounded the corner to the bedroom and found Sara sitting up, reading. Her hair had been grey long before his, but she had spent years hiding that fact with professional coloring jobs. He wished she would do so again, he missed the look of the red hair, even though the spitfire personality had lost none of its bite from the passage of time. She smiled up at him over the rim of her glasses, green marbles which reflected none of Dylan's experience. Sara had spent the first half of her life as a trophy wife, until her husband had traded her in for a younger model. Dylan had picked her up and showed her what a real relationship was like and though she often reminded him how much better she'd had it in her previous marriage, she always told him she would never trade back for it. She was still a hell of a trophy to him, the best woman he had ever had.
His smile faltered for only a second as he stepped into the doorway, but it wasn't beneath her notice.
"My foot fell in the water."
Her face turned to stone, her eyes locked on his and her mouth a line. She closed her book and took off her glasses, looking up at him from the bed.
"Nothing. I didn't see anything. Nothing touched me. I made it up on the lawn and nothing followed."
She looked him up and down, then nodded slowly. Her smile crept back into her face, as well as her complexion.
"Then we don't have anything to worry about for tonight, I think," Sara said, "Yes. I think so."
Dylan smiled, his shoulders slumping a little as he relaxed and moved up to the bed, slipping under the covers with his wife. Sara set her book and glasses on the nightstand on her side of the bed before rolling over and cuddling up against his side, one arm draped across his chest as she leaned up and kissed him lightly.
Sara left her reading light on as she closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep, embracing her husband. Dylan turned his reading lamp on as well and lay there for a while, wide awake. He listened to the night as the washer ran at the far end of the house, silence descending as it finished its cycle. The silence filled the house like a slowly creeping fog, moving up in layers from the floor.
Dylan felt it suffocating him as he lay there, one arm around his wife as she slept soundly against him. His ears strained until he thought they would bleed, searching for any sound at all in the small ranch house. He felt his body tensing up under the oppressive weight of the quiet, his breathing becoming shallow, as if the silence was stealing the oxygen from the air. His eyes flickered from one side of the room to the other, then back, then focusing on the open door which led to the rest of the house. He watched it intensely, waiting, listening, like a deer that knew it was being stalked. His free hand lifted and reached out slowly to the nightstand on his side of the bed, fingers blindly wandering over the base of the reading lamp until they found the form of his digital alarm clock. Fingertips counted over the buttons across the top, finally finding the one labeled "sleep" and pushing it down.
Instantly, the room was filled with the soft noise of electric crickets chirping and singing to each other. In the blink of an eye, the silence was broken and the oppression lifted. Dylan felt a shiver of relief spread from deep in his chest and took a deep breath of the free air.
Still, he sat awake for over an hour, the reading lamps still on by the time he drifted off to sleep.