“Have you got that line ready?” Tom said from the bow of the little boat. Jacob looked at him with a disproving face.
“You’re after making me fuck this one up, he said. “Now I have to start again.” He turned his attention back to the very fine twine in his hands, and the feathered lure that he held tightly between his fingers, a look of utmost concentration on his face.
Tom shook his head. “Careful,” he said. “Or John-Paul wont be the only missing person on this lake. Jacob paid him no attention. Tom turned and looked out at the lake ahead of them, at the vast expanses of water, that stretched on for miles and miles. The shore seemed a long way off now, and the jetty and the other boats docked up in the harbour were barely visible. Beyond them again, the mountains raised high and imposing, watching over the lake. His shoulders were tight from the rowing they had done, the lashings of the oars against the water. He gazed into the blackness below and mused as Jacob fiddled with the lines.
John Paul was an old fisherman, who had taken his boat out to this lake every day for as long as anyone living in the lakeside town of Lockinyes could remember, along with his old Cocker Spaniel, Eva. He knew the water like it was his own bathtub, knew the different pockets and where the otters lived, and where the different fish liked to feed, and as a result always ranked highly in the annual trout fishing competition the town held.
Until he disappeared.
One day, like any other, he was seen unmooring his little boat with Eva sitting in the PROW barking happily, and setting off into the lake. The wind picked up later in the day, and the surface of the lake rocked with rain and gusts as the day darkened. The boats that were out fishing came swiftly back to shore, sensing an impending storm. After a short while, the threatening clouds overhead moved on and the wind and rain abated.
But Jean-Paul never came back. And the spot where his little boat bobbed in the water remained empty.
The whole town had taken to the water over the next few days to search for him. Everyone liked John-Paul. A few of the younger men had even taken their diving gear and scoured the lake-bed for any sign of him or the boat. But the lake was enormous, and they found nothing. “We’d need John-Paul himself to find John-Paul,” someone remarked. Someone else said that perhaps he had left the town of Lockinyes, sailed his boat clear across the lake, and taken up in another town far away. Maybe there was even a woman involved, some said. Others said that the lake was over 300 miles long, and not to be ridiculous. Gradually, the chatter in the town died down.
Tom thought of all this while gazing at the water, when suddenly the lake beneath them darkened, as if a cloud had blocked out the sun’s light in the sky above. He glanced up. There were clouds gathering overhead, indeed, but the sun still beat strongly down on the water. When he looked back at the lake, the water was clear again.
“Here,” said Jacob behind him, and passed Tom a fishing rod. He set the bucket of bait on the deck, and sat down. The boat rocked gently as the two boys cast their lines into the water.
“I heard you mention old John-Paul there,” Jacob said quietly. Tom looked at him.
“Ah, I was only joking,” he said. “It may have been in bad taste, I know.” He knew that Jacob was fond of John-Paul, and had listened to stories and drank with him on a few occasions in the Lakeside Tavern.
“I know,” Jacob said. “It’s not that. It’s just, I’ve been thinking about this the last few days. The last few times I met with him, he had gone a bit funny – before he disappeared , you know.”
“How so,” Tom asked. He was eyeing the clouds overhead, as they gathered and darkened. He was suddenly aware that they were a very long way from shore.
“He was saying things, you know. Talking about something he had seen out on the lake. Something in the water.” The boat rocked gently as the water lapped up against it, as if it could hear Jacob speak.
“What sort of something?” Tom said. His voice was quiet and he had to repeat himself for Jacob to hear him over the growing wind.
“Something old,” Jacob said. “He didn’t give me a whole lot of detail. He was rambling , drunk half the time. But he mentioned a serpent, and the word ancient. I thought he was calling me a snake for a while, but now I’m not so sure. The last few trips he took out on his boat weren’t to fish. He had known people to disappear on the lake over the years, and I think he was here looking for something.”
“There are storms over the lake,” Tom said. “Conditions get tough out here, regardless of how used to it you are, and people get caught out.”
“I think John-Paul suspected otherwise,” Jacob said. Tom shook his head and looked back towards the town of Lockinyes.
“Jacob,” he said. “All the boats are heading back into the harbour. There’s no one else on the water.”
Jacob turned and looked back. “Fuck,” he said. “The storm is about to get bad. Quick!”
They both grabbed their oars and started to row, facing each other, their back and shoulder muscles aching with the sudden activity.
But the shore was so far away, and the waves were increasing in size. Rain started to lash against the boat and their faces, along with splashes from the oars and spray from the boat. Tom creased his eyes into slits in an effort to see, with Jacob doing the same opposite him.
Then three things happened
First, a large wave rocked the starboard side of the little boat, as if something heavy had fell into the water. Then the water around the boat darkened, and Tom thought he saw something long and scaled and enormous rise out of the water through the haze of the rain several hundred yards away, and sink back beneath the waves. It looked faintly like a massive tail. And finally, Jacob screamed and dropped his oars, his eyes fixed at some point behind Tom.
“What is it,” Tom shouted, craning his neck to see behind him.
“I saw it,” Jacob yelled. His face had paled, and his voice shook. “
Tom didn’t think. “Row,” he roared. “Row, goddammit.”
Jacob picked up his oars again with shaking hands, and the two me pulled furiously, but they hadn’t gone more than hundred yards when the water around them darkened again, and shadows from the deep rushed underneath their boat. There was a crashing sound, and something rose out of the water high above them. Tom saw a horrible twisted face, a mouth that was leering at them filled with teeth, and a huge yellow eye alive with a awful madness as it rushed towards him, and then the water erupted around them. The air was filled with water and bits of broken wood as the boat shattered and the storm raged over the lake.
The pieces of wood, now unrecognisable as once having formed a boat, floated on the surface of the water for several days until they rotted, and sank to the bottom.
Message from the Author:
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