The Light in the Lake

Updated: May 10, 2020

Angus knew all too well that when you live alone for long enough that the mind can play awful tricks on you. Yet, he never really gave a second thought to the odd sounds, sights and happenings that plagued him. He credited his calm indifference to his academic background, regarding any form of superstition as a load of hogwash. It was pseudoscience, and pseudo meant something that lacked proof or conviction: the antithesis of science. Still, Angus never considered that the study of the mind would end up interesting him as much as it ended up doing. His education didn’t directly concern it, but psychology seemed to rear up its ugly head whenever it had the chance, mainly by way of the younger professors and his more impressionable peers. It almost reached the point of infallible annoyance until, one day, something clicked. He can’t remember exactly what did it, but eventually, Angus grew rather fond of the imaginative thought science and the amusing answers it presented. Freud, with all his grand ideas about ego and what lies behind our sexuality, was certainly prone to drawing wild conclusions.

But with the awareness of one’s inner workings and how mankind is still rather embarrassingly hindered by its Palaeolithic survival instincts, it became almost trivial when odd creaks imitated footsteps within the halls of his under-occupied house or a silhouette danced there for a moment in a shadowy place. It all really trickled down to silly old me, just for even entertaining the thought. Still, Angus had to admit that it had been difficult getting accustomed to living in an otherwise empty place and kept forgetting that she no longer was there to claim her favourite spot in the couch, wrestle for the most space in the bed or keep him company in those late hours. Where before there was peaceful, relaxed quiet now every small sound resonated through the building and there was no-one to laugh them off with. It’s never any fun to joke about ghosts and broonies by yourself.

Of course, Angus was familiar with the accounts of people who had moved far away when faced with such a disaster. He reckoned they were unable to separate the locale from their emotions, always focused on what was, and not what is now.

But, damn, she never would have forgiven him if he had just packed his bags and buggered off like that, after all the sweat and madness that they had gone through together to build their forever home by the lake. They’d worked too damn hard to just let it go.

The lake itself was what had drawn them here. There was, and still is, something magical about it that neither of them could ever quite put their finger on. All they knew was that nothing could compare to the sight when the lake was lit up by moonlight on cloudless nights. It was mesmerising.

Their fascination began in their adventurous early days where the area surrounding the lake played host to their small picnics. They’d eat, read and laugh in the sun, and then listen to music until the night got too cold, and they grew tired of the charm of wrapping themselves up in blankets. Soon it became their go-to place to retreat to whenever they had the chance. Then when Angus proudly docked his old boat there, the construction just seemed like the next logical step. At least, she didn’t need any convincing anyway.

And though with time other things had lost some of their colours, that lake remained a joy for Angus to wake up to in the morning and a calming source of inner-reflection when he enjoyed a cold one or two on the porch at night. Every day’s end was always marked by him taking one long last look at it before drawing the curtains and hopping into bed. Those little rituals were his constant. Funny thing was, he’d always been more comfortable sleeping on the right-hand side of the bed but had given it up for her sake. But now he had taken over her old spot just to be that one bit closer to her. He’d even took up her habit of bedtime reading, using the bedside lamp that she’d loved so much. Its light would shimmer on the window in the hot summer when the curtains had to be left wide open to let the cool breeze drift in. From Angus’ perspective, it then looked as though the light hovered gently on the lake, dancing as the waves rolled back and forth. Something about the sight always brought Angus peace. He had to admit that there was a certain freedom to living alone, but it never quite filled the gap. Angus entertained the idea of getting a dog, so he’d have some company around. But before he had the chance to finally commit to buying one, he was surprised by a second love. A painter called Jenny.

Jenny would invite herself over whenever she wasn’t so busy with her never-ending lists of projects and social events. And that suited Angus; it was nice taking things slow. He had to laugh though, he hadn’t felt this shy since he was a kid! He thanked his lucky stars that Jenny was fine not rushing into things and always played it cool. He was very thankful for that. It was more than just shyness though. It took him a while to admit it, but Angus felt downright uncomfortable having Jenny stay over for too long and would often politely call it a night. He felt as though she was somehow watching them and he couldn’t shake the paranoia. Even when he knew all too well that it was just his guilt doing this. It’s just having Jenny around didn’t keep Angus’ mind at rest like he thought it would. Things around the house only got worse. Those noises that bugged him before, thundered even louder through the house and drove him stir-crazy. Worse was that Jenny didn’t even flinch. Angus even secretly dreaded getting up to fetch them some wine. He’d sometimes close his eyes just so that he wouldn’t see anything in the dark, but it didn’t do much, nothing did. Whatever he tried, he’d still catch glimpses of her throughout the house, and they weren’t always fleeting. Angus knew it wasn’t strictly recommended but mixing wine with the pills his doctor had sympathetically prescribed would help cool his nerves and shut his brain off enough to see him through the night. More importantly, it meant he could put on a brave smile for Jenny. It was just his damn guilt after all, and he didn’t want any of that rubbing off on the poor girl.

So, he decided to never speak about it to her and casually changed the conversation when it got to close to that area of his past. Maybe telling her would help, but he was too old-fashioned to bring her into his hell. It was better when Jenny was around anyway, so he owed her that much. Only when Jenny drove off could things take a turn for the worse. Sometimes the house acted as an echo chamber, resounding his insecurities and troubles long into the night. For this reason, Angus tried to get out when he could, the heat of the summer pretty much demanded it anyway. It was more than just relief from the heat. As soon as he plonked his ass down on the porch overlooking the lake everything melted away and he could think straight again. It was like a huge weight was lifted off him. And more importantly, it meant he could sleep easy at night. He loved that lake. Even when his mind was all over the place, Angus wouldn’t give up his little rituals. One unforgettably hot day he threw his bedroom curtains wide and let as much cold air in as he could before settling down to read. She used to nag him to try reading this and that book, and now he’d actually made quite a big dent in her library. Turned out she had pretty good taste. When he was done, he admired the light reflected on the lake before taking off his glasses and turning off the lamp. Then he settled down and reflected on the day. It hadn’t been so bad, but maybe he did need to get out more. Tomorrow he thought he’d drive into town and surprise Jenny at her exhibition. It’d been long enough, and he supposed he owed it to her. Angus nestled his head in his cushion and closed his eyes. He had a feeling he would get a good night’s rest this time. This optimism was short-lived, however. Something was his eyes twitch, though they were shut. Like they do when they sense something is interfering with the dark of night. He opened them and blinked to figure out what the blurry light was. He was sure he’d turned everything off, but he knew he could be forgetful at times. He decided it must be the porch light, it was small enough to go unnoticed if he got distracted by something else. Angus reached for his glasses and put them on. His eyes quickly focused, but his mind took a while to catch up with them. It wasn’t just his sleepiness, though. Angus couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He looked absolutely dumbfounded. It was unmistakable. It was the light… the light still hovered on the lake. Angus jolted up immediately to check that he wasn’t mad. But no, the bedside lamp was off. Still, the light shone where it was usually reflected. It was uncanny, it was in the exact place as always. He approached the window to get a better look. There was no doubt about it, there was no trickery going on, no porch light left shining or a silent helicopter flying around with its search beam on. He was either more insane than he thought, or this was really happening. Whatever the case, he had to have a better look. Angus rushes for the door, and soon crept outside with a coat wrapped around his plaid pyjamas and his trusty torch firmly gripped in his hand. He made his way down to the waterfront, where he had built a small dock many years back. It was odd how still it was out there, hardly any wind blew at all. It made it impossible to not solely focus on the light. Having reached the dock, he stared out towards it. The light must have been a couple of hundred metres away and seemed to emit from a spot in the lake itself. It pulsated slightly and seemed far too warm in colour to come from such watery depths. Angus still wasn’t sure if he hadn’t nodded off earlier and bent over the dock to make sure. He cupped some of the lake’s cool water in his hands and splashed it in his face. It would have been a shock to the system hadn’t the light already woken him right up before. No, it was useless, that thing actually was out there. It felt like the universe was playing a cruel joke on him and he couldn’t help but think it was tied to his guilt in some way. He turned his attention to the olden wooden boat he had tied to the dock. It rocked gently on the water, hardly moving much at all. But even with the lake being as still as it was, he would have to be a madman to use it at this time of the night. This was still otherwise unclaimed real estate, and it was no way worth the risk. Especially given that he was still in his pyjamas. It was dark out and it had been so cloudy that even the moon was blocked out. That light was all that remained. It was as if the world was forcing him to become entranced by it. Angus squinted to try and make out anything more that would help unravel it, just a single detail that would help him reach a logical explanation. But he was lost at where to start. He amused the improbable idea of a fallen satellite, but if something like that had crashed into the lake you can bet that it would have shaken the whole bloody area awake. Besides, what unnerved him most was that it was so exact in its position to the optical illusion he saw every night that it was, just, uncanny. Maybe he had amused the image too much and somehow brought it to life like it was something that fed off his attention. Come to think of it, the light did seem as though it was growing, very subtly, but undeniably so. Perhaps its appetite had increased. The idea made him shudder. Angus turned his back on the light and looked instead at the otherwise dark world around him, with the house completely cast in shadows. Nervous, he thumbed in his pocket for his pills, found them and shakily swallowed a couple. He wasn’t counting. Still, he knew it would do no immediate good. Nothing had stopped him seeing the shapes that crept about in the dark, from seeing her. Even now he swore that a figure passed by the bedroom window and he couldn’t bear to look that way again. But there was no-where else to turn to. So, he turned on his torch to scare whatever lurked in the shadows away. Still, he could sense the light of the lake in his peripheral vision. It was oddly soothing to his senses but altogether otherworldly. He knew it wasn’t a good idea to look at it, but at the same time felt hopelessly compelled to. He fought it further and kept his head straight as he started to walk away. A few steps away and he had begun to regain some control. He kept on going, trying hard not to look back, even if it was all just a product of his cluttered state of mind. But what if it was a sign that some part of her still was bound to this Earth? That he hadn’t done enough to protect her when she needed him? And after all those years together, had he really been that quick to move on? He’d been a terrible a widow. But it wasn’t as if he rushed into finding someone else. Heck, their relationship hadn’t even reached the honeymoon period yet. So why wouldn’t his damn head shut up, already? He stopped dead in his tracks. Had he heard that for real? A whisper, no a murmur from some way behind. All his frantic thoughts crumbled away to a blank slate. There had been something, and he prayed it was just the wind. But no, there it came again. It was phonetical almost, a solemn sigh but queerly soothing. The sound embraced his troubled mind, easing him and putting an end to all his paranoid thoughts. It was inviting him, calling him towards it. Slowly he turned back to the light in the lake. Angus could do nothing to resist that otherworldly presence, his whole being urged him towards it. Though he knew its existence to be impossible, there it waited for him

The aura was even more beautiful now than before, and closer. Something was reassuring about it, welcoming, and Angus couldn’t help but smile. He would do anything just to get closer to it. That’s when he remembered his boat. Yes, that would do the trick. He backed away from the relative sanctuary of the house and headed on towards the dock. The whispery angel song mixed with the slight breeze of the wind calling him closer and closer. Like he was trapped in a spell of sorts, Angus seemed relaxed and certain about what to do. He made quick work of the rope that held the boat in place and, without much in the way of hesitation, hopped down into the old, rickety vessel below. Albeit, he did so a wee bit too clumsily. He’d rushed in and his weight rocked the boat back and forth. The force splashed some of the cool water in, soaking his shoes and making him jump. Strange thing was, Angus couldn’t remember the steps leading up to being here. He thought he was sane enough to never go boating in his pyjamas, let alone at night. He looked down at his squelchy shoes and then around at the shoreline. Everything was quiet. He had a vague recollection of whispers tickling his ears, but even those were gone. Strange. He gripped the boat and readied to lift himself, but the light dashed across his face as he momentarily looked ahead. The light – Angus had forgotten about the light. He smiled and settled back down. Neatly nestled in the boat again, he manned the oar and started making way for that enchanting energy that waited for him out there. He paddled hard and determined, making strong gestures which propelled him further forward. It was easy work with the waters so calm, and he got far in a matter of minutes. Angus looked visually eager to be there as soon as he possibly could, with his eyes practically locked on it while he rowed. It won’t be long now, he thought. As he closed in on it, he could make out some more details at last. The source was coming from just below the lake surface, he was sure of that. Plus, by the looks of how it was illuminating the local area, he bet that he would be able to see a fair distance towards the lake floor too and get a good idea of how deep it went after all these years. The whispers still wrapped around him, louder and clearer than before, but they remained soft and comforting to his ears. He was lost in their trance and all the happier for it. At least it convinced him to be. The boat began to light-up with its dazzling colour as he drew near to the source. The surface of the water sparkled, as soft colours of golden-white and candyfloss-pink swirled together beneath the water. As he made those final few strokes towards it, he swore he saw glimpses of movement down there. Possibly all the fish were helplessly swarming to it too, there was plenty of ’em out here. But it didn’t matter, not when he was this close. Angus paddled on into the heart of the light and was immediately overcome by a sense of euphoria as the whispers crescendoed into song. Above the light, and all around him, danced beautiful refractions of its otherworldly colours. They vividly defied the darkness of night. He reached out to one of the swirls and it reacted to his touch, strangely changing in colour and twirling briefly around his finger. The light was so consuming that nothing else could be seen from here; neither the dock, the house or any sign of the shoreline. Angus was sure that if it hadn’t been so cloudy, even the stars would have escaped his sight. He didn’t miss them though; the light was all that mattered. His need to reach it had been so intense that it felt like this had been something he’d been waiting for forever. He must have been a tired wreck from all the rowing, but any ailment here was impossible. It was bliss incarnate. But just sitting there wasn’t enough. Angus was very keen to see what the source of all this was. To find out what caused this heavenly phenomenon. He straightened up and carefully aligned himself so he could take a good look over the edge of the boat. As he did so, more movement stirred close by, sending tiny waves along the water surface. Angus was too focused to realise. His eyes now peered over and he slowly took in the sight below. It was so beautiful that he couldn’t believe it. The colours were even more amazing beneath the surface and it felt like staring into a giant lava lamp, for the sight was both hypnotic and lulling. Amidst it all danced a circular core, beyond description. Its form continuously shifted, and it was hard to define if it was liquid or solid for it exhibited properties of both. Angus hadn’t moved another inch, but it felt like he was being drawn in closer to it. It was the origin of all this euphoria, plus the singing and the swirly, otherworldly light. He wanted nothing but to be closer to it and cursed his body for being old and human. That was until something rocked the boat, splashing water into his face and having him struggle for balance.

Suddenly all the thoughts and pain flooded back to the Angus, effectively sobering him dead straight. He rubbed his eyes to get the water out as he struggled to remember what in the hell was doing out here on the lake in the dead of night. But all this was replaced by sheer horror when he opened his eyes, for what he saw resembled no semblance to those heavenly colours from before, that looked so much like the pleasant reflection of his late wife’s bedside light. No, it was vile and hellish down there; unimaginably alien.

The corpses of tons of fish littered the scene, contaminating the area with their guts and blood. It made the water murky but did little to hide the window that had crudely been forced open below. There the formless monstrosity waited, occupying the boundless space beyond reality. Like the fish, Angus too had been helplessly drawn to a watery grave. It long had had its many eyes set on him, and now it finally had him. Angus could do nothing, not even command his body to scream. In a singular, swift movement, an appendix that was of no discernible Earthly composition plunged both him and the boat down below into the dark depths of the lake, where no light could reach.

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