The cool water of the lake lapped at the rubber boots he wore as he walked just on the edge. it was crystal clear and he could see eddies of pumice and plumes of pebbles in his wake. Here and there a small fish would dart towards the safety of the lake startled by his progress around it’s southern rim. The lake seemed to yawn out of the mountains on the horizon their peaks shrouded in a heavy mist that seemed perpetual to the child. But his father swore the warm air of the summer would force the clouds to higher elevation revealing the crags and peaks of the mountains at last. The rubber boots over his wool socks were thick and cumbersome but after bending forward to touch the water he welcomed their insulation and jammed his icy fingers back into the pocket of his bright red parka. The faux fur hood was pulled up tight and framed his face making him look rather lionesque in a cherubish way.
His father was fishing further down the shore and watching his son wander away ever further around the bend of the lake. He played along the same shore as a child and his father probably stood and watched just like this. The thought wasn’t lost on him and he gazed up into the mist shrouded peaks thinking of times long gone. When he was a younger and bolder albeit more careless man they were peaks and canyons that he navigated and called his home hunting goats and impressing his lovers. Now though the peaks themselves felt like cages for he knew in their mist was death. No matter how many times the locals would warn their children some were always lost to the mountains with their concealment drifting down from the heavens. Great beauty almost always had sure disaster close behind. The happiness of a fresh meal from the lake was always followed by the scraping of utensils on tin plates that meant it was over. Some folks got caught up in the now and reveled in the pleasure of a full plate but the wise, or so he thought at this age were always aware of the emptiness beneath the sustenance, the barren bowls that had driven so many from the valley beneath the mountains. The emptiness that had driven mankind in general ever onwards trudging along on the treadmill of despair.
He grimaced and bit down on the stub of a cigar in the crook of his mouth. It was too easy too fall into the depths of his mind and sit idly by contemplating the reality within which his family and friends found themselves. He reeled his empty line in and in a great swooping motion careful to mind his footing he arced the long pole forward where the sinker made a plucking noise at the surface of the lake before falling ever downward carrying with it a piece of rabbit. He tuned towards his son and could hardly see him now, he was already small but now the mists threatened to swallow him up. He yelled down the shore, cupping one hand over his mouth to direct the sound.
‘Tomas!’ He took a deep breath. ‘Tomas, that’s far enough.’
Tomas heard the muffled shouts of his father behind him and turned back cheeks red from the temperature. The wind from the lake blew the hood off his head and his uncut hair wrapped around his face. He knew what the shout meant. He had been here before. He was ten years old and he knew how to fish and play along side the lake. In a bout of fierce independence that was not uncommon in Tomas he turned back away from his father’s shouts. And continued walking along the shore of the lake thinking about how he would climb the mountains in the distance one day and look down at the lake he was walking along to see it in it’s entirety like an eagle would. He swooped his arms out and soared eagle like forward. Fishing was boring he thought, his friends told him stories of distant lands their parents had been to where cows and rabbits are raised near the home and food was aplenty. Living in the armpit of the mountains their shadows accompanied by the mist kept most daylight from reaching their small town. The rays of feeble light that did could hardly support the brown rough grass and lichen that covered everything. His father shouted once more, Tomas did not look back he reached back and pulled his hood on cinching the drawstring tighter. He walked.
‘Tomas, please!’ His father was shouting still and beginning to reel in his hook un-bitten to go after his wayward child. He left the pole against the packs they carried to the shore and the rolled up tent with it’s heavy stakes and rain fly tied around it. He removed the cigar for a moment and licked his chapped lips before picking his way across the scree and boulders. He was mad at first and he shouted more but t had been so long since he’d just walked along the lake. He had stood and worried by it as they pushed their dead out on small boats. He had fished it and he had contemplated it. it didn’t take long for him to start getting a kick out of the constant up and down of the terrain. Tomas was still a bit too short to really enjoy the bouldering. He was thinking now that he’d teach him when he caught up, the boys idyllic pace was far from speedy. Who knows what game he was playing today. Life was always different when games were to be played day in and day out the lack of responsibilities a child had was both limiting and liberating at the same time. For one cannot achieve without trading in some aspect of time or money and before children are aware of the cruelties they play and play as if the world were already theirs. It was good to be away from that damned fishing spot for a while. He cracked a rare smile and pulled himself up on the next boulder shouting for his son to come and learn to boulder with him. They could fish again tomorrow, stores were low but not dangerously so.
Tomas stared at his feet and the water as he walked and hummed absentmindedly to himself thinking of his friends and how he would be a hero and adventurer. He stopped when something bumped up against his right boot, a skull floated in the shallows, a human skull bobbed and twisted in the tide smiling up at him before making another plunge into the frigid waters. Tomas fell backwards and his hum took a sharp upturn into a scream of relative disapproval. He landed on his backside and hands, he screamed again this time as the frigid waters soaked through his pants and gloves in an instant. He pushed himself up but not before pushing the skull away. Standing on the side of the lake out of the tide now ice cold water dripped along his legs and pooled in his rubber insulated boats. Dark patches on the sleeves and back of his parka began to freeze. He shivered and looked out at the lake turning over the words he’d heard the men of the town use in times of frustration but he wouldn’t say them felt sacred or something. Explicit language was the least of his problems now as he shivered and looked back to where his father was fishing the mist had swallowed the fishing spot. He tried to hold back tears and began walking back.
A harsh cracking noise in the lake stopped Tomas in his tracks and he looked out along the frigid waters for it’s source. His jaw trembled but only because of the cold, or so he told himself. A thin patina of ice crept out from the center towards him crackling and expanding, melting and refreezing until it reached up out of the lake towards him like fingers. reaching for his rubber boots. Tomas blinked rapidly and rubbed his eyes before looking again. Seeing that the ice hadn’t been a mirage or something he let out a proper scream and started running back towards his father. The rubber boots now wet with cold lake water were heavier than normal and he lost his footing in a few strides with mushy socks sliding against the interior and cold toes he fell forward and smacked his forehead against the ground, surely breaking one arm in his desperate attempt to catch himself.
A flash of light occupied his vision before he could blink it out and push himself up a delightfully warm stream of liquid dripped down on to his lower lips and he looked up at the sky before realizing his head was bleeding. He held one glove to the gash and took it back in pain immediately. He had seen blood before and even injuries but this was his and there’s always something uniquely scary about experience that lies nowhere within books and spectating. The mist around the lake seemed to follow the ice and rush up to envelope him stealing the details of his vision he crawled on hands and knees to find the water edge and continue his trek towards his father and the warmth of the small fire they’d build the dry clothes stuck in his pack and reassuring words a child learns to expect from mentors. He found ice and chose a direction standing with knees shaking and blood freezing to his face. He saw a shadow in the distance and yelled out for his father. The shadow grew and grew until it rivaled the size of the mountains it was massive and very real. A thin stygian figure with long arms and legs looked towards him and took a step in his direction causing the ice to shatter and reform. The head of the creature had flowing black hair and eyes glowing like two small moons in the distance. He stood frozen almost literally at this point in place watching as the thing strode out over the lake and towards him with inhuman speed. Tomas was at a loss for words and heavy hot tears poured out of his eyes.
The shadow thing knelt down in front of him with it’s moon like eyes unblinking it reached out for the child. Long trails of dark cloud fell around it’s shoulders and it’s breath was a summer day.
‘Tomas!’ his father called from somewhere in the distance.
‘Wh-wh-what are you?’ Tomas stuttered.
The hand reaching towards had seven multi jointed fingers each bigger than Tomas. It had no mouth and just stared at Tomas, with one finger it pushed Tomas to the ground with a poke. and it fell to it’s knees crawling up over him and staring down turning it’s head in slight curiosity.
‘Tomas, where are you! Tomas!’
The creature moved it’s massive head down towards the child and within it’ full moon eyes Tomas saw spirals of stars and the faces of all the people he had known and those that he felt he may know. He saw distant lands and other planets all twirling in a cosmic dance never-ending. He saw death itself and screamed. The figure raised a heavy hand and finger to it’s mouth and shh’d the child with breath as warm as the sun. He touched the wound on Tomas’s head and continued his gaze. Tomas could hear footsteps now running his direction and hear his fathers voice but the world around him shivered, expanding and contracting with the dance the creature’s eyes and words that had once been familiar to the child words that were his name meant nothing. The creature picked him up in one hand and stood tall so fast that Tomas almost passed out from the quick elevation change. He stood swaying slightly and motioned for Tomas to look down. He didn’t have to move far to see out farther than he’d ever imagined at the entire lake, the town and three other towns just like it along with tundra and brown grass extending as far as he could see. The creature bent and laid him back on the ground by the lake whispering in a deep breathless voice ‘Patience’. It crawled back into the lake never looking away from Tomas until they sank beneath the surface. The ice recoiled after him and the lake was once again fluid.
Tomas rolled on his side and saw his Father running towards him.
‘Are you okay?’ My son, I’m so sorry I let you wander.’ tears were in both of their eyes and Tomas pointed out towards the lake. His father batted his hand down.
‘Death lies within the mist.’ he said before turning towards camp carrying his son close to him. Tomas watched over his Fathers’ shoulder at the center of the lake longing to experience the gaze and distortion of the creature again.