Tired and exhausted, I signed myself up for a vacation in the backwoods of the Rocky Mountains. I found an advertisement for cabins facing a crystalline blue lake. It was exactly what I needed after so many rushes at work.
A guide was assigned to me. His job was to get me to the cabin at the beginning of the vacation and to help me find the main road again at the end. It was a good thing he was there to help me find that cabin. It would have been so easy for me to end up in someone else’s cut-off-from-the-rest-of-world-cabin, and that’s only if I even had managed to find one on my own. I had never hiked before. I hadn’t realized just how long five kilometres could be when you’re carrying all your supplies.
Anyway, it was a beautiful one-bedroom cabin, complete with living room, kitchen, and bathroom. There was no television, no Internet, no telephone. I sighed a breath of relief. It felt good to be ultimately cut off from the rest of the world like that.
At the end of my first week, as I sat outside looking at the lake while reading a novel, I became tense and annoyed when I heard a deep roar. It sounded so much like an airplane. I had really wanted to get away from such reminders of the world I routinely live in. Irritated as I was, I found myself unable to fight the urge to look up. All I saw were the firs, maples, and willows dancing in every direction, a blue sky, and a single, long, white, puffy cloud. I shook my head and turned my gaze to the lake. Not a ripple coursed through it. The noise never bothered the lake—or its residents.
That’s when I started to wonder: did anything live in that lake? Any fish of any kind at all? It was so incredibly clear, so incredibly blue, and so incredibly still.
You’d think there would be some movement, even just a trickle. Surely the wind would leave a tiny ripple across the lake. Besides, something should be living in the lake, shouldn’t it? And if something were alive in there, shouldn’t there be some kind of movement along the top of the lake water?
Every day after that, I left my novels inside the cabin. I went outside, never venturing far from the cabin for fear of getting lost in the immense forest, and looked at the lake.
So many different types of birds flew from tree to tree! The trees danced with the wind. Flowers swayed along, too. But the lake stood still, untouched even by the winds that bent the huge firs, maples, and willows and caused birds to seek refuge on the forest floor. How could this be possible?
In spite of being warned about the lake being very frigid even on the hottest of summer days, I decided to go for a swim one day. I took one more look at the lake before entering. It was so utterly still. I felt guilty about disturbing the placid lake, but what was the point of being around a lake if I didn’t go swimming even once?
Five steps in the lake, I stopped. The water was far from frigid. And there was this other quality. There was no word for it, except maybe “odd”. I looked down at the water. I swallowed. I ran in ten more steps. The water got deeper, but “odd” was the only thing that registered in my brain.
Thinking became a melting task. I had to work hard to figure out what was so odd. It came to me: Doesn’t water push back on you when you run in it? Don’t ripples expand away from you after you move in water?
That was what felt so peculiar in this lake. The water reacted like air to my movements. And there were no ripples, no riffles, no wavelets.
I looked around the lake. The flowers swayed with the wind. The trees swayed in time to unheard music. Birds flew from treetop to treetop.
So, here I was, standing in a lake that stood absolutely still. Shivers rippled down my spine.
I turned to run out of the lake. As I lifted my leg in a run, something grabbed my ankle. I fell in the water with a loud splash. I tried to pull myself free, but whatever held my foot got tighter and tighter.
The roar I heard earlier bellowed overhead. I looked up only to see blue sky and a single white cloud. The cloud was long and thin. With every breath I managed to take, it changed its shape, getting thicker in places and thinner in others.
I sat frigid in the lake, trying to calm my breathing while I tried to figure out what was happening. Finally, I reasoned with myself that a plant frond had my foot. I reached into the water to untie the frond as calmly as possible.
I put all other thoughts out of my mind as I concentrated on the frond. I pulled layer upon layer of frond off my ankle.
Just as the last piece unwrapped, the water began to bubble and bubble and bubble. I managed to stand up, but I found I was just like the lake water and stood perfectly still. I thought of running back to shore, but it was only a thought. I watched the lake as the bubbles got bigger and bigger.
Huge, sparkling white dagger-like teeth shone from the gaping mouth of the head that flew backwards out of the water. Its roar rumbled through me. I should have been scared, but for some reason I could only laugh.
I just stood there, laughing with a dragon-like head in front of me.
By the time I stopped laughing, the lake became perfectly still again. The head disappeared.
I stood there for the rest of the day. There were no more bubbles, no more roaring noises bellowing from above, and no movement along the lake.
Every day for the rest of my vacation there, I went in the lake without disturbing the water. I hoped to see the creature again, but it never returned. I didn’t see any long, thin, rapidly changing clouds. I didn’t even hear any roars from the sky.
On my last day, the guide came to pick me up. I kept looking back at the lake.
“Everything okay?” he asked.
“Yes, I was just hoping—”
“Hoping what?” the guide asked as he stopped in his tracks.
“Have you ever seen the lake bubble?” I asked.
“The lake? Bubble? There is an old story about a lake monster that made the lake boil, but that’s a really old, nonsensical kind of myth. No truth in it at all. I mean, seriously. A monster that can make the lake boil! Come on! All you have to do is put your foot in there and you’ll know that lake is always incredibly frigid. Who’s ever heard of frigid lake water that boils from time to time?” And he started to hike back to the main road.
I followed, but not without stopping from time to time to look back towards the lake, the forest, the sky. That lake was not as cold as the guide said. And I know I saw the lake bubble. Maybe I had seen the lake monster the guide had mentioned. One day, I’ll have to go back there, even if just to say thank you to the lake monster for such a hearty laugh.
Witness: Monty Lockheart
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