Working Title: Bayou Horror or Dark Waters
Brown water, covered with duckweed and cattails rising, in crowded conditions, in the shallower water near the edges of the pool. Palmetto bushes line the water’s banks, some of their leaves and branches dipping into the dank water.
As a child, I used to climb the Old Willow, whose great, meandering root system includes many that have spread into the dark waters. Many of the roots are now above the water line, and strong enough for me to walk out on them and sit – virtually in the pool, but not touching the water. Which is where I sit now.
A group of tadpoles swim feverishly, just below the surface below me. I can see them through a gap in the roots. A ringneck – a rather common snake in these parts – swims so quickly across the pool, I expect to see a pursuer – but there is none.
The constant caws of blackbirds can be heard some distance off. I’m not well-versed enough of their calls to tell if they are crows or ravens - both I see frequently around here. There is a rather large flock of small birds flying high above. They flitter to and fro, west to east, north to south and back again. It is late summer, but the temperatures have been lower recently, making me wonder if this flock is confused, and undecided if it is time to head south. I’m startled out of my reverie, as I hear a sort of kerplunk, as if something had been dropped into the lake. I look up quickly and see the ripples moving landward, but not the cause. I look around, to assure myself I was alone. I wouldn’t put it past the McCurdy kids to be trying to mess with me.
But there is no one.
Many of the branches of this Old Willow hang out over the pool – a fact I’m reminded of when I look up. Seeing no other possible cause, I decide the Spanish moss must have killed off a small limb, which then tumbled down into the water. The moss is itself looking sickly and thin, but surely it is still feeding of the tree?
I settle down again to enjoy the cool, late summer weather. It might not even reach ninety today! Spring, summer, fall or winter, this is my favorite place in all the world!
There are no ducks in this small lake. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen any living on this pool. Even visiting ones abandon the pool after just a few minutes - or less.
This lake is dead. The tadpoles will probably survive, but there are no more fish in these dark waters. The local animals won’t even drink the water here, anymore.
The duckweed is more yellow-brown than green. The parts of the palmettos in or touching the water have also browned.
The roots of the Old Willow upon which I sit are still solid and strong, but there is a bad stench to them, and those that I can reach feel rough and dry (I won’t try to feel those beneath the water line – no telling what diseases this smelly water holds!). The Willow itself looks to be dying of old age.
I am wearing my second set of clothes, old, patched blue jeans, a gray t-shirt, and the old brown loafers I found in a bin one day, in town. These are my ‘lazing’ clothes. My first set is for working in, the other set for church.
There’s another caw – but different from the others. It is a lone caw, of a different pitch, and much nearer.
I look up, shielding my eyes from the bright sun, shining through the leafless tree. It is a raven – which convinces me the nearby flock is a murder of crows.
I take the appearance of the raven as a good sign, and figure it is time to start fishing.
As I sit on the Old Willow’s roots, I take the fishing line and hook out of my back pocket. I reach out for the stick I’d found on my way down here this morning. I tie the line securely to one end of the stick, then checked the length. I am pleased to see I have a good six or seven feet left dangling from the stick.
I stand up, stretching away several hours of sitting, then pat my shirt pocket, making sure I remembered to bring the bait gramma had made from some bread that was going bad. Satisfied it is there, and not stupid enough to try fishing in this dead lake, I turn to leave. Luckily, a pool of good water isn’t more than three or four dozen yards away. I’ve caught plenty of fish in that one.
Just as I get turned, I am startled by a soft splash. It sounds like something perhaps the size of a dog – or maybe a gator – slipping into the water. I see the ripples – but they’re moving toward shore, instead of away. Again I can’t see the cause. Both times, the ripples looked to have originated about ten feet out from the Old Willow’s roots – my seat.
Once, I’d have been quite nervous, now. But I’ve grown up. Or, at least I like to think I have. There are lots of inexplicable sounds in the bayou. One can’t get freaked out by them.
I shrug, turn and make my way off the roots – though not without incident – a slight misstep and I’ve soaked my left loafer before reaching land.
I’ve moved about a half dozen yards west, away from the dead pool, when I hear another splash. It is slightly louder than the last one. I turn about. Pure instinct, since there was no way I am going to see anything.
Only, I do.
Another splash – much greater than the previous ones. It sounds like a tree has fallen into the small lake! I see the water erupt upward and out – but not the cause.
No tree… nothing.
I just stand there, for, like a minute. My curiosity is stronger than my fear (or common sense, I suppose), and I walk back out on the Old Willow’s roots.
I hood my eyes again and look out over the water. At first, I see nothing unusual. Then I see – or imagine I see – something - a dark blotch on the water’s surface, some distance out on the water – quite farther than where the splash had occurred.
I cannot be sure, but from these roots, it looks like a body. A human body!
I stare for some time, wondering if my eyes are playing tricks. The body of a dog, deer, or boar is a frequent thing one saw out here, drowned in the bogs. It could be a floating gator; it should be a gator! I think to myself.
But I’m somehow sure it’s a human body. In my favorite pond, more’s the rotten luck!
I make my way back to land again, lay down my fishing gear, and begin to traverse the lake, trying to find a closer look. The lake isn’t round; its borders uneven.
I soon find a spot where I can get that better look. Sure enough, the floater is human. An Outsider, judging from the hunting clothes, which look like they’re straight out of L.L. Bean. I can’t be sure of the sex, but I’m pretty sure it’s male.
I marvel at the corpse’s condition. It is bloated, but not yet much decayed. Its eyes are still fine – of course, they’d last longer than usual in this pool, since there are no fish to eat them.
“Murphy, go get he’p!” I tell myself out loud – and am finally able to turn myself away from the macabre sight.
I quickly go and collect my fishing gear, then head out toward town. I’ll be passing by my shack, of course, so I decide to stop in, drop off my gear, change my socks and get some change for some jerky. It’s best not to waste a trip into town, just to report finding a dead man!