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Sour Lake Part 3

Posted 07-27-2010 at 06:39 PM by BigwigRabbit

[SIZE=4]The lake appeared more menacing than it did before. Perhaps it was a result of being under its influence. It boiled harder, steamed and stunk putridly. I waited for the old crone. I resisted the urge to take off my shoes and put my feet in the water. I called the old crone. I threw rocks in the lake. She never appeared. I looked at where the four of us had stood. I wondered about Mark and Sheela, and I cried.<!--break-->[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]I went to the meadows. I walked through the woods. I went to the creek and I met Bernice. She had followed me she said, because I looked so sad, and because I looked as if I were visiting the places of my sadness. Had somebody died? I told her the story, though I thought she wouldn’t believe it. She said she did, but I’m not sure. She wanted to see the lake.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]I tried to dissuade her from going, but she insisted until I gave in. We didn’t stay long there and she couldn’t keep from repeating how repulsive the place was. We found our way back to the meadows and sat down in the old spot. I think I even spotted her footprint in the dried mud. Bernice sat down close to me and put her arm around me. That should have brought the old butterflies but I felt nothing. Bernice was not as pretty as Danae. [/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Why don’t we find a way to break the spell?”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]I’ve called the crone. I threw rocks. I did everything!”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Did you cross the lake?”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Are you crazy? How would I do that?”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]They have inflatable boats at camp. We’ll carry one over.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]What do you mean we? You’ll go too?” I was astounded.[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]I like you Kevin. You need to snap out of this. I’m going to help.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Wow. Thanks, Bernice.” There was a twinge of something there, even at that time.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]We set out the next morning right after breakfast, much as I had done with Danae, Mark, and Sheela. The pangs from the memories gnawed at my stomach. Bernice took my hand and the gnawing dissipated. It took until noon to inflate the boat, as we had no pump, we had to take it deflated in order to get out of camp undisturbed, and therefore we had to blow it up with our breath. It was a lot of work. We sat together on the shore of that awful lake and blew until we turned bright red. I looked up and saw Bernice’s face the color of a Roma tomato and actually burst out laughing. She smiled warmly and kissed me on the cheek, “You’re going to survive this.”[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]We paddled carefully out into the lake. Once in the middle, we found there was a strong current pulling [/SIZE][SIZE=4][I]towards[/I][/SIZE][SIZE=4] the gushing, bubbling, vicious side. We worked with all our might to keep from being pulled in and subsequently capsized. That crone must have been really strong. She made the trip seem effortless. We rowed with all our strength until we thought we were safely beyond the mysterious pull of the ferocious fountain. We bumped violently against something unseen and Bernice toppled over the side. She screamed with fear and pain as she hit the hot, fetid water. [/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]I sprang to that side of the boat where she fell in and grabbed her hand. I pulled with all I had plus some more. Energy came, from where I do not know. I whisked her out of that lake and held her to me. She shivered as if cold, though she was hot to the touch. Still, I held her until she calmed, her crying quieting to a shuddering whimper. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry I got you into this,” I said mournfully. She hugged me back and said softly, “Let’s get out of here. Our work is done.”[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]To my surprise, I knew it was. The spell was broken. I looked at Bernice and those butterflies fluttered. I smiled so hard I was afraid I’d split my lips.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]Baseball took my mind off the lake and the crone and the camp. At night I’d lie awake wondering what Kevin was doing. Had he found somebody else yet? Was he suffering the way I was? I wished he knew how sorry I felt. Then my mind would turn to the guys on the team and I’d be asleep before long. About 3 weeks into summer, around 1:30 in the afternoon, I felt the magnetism that drew me to the guys break. Suddenly, I didn’t [/SIZE][SIZE=4][I]have[/I][/SIZE][SIZE=4] to talk to them. I thought of Kevin and wondered what had happened.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]The rest of the summer passed, and in 9 weeks Kevin came home. I felt sad seeing him and I think he felt sad too, but there was something different with him. He was not possessive anymore and it seemed he had been able to let go. I asked him about it.[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Hey. How are you?”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]I’m better. How are you?”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]I think I’m better too. What happened?”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]I went back to the lake.” [/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Did you see the crone?”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]No. She wasn’t there. Somebody helped me though.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Her name is Bernice.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Oh. O.K. That’s nice. Where does she live?”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Way over there?” I asked a little hopefully.[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Yeah. We’ll see each other on breaks and long weekends. Her brother drives.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Well, that’s good. It seems like you’re happy again.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Yeah, I’m getting there. How ‘bout you?”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]I’m doing better too. I’m staying with one guy who’s pretty nice. I miss you.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]I miss you too. We had good times.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Yes. We did. Well, see ya.”[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]It took a lot of effort to go to sleep that night. I cried a long time. The cloud that hung over my head stayed through the fall. I didn’t go to any dances. I skated a lot during the winter and was not so down by spring. I decided that I had to go back to that camp. This was the last year I’d be eligible. I had to get back to that lake. I knew the spell was broken, but I was still suffering. Kevin had been able to get better there, so I figured I had to try as well.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]I found out Kevin was going too. I was really uncomfortable because I knew seeing him in that environment with Bernice would be weird for them and painful for me. I almost backed out, but knowing I had to visit that lake again spurred me on. The first day was really hard. I felt lonely and sad. I saw Kevin first. He was at the dining hall courtyard, waiting. I said hello and we kind of stood there awkwardly for a moment. [/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]Bernice came up and offered her hand, “You are Danae! How are you doing? I’m so sorry about what happened to you two.” I began to cry. What a wonderful person. She totally understood the situation and she removed my worries with three simple sentences. She hugged me and I knew we’d be friends for a long time. I got myself together and thanked her for her kindness. She said we’d go to the lake first thing in the morning.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]First thing in the morning, we were horrified to find out that a new procedure was being used. Roll was called [/SIZE][SIZE=4][I]after[/I][/SIZE][SIZE=4] breakfast. Counselors were now taking their groups to the assigned areas instead of people going on their own. Bernice and I were in a group together, but Kevin was in a separate group. We could see no way we’d be able to go to the lake. Everything was being watched more closely. The boathouse was locked. There was even a low fence around the camp perimeter. We couldn’t even go to the meadows.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]I guess some kids had gone into the forest last year and gotten lost. Kevin didn’t even know about it because he was so involved in his own troubles. Now no one was allowed out without a chaperone. How were we going to go to the lake? Bernice came up with the answer and I slapped myself twice for not having thought of it. We’d go out at night. Bernice and I decided to tell Kevin at lunch. Then we’d plan how we were going to escape. [/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]At lunch, Kevin was sitting with a friend. I was annoyed because we didn’t want anyone else to know what we were going to do. Kevin introduced his friend. “Hey Danae. Hi Beatrice. This is Arnold Lane.” I looked again, shocked. [/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Did you say ‘Lane’?”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Yes, I did.”[/SIZE]
“’[SIZE=4]Lane’, as in ‘Sheela Lane’?”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]The same.” Arnold smiled.[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]How is Sheela? Is she here? What about Mark?”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]One question at a time,” Arnold said easily. “Sheela is fine. No, she’s not here. She’s joined a drum and bugle corps.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]I didn’t know she played,” Kevin said.[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Yeah, she picked up the drums right after she came back from camp two years ago. Mark is a drummer. Did you know that?”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]No. I guess she and Mark still talk?”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Talk? Woah. If they don’t get married, I’ll be really surprised.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]Kevin and I looked at each other. A wave of despair washed over me. I pushed it away as best I could and focused on what could be done rather than that which could not be saved. They didn’t drink the water. They didn’t drink the water. Those words rattled around in my head like the marble on a roulette wheel. That crone was a liar. [/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]Bernice and I told Kevin an Arnold our plan. Arnold had heard of the lake, but knew nothing of outcome of the drinking of the water. He sat and listened in gaping horror at our story. He did not hesitate to join our scheme. His eyes held a deep earnestness when he told me he’d do whatever it took to help. I almost began to cry again. How did I ever get friends like these?[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]Luckily for us, the camp had not yet installed spotlights or motion detectors. We should be able to get out and to the lake without difficulty. We all had flashlights. The question was: what were we going to do once we got to the lake? Kevin said that the crone would not come. He had gone out on a boat. We couldn’t be sure what had broken the spell. Was it simply going out on the boat? Or, was it Bernice’s little bath she took? Also, the spell was broken. Would we have to do anything at all?[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]In four nights the moon would be full and high beginning at 10:00. Lights out was at 9:30. Our consensus was that people usually went right to sleep at this point in the camp. At first they’d stay awake much of the night, but by now the routine had set in and people were tired at night. We all snuck out easily, mainly because we’d taped our bed springs and oiled the door hinges. We met by the fence and were on our way.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]The lake looked less dangerous at night. You couldn’t see the color and you could only hear the violent bubbling at the far end. Arnold was appalled at the sight of the lake and stepped up close to me, as Kevin was holding tight to Bernice. We were not there ten minutes when, to our alarm, we heard the unmistakable plop of an oar hitting the water and of water hitting the bow of a boat.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]The moon shone down on the lake making it black where the water was not obscured by steam. The moon illuminated the steam, making an opaque mask, hiding the approaching vessel. The crone appeared finally, uglier, if possible, than before.[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Ah. The lovebirds have returned. But what is this? We have a different configuration now.” She surveyed us critically.[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]You are a dirty liar!” Kevin screamed.[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Now, now, boy. Let’s simmer down. I can fix everything. I can put things back the way they were.” She smiled her friendly smile. She said she could fix everything. She could put things back. I thought of Kevin and I together, again walking through meadows and forests, holding hands. I thought of us skating together, laughing, playing pinball. I couldn’t resist. [/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]What do we do?”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Simple, my dark beauty. Drink of the water.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]But that is what ruined us!” I retorted.[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Believe me,” she said sweetly, “It will put everything back to the way it was before.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Before what?” Kevin asked in quiet, dangerous voice. He was holding tight to Bernice. She seemed to be frozen. Arnold was not moving either and his eyes looked glazed.[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]You little tripe!” The crone was now in a sudden rage. “You and your little trollop there ruined everything! Don’t you see? I feed on young love. I consume it with the pleasure of a glutton. It was bad enough when your stupid friends didn’t drink! But you! You had too come here with this saucy wench and ruin my feasting!”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Mark and Sheela were smart you old hag. Also, Bernice is an honorable girl, so you’d better stop insulting her.” I said this with courage I did not know I possessed. The crone turned her rage on me.[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]You’re lucky to be free you self-centered scullery. Yours was the better part of my feasting!”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]We both drank the water. That was just its effect on me. I have apologized to Kevin and have paid a heavy price.” I spoke quietly and with all the dignity I could muster. “Now go back to your hole and leave us our lives in peace.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Ho-ho!” She cackled wildly. “It’s not over yet. I have one more card to play.”[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]With creeping dread, I became immobile. I tried to speak but could not. While I had been talking to the crone, the same had happened to Kevin. I looked at him, but he gazed back at me unseeing. I wondered why I could still see and think. Arnold and Bernice emerged from their stupor and the old crone addressed them. [/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Do you wish to help your friends?”[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]I tried to scream, to warn them that she was a liar. They had heard nothing of the conversation I’d had.[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]You can make everything better. All you have to do is drink the water. You, my young and handsome man, do you wish to possess this lovely lady?” She gestured towards me. “Drink of the water.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]No! She’s a liar!” I screamed, but silently.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]Arnold looked at the water. He looked at Bernice who seemed stunned that he was considering it. He bent down and cupped water in his hand. Despair flooded my head. He couldn’t be doing this. This could not be happening. He stood, the water kept tightly in his hands, not a drop spilling. He threw it in the crone’s face. She recoiled from the hot, spoiled water and lost her balance, falling headlong into the lake.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]It was dark so none of us are sure if we saw what we saw. We all thought we saw skinny, wrinkly arms grab her and pull her under. It was further obscured because at that time the bubbling fountain on the other end of the lake began to erupt in earnest. With increasing violence, it sent waves and thick steam across the lake. Whatever, the crone and her boat disappeared. When the lake calmed again a small gnome-like man approached us from around the far shore.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]He was less than 4 feet tall. His mouth was sad but his eyes were friendly. He addressed us without greeting, “She is gone now. I’ll answer your questions. First, yes, she was a liar.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]How did our spell break?” I asked.[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Bernice put her life on the line for both of you. I tested her resolve by dumping her in the lake.” [/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]I walked over and hugged Bernice (Kevin was standing there with his arm around her so I hugged him too.)[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Am I OK?” asked Arnold, “I touched the water.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]You have destroyed that crone. You are more than OK. You will be rewarded.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]You said ‘that’ crone not ‘the’ crone. Are there more?” asked Bernice.[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]They come from below the bubbling fountain. There are more and more and more. My job, though I don’t get to do it often, is to break spells when people come back with that intent.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Could I have broken the spell without Bernice?” asked Kevin.[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]It has only happened once in 500 years, where someone broke the spell themselves. They remained unhappy though.”[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]Thank you for helping us,” I said.[/SIZE]
“[SIZE=4]That’s my job, but you are very welcome.” His eyes remained friendly, but somehow looked sadder, as if he knew that we would feel some pain for the rest of our lives.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=4]I never saw Arnold again. I heard he became a wealthy tycoon with a nice, happy family. I got married eventually. I was happy for the most part, but I always have dreams of Kevin, of how it was or would be now. He has dreams too. Last I heard, he married Bernice and has a nice family and a nice life. We don’t keep in touch. It’s just too painful.

The End...Finally....Again
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