Sunday, April 11, 2010

Driftwood

by Daniel LeMoal

Something is wrong at Crane’s Beach. I know because I've been living here and fishing The Lake all my life. If you walk a half-mile beyond the service road, you'll see a small trailer and a series of sheds. It looks like nothing, but it is my home.

It has been over two years since I started to notice the broken bones along the shoreline, cracked and as dry as driftwood. I've called Parks and Wildlife, Fisheries and even the police. They all tell me the same thing.

"This is floodland, J.P. Cows and all sorts of animals get washed away and end up in the lakes."

Since I was a boy, I have seen many things wash ashore here. I know the difference between an animal and a person.

"Thanks for the call. Next time we're out that way, we'll take a look for you. Okay?"

They never come. They figure that Crane's Beach is all rocks, no sand and no people. They are wrong. The odd family will come, looking to get away from the crowds at the sanded beaches. They put on old running shoes and brave the stones to go swimming. Sometimes they barbecue on the beach well into the evening. I have no family of my own, so when I hear them laughing and singing, it makes my heart glad. These people are my only family; even though they don't come often, they are always welcome. I try to keep the beach clean, collecting the broken bottles, rusted hooks and stray netting. But surely they see the bones. I can't keep up anymore. Crane's Beach never gets many repeat visitors these days.

One Saturday, as I'm fixing one of my motors on the dock, I see a new couple walking on the beach. They make a camp for their lawn chairs and walk towards The Lake. The man and woman both scream, as they all do when they make those first steps into the frigid water. It's a big lake that never warms up.

My dog, Mahkwa, suns himself and watches as I put the motor back together. When I'm finished, I look at him and smile. That's when I see his ears perk up; over the wind, I hear more yelling from the beach. I can hear panic in their voices.

Mahkwa is already running down the shoreline. In the water, I see the couple swimming towards a flailing set of arms. A child? Maybe. Whoever it is, they are drowning.

I jump into my fastest outboard boat. Mahkwa barks at me as I speed away from land, the boat skipping on the waves. Past the break, the couple is floating together now; as I kill the motor and drift towards them, I see that the water has turned a cloudy red.

The man is already dead. The woman still holds onto him, keeping them both afloat. Even though a piece of her neck is missing, she tries to speak.

"The girl," she says, as her eyes start to roll into the back of her head. I look further out and see a small child floating in the water, face down. It's hard to leave the woman behind, but I rev the motor and steer towards the girl. I use my net to pull her towards me; she weighs next to nothing. When I pull her into the boat, she is already cold. Her skin is scaly to the touch. I roll the girl over and her eyes open; her mouth is filled with needle-like teeth that should belong to a walleye.

I recoil but she's already bitten into my leg, tearing away a large chunk of muscle. I kick with my other leg and fall overboard. She stands in the boat, watching as I try to swim away. I don't get very far; I've lost too much blood already. From behind, I can hear her as she jumps into the water.

Not like this, not like this, I whisper to myself. But then I grow faint and realize that it won't be long before my bones are driftwood, just like all the others: being worn down by the tide until there is nothing but dust. Then, at last, Crane's Beach shall have its sand.


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Daniel LeMoal lives and writes in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. His work has previously appeared in On Spec, Apex Science Fiction & Horror Digest and Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year anthology.

4 comments:

Leatherdykeuk said...

What an excellent, creepy tale.

Jamie Eyberg said...

I was thinking of going fishing today, but now not so much.

Cate Gardner said...

Well that was tense. Nice build up and an excellent pay off.

Jim said...

Very engaging story, with a great finish.Dan paints an ominous picture in this one...........