The lake was poison. It was a disease, its infectious purples and blacks seeping from the creek and onto the ground, flowing through the grass, withering it away and replacing its luscious greens and yellows with browns and oranges. The sun didn’t help. It was red, burning everything and only revealing the lumps of garbage that loftily drifted on the lake. That lake was horrible.
But it was all the boy knew. And it was all he wanted.
He asked his mother every day to sit by the lake. “Mother,” he would say, “mother I know it’s disgusting. I know the wind could blow all too hard and the water could splash up onto my face and it could get all into my eyes and I could be blind and even more disabled than I already am. But I like it. Mother, I like it very much. It speaks to me. I can hear it. Loud and clear, I can hear it.”
And so the boy would sit by the lake all day. For hours, upon hours, upon hours. The sun would rise and set, and the boy’s mother would come by. She’d say. “It’s time to get up now. It’s time to get up and go to bed. You need to get some rest. Maybe rest will make you better.”
But the boy would say, “no mother. I want to stay here. Just a little longer. Only another hour.”
“In an hour the coyotes will be out. And all of the lions, the tigers, the bears, and the scorpions. They will come and get you. Snatch you up and carry you away. Drag you to their dens and plop you right in there,” his mother would reply.
“Only thirty more minutes mother, I promise.”
“Ah, but in thirty minutes the crocodiles will come out of the lake. They will drag you down in there and hold you tight, until you drown.”
The boy would be confused. “But I want to go down in the water, mother. I want to see it down there. To know what it’s like.”
“Okay. Why don’t you try diving? Swimming in the deep, seeing what’s it’s like to be among them. To be one of them.”
“Thank you mother,” the boy would say. And then he would get up, stand to his feet, his broken legs not ailing him any longer. And then he would leap. He would dive into the lake, and all of the water would turn blue, the plants would turn green again, and the sun would come back, a beautiful yellow color.
And under that lake, the boy would see things he had never seen before. A fish with four legs would come running up to him. The boy would be scared, but then the fish would wrap its arms around him, and he would know everything would be alright. The creatures would run around him, chanting merrily, singing their happy songs. And everything would be okay. The boy would have the life he had always wanted.
And when he came back up, his mother would gasp. She would laugh and grow a smile that would spread across her entire face. She would run forward and hug her son. The two would hug so tight, and smile so wide, and both be so happy. And then the boy would say, “come on in with me, mother! Let’s enjoy the water together!”
And his mother would say, “that sounds wonderful,” and she would jump in with him and they would both be happy as a mother and son could be.
But that’s not what happened.
“What happened to your son, Mrs. Matthews?” asked Officer Philips. Brent was a tall man, with chestnut skin starkly contrasted by radiant blue eyes.
“My son fell.” The pale woman looked up and down, scanning the banal gray room. She shook her fists, but the handcuffs were too tight. “He was running near the water. He was so happy. And then he tripped, and fell into the lake.”
“Your son was paralyzed. How could he have been running?”
“I made a mistake. I apologize. He was sitting by the lake, when a crocodile came up and dragged him down under. I tried to save him, but I couldn’t.”
“You live in Texas, Mam. There are no crocodiles. The lake at your house doesn’t run into an open ocean or a stream. It’s contained. You see how your story doesn’t add up?”
“What are you accusing me of?”
“Nothing.” The officer took a seat. “I’m not accusing you of anything. I only want the facts. Your son is dead. He was found in a lake. You were found sitting right by the lake, having made no attempt to save your son.”
“You think I pushed my son in?”
“I simply want the facts, Mrs. Matthews. That’s all I want. The facts.”
“You have them.”
“Not all of them.”
The woman looked up at Officer Philips, and a single tear dripped from her eye, though her face remained expressionless. “I love my son very much,” she said.
“I don’t doubt that, Mrs. Matthews. If you truly loved your son, I must urge you to tell me everything you know about what happened to him.”
Outside came the caw of a single black crow.
Mr. Mahogany rocked back and forth in his wooden chair. He was an aging man, and his skin was cracking all over. He couldn’t much bear to go outside anymore. He was sensitive to the sun. Every day was the same for him. He would rock back and forth in his chair for hours, until his daughter brought him food and tucked him into bed. But he hadn’t seen his daughter in a while. Come to think of it, he was quite hungry.
There was a knock at the door.
“Melinda?” croaked Mr. Mahogany.
“No,” came a voice from outside. “This is Officer Philips. I’m with the police.”
“Old Philly? Oh, it’s been so long. Come in, come in please.”
The door creaked open, and in came a man. Mr. Mahogany couldn’t see him very well, but he must have been Philly. It had been so long since Philly had stopped by for tea.
“Mr. Mahogany, I need to ask you a few questions.”
“Oh of course Philly, of course. It’s been so long. How is Susanna? How are the kids? I hear Danny had an acting career ahead of him.”
“I don’t know who you think I am, sir. I’m Officer Philips, I’m a police officer. I don’t believe we’ve met before.”
The man took a few steps closer. He became a bit clearer.
‘“Hey! You’re not Philly? Who are you?”
“I’m with the police, sir. I need to ask you some questions about your daughter.”
“My daughter? Of course, of course. Where has Melinda been recently? She’s such a lovely woman. Hey, do you happen to know where she is?”
“I do, but-”
“Oh you must tell me Philly! It’s been so long since we’ve seen each other.”
“Your daughter is under suspicion of murdering her son, Mr. Mahogany.”
My Mahogany chuckled. “Oh, that’s Melinda for you, it is. She never liked that boy very much. I didn’t either. With that disability of his. My father always told me that God doesn’t like boys like that. That’s why he gave them that disability.”
Officer Philips got down onto his knees. “You’re not surprised? Mr. Mahogany, did your daughter ever say anything to you about wanting to kill her son?”
“Oh of course, Philly, of course, but that’s just her. You must get over it. Now, I think we’ve talked about my daughter enough. Take a seat, why don’t you. Have some tea.”
“What about your son in law, Mr. Mahogany? Do you think he could have had any part in the murder of your grandson?”
“I don’t have a son in law, Philly. I don’t know what you’re on about.”
“Yes you do. James Matthews. He married your daughter last year.”
“Melinda is married! No, that can’t be true. You’re lying to me. You’re trying to trick me. Why would you do such a cruel thing? Wait a minute, you aren’t Philly! Who are you?”
Officer Philips got back up onto his feet. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Mahogany. Have a nice day.”
He walked out the door and shut it behind him.
“You dirty cheat!” screamed Mr. Mahogany as he left. “You stay away from my daughter!” He leaned back in his chair, and rocked back and forth.
He kept rocking for hours.
The days kept passing by, but his beloved Melinda never came back to see him. Nor did anyone else.
Mr. Mahogany was too old to walk. He was told old to get out of his chair. He was too old to feed himself.
He died in that chair a few days later, because nobody cared enough to feed him.
Melinda Matthews rocked back and forth in her chair in the gray room. She tried to free her hands, but the cuffs were locked on too tightly. She began to scream and cry for help. The door burst open and men came rushing in. “What is it, Mrs. Matthews?” they asked. “Has somebody hurt you?”
Mrs. Matthews stared at them all, unsure of what to say. “Yes,” was what she decided on eventually. “God has hurt me.”
“What do you mean Mrs. Matthews?” The voice asked. That was odd. It was only one voice now, not twenty. And when Mrs. Matthews shook her head a little, she saw that there was only one man standing in front of her, not a crowd. She didn’t recognize this man.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“My name is Deputy Johnson,” said the man. “Is there anything wrong?”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Matthews. “Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!”
“What is it?”
“Everything is wrong, can’t you see? The room is spinning, you are multiplying. Demons are coming out of the wall, they’re grabbing me and pulling me in a thousand directions. It hurts. Oh God it hurts. It hurts so much. I can’t take it anymore. Help me Deputy Johnson, help me. Please for the love of God HELP ME!”
Mrs. Matthews heard somebody say her name
That was the last thing she ever heard.
The lake was horrible. It was almost black, with mud and trash in every inch of it. As he stood by it and looked down, Officer Philips couldn’t even see the bottom of it. And it wasn’t very deep.
The sun was setting right before his eyes. It dipped down into the horizon, the yellows and the oranges transfixing the officer as he struggled to take his eyes off of it. It burnt his eyes. It burnt his whole body, actually. He looked at the lake just to get away from it. Looking at it again, it wasn’t actually so bad. Maybe it wasn’t horrible, just misunderstood.
Officer Philips felt his phone start to ring. He snatched it out of his pocket and rested it by his ear. “Hello,” he said.
“Deputy Johnson. What is it?”
“It’s Mrs. Matthews. She’s gone.” Philips almost couldn’t believe it. “She had a sudden seizure in the middle of the interrogation room,” continued Deputy Johnson. “Came out of nowhere. Really goes to show, huh, we can never-”
Officer Philips hung up and shoved the phone back into his pocket. He stared out into the distance, and saw the sun setting again. Again, it hurt his eyes. He didn’t want to have to deal with it anymore, so he looked back at the lake. That was better. His eyes didn’t hurt so much anymore. He took a step toward the lake.
“Come,” he heard it say. It called to him. He wanted to jump in, to swim, so see what it was like under all the garbage. But he couldn’t move.
He was paralyzed.
His legs didn’t work, he had to remember that. Maybe, if he was lucky, his mother would let him stay by the lake all day, and she wouldn’t make him do his homework.
But wait, he wasn’t paralyzed. As he shook his leg, he was amazed to find that it worked. The lake must have healed it. If the lake could heal his legs, what else could it do? He could find out now. He could jump in and see what it was like under the water. He could finally walk.
He smiled wide, and leapt into the lake, plunging to the bottom.
“Officer Philips!” screamed Deputy Johnson. It had been a day and a half since he had heard from him, and he was starting to get worried. As he made his way into the backyard of the old Matthews home, he found himself having to shine his flashlight. It was getting dark.
He spent half an hour looking to no avail. Suddenly, he had an idea. He made his way over to the side of the lake, where he shone his flashlight down to the bottom. There, he found what he was looking for.
Panicking, he took out his phone and dialed three numbers. “911, what is your emergency?” he heard from the other end.
“This is Deputy Johnson. Officer Philips is dead. He’s at the bottom of the lake we found that boy in. At the Matthews home. I don’t know what happened. Send some men over NOW!” He hung up the phone and shoved it back in his pocket.
As Deputy Johnson stared at his old friend’s body, the urge to fetch him out kept growing, but he managed to control himself. Suddenly, Officer Philips’ body began to change. He didn’t look so old anymore, so muscular, so strong.
He didn’t look much like an adult anymore, but only a little boy.
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