top of page

"Incident at South Pitch Lake" by Nicolina Torres

Four teenagers have a rough night on the lake.


Wet blanket.




And two others—boys.

     As far as Molly was concerned, she didn’t mind being the downer, a fun-ruiner, and if she’d been a better one, she wouldn’t be here freezing on this rowboat in the middle of the night, in the middle of a lake that promised to be filled with the nearest county’s sewage. No one told her that, she just guessed. During her childhood (she said “childhood” like it occurred a million years ago, and she’d spent her youth in some Russian boarding school instead of a middle America cornhole) her family occasionally lunched on fried chicken along South Pitch Lake. Back then, she would find freshwater clam shells, collect them. Add them to the ephemera of crap gathering on her desk at home, next to stacks of pen pal letters and mixed tapes. But back in those days (olden days, days of yore) you didn’t see dead fish on the shore and news reporters didn’t report finding syringes in the sand. Yes, that’s how she knew this lake was now the last stop for every toilet in Yost County; like any biological creature, the environment could be counted on to deteriorate in quality as the years went on.

     What a hard lesson to learn before you turn eighteen.

     Back in grade school, and this was the 80s, mind you, she thought saving dolphins and the ozone layer would be a bigger part of her adult life, not that she was an adult yet. Not that anyone considered her an adult, hold your horses—her and Ashley were sitting there in a boat, hoping Ashley’s ex Derrick, who looks exactly like Kurt Cobain, would find a reason to fall back in love. Nothing about them read MATURE. Not yet. They fake English accents at the mall, for Christ’s sake. But it’s strange how when you’re a kid, burning to death under a big hole in the sky or avoiding tuna are the scariest things in the world, not losing a great love or stepping on needles while making sandcastles. And certainly not sitting here in the blackness with three other teenagers, listening to crickets play violin on a shoreline you can’t see.

     Fog hovered gently above the black water, but Molly couldn’t catch sight of anything two yards beyond the boat. Even the moon didn’t give a darn about their situation. Molly imagined they were floating in a black hole, the epilogue of an apocalypse. The only humans who survived the Big Bang, the last nuke. Occasionally, they came across a piece of driftwood in the water. It would come out of nowhere, like a human limb, pale under Derrick’s flashlight.

     As he threw the now empty strawberry Boone’s bottle over the side and Ash did her best to flirt her way back into his arms, Molly crossed her own, pouting. Her hatchback in the parking lot felt a million miles away.

     “Are you a sourpuss?”

     That came from Sean, Ash’s “bait” to get Molly to go on the boat with her that night. Molly lost her first, last boyfriend to the scourges of female jealousy, leaving her with little interest in starting the engine of another failed romance. She repeated the mantra of all high school girls—I will never love again. But Ash was her best friend, and desperately wanted to accept Derrick and Sean’s invitation. To Molly, it sounded like Derrick was just bored and thought it would be fun spending the night razzing the crap out of Ash about her weight. The kid was predictable: Call Ash, get sex, run. This repeat behavior would be funny if you read about it in YM Magazine. You’d make fun of the girl who wrote the confession, think she’s stupid.

     “I’m cold,” Molly told Sean, trying to maintain the peace treaty.

     “You’re just all…stiff.” He did an impression of Molly as a robot, with jointless arms. The boat rocked and Ash squealed. “I got some weed if you wanna loosen up. I swear it’s not laced with PCP.” He turned to Derrick next to him. “My cousin bought some weed from this strange dude in front of his house. He thought he was on Mary Poppins’ carousel for hours. Puked his guts out.” He addressed the two girls again. “That’s how you know it’s PCP. So. Um.”

     “Wow,” said Molly. “Way to really sell it.”

After lighting a joint, the boy held it out, his arm shaking. Molly could tell he really, really, oh so badly wanted the girls to get high. But why? It’s not like anyone was going anywhere any time soon.

     Not one to ask questions, Ash took the joint from him and only Molly knew she’d never smoked before. Well, now the guys knew too. The girl held it with two hands, her pinkies up, and barely touched her lips to the paper as she squinted, like she was tasting a fine wine. Once she got a good breath, her lungs caught fire. As Ash coughed herself to the brink of death, the boys laughed, and the boat swayed again. The dark cut off their voices; they all sounded like they were in a paper cup.

     Molly seethed because her friends did not touch drugs, and it wasn’t because Nancy Reagan passed out those green Just Say No stickers in fifth grade. These girls were preppy, they were former neighborhood babysitters, they were good girls, the kind who call boys’ houses and hang up the phone when they answer. Or they used to. Man, those were the days, the days before Caller ID. Now you had Derrick’s stepmom calling Ash’s mom, wondering why there were fifteen prank calls from that number in one afternoon. Caller ID ruined everything.

     Sean seemed concerned about Molly not partaking in his party favors. He tried to hide it, but he kept glancing at Derrick. Ash busied herself making cutesy faces at Mr. Cobain.

     “What music do you like?” Sean asked Molly.

     “Live. Pearl Jam. The usual.”

     “Usual suspects. Nice.”

     Sean inhaled the joint like he was in the ocean and his scuba equipment died. Molly smirked, thinking the kid’s lungs probably looked like those illustrations of the ozone hole from elementary school. Derrick took the moment to lean forward and give Ashley big puppy eyes.

     “Did I tell you you’re wonderful?” he demurred.

     Gross. Molly (told every naked detail about Ash’s relationship because what else are they supposed to talk about) knew “Wonderful” by Adam Ant was Their Song and this amused her greatly because it doesn’t exactly have the most romantic lyrics. Appropriate. Though Derrick had never laid a finger on Ash. Even Ash wasn’t that hopeless. Or. Maybe.

     Molly grabbed Ashley’s hand and squeezed it. Like a lifeline to sanity. Remember. Call Ash, get sex, run. That’s his, what do they call it on The Commish? His modus operandi. I’m digging my nails in your hand, so you remember this.

     Ash smiled at Molly as if Molly were overreacting. Ash released her hand. Sean gave her the joint to finish. Derrick twirled the flashlight at the starless sky, so it looked like a Hollywood premiere. Just as their voices were sliced in half by the dark around them, the white light didn’t get close to the clouds. Derrick gave up and handed the flashlight to Sean before rowing with the one paddle they brought with them. The soft sound of plastic against water was soothing.

     Molly relaxed when Ash put her head on her shoulder. Molly’s job was to keep her friend from drowning on this ill-fated excursion. With her around, both these boys couldn’t find a way to get Ash naked and dumb and HELLO, did we not think that’s what this whole midnight rendezvous was about?

     Molly’s interpretation of Derrick’s likely conversation with Sean earlier in the day:

     “Hey, I know this chick who’ll do whatever I want.”


     “Why don’t we ask her to go on my brother’s boat tonight? At South Pitch Lake. We can totally have a threesome with her.”



     To make it extra clear that these were the best laid plans of mice and men, Molly tightened her pretzeled arms. Derrick eyed her and snickered.

     “I think we’re in the middle of the lake,” he said to Sean, who had a hard time breathing straight. “Check it out. Told you I’d get here.”

     “What was that?” cried Ash, glancing around.

     Everyone got quiet. Derrick grabbed the flashlight from Sean and turned it off. Molly could only see drawn outlines of the three people around her. Everyone in the boat stopped breathing because they didn’t want to be the one to make noise. There was a strange feeling of being watched from a far beach, from the even farther woods.

     “I only hear grasshoppers,” Sean finally said.

     “Crickets,” corrected Molly.



     “Chill out,” Derrick muttered to Ashley as he used the oar to take a few more lunges. “You’re high. That’s all. It’s just us. No one’s gonna be out this late. Tomorrow’s a workday. Suckaaas.”

     “What’s that mean?”

     Derrick leaned his back, put his arms around the edge of the boat, amused at Molly’s attitude.

     “Suckers work a nine to five,” he reiterated. “Working for the man. Making money for fat cats. Smart people don’t do that.”

     “What do you plan on doing after graduation?”

     “Not a nine to five.”


     A quiet warning from Ash to stop cock-blocking but let’s be honest, she’d need Napoleon’s army, Hannibal’s elephants to keep the girl away from Derrick’s groin. Molly took the hint and sat back, determined to just be Ash’s silent lifeguard. She tried not to be too sore about it.

     “You’re no fun.” Derrick declared.

     “I take that as a compliment.” Molly wasn’t lying.

     “Come on, man.” Sean started getting twitchy, his breathing little gasps. He twirled in his seat as if a hand were about to reach out from all sides. “Let’s get out of here. I don’t wanna do this. Please. I don’t wanna do this. I wanna go home.”

     Derrick wasn’t having it. “We’re in the middle of the lake. This is the best part. You know,” He cocked an eyebrow at his audience, “I heard stories about this place when I was a kid. Stories that’ll give you nightmares.”

     “The guy with the hook? The baby crying on the bridge? Please.”

     Molly quickly shut her trap. She realized it really wasn’t that easy. Somewhere not far from them, a fish batted the water, disappeared.

     “What did you hear?” Ash asked her ex politely.

     “You know,” shrugged Derrick. “Something living in this lake. Remember when they found that girl last year? Found her floating in the water with half her body gone. Her guts were hanging out. But something ate her heart. Wasn’t no fish either. Claw marks were found on her stomach and whatever it was, used their thumbs to push her eyeballs out. They never found ‘em. The eyeballs, I mean. Never found the bottom half of her body.”

     “Not surprised,” said Molly. “It’s a two-thousand-acre lake.”

     Ash shivered, made a cute chihuahua noise, like Derrick’s blathering set off pheromones, but Molly had it on good authority Vampire in Brooklyn was too hardcore for a girl like Ashley. Internally, her best friend had to be freaking out right now. After all, they were alone. On a boat. With two idiots. Molly yawned.

     “I remember when that happened,” she ceded, not feeling scared because again, no one else was dim enough to be out at this hour. “Her name was um, Brooke. Uh… I think she won that track scholarship a year earlier. She was a sophomore. Yeah. I remember that. But it wasn’t a monster who killed her. The newspaper said someone broke into her house and dragged her here. Get your facts straight.”

     “But she lived nearby,” argued Derrick. “The trailer park’s two miles-”

     Molly shushed him. The trio watched her touch her chin to her shoulder and cock her head. It wasn’t that she heard something, it was that she didn’t hear anything at all. The empty abyss and waveless water had the boat sitting still, as if they were on stage and theatergoers patiently waited for them to speak their lines. Lots of things watched them, an entire audience of trees and who else and whatnot could see them. You can’t see us, but we can see you.

     “The crickets,’ she whispered.

     “Grasshoppers,” Sean offered weakly, obviously overbaked.

     “No. It’s like… Do you hear that? The crickets are gone. There were hundreds, thousands of them. They’re gone.”

     Molly had no explanation, she just wanted company in her newfound knowledge, and boy, she wished she’d kept her mouth shut. Cold, early spring mornings (this counted as morning, right?) couldn’t have killed off the whole population at once. Maybe that’s why she said something. Maybe one of her companions could ease her mind. Maybe Sean would surprise them all and razzle dazzle her with scientific facts about cricket migration patterns.

     They didn’t. He didn’t.

     “Not funny, Moll,” uttered Ash as she pushed herself closer. “Why are you trying to scare me?”

     “I’m just pointing it out.”

     “Maybe it’s the thing that ate half of Brooke,” hissed Derrick. He turned the flashlight on and shoved it under his chin, contorting his face into a black and white Halloween mask. “You know how birds don’t make noises when they’re scared? When a hawk’s around? That’s why the crickets shut up. There’s something out there.”

     Annoyed by her own fright, Molly snatched the flashlight from him. Just like the conch shell in that one movie with a shirtless Balthazar Getty—he (or she) who holds the flashlight, is in control of the situation. Gimme. My turn. Molly pointed the high beam at Derrick. He sat there cool as A.C. Slater, and to keep the mood light, he smiled at her as he reached over and took it back and turned it off, but not before Molly saw something in the boat she hadn’t seen before.

     In the thin curtain of dark, she spotted it sticking out from under the tarp, under the bench the boys sat on. For the smallest millisecond, she wondered if her contacts blurred. Were those two cement blocks? Rope? With the light off again, the boys didn’t notice Molly’s confusion. Or how her eyes dilated.

     “I wanna go back,” she announced before looking to Ash for approval. “That’s it. I’m cold. I wanna go back now. I’m serious.”

     “We’re not going back,” Derrick said this as if he were talking to a bothersome toddler. “We’ve only been out here for what? An hour? And it’ll take like thirty minutes to find our way back. No. No way.”

     “I didn’t even get pictures yet.”

     Ashley pulled a Polaroid camera from under her jacket bottom that Molly’d forgotten about. Ash had no photographs of Derrick because he went to another school and refused to take one with her and with all the wisdom of a lovelorn high school girl with nothing to lose, she thought that being trapped on a boat meant she could force him. He had nowhere to go.

     Neither did they.

     “I wanna go back,” Molly replied, cemented in her stubbornness. She tried to make herself bigger by sitting up straighter.

     “You just don’t like him,” whined Ashley.

     “Yeah,” Derrick’s laugh echoed. “You just don’t like me.”

     “Come on,” Molly glared at Ash though Ash couldn’t tell. “I know you’re on a magical mystery tour right now, but I’m done. Sober up. You were never going together. He’s never gonna be your boyfriend. He’s graduating in a month! I’m done with this. For real. You can do your drive-bys with someone else.”

     “Drive-bys” were what Ash called driving past Derrick’s house in the middle of the night to see if his bedroom light was on even though his stepmom said on the phone, he wasn’t home.

     “Do a favor for me for a change,” Molly continued. “Tell Romeo to get us back to the docks.”

     Ash started to cry.

     Word vomit, something Molly had been cursed with, a side effect of having to raise three brothers. Tough love too—if your girlfriends couldn’t give it, you wouldn’t get it. Ash still operated on the assumption that some people are just misunderstood, and this was no longer acceptable. Not with two cement blocks and rope on board this boat.

     Maybe Molly overreacted, maybe not. Having three brothers, she’d learned it was better to expect the worst. Across from her, Derrick had become very still. He stared at her as if daring her to say more.

     Ash huffed and threw her hands up. “If you wanna go, we’ll go. Whatever.”


     A large thing fell into the water, an unknown distance away.


     That’s what it sounded like. PLOP. Whatever the object was, it had heft, some weight, like a boulder tossed in on purpose. Such an alien presence on their placid little black planet. The sound stunned even the boys. Everyone craned their necks trying to figure out where the noise came from. The boat slowly turned as they moved around.

     “Fish,” said Derrick, sounding not so sure.

     “Probably a limb from a tree,” Molly countered.

     “Alligator…?” asked Ashley.

     “There are no alligators in Kentucky,” Molly pointed out.

     “I just realized,” said Sean,” I haven’t heard any grasshoppers lately.”

     Ash stuck her face in her friend’s coat collar. Molly’s heart began a horse race. She wondered how long it would take for whatever that was—alligator, Brooke’s ghost, Aquaman—to swim under the water and reach them. That plop rang in her ears. What a strong, purposeful statement. I don’t care if you hear me. I hope you heard me.

     “That sounded super heavy,” whispered Ash.

     Molly came to her senses. “It was a tree branch. That’s it. Come on.” She reached for the oar at Derrick’s feet, wanting it for more than a few reasons. “The booze is gone, the pot’s gone. No reason to get a cold or be…”

     The disappearing act happened so fast, she blinked and missed it.

     Most of it. Not the “kerplunk”, not the splash. Not the one kick of a gym shoe above the water. From Molly’s standpoint, it looked like Sean decided to do a sideways swan dive. Gravity seemed to grab the hair on the top of his head and just yank him down. Must have surprised Sean too. There was no “Oh no” or “What’s happening” or “Vayan con Dios, amigos” and sometimes that’s a blessing but Molly doesn’t want to think of all the scenarios this would be a blessing for.

     What a waste of good shoes.

     He’s in the toilet water.


     None of the appropriate thoughts that come from seeing a guy abandon ship. The silence was so thick among the remaining three on the boat as they sat staring at Sean’s spot in disbelief. As if they expected him to be there and their eyes just didn’t compute. The weed? The Boone’s? Nope, he’s in the lake. Their Oregon Trail party has one less member and he ain’t gone because of dysentery.

     After the shock wore off, they sprang into action. Ash fell on her knees, her hands cupping her lower face like she might sneeze. Derrick stood, wobbling the boat, zipping the flashlight all over the water where Sean vanished. He traded with Molly, who had been gripping the oar with trade simulator strength. She wasn’t happy with the exchange until she felt the weight of the flashlight. Comforted, she moved the beam slower than he did as he used the oar to tap the water. Dip the oar below the surface to touch Sean. They could only see a murky two inches below the surface and the kid wasn’t there.

     As usual, Molly’s thoughts focused on the practical. Okay. Who’s going in? It’s me, right? Of course, it’s me. She shook off her jacket, but Ash stopped her, squeezed her arms till they hurt.

     “Don’t!” Ash yelped. She lowered her voice, nodded at the water while tearing up again. “I saw…something. I…um…oh God…” She ran her fingers over her face. “We have to leave. Oh God. Oh God…”

     “What’d you see?”

     “Yeah,” said Derrick, almost accusingly. “Why’d he jump?”

     “He got pulled in!” Ashley cried and her voice stopped two yards from the boat, where all their voices stopped.

      The other two stared at her.

     “Bullshit.” Molly hated feeling helpless. “He’s gonna drown. We gotta go in to get ‘im. I mean, it’s toilet water. The sewers probably-”

     “It had nails.” Ash sobbed in her hands. “Long nails. Long as fingers. Grabbed his face.”

     All of Derrick’s bravado left the building. He’d gone from A.C. Slater to not even Screech; mumbling and cursing under his breath about how his dad would kill him and then his brother would show up to kick his dead body. He sat on his bench and rubbed the oar, wondering out loud whether he should go to shore to get help.

     Molly figured at this point, none of them were going in after Sean. Ash made sure of that with her imaginary monster story.

     “We have to go to the police,” Molly told Derrick. “Water rescue. Firetrucks. Lots of men. Crowds of people. President Clinton.”

     “We can’t. I, I mean. Fine. Whatever.”

     The rippling of water on Ash’s side got everyone’s attention. By instinct, the three squatted in the middle of the boat trying to avoid getting too close to the sides. Their heads turned every which way. Under normal circumstances, they would have thought it was a fish. A big fish.

     “How far are we from the shore?” murmured Molly.

     Derrick shrugged. “I dunno. We’re in the middle.”

     “How do you know?”

     Molly stretched her neck and raised the flashlight high up to shine a light on where she heard the noise.

     “Do you see anything?” whispered Ash.

     Like all the other branches floating in the water, the head appeared glowing an obscene peach, stood out as something alien in the brackish water, space flotsam just floating by. Sean’s cheeks had a sheen to them, dark bloody lines ran along the left side of his face, the one she could see. And did she mention gnarly, grizzled red strands came out of the holes where his eyes once blinked? The holes looked like ground beef.

     Molly gasped and covered her mouth with her hand.

     “Whaaat?” whined Ash. “What do you see?”

     The boat tipped.

     Just as Molly got to thinking they were too vulnerable, the boat tipped.


     A strong force shoved the side she sat on and turned everything upside down and the three of them went sailing into the air. Molly flailed, disoriented until she hit the water face first, the cold shocking her. This is when she lost her only weapon. The flashlight, still on, faded on its way down, small bits of greenish algae floating in its light until it was swallowed by the wheel of life spinning on the bottom of the lake in secret. I’m in the ozone layer.

     Surfacing, Molly spit and almost threw up. Her contacts burned. There’s toilet water in my mouth! Honestly, it tasted like regular tap water with a fishy afternote, but nothing could convince her. Jerking her body around, her hand accidentally hit the side of the overturned boat. She held onto it and kicked and whispered for Ashley. Without the ability to see inches from her nose, she had no idea if she looked north, south, east, west. For all she knew, they were tossed into another dimension.

     Splashing. Heavy breathing.

     Molly didn’t know who or what swam behind her. She felt the movements of the currents, knew it wasn’t fish. After inhaling deeply, she grabbed the person with one arm.

     The girls embraced. Molly knew Ash back when she smelled like Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth perfume (great bottle, crappy smell) and graduated from Baby Soft to Navy to Sunflowers to CK1. The point is, Molly could pick her out by scent. She could always find her. That heart beating against her chest right now? She’d heard that heart break enough times to memorize the sound. In this moment of certain death, she just wanted her best friend.

     And vice versa. Even when Derrick paddled over to them, Ash wouldn’t let Molly go.

     “Are you okay?” Ash asked and Molly nodded, their noses practically touching.

     “I’m okay too,” said Derrick in the shadow.

     The three teenagers held on to the boat and tread water. No one said those fateful words who or what is doing this because that would acknowledge a bad thing happened and they had a limited amount of time to get out of there. Sixteen-year-old brains don’t comprehend danger.

     “I’m so sorry, Ash,” Molly began to cry. “I’m sorry I was mean. I didn’t mean it. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

     “I know. I get it. It’s okay.”

     Molly sighed. “We should try to flip the boat over-”

     “What’s that!” screeched Derrick. The girls jerked their heads as he scooted closer. As he shoved his back against Molly’s, she could smell strawberry Boone’s. “Something just brushed my leg! I’m dead serious. It’s like a snake. Did you feel that? Seriously. Is it just me? That. That!”

     The two girls whimpered as they waited. Molly moved her legs in the black water, in awe of how easy it would be to pluck off one. She wouldn’t even see it coming.

     Neither would Derrick. And he didn’t.

     A great force pulled Derrick away from Molly, and for his part, the older boy fought like the smartest bull caught in the slaughterhouse.  Out in the water, too far for Molly and Ash to see, a battle raged and flung water at them, causing small waves. The worse part was the sounds Derrick made; high-pitched animal sounds—pig squeals and various birds. Pleading, raging, helplessness. Gurgling. The girls held on to the boat, still, hoping the whatsit that found Derrick wouldn’t find them if only they’re quiet enough.

     Speaking of quiet.

     A world without Derrick came suddenly.

     No crickets. No waves.

     Ash reacted first. She took Molly’s hand and pulled her underwater, underneath the overturned boat. They gasped coming up for air, finding in the dark a pocket for them to breathe in. Their heads knocked against the roof of it and at first, they said nothing. Shocked dumb.

     “I’m so sorry, Ash. Are you okay?”

     “I’m too scared to be sad.” She sounded numb. “Does that make me a bad person?”

     Molly thought about it. “I don’t think so.”

     “You know what? I think we should wait under here. Maybe Dad’ll figure out I’m missing.”

     “But we’re not missing. They think we’re driving around.”

     And therein lies a problem. They never had to sneak out. When they both left at night, their parents gave their blessing, trusted them just as they’d trusted their girls to ride their bikes a mile to the swim club or play in the woods until long after dusk. Remember? They were good girls, former babysitters, crank callers before the age of Caller ID. Unfortunately, this meant none of their parents knew they’d be in trouble until tomorrow.

     The odds of a tomorrow rapidly dwindled.

     On cue, the boat began to move.

     “Are you doing that?” whispered Ash.


     They held on to the benches above them as water swished against their necks, not quickly but urgently. Yes, something was pushing or pulling their boat along the lake.

     “Are we moving?”

     Molly was too scared to answer. She began to have trouble breathing and Ash, of all people (!), kept a cool head. She rubbed Molly’s face with her hand and cooed. Their eyes adjusted so they could see melancholy waves shimmering on the roof of the boat, across their faces, caused by translucent water hitting their shoulders.

     “We’ll be fine. Just breathe, Molly. Good. Hang on tight. Don’t let go.”

     “It’s taking us somewhere.”

     “Breathe. Keep your eyes on me.”

     This reminded Molly that Ash had done her share of rescuing in their years together.

     Not that any of this mattered. They both knew the drill, rooted in the reality of a hundred horror movies. Whoever, whatever at any moment would pull the boat down over the girls, as if they were trapped in a burlap sack, and send them to Davy Jones locker or the freshwater lake equivalent. Molly had to make jokes in her head. If she didn’t, she’d scream, she’d be hysterical and scare Ash. They watched the whites of each other’s unblinking eyes as they waited for the inevitable. The boat capsizing. Water in the lungs. Being blinded by black sewer water.

     And after what felt like forever…they stopped. The girls waited, floating.

     “I can touch the bottom,” mouthed Ash.


     “The bottom.”

     Molly had to dunk her chin for her toe to catch gravel. She used that one toe to pull the rowboat closer and closer so she could plant both her Tretorns flat on the sand.

     “I can hear voices.”

     Molly geared up. “If this is a prank, I swear to God.”

     Holding hands, they gathered a giant breath at the same time and sunk into the water. Pressing the boat away from their heads, they ducked and swam to the surface.

     When remembering this moment, Molly would think of The Wizard of Oz, the part where Dorothy goes from black and white to color, and wouldn’t she have been a little carsick from such a heavy transition? After Molly and Ash emerged, wet blankets, hair looking greased with gel, they had to cover their eyes with their arms. The beach in front of them had red and blue lights, ambulances, grownups, disco balls, the whole enchilada. Every wish the girls came up with out on that lake seemed to come true. Both let out a tsunami of tears.

     Neither asked at that moment how everyone found them. Why they were there.

     That came a little later, after the girls were sat in the back of separate ambulances to have their temperature and blood pressure taken. No one asked them questions yet, but Molly knew they were coming. How would she explain? A monster, officer. A sea monster. You know? Loch Ness and black lagoon and all that jazz? Her EMT went to talk to someone, so she watched Ash in her own ambulance get wrapped up in a blanket. On the matte painting of the lake, mothman lights represented half a dozen rescue boats scouring for Derrick and the rest of Sean. She could barely conjure the names in her head without shaking.

     As she watched the lights, a familiar face walked the beach, almost passing her.

     “Hey. Brandon,” she called out.

     Her fellow student hesitated, glancing around before making his way up to her. She tried to smile but then she thought of those two names again.

     “What are you doing here?” she asked.

     “They said I shouldn’t talk to anyone but the police.”

     “I’m not gonna say anything. You okay?”

     Brandon snorted like she’d said something ridiculous. “Are you kidding? You’re lucky you’re okay.” Staring at her, he gave in. “They’re here because I called them. Don’t, you know. Thank me. That’s not why I’m walking around. They keep wanting to talk to me.”

      Molly’s head started to hurt. Nothing made sense.

     “How did you know we were here?”

     “Eh, uh. I overheard Derrick talking on the phone with my brother. They were both drunk so, um. I didn’t think they were telling the truth…but I couldn’t sleep so… I told my mom. You know. That Derrick planned on taking your friend out here. Doin’ something bad.” He wouldn’t meet her eyes. “Said she annoyed him. I thought he was joking. You know? But Mom took it serious. She called the police. I don’t know. He kept saying he did the same thing to this girl named Brooke. Maybe it was dumb but…I guess it was good I said something. Right? You guys are okay and everything.”

      Half of Derrick’s body floated to the top of the lake the next day. The other half washed up a week later.

© 2023 Nicolina Torres

NO AI TRAINING: Without in any way limiting the author’s [and publisher’s] exclusive rights under copyright, any use of this publication to “train” generative artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to generate text is expressly prohibited. The author reserves all rights to license uses of this work for generative AI training and development of machine learning language models.

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page