This is my entry this week for therealljidol. I invite you to read and vote for the many fine entries. This week we're writing five pieces on five different topics. This piece is in response to the topic "Leviathan."
Sylvie swam faster through the murky lake; she was ninety percent certain she'd seen something moving below her, something dark and swift. "It's a fish," she told herself, as her elbow broke through the water's surface and arced forward. What was it they stocked this lake with? Trout? She stole a glance at her goal, the wooden pier, as she grabbed another mouthful of air.
On the dock, in cut-off shorts and a pink flowered tank top, her best friend Lily waved energetically in encouragement, her strawberry-blond pigtails bouncing. Next to her stood their counselor, Ms. Rose, her suntanned arms contrasting with her bright white shirt as she shouted into a megaphone, "You're halfway there!" At right, a cadre of girls tilted their heads together, whispering.
One of those girls had grabbed Sylvie this morning and asked, "Are you doing the swim test today?" When Sylvie replied that she was, the girl had tossed her perfect hair and cautioned, "Watch out for Tildy, the monster that lives in Tildehanna Lake. She'll grab you and pull you under."
Sylvie had discounted this ridiculous notion, but now as she paddled through the dark, unknown waters, she wondered what lurked below.
~ ~ ~
Something big was moving up there; Tildy was sure of it. If she was lucky, it was a giant fish. She hoped so. Long, long she had lain, deeply buried in the warm mud, lulled by the underwater throb and hum. But now her slumbers had been disturbed by swishing and splashing.
Through the filmy water, a jagged slice of amber light slanted down from the surface. Something up there moved. Whatever it was, it was not a fish.
Perhaps it was a seal. Tildy remembered them vaguely from long ago days when she'd first wandered here through a sea passage. One year while she'd slept, a cement wall had blocked off the inlet, stranding her here, all alone.
She remembered the long, low musical songs of her brethren, and the melodic name her mother had called her. Today, only the land beings talked to her. Whenever she broke the surface, they called out, "Tildy!"
Their voices were not sonorous, so she did not respond.
~ ~ ~
In order to pass the lake test, campers were required to swim out to the buoy that marked the edge of the very deep water. Those who made it out and back in twenty-five minutes won deep-water swimming privileges, while failure meant being confined to the roped-off shallow water with the babies.
Sylvie switched from the crawl to the more leisurely breaststroke. She was wearing her goggles, so she put her face in the water to take a better look. Through a primordial soup the color of ginger ale, a slice of light illuminated what seemed like silver scales. "A trout," she told herself. But she didn't believe it.
~ ~ ~
The creature was now kicking like a frog, a movement seals never made. Tildy was curious. She drew closer and nudged it with the top of her snout to check for fins. The creature squealed, its high-pitched noise cutting through the water. Its thrashing appendages connected hard with her midsection as the tiny critter shot away.
Whatever this was, Tildy no longer wanted to eat it. She wasn't even sure she would have eaten a seal, despite how hungry she was. But this being called back vestigial memories buried in ancient brain crevices. Tildy undulated slowly through the dark water. She needed to know what this new thing was. It had been far too long since she had thought anything other than "thrum, swish, thrum, swish."
~ ~ ~
Sylvie was reeling from what just happened. Something had brushed Sylvie's leg, and when she'd kicked out, she'd felt her leg connect with something solid. Was it possible a trout could grow that big? She didn't think so. Sylvie stuck her face in the water again and strained her eyes to try and make out any details at all. What was that milky round object? It couldn't be... could it?
~ ~ ~
As Tildy quietly neared the creature once more, she turned her head sideways to get the best possible view, sidling up as close as she could while staying away from the wildly moving appendages. She looked up into what she imagined might be its face. What she saw startled her.
It was one those chattering land creatures. Had it fallen in? Could it breathe underwater, like her? It turned its tiny face towards her and emitted one more piercing call. Then the creature disappeared into a field of sea plants.
~ ~ ~
Sylvie thrashed furiously through the water, certain she was about to meet her end. Something tentacle-like tangled around her leg. It was strong, dragging her under. She kicked with all her might until she freed herself.
Then, finally, she was pulling herself up the crude wooden ladder at the pier.
"What's the matter?" Lily asked.
Sylvie choked out, "Something grabbed me!"
"Do you mean that?" Ms. Rose asked, pointing to a long, thick strand of seaweed wrapped around Sylvie's right leg.
The other girls tittered, so Sylvie forced a smile. Although she passed the swim test, for the rest of her time at camp, she stayed in shallow water. She didn't tell anyone, not even Lily, the reason why. Till the end of her days, she would never quite believe what it was she had seen: a giant eye, staring right at her.
Once more, my hearty thanks go out to my beta reader, roina_arwen, who took this idea to the next level by suggesting I tell things from the lake monster's POV, as well.