Water sluices over me as I wait, unbidden, at the edge of the lake. I blink my furtive eyes into the sheer blue sky that is full of cawing, fat crows and turn like a salamander back towards the calm depths. It feels like a balm encompassing my limbs as I am submerged and slither through the harsh murky waters. Thick sand billows around me as I drive my thick-skinned palms deeper into the lake bottom and drag myself deeper and deeper.
From beneath the membrane of the water’s edge I can hear children’s voices filter down to me. My ears, so sensitive and exposed, catch each explosion as they jump from the frayed tire swing and catapult into the swimming hole ahead of me. Each of their panicked movements create a sort of sound wave and engulf me, so I can hear them and sense them so close in such a wide expanse of water. Feeling hungry, I push deeper into the sea-glass colored depths and enter a patch of thick black seaweed. It sways around me in the almost imperceptible current like the hair of some felled beast left to lie at the bottom of the lake, staring at the sky till the end of time.
Dumb fish, inbred and calloused, flit around my colorless face as I snap disdainfully into one and let it go. An inky pool of blood hemorrhages around me and I writhe clear of it, staring further into the lake’s murky depths.
The sound of the children grow louder as I crawl along the lakebed till I’m almost underneath them. They’re still so far away, dozens of feet above so that the only light that reaches the lakebed are the noonday rays. Amongst the seaweed clumps, I reach a mass of fatty tissue half covered with heavy sand. All I can discern from the pile is a half-eaten human hand that looks like it’s reaching, and the rest of it is featureless. I grab the saturated palm with my own fingers and admire their length, noticing for the first time the grey slime that covers my skin.
I frown. I must be changing more and more as time passes. I rip through a tendon and suddenly the palm of the corpse is in my teeth, and a few trapped air bubbles shift from beneath the body. They rise like the lost glimmers of hope towards the surface, close enough to a little boy treading water just above.
His words are indistinct as he sees the bubbles, and I watch him half-distractedly as I chew on the hunk of flesh between my sharpened teeth. My unblinking eyes watch as the boy above is left behind by his frightened friends. I can feel their fear like a change in the current. It’s just so natural and so common in these waters. It feeds me more than these rubbery bones and sponge-like flesh ever could. I lean back on my haunches, disrupting a school of massive, sinewy fish, and stretch my elongated limbs in anticipation. I can tell the boy above notices a change. His movements get quicker, more excited, but I can see he isn’t going to leave.
I suck at the bones in my mouth, swallow the chewy flesh, and then spit out the remains. Some of the bones with fatty tendons and skin still weighing them down float back into the sand to rest. One finger bone, however, begins to float, ever so slowly, higher and higher. I watch it, a smirk twisting my thin, gaping lips. Like a predator with bait, I begin to follow the bone in its ascent. It’s like watching an escape to the outside world, but like me, it will never get further than the water’s edge.
I stretch my limbs, pushing ever so slowly against the floor and ascend. I make an effort to keep about ten feet behind the floating phalange. I can feel my thin, long hair billow behind me as I swim, and my smirk grows into an ecstatic grin. I can see the boy’s toes now. He’s so exposed. His skin is soft and white, so much like mine once was. All I can feel is his uncertainty and my hunger grows disarmingly into starvation. I’m ravenous for fresh, frightened meat. He pushes his arms and legs so slowly and so imperfectly. I watch as the finger bone breaks the surface and he looks over, curious, then becomes alarmed. He examines it, wondering how that could have gotten there, then notices a strange form in the depths beneath. Out of the darkness he sees my face. A grey face filled with lidless black eyes and a hideous grin bursting with sharp, needle-like teeth. He watches as the face looms closer to the surface. And just before he could yell in regret, my elongated fingers wrap around his ankles and pull him effortlessly into the deep to meet me.