Augusta's lake


1. Prelude.

Thick carnivorous contours of the rock overwhelmed me. The jagged teeth jutted out of the moist banks. Snagged remains of a rotting burlap sack stuck out between them like old meat lodged between the lake’s fangs. I thought I saw red oozing from the earth, but as I bent down to touch it, it was just red clay; it left dark residue on my hands. I could not get it off. The crimson ground ran round the whole circumference of the lake, nothing really grew there, just weeds and thistles, which subdued and strangled the man made carnage around it, a mutilated dirty magazine, a twisted shopping trolley already half submerged in the edge of the black water, a molding pair of faded converse All laces entwined with the embankment. I wondered if their owner was somewhere in the lake. I thought back to what my mother used to say ‘everybody who is born in this town stays in this town, if someone disappears you can be damn sure they didn’t catch the next plane to New York. It’s a well known secret amongst the locals’. My mother was not convinced of many things. For example she didn’t believe the world was round, she didn’t believe the war was over and she didn’t believe in evolution, but the one thing she did believe was that this lake, was the graveyard of every missing person in a 20 mile radius of our village. She used to tell me this story of how the lake came about.

‘The king of England came to visit ’ she said she remembers it, but even then her memory was fading. ‘He came to visit and he fell in love with a local girl, Augusta her name was. He built the lake as a sign of his love for her, as a reflection of her beauty: deep, dark and immortal. Every boy and man in this village was made to help dig it, all their sweat, tears and blood went into the lake. It was dug just below a hill, so Augusta could stare out, longing for her king to return again, being king and all he was away most of the year. However every year they would meet at this lake, on the towering peak that shadowed it. Every year on the same day in June. On the fifth year she didn’t turn up. The king was enraged. He trawled the village burning houses and slaughtering civilians with his jewel encrusted sword, until he found her. He kicked down the door and saw her naked with the baker. Who would have thought it? He killed the poor tubby guy right there, but he dragged her by the hair through the village up to the ominous peak and dangled her off it until the hair ripped out of her scalp. Trust me all those dark weeds aren’t weeds at all, they’re her hair. ‘
I walked up the hill. I stood where the great king would have stood, waiting for his Augusta. For that moment I was the king . I peered into the murky water, I saw the black slithering clumps of pond weed gathering, the inky ribbons of Augusta’s hair, I thought. I looked away to walk back down but something caught my eye, I looked back and for a second, just a second and I saw something else, I saw hair, not dark like the weeds, white like the sunlight that was absent that day. White like the hair of someone I’d loved, just like the king had. My paranoia just got the better of me I guess.

The overgrowth was nature’s way of taking back what’s hers I thought. The only things that lived in the lake were leeches; the amount of things that were dead in it was unknown. It was an eerie place to sit by; I imagined I was Hades looking down on my sea of wondering souls, the dead that never managed to pass through. However I thought that if this was truly the waiting room of lost souls the water might crease or tremble, but it never did. Not even the wind could make it stir. My mother used to say if you listened really closely you could hear it whisper Augusta’s name. I closed my eyes and listened to the chilling breeze as it blew softly into my ear, like a farmer cooing his lamb to the slaughter, I waited to hear her name, but it didn’t come. It spoke someone else’s name. The name of someone I once loved. ‘Clementine.’ The hair all over my body prickled, and I fell to my knees. ‘Clementine? I’m so sorry, Clementine? ’ I whispered back, but nobody answered.

It was just me.

I scrubbed my crimson hands on my jeans. It wouldn’t come off.
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