Young love is reckless, you know. I think that’s the long and short of why Erik died. Of course I still think of him. That’s his picture, over there.
He’d taken the key to the least-used mountain cabin from his father, a hunter. It had, reportedly, a brilliant view of Blood Lake, but people stopped going there years ago. We snuck out one of those late-June nights when the sun never sets. Hiking during those eerie hours of not-quite-dusk, you feel connected to the ancient magic of the mountains.
I was a cautious young girl, believe it or not. Before we went, I interrogated my grandmother about Blood Lake and all the stories about it. She just smiled at me.
“Those stories are just to keep people in the dark, dear,” she said. “Sure, Blood Lake is a powerful place. But whenever magic traps you, it gives you a way out, too. Not to worry. You should explore when you’re young. Hand me the coffee.”
So we explored the cabin, and the shores of Blood Lake, filling up on the bilberrys growing all the way to the shoreline, and on an old jetty reaching out into the lake, we explored each other.
We must have dropped the key into the lake. We didn’t notice until we were dressed again and ready to go.
“Let’s dive in together,” Erik said. “We’ll just take turns diving for the key, and keep watch. We’ll be okay.”
He took my hand as we jumped into the water. There was till some thin ice along the shoreline. Have you ever gone swimming in the mountain lakes? It sure wakes you up. But that night, and in that lake, I didn’t feel the cold.
When I came up after the first dive, Erik cried out.
“No, I’m fine,” I said. “The water is really clear. I got the key — let’s just get up.”
“B-but, all that blood! Look!”
I looked down at the dark, thick liquid that swirled around my body, making intricate patterns in the water.
“It’s all around you, too.”
We swam towards the jetty in a frenzy. Erik was a stronger swimmer and got there first. People aren’t all that gentlemanlike when they’re stricken by panic.
The second he put his feet on the jetty, the world stopped. The midnight sun, up until now a soft orange, turned a bright red. The air felt thick, each breath strained. The steady chatter of the reed warblers was gone.
Erik extended his hand. I grabbed it, but he didn’t pull me towards him. His eyes darted back and forth.
“Don’t panic,” he mouthed.
I looked around. Several wolves were perched on the shores around the lake. They were all standing perfectly still, like statues.
Erik dropped my hand. He reached for his backpack and pulled out a gun from a side pocket. He set off towards the pack, shooting into it. That should have sent them running, but they didn’t move. And the shots didn’t make a sound.
He ran past them and disappeared between the trees. The wolves started to move around along the shore. The bird chatter returned, the air felt lighter. And now, I felt the cold.
“Run for it, Johanna,” Erik cried. “The water gives you a few seconds.”
The wolves turned their heads toward where Erik’s voice came from. Three of them broke out from the pack. They leapt across the bilberries and out of sight.
I heard them howl.
I heard him scream. Then I heard his scream stop.
I looked straight at a wolf standing by the foot of the jetty, waiting for me.
Run for it, Johanna. The water gives you a few seconds.
I took a deep breath and braced myself.
Three. Two. One.
This is part of the July 2016 Storytime Blog Hop where 12 specfic writers around the world are sharing new stories on their respective blogs. Find the other stories here:
Barbara Lund Separate Space
Shana Blueming A Melting Heart
Juneta Key Don’t Drink The Water
Angela Wooldridge Midwinter
Lee Lowery All Aboard
Elizabeth McCleary OverWhelmed
Viola Fury The Day The Cat Got Out
Karen Lynn Dragon Smoke and Wind
Katharina Gerlach Lobster One
S.R. Olson Malakai’s Gift
Wendy Smyer Yu Into The Light