Short Story based on photograph for contest
| My mother brought me to the lake two months after my father had died of cancer. I was fifteen years old and hadn't spoken a word since his death. So naturally she thought it best to take me somewhere isolated and foreign where we could be alone. I guess she figured it would bring us closer and I would open up and speak. I wanted to talk but I could not verbalize the deep pain and loneliness I felt without my father. I simply did not know how to convey it to anyone. The doctors wanted to put me on medication-they even wanted to institutionalize me-but my mother assured them a vacation to the lake might help.
Arriving at the lake, I didn't really see what the big deal was. I actually didn't even see water right away with the thickness of the forest. It was definitely secluded and quite frightening, to me. We had to park our SUV in front of a path leading into the forest and then walk about two hundred yards before the forest started to thin out. And that's when I saw it. The blue-gray lake stretched for miles and the mountain peaks behind it made for a perfect picture. It nearly took my breath away. The cabin was just to the right of the forest clearing. My mother walked towards it hastily as to purposefully leave me there in awe of the beauty set out before me. And for a moment I was frozen. The beauty of the lake was apparent and a person could easily find the words to describe such beauty out loud. But I didn't. I instead kept it to myself.
Walking slowly towards the water I saw a dock. The closer I came to the dock, the more I realized that there was no support underneath it. No pillars or sand; just air. It was literally floating over the water. Sure you could walk on it from the shore but what was underneath to keep it from collapsing? Maybe it was an illusion or I was crazy. Before I could ponder it's mystery anymore, I heard my mother calling for me. At the cabin, my mother had settled much of our things in and was preparing supper.
"Do you have any questions about this place?", she asked. She paused for a moment and then made a face that let me know she knew I wasn't going to say anything.
"Listen, after dinner, we'll get to bed okay? I want to take you out on the lake tomorrow. I have lots of stories to tell you about this place. How does that sound?" Again, a pause, desperately hoping I would reply, and again, nothing. We finished eating and I did as she said; brushed my teeth and went to bed. I quickly fell asleep and began my usual dreaming of my father.
In my dream I see my father, standing on the magical dock, holding out his hand to me. I step forward and reach for his hand, but he disappears into the mist hovering over the water and becomes one with it. My father is not alone. My grandfather and my grandmother, his parents, are with him and swimming in the fog.
"Dad, dad, is that really you?" I am sobbing now. "What are you doing here? Can you see me? Why did you...leave me? I wasn't ready."
He holds out his hand to me and says, "Take my hand honey. It's time to wake up..."
"Wake up." A dream. The sound of my mothers voice confirmed that for me. Standing over me, already dressed, my mother was to say the least, in an excited mood.
"Come on, get dressed, I want to go out before the sun gets too high." Feeling the excitement myself, or maybe more intrigue than excitement, I quickly dressed myself and took care of the other morning necessities. I found my mother out by the water with a small boat. It had been turned upside down on the grass and she had pushed it close to the water. I stared out at the dock and found myself questioning it's purpose. My mother caught my gaze and as usual, attempted successfully at reading my thoughts.
"I know. I was going to use it but it doesn't look sturdy. There's nothing holding it up. We're out here alone, don't want to risk getting hurt do we? We'll just get in from here. I just have to give us a little push. You ready?"
I walked towards the boat which apparently answered her question. I climbed in the boat carefully. My mother gave a push, just enough to get us on water completely and then climbed in herself. As she paddled us out, I couldn't help staring at the dock. Amazing, I thought to myself, how it just floats there. The boat came to a stop and I noticed my mother was staring at me.
"Well to tell you the truth, I don't really know any fancy stories about this lake. The only thing I know is that it's been in your father's family for centuries. By "been in" I mean I think your great-great-great-grandfather built this lake. But that's all I really know. Your father didn't talk on it much. Just told me that he would tell you about someday which he didn't get a chance to do." I could see the tears forming in her eyes and this made me uncomfortable. I decided to look away, to the mountains which were amazingly close to us now. I saw a small opening at the bottom of one of them which appeared to look more and more like a small cave entrance. To let my mom know what I was thinking, I continued to stare at the cave. But my mother strangely enough, didn't seem to notice this time. She was usually pretty good with the psychic stuff. Grabbing the ores, she began to paddle back to the shore and deep confusion set over me. Wasn't this supposed to be some big water adventure? As we got closer to shore, she jumped out of the boat and pulled us the rest of the way. After she made sure I was safely on land, she left me there and made her way to the cabin. I sat there in the boat and decided I would draw in my sketchbook. I drew the scenery around me and stayed in that boat all day. Not once did my mother come out to check on me.
As the sun began to set, I decided I should get back to the cabin and check on my mother. As I climbed out of the boat, that dock caught my eye again and I began to wonder what had been in that cave. Curiosity got the better of me and I pushed the boat back into the water and quickly jumped back in. I rowed the boat to the mountain and found the cave opening. Coincidentally, there was a dock (a normal dock) so I could leave the boat and safely walk into the cave. Obviously this cave was meant to be explored. As I walked inside, a small door to the right caught my eye. I pushed it open and found a small room which was lit by the remaining sun. Inside were shelves of books and journals and I found one with my father's name on it. Inside the book contained all the secrets and legends of the lake. My great-great-great-grandfather befriended Native Americans who apparently founded this land and knew of a small pond with a dock. The dock was a secret road into the spirit world. I left the cave as I was quickly running out of sunlight. Thankfully, my boat was still at the dock and I made my way back to the shore. I pulled the boat back on dry land and walked over to the magic dock.
I didn't know why I was doing what I was about to do, I just knew I had to do it. I put one foot on the dock and pushed it to see if it would move-it remained motionless. I stepped on the dock with two feet and so far so good. The legend had it that the offspring of the deceased could walk down the road and enter the spirit world. They could only communicate with the spirit for a brief time and never again be able to enter the spirit world again. I looked straight ahead and began to walk down the "road". As I neared the edge, a fog began to surround me and I was no longer in my world. A face began to emerge from the fog and there was no doubt I knew who it was. My father stood inches away from me and I immediately threw my arms around him. He embraced me as well and then began to speak.
"It's okay sweetheart, don't worry. Everything is okay now. I'm in no pain and I'm very happy. Now...I want you to be happy. You're mother needs you. She feels alone without your sweet voice. Don't take that away from her."
I wanted to cry but it seemed as though tears weren't something this place allowed. Instead, with ease to my amazement, I spoke for the first time in two months.
"I miss you dad. I miss you so much. What am I supposed to do without you?"
"You have to be there for your mother. Take care of her and I will always be with you. I have to go now darling. I love you. Remember your voice and go to your mother."
"I love you too dad." And in an instant my father disappeared.
The fog began to dissipate and I found myself standing at the edge of dock with a strange peace in my heart. As I pondered my journey to the spirit world, I heard someone calling my name. My mother came running out of the cabin, hysterical. It was dark now and she couldn't see me anymore. She came down to the water and met me at the beginning of the dock. I took her hand and spoke gently to her.
"Hi mom." She trembled and began to cry as if she had heard the voice of an angel.
"I've missed talking with you", I said as I took her hands in mine.
"Oh honey, it's so good to hear your voice. I'm sorry I left you, I just needed to be alone. I expected you may have wanted the same but when I didn't see you I got worried. What are you doing on this dock?" I hesitated but I couldn't keep this a secret from her.
"I was talking to dad. He's very happy and healthy. And I promise I will never keep my voice from you again." She just looked at me with relieved eyes as though she had already taken that journey herself although I knew otherwise. But I imagined she had her own way of talking to him as well. We made it home and the doctors were very pleased with my recovery. I was pleased I would never have to see their faces again. My mother and I grew closer and I had many great talks with her I'll never forget.
And so this is my story and I'm giving it to you my son. Now you know the legend as I knew it. I leave this journal here along with my will as I know you will find it as I found my fathers. This is your lake now, your legend and I'll be waiting for you at the other end of the dock. No matter what, never forget the beauty of this place and all the magic it holds. Never forget, the lake.