Meg and Harry go on their summer tradition of visiting the Lake, but tragedy strikes! R&R!
|It all began with a little red car…
Swallowing the icy air so deeply it hurt, I cried out my brother’s name. “Harry!” I felt tears dampen my cheeks and the howling wind whipping my dark hair into my eyes.
It had been a beautiful summer’s day when my nine-year-old brother and I left the house that morning. But now I could see the sun's light disappearing as the dark began to settle in.
Our plan had been to visit the small beach just a couple of miles from our family home and throw some stones in the water. We visited the beach every summer since our grandad discovered its secret spot years ago. It had become our tradition to have a competition to see who could throw the heaviest rock the furthest into the water. But because of the age gap, Grandad usually won, but in the years since he'd passed, I took his place as the champion. Harry didn’t have much strength in his arms, as he’d always done best in running. I could never keep up with the little scamp when he stole my most important possessions.
Now all that seemed silly.
Harry and I had been playing for a while, laughing at each other’s failed attempts to throw rocks further than a few feet into the ocean's grey-blue water. Both of us were doing better than the prior years, where our grief felt like fresh wounds on our skin, getting stung at by the ocean’s salty water. But this year we’d accepted that this tradition was too special to let go, as being at the beach made us feel close to him again.
But just when I’d been calling Harry out on his chicken arms, that mood changed.
"Seriously, someone needs to teach you to throw like a man, little bro," I teased, chucking another stone into the water of my own. It flew right past where Harry's had plunged, and further into the great unknown of the sparkling water.
Harry glared over at me.
I just giggled and bent down for another rock.
Harry’s foot buried into the thin, grainy sand. He kicked it up and a cloud of cream-coloured sand flew into my face.
I instantly leaned back up, burying my face with my hands. “Hey, what the hell was that for?”
His eyes shone with tears as he spat, "You think you're so great, huh? So big taking the place of Grandad? Well, I'll show you!” He fixed his eyes on the water, staring it down like an enemy. “Watch this!"
He shoved his hand into his jacket pocket and ripped out one of the rocks he’d been collecting.
But I watched his eyes carefully. There was intensity in them I'd never seen before. They were hard. And they were angry.
"No, Harry, I didn't mean that." I put my hand on his little arm, hoping my touch would calm his anger. He flinched away like I'd scolded him. "Hey, my little Harry-bro, I'm sorry—"
"Shut up, Megan!" His hand lifted up in the air. My eyes caught a flash of faded red on the rock and I opened my mouth to tell Harry to wait, but he was already slinging his arm forward with a force made more powerful by his fury.
The object spun in the air; around and around in circles, made slower by the realisation that washed over me.
I quickly returned my gaze to Harry.
A strangled sound escaped his pale lips.
He looked as broken as the day Grandad died.
My hands trembled at the memory. Our grandad had given the old, rusted red car to him only hours before he’d died of cancer a few years ago. Since then Harry kept the toy car with him at all times. He would never let anyone touch it or even out of his sight, constantly afraid he would disappoint his grandad.
I’d screamed at him not to run in. I knew that, like me, he’d never been a very confident swimmer. But as always, he was faster than me. Before I could do anything to stop him, he’d ran onto the large wooden deck and dove into the bottomless world; his body hidden under the murky water.
“Harry!” I yelled again. My voice cracked from the forced pressure. I kept screaming out my brother’s name, but he never answered. Not a slight bob of his head fighting to surface or the appearance of the rusted red car.
Tracks of water leaked from my eyes and stung my skin. “No…” I whipped my head from side to side, frantically searching for someone to help. Anyone. But there was no one else there. No one near the tall, shivering trees in the distance or jumping on the pretty sand, playing an innocent game of volleyball. I knew I couldn’t leave him. But all the company near me was the dark clouds building in the distance.
“Don’t worry, Harry, I’m coming,” I screamed, flinging myself off the damp, shaky panels of the deck into the water. As my body touched the water’s surface, I felt goosebumps prickle my skin. A sharp shiver coursed through my spine. Gasping, I only just found the strength to cling to the decks post before I slipped under.
I gulped for air. My breath coming out in hiccups as my chest froze from the cold.
A current rose high above my head. I stared at it, heart thumping hard in my chest as it made its way over my head, burying me in a watery grave. It pushed me down under the water, but my limbs kicked and I clutched the post again. With my remaining strength, I heaved myself higher and spat out the ocean's sour, salty water. My teeth chattered as water currents continued to penetrate my skin.
My clothes and hair clung to me like my desperation to save my brother’s life.
My head turned up to see the sky suddenly blacken above me. All my eyes could see was grey building in a thick fog around only my body. I gasped and tried frantically to bat it away, but it remained next to me like an indestructible metal.
My thoughts went to Harry and how terrified he would be of the darkness surrounding us. I had to get to him.
Thunder crackled through the air. Its vibrations shook the water beside me.
I tightened my grip on the post.
Lightening flashed around me. Its sparks struck the water beside me.
I yelped and watched the sky, praying it would all stop.
Another huge bolt illuminated the dark sky.
In that moment, I caught an image of an elderly man dressed in full black with ebony hair. His gloved hands stroked calmly through the wild water in front of me. His warm hazel eyes met mine. A fire burned inside of me as recognition jolted my mind. I felt my body automatically try and swim towards him and his familiar eyes staring into mine.
Darkness consumed me.
The next thing I knew thunder was clapping in my ears and water was splashing in the cool air me. I suddenly realised it was me causing the splashes. My hands had abandoned the stable post and were now flailing madly in the freezing water.
Another strike of electricity burst through the air. My arms stopped flailing as I sensed movement near me. In the blinding light my eyes found a thrashing figure about twenty-feet away from me in the ocean. My mind registered my brother’s blond head surface above the water currents; his face drenched and his lips quivering.
“Harry!” I tried to push towards him, but a powerful, fresh current of water hit me and my body stiffened again; all feeling in my limbs lost. I felt air stop breathing into my lungs and my hair dance in the water. The last image I saw was his wide blue eyes meeting mine and a gloved hand holding him above the surface.
The fog followed me down into the water. It settled all around me. I felt hands grip my body, and a familiar warmth course through me. My body felt like it was floating and my lungs seemed like they’d never need oxygen again. I felt at peace as the fog carried me up to the surface, keeping me safe in its loving embrace.
My hands gripped the post again.
All at once, the darkness disappeared from the sky, and the evening’s warm, orange haze settled in again. The fog left me and dissipated into thin air.
I blinked and squinted, unable to believe what my eyes were reporting. The water was calm again, and I no longer felt freezing.
I felt fine.
I twisted round at the sound of my younger brother’s voice calling me. My eyes travelled up to see him standing before me on the deck. His clothes and hair stuck to his skin like someone had glued them on, but a smile was on his face.
“You’re okay?” I hauled myself up onto the deck, and then rushed over to him. I ran my hands over his face, arms and head. I needed to make sure he was really there. I didn’t know what I would do if I lost another person I love. “How…” I lost my voice as my throat throbbed. “What happened, Harry?”
He gazed out at the water. “Magic,” he whispered.
I followed his eyes over to the water, and all of a sudden my mind filled with the image of the eerily familiar man wearing all black.
Harry hugged my leg. “I’m so sorry! It’s all my fault! Grandad is going to hate me now!”
The little red car popped above water on top of an abandoned black glove.
I felt a tremble go through Harry beside me. "Meg, you don't think it really was—"
"That's crazy," I said, but tears stung my eyes.