The story of sea creatures
The muck we would have to swim through was horrendous. It was a mixture of mud, algae, and fish guts, with the percentage of actual water minimal. The bridge that would normally carry us to the other side of camp had fallen through the night. Our only option to get to the dining hall was to swim. Mac and I sat on the bank weighing our alternatives. Finding our breakfast would prove to be treasure hunt.There were no visible canoes available on our side of the lake. As first-time campers to this lake, we knew only one path to the other side, and that involved the now-defunct bridge. Our morning was looking dismal.
We prided ourselves on having skills, so the swim would be no problem. It was the jaunt through unknown waters that caused us to worry. The green tinge to the lake resurrected our childhood fears of swamp monsters. Any child of the seventies had an inborn respect and trepidation of imaginary swamp creatures, inspired by the many movies of the era. Preparation, for our descent into the murky regions of the bog that awaited us, would be needed. It is one thing knowing that monsters are imaginary, but a whole mindset to ensure that you are ready in case they are real. Our physical and mental coping skills would be employed for the one-mile swim. I thought to myself, I could hop on one foot across the bridge that was no longer valid, and get there sooner. .I was a little ticked at Mac for choosing these campgrounds. But, that was all now water under the bridge, so to speak.
The good news was that Mac and I had been friends for so long, that we could communicate with few words. I hoped teamwork would help us survive the creatures of the deep. The longer it took us to prepare, the more weirded out I became with the impending swim. We started by gathering pieces of nearby driftwood and lashing them together. It would be our buoy during the swim. I was convinced that if we made it long enough, we could use them to crawl across the lake and never have to touch the water. Mac brought my thinking back to reality, by reminding me that we were trying to get it done in time for breakfast. Six logs became the magic number. In the center, we placed our inner tubes for floatation.
Our next task involved personal hygiene. We slapped copious amounts of bug spray and sunscreen on our bodies. I saturated my hair with a mixture of both items. It burned my scalp, causing me to grit my teeth. Mac laughed when I smeared Vaseline on my lips and teeth, but I refused to be stuck with green choppers following a swim through the seaweed. We donned our wetsuits, leaving little of our skin visible. I tucked a whistle, compass, flashlight, and knife into my waterproof knapsack. I pictured my father smiling down on me. He used to tell me I was the best female scout, the Boy Scouts had ever known. My father's tutelage through the years meant I was always prepared. Mac always teased me about going overboard, but there had been many times one of my gadgets had come in handy.
We pushed our man-made raft to the edge of the water. Mac rolled his eyes at me when I tossed a large stick for use as a paddle into the raft. I dipped my toe into the water, retrieving it just as quickly as I'd thrust it in. The warm and milky feel of the water made me shiver in disgust. It was thick and sinewy, painting goo on anything it touched. I knew I would lose my nerve if I didn't plunge totally into the depths. I inhaled taking a deep breath to steel against the inevitable. I dove in quickly and surfaced on the opposite side of the raft. Mac was making his way slowly towards me. I could tell that he wasn't enthralled by the ambiance of the water either. We started our swim, pushing the raft in front of us to get to the deeper section before climbing in the tubes.
I could feel movement in the water and prayed it was just indigenous fish. Suddenly there were tentacles pulling at my legs. They were sticky, like tree sap, with a strong and thready texture I glanced back to the bank and could see the willowing of waves created by the fish. I tried to move away but my progress was slow. Mac was having the same difficulty. I could feel them wrapping around my legs, like twine pulling the kite down into the tree. I feared being in the water, but the thought of being dragged to the bottom of the lake terrified me. I pulled the whistle from my bag and blew. The water stilled for just a moment. We took the opportunity to swim as fast as we could, letting the raft drag behind.
As we got further into the lake, the water started to froth and bubble. The water grew warmer causing me to perspire from the heat. It was a putrid sauna, bathing us in oily grime and meandering sea varmints. I shared the grimace and sense of panic that Mac's face displayed. I pulled the knife from my bag, hoping to feel some comfort in its protection. I continued to blow my whistle loud and hard, every few feet of the swim. I convinced myself, that the fish or creatures pulling at us would fear the noise. We were barely half way through our trip and I was tiring quickly. The raft would be a good resource of rest but was now dragging very far behind. Returning from where we came was not an option. We trudged on.
The water seemed to grow thicker and heavier with each arm stroke. I fought to keep my momentum. The vines of creatures wrapping around my legs never relented. For every ten feet I swam, I was pulled back two feet. A buzzing sound rang in my ears, from the energy I expended Sadly, I had released the raft to conserve my strength. Feeling overwhelmed, I started to tread water in place, allowing myself a moment of rest. Mac passed me, urging me onward.
I looked to my right where the bridge once stood. What we hadn't noticed before stood out abhorrently clear. The bridge had fallen from the weight of people. The victims were tied in gruesome vine-like tentacles of seaweed. Severed appendages hung loosely in the muck. It struck me, that the eyes of all the corpses were absent, only orbital sockets remained. The color of their blood had been canceled out by the green of the mildew. Death was camouflaged into the scenery by the lack of color. I felt the need to vomit but feared my emesis would cause a feeding frenzy among the creatures below. I propelled myself forward using all my strength. I could feel a leathery rope wrap tightly around my waist. Refusing to surrender without a fight, I thrust the knife into the water, aiming at the creature that bound me. A green and grisly slime shot high above the water. I could feel the slithering release of its grip. Energized by my freedom, I swam as never before.
I could see Mac standing on the shore waving me in. I used his voice as a beacon to fight the rigidity of the waters. I collapsed on the bank, gasping in my fatigue.
When I was finally able to sit up, I saw the raft being devoured by the swarm that had chased us. The water bubbled at the site where the raft was pulled under. Shards of floating driftwood were the only remnant of its existence. Mac and I both wept in the relief of our survival, and for the graveyard on the bridge.
Camp Winaconda is now closed, buried under a ton of rock. It was turned into a quarry.
The rock, they deliver to wealthy homeowners seeking beautiful landscaping material, has a tinge of green color. True slime casts a permanent hue.
Any story of sea creatures has been passed on as folklore for the area. The tale is now fodder used to scare unruly children. There will be movies written to carry on the legend of the bridge and the sea creatures will be deemed imaginary. Mac and I know the truth.
Monsters really do exist and we had conquered the great dismal swamp!
Word Count 1420