Short story: ‘The Pond’

Short story - 'The Pond'Elizabeth Fox wasn’t what you would call a ‘planner’. At only 20, she was spontaneous, bright and breezy, free and easy, meandering through life, just enjoying whatever came her way. While other girls her age were concerned about going to university or getting a career started and settling down, Elizabeth was happy with her life just as it was. She worked as a personal assistant at a small law firm in her local town. Though a more accurate description would be tea girl and general skivvy. But she didn’t mind; It paid well, and she could afford the things she wanted. Yes, Elizabeth was content with her life.

Friday came at the end of another unremarkable week, and at 6pm sharp Elizabeth said her goodbyes, donned her thin summer coat and left work, catching a bus and heading out of town to her local village as usual. It was late summer and the golden sun still shone warmly on the picturesque woodlands around the winding roads leading home, so when the bus pulled up at a stop just outside of her village, she decided to hop off and walk the short distance to her small flat.

Hopping over a mudded sty and walking down the leafy woodland path, Elizabeth spotted a small squirrel scuttle across her way and up a tree. Instinctively she pulled out her phone and started snapping. She was, of course, an Instagramaholic! She followed the squirrel a short way off the path and continued snapping and uploading: ‘Such a cute squirrel!‘ ‘Me and my new friend!‘ ‘#SquirrelSelfie‘. She smiled as it finally scuttled off into a mass of bushes. It was when she turned and placed her phone back in her pocket that Elizabeth noticed the half buried plastic wallet.

Picking it up she found it was tied to a dirty length of browning yarn that trailed down to the ground and led off into the thickening woodland. Inside the wallet was a sheet of yellowing paper containing two hand written words: follow me. Intrigued, if not a little confused, Elizabeth started following the yarn deeper and deeper into the woods. Through the trees it wound until she came to a clearing that she had never stumbled across before in all her years of living near the area. And there was the pond. Sprawling out in the opening, it seemed to suck in the sun’s fading light without offering anything back. Strange. Looking to the yarn that led her here she found it was tied to a small, rickety wooden boat that bobbed and creaked by the shore. It looked older than time itself. Pensively peering into the boat she found a second plastic wallet, this one containing three hand written words scrawled on more dcaying paper: middle of pond.

Doubt crept into Elizabeth’s mind. Should she turn back? Would it be safer just to pretend none of this had happened and head back to the path and home? No. Curiosity had the better of her. Of course it did. Surprising even herself, she stepped into the boat and using the gnarled oars pushed off and slowly started to row into the centre of the pond, totally unsure what she would find there. And that’s when she saw it. Whatever ‘it’ was. A ripple of the surface. And another. A murky blur shot underneath the boat. Fast. Precise. Blink and you’d miss it. But it was definitely there. She was sure of it. Investigating over the side of the boat, leaning her face closer to the shimmering surface, she reached back into her coat pocket to search for her phone. Instagram would love this. Then it happened. BANG! In the shortest of moments that it took Elizabeth to flick the device’s screen to life, the large black shape darted towards the opposite side of the boat and hit it with a terrifyingly ferocious force.

Letting out half a scream she was thrown forwards and hit the water hard. Like icy fingers the murky, dank and ominously cold liquid ripped away what little breath she had left. She kicked, she thrashed, she tried with all her might to get her head back above the surface. Trying to breathe she gulped in nothing but stagnant water. She could feel her feet waving above the surface, kicking the hull of the upturned boat, and no matter how hard she tried she just couldn’t right herself. But it was too late. From the very moment Elizabeth even made the choice to venture out onto the lake it was too late. Bright and breezy, free and easy. A woozy endless void dulled and engulfed her panic. Her time was up. Only Elizabeth’s shaking legs remained visible from the surface, involuntarily twitching and spasming as the last remnants of life ebbed away. Her glazed eyes frozen open in horror, she slowly sank into the black. Into the black shape’s waiting arms. Forever to be known as Elizabeth Fox: the first victim.

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