When I was a boy there were tales of a lady in the lake.
During the Summer months, my friends and I would ride our bicycles out there, and swim all day. Sometimes, we would take a tent, and camp out there, our parents thinking that we were having a sleep over at Joe's.
We would tell stories, trying to scare each other, and it would work, because none of us would get a wink of sleep, convinced that wild pigs might attack us, or Donny Brooke's pitbull was loose, and hunting us down. Never did we did tell ghost stories, though, because ghosts are like fairies, just something made up.
Ghosts do exist. I know now.
We were aware that people had occasionally drowned in the lake, their bodies later found tangled in the reeds. My father had been a rescue worker and told me that sometimes they would find a floater, have to slide a piece of board beneath them, remove the body that way, because the skin would be tissue thin, and brittle. He said that one time he removed a body and his fingers sunk right into them, tearing away their flesh.
My mother stressed the most, saying, “ Don't swim beneath the surface, David. Those reeds are dangerous. Beth lives in them. She'll get you. “
Beth had been a girl who went to school with my mother and father. She was the girl with a bright future, so everyone thought. Her future was cut short by a boating accident. The propeller cut her head up and they found her a week later. She was submerged deep, tangled in those reeds.
Boys will be boys and we challenged each other to swim down to them, ignoring old wive's tales, to feel the slime upon them, to see how they wriggled and waved, like slender green fingers.
I swam down there.
Beth was beautiful and I was mesmerised.
She quickly grabbed my arm and dragged me deeper into the reeds. Her face changed and I saw what had happened to her, how she had been scalped, her face thrashed, and broken. She shrieked at me, I was terrified, and that's how I drowned.
BIO: I live in Orange, New South Wales, Australia. I have one child -a daughter. I was born in Sydney in 1977. My poetry has appeared in anthologies worldwide and my short stories have been published in men's magazines. I cite James Herbert, Tales from the Crypt, vintage Penny Dreadfuls, and Ripley's Believe It, or Not as an influence.