Peter Kaufman pulled over to the side of the rural road and put the Toyota in park. Opening the door, he got out and stretched his tired muscles. The 253 mile long trip from Pittsburgh to Auburn, PA had taken just over 4 hours of time and Peter needed the break. Looking up, he could see the shore of Lake Wynonah, the 1.7 mile long water basin which dominated his home town.
He fondly remembered playing along those shores, just a short distance from his parent’s house. He was almost home.
The Toyota picked up speed as he entered the small town of Auburn. Needing gas, he pulled into the Auburn Food Mart. He had worked at the store as a youth and knew the layout of store like the back of his hand.
“PK !! You’re back!” A slender white haired man shouted to Kaufman as he entered the store to pay for his fill up. “It’s good to see you again.”
“Hi Mr. Watkins. Great to see you as well.”
The old man scowled at Peter as he shook his head. “Peter, you need to call me Matt now. You are no longer 16.”
“Sorry, Mr. Watkins but my mother would never allow that. She would view it as disrespectful.”
The old man grinned and raised an eye brow as he replied. “You are so much like her.”
“So Mr. Watkins, what’s new around town?”
The old man looked around thoughtfully before replying. “No much. Well, except for all the ruckus that old man McGregor is stirring up again about there being some sort of monster near the lake. He is getting the kids in town all riled up and causing more concern than is needed. You know how he is.”
Kaufman nodded as he handed over $35 to pay for his gas. “Still claiming that some sort of monster lives in the lake? Sort of a local ‘Champie’ or ‘Loch Ness Monster’? I thought those stories were put to rest when the local sheriff found the monster to only be that old inflatable alligator toy that drifted off into the lake from the Duffy home a few years back.”
Watkins laughed. “Yeah, I remember that. That inflatable was about 6 feet long. I think the Duffy’s got it at SeaWorld.”
As Matt Watkins gave Peter his change, he pointed up the road. “If you are interested in hearing the latest from that kook McGregor, then just show up at tonight’s town hall meeting. He has asked to talk. The meeting starts around 7 PM.”
“Don’t think I will have the time but I will keep it in mind Mr. Watkins. Thanks for the local update.”
Kaufman waved as he left the store and hurried to his car. He was anxious to get home to see his parents.
The Toyota pulled into the driveway of the old Victorian on Locust Lane at just after 4. Peter got out and jogged to the front door. He waited anxiously after ringing the doorbell several times.
An old woman with gray hair smiled at Kaufman as she opened the door. “Peter, its great to see you”. She gave the young man a hug and asked him to come in.
“Hi Mom. Great to see you too. Dad home?”
Mary Kaufman’s face turned glum as she looked into her son’s eyes. “Your father never came home last night. He went night fishing with your Uncle Steve but neither has been heard from since 6 PM last night. I am hoping that he is drunk in some cabin along the lake and is just sleeping it off.”
Peter nodded. His father Jim Kaufman had a history of drunkenness and some past events of sleeping off a bender with his brother Steve. But not hearing from him so late in the day was a little unusual.
“There is a town hall meeting tonight at 7. I go down there and see if anyone knows where Dad might be.”
Mary Kaufman nodded. “That idiot Silas McGregor asked for the meeting to discuss his concerns about a monster living in the east woods next to Lake Wynonah. Claims that this alleged monster is responsible for some deaths of dogs and livestock in the area over the past month. It might be hard to talk to people once he starts his story telling.”
“I’ll go down early Mom. I understand.”
The town hall was packed to capacity when Peter got there. He asked several people about his father but no one seemed to know anything about where he was. After about 5 minutes of questioning, the meeting kicked off.
Mayor Greenwood discussed briefly the recent rash of unexplained animal deaths in the East Wood area around Lake Wynonah. 5 carcasses had been found over the past 2 weeks.
As he continued his presentation, a gray haired man with a scraggly beard stood up and interrupted. “It’s the Wynonah monster come back Tim. Plain as day. We have to do something this time.”
Mayor Greenwood took off his eyeglasses and peered back at the man. “Now Silas McGregor, don’t you start any rumors again. This is a public meeting and we want to discuss facts.”
The old man glared back. “I ain’t telling any stories. It’s just you and this town who don’t want to accept the truth.”
Tim Greenwood sighed as he put this glasses back on. “Silas, we have no proof of a monster.”
Silas McGregor panned the audience as he prepared to speak one last time. “Ain’t here to argue with anyone. Just telling you that I am going in the East Woods tonight and get the monster. Anyone interested in coming along is welcomed. Someone has to take action before things get worse around here.”
Peter Kaufman followed McGregor out of the town hall and approached the man in the parking lot. “Mr. McGregor, I am Peter Kaufman. I am back in town to visit my parents but my father is currently missing. Might you know anything about his disappearance?”
McGregor paused for a second while looking at Kaufman. “I remember you. You’re the young boy who tried in 1998 to discredit my monster warnings by saying they were just an inflatable alligator in the lake.”
“Please Mr. McGregor. My father is missing. Can you help me locate him?”
Silas McGregor looked away for a second before replying to Kaufman. “Well, Jim Kaufman likes to fish, often just off the East Woods. So if he was fishing lately and he is missing, then its possible the monster might have him.”
Peter Kaufman felt his options were limited. Best to team up with this man for the time being. At least until he had better leads on his father’s whereabouts. “I’ll come with you Mr. McGregor.”
The East Woods were pitch dark by the time McGregor and Kaufman set out on their quest. The lanterns supplied by Silas McGregor helped to light the way but only so far. The men tripped over tree roots and other obstructions as they navigated their way along the shoreline of the lake.
“Where were the animal carcasses found?” Kaufman asked as he walked past the latest tree root obstructing the ground.
“About 50 yards ahead,” replied McGregor as he pointed light back into the woods. “We have to be careful now. This is the general area that I think the monster lives in.”
Suddenly, a sound came from behind the men. It was a shrill sound, high pitched and terrifying. Kaufman turned around to see what it was.
“The monster!” cried McGregor as he rushed past Kaufman and into the wood, a shotgun in hand.
“Wait” cried Kaufman as he tried to pursue the old man. But following McGregor was impossible. The old man was quicker than one would think and he had a significant lead in the chase. Kaufman finally gave up and decided to just wait for the old man to come back.
But he never came back. The shrill shrieks originally heard by Kaufman were quickly replaced by agonizing cries of pain which Kaufman knew were from the old man. Then the silence was followed by the uncomfortable sound of tearing flesh. Kaufman immediately darted toward the Lake Wynonah peer and hopefully to safety. Only time would tell if his split second decision to head for the peer was the right move.
Dawn brought the town people to the East Woods, with Peter Kaufman in the lead. They found the old man’s body, mangled and bloodied with broken arms and a partially torn off leg. But no existence of a monster was every confirmed.
Peter Kaufman stayed in town another 2 weeks, hoping to find his missing father and uncle. But no evidence of Jim or Steve Kaufman was ever found. Some in town believed that the pair had drowned and were now at the bottom of Lake Wynonah. But Peter Kaufman felt differently.
People still talk about the Lake Wynonah monster to this day but for the most part, the town has moved on from the events of August 2015. The big question is whether the monster has moved on.
Author’s Bio: Tom Schmidt is a Chemical Engineer working in medical diagnostics in upstate New York. He enjoys creative writing and has been published on www.short-story.me and in overmydeadbody.com in the past. He is currently working on the “Paul Garigan Crime Mysteries”, a collection of short stories centered around a Malibu based police detective which he hopes to publish in the future.