It’s morning. Before dawn. You like to get to the lake early, when its surface is a broad mirror. Glassy smooth. The air is chill, but you like that, too. It feels like anticipation. A whole new day is ahead. And you enjoy the way the lake fogs appear and eventually lift when the sun hits the cold water.
You find your spot on the bank of the small, remote lake. No reeds here to tangle your fishing line. And you’ve had good luck here before. Carefully, you thread a worm onto your fishhook. But before you cast, the early morning stillness breaks. Footsteps on the old dock. Less than a good cast from here.
No one comes to this lake. This spot.
A cry echoes out across the lake. A loon?
Quietly, you sit up and peer over the reeds. In morning’s half-light you see the shape of a man walking the weathered boards of the dock. Slow steps. In oiled workboots. The dock groans. Rusty nails creak. The water ripples outward in tiny waves. Disturbing the glazed water.
The man carries no pole. And the dock is old. Very old. No boat or canoe is tethered there. But the man does have something in his arms.
And your eight-year-old heart begins to pound in your chest.
You would run from here, but the man would hear you.
So, you stay. And watch. And wait…
John leaned against the front of his ’72 Ford F250 and looked east toward dawn. Still a few minutes away. From the cab, his Clarion deck played a guitar song after a baroque fashion. He had some Linkin Park in the truck. Some funk, too. But not here. Not his spot. Far from the crowds. High on a long plain of sage. He’d come to relax, to await sunrise. A whole new day ahead.
He traced the aureate rim across the mountains east and the fade of blue toward violet above him. The air was mild, windless. The ground smelled wet with dew. A renewing scent. He came to this secluded spot to be alone. To take in the patient, uncomplicated way of things he only seemed to find here. To get away from mid-terms—art and music double major. And to burn away images that crept up from sleep.
Casting his gaze around, he started at the sudden sight of a stooped figure standing thirty paces to his right and looking toward the same promise of dawn.
“Didn’t think anyone else got up early enough to watch the old disk float up, huh?” the old man said, still facing east.
John said nothing, staring at the man in surprise. The old fellow’s beard fell halfway down his chest, and his knees were crooked. Even from thirty paces away, the lines at the corners of the old man’s eyes and mouth were deep furrows. His back had a soft bend as if he’d never been offered a seat. But his face had a patient, bland look to it. And the slope of his stance made John think of the comfortable way one reclines in a hammock…
Read the rest of this story and eleven more nightmare-inspired tales in Shared Nightmares, available now!