Good Morning Everyone!
I hope your week is going great so far! Today, on this fine Thursday, I have the next installment of The Drowners. I would love to tell you that this is the end of the story, but it is not. There will be one more part. If you’ve missed the first two pieces and want to catch up, you can read Part one Here, and Part Two Here.
As always, when the conclusion of this tale is posted, I will post the complete story on my Short Fiction page. Enjoy the read and have a great rest of the week!
Thanks for stopping by!
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Sheriff Al Todd sat in his kitchen, slurping cold coffee and watching the smoke from his cigar curl above the ashtray. How had his little mountain town come to this? Three men, brothers, drowned themselves on purpose; and somehow didn’t die? A entire town with no record lost to the bottom of Lake Aedin; cars and trucks still parked, and the remains of people still in their beds!
The sun cast long shadows through the trees. Al only watched the smoke twist and curl. His reflection in the cold coffee looked ashen and grey. He could see the lines in his face; they did look deeper than usual. He set the cigar into the ashtray and resigned himself to bed; a good nights’ sleep was all he needed.
The phone woke him in the morning. The standing around from the day before burned in his legs as he climbed out of bed. He huffed into the hallway, hoping he could get to the phone before the caller hung up. In his exhaustion he almost hoped he wouldn’t make it. No luck.
The sun barely shone above the rim of the mountains; Al knew it was close to seven in the morning.
“Hello? Sheriff Al Todd, what can I do for you?” He grumbled into the phone.
“Al, it’s Lester. We need you at the Lake now. There’s more people drowned. Oh God, AL, please hurry.”
Al hung up the phone, leaning his head against the wall. His chest felt heavy, like it was being pushed and pulled at the same time. He pulled himself up and walked into the kitchen, pouring a small glass of Jack Daniels. He slugged it back and stood by the counter just breathing.
He made his way back to the bedroom and dressed, grabbing his gun and keys on the way out. There was urgency in the air, yet Al couldn’t bring himself to face it. The last few days had brought far too much activity to such a small town. As he wove through the hilly streets, around the large oak on the corner of Ash and Brisbane where he broke his arm as a child, past the Village Grocer, where he had his first summer job, he noticed how quiet the morning was. There should have been some traffic, nothing like a large city, but at least a few other cars on the road.
As he pulled into the Lake parking he knew why. Dozens of vehicles sat still running with open doors. His Deputies were taking pictures and scribbling notes as he stopped the car. Lester ran towards him, his eyes looked red like he had been crying.
Al climbed out of the cruiser; the lake came into view above the idling cars. Bodies, nearly three dozen; all floating and fully clothed.
“Jesus Christ.” Al had never been very religious, yet he was filled with the sudden urge to pray at that moment. “Jesus Christ, Lester.” Al could feel the breeze off the lake chilling the tears rolling down his cheeks. He hadn’t realized he had started crying.
“Al, what’s happening? Why is this happening? My dad’s out there, Al, my dad!” Lester started sobbing again. “Oh God, everyone that lives on Ash is out there.”
Al could only stare. But, they might still be alive, he thought. The Murphy brothers still had some brain stuff going on, whatever Don called it. They might still be alive somehow. “We need to get them out of the water.” Al felt his heart quicken. “Lester, pull it together. Round up everybody and get those people out of the lake. We need to get them all to the hospital, Don found something with the Murphy boys; they’re not dead. Get moving, Lester.”
“Not dead? They drowned, Al!”
“Dammit, Lester, you’ve got to trust me! Get them out of the water, now!”
Lester stumbled off, gathering the other Deputies and moving to the lake. Al slid into his cruiser and grabbed the radio.
“Dolores, this is Al. Come back.” Nothing. “Dolores, come in. This is Al.”
“This is Deputy Walt, Dolores hasn’t gotten in yet, Al. It’s only quarter to seven. What do you need? Over.”
“Walt, get Don down to Aedin Lake now. I need vans, trucks, anything. Send ambulances, anything. Over and out.”
It took most of the morning to deliver the bodies of the drowned to the hospital. By the second trip the whole town knew and volunteers showed up with pick-up trucks to help bring them to the small medical facility. They un-living were placed three and four to a room and most had to go without the proper equipment; there simply wasn’t enough ventilators and such to go around.
Al was surprised how well the citizens were taking the news of so many drowned neighbors. He half expected a panicked mob, yet most of the town found their way to the church to pray. Others donated time at the hospital to help in any way they could.
Sheriff Al Todd couldn’t seem to shake the heaviness in his chest. What the hell was happening? Al missed his children, he tried calling them but only had success in reaching their voice mails. He hadn’t bothered to leave a message; what do you say, how do you explain what was going on? Al couldn’t think of a way.
He sat in his office; puffing on a cigar with an apathetic appetite for the one thing that used to be so relaxing. Al slowly swirled a glass of whiskey, he had lost track of how many he had drank that afternoon. It didn’t really matter today. It seemed that everyone in town had lost a friend or loved one and the Sheriff Station had been empty all day. Al couldn’t bring himself to think about what he was going to do. Whether from the events of the past few days, or the Jack Daniels, he lost the will to concentrate or focus.
* * * * *
Al sat up, a string of drool refusing to let go from the small puddle on his desk. His back screamed from the bad posturing of passing out in his office. His light was still on but he could see it was still dark outside, a quick glance at his watch told him it was half past two in the morning. He wasn’t sure what it was, but something wasn’t right.
He cleaned his glasses on his untucked shirt as he stumbled from the office. The station was empty; the night shift nowhere to be seen. The hairs on Al’s arms and neck stood, goose flesh rippling across his skin, something was wrong. The night was far too still, even for his small town.
He walked out the front door into the cool early morning air. The crisp scent of pine trees was everywhere, and for a moment it was calming. But he could hear cars off in the distance, the quiet hum of motors running.
The tightness in his chest worked its way into his left arm and down to his fingertips. With a sinking feeling he climbed into his cruiser and slowly drove into the street. He knew what he was going to find as he made his way to the lake.
The glow of headlights shining over the water was unmistakable. Tears poured down his face as he parked, the weight in his chest beginning to ache. He climbed out and fell to his knees at the sight. It looked to be almost the entire town. The sweet smell of pine trees and mountain air was suddenly overwhelmed by spoiled eggs and burnt hair as a voice like cool silk called to him from the darkness.
“This isn’t the first time something like this has happened, Mr. Todd. This form of tragedy happens every hundred years or so, but kids will be kids. You have kids, you know how it goes. Some children never learn the art of subtly, am I right? It’s always forgotten, just as it will be here, no one will remember your town. The first time it happened, a man was asked to build a great boat. True story.”
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See everyone next week on Tuesday for the conclusion of The Drowners. Thanks for stopping by!