's 2019 Horror Write-off:

A Small Lake in Rural Texas

Submitted by James B. Davis

The sun was setting on the horizon and reflecting red and orange light off of the dank lake. A cloud of flies was buzzing around the surface of the water a few yards out from the shoreline. A rim of dark mud lined the lake that met a dry, mostly matted down, brown field. The farther from the lake the taller the grass became and rose into small hills the littered the horizon on all sides. The dark purple on the other side of the horizon was beginning to look hungry and would surely eat up the rest of the sky soon and get rid of all the sun’s light. 

Also surrounding this lake were a few abandoned cars that rust had engulfed and consumed to the point of being mostly a frame with some glass windows and paper thin siding. Inside of one of the cars was a skeleton, also almost completely eaten away from water and decay. This skeleton’s one remaining hand was gripped around the steering wheel, but connected to no arm to steer. Its neck was bent backward on the car’s rotten seat and the jaw hung wide open. From the open jaw grew a hefty amount of moss that grew down into the ribs and pelvis bone. A few vines were beginning to wind their way toward the skeleton but hadn’t quite reached yet.

Next to this car was an old telephone booth. The booth’s glass sides were broken away almost completely. Only a few jagged points of glass remained. Inside the booth, the phone was still on the hook but the plastic had seen better days; it was cracked and pieces were missing. The red paint on the booth was faded from the sun and the advertisement for a now unknown brand of toothpaste on its one side was peeling away from water damage. 

Just a few miles East from the lake was an old town known as Blackfield that was laying empty. The ghost town was once prosperous and full of people. Back in the 70s when its grounds were filled to the brim with Oil it was a small wealthy community of cattle ranchers and oil tycoons. But soon the oil was used up and people slowly abandoned the town one by one. By ‘85 it was completely hollow and nature had taken it back. Weeds grew tall in the streets and sidewalks and businesses with broken windows grew shrubs and bushes on their floors. Not even a passing vagrant lived in the structures for even a single night.

On the dark side of the horizon the sound of a car was barreling toward the lake. The tires were taking a pounding from the off road terrain. One of the tires had a large, sharp thorn sticking out of it just waiting to pop the rubber casing. Grass was dragging along the bottom of the car and getting coated in polluted grime and grease. Two long and narrow trails followed behind the car’s wheels that led all the way back from the highway. The car stopped when it reached the lake’s shore.

Nathan got out of his car in a rush and ran a few yards away before coming to a sharp halt. His head turned in all directions. He scoured the area with his eyes, not even noticing the rotten cars on its shore. He didn’t find what he was looking for, obviously, when his arms and body became limp with disappointment. Tears began to well up in his eyes as he looked out toward the setting sun. The skyline was now impossibly red and orange. It looked like a bag of candy had spilled out on the sky. Thoughts began to race through Nathan’s head.

Suddenly, breaking his train of thought, a sharp and shrill sound filled the air and Nathan perked up immediately. Nathan looked around again and saw the source. Nathan sprinted across the dry grass and toward the dilapidated phone booth. The ringing grew louder and louder as he approached it. Nathan threw himself into the booth and pulled the phone from its hook. 

“Hello!” Nathan cried.

“You made it, honey.” A woman’s voice spoke from the phone in a relaxed and sleepy tone. 

“Where are you?” Nathan asked frantically, “You said I’d see you when I got here.”

“Just wait. We’ll see each other soon.” she said in a hushed, gentle voice.

“I’ve missed you so much, baby.” Nathan said in tears, “You have no idea how much I’ve missed you.”

“Yes I do. I’ve missed you too.” she said, “I’ll see you soon. Bye, baby.”

The phone hung up and Nathan was left once again alone. He felt the spaces between the beats of his heart in his empty chest. He leaned against the wall of the phone booth with one hand and hung his head down toward the ground. He looked at his feet and saw a small insect crawling across the floor. He then lifted his head up and looked out toward the lake. The sun was almost gone now. 

He walked out of the booth and back toward his car. He got into the back seat lazily but in blundering fashion. He leaned against one of the doors with his feet and legs resting across the entire back seat. He limply placed his arms in his lap and looked out at the horizon. The sun was beginning to creep away almost entirely but was still shining a brutal light out at the sky. The light reflected on the surface of the lake in a blinding vibrancy. A slight breeze was blowing across the field and softly bending the tall grass and cattails that grew up along the western side of the lake. For a few moments, Nathan felt calm for the last time.

Suddenly a pain gripped his chest in such a powerful way that he yelped out in pain. It was radiating from the center of his chest down into his stomach and up into his throat. His head began to ache in violent bursts. His eyes felt like they were going to pop from his skull. It felt like steam was billowing from his ears like it did in the old cartoons. He then felt a lump pushing its way from his stomach to his throat and into his mouth. In a sudden motion Nathan spat a massive spurt of blood onto the car’s interior and windows. The feeling of built up pressure in his body suddenly stopped but the pain was not over. Blood was still pouring from his mouth and beginning to drain from his nose and ears. Red tinted tears were pouring from his burning, bloodshot eyes as he panicked in his seat. 

Rose, where are you? Why aren’t you here? Nathan thought to himself despite his frenzied state.

He was dying without seeing her again. Two whole years of wondering where she was. Two whole years of emptiness. Two years of tears and longing to see her again. Two years of hoping she hadn’t died. For what? Just to die alone in a car in the middle of Texas without seeing her again? His eyes closed tight as another turret of blood shot from his mouth and this time fell right back down onto his face. When he opened his eyes he was looking up at the ceiling of the car; alone. His eyes faded away and he was gone. His body sat sideways across the back seat. The sun finally left the horizon as a new moon failed to rise into the sky.

The next morning the sun rose up as it always did and aimed a few warming rays onto Nathan’s corpse.