Out of the Depths – Chapter VI

By Jake Kale

It took Greg a while to realize Monica wasn’t following him anymore, and when he did he almost fell over again. He spun to look back the way he came but there was no sign of her! Greg turned slowly around and around in awkward, dizzying circles, scanning the road, houses and gardens, incredulity crippling his thought processes, raspy, strangled sobs emerging from his shuddering mouth. He could’ve sworn she’d been right behind him! The explosions and the screams had stopped suddenly and the village was quiet, and Greg was alone.

He lost her! He’d lost her!

Then it hit him.

She must’ve gone down the alley!

How could she be so stupid? He could clearly see that alley was bad news, it was obvious that it was a dead end, but no, Monica knew better! Why did she have to be so wilful? She always had been, and it had always driven him insane with exasperation, jealousy and sometimes even with desire. But mostly with rage.

He had to find her.

Still clutching his injured arm, Greg shambled as quickly as he was able back to the intersection, and was relieved beyond measure to find it and the streets that lead into it as empty as he’d left them just seconds before. Whatever catastrophe he had heard, it had not extended this far. It had attracted attention, though—all around him he saw lights flicking on, and even spotted a few nervous forms peeping out from behind front doors. Greg ignored them, his focus solely on finding his wife. He hobbled around the roundabout and to the entrance to the alley, and stood indecisively at its mouth. He’d hoped he might find Monica waiting there for him, but there was no sign of her—he debated shouting her name, but knew he couldn’t risk it. He really didn’t want to go down there, it was so dark.

But he had no choice.

Greg started walking down the alley, passing the locked up pub patio and the rear exits of other buildings, eventually leaving them behind and finding himself surrounded by rough dry-stone walls that seemed to get higher and higher the further he walked. The alley constricted like a black, cancerous artery, its end hidden in shadow even though he must have penetrated at least fifty feet into it. Surely Monica wouldn’t have gone this way, surely she would’ve realized her mistake and turned back? Greg certainly wanted to—he felt as if he were somehow being funnelled directly to lightless bottom of Underhill Lake.

He ended up walking another fifty feet before he finally reached the end of the alley. The last few feet was level ground and led to a small square-shaped alcove surrounded by walls at least ten feet high and topped with a chain link fence, thick bushes obscuring the view beyond them. A single dustbin sat in the right corner in front of him. The alcove was empty.

She wasn’t there!

It didn’t seem possible but she wasn’t there! Greg scanned the alcove in utter disbelief, searching for some offshoot that he might have missed, but there was none. He’d lost Monica, he had actually lost Monica . . !

Somewhere above him a bush rustled, and Greg responded before he could think better of it. “Monica, is that you?”

The rustling ceased—whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t his wife. Wincing at his own stupidity, Greg began to slowly back out of the alcove. Then the rustling came again, more furious this time, and Greg’s nerve snapped. He whirled and started to limp up the alley as quickly and quietly as he could, not daring to look back. He couldn’t hear anything following him, no thunderous footsteps or sounds of destruction, and he wondered if what he’d heard was an animal, a cat or a dog or a fox or something, though even if that were the case he sure as hell wasn’t staying here. He didn’t know what to do! There was almost no chance of finding Monica now, this village was a bloody labyrinth. The only thing he could think to do was try and make it back to the car and wait there, and hope that she somehow found her way back—

—and at that point Greg became aware of that horribly recognizable reverberation, the signature call of the alien machines, only it was much clearer now, much closer, coming from the alley ahead of him! Then Greg saw the immense tower-like body approaching and his blood ran cold—he was trapped! He looked desperately for somewhere to hide and found a short recess, the back exit of some building. The door was blocked by a stuffed wheelie bin and countless black bags and was likely locked anyway, but maybe he could hide there until the thing went past. Greg dove into the recess, secluding himself amongst the carelessly discarded refuse and trying not to think about the vermin that might be lurking amongst it, and the noise was becoming louder and louder as the machine drew near, the deep base fluctuation rising and falling in volume almost melodically, so loud it seemed to penetrate his skull, and he thrust his hands to his ears to try and drown it out but couldn’t bring himself to close his eyes. And suddenly it was there, passing right in front of him, and he saw that it was one of the squid-machines but with its conical body angled vertically, the glowing feelers hanging between four oddly interconnected “legs”, and the sight of it excited a mortal horror so intense Greg knew he had to get out of there or his sanity would be corrupted beyond all redemption. By some incredible stroke of luck it hadn’t seen him, so he counted ten seconds, giving it time to reach the fenced-in alcove, then ran heedlessly out of the alley and as far away from it as his weakened legs could carry him.

During the ensuing hours Greg encountered three more of the biomechanical monsters. The first he heard just before it turned the corner of Dean Street by the village Post Office, and he managed to evade it by scrambling under a parked car. He’d scraped his injured arm on the asphalt and had to lay in silent agony as those weird legs manoeuvred past him. He then ran into two more as they made their way down a sloping road, and dived over a fence into somebody’s back garden, which again did wonders for his arm. Everywhere he went he saw evidence of their passing in the form of destroyed cars and demolished houses, and every now and then he’d hear another deafening explosion, usually followed by more screams that didn’t last very long. He saw no bodies, though he did spot a few survivors, often running for their lives or hiding, but Greg couldn’t bring himself to care about them—he’d lost the only person who mattered to him.

Just as fatigue threatened to overwhelm him Greg spotted a street sign that read “Main Road”, at last a road he recognized, and followed it back Hill Lane. Both it and Harley Road were deserted, and Greg made a point of not looking at the destroyed walls, overturned vehicles and other signs of the preceding carnage, and he made damn sure not to look back at the black, watery hell that had spawned this nightmare as he ran back to the place where his life had, for all intents and purposes, ended. He found Lakeview Cottage and his own car untouched, and he didn’t bother going back for the bags, he simply jumped into the driver’s seat, started the ignition and, steering awkwardly with good arm, sped away without so much as a glance in the rear-view mirror.

Another hour had passed since then. It was now a quarter to four in the morning, and he’d seen no sign that the . . . the invasion—call it what it was—had spread beyond Dunstone, though he had seen a military convoy heading in the opposite direction to him. Greg guessed somebody had managed to raise the alarm. Either that or the military already knew about the threat to begin with, not that it made much difference now. He still had no idea where he was going to go. For all he knew those cephalopoid machines where everywhere, and if that where the case then the human race was done. His future would most likely consist of a lifetime locked away in an army medical lab or subjugation under an alien race. That, or a swift death. None of those options were particularly appealing.

Greg couldn’t stop crying. He’d cried non-stop since leaving Dunstone, even though he knew it was pointless. Monica was gone, and he was beyond hope even if he did survive. What was the point of even trying? He might as well end it all now, might as well drive off the road into a ditch or headfirst into a tree or something, because there was nothing left to live for, to survive for. Greg started to shake uncontrollably as he thought of Monica, and as he remembered the terrible noise that resonated within his skull as that monstrous figure passed him in that pitch-black alleyway, its fat, stubby bioluminescent tentacles dragging the limb form of his wife behind it.

Her eyes open, staring at him.

Chapter V

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Out of the Depths by Jake Kale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Out of the Depths – Chapter V

By Jake Kale

Greg scanned the street they’d ended up on, the dim light not helping, but it was no good—the roads in Dunstone Village were all so similar they could have been miles from the cottage or just around the corner, and they wouldn’t have known the difference. They were lost. He’d gotten them lost!

Recovering from their flight a little quicker than Greg, Monica said, “It’s OK, we’re safe. We got away from those things, that’s all that matters.”

But Greg could only shake his head. “We’ve got to go back.”

“What?” Monica yelped hoarsely.

“We can’t stay here,” he explained. “We need to get to the car if we want to get out of the village.”

Now Monica was shaking her head. “No, we should try and find the police station. Remember Andy said it was near the church? We have to get to the police and get help—”

Greg stood clumsily, using the wall to steady himself, and faced her. “Mon, do you really think the police are gonna be able to do anything?”

She met his eyes forlornly. “No,” she said. “No, probably not. But what if we get away, and those things have landed elsewhere?”

That thought had occurred to Greg, but he’d decided he wasn’t going to worry about it right now. Besides, he knew what she was really thinking was, We can’t just leave these people behind, and he didn’t particularly feel good about doing that himself, but there was nothing they could do. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he told her. “For now, we know they’re here, so we have to get out.”

Monica closed her eyes and turned away from him, and Greg could see tears seeping through the cracks of her eyelids. At last she nodded her head. They really had no choice, and she understood that. They were just going to have to learn to live with it.

Greg moved away from the wall and studied their surroundings. He figured the best thing to do was to try and retrace their steps. Opposite them he saw more ancient cottages, the road beyond them curving sharply to the right and downhill, the slope so punishing Greg was amazed they’d managed to run up it. No wonder his legs were killing him. He and Monica walked over to the other side of the road and up to the corner, then warily peeked around it. The visibility was not great as the old road was characteristically narrow and densely packed with cars, but it was well-lit and looked empty. They started walking down it, eyes peeled for the slightest movement, ears attuned to pick up the smallest sound. The sharp angle of the slope made walking surprisingly treacherous, and Greg was glad he hadn’t worn his old trainers with the nearly smooth soles.

After about twenty feet the road levelled out and they were able to fully concentrate on finding the way they’d come. Greg realized they were in the interior of the village, the oldest part of Dunstone. Their path gently twisted and turned as they walked past houses with low thatched roofs and lovingly landscaped front lawns, past antiquated shops and the occasional bus shelter, and one incongruously modern supermarket whose opaque windows were uncomfortably reminiscent of the lake. Just a few hours before this same street would’ve excited a deep affection in Greg, a longing to spend the rest of his life here. Now it inspired only disorientation and intense paranoia, and he could only hope that both of them would get out of it alive.

Greg couldn’t stop thinking about the thing he’d seen reflected in the picture frame in the cottage. It was hard to tell because he was tired as hell and couldn’t be sure how much of his memory was accurate and how much was his imagination filling in the blanks, but the closest analogue he could conceive was a kind of mechanical squid. Or possibly biomechanical—he’d taken to thinking of it as a machine but he wasn’t certain it was, at least not as he or anyone else on Earth understood it. The only things he could picture clearly were those fat tentacles, glowing yellow like the oil in the lake, and Greg could have sworn he even detected the same swirling, liquidy texture on their surface. He wondered again what the hell had emerged from the depths of Underhill Lake, and remembering the legion of silvery shapes sweeping up the hill Greg picked his pace, wanting nothing more than for the both of them to get the hell out of Dunstone Village and never come back.

Soon they saw an offshoot on the opposite side of the road that Greg thought he recognized, but Monica felt sure they’d run by it earlier. Another fifty or so feet from that the road forked, and they stopped—neither of them could remember that at all.

“I told you we came through that other street,” Greg said pointedly.

Monica ignored him and glanced back and forth between the fork and the offshoot. “Maybe it looked different from the other side,” she said.

“I really don’t think so, Mon . . .” Greg said.

She flashed him a brief conciliatory smile, and Greg knew his wife well enough to realize a compromise was in order. “Look, I tell you what,” she said. “We’ll just have a quick wander down the right road and see if it looks familiar. If not, we’ll go back to the other road. Deal?”

Greg considered making a politically incorrect joke about women and directions, but held his tongue. “OK, deal,” he agreed.

Unfortunately that “quick wander” turned into a slightly longer one, as the road was so generic it was impossible to tell if they’d travelled this way or not. Eventually they came to a point where it inclined slightly to the left ahead of them, so that they couldn’t see how much further it extended. The shadowy edifices of tall, gothic-looking buildings preceded the turn, and Greg knew for a fact that they’d gotten lost again. He sighed despairingly. “The phrase, ‘I told you so,’ springs to mind . . .”

Monica said, “It’s OK, we can backtrack . . .”

Greg felt his temper flare. Her pragmatism was admirable, but their lives were in danger and she was treating this like an orienteering exercise! He whirled to face her—she’d hung back a few steps when she’d realized they’d gone the wrong way—and was about inform her that they would be going back to the first turn-off forthwith when he spotted the towering steeple of St. Francis Church rising above the line of houses on the other side of the road, and instead of yelling he broke out in what he didn’t doubt was a very goofy-looking grin. “Monica, look!”

She followed his gaze, and he saw her relax. “Oh, thank Christ for that! How the hell did we miss that?” she said.

Greg didn’t know how they hadn’t seen it, but he didn’t really care—they’d got their bearings back, that was good enough for him. Monica pointed out a footpath cutting between two houses and they ran across to it, losing sight of the steeple as they made their way through the shadowy passage. They ended up at a T-junction and turned in the presumed direction of the church—tall hedges obscured their view of the steeple—until they reached a short offshoot that led to the end of a cul-de-sac.

Emerging from the path Greg realized they’d gone past the church. He looked south, or at least in the direction he assigned as south, and soon located the steeple again. “I think we need to go out that way,” Monica said, indicating the road going “west” out of the cul-de-sac, but Greg was only dimly aware of what she was saying. He was too busy staring at the steeple—it didn’t look right, it seemed as if it were closer to the houses than it had looked from the street. It almost looked as if it were right inside someone’s back garden—

The steeple moved.

Greg’s squinted in surprise as he found himself wondering for the umpteenth time whether he’d really seen what he thought he’d seen. Then the “steeple” moved again, shifting closer still to the house, its laborious movement giving the impression of something tremendously powerful, and then it was Monica’s turn to play the leader as she grabbed his wrist and pulled him out of his terrified reverie and out of the cul-de-sac into the street beyond. They ran uphill and around yet another turning, and Greg knew they were going to get lost again but he didn’t care, and he doubted Monica did, either, because he was convinced that whatever the hell it was that he’d just seen must have seen them, too. They turned another corner onto a reasonably straight road, and good God his calves ached! Every muscle ached, and his lower back felt as though his spine was trying to pull itself apart, but somehow he found the energy to go on, at least until Monica stopped suddenly and this time Greg couldn’t stop himself from tumbling over, searing pain shooting through his elbow as it connected with the concrete pavement.

Monica was at his side immediately. “Greg, are you OK?”

Greg rolled onto his back, holding his left arm against his chest, teary eyes tightly shut. Through clenched teeth he hissed, “What the hell did you stop for?”

“Answer me, will you?”

“Yeah, I’m OK,” he said, her genuine concern softening his anger. “I’m alright, Monica. Why’d you stop?”

She pointed back down the street. “I’m sure we went came through this alley with Andy.”

Oh God, not more alleyways! Greg thought. He struggled onto his knees and, with Monica’s help, to his feet, still clutching his injured arm. He tried to move it and a fresh jolt of pain travelled up his humerus. Greg winced. It hurt like hell, but he could move it so it probably wasn’t broken. Greg realized he did recognize this area after all. They were right in the centre of the village, the intersection of three roads, and he saw that they’d actually been running past the wall that bordered Erlington Park. The focal point of the area was a grassy roundabout on top of which sat St Luke’s Cross, an ornate three-tiered monument built in memoriam to the victims of the fire more than a century ago. Andy had cajoled their camera into taking a picture of the two of them perched on its steps four days before. Andy, the friendly, helpful, gullible young man who was likely dead now, along with the young barmaid he’d lusted after, her overbearing father, and those two rejects from Last of the Summer Wine, Don and Robby, and God knew how many others. Greg felt an intense grief as he recalled how happy they’d been the day that picture was taken, how happy they’d been just a few hours ago, as well as a depthless shame that he knew would be with him for the rest of his life.

Lightly holding his right shoulder, Monica guided him to their latest potential escape route. The alleyway cut between the high wall of the park and a silent, boarded up pub, The Heart of Dunstone, and dipped in a gentle but visible gradient. It looked pretty lengthy, tapering off into shadow, which meant it either curved ahead or it was a dead end. Neither option made it a particularly desirable prospect. “I don’t think we did come this way,” Greg said, glad his throaty voice masked his unease.

But Monica was convinced. “Greg, I know we’ve come up through here. I remember it plain as day.”

“Everything looks the same round here, how can you tell?”

“No, I’m sure of it. I think it leads out onto Main Road,” she said, but Greg was in no mood to argue about this. They needed to keep moving, and they couldn’t risk taking a detour at every street, footpath or alley that looked vaguely familiar because if they did they’d be wandering around for hours. Greg was just about to put his foot down and tell her they were not going to go down this alley—

—when a thunderous crashing sound erupted in the distance, it sounded like a house being torn apart, and Greg could swear the ground actually shook. He went to grab Monica’s arm with his good hand but couldn’t manage it, so instead he shouted, “Come on!” and started running again, away from the alley, past the abandoned pub and stalwart cross and up the “northern” road. He heard more explosions behind them as that steeple-shaped thing laid waste to Dunstone Village, as well as the sound of people screaming, and he felt his own terror rise. His pace was slowing, he was practically limping, and he knew that if any of those things from the lake saw them they wouldn’t stand a chance, but Greg didn’t care, he’d lost all fear, he’d lost all hope, he’d lost all sense of direction—

And he’d lost Monica!

Chapter IV Chapter VI

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Out of the Depths by Jake Kale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Out of the Depths – Chapter IV

By Jake Kale

After racing to keep ahead of the terrified villagers for several minutes Greg realized it would be safer for him and Monica to get as far away from them as possible, both to avoid being trampled and to elude—well, God only knew what. He saw his chance when they reached the intersection where they’d met Andy earlier, and dodging up the left fork he yanked Monica bodily after him, while the majority of the crowd went in the opposite direction, towards Dunstone Village proper. Greg, Monica and the few villagers that followed them made their way north-west, and he lost sight of the others sometime before they spotted Lakeview Cottage on the crest of the hill. Rather than head for Harley Road they scrambled straight up the hill to the cottage, and stood at the patio doors as Greg fumbled with his keys, absurdly thinking about the game they used to play where they pretended they were being chased by an axe-wielding maniac and had to get in the house as quickly as possible. Greg forced the key into the hole, turned the lock and wrenched the doors open, shoving his wife roughly inside and glancing back to see nothing but the empty valley sweeping down towards Underhill Lake, and then he was inside and pulling the doors closed again.

The two of them stumbled their way into the living room and fell onto the sofa, overcome by exhaustion and panic, and sat gasping in the dark. Greg’s mind was genuinely spinning—so much had happened so quickly, and now that he had time for reflection he found he was too disorientated to even begin to put events into the correct sequence, let alone determine what they meant. He knew he needed to calm down, he was no use to Monica in this state. He willed himself to breath regularly, and his heart rate began to slow. Next to him the shadowy form of his wife coughed, then managed to coerce her vocal cords into action. Keeping her voice low, she asked, “Did you see what they were running from?”

“No,” Greg said, matching her volume but grateful that his voice sounded steadier. He’d been too concerned with staying ahead of the crowd to dare look back. “You?”

She shook her head. “No.”

Greg leaned back, sinking into the soft padding. “I’m exhausted!”

“No stamina,” she said, but the humour was forced and not remotely convincing. She bent over and buried her head in her hands, and for a second Greg thought she was going to cry. “God, I’ve never been so scared in my life!” she mumbled through her fingers. Then she looked up, and her mouth dropped open. “Oh, my God, what about Andy? And Selena, and Don and Robby . . ?”

Greg started to say, “They might be alright . . .”

She turned to face him, and even in the dark the abject terror in her face was apparent, and striking. “Those people were running from something, Greg!” she whispered forcefully, her fear preventing her from actually yelling, and Greg couldn’t think of a good way to answer that. Monica turned away and closed her eyes, breathed deeply, then opened them again. She repeated this several times—it was an old trick she used to calm her nerves. “Do you think we’re safe now?” she said at last.

Greg shook his head uselessly. “I don’t know,” was the best he could manage. Safe from what? Monica glared at him again, making him extremely uncomfortable, and Greg decided he’d had enough of this. He was not going to let them be drawn into this insular little village’s mass hysteria any further—it was time to find out exactly what the hell was going on. Standing up with much less difficulty than he imagined, Greg started to walk to the window. Monica just about jumped out of her skin.

“What the hell are you doing?” she hissed.

“I’m gonna take a look outside.”

“Greg, be careful!”

Humouring her, Greg clung to the wall left of the window and cautiously peeked around the edge. He wasn’t sure what he expected to see—the lake glowing bright yellow, flying saucers filling the sky, more gigantic meteors raining down upon them—but whatever it was, it wasn’t there. The hills and distant fells were empty, the sky was untrafficked, and the lake just as black and forbidding as it had looked an hour or so earlier. Speaking normally, Greg said. “I can’t see anything.”

“What about the lake?” Monica asked.

“It doesn’t look any different.”

He heard her sigh. Looking back, he saw her sitting with her hands in her lap, watching him. “So what do we do now?” she asked, and Greg was relieved to hear her voice had raised an octave or two.

“I don’t know,” he answered. “Do you want to leave?”

She didn’t even hesitate. “No, we can’t just leave. We need to get help, call the police or something.”

That was more like it—the practical response. She was in control again, and that made him feel less jittery, too. He thought she was getting ahead of herself, though—they still didn’t know what the hell had happened at the lake. It probably was a good idea to inform the police anyway, but before they did he wanted to know exactly what they were informing them of. Greg said, “Before we call the police I think we should make sure we’re not panicking over nothing. How about I give the pub a ring? The number’s bound to be in the book. I’ll call them, and see if they answer.”

“And if they don’t?” she asked.

“Then I’ll call the police. And we’ll get out of here.”

She nodded, and with his eyes now adjusted to the lack of light he saw she’d actually managed a thin smile. Greg went to sit with his wife but she wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him tightly before he could. Greg ruffled her hair, and when she let go he went to the small phone on the desk in front of the stairs, next to the telly. He found the phone book in the bottom drawer and started leafing through it, squinted to look for the pub. Now that he was sure they were safe and actually had a plan Greg could think more clearly. They’d overreacted, simple as that, but perfectly understandable given that they’d had a panicked crowd rushing at them. As to what caused said crowd to panic Greg could only guess, but he was pretty sure good old fashioned superstition had played a part. He held the phone book up close, carefully scanning each page.

Softly, Monica said, “Greg.”

He glanced over his shoulder and saw that she was now standing by the window where he’d been a moment ago, looking down towards the lake. Leaving the phone book on the desk, Greg went over to join her. “What is . . ?”

Greg spotted what she was looking at straight away, though what it was he couldn’t tell. He saw streaks of briefly exposed moonlight reflected in dark metallic undulations radiating from the woods around the lake, and his first thought was that he was looking at a tidal wave. But even as he dismissed that as impossible he realized that what he thought was one continuous object was in fact a series of smaller objects loping up the hill towards the village. Towards the cottage. Greg felt a stinging coldness flowing through his chest and out into his arms.

Quietly, he said, “We’re getting out of here, now!”

He grabbed Monica by the shoulder and steered her toward the patio doors, formulating his plan as he went. There was no time to pack, to worry about anyone else or even wonder what the hell was going on, they were just going to run outside, jump in the car and get the hell out of—

“Shit!” Greg cursed, remembering. “The car keys!” He’d put them in the draw of the telephone desk. Leaving Monica where she was he strode back around the sofa to the desk and yanked the drawer open with enough force that the keys slid to the front with a clink. Greg snatched them up, and as he did he noticed a strangely familiar sound, a deep resonating that seemed the echo intensely in his ears, and leaving the desk he was about to pass the window again when a momentary parting of cloud cover outside cast a looming shadow onto the floor through it. It was there and gone in a heartbeat, but that was long enough for Greg to understand that whatever had caused it had to be huge—and right outside the window.

Greg stopped in his tracks, thinking for a second he must have imagined it. From the patio doors Monica stared at him uncomprehendingly, and realizing that whatever was outside might see her he waved franticly at her to get over by the wall. At first she didn’t seem to grasp his intention, but then awareness dawned and she did as he instructed, moving nimbly and silently. Greg pointed to the window and carefully mouthed, There is something outside, exaggerating each syllable to make sure that she saw it in the faint light, and he knew from the watery glint in her wide eyes that she understood him this time. She looked more afraid than he’d ever seen her, but she understood.

Greg tried to think what the hell to do now. He knew they couldn’t risk going through the patio as it was just round the corner from the window. They’d have to go out the back way, through the kitchen. He pointed to the floor and indicated for Monica to crawl under the windowsill. She nodded almost spasmodically, getting down on her knees and onto all fours and starting to crawl slowly, sticking as close as she could to the wall, her whole body shaking enough for Greg to worry that she might bang against it. He could actually hear his heart beating in time with the rhythmic throbbing in his ears, the throbbing that he now knew he’d heard when he, Monica and the rest of the villagers were chased from the lakefront, that was coming from whatever was outside. Looking back up to the window, he saw a yellowish glow illuminating the glass and the movement of some immense, trunk-like object beyond it—

—and then Monica reached the other side and he bent to help her stand before shoving her past him and into the kitchen, and as he whirled to follow the room whipped past him and he saw the large framed picture opposite the window, and reflected within it a snapshot of a long, silvery, torpedo-like body with four fat, glowing extremities erupting and hanging limply from it, and then he was running after her, the two of them somehow negotiating the wooden kitchen table without tripping over the chairs and tearing out the kitchen door into the small back garden.

Outside Greg saw the edge of the hill on their left and the outskirts of Dunstone on their right, Harley Road threading west between them. There was no way they could possibly escape on foot, they would be far too exposed. At the same time he wasn’t sure they could risk going for the car. Greg turned to his wife, saw the uncertainty in her eyes, and felt his stomach lurch as he realized he just didn’t know what to do. Then he heard the crash of glass behind them, and grabbing Monica’s hand he ran with her though the garden and out into the road, finding his way to the narrow street Andy had shown them four days before through memory more than sight. Then they were disappearing into the maze of the village, the heavy thuds of what could only be enormous footfalls behind them, the two of them running up and down dark and deserted cobbled streets, past houses and the towering silhouetted steeple of St. Francis Church, blacker even than the starless sky behind it. Greg’s body ached, his lungs working wearily to draw in abrasive gasps of air, he had no idea how long they ran for but he couldn’t stop, he had to put as much distance between them and that thing, those things as possible, and he felt Monica slow and start to drag but kept a tight grip on her hand and pushed on, the blood pulsing in his ears so loud that it took several minutes for him to hear her begging, “Greg, wait! STOP!”

Greg did as she asked, almost falling on his face through his own momentum. They had been running parallel to a high wall, and letting go of his wife’s hand Greg collapsed against it, the uneven brickwork digging into his spine, desperate for oxygen but only able to take shallow breaths. Monica took position next to him, her head low and her hands gripping her knees, her feet tucked in to stop her from sliding to the pavement. Once he was able to talk, Greg said, “I think we lost them.”

Monica coughed, then said, “I don’t think that’s the only thing we lost.”

Greg’s head snapped up as the implications of the sentence set in, and felt a fresh wave of terror as he realized he had no idea where they were. He’d gotten them lost! “Ah, shit!”

Chapter III Chapter V

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Out of the Depths by Jake Kale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Out of the Depths – Chapter III

By Jake Kale

The Boat Inn was an isolated mock-Tudor building just off Hill Lane that looked decidedly out of place among the Victorian architecture that dominated the outer regions of Dunstone Village. Like the majority of those buildings, it was also more modern—Underhill was the site of a disastrous fire during the late 19th century, and very little remained of the original settlement, just the odd portion of sandstone wall here or there. The Boat Inn itself was constructed of the site of an older pub that had been destroyed during the Blitz. It was a fine-looking building, though, long and low and homely, and Greg found the half-timbered framing very pleasing. He enjoyed the name, too.

Greg and Monica strolled through the empty car park (most of the pubs regulars lived within walking distance) and Greg elbowed the heavy door open for them. Inside, the lighting was low and relaxing and the décor enthusiastically traditional, consisting of partitioned booths along the windows and a smattering of tables in front of a tall oak bar. Greg inhaled the heady, reassuring alcohol aroma. It looked like it was a pretty quiet night. He counted a total of five people scattered around the expansive room, and guessed that the rest were still at the lake. Greg saw Bill, the landlord, a podgy, scruffy and disconcertingly cheery character of an indeterminate age, though he didn’t look quite so cheery at the moment—he was doubtlessly wondering where the hell most of his regulars were.

Carefully avoiding the traditionally low beams, Greg led Monica to the bar. The barmaid, Selena, smiled warmly. “Hi guys, you look happy!” She spoke in a deliberately euphemistic tone, and Greg and Monica exchanged a self-conscious glance. Selena grinned cheekily. “Oh, don’t be embarrassed, we’re all grown up here! So what’ll it be?”

Selena was a slight brunette with wide, mascara-tinged eyes who looked barely eighteen, though Greg suspected she was probably older, in spirit if not in years. Andy had something going on with her, though Greg thought most of that was limited to his imagination. Selena appeared to him to be flirtatious by nature, and while he could accept the possibility that he was wrong Greg saw no noticeable escalation in her exchanges with Andy. In any case Bill was her father, and very much acted the part of the overprotective dad from what he’d seen. Greg doubted he’d approve of any of the locals going near his daughter, and certainly not Andy.

“I’ll have a white wine, thanks,” Monica said when they reached the bar.

Greg said, “And I’ll have something more manly. Gimme a Bruskey!”

“A ‘Bruskey’?” Monica repeated quizzically.

Selena’s grin broadened. “Put some hair on your chest, eh? And a little lead in your pencil?”

Monica shifted uneasily, and Greg revelled in her discomfort. “Damn right! By the way, Andy says he’ll see you later.”

“I’m sure he will,” Selena said as she fetched Monica’s drink from the shelf. “So did you guys see those lights?”

Recovering from her embarrassment, Monica said, “Yeah. Actually we just came from the lake.”

“I missed the whole thing! Typical,” Selena complained as she poured Monica’s wine. “Did you see anything?”

“Not much,” Greg told her. “Except that little green guy with three eyes.”

Selena chuckled at that, then poured Greg’s pint. Greg and Monica waited for their drinks, then Greg paid—decrying the price as “daylight robbery”, though in all fairness it was quite reasonable—and they went to take a seat at a booth near the door. They sat facing each-other, Greg on the left, Monica on the right. Coolly, Monica said, “Was that your revenge for when I took the camera?”

Greg saw through her playful baiting straight away. “Nice try, Mon.”

Monica tried to keep up the act, but finally admitted defeat. “Why didn’t you tell her about the lake?”

“Leave that to Andy.”

“You old sweetheart!” Monica said. They drank in silence for a while, the effect of the last hour’s strangeness still sinking in. Getting comfortable in the sunken leather seat, Greg stared at his wife—she looked almost wistful. Eventually she noticed him looking at her and smiled back. “You know, this hasn’t been a bad trip after all,” she said.

“Nope, not bad at all,” Greg agreed. He swilled his beer around in his mouth, savouring the taste, and thought carefully about how to word his next question. “Not that I want to spoil the mood or anything, but what did git-face have to say?”

Monica’s smile didn’t falter, but did shrink somewhat. She set her own drink down. “One of the day supervisors is leaving. He’s recommending me for the job.”

Matching her nonchalance, Greg said, “Really?”

“Yep. Which’ll mean a pay rise.”

Greg nodded and took another swig of beer. “Cool. That’d be nice.”

“True. And it also means we’ll get off at the same time in future.” Greg raised his eyebrows, and Monica cracked, blushing. “I mean work!”

Keeping his voice even, Greg said, “I wonder what made him recommend you.”

“Thank you for that vote of confidence,” Monica said, sounding insulted.

Greg realized he was letting Lionel get to him again, and tried to keep his reply jovial. “Oh, shut up. You know what I mean.”

“Hey, don’t worry. I can handle Lionel.”

“Really?”

She smirked. “Yeah. I handle you, don’t I?”

Greg did a double take, speechless, while his wife gloated, rubbing extra salt into his wounded ego—she’d got him that time, not that he hadn’t been asking for it. Taking pity, she rubbed his forearm with her hand, turning serious again. “So what do you think that oil was? Really?”

Swallowing more beer and what was left of his pride, Greg said, “I don’t know. I do think it has something to do with those meteors.”

Monica nodded. “It was weird how reacted to the light like that. Almost as if it were signalling back.”

“I know. It did look deliberate.”

Her eyes narrowed. “You didn’t say that earlier.”

“I didn’t wanna start Andy off,” Greg admitted.

“You think it was? Deliberate, I mean?”

“I don’t know,” Greg said honestly. “Why am I suddenly the paranormal expert?”

The smirk returned. “’Cos you’re into that crap.”

Now it was Greg’s turn to take pretend offence. “Why do you mock me, woman?”

Monica replied, “’Cos you’re easy!”

Greg folded his arms and turned his head snootily. “I don’t have to sit here and listen to this!”

“Hey, I kid because I love.” That made Greg look back, and he saw Monica beaming widely. He reciprocated. She was right—this hadn’t turned out to be a bad trip after all.

Suddenly the door swung open, slamming into the wall next to the entrance with enough force to make the locals look round and Monica jump. Andy barged in. Greg said, “Ah, here comes the man of the hour!”

But Andy ignored him, heading straight for the bar. He looked excited. “Selena, has your Dad got his video camera handy?”

The barmaid regarded him dubiously. “Yeah. Why?”

“Can I borrow it?”

“What for?”

Curious, Greg and Monica stood and went to join him. Monica said, “What’s going on, Andy?”

He turned to face her. His eyes were wide. “We spotted something in the lake.”

Monica glanced at Greg. Turning back to Andy, Greg said, “What?”

“I don’t know. It looked sort of like an upturned boat or something, but it was shiny.”

Selena raised an eyebrow. “Oh, yeah . . ?”

“Honestly, Sil,” Andy said. He was talking quickly. “Don and Robby went out in a boat to check it out.”

Selena looked at Greg and Monica as if expecting them to admit it was a joke. When they didn’t say anything she looked worried. “OK, hold on a second. Dad?”

Selena ran along the bar to her father, who’d been keeping a keen eye on her and Andy’s conversation from a distance. Andy stayed where he was, but looked distinctly restless. Greg said, “So what exactly did you see?”

“Like I said, it looked like an upturned boat,” the younger man informed him, “but smooth and sort of tube-shaped. We saw the light glinting off of it.” He paused, as if wondering whether to go further and risk their ridicule. “It was big, too—I thought it was a submarine to start with! Mickey said he thought the water in front of it was glowing. You know, like when we shone that torch on it.”

Greg couldn’t think of anything to say to that. Next to him, Monica said, “How come you didn’t go with Don and Robby?”

Andy fidgeted guiltily. “I told ’em to wait while I got the camera, but you know what they’re like. I’m going out in another boat when I get back. Are you two coming?”

Monica looked up at Greg. She looked excited now. “We might as well check it,” she said. Greg didn’t reply, too lost in thought. It was tempting to think Andy and the others had just got caught up in the excitement of the meteor shower and everything else and had misidentified some perfectly ordinary object, but after watching that luminescent oil responding to the torchlight Greg found he wasn’t so sure. That sense of apprehension he’d experienced at the cottage was back again, and more acute now. Greg wondered if he was getting caught up in the hysteria as well.

Andy certainly had been, and was growing more impatient by the minute. “Where’s she got too?” He took off down to the other end of the bar, where Selena was still talking too her father.

“We’ll wait outside for you, OK?” Monica called after him.

Andy shouted back distractedly. “Yeah. Sil, you got it yet?”

Greg heard Selena say, “No,” as he and Monica finished their drinks and headed out the door into the small car park. Outside the air was surprisingly brisk compared to earlier. Monica folded her arms and snuggled close to him. “What do you think?” she asked.

Greg shrugged. “It’s probably just a boat.”

Monica nodded, her expression unreadable. “Yeah.” She cocked her head, listening. “What’s that?”

Greg noticed it, too—a faint but sustained noise, coming from the direction of the lake. It sounded like combination of high-pitch and deep base that built rapidly, and Greg had just worked out that it was the sound of people screaming when the crowd emerged from the wooded path down the road, running straight for them. It looked like the entire population of Underhill sweeping towards them, and Greg saw some of those familiar faces from the shoreline, including Andy’s friend—Mickey?—and the man with the torch, but now those faces were pulled taut, eyes bulging and mouths gaping, and as the crowd rushed past them Monica grabbed Greg’s hand and they started to run with them, racing to try and keep ahead, Greg terrified that he or Monica might trip and be trampled to death, the noise of the terrified villagers deafening but still not loud enough to drown out the faint undercurrent that caused his eardrum to vibrate, and even as sheer panic flooded his body Greg wondered just what the hell they were running from.

Chapter II Chapter IV

Creative Commons Licence
Out of the Depths by Jake Kale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Out of the Depths – Chapter II

By Jake Kale

Walking arm in arm, Greg and Monica left the cottage and made their way out of the short drive and into Harley Road. It had gotten dark very quickly, the silvery moonlight only making occasional forays from behind the thick clouds, but it was still early enough that the late summer air had not chilled noticeably. Greg was still on a high, the image of those falling lights fresh in his mind. It was like something from a dream, and even now, less than ten minutes later, he was having difficulty believing it had actually happened. He wished he had risked looking for the batteries now—Greg had a feeling this village was about to become very famous, and it would’ve been nice if they had something to show for it. Having said that, it had drawn the two of them closer together, and for however long that lasted it was enough for Greg.

Greg and Monica ambled along Harley Road before turning southeast into Hill Lane and continuing downhill past a row of exquisitely preserved 17th century cottages, wordlessly enjoying the walk and each-others company. The Lakeview Cottage was built to resemble those cottages but was considerably more recent, having been constructed on the site of an old farmhouse on the outskirts of Dunstone Village, a peaceful little hamlet in the East Midlands. Quite literally on the outskirts in fact, as Harley Road was the western route out of the village. Coming here had been Monica’s idea, though Greg had wanted to visit Dunstone for years. He’d stumbled across old photographs taken here while researching his family tree—his grandfather had briefly stayed here when he was a boy—and had fallen in love with the place instantly. While it was not particularly well-known outside the midlands, it had through the years cultivated a reputation among the neighbouring towns and villages as an unassuming holiday spot. One day, Greg hoped, he and Monica might make a home here. Maybe even raise a family.

It was a two mile walk from the cottage to the shoreline. Halfway Greg and Monica arrived at a side road that lead north to the main body of the village, the quaint old cottages giving way to early Victorian houses, and Greg spotted Andy Palmer trotting jauntily along on the opposite side of the road. Andy saw them immediately and waved. “Alright, guys?”

“Hi, Andy,” Greg shouted back. “Off to the pub?”

They’d met Andy on their first night in Dunstone at The Boat Inn, the pub just up the road from the lake, and the three of them had quickly become firm friends. He was five years younger than Greg but looked older, and he offset this with a boisterous and deliberately juvenile sense of humour. He’d showed them around the village, pointing out the local landmarks for Greg’s brother’s camera to fail to capture, and had taken great delight in getting them lost among the labyrinthine streets and alleys across from their cottage. He’d also shown Greg the best fishing locations on the lake. All in all, he’d struck Greg as a pretty decent bloke.

Andy jogged across the road to join them. “Nah, I’m going down to the lake,” he said, smiling an unmistakeable I know something you don’t know smile. Greg guessed he must have seen the lights, too. Obviously he thought they hadn’t.

“Why’s that? Did you see those meteors, too?” Monica said innocently.

Andy’s smile faltered a little and Greg smirked, knowing full well that she was winding him up. “Yeah. I was round my mum’s house and we saw ’em through the window. Weird, weren’t it?”

“I don’t suppose you took any pictures?” Greg asked.

Andy shook his head. “Sorry, mate. Ain’t got a camera. Yours pack up again?”

“Yep,” Greg said dejectedly.

Andy shrugged. “That’s a pain. So you think they were meteors?”

“That’s what they looked like to me.”

Andy shook his head again. “No, they weren’t meteors. They were UFOs.”

They both stared at him, amused and not sure whether to take him seriously—sometimes it was hard to tell. “I wouldn’t have taken you for a conspiracy nut, Andy,” Greg said.

“Yeah, you seem so level-headed!” Monica teased.

“Piss off!” Andy told her, and she laughed. Unabashed, he continued. “Honestly. This village is a hotspot. Some copper got abducted here back in the eighties.”

Apparently he was being serious. Softly, Greg sang, “Do do do, do doo!”

“The truth is out there!” Monica whispered conspiratorially.

“Trust no one!” Greg shot back.

They both started laughing now, though Andy didn’t seem to find it so funny. “Yeah, you just wait till we get to the lake! You’ll see. And that was Close Encounters, not The X-Files!

The three of them set off again, and as they neared the lake houses and  cottages became sporadic as they trudged past increasingly dense woodland, only the odd street lamp to assure them that they hadn’t wandered into the wilderness of the fells. In another five minutes they’d passed the pub and entered the gravel path that served as a road to the shoreline. The woods closed in around it, and Greg thought it was pretty spooky out here at night. Monica apparently agreed as she had tightened her hold on his arm. The path lead to a short embankment, and once they’d left the trees behind them the view made Greg stop in his tracks. Underhill Lake extended before them, and up close it looked even darker than it had from the cottage. Even the moonlight seemed to be swallowed up by its obsidian depths, giving Greg the unnerving impression that they were standing at the edge of a black hole. The lake was something like a mile in length and half that in width, though to him it looked much bigger, and Greg’s imagination stirred, conjuring all manner of nameless beings that might lay in wait just below the surface, ready to snatch unwary visitors from the bank with barely a ripple.

There would be no shortage of prey for said imaginary monsters—visitors had already arrived, a modest crowd that Greg supposed must have come from the scattered houses along the lakefront that comprised Underhill itself. Nearby he spotted another couple of familiar faces, locals Don and Robby. Monica called over to them. “Hi, boys. Whatcha up to?”

Don shot her a Who, me? expression, while Robby took his customary five seconds to consider his response before delivering it in subtle Irish brogue. “Hello there, you two. Hello, Andy. Well, we saw those lights and decided to have a little look-see.”

Greg and Monica exchanged a look. During the last week they’d gotten to know these two rascals quite well. Both men were in their sixties but possessed a mischievous nature that seemed common to old folk from rural areas. Don was the elder of the two and English, with a soft, gruff voice and a reserved but with an affable personality. With his snowy white beard he reminded Greg of Father Christmas. Robby was younger and more boisterous, bespectacled and retaining colour in the thin covering of hair that clung determinedly to his head. The two of them were something of a local double-act, and it came as no surprise to Greg that they should be among the first people on the scene.

“Find anything?” Monica asked.

“Not yet. Looks like they all landed in the lake,” Robby said. “So what do you make of it, Greggy-boy?”

Greg looked out at the still, black waters. “Meteor shower. Anyone film it or take any pictures?”

Even in the dark he could see the glint in the older man’s eyes. “Now do you seriously think ol’ Don here could find his way around that new-fangled technology?” The target of his gentle ribbing dropped his mouth open in mock exasperation. Getting back to the subject at hand, the Irishman said, “So you think they were meteors, then? We don’t have to worry about no little green men?”

Greg nodded. “I’ve never heard of a meteor shower so large, but that’s what they looked like to me.”

Andy scoffed. “Nah, they weren’t meteors, they were pods! It’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers time.”

Greg chuckled, while Don regarded Andy as if he’d spouted a second head. Robby said, “Well, their quite welcome to my body.”

“That’s if they can find some use for it!” Don said quick as a flash, and Greg had to smile. Over the last five days they’d watched Robby relentlessly if good-naturedly poke fun at the stoic Englishman, and not once had he returned fire with anything more barbed than “You cheeky bugger!” To see him finally get his licks in was a glorious sight to behold. For his part, Robby looked surprised but accepted the insult with good humour.

“D’ye think we can expect a visit from Patrick Moore, then?” Robby asked.

“Roger Moore, more like,” Don said, his confidence buoyed now.

“You never know,” Greg told them. Actually, he thought there was a good chance of that happening. Whatever had happened here was sure to be of scientific interest, and might just be the thing that finally put Dunstone on the map. It had certainly piqued Greg’s interest, and he wasn’t alone—the small crowd was already growing. They all stood in silence, watching the lake for . . . well, Greg wasn’t sure. A cool breeze ruffled his hair.

Monica said, “Well, looks like we missed the action.” She sounded disappointed.

“Looks like it,” Greg agreed, kicking himself again for not looking for the batteries earlier. Deciding to look on the bright side, he said, “I might take a few shots of the lake anyway.” It wouldn’t make up for missing the meteor shower, but the view from the shore was undeniably potent. Retrieving the batteries from his jeans, Greg put them in the camera and fumbled with the ‘on’ button. However, as it had done the day they arrived, it suddenly decided to go on the blink again. Greg cursed. “This camera’s useless! I can never get it to work!”

“Oh, give it here!” Monica said, snatching the camera out of his hands. “Your pictures are crap anyway.”

“Uh-oh, trouble in Paradise!” he heard Robby say before Don chided him.

Monica responded with an impish poker-face, and knowing better than to argue Greg said nothing. Monica fiddled briefly with the camera’s exposure, then took several steps back and aimed at the lake. Greg looked away as the flash exploded, and in that split second of illumination he thought he saw something in the water. It happened far too quickly for him to be sure what it was, but it looked like something flashing back. Greg stared at the water but saw nothing, and had almost convinced himself that in was merely the reflection of the flash when Monica took another picture and he saw it again. It looked like an oily film reflecting the light, but a fraction of a second too late. He felt his pulse quicken. “There’s something in the water!”

“Where?” Andy yelped, his voice high with surprise.

“I can’t see anything,” Monica added, lowering the camera to look.

“It’s on the surface,” Greg said. “Has anyone got a torch or something?”

“I’ve got a lighter,” somebody said, but Greg discounted that straight away, just in case it was oil. Finally someone else produced a torch and aimed the beam at the water. The strange phenomenon Greg had spotted was readily apparent—an oil-like substance coated the lake water in a thin layer, and whatever it was it reacted to light, flaring up bright yellow when the torch’s beam fell on it. The reaction was delayed but sustained, and its source seemed to extend all the way along the visible shoreline and presumably beyond it. Greg squatted down by the water’s edge, watching the phosphorescent swirls and eddies caught in the wide circle of light.

“Oh yeah,” one of the assembled onlookers said. “What is that?”

“Looks almost oily,” somebody else added. Greg said nothing, his attention focused on the water. He extended a finger to the surface.

“Well, don’t touch it!” an elderly woman in the crowd said.

She was being overcautious, but Greg pulled his hand back anyway. He leaned forward slightly and sniffed the air, but detected no obvious odour. Monica bent down next to him, while Andy and the rest hovered over them. Monica said, “What do you think it is?”

“I don’t know. Whatever it is, it’s luminescent. It really does look oil-like.”

“You think it came from the meteors?”

“I don’t know. Maybe,” Greg replied. He stood and again looked out into the softly rippling water, wondering just what the hell it was that those ripples concealed. “I’d be very interested to see what’s down there.”

Nervously, Don said, “We thought we might take a boat out and see if anything’s come to the surface.”

“Oh, no you bloody well won’t!” the same old woman told him firmly. Evidently she knew the two of them quite well.

Greg agreed. “She’s right, it’s probably not a good idea to go on the water until we know what that stuff is.”

“Why? D’ye think it might be dangerous?” Robby asked.

“I don’t know, but it’s best to err on the side of caution.”

“You don’t think it could be some kind of alien bug?”

“Panspermia!” Andy shouted excitedly, as if showing off that he knew the word.

“No, that’s the theory that life on Earth originally came from a meteor,” Greg corrected him. “And I’m not saying that’s what this is—it might just some kind of chemical reaction. But don’t drink the water, just in case!”

Robby nodded, casting a sideways glance at his partner in crime. “I think he might be right, there, ol’ Don. I don’t think the chemist has anything for Martians.”

Greg and several of the locals chuckled at that.

“So what should we do now?” Don asked.

Greg wondered about that himself. He didn’t want to panic anyone, but he thought it might be a good idea to inform the local authorities so they could arrange for someone to check the water. “Well, we should definitely tell someone, just to be on the safe side.”

Andy said, “Like who?”

“Give ol’ Sergeant Clay a bell, he’ll know what to do,” Robby advised.

Calling the police had been Greg’s first thought, but he’d been hesitant to suggest it in case he set Andy off again. Monica dug into her handbag and pulled out her mobile phone. “What’s the num—”

The phone trilled suddenly in her hand, making them all jump.

“Sell those shares!” Robby said cheerfully.

Looking sheepish, Monica answered, her next words confirming what Greg already suspected. He felt his good mood darken. “Oh, hello Lionel,” she said. Then to Greg and the rest, “Sorry, I’ve got to take this. Give me a sec.” She wandered off, engrossed in conversation with her supervisor. Greg watched her go.

“That was good timing,” the man with the torch said.

“I’ll go and call Sergeant Clay,” another man volunteered, dashing back along the embankment towards Underhill. Greg didn’t answer—he was watching his wife. Andy sidled over to him.

“Is that her boss?” he asked, keeping his voice low.

Greg and Monica had had an extended “discussion” about Lionel earlier that day, of which Andy had caught the opening salvo. Judging by his companion’s tone, Greg’s contempt for his wife’s employer had been obvious. “Yep, that’s him.”

Andy considered that. “If you’re really worried about her—”

“I’m not worried about her,” Greg snapped. “I’m worried about him.”

Andy looked away as if scolded, and Greg regretted his shortness. Then Andy patted his shoulder. “Just remember, mate—you’re the one that married her. Let the bastard be jealous.”

Greg turned and found himself looking at the younger man anew. He nodded his appreciation. “That’s good advice, man. Thanks.”

Andy nodded back. “Anytime.”

Slowly the crowd started to disperse but did not leave the lakeside, instead forming small groups that chatted quietly amongst themselves and glanced occasionally towards the lake with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation. Greg and Andy waited for Monica, and after a couple of minutes she sauntered back over, looking weary and doing her best to extricate the phone from her ear. “Yeah, OK Lionel. OK. See you—what? Yeah, OK. See you Monday. OK, goodbye, Lionel . . . Yep, bye. Bye.” She returned the phone to her handbag and gave an exaggerated shiver. “Urgh, thank God for that!”

“Someone else is calling the police,” Andy told her.

“Oh. OK.” She sounded put out. “So what are we going to do now?”

Greg decided he was going to follow Andy’s advice and not let Lionel spoil their night—to hell with the old pervert. He had considered taking a walk around the lake to see what he could see but he was feeling a little weary himself. He thought it might be a good time to take a break and refuel. Keeping a straight-face, he said, “Well, we could get a sample of the water.”

“What with?” Andy asked.

His straight-face cracked and he grinned. “Beer glass?”

Monica said, “Sounds like a good idea to me!”

Andy thought about it for a while. “Yeah, OK. I might hang around here a bit longer, though. I’ll join you in a while.”

“Fair enough,” Greg said.

He and Monica watched as Andy went to join Don, Robby and the rest, shouting over his shoulder, “Tell Selena I’ll see her later!”

“We will!” they both called back. By the lakeside Robby said something that caused several locals to burst out laughing, and going by Andy’s response Greg guessed it was aimed at him. He felt Monica’s arm snake around his waist and turned to face her.

“So are we going, then?” she asked.

Greg wrapped his own arm around her shoulders. “Yeah, we’re going already!” he said in a pretend whiny voice, and his heart just about melted when she giggled back. Greg took one last look at Underhill Lake, and allowed himself a moment of wonder as he imagined the discoveries that might lurk within its depths. Then he and his wife walked arm-in-arm back up the path.

Chapter I Chapter III

Creative Commons Licence
Out of the Depths by Jake Kale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.