Prompt Day #330: Opening scenario: An ice skater sees something ropy and dark move beneath the frosty surface of the lake beneath her feet.
A Snake at the Lake
“Daddy, do you think Mommy will ever come back?” Sammy asked. At seven, she was precocious and inquisitive. It would be hard to explain that Mommy had left them both and was never coming back without having to explain an unhappy marriage and infidelity.
“I don’t know Sweetie. I wish she would, but I don’t think she loves me anymore. I’m sure she loves and misses you, but she doesn’t want to see Daddy anymore.” He dodged. “Do you think you could be happy with Allison as your new Mommy? She loves you very much and would never leave you.” It was the best he could do. Allison was going to move in. It had been two months now, that seemed a reasonable amount of mourning time.
“Well, she never lets me go ice skating like Mommy always did. I want to skate on the lake again.” Sammy pouted.
“We had to wait til the lake froze over, Honey. It isn’t safe until the ice is nice and thick.” He explained. “Maybe today. I’ll talk to Allison when she gets here, ok?” He kissed her head and ruffled her hair. “Now eat your breakfast.”
“Allison is boring. Mommy always skated with me too. Allison doesn’t do anything with me.”
“Oh, Sam. I don’t know what to tell you. Daddy has to work. So for now, try to be nice to Allison.”
Allison let Sammy go skating only because Chad insisted. Allison argued that Sammy didn’t need to continue doing things that would remind her of time with her Mother. Instead, she wanted to sign Sammy up for gymnastics. Both of them were stubborn and Allison lost the argument. Reluctantly she agreed to let the girl go skating on the lake but refused to go with her. She would sit and watch for a bit but she certainly wasn’t going to let the girl go for too long. It just wasn’t safe, nor was it a good idea to have her playing down there all the time.
Allison watched closely as Sammy spun around with all the grace (or lack thereof) of a seven year old. Allison just wasn’t comfortable with this at all, it was too close. Such a bad idea. But what could she say?
Soon, Sammy was falling down and laying on the ice, making “ice angels” and licking the ice just like a dumb kid. Allison rolled her eyes and allowed herself to fantasize (just a little) that Sammy fell through the ice and succumbed to hypothermia before poor Allison could do anything about it. After the appropriate therapy for her terrible guilt at not saving the child, she and Chad would be able to be together (finally) alone without any responsibilities.
Sammy’s scream drew Allison out of her selfish fantasy. She stood up and looked out over the lake. Sammy was on the far side on her knees, her face down near the ice.
“Sammy! What are you screaming about?” She yelled. Praying it wasn’t what she suspected it might be.
“A snake! There’s a snake trapped under the ice and the fish are biting him and trying to kill him!” Sammy answered and recommenced her screaming.
“Jesus Christ.” Allison mumbled. And then “Just leave it. Who wants to help a nasty old snake anyways?” But Sammy was completely out of control. She screamed and cried.
“Help! Someone Help!” She was yelling. Allison did not need anyone coming over to the lake and start poking around. Goddamnit, she would have to get out there and drag the brat off the ice. Sammy had taken her skate off and was hacking at the ice with it, trying to free the snake.
Allison ventured cautiously out onto the ice. Sammy was still screaming bloody murder (ha, now that’s funny, Allison thought) and there was Bill Drierson heading down the hill with rope and a pick axe. Oh no, this was bad. Allison tried to catch his attention, waving her arms and yelling “It’s ok, she’s fine.” But the damn little snitch was already calling out to him.
“Mr. Bill, Mr. Bill Help! There’s a snack swimming around under the ice and the mean old fish are biting at him. Please help me get him out and save him.”
Allison quickened her pace but slipped and fell on her ass. “Fuck.” She said. Bill would make to Sammy long before Allison would. She saw him wave at her and then shuffle the rest of the way. He stepped into the ice and headed towards Sammy without a problem. He had some kind of metal cleats on his shoes. Allison tried to get up and decided she would have to crawl on hands and knees if she had any hope of putting a stop to this nonsense.
She saw Bill peering down into the ice where Sammy had been chopping with her skate. What the fuck was she seeing? Snakes can’t live in the ice. It couldn’t be a snake. Could it really be anything worth worrying about? It was probably a goddamn stick. She saw Bill push Sammy towards the bank and point. Sammy was bawling, Allison could see the snotty nose and hitched breathing she’d come to loathe in the girl. Good, Bill had obviously told her it was nothing. Allison put on her best sheepish grin. The Oh gosh, sorry for all the trouble. You know how kids can be look.
But Bill wasn’t looking at her. He was concentrating on the ice and had brought the pick up. He was breaking into it! He saw Allison approaching.
“Stay back there, Miss. Don’t want you fallin’ in.” He called out.
“What is it?” She asked, not stopping.
“I think it’s probably nothing more than maybe a deer that fell through the ice. I hope at least.” He said and kept hacking.
Shit. Shit, shit, shit. Her heart was pounding. A deer? He hoped. Obviously he suspected otherwise but didn’t want to alarm her. She continued to approach. Bill was too intent on his job to notice. When she got close, she was able to see something dark and ropy undulating beneath the ice. There were indeed some small fish picking at it, which made it appear to be moving but it did not seem to have any purposeful motion. What the hell was it? She squinted and leaned forward hoping for a little better look. Just then a ball of tangled up violaceous and yellow cordage bumped into the surface ice.
“Shit.” Bill said and stopped to pull his phone out. He punched a few numbers. 911, it had to be. There wasn’t enough numbers to be anything else. He waited a moment. “Uh yeah, this is Bill Drierson over off Stoney Pine Road. I’m down here on the lake, and I might be wrong but I’m pret’ sure I’m lookin’ at the entrails of a human body. Wonderin’ if you could send someone to check it out.” He paused. In that moment, Allison wondered if she could take him and Sammy out before the cops got there. But then what? What would she say? No. Her best bet would be strategy and while she loved Chad, it was him or her, and she wasn’t going down, she never had before and today was not going to change that track record. “You know Tabby Clark went missing about two months ago. I know she and her little girl were always down here at the lake. I’m worried I may have just found her….Ok, thank you much.” He hung up and looked at Allison. “Better just go sit with little miss Samantha. Don’t need her seeing this.”
“Do you really think it might be Tabby? Chad’s wife? How would she end up in this lake? He said she loved this lake and was here all the time?” She said in her most innocent voice.
“Suspect maybe she didn’t come here voluntarily.” He said and took a good look at Allison.
“Oh my God, you don’t think Chad…?” she left the question hanging in the frozen air. Bill brought the pick down hard and the ice broke away. The intestines floated to the surface. He put the pick down into the water blindly trying to hook something. Surely the body wouldn’t come up. She’d weighted it well with cement blocks. Just enough for winter to freeze the lake over and the fish to do their work. But now this hick farmer was going to screw up everything.
The pick caught something and he pulled. A pock marked frozen body bobbed to the surface. Tabby’s eyes had been eaten away as well as her cheeks. Allison gasped. She’d never seen one of her victims after the fact. It was hideous.
“You fucking bitch!” She heard Chad’s voice behind her. What was he doing here? “You killed my wife, didn’t you?” He was coming at her across the lake. How did he know? When did he get there?
“My God, Chad.” She said “No!” She was speechless. What was happening here? He’d made it up to her. She saw a cop coming up behind him. It was one of the cops that were constantly coming by asking if they’d heard from Tabby. Did they know something? Chad punched her, full on in the face. She went down hard and fast.
The water took her breath away. She panicked and flailed at the edge of the ice, trying to get enough hold to pull herself out. Instead her hands fell on Tabby’s body instead. In her sheer terror, she clung to the dead body like a life saver
The pair were hauled out together. Allison drifted in and out of consciousness. She could hear the faint sound of sirens and the louder, closer sounds of Sammy’s screams. What was it again that she was screaming about? Allison couldn’t quite remember. Had Allison fallen through the ice and Sammy was scared? She was so cold, so very cold.
A snake. That’s what she was screaming about. She’d seen a snake. Thank God, it was just a snake and not Tabby’s body.