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The Summer Beast

"There is something terrible in the lake ..."

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“Eddie’s dead,” said the female voice on the other end of the line.

My caller did not identify herself, but I recognized Emma Lawrence’s voice. She was engaged to my old friend Eddie Blake.

“What happened, Emma?” I asked, dreading the answer.

“He went paddling on the lake, Alan,” she said quietly.

That alone was enough to make my face turn pale, but I let Emma go on.

“I told him not to. I refused to go myself. But he still went. They…,” she paused with a sob and a swallow, “they found what was left of the kayak floating near Serpent Point. There was only the stern. What was left of him washed up nearby.”

Emma choked a little as she finished.

“Fuck,” was my first thought.  I glanced down at the stumps of my legs. Eddie knew the story, knew what had happened to me.

“Get out of there,” I urged, “Please. It can leave the water.”

“Already packed to go. I just wanted you to know. You were right about this place. I just wish he had believed you.”

“Come see me when you’re back.”

“I will.”

As we hung up, my mind went back to my own encounter with the Summer Beast.

I did not believe in monsters until one terrible day in July a couple years ago. On that long, strange day on Lake Wanessa, many came to believe. To this day, no one seems to know for certain what really happened, what it was that we all saw. But it happened and we did see it with our own eyes. I might know and understand more than others. For I have looked into the eyes of the Summer Beast and lived to tell.

On the morning of that day, I awoke early as usual. I had eggs and toast for breakfast with my usual cup of strong black coffee. I was on holiday from work and renting a cottage from Eddie, so I wore only a pair of gym shorts instead of my usual slacks and polo shirt. The weather was hot and muggy and the place quite private so I did not feel inclined to wear more.

After cleaning up from breakfast, I wandered down to the dock and looked out at the lake. The cottage faced East so the sun was rising above the opposite shore. A long streak of bright light reflected off the water, shimmering as waves passed through it. For a moment, a dark spot passed through it, a lone loon out fishing.

I glanced at Eddie’s kayak sitting on the shore and contemplated taking it for a paddle as I had the previous two mornings. However, I was still a bit stiff and achy after those voyages. I decided to take a break, or at least wait until later. I settled in a chair on the little patio by the dock and enjoyed the scene.

Then I saw the Summer Beast for the first time. A large, dark shape rose from the water not far from the streak of sunlight. The thing was only visible for a minute or two, then sank beneath the waves again.

Startled, I got up and walked out onto the dock. My eyes focussed on the spot where the thing had appeared but saw nothing more.

A shiver went up my spine. As a child, I had often read about things like Ogopogo and the Loch Ness Monster. This sighting reminded me of those strange tales. I had never witnessed such a thing myself, though. As an adult, I had become skeptical about such alleged monsters.

When there was no further sight of the thing, I dashed up to the cottage. I located my cell phone, making sure it had a full charge, and opened the camera app to have it ready. Then I remembered that Eddie had binoculars on a shelf behind the door to his bedroom. I retrieved those as well. Now I was equipped to get a better look, maybe even take photos, if the thing appeared again.

I returned to the dock and sat down. Using the binoculars, I scanned the lake but saw nothing unusual. There were now a couple fishing boats out on the lake. They were slowly trolling over the rockpile that Eddie told me ran parallel to the far shore.

“Good spot for fish, man,” he assured me.

Not that I planned to do any fishing. Unlike my friend, I had not had a rod in my hands since my teens. Back then, my family had a cottage on another lake in the same area. My water activities in adulthood leaned more to canoeing, kayaking, and swimming.

I had just lowered my binoculars when the black form rose again. It appeared a couple hundred meters from the location of its first appearance. Quickly, I raised the binoculars.

Through the glasses, I could see that the skin appeared to be smooth and more of a very dark grey than black. There were some dark marks that could have been scars or stripes. A ridge or fin ran along the thing’s back.

That was all I could make out before the thing went under again. I lowered the glasses and shook my head. After the first appearance, I had thought that I might be seeing things. The close-up view through the binoculars seemed very real, though. I mentally kicked myself for not taking some pictures.

If I had been at sea, I would have suspected a whale or shark. However, the biggest thing in a lake this size should be a swimming human. There were no crocodilians or large snakes anywhere in Ontario, so I could eliminate those options right away. Among the local fish, even northern pike and muskellunge were nowhere near this big. I was not even sure if Lake Wanessa had those. That left me with nothing but a mystery.

After a while, I decided that either the thing was not coming back or I really had been seeing things. I stripped off my shorts and climbed into the water using the little steps on the end of the dock. Yes, I went skinny dipping in broad daylight. As I said, Eddie’s cottage was in a fairly private spot.

In retrospect, I suppose going swimming after what I had seen may have been a foolhardy move. If I had been sure of what I saw, if I had believed, then I might have thought twice. At that point, though, the whole thing was just a curiosity in my head, not something to be dreaded.

Eddie had a raft, a wooden platform on floats, anchored twenty or so meters out. Emma, then just his latest girlfriend, sunbathed there. Eddie himself used it as a diving platform when he brought his scuba gear to the cottage. I swam to the platform and climbed out to sit in the morning sun.  I lay back and closed my eyes to let the rays warm and tan my nude body.

Suddenly, the platform rocked violently. I had experienced this before as power boats raced by pulling water skiers. But there was no engine noise, so this was definitely not a boat. I sat up and tried to steady myself on the heaving raft. Within seconds, though, I found myself in the lake trying to get control so that I could either climb back out or swim.

Once I was treading water, my eyes fell on a dark shape moving through the water nearby. I immediately knew it was the thing that I had witnessed from a distance earlier. From this much closer vantage point, I could see clearly that it was some large creature, not just an illusion or hallucination. The thing must be what rocked the raft so roughly. Maybe it had even struck it directly. Could it have done so deliberately?

My heart pounding, I scrambled back out onto the raft. I was nearly in shock at what happened and in no condition to swim to shore. The thing remained visible for a few more minutes, moving further out into the lake. Then it dove, leaving just ripples on the surface.

For nearly half an hour, I stayed on the raft, afraid to enter the water. Finally, hunger and fear of sunburn got me back in the water. On shore, I quickly pulled on my shorts and headed for the cottage.

After lunch, I ventured back down to the waterfront. Now there were several boats, including some water skiers, on the lake. There was no sign of weird creatures. If it had not been for the encounter on the raft, I might have dismissed the whole thing again. But that close brush convinced me that it was quite real. I was not sure, though, what it was or if I could convince anyone else that there was a monster in the lake.

The spot where my chair sat was now shady with the movement of the sun to the South, so I settled back in it. A boat raced by with a skier behind it. Over on the rock pile, a fishing boat was moving along more slowly.

The water skier fell just at the edge of my visual range. They fall all the time, so I thought nothing of it. I figured the boat was just out of sight circling to come back for them.

The person started flailing and yelling, as if in terror. I could faintly hear a woman screaming, “Oh fuck, get over here! Something’s down here with me. It’s…”

Then she vanished under the water. I raced out onto the dock, but realized there was little I could do. I had not brought my phone down for the afternoon so could not even call 911.

By the time the boat arrived, the place where the skier had disappeared had become a slick of red. Someone pulled something from the water. Someone else puked over the side when they saw it. I shuddered, now realizing how lucky I had been in my brief encounter with the monster.

Suddenly, the boat tipped, knocked over by a huge black tail. The three people on board swam desperately for shore. Before they even reached shallow water, a massive head breached the water, maw gaping. It seized one of the swimmers and shook him around like a ragdoll. Then it sank beneath the surface with the man still in its mouth. Blood marked the spot where it dove.

The other two reached the shore. I raced down to assist them as did others who had witnessed the attack. One man was on his phone to the provincial police. We tried to comfort them as we awaited the police.

That was when the fishing boat across the lake erupted from the water, sending its lone occupant soaring several meters. When the fisherman hit the water, he vanished almost immediately. The dark thing was once again briefly visible.

“Jesus fucking Christ! What the fuck is that?” screamed a woman, one of the survivors of the ski boat attack.

Then she broke down in tears.

“I have no idea. It knocked me off that diving raft over there this morning but did not attack so I really don’t know what is happening,” I told them, pointing towards the raft.

When the police arrived, we informed them of the attack on the fisherman and told the story of the ski boat. They interviewed us, then summoned a police boat with orders to check the wreck of the fishing boat and clear the lake.

“Bring a shotgun or two. Whatever attacked these people sounds big,” the more senior of the two officers said into his radio.

That was an understatement to my mind. They probably needed something more than shotguns. Perhaps, I mused, they should get the Canadian Armed Forces in with a large machine gun or small cannon.

There were nine of us on the beach next to what the locals called Serpent Point; two cops, two survivors from the wrecked boat, and five locals including me who had been witnesses or had come to assist. After several minutes, a police boat raced down the lake, occasionally slowing and using a bullhorn to yell at boats out on the lake.

I saw the thing first. It was just a vague dark shape not far from the police boat and moving parallel to it.

“There it is, about thirty meters from your boat and closing in,” I yelled at the cops.

One got on his radio with a warning. Even as he spoke, we could see someone on board raising a gun. The crack of a shot reached our ears, then a second. The creature dove.

For a moment, all was quiet. Then something hit the police boat from below, sending the boat into the air and the crew into the water. After a moment, the faint sound of screams reached us. The two cops with us went white. I sank to my knees shaking, then threw up.

With at least five known to be dead, word now got around fast. No more boats, even police patrols, ventured out on the lake. The police set up several watchpoints along the shore, each as heavily armed as the local detachment could manage. We all returned to our cottages with orders from the cops to stay away from the waterfront.

And it seemed for a time, that might have been what the monster wanted; us out of the water. There were no further sightings by civilians or police for the rest of the afternoon. With everyone gone from the lake, the thing seemed to vanish.

In the early evening, I was making a simple dinner using the barbeque on the cottage deck when I heard gunshots. They were a distance away, maybe across the lake. There was not much wind so sound could carry. It was not just shotguns this time, either, but automatic weapons. Maybe the provincial police had flown in a tactical unit. Or, as I had contemplated earlier, brought in the military.

A while later, as I was eating inside, a car pulled into the cottage’s driveway. When I answered a knock at the door, it was the man who had called the police on Serpent’s Point that afternoon.

“Did you hear?” he called.

“I heard gunshots while I was cooking. The cops saw it again?”

“It attacked them. I’ve been seeing and hearing reports from several sources including a police radio scanner. They were using the inn directly across from Serpent Point as a headquarters for the operation. The thing destroyed the inn’s dock, including a docked police boat, then came right out of the water and attacked a tactical unit on shore.”

That stunned me. If the thing could leave the water, even staying away from the waterfront was no longer a guarantee of safety.

“Did they kill it?” I asked. I was already sure of the answer.

“No. Apparently, they just drove it off. Casualty reports are unclear, but I’m hearing from two to four dead and at least that many injured.”

I stared for a moment, processing that news.

“Guess we should be leaving,” I suggested in a near whisper, “If it can leave the water, who knows where it will strike next.”

“The buzz on the police radio is that there is an evacuation order coming,” my visitor confirmed.

“I’ll start packing after I eat, then. Thanks for the info.”

I had no intention of waiting for an order. I was getting the hell out of there.

“No problem.”

He stepped back outside and I returned to my dinner. I realized after a couple minutes that there was no sound of a car starting. Wondering what was up, I headed back to the door. As I started to open it, I heard a burst of screaming. I raced out, only to be confronted by the lower half of my visitor just meters from the door surrounded by blood and guts.

Then something struck me, sending me flying. The impact when I landed hurt like hell, but I somehow remained conscious. I froze as my vision was filled by a huge dark shape that filled the yard of the property.

The monster looked like a cross between a snake and a crocodile. It had a long sinuous body mounted on four splayed, stout legs. A long tail ran out behind the rear legs. An equally long neck protruded past the forelimbs, ending in a head that was basically just a huge pair of jaws with large sunken eyes above. Teeth like small knives lined those jaws. The snout was red with blood, probably from my late neighbour.

Slowly, the thing lowered its head to hover close over me. A sickly, fishy odour mingled with the reek of death filled the air, making me a bit woozy. Reaching up, I found it close enough that I could touch it. The skin was not completely smooth as it appeared from a distance but had a slight texture to it, like tiny bumps or scales.

Then my gaze met that of the creature. I shuddered, filled with dread. There was nothing in those bestial eyes but pure, utter malevolence. This thing hated me, maybe all humans. At that moment, I resigned myself to death.

The beast let loose a sound somewhere between a shriek and a howl. Its mouth opened, dripping with saliva, or maybe venom. I kicked at it, hoping in vain to drive it off. Instead, there was an explosion of pain.

To this day, no one knows where the Summer Beast came from, or where it went when it vanished. It was not seen again after that night, though the hunt went on for some days after.

 Some point to the name of Serpent Point and suggest that it must have appeared before, perhaps to settlers or to the indigenous nation that once lived in the region. However, the local band leaders point out that there is no myth in their lore that would suggest such a creature existing in the lake. They had never used the name “Serpent Point” for that spot, either. The diaries of early settlers in the region contain no accounts of monsters, either.

Others point to an odd deep spot midway out from Serpent Point, basically a hole in the bottom of the lake. It is claimed that no one knows how deep it is; that sonar and other depth measurements just show a black, bottomless opening. Perhaps, some speculate, it is the opening to some strange cavern or underworld from which the thing emerged. 

There are rumours, still unconfirmed, that the Armed Forces dropped depth charges from a helicopter into that part of the lake. Perhaps sonar had found the monster there or perhaps they were trying to close that strange hole. The area had been rapidly and thoroughly evacuated after the attack on me so no one was there to know what really happened.

For my part, I now stay far away from Lake Wanessa, or any large body of water for that matter. I live in a town in rural Southern Ontario that is a good distance from any lakes or rivers.

Somehow, I got lucky and the thing only took my legs. Perhaps it figured that was enough to end my existence. By some miracle, the police found me still alive and got me to help in time. I have no legs, but at least I am alive.

Unlike poor Eddie. Or Emma, for that matter.

I never did see Emma again. The police found her car wrecked in the ditch on the road that led out from the cottage. Emma herself had vanished, save for some blood and torn clothing. It did not take me much imagination to visualize her horrible end.

In my dreams, even in my daydreams, I am haunted by what I saw in the monster’s eyes. The sheer malevolence that burned in them remains with me always. In the depths of my heart, I know that there is something out there that hates us, that wants to do nothing but kill and destroy us. And I never want to see it again so long as I live.

I shudder every time I think that those eyes might have been the last thing my friends saw.

Written by Mendalla
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