It was the middle of the night when my cousin Mia put the idea in my head. My Aunt’s copy of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ lay on my bed under the book light. Tears moistened a few pages, but I was fine – really! Brianna was snoring, and her sister Mia lay on the bottom bunk across from me. I assumed they both were asleep, but then Mia spoke.
“Why don’t you just do it already?” she said.
Her voice was soft, not loud enough to wake Aunt Lindsay in the other room. Had I been asleep, I probably wouldn’t have noticed.
Her head rolled to the side toward me. I couldn’t see much of her face in the dim light, just the glow of her cheeks and chin that made the shadows around her face look ultra-defined. They made her eyes look like deep, oily wells.
“Walk into that stupid lake,” she said. “And get it over with. It’d be over in minutes.”
Why she said it or what motivated her to say it that particular day is beyond me. But her words have haunted me these past six months.
And today? Today, I just might do it.
~ ~ ~
I gaze out at the gray waters of Devil’s Lake. I’m here alone. Told my aunt I was going to fill her gas tank and took a fifty mile detour up north and into the Baraboo Hills.
The lake is little more than a dark oval basin between two towering wooded bluffs. Cascading down the sides of the bluffs are large, gray boulders. They look little more than tumbling stones down the side of a cliff, but in truth, most of them are larger than a person.
Everything about this state park makes me feel small, like we’ve all happened upon the giant realm of Brobdingnag from Gulliver’s Travels. I half expect to see a giant hand reach over the top of the west bluff, but of course it doesn’t happen.
I lower my face onto my knees and shiver.
A survivor – that’s what they called me. What a joke!
The north shore beach buzzes with activity – people grilling lunches, children frolicking around the beach and splashing in the water. I try to drown out their blissful screams and concentrate on my breathing. It doesn’t help.
So I drop my beach towel and walk to the lake’s edge. Though no one around me hesitates on running straight in, it looks cold. It seems to warn me to flee. I almost do.
It will be eight years this October since I nearly drowned in this lake, since my parents died. I should have died with them, but here I am. Perhaps this would have been more poetic had I waited for the actual anniversary. Still, there is something about laying your cap and gown on your bed that says, “You’re supposed to be an adult now.” Which, of course, I’m not.
Tracing the perimeter of the lake, I soak the bottoms of my bare feet till I reach a less crowded area of the beach. I lock my eyes on the west bluff as I enter the lake.
Just forget about the water, I tell myself. It doesn’t exist.
My heels sink in the warm sand with each step, giving me the illusion that I’m edging toward quicksand, and the liquid keeps rising around me – my knees, my thighs, the bottom of my bathing suit.
“It’s not real. It’s not real,” I whisper to myself.
It feels like cold, dead hands washing over me, trying to pull me in, welcoming me. I can no longer move forward. The water weighs heavily upon my torso, and I shiver. I tell myself I have to go through with this. I’m this far already, and I bend my knees, covering my shoulders and wetting the ends of my strawberry blond hair.