Short Story Fiction
The Lady in the Lake
Scott A. Gese

The Lady in the LakeJeffrey Eisen/Pexels

The lakeside cabin was the perfect retreat from a hectic life in the big city. The cabin was located along the shore of one of Oregon’s high lakes. The water was cold and clear as it was fed by runoff from a nearby snow capped mountain.

There were a few summer homes in the area and a small store that sold food and tackle to the fishermen who frequented the lake. The store rented out several nearby cabins. Stan Steeberg had rented one. For the next week he planned to do nothing but relax and do a little fishing.

It was early on the second day. Stan had rowed out a short distance from shore. (No motors were allowed on the lake.) He threw out his line and settled in. There was nothing pressing on his mind. Only a random thought or two that came and went. It was perfect. There was no breeze and the lakes surface was as smooth as glass.

As he sat quietly, something stirred in the water next to the boat. Stan looked over the edge thinking it might be a fish. The water was so clear he would be able to see it easily. There was no fish but he did notice he could see his reflection as clear as looking into any mirror. As he examined his face in the water something strange happened. Beyond his reflection on the surface, another reflection appeared deeper in the water. It was the reflection of a young woman.

The woman had an expression on her face that startled him. He could see it in her eyes. It was a look of desperation. For a moment Stan thought what he was seeing was real. He thought the woman needed help. He reached into the water to grab her. As he did, a hand reached up and grabbed him around the throat. Stan lept back and the hand easily let go and disappeared back into the water.

He quickly took another look into the water but she was gone. Something wasn’t right. He could feel it. The hair on the back of his neck stood up and he felt a cold chill run down his spine. He rowed back toward shore, tied his boat and threw the excess rope onto the dock.

He headed straight for the store to report the incident.

As he entered, the proprietor could see Stan was a bit shaken. “Are you alright?” He asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” he replied. “I just had the strangest thing happen to me.” Stan told the proprietor about what had just taken place.

The man listened calmly without saying a word. Only when Stan had finished did he speak. “Did the woman have long black hair?”

“Yes, yes she did.”

“And was she wearing a long white dress?”

“It was white. I know that much,” replied Stan.

“Count yourself lucky. You’re one of the few people who have seen her.”

“Seen who?” He asked.

“The Lady. The Lady in the Lake. I saw her myself a couple of years ago. It was a moonlit night and I had walked to the end of the dock to get something out of my boat. She was standing out on the water not more than twenty feet from me. She didn’t speak but kept motioning for me to come out to her. No way in hell was I going to step off that dock. I high-tailed it back to shore. I still get goosebumps just thinking about it.”

“So she’s not real? You’re saying she’s a ghost?”

“Exactly.”

Stan was a bit relieved to know someone hadn’t just drowned but was now curious about this Lady in the Lake. “So what’s the story with her?”

“I don’t know all the details but here’s what I do know. It was about a hundred years ago. She was out on the water with her lover. They got into a heated argument about something or other. Things got out of hand and he ended up strangling her to death. Not wanting to get caught, he wrapped a rope around her waist with the anchor on one end and threw her over the side. It apparently wasn’t much of a throw cuz he capsized the boat in the process. It went down to the bottom along with the lady. The young man swam to shore with a made up story. The few people who were there set out to find the body but they never could locate it. It wasn’t until many years later when the young man was on his death bed that he admitted to the truth of what really happened.”

Stan walked back to his cabin thinking about the incident. He recalled the look of terror in her eyes. She wasn’t trying to scare me. She was the one who was afraid. Maybe her grab at my throat was her way of communicating to me what had happened to her?

Stan convinced himself that she was reaching out from beyond the grave. She wanted to let someone know what had happened that fateful day. How could he let her know that the truth was already known.

The next evening was moonlit and Stan found himself walking out to the end of the dock. As he stood looking out over the lake she appeared on the water before him. It startled him and he took a step back. When he did his foot got tangled in the loose rope he had thrown onto the dock the day before. He lost his balance and fell into the water hitting his head on the edge of his boat. He went under. The rope was still wrapped around his foot. The whack on the head had disoriented him and he was having trouble getting loose.

He began to lose consciousness. Before things went black he saw the face of the Lady. She had come to help him get free. Her eyes were soft and filled with compassion. Stan instinctively knew if he died he wouldn’t be dying alone.

~~~

It was Friday afternoon and Stan had missed his check out time. The proprietor Walked over to his cabin and knocked on the door. No one answered but the door was unlocked so he let himself in. Stan’s belongings were still there but Stan was nowhere to be found. The authorities searched the area and drug the shallow end of the lake. Some areas were too deep for divers to get to the very bottom. Stan was never found.

Some weeks later Summer was drawing to a close and the little store was about to lock up for the season. It was a moonlit night. The proprietor decided to walk to the end of the dock one last time. As he stood looking over the water a figure appeared before him. It was the Lady in the Lake. Next to her stood another figure who he recognized. It was Stan.

© Copyright 2023 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.


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