Fictober, Prompt 6 – “Yes, I’m aware. Your point?”
Warnings: horror, monster, implied violent death, midwest/north woods gothic.
A loon call echoed over the lake, a single wailing note that might be either loneliness or a warning.
I heard my companion’s stride pause briefly at the sound, then her footsteps hurried across the gravel of the lake shore as she caught up to me. She walked closer than she had before.
“You said you knew that people have been going missing up here, right?” she asked.
“And that it’s been recommended people stay away from this area?”
“And we didn’t tell anyone we were coming.”
I took a breath, making sure that none of my frustration showed in my voice. “Yes, I’m aware. Your point?”
“Just that for someone who claims to be woods-smart, you aren’t really taking any basic, sensible precautions!”
“You’re the one who wanted to follow me out here,” I pointed out. “You didn’t have to come.”
“I did if I want to get this article written,” she muttered, a bit sullenly, but fell quiet.
It was a gray afternoon, the otherwise vibrant leaves muted by the lack of light, the trees themselves standing dark and tall beneath their autumn foliage. A mild, steady wind blew off the lake, rippling the otherwise calm surface and pushing the already cold temperatures a little bit lower.
I was always careful to dress in what would be sensible clothes for this time of year: thick socks, sturdy shoes, warm pants, a hooded jacket with a scarf, and gloves to cover my hands, which was an additional convenience. A backpack with some supplies in it. My companion (she had given me her name back in town, but I couldn’t remember it) was wearing something similar.
The loon called again, and I sensed the fear in her shiver.
The stories didn’t worry me. There were always stories, and nothing had come of them yet.
I kept walking, keeping to the narrow strip of stony shoreline between the water and the woods. We would have to go into the trees eventually, but my companion was already nervous, and there was no reason not to stay in the open for now.
She stayed quiet for some time. At last she ventured, “Do you really know what’s causing people to disappear up here?”
“I have an idea,” I replied carefully.
“But you know of a safe place to stay while we search?”
“I do. We’ll be there before dark.”
“Oh good. It’s cold out here, and I’m getting a little hungry.” She did not say that she was going to be too scared to be outside after the sun went down, although I knew that was the case. “Could we go a little faster?”
“That might be a good idea,” I agreed, and increased my pace. She matched her steps to mine, and kept a little closer, eyeing the darkening trees with misgiving.
I tilted my head down so that my mouth was covered by the scarf I wore before allowing myself to grin. It wouldn’t do to let her catch a glimpse of my teeth at this point.
After all, I was hungry too.