Deceit In Paradise: Billybuc Photo Challenge Edition 5
Well, once again I'm showing up late to the party - slightly more than fashionably, but not enough to be considered extremely. In April, Bill gave us three interesting photos to spark creative inspiration. I had a story of a quaint small town planned out, but one night, a line popped into my head. It was one of those moments that take you by surprise, providing an idea that demands to be heard. And so it was that my story of a cute lake town turned into something more sinister. I did my best to combine the two into a cohesive narrative that would not only make sense, but also take the reader on a thrilling ride.
Thank you for once again getting me out of my comfort zone, Bill. I appreciate your photo challenges and the time you take to create them.
Deceit In Paradise
The sun peeks up above the horizon, slowly transforming the dark sky into a beautiful array of vibrancy and wonder. Streaks of deep indigo, rich salmon, and pale peach paint the sky, as if an artist dipped his brush and snapped his wrist, allowing the color to settle wherever it wished. This breathtaking display reflects in the water below, ripples setting the stage for the hot, hazy day ahead.
The small town, so still and quiet, begins to wake. Birds sing their morning song, dew glistens in patches of emerald grass, and people rub the sleep from their eyes. A scent of coffee lingers in the air as Farmer John's rooster sings his battle cry from the edge of town.
The old green clock in the square strikes 6 am. Belinda shuffles across the ancient oak floor to unlock the diner's glass door. She carefully flips the small sign hanging from an old rusty nail, signaling the start of another beautiful day.
Renly's is the unofficial town center. This is the place to see and be seen, to hear and be heard. Old men congregate early each morning over piping-hot black coffee, swapping war stories from yesteryear. In the mid-morning hours, their wives, all dolled up, take over. Claiming the large center table, they enjoy lunch with a side of town gossip, and share the latest events in their kids' and grandkids' lives. The mayor holds court in a comfy booth every afternoon, chatting with townsfolk, the police and fire chief on either side of him.
Everyone knows everyone, as is the case in all small towns. There is a deep sense of pride and a love so strong for the quaint and comfortable. This is a safe place with honest, good people.
Seagulls stand guard along the metal fence posts, their keen eyes simultaneously searching for lost french fries and sizing me up. I glance at my watch and pick up my pace. I'm late. An image of the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland flashes in my head. The birds squawk at me as I rush past, annoyed with my rude interruption.
Just beyond the pier, she stands with her arms crossed and a glare in her eye. Slowly shaking her head in disgust, she turns and heads down the woodsy trail to the right. I sprint the remaining distance to catch up, hopping over the three concrete steps where the wooden planks meet the sidewalk.
She has already reached the small wooden boat and is working on the knot securing it to the towering old tree when I emerge from the small, winding trail. With a slight tilt of her head, she signals that I should climb in.
Sliding my sandals off, I gingerly step into the peaceful cove. The cool water laps over my feet, the temperature difference a quick shock to the system. I climb into the boat and get settled. She is not far behind me, and before I can say a word, she tosses the rope in and follows suit.
We each grab a paddle and head toward the narrow passway, where the serene cove opens into the lake.
We spend the afternoon hours paddling under the hot sun in silence. Our boat glides down the lake as we work in sync, a graceful dance of strength, breath, and rhythm. After our second round trip, we finally stop to cool down. Settling in the middle of the quiet lake, we dive off into the refreshing water. I surface and take a deep breath in, wiping my face clear of water. Taking out my ponytail and putting the hair band around my wrist, I lay back, allowing the lake to support my body. Conscious of her presence several feet to my left, I close my eyes and float aimlessly, relishing the ache in my muscles and enjoying the warm sun on my face, the stillness of the moment. The gentle movement of the water lulls me into a deep relaxation and I don't notice the darkening sky off to the west.
A clap of thunder jolts me upright, my legs cycling under the water to keep me afloat. I look up and fear shoots through my body. The sky is an eerie dark green covered with thick clouds. I can see the boat in the far distance and immediately start swimming toward it as the wind picks up.
The closer I get, the further away I feel, fighting the mounting waves with every stroke. Exhausted and out of breath, I finally reach the boat. She is the there and relief floods through me. We clamber up into the boat, positioning ourselves in the center as the sky unleashes its fury on top of us. Rain whips at our skin from all angles as the waves viciously attack the boat. I'm crouched low, one hand gripping each side, willing the vessel to stay upright. Lightning flashes, illuminating our surroundings for just an instance, and I gasp at the sight of the cyclone. Suddenly my world turns upside down and I feel the lake rushing up as I lose my grip. There's no time to gather my bearings as the water seizes me and pulls me under. I try to stay calm and resist the human urge to thrash and fight. My effort pays off as the water pushes me back up and my lungs respond by sucking in sweet oxygen. Then everything went black.
An intense pain drums in my skull, like my brain has developed its own heartbeat. I slowly open my eyes and a wave of nausea rolls over me. Fighting the urge, I try to assess the situation. My right arm is numb and my legs feel like bricks. I can feel the blood dripping down the left side of my face. The rain has stopped and the wind has died down, but there's enough to continue the steady waves carrying me swiftly along the surface of the lake. The sky is a gloomy mixture of deep purples and blacks. I slowly turn my head, trying to spot her and the boat, but all that's here to keep me company is the water.
Suddenly, I hear the splash of paddles flowing through water. I look over and see her in the boat, heading toward me. I throw my left hand up and grab the side of the boat as she approaches. She sets her paddle down and grabs my wrist. I look up and smile, but terror floods through my body when I look into her eyes. I don't see the knife until it's too late.
"Dreadful sorry," she whispers, and I feel her grip loosen on my wrist. The cool water rushes over my face, claiming me as one of its own.
© 2020 Alyssa