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A WATERY GRAVE by J. Vandersteen 1997

a horrifying tale featuring Harvey Banks, tabloid reporter


Crying she sat at the lake. She should have known she couldn’t trust that pervert. They told her to never trust a quarterback. She didn’t want to lose him, but she hadn’t been ready for what he had wanted from her either. That is why the jerk had thrown her out of the car. She’d been running for 15 minutes until she arrived at the lake. She was so tired. She just had to sit down and rest for a while.

Then suddenly she felt a cold grip tightening around her neck. She grabbed at it, trying to free herself, but she couldn’t get hold of it. Whatever was holding her seemed to slip through her fingers like water… Then she realized it was water.

The cold, wet hand pulled her nearer to the lake while she struggled. She tried to crawl away from it, but the water was stronger. Then, finally realizing how futile her struggles were, she gave up and disappeared in the cool blue lake.


Staring calmly at the lake Harvey Banks lit a cigarette. He shook his head. Why the hell had his editor sent him here? He noticed nothing out of the ordinary. It was just a lake like so many others.

He cursed. While other reporters were traveling around the world interviewing starlets and politicians he had to go to a stupid little backward town in South Carolina to investigate a "man-eating lake".

Twenty people, the most recent of which a teenage girl had drowned in the lake during the last 20 years. All victims had been known as excellent swimmers and no one understood how they could drown.

Now all sorts of tales about the lake were being told. Some said the lake was haunted, others said a serial killer was roaming around. So far, Harvey had only heard old wives’ tales.

He sighed. Since there didn’t seem to be any story there he walked back to his car. He decided to spent the night at the motel and drive home early in the morning.


He was lying on his bed, still dressed, with a bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand. He’d fallen asleep watching TV. His room was infested with cockroaches, but at least it had the Playboy Channel.

Then he woke up from a loud scream. He jumped out of bed and ran to the window. People were coming out of their houses to see what was going on. He saw a woman crying hysterically.

Harvey didn’t enjoy being interrupted in his sleep, but he knew a story when he saw one. So he put on his glasses and went outside.


Harvey moved through the crowd straight towards the screaming woman.

"What’s happened?" he asked her.

"I-I was walking at the lake with my boyfriend when suddenly the water came alive! It-it seemed to reach out for us like a giant hand, pulling him under! It just devoured him, like-like a cat would devour a mouse! Oh god, he must be dead!"

"You on drugs, lady?" Harvey asked coldly.

The woman’s eyes widened, angry she ran to him, clobbering his chest with her small fists. "You bastard! You sonofabitch!" she cursed.

He grabbed her wrists and pushed her back. "You’re right I am all that, probably more too. But I think I might believe you now. Sorry about your guy." Harvey turned around and went back to his room. When he drank enough he should still be able to catch some sleep.


All right, he decided. Maybe something weird was going on at the lake after all. He decided to go to the lake as soon as the poor sucker had been fished out of the water. He was going to sit there until he had something to report to the Inquirer, even if he had to wait till his teeth fell out. Or at least till he ran out of cigarettes.


"Damned idiot," he murmured to himself, sitting at the lake. "Like something’s really going to happen." But then he reminded himself of that haunted house in Omaha and that psychic in Boston, or that witch in Jersey. He had witnessed many strange things which defied any natural explanation. He had seen the unbelievable before. Maybe he would see it again.


He had fallen asleep listening to the sounds of the crickets and the owls… Then he felt something cold brushing his ear. Something cold and wet. Never had he woken up so fast, so suddenly. His eyes widened as he saw a hand composed of water reaching for him. He got up like lightning and started to run, because in that instant he understood the crying woman had spoken the truth. The lake was alive and now it was after him.


After a while, still running he found the courage to look over his shoulder. It seemed the lake had given up the chase, because the water was still now. He stopped running, wheezing, coughing, leaning against a tree where he coughed up his last meal. Then, after a few minutes he got himself under control again.

"That should teach me… To be careful what I wish for…"


Driving in his car, he decided he couldn’t allow this lake to keep claiming those people’s lives. He was no hero or exorcist, but he also knew that if he didn’t act, no one would. He knew no one would believe the stories of the lake till they witnessed the truth themselves, when it would be too late. He knew the only reason he still lived was the fact that he had opened his mind to the possibility the lake was indeed haunted. That had made him act instead of think. Think, while the lake would kill him.

No, he was going to do something about this situation and he had a feeling the local paper could help him.


He’d smoked half a packet of cigarettes before he finally found what he’d been looking for. He’d sifted through 20 years’ worth of newspapers, and this town never heard of microfiches. "Gotcha," he said smiling at an article titled "Mother suspected in murder of 6 year old child".


It had been 20 years since Janet Wilkins had been at the lake. She remembered it all too well. It had felt so good to get rid of that wretched lump of flesh that kept reminding her of the man who’d raped her, six years before. Getting rid of it had been her only way to find peace again. The only way to get on with her life. The only thing she had felt bad about when she had been holding the little boy’s head under water was the fact she hadn’t thought of it before.

But now that ugly little piece of her past had risen its head again. Three hours ago she’d gotten a phone call from a man claiming to have evidence of what she had done. He’d claimed she may have been found innocent by the jury, but he could still destroy her life with the evidence he had. He’d told her that if she wanted to continue her life she should come to the place where all of it started. She should bring 50.000 dollars to buy his silence.

Of course, she didn’t intend to pay him. She didn’t even have that much money. What she did have however, was a gun. She was going to shoot that blackmailing bastard and get on with her life.

Harvey appeared from behind a tree, close to the lake. Lighting a cigarette, he grinned at the woman.

"Hello, Janet. Must bring back some memories, coming here after all these years."

"Shut up, you smug little bastard!" she hissed. "I’m going to fucking kill you, you asshole!"

She took the gun out of her purse and aimed it at Harvey.

"Sorry lady, but I think someone has something to settle with you first," he said calmly.

Then the water started to move again. Slowly it started to flow across the grass towards Janet. The closer it came, the faster it moved. Then Janet noticed her feet were getting wet. She looked down at the puddle she was standing in. She didn’t understand. How could the water have moved in such a direct line?

Then, he water started to crawl up her leg like a snake. Slowly it encircled her body, sliding from her thighs to her middle, to her breasts. She shivered at its cold, almost erotic touch. It reached her neck, caressing it… and started to tighten like a noose. She tried to scream but the wet noose was too tight. She couldn’t breathe anymore. She couldn’t think as her eyes started to bulge and her muscles tightened.

She spasmed, and then, in one single second Janet Wilkins life ended.

The water dragged her lifeless body through the damp grass toward its source. There she disappeared into the fathomless lake, never to be seen again.


Harvey crouched beside the lake. "You must’ve been one pissed off little kid," he told the lake. "You were so angry at your mother killing you, you haunted this damn lake. You were so angry you couldn’t cross to the other side. The only way you could express your anger was killing everyone who came near your watery grave, craving for revenge on your killer. Well kid, you got your wish. The bitch is dead. Now go where you belong. You’ve been here long enough. You have no place in this world any longer."

The water started to ripple. Slowly a face started to form in the ripples. It was the face of a child. It smiled. Then, suddenly the water was still again and the face was gone.

"Rest in peace son," Harvey whispered to the lake an walked away. He had an article to write. Of course, no one would believe it.



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