Sitting in the tent, the air stiff and thick, I sigh. Beside me lay a few other people. My friends. The whole batch of ridiculous party goers that somehow managed to talk me into this little tryst. A whole week in a national park.
Normally, I would decline to do something like this because it is outside of my comfort zone. The idea of getting good nature photos to put on my instagram instead of the cityscapes I normally photograph was actually the reason I came.
The stifling heat and humidity is driving me batty though. I decide to take a breather and unzip the tent flap to step outside. The moment I do I am greeted by fresh, cool air. The tent was holding in all of our collected body heat it seems. The fire had almost died out. So, I gently stoke the hot coals and add some dry tinder and leaves to get it going again.
It's so beautiful out here. With little to no light pollution, the stars twinkle and dance in the sky, trees bordering our little clearing on three sides. They stand like soldiers at the ready, rustling just a bit in a small breeze. On the fourth side of camp is water. The lake stretches out before us like a strip of mirror. Wavering slightly in the pale moonlight.
I take a deep breath and find that the crackling of the fire almost echoes. It's in this exact moment I realize just how quiet the night is. It's so quiet that the only noises I can hear are the crackling of the fire, small snores from the tent, and the gentle lapping of the water on the edge of the shore.
This is unusual for the time of year. Being midsummer means that in the very least crickets and grasshoppers,even frogs, would be making noise. Chiming in with their songs all through the night. I ponder this for a moment before I see a bit of movement out in the water. At first glance it appeared as if a fish had jumped but the ripples weren't the typical circle. In fact, it looked more like something swimming towards me.
I stand up and peer out at the water for a moment. Unease sneaking it's way up my spine and settling in my throat. Deciding it would be smarter to get into the tent if it was a water snake or something, I quickly moved to get back in. Just as I zip up the tent behind me and am enclosed in the thick fabric something steps onto the shore. I can't make out the full shape from its shadow but it almost looked equine in nature.
I curl up in my bed roll as the thing slips back out into the water, half expecting it to try and get into our tent. Sleep doesn't come easy for me.
The next morning I choose to keep my odd night visitor to myself. We go fishing, a few of my friends even go swimming, beckoning me to join. I decline saying my stomach was upset from all the beer yesterday. Sitting by myself, again, I glance toward the woods on my right hand side to see something pale in the trees. I quickly get to my feet as my heart jumps to my throat. It's headed to the water. I never panic like this. I am level headed. Rational. Everything is explainable. In this moment, all of those qualities are gone. My friends are in the water. I take off screaming for them to get out at the top of my lungs.
"Something is in the water!!" I bark out.
Evidently, they can tell I am freaking out and it excites their own panic. Quickly exiting the water. Tasha was farther out than everyone. I watch as the ripples appear. I point them out and everyone begins freaking out and screaming with me. Her big blue eyes widen and she screams as she is dragged under. I dive in after her. I make good time (having been on the swim team in school) diving down just in time to catch her wrist as she flails about in the mildly murky water.
I look beyond her to see a pale blue horse head peering at me. Angry red eyes meet mine, equine mouth parting in a manner I have never seen in my life. Rows upon rows of needle-like teeth fill its mouth. Even under the water I can hear its shrill skull piercing screech. I yank and pull. Trying with all my might to save my friend from this monster. My lungs begin to burn as we are pulled deeper and deeper. Tasha is already limp and has ceased to thrash.Tentacles swirl around in the water, wrapping more around Tasha's body. It tips her from my grasp and vanishes into the dark water.
My lungs burning, I resurface. She's gone. I swim with all my might to the edge of the shore and collapse. Voices register in my mind but, I cannot grasp what's being said. My vision fades out.
I wake up hours later as the sun is just beginning to fade. One of the guys, Donnovan, sits beside me in the tent.
"You're awake!" he says, relief obvious in his voice.
I slowly sit up, my whole body screaming in protest. A small shiver raced up my spine as memories begin to flood back into my head.
"Tasha." I croak out, looking at him.
He shakes his head, "She's gone Elly."
"Why are we still here?" I ask him.
He informs me that almost everything was packed up but that they would be finishing in the morning. We had taken far more than was actually necessary. Though we did have a rather large group of nine, no eight, people. I carefully exit the tent to find everyone around a premature fire. They quietly talk amongst themselves. Everyone avoids looking out to the water, too scared to bring themselves to take even a little look.
The moment the sky starts to shift color, we all huddle into the tent. Everyone on edge and restless. The darker the sky grows, the more uncomfortable we become.
I close my eyes and focus on the sounds outside of the tent, waiting for something, anything. That's when I hear it. A clear voice quietly singing. My eyes pop open and I realize everyone else is nodding off. I try everything I can to keep them awake. To no avail.
I am quickly let alone. Surrounded by sleeping bodies as something climbs out of the water. Knowing all too well that I have to defend them, I gather all the courage I can muster, grabbing my knife from the small bag I kept at the foot of my bed roll. I step out onto the loose rock and come almost face to face with the nasty water horse. It huffs in my face, the smell of decay causing me to gag a bit. We make eye contact and its mouth widens into a grotesque smile. Los parting to reveal its rows of teeth, baring them, enjoying my repressed terror all too much.
Without thinking I swing my arm up and slam the blade into its eye. It screams in pain as green blood gushes out. I rip out the blade as it snaps at me. I narrowly miss having my face ripped off as I drop and roll to the side. It moves again. This time too fast for me to dodge. Its mouth clamps over my shoulder, teeth passing through muscle and tendons with little to no pause. I scream and stab it over and over as it begins to drag me to the water.
I can't let it get me into the water. If it does, I am as good as dead. I manage to slam my blade into its ear. It quickly drops me, luck being that the blade slips out and remains in my hand. My world blurs on the edges but adrenaline keeps me from passing out. I lunge at it again and it snaps at me, catching both the blade and my hand. Once again I scream out in pain. Slamming my fist into its nose in an attempt to free my hand. It let's go and turns for the water. Almost vanishing the moment it touches it. I hold my hand to my chest and watch as the ripples dissipate.
My last screams had woken everyone up from their enchanted sleep, clambering out of the tent to see. I sit on the ground bleeding everywhere. Green blood mingles with my own, adorning my clothes and the ground.
They attempt to patch me up and call emergency medical services. I simply sit rocking back and forth while everyone tries to finish packing in the dark.
The medical professionals explained my wounds away as me getting caught in barbed wire that had been dumped into the water. Although how they came to that conclusion, I will never understand.
To this day I will not approach any body of water. Not even a public pool. My hand functions well enough despite being heavily scarred. My mind on the other hand? That does not.
I tell you this story for no other reason than to warn you. They are out there. It's not all lore and myth. These monster exist and please... for the love of God... stay away from Dark Water.