As the sun falls and the day rests, the sky is cloaked in a velveteen hue. The outline of predators and prey become one and the same: blackened silhouettes entangled in the haze of wilderness. Only the campsite, protected by the light of the bonfire, can be seen clearly. Lizzie stared at this bonfire, roasting a marshmallow as her mother packed for a trip to the lake.
“Are you sure that you don’t want to come to the lake tonight?” her mother asked again, knowing the answer.
“I’m sure,” Lizzie groaned, annoyed by her mother’s insistence on “bonding.”
“Will you be safe by yourself?”
“I’m not a child.”
“I know it’s just that- Never mind.“
They sat there in silence until Lizzie’s mother got up, “I’ll be back soon. If I’m not here by midnight then I’ve been eaten by El Ahogado.” She then left the protection of the campfire and became one with the haze of the outside world.
Relieved that her mother is finally gone, Lizzie lied on the ground, pulled out her Walkman, and listened to the music that her father used to sing to her. She got lost gazing at the stars, counting the time until she has to leave for boarding school. Lamenting the memories of her past that will be drowned under the wave of an unknowable future.
After a while, Lizzie spotted a yellow light hiding in the forest out of the corner of her eye.
“Haha, mom, real funny. I know it’s you,” Lizzie shouted.
The light didn’t move. Instead, it just stood there, watching Lizzie. She squinted at the light, trying to make out its source.
Those are eyes.
Lizzie stared back at the eyes for an eternity, unable to blink out of fear of what will happen if she does. Eventually, the eyes seemed to disappear as if they were never there to begin with. By the time she settled down, Lizzie noticed that the forest became masked in a stygian shroud.
Lizzie checked the time on her Walkman.
One in the morning, wasn’t mom supposed to be here by now?
Reluctantly, Lizzie grabbed a flashlight and headed towards the lake to check on her mother. While walking, the flashlight began to dim. The perceivable world around her became smaller and smaller until she couldn’t even see her hands. Panicking, Lizzie ran through the dense trails hoping to find any source of light until she tripped and fell onto the floor.
Caged in darkness and without sight, the only sense that Lizzie felt was the sound of the forest around her. A whirling symphony of chaos attacked her. The whispering wind, the chirping crickets, the prancing of prey and predators banged onto her mind to the point of near insanity. In the wake of this madness, Lizzie began to make out the humming of her father that she used to hear as a child. Entranced by this tune, she followed the song like a marionette drawn by its master until she was greeted by its source: the shining lake of El Diablo.
“Father, are you here?” Lizzie began walking into the lake.
“Please answer me, I need you.” The lake started gnawing at her feet.
“Why did you abandon me?” The lake engulfed her to the knees.
“Why did you leave me in the care of a sorry excuse of a mother?”
By the time the lake had consumed half her body, a thought came over Lizzie.
“Mother… Wait, where’s mom?”
Just then, Lizzie heard a cry as if a creature’s flesh had been torn off in the direction of the campsite. She booked it back to the site at breakneck speed not caring that she couldn’t even see what’s right in front of her. When she got to the campsite, Lizzie saw a tall humanoid huddled around the campfire. A stench of rot and musk attacked Lizzie the closer she crept to the creature. Eventually, she was able to make shape of the apparition that she saw. It was Diane but with a hollow look in her eyes, staring off into the forest.
“Where were you?” Diane grappled Lizzie into an embrace.
“Mom, you smell weird, and what was that scream?” Lizzie asked while failing to escape Diane’s grasp.
“Let’s not worry about that right now. We should get some rest, the sun will rise soon. Maybe we can even go to the lake tomorrow, together.”