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The Bones of Boo: Part One, A Short Story by cam
Link to Part Two
- The Bones of Boo: Part Two, A Short Story by cam
Part 2-Ten year old, Jennifer was adventurous enough to almost drown. As a Thirty year old detective, she was determined enough to solve dozens of child abductions. Common factor? A ghost named Boo.
Jennifer paced the muddy shoreline watching the investigation unfold. State Police divers slid off the stern of a Zodiac inflatable boat with splashes that broke the silence of the remote lake and forest. Sheriff’s deputies in waders, slogged through the bog on the west end, and volunteers scoured a one hundred foot strip of forest floor around the entire lake. Jennifer stopped walking and lifted her boot. The sight of a cigarette butt, framed by the imprint, took her breath and sent her mind racing back twenty years.
At the age of ten, red haired Jennifer had been, according to others, stubborn and disobedient. In her own mind, she called it strong willed and adventurous.
On the day that would set the course for the rest of her life, Jennifer decided to go exploring. She and her parents had been staying in a cabin in the forest for a week, and she was obsessed with the thought of what lay outside the clearing in which the cabin sat.
Her parents relaxed on the front porch reading. When they found a good book, Jennifer was convinced a bomb could explode and not distract them from what was happening on the pages. She stood at the edge of the clearing where a narrow foot path ran out into the forest for a hundred feet, then disappeared as it curved to the right. She walked to the turn so she could see where it went from there..
After the first step, she looked down at her feet and saw a small red stone, about the size of a marble. Jennifer loved to collect colored rocks, so she picked up the stone and took a few more steps. A pretty green rock caught her attention, then a blue one and an orange one after that. One by one she slipped brilliantly colored rocks into the pocket of her shorts. Minutes passed by unnoticed, and the sun continued its late afternoon journey. Jennifer picked up another red stone, this one at the waterline of a small lake, and stuffed it into her bulging pocket.
The voice of a little boy called from the lake, barely breaking the silence. He was calling for help. Jennifer scanned the surface until she could make out what might have been the boy’s head so she stepped into the water to get closer.
Cigarette smoke invaded her nose, a smell she had learned to hate before her father quit the nasty habit. She turned to face the shore. A man stood outside the line of trees drawing on a cigarette, the tip glowing against the dark backdrop of the forest. With one hand he pulled the cigarette from his mouth and blew twin jets of smoke from his nostrils. With the other hand he tossed something, and a small red stone landed at Jennifer's feet in the mud.
“There’s a boy out in the water calling for help," she said. "Can’t you hear him?” The man flicked the cigarette away, and Jennifer’s eyes followed its arc until it landed in the water. When she looked back, he was gone.
“Help me, please,” cried the boy from behind her.
“I’ll go get help,” she called over her shoulder. But violent splashing brought her around, and she waded farther out into the lake.
The Zodiac floated near the surface marker buoys and Jennifer wondered what the divers might find in the murky depths. She was a detective with the county sheriff’s department and in charge of this investigation. In fact, this place and the events of two decades before were the reason she had gone into law enforcement.
Years of therapy, beginning immediately after her first visit to the lake, had not changed her mind. It had really happened, and no one, no matter how many post-nominal letters they had accrued, had been able to convince her otherwise.
At first she had been emotionally traumatized. As time passed, she became obsessed with the lake and what may have happened here. That obsession led to a degree in criminal investigation. Here she was, overseeing an investigation in the place where a childhood experience had defined her up to this point. What life would be like tomorrow depended on what they discovered today.
The object that had looked like a head was gone and the splashing had stopped. Jennifer was chest deep in water, and If she didn’t go back to shore now, she might be the next one shouting for help.
Jennifer’s parents had warned her about her careless, even reckless, ways. Once she had climbed to the top of a maple tree on their property, chasing a squirrel. She couldn’t get down again and had waited for hours until her father had come looking for her. He hadn’t been thrilled about climbing the tree to rescue her, but both were eventually back on the ground. She had sworn to her father that she would never do anything like that again. Was this like the tree? Had she gone too far? Would her father rescue her this time?
Something disturbed the water farther out in the lake. A V-shape was making a beeline in her direction. Jennifer backed toward the shore, but she couldn’t move fast enough to outrun whatever was swimming below the surface. Was it a fish or a turtle, or something else? Her ten year old mind conjured a serpent that had lived in the lake for centuries, feeding on disobedient children who wandered too far from their parents.
Her thirty year old mind was much more realistic, and also knew the end of the story. That’s what had motivated her to research the lake and child abductions from the surrounding area after high school and during her years at college. The results were staggering. Not only children who had lived in the area, but those vacationing in local cabins, bed and breakfasts and small resorts had gone missing as well.
Her problem with local law enforcement was that she had always shared the data along with the story of her childhood experience at the lake. Data was measurable and could be investigated, but in their opinion her story was a childhood fantasy, a nightmare. No one had taken her seriously, so no investigation into the lake was ever conducted. She knew that the lake was central to the disappearances of dozens of children. No one else would make that connection because she was the only living person who had witnessed and escaped the terror of the lake.
The muddy lake bottom held Jennifer’s shoes in a grip that was nearly impossible for her to break. The beeline sped toward her until the man she had seen on the shore rose out of the water and stood on its surface. He was smoking another cigarette. As smoke rolled from his nostrils, the child’s voice came from his mouth.
“Help me. Please, come and help me.”
The surface of the lake around her churned as if boiling. Dozens of hands and arms rose from the roiling water, reaching for her with bony fingers partially covered with decaying flesh, grasping as they moved in her direction. Jennifer screamed, unable to back away from the oncoming horde.
Heads emerged with vegetation growing out of empty eye sockets and nostrils. Mouths opened and closed, releasing guttural sounds, befitting goblins and demons. Strong hands grabbed her shoulders, lifting her from the water and from among the rotting children.
“Daddy?” she cried. A burst of laughter on a fetid wind and a cloud of smoke was her only answer.
Jennifer was dragged out into deeper water and thrust downward until she was completely submerged. She kicked and tried to scream, succeeding only in inhaling gulps of lake water.
She opened her eyes, and the hands of dead children gripped her arms and legs, pulling her down toward the muddy graveyard. Vegetation reached up from the bottom like the arms of a squid wrapping around her legs and feet. She kicked against the new bonds to free herself, but instead became more entangled. Jennifer succumbed to the lack of oxygen, went limp and settled into her place among the undead.