Description: Death is not the end.
Katherine and James ran a small lakeside resort in Blissful Point, Massachusetts, during the hectic summer months, then endured the often-desolate winters in relative isolation. Their lives were happy until one morning when the body of a young boy was found floating in the lake. From that moment Katherine watched as her husband began to spiral into insanity. Then he vanished without a trace.
Now, months later, as a blizzard descends over Blissful Point, Katherine faces her final winter alone on the lake. But things are no longer what they seem. Is something out there, haunting the snowy woods, waiting in the lake, luring her toward the same madness that claimed James?
Excerpt: Copyright © 2012 Greg F. Gifune
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
From a pair of glass sliders overlooking a large deck and enormous expanse of lake, Katherine sipped her coffee, hands clutching either side of the mug to absorb the warmth. She’d had the dream so many times that remembering it had little effect on her these days. Segments of it would cling to her like residue then dissipate over time as the day progressed, leaving her with only blurred and segmented visions.
A gentle but steady snow was falling, blowing about and blanketing Blissful Point in a sea of white. Frozen sheets of ice concealed the lake and hugged the weighted branches of trees along the portion of forest surrounding it. It had begun snowing the night before and had continued straight through to morning. The weather people on television had warned an enormous snowstorm was following behind this initial band of snow and that within the next twenty-four hours it would hit the area with a ferocity not seen in these parts since the infamous blizzard of 1978. A small Massachusetts town nestled amidst miles of woodland, in winter the population fell to less than five hundred residents. In summer it was an alternative to the more crowded Cape Cod vacation spots in the state, but the tourists who descended on the lake and filled the quaint little shops and cafés of the main street were little more than memories, as the locals dug in for what were always quiet and uneventful winter seasons. Most business properties sat boarded up and locked down, idle and silent, awaiting the return of summer. In winter, the village often looked as if it had been deserted, and on lonely days such as these, when snow and freezing temperatures kept even the year-round townies indoors, it might as well have been.
The woodstove in the corner of the small den crackled, filling the room with welcomed heat and the pleasant aroma of burning oak. The fire had gone out during the night, but now reborn, was quickly overtaking the chill Katherine had awakened to.
The main house where she lived was bookended by several small cottages all set back from the lakeshore and scattered amidst the sparse section of forest nearest the water. It had been twenty years since she and James had purchased the property and moved in, renting the cottages to tourists during the summer months and suffering the often-maddening solitude the remainder of the year offered.
And then, of course, there was the lake. Roosting there like some constant and dispassionate deity. Over the years she had grown to hate these cottages, this house, the grounds—with its picnic tables, rope-and-board swings, picturesque walking trails, bicycle paths carved into the forest landscape—and the lake.
Most of all she had grown to hate the lake.
When someone vanished without a trace, as James had done a little more than a year earlier, it didn’t allow for the same levels of logic and closure certain death did.
Gone. That was the only tangible reality Katherine could be certain of. James was gone. To this day the authorities continued to consider him alive, as no body had been found and there was no evidence to suggest foul play or even suicide. But Katherine knew better. James was gone and he wasn’t coming back. Ever.
James, you have to see a doctor, she had told him days before he vanished. You have to get help, you have to stop this.
With tears in his eyes, he had reached out and cupped the side of her face, gently stroking her cheek and smiling. It’s too late for that.
And sadly, he’d been right.
Ironically, it was Katherine who wound up in therapy of sorts, seeking out Carlo Damone, an old college friend she’d stayed in touch with over the years. Carlo had originally set out to be a teacher, and although he’d graduated, he never got his teaching certification and instead went on to hold a string of menial jobs. In college he’d been the ultimate party guy—a hard-drinking and drug-taking madman, everyone’s best friend and a social god—but when the party was over and real life came knocking, Carlo had never quite managed to adapt. In his twenties and thirties he’d bounced from one casual and unfulfilling relationship to the next, and though he’d moved briefly to Los Angeles he’d returned to Blissful Point within a year, broke and again seeking out a job to pay his rent. He was currently experiencing his longest stint in one job since they’d graduated college, and though it was only pumping gas at a local station downtown, this seemed to center him somewhat. Though a bit more stable, he often appeared as restless as ever, and still struggled with a drinking problem he’d had for the better part of two decades. But at least he now seemed resigned to staying put and getting himself together. Still, it was often difficult for Katherine to look long and hard at her old friend. Such promise and potential, and all of it reduced to a mere ember.
She remembered sitting in Carlo’s latest digs—a tiny apartment above a small market in one of the less-appealing neighborhoods in town—and continuing to search for answers she suspected would forever linger just beyond her grasp. The state highway was so close the hum of traffic was often intrusive. “I’ll never understand how you deal with the noise here.”
“I like the noise, keeps my mind busy.” He smiled playfully. “Hey, at least the rent’s cheap. And I have an old friend that lives nearby.”
“What’s left of me anyway.”
“Lot more left of you than there is of me,” he said flatly.
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”
This time Carlo’s face showed no reaction, but his sad brown eyes gazed at her over half-glasses resting on the bridge of his nose. He’d been reading when she showed up and had apparently forgotten they were there. His vanity had never before allowed her to actually see him wearing them. “Real quiet out at the lake these days?”
“Yes, it is, but I won’t be there much longer.”
Carlo formed a chapel with his hands and let his chin rest at the summit where his fingers met. “I think it’s definitely a good idea for you to try to start again somewhere else, but under the circumstances, Kate, are you sure that’s the best way for you to deal with what’s happened?”
“You’re not honestly suggesting I stay there?”
“Not to the detriment of your health and wellbeing, no. I’m just saying running is never the answer.”
Katherine could not be so sure.
“Believe me,” he added, “I know, I’ve done it most of my life.”
Memories of the authorities dragging the lake and how she’d stood in front of these same sliders watching the search and rescue recovery teams systematically hunt for James filtered through her mind. Miles of forest were scoured but no trace of him was found. The whisperings in town that he had gone mad gave birth to numerous theories regarding what may have happened to him, the most popular of which suggested he’d wandered off into the dense woods and up into the mountains where he became lost and eventually died. He was strange, people said, a poet and eccentric who kept to himself and rarely socialized with anyone other than his wife. But the people here had never really known her, much less James. There were also those who suspected her, the way spouses are always suspected first, but she dismissed those people and their rumors.
But for Carlo, and Marcy and Luke, a local couple Katherine and James had been friendly with for several years, they had few friends or acquaintances they socialized with, and thus a very small circle of people who knew them in anything beyond the most facile sense. Marcy and Luke had divorced a few years earlier when Luke, an attorney, had taken up with his secretary and promptly moved out of town. Though their days of socializing as a couple were over, Marcy had remained friendly with Katherine and had been there for her during those horrible days after the disappearance. Only two years younger than Katherine, Marcy too now lived alone, as her only child Samantha, at twenty-one, had moved in with a boyfriend in Boston.
Marcy and Carlo had both been there for her as best they could, and she loved them for it. But in the end, Katherine still felt very much alone in her post-James existence. Alone in the darkness that had stolen him, in the darkness he had left behind.
Still, Katherine did her best to remember that they hadn’t always been surrounded by such morbidity. In fact, the first few years they had taken up residence on the lake had been wonderful.
The madness had only begun once the lake had taken the child.
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