The Swan and the Lake - By April Whidden (member, Westside Writers)
Carlton took one final glance at the fog-covered lake, screening his chest against the wind with one hand and tossing his partly smoked Winston into the water with the other. The lake was dead. Not a single life form took refuge there. Haunted, some said. Most likely by the ghosts of loose women, he thought. A rare smile snaked its away across his gaunt face, pulling at his jaws so tightly it hurt.
“Penelope will feel right at home here.” Carlton shivered as he remembered her perfect body turning from alabaster, to fuchsia, and finally blue as she succumbed to the smothering. “Good bye, darling.” he said, fingering the flask in his pocket that would soon erase her memory.
As he turned he was startled by a sound: a wailing, low and sweet as a baby’s coo. Carlton turned back to see something emerge from the waters, a small, white image against the murky backdrop. It slithered, winding its way forward yet causing no ripples, until it rested at his feet.
Is that a…? Carlton blinked and looked again. Sure enough, perched by his bare toes was a beautiful swan.
Where had it come from? Carlton raised his eyes above him, then lowered them to the ground for a hint as to its origin. His teeth chattered but the wind had subsided.
The swan stood, shaking water from its feet and Carlton heard the jingling of a collar around its neck. It was a pet. Of course! He had only been paranoid. Carlton wiped the sweat from his brow and stooped to give the bird a pat.
The soft wailing returned, blanketing Carlton. It was the last thing he heard. Both his hand and his heart stopped cold as he read the lone word etched into the swan’s collar: