Jeremy’s can hit the water with a splash smaller than he would’ve liked. Its bubbling green contents leaked out into the lake water. He leaned over the edge of the kayak and watched the guppies that had scattered on impact.
“You shouldn’t litter,” Stephanie chided him, pulling her pale blonde hair back into a ponytail in case Jeremy tried to get the bigger splash he’d sought.
“Who says I’m littering?” he replied. “The can’s in there… but maybe I’ll fish it out. It’s only littering if I leave it there.” The guppies did not go to the bobbing can, perhaps scared away by Jeremy’s snaggle-toothed grin.
“How are you going to get all the lightning chug back then?” Ryan asked, referring to the bubbling caffeine concoction leaking out of the can. “I don’t think the fish want it.” He grabbed the paddle and turned the orange kayak just enough to grab the can himself. “This is my aunt’s cabin and I don’t think she wants any hyperactive fish jumping out of the water.” Ryan was usually the quietest of the three, but he felt emboldened by their position in the middle of the lake. They couldn’t ignore him out here, especially since the trip was his idea in the first place. Jeremy’s only idea was to invite himself.
“Is there any left in there?” Jeremy asked of the can.
“Eww, gross,” Stephanie declared with a curled lip. “There’s probably algae in it… or something.” She grabbed the second paddle away from Jeremy even though she was positioned in the middle of the kayak. With the day’s light fading, and the first fireflies blinking overhead, she was ready to get out from between this boy sandwich and curl up in her sleeping bag. She was there for a snug view of a star-filled sky and not much else.
The sky was filled with a very particular set of stars that night. There was an unusual patch of light, from an unusual star that only existed on rare occasions. Its sickly purple glow did not draw the attention of the camping adolescents, but there was a sunken adolescent who was very interested indeed.
Below the kayak, below the lightning chug, below the guppies, and below the mud… something stirred. Something Ryan’s aunt had never seen. Something human eyes had never seen. Yet humanity had touched it horribly. Even it, with its ancient body, with its cursed mind, with its hollow whistling soul, was not immune to man’s callousness.
There was a time when an endocrine disruptor had been dumped in the lake, along with a cocktail of other pollutants. It took away a generation of frogs, the eyes of three generations of fish, and as its last hurrah, it corrupted the sleeping creature beneath the lake.
“Tell me again why we’re not supposed to swim here?” Jeremy asked, letting his fingers trail in the water as the other two rowed.
“It hasn’t been fully reclaimed yet,” Ryan told him. “And dumping cans isn’t going to make that go any faster.” They were near the shore now, the flap of their blue tent waving in the light breeze. “I don’t remember leaving that open,” he mumbled.
Thoomp! Stephanie and Jeremy squealed at the sound. Stephanie went so far as to stand for a moment and then drop back to her knees before she lost her balance. Something had struck the underside of the kayak.
“Oh my god! What was that?” Stephanie asked, wielding the paddle like a war-hammer.
“I don’t know, but I want the paddle back,” Jeremy whined, realizing he was the only one unarmed. A black lump appeared beside the boat, rising up to greet them, to greet that eerie purple star. Stephanie reared back, preparing to strike the lump, but Ryan threw his arms in front of her. A part of the thing broke the surface, tiny beady eyes regarding them. A red stripe traveled along the creature’s side.
“It’s a turtle!” Ryan warned. “It’s just a turtle! It’s a red-eared slider! They sell them in pet stores for christ’s sake!”
“Oh noooo,” Stephanie groaned. “I almost bopped the little guy!” Their course unchanged during the scare, the kayak suddenly jerked as they struck sand. The turtle’s head, after taking a short breath, vanished back under the surface. The three teens disembarked and made their way to the tent. Jeremy immediately hopped inside and rolled around on his sleeping bag. He grabbed a plastic package of hot dogs, still wet from the cooler, and waved them at his friends.
“Is it time to roast these bad boys now?” he asked. He wiggled the package, and one of the sausages slipped free. The three stared at it in confusion. The evening snack had been chips covered in powdered cheese, orange as the kayak, and a few cans of lightning chug. They hadn’t opened the hot dogs.
Jeremy picked it up with two fingers as if holding an angry crawdad by the tail. There was a piece missing, but they couldn’t call it a bite. Something horrific had happened to that hot dog, as it was punctured in a hundred places. Tiny pieces of its processed flesh had been scraped out from under the skin. It leaked a little juice from the end.
“What do you think did… Ahhhhh!” Two long purple tendrils slipped over his shoulders and wrapped around his arms. He was pulled backward into the tent. The flap was blown shut, and the other two stood in horror as they heard a wail of pain leak from between the pieces of the zipper.
It was the other adolescent, the one from beneath the lake, disturbed by the light of the intermittent purple star. It had no sex, no mind, at least compared to the minds they understood. It was a cluster of instincts from another galaxy in another reality, placed beneath the lake by its parents, like sea turtles burying their eggs on the beach.
It was supposed to emerge, fully mature, three ages after this one, with man long gone and making his home in the stars, but it had been touched by his pollution. It suffered as the frogs, as the fish, but far worse. It was supposed to be a beautiful symmetrical creature of great power, but its body was warped by our mistakes. Eight tentacles it should’ve had, one for each of the cosmic eyes that keep reality moving with their unblinking stares.
Yet the adolescent from under the lake had nine, its biology corrupted. Nine, it thought, if its processes could even be called thoughts. Nine, Nine, Nine… So it had no choice but to emerge early, by the light of the purple star. This world, this world of camping teenagers and lightning chug, would have to do. Nine tentacles had to belong in this world, in this time, or nowhere else. It could never stand to be seen by the eight eyes in such a state. Perhaps this creature, that had bounded into the tent alongside it, was offering help.
The tent had looked so inviting, blue and round like its first slime cocoon. Perhaps this creature with no tentacles at all was its sibling. There was only one way Jeremy could help. The boy had such strong teeth that gnashed back and forth as he tried to escape its grasp. The other adolescent forced the obscene ninth tentacle down the boy’s throat, and waited. Jeremy instinctively bit down, severing the connection and filling his lungs with its otherworldly ichor.
The ninth tentacle was gone, the adolescent was pure in the eyes of the cosmos again, and Jeremy choked on the poison meant just for him. Things had leaked into that land, into that water, into those beings, and in the end something had to simply choke.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by DarkLordofSheep during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!