Black Petals Issue #103, Spring, 2023

Editor's Page
BP Artists and Illustrators
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
All the Sky Is Waiting to Be Told: Fiction by Daniel I. Clark
Fire Sale: Fiction by Christopher Pate
Kregah: Fiction by Ron Capshaw
The Beauty of Machinery: Fiction by Hayden Seay
The Cold Sore: Fiction by Chris McGuinness
The Lake: Fiction by Harper Hargis
The Price: Fiction by Josh Hanson
The Tailbone Is Connected to the Hipbone: Fiction by Michael Fowler
The Thorn Tree: Fiction by Lawrence Buentello
They: Fiction by Tony Ayers
Work Experience: Fiction by Martin Taulbut
Burns: 3 Connected Drabbles by Hillary Lyon
Grandma Medusa: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
I'm So Sorry, Computer: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
Invasive: Flash Fiction by Paul Radcliffe
Jumper: Flash Fiction by Kurt Hohmann
Personal Things: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The Good Doctor: Flash Fiction by Ron Capshaw
Another Tomato Invasion, Again: Poem by I. N. Shimabuku
Curse of the Crazies: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Ghosted: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Meteor Moon: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Halo Around the Sun: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Maker's Image: Poem by Bindi Lavelle
Specimen: Poem by Bindi Lavelle
Blood-stained Jupiter: Poem by Meg Smith
Cat Science: Poem by Meg Smith
Mortician's Powder: Poem by Meg Smith
The Pinups of the Afterlife: Poem by Meg Smith
Dark Gate Park: Poem by Meg Smith
A turntable fabricates hope during the apocalypse in 3 parts: Poem by Dennis Bagwell
Reverend Mother Munchausen: Poem by Sophia Wiseman-Rose
Whispers of Winter: Poem by Ashley N. Goodwin
A Man Is Nothing Without His Wife: Poem by Ashley N. Goodwin

Harper Hargis: The Lake

Art by Sophia Wiseman-Rose © 2023

The Lake


Harper Hargis


Lake Pend Oreille.

It’s a long curved hook of a lake, with a surface area of 148 square miles. It’s deep, too. The deepest in Idaho. During the day, little tadpoles and minnows crowd the shallows, gleaming in the sun. Once the sun starts to dip, you can just barely catch the roiling shadows of the bigger fish underneath.

Once upon a time, French voyageurs made their way across the lake, and decided to name it after the large pendants the Natives wore in their ears. Pend Oreille, or hangs from ears.

.  .  .

“It’s pronounced Pon-der-ray.”

“The one up in Idaho?”

“Yeah, I’ll be up there for two months.”

“By yourself?”


“What if you get lonely?”

“Sarah and Grant are doing some grant research work in Coeur D’Alene, which isn’t too far away. I think we’ll try and get together a couple times. I actually think it’ll be nice to be alone, though. Just me and the water.”

“It’s a pretty place.

“It is.”

“You’ve gotta be careful, though. One of your dad’s colleagues has a cabin up there; he said they get snowed in all the time.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that, Mom. I’ll be gone before it gets too cold. I won’t stay through October.”

.  .  .

I think that bodies of water are some of the most healing pieces of nature out there. They’re neutral and beautiful, and they always set the mood. For example, something small like a creek or a pond is perfect to sit next to and have a conversation with a colleague, or maybe a friend. You wouldn’t go to a rumbling creek and try to dive in with your arms stretched above your head, that’s for a different body of water.

If you go a little bigger, like a river, then you can douse yourself in its briskness, allowing yourself to float. You can paddle around, swim under the surface; maybe drink a beer and listen to some music on the shore. You never have to know of the fishes sleeping at the bottom. 

Something like the ocean reminds you of how small you are. It’s deafening, it yells over anything that tries to interrupt it. It’s best not to talk on the seashore. Seashores are for watching sunrises, making love, and ideation. 

There’s something about that lake, though. Maybe not every lake- I've been to some lakes that are absolutely perfect to eat a turkey sandwich next to after trying to swim out to the buoys. That lake, though, has something in it. All the locals know it, the Natives know it. When I first moved up here, no one explained it to me, they just assumed I’d figure it out. As though every Native American person was born with the same unspoken knowledge of the land’s mythos.

 I once listened to an old woman talk about it- we were sitting in the woods that surround the Kalispel reservation, drinking coffee and spitting sunflower seeds. She said that when she was little, she used to dangle her toes in the water and wait for the Pikes to swim up and stalk them before she yanked her feet up and scared the fish away again. One time, though, it wasn’t a fish that surged up to stare at her toes. 

“It had hair,” She said, “And these long, skinny fingers that brushed the bottoms of my feet.” She shuddered. “It was awful.”

“What did it look like?” I asked, intrigued.

She pursed her lips and thought for a moment, before saying, “A woman. It was a young woman.”

I just stared at her. I was almost convinced she was joking.

“She had a beautiful face, I remember.” She continued matter-of-factly. “I saw her as she swam away. She had dark eyes and a hooked nose. She looked a lot like the tribe chairman’s daughter at the time. Both were too gorgeous to be true.”

.  .  .

The tribe chairman’s daughter had known her too, very well. When she was nineteen she found herself on the lakeside, deciding once and for all that she would break it off with her fiancé. She wanted to go to college, not get married and have kids on the reservation. Not yet, anyway.

She was pondering whether he’d take it well when she saw another girl her age splashing around farther down the coastline. She was beautiful, even in the dim moonlight. She walked down to her. 

“Well, do you love him?” The girl asked the daughter after they had talked and splashed for a while. 

The daughter sighed. “I don’t think I can ever love a man. Not like that.”

“Oh.” The girl responded. It came out in a whoosh of air, a responding sigh. The dress she was wearing was soaked through and clinging to her frame. “I don’t think I can either.”

They waded silently for a second, staring at each other and smiling as if they had just developed an inside joke no one else would ever understand. 

After that, the daughter would meet the girl at the shoreline every single night. They would swim and play and talk and touch, all under the watchful eye of the moon. The fish never swam up to bother them. They would brush each other’s black hair on the rocks until it was straight again. 

“Where do you go when I leave? When the sun comes up?” The daughter asked once as they laid in the shallows. The girl smiled in a strange, lopsided way, and pointed out at the lake.

“I go back out there.”

The daughter followed her gesture, brows furrowed. “You go into the water?”

The girl nodded.

.  .  .

 There was a woman outside. He didn’t see her at first, he only caught her when the little fire he’d built for himself surged and the flame moved in such a way to illuminate a little bit of the tree line a few meters in front of him. She was standing absolutely still.


She didn’t answer. A wind blew through the trees behind her, and they swayed lazily. She didn’t move an inch. Her dress didn’t even shift, it simply hung motionlessly at her ankles.

“Who is that?” He tried to put some authority, some power, into his tone. He couldn’t make out her face, only her white dress, dark hair, and dark skin. The hair on his arms and neck was standing on end, like a dog’s hackles.

She wasn't real, he reasoned. He'd been out here, alone, for ten days now. Everyone knows what isolation can do to a healthy mind. She was a figment of his imagination, an allusion to his subconscious desire for company.

He jumped in his skin when she started moving closer. The way she walked wasn't normal; there was a disconnect between her legs and her upper body. While her legs carried her forward at a fast pace, her chest, hips, and arms stayed still. He was up out of his camping chair by the time she reached the edge of the campfire, still just barely out of the light. He felt springy, like he might need to break into a run at any second.

Stunned, he asked, "What are you doing?" He couldn't think of what else to say.

"What are you doing here?" She shot back so quickly he flinched. Like he’d accidentally walked into her bedroom without knocking.

"I-" the fire crackled between them. He still couldn't see her face. "This is my campsite!" He gestured to the humble cabin he had rented right behind them.

She stared at him, not saying anything.

"I don't know how you even found me." He said when she was silent.

"Are you camping out here, too?" Still, no answer. Not even a shrug. "Do you want some coffee?"

.  .  .

He had rented a cabin on the edge of the lake for two months, and he was planning to record tadpole-and-amphibian development in the fall for his Wildlife Biology PhD. The girl quickly became just as important to him as his research- a distraction strong enough to balance his academic motivation. He would wake up in the late morning, slosh around in the water, counting the tadpoles before they could flit away, and then he would build a fire and wait. She would appear through the trees as the sun went down, and they would sit together.

They once walked along the shore as it got dark.

“Why are you studying here?” She asked him.

He shoved his hands in his pockets. “I used to come here a lot when I was little. My friend’s parents had a house a few miles down.”

“Why are you studying the frogs here? Aren’t there frogs everywhere else?”

He smiled. “There was this one summer we found a little island-sandbar thing when we were water skiing. The middle of the island was basically a big shallow pool, and it was full of tadpoles. Like, so many you couldn’t see through the water. The pool was surrounded by big trees, and the roots were coming up out of the water… It was so much fun. We stayed there all day. It felt like our own little marsh. After that, I don’t know, I always thought I’d end up back here.”

She nodded. He figured it was his turn to ask a question. “What about you, why are you here?”

She smiled quietly, as if at an inside joke he would never understand. “Because there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.” He liked that answer.

He wondered how it was possible to get so excited about someone in such a short amount of time. She made him feel comfortable and warm, sleepy and happy. His favorite time of the day was when she’d appear by his fire and he’d open a can of beer for her. He also enjoyed meandering next to the water with her, though he never really got over the way she walked. Always one foot in front of the other, like any other person, but she never moved her arms. They just hung at her sides. Her torso didn’t sway with movement either- her chest faced forward as she walked. It gave him chills sometimes.

.  .  .

I think that there are parts of the North that are haunted. I’ve lived here all my life, and the feeling has always been with me. I feel that it’s a natural assumption, given the history of the United States.

There are parts of Idaho where time and seasons move at different speeds. Sometimes ice snaps happen in the middle of August, and wildflowers bloom on the winter equinox. If you go far enough out into the dense forests of Washington, you can hear people calling your name. You shouldn’t ever answer, though. Even if the voice is right behind you, don’t turn around. In empty Montana, if you lay on the ground and look up at the sky on an overcast evening, the grayness will completely take over your vision and you’ll get sucked up into the clouds. There’s a reason they call it the ‘Big Sky State;’ the sky can swallow you whole.

Things that seem strange always happen up here, as evanescent and esoteric as the forest itself. That lake is not excluded from that.

.  .  .

As a PhD candidate, there wasn’t much he didn’t know, and very little he couldn’t weasel his way through using critical analysis. It was his superpower. If he didn’t know something, he had faith that he could always figure it out. 

But he didn’t know now. Things were happening in ways he didn’t understand. Time would slow down, and he would live in an hour for three days, but then it would speed up and he would think, Wow, I just lost an entire week. He was lethargic during the day but restless and wired at night. He’d crave a bath, which never happened before, but then fall asleep and wake with a start as his head slipped under the water. He would wake up in the morning nauseous, puke up clear water. He’d find the sharp teeth of a Northern Pike under his pillow before he went to bed. He once took a swig of coffee and spat out a wad of seaweed that had somehow gotten into his closed thermos.

He didn’t know when it started. He figured he would be able to pinpoint the inciting incident.  Retracing his steps during the first ten days of his stay on the lakeside, everything seemed in the ordinary. It all pointed back to when he saw her standing by the trees. 

What had she done to him? This was all her fault. 

“You’re the one doing this!” He accused her. 

“Doing what?”

“You’re changing things!” He didn’t know how else to describe it, and he knew he sounded crazy. Time was wrong. The stars were too bright at night, so bright he couldn’t sleep properly. The water in the river felt strange- too warm and inviting like a bath. Sometimes he would feel the overwhelming need to jump in, sometimes he wouldn’t even take off his clothes to take a dip. He would spend hours in the water, his skin pruning up and his feet becoming twisted in the weeds. That never happened before. “I know it’s you- I know you’re doing this.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I don’t either!” His chest burst and he started to cry. He hadn’t cried since he was a teenager.

“I know you’re scared,” she said so quietly he could barely hear it over his own sobs. She rested a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “But it’s okay. You love it here.” She shoved something cold into his hand- a beer. “You just feel strange because you’re all alone up here.”

“I’m not alone,” He croaked. “You’re here, too.”

He met her eyes, and her gaze was soft. Such dark, pretty eyes. “You’re right.”

.  .  .

One afternoon, the tribe chairman’s daughter had brought up the girl on the shore to one of her cousins. He scoffed at her.

“You meet up with a girl out there? Who?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know, I don’t think we’ve ever told each other our names.”

“But she’s there every night.”


“Well, what does she look like?” Her cousin pressed.

“She’s pretty. She has long hair, and full cheeks. She has dark eyes, really dark. Black, actually.”

“Could she be someone’s relative who’s just visiting?”

“She says she’s lived close to the lake her whole life.”

They were sorting through long strands of straw so they could make bracelets, but her cousin had started to go still.

“What does she look like again? I mean, what do her eyes look like?”

“Her eyes are close together, and slanted downward.” She recalled. “And I don’t think I’ve ever seen their whites. I’ve only ever seen her in the dark, though.”

She glanced over to her statuesque cousin, who stared back at her in horror.

.  .  .

The PhD candidate called his mother on October fourteenth and told her that his project was taking longer than he thought, but he would be home in time for Thanksgiving. November passed, and she never heard from him. It snowed a lot that year- I remember because it was the year that the plows couldn’t get the roads clear for about five days in early January, so everyone was stuck in their cabins.

We found him in March, when the ice had begun to thaw. Or we found his boots. They were tangled in the weeds in the marshiest part of the lakeside, as if they had been tucked in with care. Who knows where the rest of him went.

When I asked the old Kalispel woman about the tribe head’s daughter all those years ago, she heaved a huge sigh and sipped her coffee before answering.

“About a month after she broke off her engagement, she went missing. Just disappeared into thin air, not even her mother knew where she went. I always hoped that she left and went to college in some big city, like she wanted. But who knows? The woods make people sleepy in these parts, especially the lake. Where all the big fish sleep.”

Harper Hargis is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Utah. Although she lives in Salt Lake City, her mind and soul travel back to her home state of Washington as often as they can. You can find her on Instagram: harper.hargis 

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