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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

M. L. Fortier: The Horror of Hidden Pond

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Art by W. Jack Savage 2023

The Horror of Hidden Pond

 

by M. L. Fortier

 

          “Don’t go there!” This is what my mother had said. In this, she was repeating what all the local moms told their progeny. The “there” was a hidden pond in the middle of the woods, behind our house. At the edge of the forest stood a cemetery, by an old convent. No longer could we spy a sign of life at the convent; one by one, the nuns had mysteriously disappeared.

          The cemetery was reputed to be the haunt of druids or devil worshippers who called down evil spirits.

          For a ten-year-old boy (my name—Robert Helms), it was an irresistible attraction. Also, being rather slight, I was subjected to ridicule, called “chicken” and “scaredy-cat,” so that I knew I would have to confront my fears.

          A young girl I liked, Alice, was brave enough to risk it. So, one evening, we plotted to go to Hidden Pond, where a prehistoric monster was said to lurk out from the muck and devour young children.

          “Don’t go there!” Why didn’t Alice and I listen to our mothers’ advice?

          This was seventy years ago, and I have lived with this horror all this time. I have dwelled in my parents’ crumbling house as an old bachelor. I set down this account of these terrible events, so as to win some sort of redemption for my sad role in them.   

          Alice and I walked slowly through the creaking oaks and yews. I could tell she was every bit as scared as I was. In the warm, humid evening, the insects and birds were strangely silent.

          Finally, we reached the edge of Hidden Pond. No lights or movements could we detect in the ancient convent. We did not hear any chanting of devil worshippers, although my imagination conjured up scenes of druids in white robes processing with lit torches, chanting in a deep drone. Twilight purples descended quickly, and we knew we had little time before worried parents would come looking for us.

          The pond itself seemed calm and no breezes rippled the layer of smelly algae on the surface.

   Alice smiled. “See, it is a lot of bunk to frighten little children.”

          “That seems right, but don’t get too close,” I said.

          She gazed at me. “You’re not afraid now, are you?”

          “No,” I stammered.

          Alice eased to the edge of the pond. “See, no monster—nothing to worry about.”

          Suddenly, the swampy water roiled. A large alligator lunged out with unnatural speed, and locked its jaws on Alice’s leg, drawing her slowly, inexorably into the water.

          She screamed, “Help!”

          I froze.

           I should have grabbed a stone, a branch—anything—and attacked the beast.

          I’d turned to ice and could not move.

          Alice was dragged into the decaying reeds, and the churning waves turned blackish-red with blood.

          She was gone.

The next day, no one spoke of Alice, or of her disappearance. No one questioned me. There seemed to be a local conspiracy to hush the thing up.

          My parents looked at me with pity, and so did the other parents.

          Yet, I knew what had happened, and the memories of her screams and the blood-red water have haunted me all my life.

          In an instant, I branded myself a coward, unfit for Alice, or any woman’s love.

          I am a stooped and white-bearded man, now. With this account, I have brought back all the old horror. When I am done, I shall burn this journal. It is not for other eyes.

          “Don’t go there!” We never learn.

 

 

M. L. Fortier has over 25 stories in print: mainstream and genre. Black Petals has published a number of her horror stories. An award-winning author, she has also taught writing at various Chicagoland colleges.

W. Jack Savage is a retired broadcaster and educator. He is the author of eight books including Imagination: The Art of W. Jack Savage (wjacksavage.com).  To date, more than fifty of Jack’s short stories and over a thousand of his paintings and drawings have been published worldwide. Jack and his wife Kathy live in Monrovia, California.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2023