This piece was awarded third place (tied) in the 2022 Swinburne Sudden Writing Competition.
The rain fell steady as my friends were married. The manicured lawn was mud; the gutters overflowed; droplets balanced on suit shoulders and strands of fly-away hair. And now, in the dark, it patterned the surface of the lake before me.
I stood alone beneath a tree and watched the ripples spread over the inky water. I had been drawn here, down the hill from where music blared and people danced, by loneliness. To seek comfort in the rhythm of the water, the patter of drips on fallen leaves.
As I stared at the water, I saw a shape in the ripples, like a great body swept the bottom of the lake, the water reflecting the mass below.
I leaned forward, but as soon as I saw it, it was gone. My eyes playing tricks.
A bubble of laughter burst behind me. Gold light spilled from the open door, revealing the guests dancing in a conga line, the rhythmic circling of a snake. None of them noticed me.
I turned back to the water. How selfish of me to be so miserable at a wedding. While everyone celebrated joy and love, I stood in the rain, alone. What if someone came down the hill and saw me? How would I explain this, my obsession with my own solitude, never shown to the world?
There, that same pattern in the water. A stirring of something beneath. I squinted through the black, but again, it was gone. I could only see the surface of the water, lit by the moon. Everything below was darkness.
I must be drunk, I thought. That is why I am so sad, because I drank too much. It has nothing to do with couples intertwined on the dance floor, not laughter, not love bared to witness.
The water stirred again.
I thought, it is more than the absence of a person. I have no one who truly sees me. Why do I long for someone to come down the hill?
And from beneath the water, shining light from below like the moon from above, opened a great, pale eye.
Photo by Guzmán Barquín on Unsplash.