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One by one, the bodies in the lake floated to the surface. I wish I could tell you this was a metaphor for self-discovery or healing from childhood trauma or whatever else your meditative self-help podcast guru warbles at you while you drive to work every morning. It’s not. It’s real life. In March, the snow melted, and the lake thawed, and we had to watch as these bloated bodies full of holes and pond scum all rose up from where the frost and the winter had been hiding them for so many months.
Maybe it could be a metaphor too, I guess. I don’t know. If that resonates with you, if you read this and you think wow, emotionally, I feel like a frozen lake with a dozen grotesque, prismatic blue corpses, then I don’t really know what to tell you. Get a therapist, maybe. A really good one.
I don’t know what the police investigation could represent. The journey of self-discovery, maybe? Although I can almost assure you, you really don’t want our police chief digging around in your psyche. Or any representation of him. He’s like seventy, really angry all the time, and he constantly smells like canned ham. Who even buys canned ham, anyway?
Not the point. None of this is the point. The point is that those girls are dead. Eyes wide open, hard as a rock dead. And it’s horrible. It was horrible when they went missing last summer, and now it’s horrible all over again watching the cops have to tell all their parents that now they’re really one-hundred-percent-for-sure-absolutely-positive-I-really-mean-it never coming back home.
They sent the new guys to the doorsteps. The ones right out of the academy. All of them were barely older than the girls themselves. They weren’t prepared for that shit. The parents wailing and screaming and falling to their knees. Mrs. Worthington even threw a lamp at one of the guys. Barely missed him. He was so shaken up he had to take the rest of the day off. Some tough guy he turned out to be. Someone points a gun at him, no problem, but a suburban housewife wearing a ratty bathrobe and curlers in her hair chucks a thrift store table lamp over his shoulder and he needs to go lie down.
And then the mayor gave some kind of a press conference. It was only the real vultures who showed up with their big news cameras and those weird fuzzy microphones. Always dressed ready for a funeral. Maybe it’s cause they’re always hoping for one. They hardly let the poor guy get his carefully prepared words of condolence out, standing up there with his halfway soggy notecards. Just crowded the stage shouting all over each other and pushing and shoving instead, asking their own carefully prepared inflammatory questions. No one cared about the answers.
No one cared. All these girls just . . . disappeared. Into thin air. Someone made it like they just didn’t exist one day. And that’s what they ended up being reduced to. Fish food and election year bullshit.
Do you think anyone would care if you died? Or even just went missing? That was what I ended up asking myself. Every night, I found myself wandering around my house in the hour before the sun rose, looking at my reflection in all the mirrors. I came to a sort of unsettling peace with the shapeless way my face looked in the dark like that. Knowing that I existed but unable to make out exactly how. Or why.
That was what I did instead of sleeping. Stared into the place where my eyes should be and wondered what made me different from the girl lying on the cold metal slab of the coroner’s office, cut open but not bleeding. Maybe the only thing that would change is that if you took a scalpel down my chest, everything I’m made of would come spilling out, a liquid red defense mechanism, some sort of silent scream.
I didn’t know any of those girls, but I really don’t think we were too dissimilar, you know? I think it could have been any one of us in the lake, just waiting to be found. I think, in a way, we all kind of are. We’re all kind of trapped by something, and we can go left or right or down, and we can see the surface, touch it — it’s right there — but no matter how hard we try, you just kind of have to wait for the spring to come and say look, there was nothing you could have ever done to save yourself, and that’s okay, it was always supposed to end like this.
Huh. I guess it is a metaphor, after all. What do you know?
Kaitlyn Lynch is an actor, director, and author of dark fiction. She is the founder of non-profit theatre company Door 14 Productions and represents Author Services with KMP Entertainment. Her work is forthcoming in anthologies from Blood Song Books and Alternating Current Press, and with Ghostlight & The Weird and Whatnot magazines. With Turkish-Italian-Ashkenazi roots and a Christian upbringing, she has a strong and unique cultural identity that shapes the narrative voice of her writing. Lynch lives in the Chicagoland area and is earning her BFA in Creative Writing through Full Sail University. kaitlynlynch.com