Night Swim

It’s very unwise for me to tell you this story. I’m still running for my freedom as we speak, and if they find me, I’ll likely never be a free man again, but the fact is, you won’t believe me, and neither will they. This happened not long ago on the other side of the state, near the channel between the North and South piers on Lake Michigan.

It was an above-average hot summer night, nearly 94°F even at 1:30 a.m. My roommates and I were at a relatively inactive bar right downtown near the beach. After picking up a couple of skanky tourist chicks, (let’s face it, that’s why they were there) we took them down and sneaked into the closed beach to do some late night, slightly (Ha, slightly!) inebriated skinny dipping. Jeff and Matt streaked across the beach and dove right in, not bothering to wait for their ladies. I hung back with them and chatted about nothing in particular while we nonchalantly stripped off our clothes on the way down, and carefully laid them all in a pile where the sand was still dry. The girl I picked up was buying time, hanging back with me while the others trotted off towards the water. I asked if she wanted to go in, but she said she had a better idea. With no further discussion, she dropped to her knees. I’ll spare you the details, but you’re a bright young human. Use your imagination.

The whole thing lasted maybe twenty minutes, and the sounds of our friends horsing around in the cool water dropped off without being noticed by either of us.

After working up a good sweat and getting sand in places nobody wants sand, it was a good time to wade out into the lake. The moon was high and full, casting bright moonlight, illuminating most of the beach and the water, but we couldn’t see or hear anyone. We walked to where the waves crash into the shore, looked around more and started calling out to them. After a few minutes of that, we decided we should check back up by our cars that were parked on the narrow, sand-blown road. I said, “Never mind that for now. They’ll be fine. Let’s get this sand off first.”

She nodded in agreement but I could tell she was reluctant. I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to treat her poorly, but I also had no intention of putting my clothes back on over that sticky sweat and sand. We walked in at the same time and I took her hand. We waded out to where the water was just about sac-high. You know how that part goes. After a brief deliberation I dove under, the cold water tearing my breath away and feeling amazing at the same time. She did the same, but I could tell she wouldn’t enjoy herself until she knew where everyone had gone, so we turned back to face the shore. I made it about two feet before I heard a sound like “hmmpff” and a quick splash. I looked to my left where she had been, Beth. Her name was Beth, it just came to me. But she was gone. I looked all around myself in a panic and saw, probably six feet away, a streak like tanned skin rapidly going out into deeper water, just under the surface. I lost track quickly, but very soon, she sprang from the water another twenty-five feet away, screaming like nothing I’d ever heard. The closest comparison I could make was that of a dying fawn, attacked by a larger predator, maybe a coyote. The mixture of blood and water covering what I could see of her body made her look black in the glow from the moon. That lasted only two seconds and she was under again in a flash. One arm shot up moments later, frantic and flailing as she was brought further out, presumably to be consumed by whatever had grabbed her.

Sorry, Beth. I’m no hero. I don’t suppose I could have done anything, anyway.

I turned fast to get the hell out of there, and on my way out, scrambling and terrified, I bumped into Jeff’s tattooed arm bobbing up and down in the steady ebb and flow of the lake. The shore was ten feet away, and I must have looked like Jesus getting out the rest of the way, because I’m sure I didn’t touch water again. I scrambled the rest of the way up the beach to my car, bypassing the pile of clothes entirely, got in my car and sped away like a demon.

I never saw what it was, and honestly, I don’t care and it doesn’t matter. You won’t find this honky in Lake Michigan ever again.

  • Bonnie Manz

    The ending doesn’t seem to be finished. It doesn’t make sense as to why anything would be looking for him.

    • Stephen Norman

      Agree. Why make it seem like a paranoid conspiracy noir at the very beginning if at the end it just reads like an isolated encounter with a monster/beast?

      • Eric Mastenbrook

        Fair point. It’s supposed to be implied that he skipped town and he’s on the run. I could have illustrated better that people from the bar had known he’d left with the people that ended up dead, and he assumed it was only a matter of time before the police caught up with him and would think he’s crazy

        • Eric Mastenbrook

          Thank you for your feedback. I’ll have to pay closer attention. next time