|The Ghosts of Plumwater Lake
Author: ApocalypticDin PM
The stories of Plumwater Lake's haunting went back at least a couple of centuries, but in the modern world stories only count for so much. I was out to provide the proof.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Supernatural/Horror - Words: 3,052 - Published: 06-10-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3030786
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The stories that the lake just outside the small town of Plumwater, Montana might just be haunted were hardly new. On the contrary, if one were willing to ask some of the older residents they'd tell you how they'd heard them as children, and how their parents frequently told them that they'd heard them when they were young, and so on and so forth until by rough estimate the tales must have been at least five generations old; a fact one could confirm by a quick visit to the local library's newspaper archive (helped by the fact that they kept all articles mentioning the haunting quickly at hand, to display to curious children and passersby). Whether Plumwater Lake was haunted wasn't even a topic of controversy around those parts, and any argument over it was why it was haunted.
The urban legends were many, but very few seemed to have any objective heft behind them, and thus it often came down more to personal preference than anything else. Some maintained that a small party of pioneers had stopped at the lake when they were slain by the local Indian tribe, although there were no records of such an event occurring. Some insisted that the ghosts were of miners who had died in a cave-in while digging for gold, although a mining accident would probably show up in the records as well (and didn't). Perhaps buoyed during the heyday of the Amityville Horror obsession the Indian burial ground theory was floated, although that didn't explain why the spirits haunted the lake rather than the town itself. There were even a few rebellious persons who insisted it wasn't haunted by ghosts at all, and rather was the native region of a particularly shy family of Sasquatches.
So all of this should suggest to you that the haunting was more a cause of curiosity than horror, and indeed there wasn't a soul alive who would testify that they had been in any way harmed by whatever spirits made Plumwater Lake their home. Sure, sometimes a frantic individual or two would be quick to blame any frightening occurrence or misfortune on them, but after calming down they would usually sheepishly admit it to have been an overreaction. It was generally felt around town that the ghosts were of the friendly, or at least apathetic, variety. Encounters with them were more often described as fleeting ones, such as an unexplained shadow ducking behind a tree and disappearing, leaves and branches shifting on windless days, and strange, unclear sounds that resembled speech or whistles; basically anything one would not expect nature to make of its own devices.
And if any of these happenstances would make you believe that the haunting of Plumwater Lake was of more superstition than substance, there is one more curious mystery that cannot be overlooked, and in fact is the source of the Lake's (and, as a result, town's) unconventional name. This calm and peaceful land's first white settlers claimed to often be awestruck by a rich purple glow which would emanate from the lake's waters on some nights, much like the color of a ripe plum. Moreover, the local Indians had apparently also given this area a name that translated roughly into "Onion Lake", not because wild onions grew about it but because the same color that evoked plums in the settler's minds reminded the Natives of the purple color of an onion plant's flowers. Many people preferred to avoid the lake at night, no doubt due to the common belief in its haunting, but a few steely souls who wandered through the woods down to the body of water still told of that shocking amethyst glow, apparently from some large, luminescent object floating just below the water's surface.
Despite the local's insistence, there was still a noticeable lack of professional interest in our little town. The scientists dismissed it out of hand as just another folk tale, and the so-called paranormal "experts" were too busy running around in any rundown city building with so much as a suicide rumor to bother coming out to some lake in the middle of the mountains. So in this day and age of social networking and online video hosting, I made the decision to take it on myself to investigate the eerie stories that surrounded Plumwater Lake. I was still a relative newcomer in this town, having moved here just the previous year and having no ancestral ties to the place, unlike the majority of its residents. Nevertheless, the people were always very kind and very welcoming, and though I was at first skeptical of their claims I grew to have enough trust in their integrity that I accepted there was definitely something to their beliefs.
So it came to be that on a chilly Saturday morning in early August I packed a large bookbag full of food and supplies, grabbed my digital video camera along with an extra battery, and headed into the woods that surrounded Plumwater Lake. I intended to spend the day there, and as long into the night it took for me to witness its legendary violet illumination. Along with me came my close friend Larry, who was in many ways a living representation of what I had come to love about this town. He was a tremendously unsophisticated man, large but in no way intimidating. He spoke simply and he dressed simply, traits those who did not know him would mistake for stupidity, but I knew were anything but. Plus he was as unshakeable as they come, and when you're dealing with a possible haunting that's a very beneficial thing.
I noted that he was wearing his holster. "Bullets don't work on ghosts, Larry," I reminded him.
"Nope," he agreed, "but they work on bears. An' mountain lions. Those'll do more damage to ya. An' if the folks sayin' they bigfoots are right, I figure it'll work on them too."
I laughed. It wasn't a long walk to the lake, a little bit less than a mile through the woods, and there was always a well-worn path leading to and from it. The body of water itself was a rather unassuming one, situated in a depression that was about the size of two football fields placed side by side. A small stream fed it from the valley to the north, and another exited to the southwest and wound its way through the town before merging with a larger river further westward. No such purple glow was ever reported in any of these, adding to the curiosity as to why it was apparently localized entirely within Plumwater Lake. While people frequently traveled to the edge of the lake in hope for some indefinable occurrence and the dose of adrenalin that came along with it, they entirely avoided its waters. Nobody went fishing in it and the local children were taught from a very young age not to swim in it, for while no one had ever proven its contents harmful most people had the common sense to understand that a violet radiance was a good indicator that something was very, very off about it.
When we reached the edge of the lake I sat my bookbag down and removed the digital camera. Larry and I decided we would first walk the circumference of the lake and then find a stationary high point from where we could observe its entire expanse. Both of which went off without a hitch or surprise to speak of, and we eventually settled ourselves on a tall bank just away from the southern end. We remained there for a long time as the sun slowly tracked its way across the blue sky, and while we noticed things that seemed to be outside of the norm there was nothing that urged me to turn on my camera.
I must admit that Larry, the avid hunter that he was, was significantly more effective than I was. He constantly was pointing towards anything which drew his attention: a lone branch wavering in the distance, a cloud of dirt kicked up by some unseen force. Occasionally he'd hold one finger up to his ear, letting me know he was listening to something. At one point a soft, eerie whistle floated through the air, unlike any bird that I had ever heard. It rose slowly in pitch before dipping down and rising again, each time dropping back off to a slightly higher pitch than it had previously started, creating the sensation that it was constantly rising in the manner of a Shepard Tone. This continued for about five minutes, but was unfortunately too distant and quiet to be picked up by my camera's microphone.
The other virtue that Larry's hunting had bestowed upon him was his almost abnormal patience. For all the determination I had exhibited when beginning this mission, the uneventful hours were beginning to wear on me. My friend on the other hand, so accustomed to sitting unmoving in hunting blinds for hours at a time, retained his sharp focus throughout the entire day. The only time he wavered was when he trusted me with the watching duties while he grabbed a bite from my backpack. Nevertheless, he confided in me that he hoped for some more noticeable results after the Sun went down.
"At least when I'm huntin' I know there're deer out there," he grunted.
Eventually the Sun did set, and while our attention had waned in the afternoon we once more sharpened our minds for the hours to come. There was a bit of a chill breeze in the air that night, which I was thankful for. Nights in Montana tend to get quite cold, even in the summer, and if you were trying to stay awake nothing helped bring you to your senses more than a little sting in the cheeks. In our heightened attentiveness, I found it was a bit more difficult to pick out what might be an abnormal occurrence or not from rather more mundane things. This was especially true once only the light of the moon remained and the darkness made it difficult to approximate the location of any odd noise that may reach our ears.
One hour passed, two hours passed, and a third hour came and went without a notable happening. Just as I was beginning to think this whole trip had been a bust, I felt Larry's hand lightly grasp my right shoulder. I turned towards him to find him with one large finger pressed up against his lips in a "shush", and then move the finger to tap his earlobe lightly. He was hearing something again, and I nodded that I understood. Holding my breath, I strained my ears to pick up what he wanted me to hear.
It was that elevating whistle again, this time much quieter then when we had heard it briefly during the day. It was not, however, staying that way. It slowly grew louder, and coupled with the auditory illusion of its infinitely rising pitch created a unique and somewhat disorienting sensation. Larry tapped me on the shoulder again and pointed down towards the lake, and had to blink a couple of times to make sure that faint purple glow emanating from it was really there. It was hardly noticeable, although it appeared to be growing brighter along with the loudening whistle. This time the noise did not fade after five minutes, and continued to smoothly rise along with the luminescence from the lake.
I watched this event for a period of time that must have been more than an hour, transfixed almost hypnotically by the unnatural phenomenon. Once the whistle had gotten to the point where it was nearly as loud as an airplane passing overhead it halted its rise, and Plumwater Lake now gave forth a rich violet hue which lightly illuminated its edges. I suddenly remembered that I should have been videotaping this whole experience, and cursed myself for getting caught up in the view as I turned my camera on and pressed the record button.
Just below the surface of the glowing water, in the center of the lake, a vague dark outline began to form. It looked very much like the back of a misplaced whale floating up to break the surface, although it never did. The black mass hovered just below for a brief moment, and then it gradually began to shift and pulse, spawning large ripples, which radiated outward from the lake's center and washed up on its shores. Gathering its motions into a rotational direction, it now spun as a vortex, drawing down the water above into a shallow concave depression. It continued this motion for a couple of minutes, and then instantly broke apart into a hundred or so smaller masses which immediately embarked on a straight course to the shoreline, each traveling a path which could best be described as along the invisible spoke of some giant wheel.
The smaller shadows had a very distinct movement to them, like that of a large fish, perhaps three feet or so in length. They did not merely glide under the water but propelled themselves, albeit at a leisurely pace, as they spread out across the lake's expanse. When the darkness heading in our direction reached the shoreline directly before us, I drew my breath in, which was a good thing because if I hadn't I probably would have screamed.
What crawled tortuously up on the muddy lakeshore was a creature the likes of which I had never seen. It looked very much like some ungodly combination of a painfully frail man and a mudpuppy, with slimy brown skin and dark bulbous eyes. It carried itself laboriously on two long, feeble arms, jointed twice so they resembled more insect than mammal. Behind its mass dragged two utterly useless looking limbs, stumpy and formless, but with a thin fleshy film stretching between them so I figured they must have been used for swimming. It seemed to struggle to breath on the land, its rubbery body expanding and contracting immensely as it lumbered about.
It clumsily turned itself around to face the lake's waters, as did the others spaced evenly along the rim. In a halting, stuttering fashion, each one began to sway creakily, apparently to the eternally rising whistle still permeating insistently throughout the wood. Soon added to it, however, was a lower tone; a sort of deep croak that contributed to the existing sound more than detracted from it. This noise was different however, coming out more as a chant than anything else, and I quickly realized this noise was coming from the creatures themselves. They chanted in unison as they swayed in the same manner, and their weak, creaky voices bonded together to form a deep, powerful one. The lake's glow grew even brighter now, but then it began to fire out bursts of light in quick pulses, like a visual Morse code directed towards the stars.
"It's a signal," Larry whispered from beside me. "They want somethin' ta find them."
I knew he was right. The pieces formed together in my mind, and I can't confirm their accuracy, but they seem to make sense. Long ago something crashed here in this valley, carving out the deep depression that formed Plumwater Lake; and that object still rests below it. Too weak to traverse the land, and unable to repair it, its inhabitants made the lake their home. As any of us, trapped helpless in a foreign land, would want to return home, so too do they. So for centuries they have repeated this same process, gathering at the edges of this body of water to broadcast their S.O.S. into the cosmos. In that instant I felt a pang of sympathy, but is displaced it to return my attentions to the happenings below.
After this odd ritual went on for approximately fifteen minutes the lake's purple glow gave one particularly large pulse, and the camera I was holding gave my hand a painful shock. I cursed loudly and jerked my hand upwards, causing to camera's strap to slip over my fingers and making it fall and tumble down the hill to the muddy lakeshore below. The whistle stopped, the chanting stopped, and the creature closest to us turned as quickly as its frail body would allow it. Those dark, empty eyes quickly found Larry and I on the overlook and it let loose with the beginnings of an ear-piercing warning.
There was a loud bang, and the being crumpled to the ground in a pathetic heap, hemorrhaging a murky black liquid all over the slimy mud. Larry holstered his pistol and grabbed me by the elbow, pulling me to my feet.
"C'mon, let's go!" he barked, his eyes slightly wild in the summer night, though far more composed than I imagined mine appeared.
I nodded and we took off into the woods as fast as our legs could carry us. We ran, and as we ran a blaring and mournful wail rose through the air behind us. Part of me wanted to feel sorry them, for it was us who invaded upon their ritual, but I quickly dismissed such a mentality on the grounds of worrying more about my own life at the moment. When we reached the town Larry and I did not sleep, instead vigilantly waiting for some sort of retribution to be exacted upon us. It never came.
We never told anyone what happened that night, and it was only rarely talked about just between the two of us. As far as we were concerned the lake was haunted, and by what it was did not really matter.
For a long time after the event, however, I felt a certain unease in the once comfortable little town of Plumwater, Montana. I could never bring myself to leave this place though, and the years quickly eroded that insecurity away to nothing.
But I never would return to Plumwater Lake.