Apparition; a Short Story

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


Apparition

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception” 

Aldous Huxley

***

Oakville Lakeshore, Ontario, Canada

The weather remained hot and humid with sporadic spurts of rain that offered interim relief to residents of this small city. That particular day was however bright and sunny, nothing unusual for early August days of rather stable weather. The sky was clear with no traces of clouds and the majestic lake Ontario looked more like an ornamented expanse of grandeur and serenity. Some colorful boats could be seen in the distance.

A seagull hovering in the sky spotted a prey and dived but found the object floating in the lake of little interest and flew away. The wooden box floated slowly towards the shore with mild ripples in otherwise calm waters. A ring made of brass embedded on its top was shining brightly in the sun. The box inched towards the shore in steady movements as if being propelled by some invisible force and settled firmly on gravels at the back of a palatial house.

An inquisitive cat came closer to inspect the newly arrived cargo but cringed and recoiled as if it had sensed something undesirable in the box. It moved away cautiously from the place where the box was lying then stopped, turned and had a final glance at it, mewed and disappeared behind the wall.

The sun followed its perennial course, drawing a cloak of darkness over the beautiful city of Oakville, prompting its residents to switch on lights and the city swiftly turned into a star-studded valley.

The streets began receiving locals as well as visitors from the nearby cities. While people headed towards public places such as the shopping malls, restaurants, cinemas and the pubs, the other creatures of nature took refuge in the wilderness, away from their human counterparts. They were more compatible with nature and instincts helped them survive well in an otherwise fast-eroding environment. The city still offered habitat to various creatures as builders of condos and skyscrapers were busy in the downtown core and more urbanized areas where demand always seemed to exceed supply, securing quick and lucrative returns on money invested.

The large male raccoon weighed almost 30 pounds. It emerged from under the base of a small abandoned wooden hut on the lakeshore and stalked in search of food. A mouse instantly took refuge beneath the boulders after seeing the approaching specter of death. The raccoon waited for the mouse to come out but then moved on since the mouse seemed determined to avoid being an early meal.

The raccoon wandered aimlessly searching for food. It then spotted the wooden box and stopped, taking a defensive stance. It stayed immobile for a while, sniffed all around then focused on the box again and came closer warily. It touched the box with its hand and instantly sprang back as if expecting some kind of a reaction then repeated the same move over and over again. The animal started hitting the box violently in a frenzy expecting it to hit back, like instigating an opponent who had intruded into his territory. A sudden and massive flash of light emitted from the box like lightning and the raccoon was stunned. It stayed unmoved for a while as if petrified then turned and ran away as fast as it could.

It reached its nest, panting and terrified. It would spend the night hiding and shivering beneath the wooden planks. Hungry yet deterred to stay back.

The metal ring on the box glittered in the moonlight.

It was quiet, very quiet.

***

It was 10 in the morning and there were not many shoppers in the store. Some of the city residents were away for the summer vacations and it was not a very busy period for the retail business this year.

Steven had several rounds of arguments with his mother lately but she had valid reasons for postponing their vacation trip. First of all his father, a petroleum engineer was relocated to Calgary, Alberta by his company for three months to oversee an upcoming project. Secondly, they were blessed with a baby girl and his mother left her job to take care of the baby. But she has promised him for a grand foreign trip next year.

Steven purchased grocery, paid and while leaving the store he met his best friends Nigel and Martin outside the store. They are grade 8 students in a local public school.

The friends made a plan to meet at Steven's house at one after lunch. They gathered to watch a movie but Steven turned it off halfway through.

“It's so boring, let's go to the lake”, he announced.

The three friends bought chips, popcorns and pops and went to the lake on their bicycles. They selected the back of the palatial house as nobody used to come there and it was their favorite spot. They left their bikes by the wall and climbed down and settled comfortably on the boulders.

The weather was mildly humid but pleasant. They stared at the vast expanse of water and the birds hovering in the sky, munching chips and popcorns. Nigel then saw the wooden box “Hey, see what's that”?

“Looks like a box”, Martin said as he moved forward and picked it up. “Somebody threw it out from there maybe”, he gestured at the house behind.

“Open it”, said Nigel.

“But how”? Martin replied, “There is no lid, no lock, strange and it seems to be dipped in some kind of wax. See this ring, sounds mysterious” He nodded, “Will check it later”.

The boys returned to their homes before the sunset, fulfilling their promise to their parents. Steven took the box with him. They decided to open it the next morning to see what it contained.

***

They gathered at Steven's place the next morning and went to his basement where he had kept the box in the cupboard. They took it out and tried to open it but it seemed to be a one-piece construction. Martin then found the thumbprint at the base of it. He placed his thumb and pressed, the box opened with a click. “Wow” he exclaimed.

The box contained a map made of some kind of fabric and a lens about the size of a tennis ball, securely wrapped in the map. There were two distinct sections of the map, depicting the night and the day times on the lakeshore. The first section showed the lens mounted on a wooden plank facing a full moon as if making some kind of a bridge between the moon and the lake with an arrow pointing downward, towards the lake. The second section showed the lens mounted on a cross facing the sun, the arrow was pointed upward towards the sun as if showing some movement from the lake to the sun.

They did not understand what it meant. It was like the first arrangement suggested receiving something, like light, from the moon and the other section depicted something going back to the sun.

It was quite weird and abstract and they were not sure about the contents or the message it signified. They however found out that the full moon was to occur six days later and planned to go to the same spot on the lakeshore to fix the lens on a wooden plank as shown in the first section of the map. If that mysterious object really contained any secret message, it would be revealed. Steven put the box in the cupboard and marked the date on the calendar hanging on the wall before they left the basement.

They will need to ask their parents for an exception though as they had planned for an outing after the sunset.

***

It was pitch-dark inside the cupboard yet the metal ring embedded on the box was shining intermittently, emitting quick spurts of light, as if something was impatient to set free.

***

There was something wrong with the dog of their neighbors across the street. It kept on snarling and barking at Steven’s house. The owner, an elderly woman took the animal to back of the house but it was still restless… or scared. The woman came out to check if there was something bothering the animal and looked around but did not find anything unusual. She shrugged and closed her door. The dog though was still agitated.

***

The dog walkers who took this route for their regular strolls wondered why their otherwise docile pets suddenly became wild when they approached that particular house as if there was something dangerous inside. Some of the walkers had to take the other routes as their panic-stricken animals fiercely resisted to re-enter that particular street.

Unnoticed by all, the squirrels and birds will also stay away from that place for over a week.

***

Steven reminded his friends on the fifth day that they were supposed to implement their plan the next evening as it would be a full moon night and according to their plan they were to fix the lens to see what happens after that.

The boys reached the spot the next day in the evening. As the sun was beginning to set, Martin fixed the six-foot wooden plank in the sand on the lakeshore near the water and reinforced its base with sand and pebbles. The top of the plank had a slight curved slit as shown in the map. Nigel inserted the lens in it. That was all. Now they would have to wait and see.

After sometime the moon shone brightly as shown in the map and they did not have to wait for long as the night was quickly brightened with moonlight. Steven was of the view that it was a joke or the map probably belonged to a child with no meaning whatsoever.

Then they noticed the silence. Everything seemed to come to a standstill. They felt as if something was about to occur and heard barking of dogs in the nearby houses and some distant sounds in the air. They saw the light emanating from the lens, forming a bright halo above the lake, getting bigger and brighter about thirty feet away. The boys saw it all struck-awed. The sounds were gaining momentum like energy building up in engines. They felt as if something was traveling at an incredible speed, and the waves, the vibrations and then something large and dark emerged from the halo and fell in the water with a thunderous splash, then more and more objects followed, the boys cried in fear and tried to run, Nigel's foot hit the wooden plank while running and it fell, the halo disappeared instantly as the lens rolled and sank in the water.

The boys were extremely frightened. They picked up their bicycles and pedaled wildly, heading to their homes.

***

The lake was quiet. It was one in the morning. The large house on the lakeshore had no sign of life. The occupants were away on a four-week summer holiday trip and the room of the attendant had no sign of life either. Its window panes were broken and the furniture was in disarray. The rug was soggy and there was a putrid stench hovering in the room.

The man who had reversed and stopped his car near the house to see some struggle in the attendant's room had already informed the police about the incident. He was advised not to enter the house and that the officers will arrive to check what was going on in there.

The police officers arrived for their investigation. They checked the entire house. All the doors were locked. The window panes of the attendant's room were shattered but its door was also locked from the inside suggesting that he was probably still in his room.

One of the police officers entered the room through the broken window and opened the door from inside and switched on light. They checked the washroom but the attendant was not there. The stench in the room was foul and strong. One of the officers touched the rug, it was soggy, then he smelled his finger, “Oh, shit” he picked a tissue from the box on the side table and cleaned his finger. Then they saw blood on the sofa and footprints on the floor and the walls like paws of an animal. “Oh God, it seems to be an attack by some animal but how come it came in here?” one of them uttered in astonishment.

It seemed that someone broke the window, entered the room, killed the man and took his body out through the window. The paw prints confirmed their fears suggesting there were more than one suspect and they seemed to have disappeared from the lakeside. Later the forensic results confirmed that the victim was the attendant but could not identify the attackers. The mutilated body of the deceased was found behind the wall of the house on the lakeshore side.

It was reported that there were more than one animals involved and the law enforcement agencies were baffled as to what kind of creatures could they be, sending warning signals to all those living near the lake. The animals that attacked the victim were extremely powerful since they managed to carry a dead body over the wall.

It was a massive shock for a peaceful community and a dreadful mystery. The boys also heard about the incident and assembled to discuss about what had happened. They went to the place where the incident took place to verify that it was the same place where they had fixed the wooden plank behind the palatial house the previous evening. So whatever emerged from the halo must have killed that man. They decided to inform the law enforcement authorities about it.

The three friends went to meet with the police officer and told him about their little mystic expedition. The officer laughed and shared the joke with his colleagues. The boys were embarrassed, they tried to convince them that the incident actually took place but to no avail. The officer first talked to them politely but then told them to leave afterwards in quite a rude manner. The boys were furious as they were only trying to help them solve the case and to stop whatever had arrived from somewhere to terrorize their city.

***

The man had finished his emergency plumbing job and checked his watch. It was eight thirty in the evening. He showed the repair work to the owner of the house, took his money and left. His car was out of order and was at the mechanic workshop for repair but he politely refused to accept the offer by the owner for a ride. He lived three blocks away and preferred to take a walk instead.

He took a short cut through the creek, his favorite route for a good evening walk. It was getting dark and the lights had been switched on as he strolled down the curvy pathway. He should reach his home in about fifteen minutes. He started murmuring a song but then stopped and tried to hear something. It seemed as if someone was walking along with him and stopped with him. He looked behind the trees but could not detect anything there, maybe a rabbit or a raccoon, he thought and continued his little journey.

He stopped again, now the sound was more audible and it stopped with him. He looked around curiously then opened his bag and took out a wrench in defense, moved ahead cautiously and looked behind the trees, there was nothing. He placed the wrench back in the bag and zipped it up, slung it on his shoulder, turned and saw a horrendous creature standing in front of him on its hind limbs, drooling. The man slowly turned his head and saw some more creatures emerging from behind the trees. There were six of them, encircling him. He never saw anything like them before. The creatures were hideous, their circular eyes glowed and he saw their sharp teeth as they snarled at him in hatred. His hands were shaking as he tried to retrieve the wrench but could not open the zip of the bag slung on his back.

He wanted to shout for help and opened his mouth but no sounds came out, then he tried to run but was hit by the one standing in front of him with an atrocious blow and he fell to the ground. Lying on the pathway, dazed by a powerful blow, he saw them. They were silently standing over him. The one that had hit him caught him by the neck and ripped his throat brutally as he tried to shout for help. The gurgling sound weakened as blood gushed from his ruptured neck followed by fading spurts and then oozing out in a thin line.

The beast slashed his face in frenzy as the man breathed his last while the others only watched the grotesque scene in silence as if observing a sacred ritual in deference. The dispassionate tormentor stopped torturing its victim when the man’s body became motionless. They looked at each other, snarled then turned and disappeared in the trees.

***

There were four more incidents in the city in three days in which three men and a dog were killed. The first such incident in which an animal was attacked and killed was reported at a nearby house where the owner came out with a rifle to inspect as his dog was ferociously barking at something at night. He found that the dog had been killed and its body was brutally mutilated within no time. He could not see the attackers though and believed it to be an attack by a pack of wolves.

The other incident was reported about a few kilometers away. A man was found dead, his one eye was missing and his body was brutally ruptured, mutilated beyond recognition. The other two incidents were also reported in the same vicinity. All the victims had died on the spot and there were no survivors to help in the investigation. It appeared as if the attackers made certain that their victims were dead before leaving the macabre scene.

The post-mortem findings had confirmed that it were the same animals that killed the first victim. The forensic experts were flabbergasted to find that the DNA of the attackers did not match any of the known species. To their utter dismay they were informed to remain silent on that gruesome discovery which was certainly the lifetime breaking news for any news channel. All the incidents took place at night. Strangely, all the victims were brutally killed but their bodies were not eaten. According to the reports the animals that attacked and killed drooled heavily.

A strict warning was issued to all residents and some extra reinforcement arranged by the region arrived for patrolling at night.

***

During the three days the three friends met with some people that they thought might be of some help but it looked as nobody took them seriously. Even the priest of their local Church did not believe them. Though he talked with them politely but the expressions on his face made them realize that it was an effort in vain and nobody would probably believe them.

Someone had to listen to them and understand to stop the killings as they felt all that was happening was their fault. They believed that since it was their mistake hence their responsibility to undo what they had unintentionally brought about.

The boys gathered at Steven's place in his basement to discuss about the issue and what to do about it. They opened the box and tried to understand the map. The first part was clear and they had actually witnessed it. The latter part was now clear as well. They had to fix the lens on the wooden cross like they did earlier but this time during the day. The position of the sun in the map indicated that it was around one in the afternoon. But where was the lens?

Nigel told them that while those creatures were emerging from the halo and falling in the water, he got up to run and hit the plank, the lens must have fallen there and that they should go and bring it back immediately before someone else takes it away.

They did not find the lens but saw the broken wooden plank lying there. “Somebody probably found it and took it with him or it sank in the lake” Steven suggested.

“It means that one of us will have to dive in there to retrieve it” Martin added, “And those monsters could still be waiting for whoever goes in” he said. Fear was evident in his eyes.

***

It was the fourth day when the first evidence was registered. While patrolling the area at night, one of the policemen took a picture of some animals moving in a pack crossing the road and after seeing the headlights they quickly disappeared in the trees. It was not possible for them to go after the animals as there was no road and they were not sure what they had actually seen.

They returned and the photograph was enlarged for possible identification. It was taken from a distance and the animals more appeared like shadows, blurred but it at least became clear that they were not wolves. They were on their hind limbs. A closer look of the actual place later suggested that the creatures were larger than chimpanzees and apparently looked much broader and disproportionate.

The facts gathered from the incidents indicated that the animals attacked and killed but did not eat their victims and that the attacks were deliberate. The animals run and hunt together as the photograph suggested. But when they attack unprovoked as confirmed by the first incident where they entered the house, killed the man, took his body and left it uneaten then what was the motive? Why were they doing it? And more importantly, what were those creatures?

The news was released to the media this time and while it raised eyebrows of skeptics, a large number of curious visitors and reporters flocked the city to get the firsthand knowledge about the bizarre sightings and the brutal deaths.

***

The boys were afraid. They did not have the courage to enter the lake and after being discarded by so many people they met, they had no nerves to convince someone else about some fairy tale creatures that nobody was ready to buy. They were sure that those monsters lived underwater and were nocturnal, unable to come out during the day. That was what the map also suggested.

Steven said that the lens acted as some kind of a medium, like a door linking the two worlds or two different dimensions and barking of dogs could mean that the lens is evil. It probably had opened the door to hell or something and if Nigel hadn't tripped and hit the plank and if the lens hadn't fallen off, there might have been hundreds or even thousands of those monsters lurking in the streets at night.

The mere suggestion sent shivers through their bodies.

***

They had to ask someone for help who would understand the situation and be ready to help them. “Oh, I got it”, Martin exclaimed, “What about that tall guy who lives opposite the community center?”

“Who, George”? Steven asked.

“Yeah, remember the guy is a good swimmer” Martin said excitedly.

“Yeah we can't just stay quiet. Let’s go now and see him” Nigel seconded him.

They went to George's house and he promised to help them though he did not believe their story. They could see that in his eyes. It was however decided to go there the next morning and George will try to find the lens for them.

They were satisfied and happy that somebody at last listened to them and agreed to help.

It was almost evening and the boys returned to Steven's house and saw a police vehicle parked outside his home. His mother was talking with two police officers and she pointed at the boys as she saw them coming.

The police officers asked them about the creatures and they narrated the whole story again. They wanted to see the box and the map. Steven went downstairs and handed over the items to them. The police officers routinely checked the stuff, nodded and took it with them. The boys also informed them that they would be going to send those monsters back to wherever they came from. The officers told them to be careful and avoid going out at night and then they left. The boys realized that those police officers did not believe them this time either.

There was no incident reported that night. They assembled at Steven's place the next morning at eleven and called George. He promised to be there in half an hour and came with his swimsuit and together they went to the lakeshore in his jeep. The boys had already made the wooden cross and they took it with them. George changed and then entered the water with a torch attached to his headgear while Steven fixed the cross in the meantime away from where they were standing so that it would not come in their way.

George emerged after a while and the lens was in his hand. They were overjoyed to see it and Martin quickly took it from him and fixed it on the cross. The sun still had not reached the position as shown in the map so they would have to wait.

Then they saw the two police officers approaching, broad smiles on their faces and one of them asked if they were ready to send back those monsters to hell. The boys did not feel bad this time since the officers were in a good mood and had come to ensure their safety.

Nigel opened the bag and offered chips and cold drinks to all as they settled on the boulders. The sun continued its journey, reaching the position as depicted in the map and then they felt the stillness, the ominous silence. The officers smiled at them but they felt it too. It looked as if something seeped through the earth, something eerie and inexplicable.

They looked around. Something seemed to be growing. The water was calm. Then they saw the halo, emanating from the lens and taking shape high above the cross, moving away towards the sun, magnifying, now hovering above. They had to take their eyes away as they could not bear the glare of the sun behind the halo.

Then they saw ripples on the calm surface of water, creating a small whirlpool, getting bigger and deeper and they heard the sounds as if coming from the halo. They got up and backed off in confusion. The officers had taken out their revolvers, unsure of what might emerge from the lake, gesturing the boys to move away from where they were standing.

The sounds intensified and they saw more people approaching from the roadside. There were some reporters with cameras in their hands, curious to find out about the source of that bizarre cacophony.

And then the water exploded. They saw a horrendous creature emerging from the lake, flying towards the halo and wailing in excruciating pain, emitting ear-splitting cries, trying to resist and stay back then vanishing inside the burning ring as if being sucked by some massive force up there, followed by five more, one by one, disappearing in the halo as if entering another world beyond it. Then it was silent. The mysterious halo shrunk clumsily and collapsed into the lens.

They were stupefied, looking blankly at each other. The water had splashed all over their bodies, stinking badly. The reporters and the residents were dumbfounded too. The police officers moved forward cautiously and looked closely at the point in the lake where the creatures had emerged.

The boys looked at George whose face had turned pale. He was shivering at the thought of being in the water with them a while ago. Steven went ahead and picked the lens from the cross. It was hot. The friends exchanged glance and nodded. He hurled it away in the lake as far as he could before the police officers could stop him.

***

The reporters were utterly dismayed to find that their cameras developed some kind of a fault and all the photographs were blurred. Similarly the videos that had been shot by the spectators showed only sparks in the background but no visible images were captured. The fault was attributed to the high noon sun that somehow marred the images. Though that simple explanation only deepened the mystery when it was found that none of the photographers had captured any images on their modern photographic equipment neither did the smartphones held by the other people who had gathered to witness a childish adventure.

***

The night is dark and quiet. The water glimmers when the moon glimpses through gaps in the floating clouds and then darkness engulfs the surrounding once again.

The lens is firmly settled on the lake floor. There is no fish around it and none will come near it either. The metal ring embedded on the wooden box stored in the police station some four miles away glitters, emitting quick spurts of light and the lens on the lake floor vibrates in unison.

The End


Submitted: August 04, 2020

© Copyright 2022 Razi Akber. All rights reserved.

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