The lake by my uncle’s cabin is very still. The wind hardly ever makes ripples in it, and at night its surface reflects the stars so clearly what you almost can’t tell if you’re looking into the lake or into the sky itself.
When I was a kid, we used to skip rocks across the water and tell each other wild stories about the island in the middle of the lake. My cousin’s favorite was the tale of the mystical man who supposedly lived on the island. My older sister, however, hated it. She’d stop him as soon as he got to the good part.
“Sometimes at dusk we would see him come out from the hidden interior of the island,” he’d say spookily. “For years we had no idea who he was or what he did, until...”
“Can we do something else, now?” my sister would interrupt. “Besides, there’s no way someone could live out there. It’s tiny! And there’s no boat! Where would he live and how would he get food?”
My cousin and I would whine and offer nothing but wild conjecture for answers. “Maybe there’s a secret underground bunker!” I would say. “Maybe there are nets in the tree and he uses them to catch birds to eat!” my cousin would propose.
“Ugh,” my sister would respond. “Let’s go roast marshmallows or something.”
I never got to know the end of that story until the summer I turned 18. My family was gathered together, celebrating the fact that my cousin and I had just graduated from high school. My sister was home from college, bringing a sparkly diamond engagement ring and her brand new fiance.
It wasn’t that I was jealous of her, or that I thought she was stealing my thunder or anything, but I needed some air; some time to myself. I took a walk alone by the lake.
As the sun slipped behind the mountains, leaving a glow of its remembered presence behind, I walked past the dock where we used to sit and tell stories, and saw movement out of the corner of my eye. Movement on the island.
I stopped to look, thinking it was just a bird. Sometimes birds would gather on its shores. It was something different, though. Something bright. Something glowing. It was him.
“Hey!” my cousin called, walking down from the house to where I stood. “Your mom wants to give a toast to your sister. She said she’d give us champagne!” When I didn’t immediately answer, he became concerned. “Are you okay?”
I grabbed at his arm and pointed, unable to speak. He gasped, and I knew he could see it too. “Sometimes at dusk we would see him come out from the hidden interior of the island,” I whispered, hoping that my voice wouldn’t scare away what I was seeing. “For years we had no idea who he was or what he did.”
“Until we saw it for ourselves,” my cousin breathed.
Either the full moon had risen in the sky during my walk or if the island was really glowing. The lake was so still that you couldn’t tell whether it was reflecting the sky or if the sky was reflecting it.
When the glow of the island receded, the man we had seen was gone. The moon shone brightly off the surface of the water. My cousin and I smiled at each other. My sister would never believe us even if we told her. Maybe we’d roast marshmallows later in honor of our discovery.
Maybe we’d toast them in honor of the man in the moon.
|Writing Prompt: Mysterious Island|