When I was twelve, I gazed out from the window in my bedroom, which was on the second floor of my house. My body was well-warmed, but the sight locked my head and eyes in place as though they were chilled solid.
The frozen lake was lit in a pure, near-fluorescent light. The moon was hovering in a clear sky, shifting the the usual darkness to a form of near-daylight. A few scattered stars surrounded the gleaming sphere, but my attention was focused on the landscape below. At the other edge of the cove was a surrounding tree line, formed into a jagged silhouette.
I examined this image for a few days, until the moon appeared to be at its brightest. I stopped watching. I walked.
With my first step onto the solid water, the flustering cold of the air disappeared from attention. For the first time in my life, I had seen the moon cast my shadow. It followed me, along the new tundra that was the outdoors, my outdoors. I marched across the entire cove, sensing a newfound energy from the different land. I became numb to the winds, both physically and mentally. By the time I returned home, only just then did I realize my skin turned a vicious pale, even beneath my coat, gloves, and boots.
This was my lone “winter activity”. I wasn’t a fan of the cold outdoors, even at a young age, but walking on that ice made me forget my disapproval. My parents were, to say the least, quite alarmed when I told them of my first adventure. I was an twelve year old wandering alone, after all, let alone the fact it was in the winter night (with deadly water beneath my feet, of course). As years past, I began to sneak out while they slept. They eventually accepted my adventures, seeing that I hadn’t yet drowned or froze to death (or both).
I continued my night walks for years, on that same cove. An average night was satisfying, but the full moon was always a must. I walked during those bright nights at every opportunity, for almost five years.
After that time, I was stopped.
In the year of 1998, while I was seventeen, a severe, powerful ice storm overtook much of the state. Freezing rain and sleet fell at a near constant rate for a good few days. Homes lost power for weeks, roads became unusable, and school was closed for much of the recovery time. I spent almost the entire duration indoors. I was left sleepless most nights, listening to the pounding of frozen drops colliding with the roof. Every window in the home seemed to crack every few minutes. It was unlike any winter weather I had experienced, still to this day (and I live in Maine, for god sakes). “It’s almost supernatural,” my father had joked, stumbling inside after being pelted by sleet.
When the raining cold stopped, school was still closed due to the roads, as were many stores and town departments. Power was still in a blackout. When I wasn’t gathering wood with my father, I spent most of the time peering out the window. The lakefront, along with the woods, became a cross between a wasteland and a glass exhibit. The open sunlight casted through the frozen branches, trees, and surfaces, lighting up the area in an array of glimmers and reflective specks. Large areas of the lake were covered in a uneven, clear layer of ice, while the tree lines at the opposite shore were washed in a shade of white.
A night later, the full moon made its appearance. I saw the light glow from my window. It was about an hour before I would sleep, but it was the chance for me to see the lake in a way I never had. I couldn’t miss it. It was ten thirty. Like many times before, my parents were asleep. I walked out into the night.
The world outside was a foreign, frostbitten land. The sky was clear, allowing the moon to cast its full gleam along the ice and surroundings. The branches of trees became hubs of sparkles, every twig reflecting their own light. Other objects, both natural and man-made, were coated in a layer of fine ice. The snow, which crunched and shattered with my steps, was wet and heavy.
Despite the frozen features, the temperature was, at the time, rather warm. I felt no wind upon my face. As I left my yard, onto the cove, a few drops dripped from a branch above, onto my jacket and neck.
The solid lake was as white as ever. I couldn’t make out my shadow on the glare ice, though. It was my reflection that became visible. It was dark and shaded, but I made out the minor features of my form. I could spot the white tag on the bottom of my coat, as well as the darkish red color of the coat’s material. I spotted the outlines of my eyes, along with the frame of my facial structure. Though it first fascinated me, it became rather ominous. I turned away. The almost startling sight still held itself in my memory.
As I rounded the shores of the silent cove, I looked to the center of the area. I found myself squinting. There was a small, darker section of the ice, one that contrasted against the surrounding white. By the sight of it (in the night), I expected it to be a section of open water, but this didn’t make sense to me. The entire lake had been frozen from end-to-end for weeks.
I moved closer, in which the sight continued to appear the same. I reached the center of the cove, and paused. What lied ten feet away from me was a single, circular space of black, an area no more than five feet in diameter. It was a self-contained abyss, making no reflection with the moon, no connection with the ice that circled it.
It appeared solid, as no cracks sounded as I stepped around it. The sheer unknown of the surface only drew me in, sending a curious tingle about my limbs as I was standing no more than three feet from it.
A calm breeze brushed against me. The only matter that stood between myself and the black surface was a space of cool air, and the only object within a hundred yards of me was a frozen tree.
A nervous twitch went through me, as I made another step. “It can’t shatter,” I told myself.
On the dark surface, there was no reflection.
My right foot pressed down on the space. Nothing changed, in stability, terrain, or sound. After pressing and tapping with the same foot, my overcurious mind convinced me to step on the patch with both feet. I listened.
The moment both of my feet hit the surface, a lightheadedness set about me. At the time, I speculated that it was an onset of my own stress and imagination. I took relieving breaths, knowing that I was still above water. Though the panic subsided, I was still at question as to what this unknown, dark surface was. I thought about what could’ve been thrown here from the ice storm, but no explanation seemed plausible. A patch of frozen tar? A small container of oil that had been blown onto the cove? I knew finding out would be meaningless, so I looked up, and stepped away.
I locked in place. The light breeze stopped.
In the distance stood a shrouded, oval-shaped silhouette. It stood in place, immobile, making no apparent intentions on moving. Against the backdrop of coated trees and glare ice, its details were invisible.
I trembled. It moved, thrusting forward by inches. Even in the distance, I could make out that it was twitching, in a strange manner. Its form went out of shape every second, warping into different patterns of splatters and curves.
A small, quiet portion of me wanted to investigate. The louder, more sensible part of me knew that one weird discovery was enough for the night. I turned, making large steps in the opposite direction. I started to run. My eyes adjusted to the dim image of the shore. I stopped when it came into focus.
My home wasn’t there. There was only a line of trees. I swung about in circles, peering in all directions. From north, to south, to southwest, the sight was the same:
Trees. I was in a natural cage, with a fence of towering wood.
The moon continued to stream its unblocked, white glare. My eyes were almost strained from the light, which suggested that it had become brighter in the past minutes. The stars were far more numerous. I spotted no constellations, only an infinite array of specks.
My head went in circles, searching for an exit, opening, anything different in the prison. I became nauseous, dizzy from the overwhelming restraint and stress arising in my system. I looked back to the center of the cove, shielding my eyes from the moon’s gleam. The figure was closer, making consistent, full steps towards my position. The form appeared human-like, then. It still shook, stretching and contracting its limbs as it made mangled steps towards in my direction.
For perhaps an entire minute, I stared into the dark form that drifted closer to me. It was no more than fifty feet away, then. It had begun to wobble less, but it then started shifting colors, flashing in an array of different shades and patterns.
I sprinted. I moved away from the form, but there was nowhere else. Gathering any sense I could in the panic, my attention flashed to the black surface, which still lay in the center of the cove. The being was close by the spot, yet I still sprinted towards it. The figure didn’t turn, but floated to the position, in front of the hole. It was looking at me, as I ran.
The sky then began to move. It wasn’t just the stars, though. The entire space above started to melt and warp down, collapsing like a soaked oil painting. The moon started to sprout black, spiked veins. The world was growing darker. I kept concentrated to the ground in order to keep sane. My steps felt heavier, crushing against the ice, which was then cracking under my feet.
I kept running. It was clear that there was no escaping this being. Whether I would be stopped cold or pass right through him, either fate was preferable to the sensual hell. A booming roar sounded from what seemed from above. As I neared the form, a distorted screeching clawed at the back of my head. It was unmoving, no longer twitching or shifting forms.
I made a final glance at the sky. It was then a chaotic, disfigured slew of black with white speckles. Whether it had continued to melt or started to whirl and twist, became impossible to determine. The being had more detail. I could see it, even in the dwindling light. It was around my height, six feet tall, dressed in darker, more thiner layers. It had a face. It was white, rather pale, with an age that appeared young, not a full adult, but close.
I nearly stopped, in both question and terror. I could make out its clothing; a black coat, with red lines of color, along with blue boots and dark, grayish pants. It’s hair was a brown, short, tapered near the top. I discovered these features all at once, in a second, as they were familiar in the worst possible way.
Right before my feet dove on the dark hole, I looked at myself. It was standing with a confident smirk as I made a collision with it. Just as I passed through the mirror-self, it opened its eyes, which had remained closed until then.
Its eyes were two circles of white, holding the image of the corrupted, veined moon.
The screeching, along with the booming, had disappeared in a second. I felt my face impact a layer of snow. I kept my eyes closed. I heard a gust of wind, sweeping about in an open space. I stood, and opened my eyes to whatever fate I had been left to. I was in the cove, my cove. I could see my house on the nearby shore, as well as the opening to the rest of the lake in the opposite direction.
Safe to say, I immediately went home, but not before checking the ice behind me. For the first time in my life, as I turned, I prayed. I hoped of seeing an open, clear space of ice.
The hole still lied there, its own, self-contained abyss.
I sprinted back home, without glancing back. I went indoors, and strut up to the supposed safety of my own room. I felt at the walls, at solid objects. They were real. I went upstairs, and glanced into my parent’s bedroom. They were both still asleep.
To no surprise, I didn’t sleep, but I also didn’t move. I didn’t look out the window, look at the shadows on my wall, or turn to adjust my uncomfortable, restless self. I only shook. Soon after, I began to sweat. The weather was still rather warm.
Winter was colder, for the rest of the season. My family and I spent much of our time indoors, while I wasn’t at school or work. I didn’t develop any fear of the outdoors, which surprised me. I could still go outside without anxiety, even during the night. I never told my parents of my experience, nor any friends, aside from the occasional reference that only I could understand.
There’s the obligatory “all just a dream” theory, but to trivialize my fears and experience of that night is an idea I can’t bring myself to. I want to. God, I wish I could.
There were no further trips onto the evening ice. Winter has became a period that could go without my care. I felt no more joy in it. I felt pressure in it, actually. The smallest details seemed to draw the most vivid scenes and memories. Summer came, eventually, in which the ice melted back to its former liquid, along with the other frozen layers. In the warm waters of the cove, I saw no disturbances, nor unusual patterns. It was part of the ice when it arrived, so I suppose it left all the same. I don’t wish to think otherwise.
I care nothing about that black void, though. It’s not what bothers me. There are two sights that send me off mental balance, keeping me in a near-constant internal fear. They started from the day after that night, and it will continue for as long as I have eyes to witness them.
The first is the moon. I can’t appreciate it anymore. I only view it as an eye, one that mocks me, looking down upon my vulnerable self. I can’t help but feel, somewhere, there’s a mouth that fits with it. I have nightmares of it laughing. I have a memory of it smirking.
The second object is my reflection.
Or more so lack of.
Written by Emeryy