The Lure Man, Steven Cousler
Mr. Doyle liked to fish. He was considered quite good at it. His friend Liam often went as well, although Mr. Doyle had a hard time remembering seeing him out on the lake. Until today, that is, as the two had embarked from the shore together to enjoy a quiet day of fishing. A younger man, Liam often kept to himself. Mr. Doyle did not.
It was foggy that morning, but Mr. Doyle knew the lake well enough. So the two drifted along in silence for some time until Liam spoke.
“I think we should turn back,” Liam said.
Mr. Doyle looked up from his fishing rod, “Go back?”
Liam stared down at the lake, his own rod forgotten, “Yes.”
Mr. Doyle frowned, “First you want to get out here, and now you want to give it all up?”
Liam fidgeted, “I...I thought it would be nicer out today.”
“You don’t like the fog?” Mr. Doyle asked. “What’s wrong with it?’
There was nothing wrong with it, but Liam insisted, “I just don’t think it’s a good idea to be out on the water today.”
The two sat in silence for a minute, nothing but the gentle lapping of water on the sides of the boat. Eventually, Mr. Doyle picked up his rod, and began fishing again.
“Well, I’m not going back. Sure it’s a little foggy out here, but there’s nothing is going to hit us. And I mean to enjoy it.”
“Why do you want to stay?” Liam said, “It’s cold and damp out here, what’s there to enjoy?”
Mr. Doyle just stared out over the water, “If you want to go back so bad, then you can jump in the lake and swim. I’m going to keep fishing.”
Liam visibly shuddered and Mr. Doyle gave him a raised eyebrow. “You afraid of the water?”
Liam looked at him, his expression unreadable. “No,” he leaned back in the boat, folding his arms.
Neither spoke for some time. Mr. Doyle focused on his lure bobbing in the quiet waves, but caught Liam staring at him out of the corner of his eye. Mr. Doyle ignored him. If the man didn’t want to go out on a misty lake, that was fine by him. But the least he could do was not come out and then change is mind on the matter.
And so the hours past. Mr. Doyle sat hunched over his rod. Liam ignoring his. He sat in his seat uneasy, constantly glancing out over the water and its glassy surface. Then something moved beneath the boat.
Liam pulled away from the side so quickly it started rocking.
“What’s the matter?” Mr. Doyle asked. “It was probably just a log or something.”
“We shouldn’t be out here,” Liam said, eyes still fixed on the lake.
“Why? There ain’t anything out here,” Mr. Doyle said, annoyed. It was true. He hadn’t caught anything all afternoon. “Nothing out here.”
“Well, why don’t we turn around and…”
“No, I am not leaving until I at least get a bite.”
“Would you just listen,” Liam said, “We need to get to shore.”
Mr. Doyle gave him a look, “We ‘need’ to? What’s so important you need to get back for?”
“It’s...” Liam shook his head, “We just need to leave.”
Mr. Doyle set down his rod and crossed his arms, “What is it?”
“I just don’t think it’s a good idea—”
“Don’t give me that,” Mr. Doyle interrupted, “I know a man afraid when I see one. What’s out here that you're so scared?”
Liam met his eyes, “We don’t have time to talk about this. It might—”
“Ah ha, so it is something.”
Liam glanced around him, but they were alone on the waters, “Keep your voice down.”
“I’ll raise my voice if I feel like it,” Mr. Doyle said. “Now what the hell is going on?”
Liam... laughed. An empty, pitiful sound.
“What?” Mr. Doyle demanded.
“Hell,” Liam said with grim amusement, “If only…”
“What on earth are you going on about?” Mr. Doyle asked.
“It’s…” Liam shook his head, “It’s not important. Right now we need to get back to shore.”
“Or what?” Mr. Doyle demanded, “You talk like something is going to…” And then they heard it. A deep, warbling rumble. The boat vibrated with it, the water rippling in infinitesimal waves outward.
“The Hell…?” Mr. Doyle leaned over the side of the boat. The noise pounded up from the depths. He could feel it in the quiver of the wood.
“No,” Liam said, “No, no, no!” He tossed an oar to Mr. Doyle. “Paddle!”
“What is that?”
Mr. Doyle didn’t need to be told again, although as they rowed, he kept glancing at the water, the ripples growing wider, deeper. But as they made for shore, their strokes became harder and harder. The water seemed to be fighting them as they rowed, clinging to their paddles until it took hold of their oars with an iron grip.
Mr. Doyle fought the imprisoning liquid, only to have his paddle wrenched from his hands, yanked into the depths below. Mr. Doyle leaned down to use his hands when Liam pulled him back. “Don’t touch the water.”
“We have to get moving,” Mr. Doyle said, trying to shake Liam’s grip.
“It’s too late,” Liam said. His tone like ice. Mr. Doyle shivered at the words.
“We can’t be that far out,” Mr. Doyle said, “If we only—”
“Let go of me—”
“I can’t let you—” Liam was cut off as Mr. Doyle leveled him across the jaw. Liam stumbled back into his seat as Mr. Doyle began paddling with his hands. The moment his fingers touched the water, a rolling chill climbed up his arm. Visions. Animals turned inside out. People with no faces. Men shorn of their sanity. The sky subsumed in an inky quell, the sun turned a sickening verdant. The world adrift in the currents of the universe, lost and dark. A shadow of irrevocable proportions devouring the globe, consuming the world whole.
Clarity. Mr. Doyle was yanked from the water, Liam’s arm around his chest. The two toppled into the bottom of the boat. Mr. Doyle’s arm ached, like a limb revived from the dead.
“Don’t touch the water,” Liam said. Around them, the lake had begun to boil, steaming and smoking from beneath them. The boat jostled back and forth under the swelling bubbles of horrible substance.
“What was—” Mr. Doyle stammered, but he stopped when he saw Liam’s arm, the one that had pulled him away. It was glowing. “What are you?”
Liam glanced at his arm. He sighed, collapsing into his seat. “I tried.”
Mr. Doyle looked around the boat, the waters were writhing beneath them, the unearthly moan growing to deafening volume. “What is happening?”
“I tried to stop this,” Liam said, “I didn’t want to be it.”
Mr. Doyle turned to him, the world unhinged, “To be what?”
Liam’s skin suddenly flared to life, a deep, enthralling gold. “The Lure.”
All around them, on every side and for as far as they could see, a mammoth darkness rose from the bottom of the lake. Titanic in size, it grew and grew. From the side of the boat, Mr. Doyle could see into its mouth: rows of teeth, encircling a fractured tongue, a thousand prongs convulsing and wriggling in the center of a maw large enough to swallow history itself.
Steven Cousler is an MFA Candidate in Fiction @NMSU. He frequently writes cerebral, Lovecraftian, and urban fantasy along with stripped-down nonfiction personal essays. As an on-the-spectrum writer, he enjoys exploring alternative perspectives on life and ideas often through horror and the uncanny. He can be found @SCousler on Twitter