25 April 2008

The Pool

This is how she was found.

Two old men sat in a cloud of smoke on a boulder above a large stagnant pool. They were deep in a forest above the town looking for a cave one had stayed in years before. Both were a little gone on marijuana and it was not helping their search. They had been walking for what seemed a long time, and had come down to the stream to find water.

“It’s blue,” said one, squinting. “I tell you man, it’s blue.” He wore a relaxed smile and an grimy headband with stars.

“It’s your eyes,” sighed the other. “It’s green, you know? Green.” He pointed at a nearby bush.

The pool, thirty feet on each side, was cloudy like the soup they gave out near the train station in town. The odour was too much for either of them; it rose up putrid from the surface and was amplified to awful by the afternoon heat. It blurred their eyes and made sure their hunger stayed put. The smell was almost ferrous. It reminded the other of nights spent sheltering under decaying cars in the scrap yard. He remembered the water there, wicked after seeping through the rotting carcasses of machinery, the bones of mankind’s achievement. He could taste it even now in the back of his throat.

Too light headed to consider doing much else, they remained there for a time looking down at the pool. Plants with strange, dark glossy leaves, shapes unidentifiable, rose from the perimeter or laid indifferent on its surface. There were no flowers here, just green, sticky, engorged heads festooned with insects. The scene was fresh-painted; it was slick and oily, like a photograph of a meal outside a restaurant. One held up his index finger, tuning his hearing to a strange sound emanating from a bush near the pool.

“Hey, can you hear that frog? It’s beautiful,” said the first, smiling slightly.

“That’s no frog,” said the other. “It’s a bird. Listen.”

They listened again. A common consensus was not obtained.

“Well it’s definitely an odd place,” said one. Silence. This at least they could agree on.

The other picked up a rock and threw it into the centre of the pool. It was a surprisingly good shot. The sound, deep like they expected, resonated briefly from the interior walls of the pool. Neither of them knew the science, but it confirmed to them that it was deep.

The sudden noise interrupted this odd tranquillity. There was a buzzing, instant binary on, as the whole evil scene erupted organic before them, giving the pool a new glistening surface of life. The breath of myriad creatures’ wings a temporal, transient disturbance. They could hardly see the water anymore; the impression was of a television set stuck between channels, out of phase with the rest of existence, a parallel of coded life. They felt like strangers here, like they were viewing all this through the wrong end of a telescope. It was all a flutter, even their insides. Within a minute however, tranquillity was returned, the phases locked, the final formations of insect life once more inert.

A single errant bug landed heavily beside them. Iridescent blue shimmering in the afternoon light, it was saturated magnificent. Neither of the men knew high school biology, but they had knowledge of life: the dumb, the edible, the useful, and the dangerous. A doctrine that cannot be found in books, their’s is instead etched into the walls of railway tunnels and caves, stored away inside hollowed-out trees and oil drums filled with smouldering wet ash, it is preached to absent congregations from park benches and deserted railway carriages. Still, this was mystery to both men.

“It’s a Beetle. Definitely a Beetle,” said the other looking back to the pool.

The first shook his head, knowing this was untrue. Instead of saying anything, he picked up large rock and threw it to the pool, hoping more insects would come his way. He was not a great shot, and missed the middle of the pool by at least ten feet. The rock barely broke the surface. Instead, it deflected off something, causing a large metallic resonance that hung in the air, an unexpected stranger calling late at night. They both stood up.

“There’s something in there, man” he said. “Something metal.”

Slowly, they stumbled down to the edge of the pool. They found heavy branches from the fallen wood, and began to poke through the stinking broth. To begin with, the sticks went in all the way to their hands, but eventually they found what they were looking for. Just below the surface on the far side, only visible from this distance, they could just make out the glinting metal edge of something. They pushed hard against it but it didn’t move.

“There’s nothing round here for miles, man,” said one. He crouched down, staring into the pool, “no roads, no mines.” He scratched his head and looked up at the other. “It’s gotta be a plane.”

The other looked down, wanting to disagree, for form’s sake if nothing else. “You think it might be valuable?” He asked this almost exclusively to himself.

“Listen, man,” said one, standing up. “If it is a plane, there still might be somebody inside it. We need to get the sheriff; he’ll know what to do. Come on, let’s go.” He threw the branch down and walked past the other into the trees.

The other followed along only a few steps behind, more coherent now but still struggling through this unfamiliar terrain. He still carried his heavy branch with him. He knew the way back. He knew the way back.

Fifteen years later, a man discovered the body whilst out hunting with his dog, and then, he found her. They came, drained the pool and airlifted her out. She was kept undercover but the media had already been and taken their photographs. It was reported as a weather balloon, to begin with.

No comments: