The woman opened her trailer door to a sticky blackness. She couldn’t see beyond the moth-swarmed orange lights, their buzzing the only sound in the muggy summer night. Something, though, had woken her.
She had been unreachable, sleeping off the effects of last night’s mickey of vodka. Mascara was smeared in raccoon circles around her eyes; cut-off jean shorts dug into her upper thighs, her belly escaping under the ragged edge of a stained Mickey Mouse t-shirt.
Then, a rustling. Out of the darkness came others. People walked, jogged, shuffled with quad canes. All in eerie silence, all toward the lake.
“What the hell is going on?” The woman’s voice was a rusty croak.
The others kept walking. No one spoke.
Then, finally, the bucktoothed ginger from a few trailers down stopped. “Don’t you hear it?”
The woman tried, tilting her head. Was there something? She shrugged. “Nope.”
“It sounds like music, or … something better.” His face was ecstasy and light, a Renaissance cherub. He laughed, all joy and sunbeams, lightyears from his usual boozy blue-collar. “I can’t explain it. It’s just everything.” He began walking again, stumbling in his haste.
The woman scowled, first at the moths clustering about the orange lamps and then at her neighbours walking to the lake.
She slid on a pair of flip-flops and meandered down to the water, one hand casually in her pocket so as not to be mistaken for the others.
Lake Erie gleamed black in the clouded, starless night, an inland sea with no hint of an opposite shore. Flat and calm and utterly unwelcoming in the darkness, a hunk of polished obsidian. Yet people heaved themselves into it like it was the fountain of youth, swimming out into the yawning void.
There was something out there.
Against the lake, a pool of concentrated darkness lurked, an ink stain, black on black. A massive thing; island-sized. Immense, inappropriate, obscene.
The woman shuddered, then gathered her strength.
“What in good hell are all of ya’s doing? Get outta the water,” she said.
“You must feel it,” said her bucktoothed neighbour, pausing as he stripped off his beer label t-shirt. “This is what we’ve been waiting for. Before this, nothing mattered. It was nothing, we were nothing. This is it!” He panted, mouth open, eyes glassy. “We’re insignificant before this glory.” The words fell like strange pebbles, his lips formed for simpler sounds.
He stripped off his jeans and dove into the water, swimming out to the looming thing.
The woman grunted, put her hands on her hips, and watched her neighbours, their splash-splash-splashes cutting to silence just at the point where she couldn’t see them anymore.
But she watched them all, until it was silent and she was alone on the beach, damp sand between her toes.
Then she turned back home to sleep off the rest of the booze.
She knew she’d never been anything but insignificant anyway.
Jessica Peter writes dark, haunted, and sometimes absurd short stories, novels, and poems. She lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. You can find her writing in LampLight Magazine, The NoSleep Podcast, and Brigid’s Gate anthologies, among other places. You can find more about her and her work at www.jessicapeter.net or @JessicaPeter1 on Twitter.