I had spent most of the night drinking to dull the fear that grew from the decision I was making, but standing there, on that dock, was far too sobering. The boards were already damp with dew, and the lake lapped up against the poles with gentle motion. I moved toward my rowboat, not wanting to enter but not wanting to turn my back to those black waters. I boarded, tossed the rope to the dock, and with it my beliefs of returning, and began paddling.
As I rowed, I paid no attention to the direction I was going. It didn’t matter. She would find me. She always found me on my evening rows. The night sky was empty, no clouds nor moon, and it made the stars shine brighter than I could ever recall, the glowing dust of creation’s afterbirth. I stared up at those stars as I went further into that black lake, not wanting to see her face. The air was warm, I remember, but I could feel the coldness of her presence there. It iced the sweat on my skin and stung my lungs with frozen air. With each dip of the oars, I considered turning around, or never stopping at all, just going on until I hit the opposing bank several miles away. But I was there because she had called to me in my dreams, night after night. I was there because I had no choice.
I dropped the oars with a clunk, and my little rowboat skimmed on for some distance. I listened to the water brush along the wood and the handles of the oars rock in their holders. I remember pleading to the beauty in the starry sky to come down and deliver me, take me away into the heavenly bliss of light and peace. But those divine lights only glimmered as they always do, having no concern with the affairs of something as little as me. I buried my face into my weary hands and cried at my isolation, my abandon, in the middle of that still lake. When I stopped, I wiped my eyes and cleared my vision, grasped the side of my wooden boat, and looked over the edge into the water.
And there she was, waiting for me.
Her eyes were wide and black, filled with the dark water holding her. Her long blonde hair splayed out like a thick jelly reaching for things unseen. The white nightgown she wore blended into her bleached-dead skin. You could tell, despite her soggy and rotten flesh, there was a time when she was very pretty. With mouth wide and eyes staring, this dead angel stretched her fingers to the surface to reach for me. I waited, knowing, having experienced her sighting before. And again, her fingers could not break through the water. She could not reach from her world into mine.
I looked at her and felt lifeless cold. My own isolation, so recently mourned, felt shallow and meaningless compared to this watery spectre of immortality. I rested my chin on my hands, on the edge of the boat, and looked into her dead eyes. I noticed then that the frogs had stopped their croakings, the crickets had ceased their songs, and even the water had stopped its motion. And all the while, her fingers reached for me just below the surface. I swallowed hard and bid farewell to my mortal world. She had called to me in my dreams, and I had come. The choice had made itself.
I reached over the side, into the water, and took her decaying hand. She took hold, not with force but with compassion, and I slid my body into the water to join her.
She immediately pulled me down.
I remember looking out through watery eyes at the stars above us, watching them fade into the blackness that was my fate, and feeling a terrible sting go through my heart. Forsaken, I thought. I am truly and forever forsaken from the light.
The pressure bore down upon my fragile body and pierced at my ears. The crushing weight of the water caused me to cry out, a muted yell consumed by her putrid world. And always further and further, colder and colder, until I could not see nor feel nor think nor be.
When we reached the bottom, she took me in her arms and held me close. She knew of my womanizing ways and abusive nature. She did not care for my behavior. She stroked my face as it contorted in silent torture, smiled, and kissed me. There was no life in her breath nor release from pain in her grace. I felt my soul consumed by some ungodly beast, one which had been and always will be. As I died in that crushing black, the last I heard was her calloused laugh bubbling with satisfaction.
I awoke the next morning on a muddy bank of the shore with the stench of death surrounding me and a growing rot of moldy-black upon my lips.