The Haunting of Hubbard Lake
The parking lot at Hubbard Lake was deserted. Rather than drive there Julie had taken a taxi to the grocery store a half-mile away and walked the remaining distance. She didn’t want anything to be discovered before it was time. In hindsight she wished she’d brought along a flashlight, but for now the moon was enough to navigate by and if the forecast was true, the view would soon be even more enchanting. As she made her way through the trees she appreciated the privacy of her surroundings. Looking back she couldn’t see the empty parking lot as she made her way closer to the water’s edge. She imagined lovers coming here for a midnight rendezvous. In spite of everything that had happened, she still believed in romance.
As she drew closer to the lake she could here the gentle waves lapping against the shore. Julie’s foot twisted beneath her as a rotten log gave way beneath her foot. She wasn’t exactly wearing sensible shoes for this kind of excursion but she pushed on — determined to reach the water. At last she made it to the lake and was instantly in awe of the moon’s reflection like a pearl hung high above a gently shifting glass. She sat down on a log and let the soothing song of the currents bring her to a state of peace. Tranquil as it was, she was soon in tears again. She felt worthless. Discarded. Try as she might she couldn’t overcome the sorrow, and the tears kept coming.
Darkness took over her thoughts and the sky above. The screen on her phone read 9:17. The eclipse would be here in another thirty minutes. Over the past weeks the internet buzzed more and more about the upcoming Blood Moon, everything from the past places to see it, how to photograph it and paranoid speculations of it portending the end of days. She decided to phone Ray one last time in spite of the fact that he hadn’t returned her calls in weeks. Hearing his voicemail greeting she didn’t know what to say. She sobbed and hung up. Julie blamed herself for the failure of their relationship. If only she could have done more, or been different, he wouldn’t have let her go. She insisted to herself that it was her that was lacking and blinded herself to the notion that Ray was not the hero she projected him to be. He had loved her once, he told her so. If he no longer did it must have been something she’d done.
The glowing orb over the water began to take on an orange color. It was in fact beautiful and she wished that Ray could be here beside her to see it. As the orange glow grew in intensity, the reflection on the undulating water looked like a walkway of fire, leading out to the center of the lake. Julie took off her shoes, set them on the log, and began wading into the emblazoned trail. The hem of her dress floated on the water as she waded further out. Just a little further and she would find peace. As a child she never learned to swim, but that was of no matter.
Listening to Julie’s voicemail, Ray wondered what it was about him that let him be so cold. More than any other woman, Julie would do anything to make him happy. She supported him in every way possible and didn’t even judge him for his adulterous past. She knew he wasn’t perfect and yet she still thought he was perfect for her. She would be anything he wanted, as long as he gave her the chance. Deep down he thought she was too good for him, that he didn’t deserve such unrelenting devotion. Rather than step up and be worthy, he fell back to his old habits. He drank more and more and as the days and nights went on retreated further into himself. As the nights went on he pushed her further and further away. He was afraid to call back. He’d heard her crying and knew that he was to blame. His selfishness had once again ruined the best he’d been given. Ray typed out a quick text, “Got your message. Are you o.k.?” Ray hit send and poured another drink as he waited for her reply.
A half an hour went by and there was no response. After the way he’d behaved he didn’t blame her. The sooner she could leave his sorry ass behind the better off she’d be. An uneasy feeling in his gut told him something was wrong. Ray opened the Find my Friends app on his phone and looked for Julie. The app showed her last recorded location, 90 minutes ago, at Hubbard Lake. The gnawing in his stomach continued. He knew he needed to find her.
There was one car in the parking lot but it wasn’t Julie’s. Ray checked the app again and saw that her last seen location hadn’t changed. He grabbed a flashlight from the glove box, locked the car, and headed towards the water. He called out her name as he hurried into the trees, the light of the flashlight scanning back and forth. At the water’s edge he found her shoes on the log where she had left them. He called out louder, scanning the surrounding trees with the flashlight. It was the orange glow of the moon that showed footprints in the mud, leading out to the water.
Ray stood frozen, looking out the vast water. It was all his fault. If he wasn’t such a prick Julie would still be alive. She had so much going for her, so much potential and now all of that was gone. How many lives was he going to ruin?
He looked down at her shoes on the log. They were totally inappropriate for this kind of terrain, but that mattered nothing now. As a fog began to drift into the trees his own paranoia crept in like the mist. What was going to happen? Someone was bound to be looking for Julie when she didn’t show up for work. Ray thought about taking the shoes and disposing of them, as if somehow hiding the last clue to her disappearance would remove him from the likely inquiries to follow. This was going to come back to him. Her sister, her closest friends — they all knew about her relationship with him. Whether he was legally guilty for her death wouldn’t matter. It was a small town and the story of her suicide was bound to make the news and all fingers would be pointing at him.
Guilt flooded over him. He was responsible. If only he’d handled things differently… If only he was honest with her. Ray began to think about taking his own life. After all he’d proven time and again that all he did was bring pain to those around him. It would be a public service for him to take his own life. At least he deserved it. Ray thought about following Julie out into the water but he knew how to swim. How on earth could he manage to drown himself? He looked around at the surrounding trees. He had rope in the trunk. A noose would do it. He would hang himself — looking out over the water — looking out over watery grave of the woman he’d hurt so bad that she’d taken her own life. Behind him he heard a twig snap underfoot. Turning to see the source his eyes had not adjusted to the darkness before feeling a large branch crack into his forehead. As he lay on the ground the last he saw before blacking out was the spatter of his blood on Julie’s shoes, arranged neatly on the log where she had left them. He remembered the other car in the parking lot. Whoever it was must have been the one responsible. Moments later he started to awake as his back and legs felt the cold water beneath him as he was dragged into the water. He felt a hand push down on his chest, submerging him beneath. The last he saw was the glowing Blood Moon as he looked up from beneath the frigid water.
The next afternoon Julie’s phone rang. “Hey, Sis.”
“Hey baby girl. I was wondering if you wanted to grab something to eat tonight. That is if you don’t have plans with him.”
“Dinner sounds great. How about the new Thai place that just opened up? 7:00 o.k.? Oh and don’t worry, Ray and I are done. I should have taken your advice ages ago.”