They were outside the window when I woke up, the tall woman and her little son, staggering around the field on bloated legs. I turned the large iron key and stepped out. They ceased their shuffling as I approached. It was the night after midsummer, and the blue light shone on the white eyes of my visitors.
“You killed my dog,” I said, knowing it to be true.
The woman responded with a voice like a rake through rotten leaves.
“Why is it that violins cannot sound underwater?” she said.
“I know you’ve come from the well,” I said, pointing to the broad pipe that protruded from the knoll.
“You’ve been lied to,” said the woman, “we came from the lake, and to the lake we shall return.”
The woman took her boy by the hand and walked down the knoll toward the road that separated my house from the lake. I followed, and we stepped onto a wooden pier. The small boy plunged into the water. The woman slid slowly into the lake, her white gown spreading on the surface.
“I know you want me to follow you,” I said, “but I won’t come.”
“It is not for you to choose,” she said, and her black veins protruded from her temples.
“It will have to be later.”
“Very well,” she said, “If you won’t come peacefully with us now, we will crawl out of the lake on your 98th birthday, and we will torture you, and then we will drown you.”
They vanished under the water.
I stood on the pier for a while, watching the mist roll off the hills and make their way through the pines. After some consideration, I congratulated myself on my bargaining skills and returned to bed.
“You think people will be able to tell?”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know. They could sense it.”
“How would they sense it?”
“Smells, pheromones… I don’t know.”
“Nobody will be able to smell it on you, trust me.”
“How would you know? You said you’ve never done this before.”
“Look, even if somebody was able to tell, what would it matter? Are you ashamed?”
“No, I’d just like to be the one telling people, that’s all.”
“And suppose you do tell them, just not with words, would that be so bad?”
“Oh, so they would be able to tell!”
“No, but if you don’t shut up about it, I’m going to tell everyone.”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“Oh, so you are ashamed!”