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Lord of the Lake
By Julian Drury
Editor's Note: Originally featured in Terror Tales #4 for Rainfall Records and Books
Fishing in Lake Garmanta requires patience to an ungodly degree. I have to hold the reel just right, not too tight. I let the fishing pole hang on in my hands, prodding for a bite every so often. Just like when I fished next to my dad in this same boat as a kid, I have to just sit back and wait for the fish to bite. It seemed like a nice day enough. The sky isn’t too cloudy, and the normal rotting muck stench that I would smell wasn’t there. It seemed a miracle to me. The lake was calm, the air still. The cold began to set in. The trees with browning leaves on opposite ends of the shore did not bristle with any sound. Even the chirping of the birds was gone. Everything was quiet on the lake, it seemed too quiet. There was no sign of practical life. It all seems very weird to me. I have never seen the lake that dull before.
In all of the silence, I might as well finish off the six-pack, and think about my problems with life. Ever since I lost my job my life has been nothing but a shit sandwich. It was just one thing after another, all rolling down-hill at me, a perfect target for bullshit. The house I promised my dad I would look after, gone. My marriage, gone. Our divorce cost me even more. I can’t keep up with alimony payments, and for the most part I find it easier just to buy some whiskey and melt into my recliner. All I have left is that little crappy ass trailer near the end of the interstate. I know what people think. I hear it all the time. That’s why I go to the lake, because it’s easier to get away from people. The fish may not bite much, but at least I don’t have to deal with life for a few precious moments. Man, I should listen to myself. I complain more than I need to.
Perhaps I just caught a bite!
What is it? It’s certainly not a fish, but it is something alright. I can’t tell what the hell it is? It’s some kind of little statue, or figure. It’s made of some kind of stone, and it looks beaten up to shit, so it must be pretty old. I am able to make out a figure, though one clearly not human. At first, I couldn’t tell what it was supposed to be. I then made out the head and figure of some type of animal, or creature of some long told story. A long serpentine body with an ugly faced dragon’s head, supported by rows of pointing teeth, showed a figure that I had only imagined in movies. At first I tried to understand what it was I had just fished up. The little stone idol creature was definitely carved by some man, but when and what was it he was carving? It took me a moment to remember, but then I began to piece together the memories of the stories I heard growing up around the lake.
When I was a kid, my dad told me stories about something. It was a popular story, and still is, among the people around Lake Garmanta. The story of ‘Garmie’, or the Monster of Lake Garmanta. Some call it a legend, others don’t really call it much of anything at all. No one in the area except the Indians and a couple drunks has ever claimed to actually see this beast, but yet stories passed down several generations ago still go on. The story speaks of Garmie, a beast which supposedly calls the lake its home. Not much is known about this beast, since few have actually claimed to see it in the area for many years. Here and there hoaxers will say this and that, but no one makes any serious claim. My dad never saw any creature, neither did his dad before him. Yet, the stories all keep going. It’s sort of like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. We all know that these are just stories, but we tell them anyway for whatever effect we can get.
The monster is supposed to be a giant beast larger than a whale, a great serpent body and a monstrous head with rows of teeth and eyes that glow a hellish yellow glare. The beast is described in many different colors, though all agree that the beast we affectionately refer to as Garmie is a great dragon-like beast. Many stories tell different intentions for this beast. Some say it is harmless, others say it is a man-eater, while most generally say very little. I can say that the stories were not all that entertaining to me growing up. The reason so many stories exist is because no one has any solid record of sighting this creature. Honestly, very few people in the area today really know where the legend originated from in the first place.
My dad told me the legend was older than all the townspeople, and that the Indian tribes near the lake once worshiped this beast as a god. They had their own name for it, which was banned from mentioning since my ancestors settled the area nearly two-hundred years ago. Not much of us had any contact with the Indians, so we were not all that able to learn their legends. Yet, something tells me that this strange idol that I fished from the lake’s bottom may not only be related to the old stories, yet might also be worth something of value. Money speaks louder to me than heritage at this point.
I know exactly where to go. I’m not going to take this gem to the pawn shop. If I showed it to that no good cheap bastard Harold Fleming, he’d probably offer me five bucks for it. The damn son-of-a-bitch, he’s cheated me out of too much. I gave that man a solid-gold watch, and all he offered was twenty bucks. Twenty measly bucks for a gold watch my granddad once owned. Screw that. I know where to take this little idol of mine. I don’t really know the person I need to go to, but I know of him and I know that he is the only one who can tell me just how valuable the idol really is. Based on how old it is, and how neatly it’s designed, it’s got to be worth something. Right?
John Mountainbear, the local area’s historian, and also communique with the Indian tribes. John Mountainbear was probably the only guy in the entire area that had any smarts about any of the history of the lake and its immediate environment. Mountainbear, being an Indian himself, took a special pride in the heritage of his tribe. For whatever reason, I get the feeling that the serpent idol I’m holding in my hand is of Indian design. Just something about the craft, the design I guess. The way the edges are jaggedly shaped, and the mouth and teeth are displayed. Not to sound insulting, but the design and craft seemed rather primitive. Once I am able to meet with John Mountainbear in his personal office in the area’s only history museum, I will be able to tell what I have. And, of course, by office I mean a nice relaxing parlor room with a fireplace, Indian fashioned rugs, and nice whiskey. Mountainbear, I can tell, is very interested in what I have. Perhaps a little too interested.
“Where did you find this?” he asks.
“The lake” I say. “I fished it out. Pretty deep in too. Caught it clean on my hook and just reeled it up. Honestly I thought I had caught tonight’s dinner.”
“Can I ask why you felt the need to bring it to me?”
“I don’t know. Honestly I just wanted a good price on it, and I wasn’t about to get ripped off again at Harold Fleming’s pawn shop.”
“A good price? So, you really don’t know what this is. Do you?”
“I think I do, but that’s what I brought it to you for. So why don’t you tell me what the hell it is?”
“Koto-Shandu. It means, Lord of the Lake.”
“Doesn’t the thing have something to do with the legend of the Garmanta Monster? Garmie? The one, of course, no one has ever seen around here.”
“What you and your relatives refer to as ‘Garmie’, has a name that the people of the surrounding tribes have been calling it for untold ages. Koto-Shandu. You finding this in the lake is not that big of surprise.”
“So, then it’s not that valuable then?”
“Oh, I didn’t say that. The item has great value. Though, I’m not sure if you fully understand what its value is.”
“Don’t tell me this is the part where you try and sell me some tribal history bullshit. I don’t have time for that John. Can I call you John?”
“No, the only bullshit I have to say is about the idol itself. You see, the history of the idol is tied to a time when my people once congregated on the shores of the lake beseeching to the guardian of the tribes. Koto-Shandu is more than a mere story. There was once a time when Koto-Shandu was the center of all worship, and great strides were taken to appease him.”
“Worship? You mean like some heathen god?”
“Well, more than that. You said that no one has ever claimed a sight of Koto-Shandu, yet my people see him. You will only see if he wants you to see. So my people believe. The story goes that Koto-Shandu was not born of our world. It is said that he was born from the darkness of the outer-stars, and descended upon our world in the aftermath of a great cosmic cataclysm. Koto-Shandu was the offspring of a series of great beings from above the heavens, who were banished from their worlds into ours. Koto-Shandu was cast down into the lake, as a punishment to live out until the end of time. Ever since, Koto-Shandu has been the energy and protection of this land and all its inhabitants. Even those who choose not to see are still protected by him. Yet, Koto-Shandu is not completely immortal. He must be fed an offering in order to appease his wrath.”
“I’m lost here. I don’t understand one bit of the story. So it’s a lake monster from outer-space? Who made this story up anyway?”
“Why must you assume the story is made up? It’s a tale that has influenced my tribe for generations. Koto-Shandu is not just a story to us. He is very real, and must be respected.”
“Have you ever seen him before?”
“I see him every day.”
“Well, I don’t believe you. I don’t have a place for fairy tales in my life.”
“You don’t have to believe me. That’s the important thing to know about Koto-Shandu. He’s real whether you believe in him or not.”
“Okay, I think I’ve had enough of the mystic talk. How much can I get for this idol? That’s what I came here to find out, and I’m not leaving until I get an answer.”
“I am curious to know who exactly you plan to sell it to? Who around here would want such a thing?”
“I don’t know. That’s what I was hoping you would help me with. There’s got to be someone out there who’d pay a pretty penny for something like this.”
“Well, I can tell you that there are some collectors who might be interested in the idol. What they would pay, well it’s hard to tell. Could be a hundred to a thousand, to ten-thousand dollars. I don’t price artifacts. I preserve them and study them. I can also tell you that wherever you got this, there probably are more items of similar nature.”
“More? More of those idols?”
“Items like them yes. The idol here is a physical representation of Koto-Shandu. Ceremonies in his devotion were often cast with many of these types of hand-carved figures. People of my tribe would take these idols and cast them into the lake, as a token offering to Koto-Shandu. Judging by the look of the figure you brought here, you may have found an object anywhere from three to four thousand years old. It could perhaps even be older.”
“Now, how much did you say this thing could go for? A hundred, maybe even ten-thousand? You said there were more, right? Back in the lake?”
“If the lake is where you found it, then yes if you return to the same location, you will perhaps find more.”
“Thanks, then. Do I owe you anything for your time?”
“No. Nothing at all.”
A part of me feels bad for leaving him with nothing, but he seems calm about it all. Besides, I wouldn’t have any money or goods to give to him anyway. That’s the whole point I went to Mountainbear in the first place. This crazy-ass idol is worth something, and now it seems there’s more where that came from. If one idol is worth at least a hundred bucks, how much could several get me? I could even get thousands for them. I have to get back to the lake. I have no idea what I’ll fish out, but if it can get me out of my money-rut then it’s worth a shot.
I haven’t even made it back to the lake, and I already can feel the cash in my hands. If what John Mountainbear said was true, then I might have just found my ticket out of this godforsaken mud-hole. I have nothing left to hold onto in town, and the lake can’t even produce me a decent meal. If I can just get my hands on a few more of those lake idols, I could be set. Someone out there has to want the damned things. Honestly, they look like pieces of crap to me. Worthless Indian junk. But, this Indian junk can get me a ticket to a new life. That’s all that matters to me right now. Just a couple more miles till I reach the lake. I remember the exact spot I was the first time. My palms are already beginning to itch.
I can see myself already in the brand new CruiseX-1000 motor boat. That boat has been my great envy for some time. I can just picture the sight of my very own CruiseX-1000. I can see me sitting in its comfortable leather seats, attaching my brand new fishing-rods to its specialized holster attached to the boat, for big catches. For a measly few hundred bucks, it can be mine. Finally I can go fishing somewhere that offers a catch, with brand new rods and reels, a new tackle box. I can finally get my truck fixed up, and ditch that trailer. I can get my own house again. I thought about buying my dad’s old house by the lake. But, I want to get the hell away from this area for good. I’m going to t get my own house, a brand new one made exactly the way I want. All I need to do is get back to the lake and fish out a few more of these damn idols, and I’ll be set. To think all it will take is selling off some old carvings, that wouldn’t even be useful enough as a paperweight. Things that otherwise would be thrown away as trash, can in fact fetch hefty dollars. Works perfectly for me.
Good thing the truck only broke down half a mile from the lake. The walk is long, but the lake isn’t too far and once I get there I’ll have my payday waiting for me. It still seems weird that the entire surrounding of the lake is so quiet. I’ve never heard it this quiet. The woods around the lake are also silent. It sends a certain chill to me, gripping my spine and heart. I can’t explain why I feel so nervous about the silence. I just am. The strangeness of it seems to make me grow a source a fear, that I can’t see or place a name to. If I wasn’t extremely desperate, I probably would not even go back to the lake. Even though the truck’s broken down, I’ll walk my ass back to town. I can’t do that, though. I have to go to the lake and get the rest of those idols. I’ll fish them out, one by one. Even if I have to jump in the water and get them with my hands, I’m not passing up a chance to get the hell out of the mess I’m in. This is a chance I will not regret. I am sure of it.
Back out on the lake, and apparently one of my set of two oars is missing. Now there’s only one oar. Guess I’ll have to paddle out solo then. It’s more arm-work, but whatever. Getting to the spot where I fished out the idol is what’s important, no matter how I get there. This is my chance. There’s something strange about the water though. It seems so dark, murky as if a black shadow had been cast beneath the water in a shroud of crazed mystery. Now that I’ve reached the spot where I was before, out near the lake’s opposite end. I could say in the center of the lake, but the lake is thin, not wide or circular. You can always see the opposite end of the shore from either side. It’s only about three, maybe two, maybe three miles wide at best. The lake is deep, however. Very deep, and the vertical shoreline stretches for nearly fifty miles. It was a lake, over many years, I grew to dislike. Ironic I need what’s in the lake order to try and get away from it.
The spot is right where I remember it, about three-hundred feet or so away from the opposite shoreline. Attaching the heady sinker will guarantee that my large hook should be able to drag up whatever is at the bottom. I have to be patient, otherwise I won’t find anything. Just wait, prod the hook around a bit. Hell, you never know. This might be my lucky day. I might even catch that bastard-thing Garmie. Ha. What did Mountainbear call it, Koto-Shandu? Lord of the Lake. Yeah, right. Only Lord of the Lake around here is me. I’m the only soul that consistently returns to the lake, day in and day out. I’m the Lord of the Lake, not some stupid hokey Indian fairy-tale. A Lake monster, ‘born from the stars?’ Yeah, that makes a whole lot of sense. Once I hook these stone figures and fish them up, the lake will no longer have a Lord. It will be empty, alone. So be it. Just a little more patience, just a little more time. I’ll be out of here soon. Though, I do wonder what’s going on now at the shore.
There are people gathering, at both ends of the shore. They seem to be congregating, chanting to something. I hear chanting to a hymn being led on, more than likely, by the people organizing the gatherings. Who are these people? It’s hard to tell exactly from where I am, but I think they are the Indians. I can roughly see their faces, and recognize some of the chanting from the tribes who live nearby. Hymns and drums are now mixing with spoken words in what I assume is an Indian language. Certainly is the strangest language I’ve ever heard. I can’t even picture what some of the words would look like if someone tried to write them down. Though, among the weird chanting, I do recognize one particular phrase. I recognize it from earlier today, what John Mountainbear told me. ‘Koto- Shandu.’ Though, the way it is being chanted is more like,
“Ko-to…Shand-du…” This tract would repeat several times over the Indian chanting. “Ko-to…Shand-du…”
Now, after looking carefully, I can see that on the side of the shore, facing me, I can see John Mountainbear standing among, perhaps even leading, the congregation of Indians. I can see him clearly, his extremely long gray hair and black hat gave him away. Now that I see him among the Indians on the shore, I have to question what exactly I am witnessing. All of them on the shoreline seem to be focusing on me for some reason. I can’t escape my nervous feelings that something is happening I am not aware, and may not want to be caught in the middle of. As the chanting goes on, thunder booms can be heard. There are no rainclouds in the sky, yet a loud thunderous striking is being made from somewhere. A growing, strange, wind is swarming around me. All of this seems unimportant. There is a light glowing beneath the water, directly under me. It is a bright, sort of yellowish-white glare. Aspects of this light seem to be pushing out from the water, making even a faint grinding buzz of a sound that seems to stem from the growing light. I can say for certain that something is happening, and I don’t want to be in the middle of it.
It’s stopped? Everything’s stopped.
The Indians on the shore, they’ve stopped chanting? The light, thunder and buzz have also disappeared. In a single blink, everything just halted. Even I’m a little stunned at the moment. I can just laugh it off though, and I will. Looking down, I see the little idol from the lake I fished out from before. Holding the dragon’s idol in my hand might bring me good luck. It certainly brings me laughs. I’ll be rich soon. A good laugh makes all business noble. If rain has come, it trickles slowly and only on top of me. Is it raining at this moment? Drops of water are steadily making their way onto me, above me, though it seems only above me. Can I just laugh this off? Perhaps?
Is it rain above me? Or is it a ruse to my amped fear? Can I merely ignore this? Am I to merely ignore, a sign of danger? Is it all just a trick of the winds? Do I look back at all my years on Lake Garmanta as merely a buildup to one final moment on the darkly waters? I desire to look back, to flash my memories before my eyes, yet all I can see is the blank reality that I sit in. Am I no longer the Lord of The Lake? Am I just a mere subject, exploitation? Something moves, slowly just below the surface.
Even as I feel heated breath, carved in a stench of untold memory, blowing to my back, I try and muster a final laugh. The drops of water are slowly stemming, one by one. Shall I turn behind me and face what stand there? Shall I face a great monster with a dragon’s head, serpent’s body, and rows of teeth accompanied by hellish yellow eyes? Will I face the beast of untold legend? Or will I merely face the cracked oblivion of an empty and dangerous sky? What shall I face as I turn slowly? I hope to witness my god, spawned upon the face of an unforgiving eon.
The lights…a low and mysterious hum…
#Unreal #KotoShandu #LordOfTheLake #GreatMonsters #HereComesTheStorm
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