I approached the lake in thirty steps, looking twice over my shoulder to keep a wary eye on the nondescript truck. I crossed a visible barrier not far from the shore. The charred earth blossomed to new life here and I stood for a moment appreciating the cool breeze.
Two grey birds eyed me from a perch in among the brush just off the bank. They were sitting on something white and blistering. A bit of metal trimming had bent and protruded one side. They stared at me. Two birds, two eyes.
Two, big brown eyes. And she smiled. She laughed, and told me to hide under the boat. It was a simple game. To be found, you had to hide. Otherwise, the search had no meaning.
I stepped closer to the birds and they flew away frantically. A boat was there in my memory, and now another boat was here where the birds had been perched. It was a different boat, the wrong size or the wrong color I wasn't sure, but it felt the same. I pressed my hand against the overturned vessel and it would not give. The one boat had settled into the muck and three tiny bubbles worked their way to the surface as I wiped a small two-inch area of wet clay off my hands with my jeans.
I stood for a few minutes at the shore, me and the boat. I looked back at the empty lot and decided that if there were to be any answers, they'd be here. Where will you take me?
I heaved and flipped the boat over, the sound of mud shifting and sucking water under itself. The inside was empty. I don't know what I had been expecting. Someone there, I suppose. The seats were covered in water and parts of the inside were caked in mud. I climbed inside and sat on a relatively clean seat, close to the front of the boat. I looked at the water and saw the filtered sun dapple against the surface, like fiery golden sparks cast from my eyes-- burning, popping. Golden yellow. I closed my eyes.
"What are you doing?!" he exclaimed, smaking the newspaper from my hand. The paper hissed in the sink as the faucet sputtered and groaned to life, clear water dousing the bright, vibrant flame that had been taking shape. And it was extinguished. I didn't look at him. Couldn't. He was mad. I couldn't move. I began to cry.
The breeze picked up.
The new white boat sped over the waves and I imagined the boat whistling as it flew. I pressed myself over the edge and leaned against the breeze.
"Do you want to go faster?" He said, not really asking but warning. I felt the wind blowing through my hair. He spoke again but it was muted as the boat thump-thumped along the lake.
And the vision was gone. I felt the muddy boat begin to bounce softly on the lake, pulling me slowly away from the shore. The ranger in the white truck had gone. And so had my mind. But there were no numbers here. Only the lake, and the boat, and me.
Where will you take me?