We came upon it one day while camping. It looked so clear and clean, like a swimming pool; we called it the Pool from then on.
The Pool was deep. Though the waters were crystal clear in the shallows, the center was a great circle of pitch blackness where it dives into the earth, and no sunlight ever penetrated its depth.
We could not have known at the time that anything was wrong. Something dwells there in the deep, shunning the sun. Something ancient and evil. I still wonder if it was all my imagination. But then the sight of that place at night oozes up, and I know it was real – as real as the boy standing on the rock , and as real as the moonlight glinting in his eyes before he took the final plunge.
I was thirteen. It was a warm and gorgeous summer afternoon. I was standing on a boulder that jutted out into the Pool, with my friends behind me. The dark eye of the sinkhole opened up beneath me. I took a deep breath, reached for the water, and pushed off the diving rock.
The water laced my skin with needles of ice. I almost lost my breath with the shock. I wriggled up, toward warmth and sunlight, and exploded to the surface with great hacking gasps.
"Hey, Georgie, learn to swim!"
"Yeah, you look like a cat in a bathtub..."
"A little cold, Georgie? We'll get Samantha Cain in there with you, make it all hot and steamy..."
I hauled myself out onto a rock on the opposite bank. The granite was warm, and I spread myself out on it, shivering uncontrollably.
Billy hopped off the rock into the shallows and came running to where I was. He grabbed my shoulder and shook me with a laugh. "You all right?"
"Yeah," I panted, "think so."
Luke came up and sat down on the rock, and Pipe beside him. Then Gerry came tearing over and tried to shove me into the water. I kicked
him in the face, he socked me across the jaw, and if not for the others holding us back we would've beaten each other senseless.
Later on, as the sun dipped down between the mountains, we were sitting around our campfire, listening to the crickets and the owls off in the forest. The embers glowed and shifted mystically, etching our faces in red light and deep purple shadows. Between our camp and the Pool was a thin trail that led through a grove of trees, already closing in as the twilight deepened.
Luke stretched his webbed toes and leaned back, like he always did when he was about to ask uncomfortable questions.
Gerry was his first victim. "So how ‘bout you and April?" Luke asked.
Gerry shrugged. "Not so good, I guess."
"Why? What's going on?"
Gerry's voice was quiet. "She's acting weird. Doesn't seem to notice me when her friends are around."
I snorted. "Dump her."
Gerry drew his hand across his nose and buried his chin into his crossed arms. Pipe sat beside Billy to my left, scanning the sky for meteors. Luke watched them both, and then turned his smile in my direction.
"So how ‘bout you and Samantha, then?"
I stared back. "What about her?"
"Did you ask her out yet?"
"Aw, you're blushing.