In my dream Alex tucked the ends of his curly baby blonde hair behind his ears, looked back over his shoulder, and grinned at me before spreading his arms and diving off the side of the concrete dam into the water below. There were no ripples on the dark black water as he disappeared beneath. In the distance a light, flickering green and orange, danced over the lake.
My head was throbbing when the morning sun, pressing against my eyelids, awoke me. I felt a tender spot under my eye and couldn’t immediately recall how I had gotten it. The bugs had taken advantage of me as I had slept on the banks of Candle Lake and—after ruefully feeling for welts on my arms and legs—I went looking for Alex.
“For your eye.”
Alex tossed me a cold beer from the cooler.
“Very funny, asshole.”
I pried up the tab and licked the beer as it streamed onto the top of the can. Alex took a seat beside me and hung his legs over the side of the dam kicking his heels against the weathered concrete. We stared out at the water in silence for a time; the moonlight made apparitions of the steam that rose from the still surface of the lake.
“Have you ever seen them? The ghost lights?”
Candle Lake got its name from the Cree Indians; their folklore told of mysterious lights that appeared around the lake at night, especially around the site of an old Indian burial ground.
I shook my head, no, while Alex took a drink.
“I’ve seen it.”
The sun had dried the lakeside into a sticky black muck that threatened to steal my shoes with every step. I ventured deeper into the underbrush at the edge of the woods seeking dry ground. As I approached the dam I saw the top of the structure was lined with black birds, cormorants, wings spread, drying their feathers in the sun.
“Let’s go to Candle Lake.”
I didn’t immediately get up, the dewy grass was soaking through the seat of my pants and my eye stung from where Alex had hit me. I deserved it. After he told me he had slept with her, I had spit out dirty lies.
“Come on, I’ll drive.”
I found Alex laying face down in the mud on the shore of the lake near the base of the dam.
“Wake up Alex.” I thought.
Overhead the cormorants fell from their perch and dove into the water with barely a ripple.
Alex is falling forward, arms spread, off the side of the concrete dam into the water below. My palms sting from where I struck him on the skin of his back.