Headed for the lake he carried the child bundled in cloth. The ground slopped as he trod the earth. With each stride the cloth slipped a little and his huge hands pulled up the bundle in awkward jerks.
He had reached the wood and could hear the wails of the mother from the cottage. Cut loose from the mother’s cord. Out of the watery womb. The child slipped again and he tugged it with his hands. He felt the baby fluid, milk congealed with tears and fresh skin against the rough wrinkles of his fingers. The child started to howl.
The sound of screams grew silent and the child grew silent and cold. The woods swallowed sound except for the birds that cawed. He trudged on. He beat back the brambles and trampled over roots and leaves.
The path grew dense and it was all forest and trees and overgrowth. Pushing back a vine it swung back in an arch swipe. It caught his cheek and scratched the child’s forehead. It caught his dry skin and blood began to trickle. He brushed his cheek with the back of his hand.
The child let out a wail. The skin was scarred and it was marked red. The child eyed the man. He looked at the child. It was wriggling. Its eyes darted from side to side. He reached out his forefinger and moved it to the child. The child beat its arms and arced its back in protest. Gently he brushed the scar with his finger.
Ahead the air was lighter. It was the reflection of the lake. He walked towards the water. At the shoreline he stood in his large soiled boots. In his hands he gripped the child.
The sun was beginning to rise and it turned the skyline to embers. He did not look for his reflection. He walked into the water. Up to his boots in lake he looked down. The child wrinkled its blotched skin and its eyes shone wet in the dawn light. It writhed in his hands under its cloth but he held tighter. Thinking of the new day he opened his arms.
Artwork by Poppy Gardner.
About Emily: She was born in 1988 in Huntingdon. The Lake was inspired by a painting by Peter Doig. It is her first published story. She currently lives in Newcastle.