Snow came as heaven’s sunlit glitter to bring our world to a new shimmer. It danced in the night; a choreographed ballet conducted in the freezing wind. Kids imagined themselves roller-skating over the frozen surface of lakes and flapping their arms and legs on the snow heap to resemble cute little penguins.
I cradled my hot mocha cup in my hands as smoky ghosts curled out of the liquid and dispersed in the air. My mind wandered around to the distant hills where the orange-gold stretched far and wide, the colours of fire hearths and tangerines, the promise of the sun that’d rise again after the velvety night had had its say and the land had rested once more.
Father rumbled into the rusty cabin with a bag full of groceries the house had depleted with. It was enough to catch hold of his presence without turning my gaze at the door. He had a thing with banging on it instead of knocking to announce his presence. It was maddening. His impatience matched my insanity that lived a Devil inside me, waiting for the perfect time to blow out.
“Got some beer?” I walked over to the dining table and rummaged through the plastic bags, but to no sign of any beer cans. “You got none? You know I drink it in the evening, don’t you? Or you’ve forgotten that? Pathetic memory loss!” I scoffed and marched back to my bedroom before letting Father pass me an unimpressed look.
What a sodding cabin! Wallpapers from years ago peeled off the softened walls and floorboards pointed outward, capable of tipping over anybody that walked on it. It wasn’t the entire town that didn’t have the money to install electric supplies, phone service, or WI-FI connection, for God’s sake. It was the owners of this cabin that had lived indigent lives. The remnants of bulbs lay wrapped around with dust and cobwebs; doors and windows required urgent lubricating, and Father needed medical attention. I wasn’t certain of it, but most people twice his age still remembered to feed their pets, water the plants and buy their daughter beer cans.
It was my deceased mother’s wish that we move to this cabin she and Father used to come to discreetly in their college years. Not the best option when I thought about it. I failed to understand how this rotten junk of wood exhilarated her. I had to comply with her and Father, or else I would’ve had to keep Beck company. Not anymore now that I had done away with him. That spongy measle.
“Where were you?” Father questioned when I entered the cabin. He wasn’t supposed to be awake at night; he was the one to educate me about perils of sleeping late. How eye bags would grow and bulge out enough to pop our eyes out. For once, I’d be more than complacent if that happened to him.
“Was taking care of a few things. You needn’t—”
“I needn’t worry? You staying out late at night worries the heck out of me.” You aren't worried about me, just worried that I’d find them. “What if you fall into danger? I’m not coming for your rescue.” Just like how you didn’t help Mother. In his stillness, he disconcerted me. It was the moonlight that paled his skin; the lack of wind that let his hair hang without movement. He sat static. His eyes didn’t blink, just stared through my soul as though it had enigmas of the lake to tell.
“I’m sorry, but I’m not your teenage daughter anymore. Wherever I go, you don’t have to interrogate me. Enough drama, Father.”
“My word! Why’re your pants wet? Fell into the lake or what?”
“When did you care? Something happened, none of your business!”
“Calla—” The door shut out his voice and raincoat-ed him.
The salmon flames of the bedside candles winked under the gale that violently burst in through the windows. My eyes fluttered open, and it felt like everything had dropped dead; the silence that prevailed measured much more than the calmness in my nightmares. The leaves that rustled and caressed each other in the night’s silver bath, stopped and went off to sleep; the nocturnal that inhabited the neighbouring trees decided food wasn’t available there, and the place bored the senses out of them, so they ambled down to their friends’.
It took me a few moments to adjust to the darkness. In the murky room, even the ticking had a relaxed feeling as if it was a heartbeat at rest. The breeze moved like cold water, and the aroma of the extinguished candles infused me far more than what they did in the light of day. The twilight muted the bedsheets; they, too, awaited the dawn to ignite their colours for all to see.
Something felt off. There was no movement in the next room. I kicked off the sheets and marched to his room — empty. My heartbeats raced, and I felt the beats in my wrist pump even harder.
Has he gone to the l… no, no, it’s alright.
I threw on my boots and overcoat and slammed the door shut behind me. I raced to the lake to Father, staring ahead of him. The lake glimmered with pure light of night and a broad span of charcoal black-sky splashed above it. The hollowness of the hills magnified all sounds; from stridulating crickets to whispering trees. I neared Father and caught him looking far away.
“Now, can I ask why are you here?”
“I see ghosts in the lake, Calla. Ghosts that mourn their lost loved ones, the ones murdered and tossed into the lake...”
“You’re not w-wrong, Father. There are ghosts here, not that you need to care about them. They’re dead, anyway. Most of them deserved it.” He glanced a puzzled look at me. I refrained from snorting at his poor acting. He wasn’t doing any good with it. “Let’s get back lest one of them haunts you.”
“Your mother was a beautiful person, wasn’t she?” Him suddenly reminiscing took me aback. Was he implying to her body in the lake? “It’s a shame that destiny laid out such a crude plan in front of her. I wonder who did it to her.”
I wanted to blow a hole in his head, roar into his ears and tell him it was all his doing, yet he acted so imperviously.
The next day, the town’s sheriff halted at our door for some unknown interrogation. There was some talk of a murder a few nights ago. I took hesitant steps toward the sheriff as he beamed a fanciable smile at me as I fixed myself in front of him. He must’ve been a knockout when he was young. Probably a few years older, but no blemishes adorned his face.
“Mr. Gareth?” With a nod from Father, he proceeded. “I’m Sheriff Declan and there was a murder two nights ago, and they found the body in the Cardiff Lake. As a duty, we’re asking every house for any witnesses. So, we’d like to know what you were doing two days ago. Miss, you first.”
“Calla, it is. Wasn’t at home when this supposed murder took place. I was down the block with a couple of friends.”
“What people do in winter. Roast marshmallows and stuff.”
“Calla, tell him about how you came home all wet,” Father said, and I wanted to roll my eyes.
“What? That was nothing, Father. Sheriff, my friends are crazy. They’d gone outta their minds and splashed each other with water, dragged me into it, too.”
After asking Father a few questions, Sheriff took off and Father heaved a nigh inaudible sigh.
Sheriff Declan came back soon after, as expected, but didn’t look pleased. With quick steps, he ascended the porch as I watched him from behind the curtains.
"I’m afraid, Mr. Gareth, but there’s been a disclosure of misinformation. Once again, where were you two nights ago, Miss Calla?”
“I told you everything I had to. I was out with my friends. They were fooling around, though, unlike sane adults.”
“Except your friends say they don’t remember having done anything last time. What’s going on?”
“Ha-ha! How will they remember, Sheriff? They were all drunk. Do you expect drunkards to know things crystal clear after hangovers?”
“Alright. But on another note, we’ve one issue to address. You know there’s a serial killer that hasn’t been found for a decade, right,” Declan fashioned out a folded piece of paper from his coat pocket, “she looks just like you, Miss Calla. How’s this possible?”
“Yes, how’s it possible? You just can't sketch someone and accuse somebody totally random, they’re them. So what if she looks like me?”
“Calla, what’s he talking about?” Father’s hands flew up to his chests as his eyebrows knitted together.
I ignored him and continued. “Have heard of doppelgangers, haven’t ya? Ring any bells? Either we’re doppelgangers and you’re squeezing my neck unreasonably, or the artist’s hands are at fault.”
Declan said nothing for a while. He recollected his thoughts, exchanged a glance with me and blasted off.
Father sat silently the next day. Probably guilty of what he’d done. Doom had to strike him one day or the other, and I’d make sure he didn’t escape it.
I stepped out of the house, and into the little yard to collect the clothes that’d been hang drying for too long. I knew Father was behind me, but I stood hushed.
“Do you miss Mother, Calla?” he said and settled on a bench.
“Ha! Why d’you ask? Of course, I do, more than I could ever imagine.”
“If so, why d’you kill her?”
My brain stuttered for a moment and my eyes took more light than I’d expected. What was he talking about? For all I cared, it was him.
“Are you okay?”
“I know what’s going on. Do not brainwash me, child.”
“You know you make little sense, don’t you? Are you even listening to yourself?”
“Quit playing games. I know there are no ghosts in the lake. I know exactly what you’re doing here. You always act sympathetic whenever I talk about your mother. You don’t even like her.” Father’s hands trembled and his feet wobbled, he collapsed on the ground as though the weak twigs had given up. “What have you done?” The next moment I knew was him screaming and bellowing and snatching away at his hair.
“You killed her. You, you did it.” I broke into tears and wept as if my brain were being shredded from inside. Loud, but suppressed gasps escaped my mouth. Those tears… they were outlandish. I didn’t know the last time I cried, laughed or empathized from deep inside; they were all staged. “You made me do it and I blame you for it. Whatever I’ve become today, I blame you for it. I knew you wanted to kill her, but your coward self couldn’t even talk to her secret lover. Do you understand she was in love with my colleague years younger than her when she already had a family? I tried alarming you, but you were too caught up in your stupid business.”
“W-why? I never would’ve killed the love of my life—”
“Your cowardice blindfolded you from reality. Do you not understand?”
“What about the murder nights ago?”
“I was it, Father. You’re so careless, after all. No wonder how you didn’t do a better upbringing of your child. There was no party; no friends, but the murder of your dead wife’s lover and dumping of him in the Lake along with a few others.”
“The drawing of the serial killer is like me. She is me. I am her. Call the cops.”
“I-I can’t. I can’t see my family taken away from me.”
“Dear Father, are you really deaf? Do you still not understand you’re letting your cowardice control you? You wouldn’t bother if your daughter was beaten up, kidnapped, or even sliced open. You abhor her and she does too, except she wouldn’t let her cowardice get in the way if she had to do away with you. I’ve been on the run from the cops for a decade. Your ignorance paid off well for me. Thanks to you, for once, I haven’t had to sneak out. The Lake’s afloat with a dozen heartless cadavers and skeletons...”
“And it doesn’t shy away from accommodating another place for you. Let’s get it done with.”