Volume 1 Issue 35: P.S.A.

Lake Rumour

Scott-Patrick Mitchell

Don’t visit Lake Rumour, The Elders say. Time runs funny there.  

This warning they tell their children. And their children’ s children. There’s something off about that place. No fish live in the lake. The dark water‘s only good for breeding mosquitoes. And tussock rushes.  The local magpies keep camp at Lake Rumour, deep seated nests balancing in the fork of gum trees. They gleefully swoop unwelcome visitors.

They’re protecting something, The Elders say. Keeping people safe.

The Traditional name of Lake Rumour was a warning itself. The young Bennett boy learnt that the hard way when he came back from camping there one night. He was drenched, pale, a blood-stained handprint on each shoulder. A monster, he stammered, shaking, it tried to pull me into the lake. He was never the same again, that kid.  

You see, Lake Rumour’s Traditional name translates into a creature with bloody hands, skin bubbling, dragging its leg behind it. See? It’s a warming.

Sapphy never listened to the rumours about Lake Rumour. Her: eyes so blue they’d see right through you. Her: skin bronzed; spirit fearless. Her: friend of all the magpies. They welcomed her at Lake Rumour. Never once swooped Sapphy. They would sing intricate songs in exchange for meal worms. They loved her. She loved them.

Something magic about that girl, the town folk said.  Something off about her too.

Sapphy was unobtainable. Not that the local boys didn’t try: oh, they tried. Made fools of themselves trying. Sapphy could run, jump, throw a punch just as well as any of them. They learnt not to mess with Sapphy.

But she found a friend in Justin. Him with the pancake coloured hair and inextricably sorrowful eyes. Nobody spoke to him, for fear of catching his sadness.

Something tragic about that boy, the town folk said. Something off about him too.

But how Sapphy made him laugh, there, on the shore of Lake Rumour. Town folk could hear their laughter peel across the fields. It made the town boys jealous. Rumours blossomed like bruised egos.

The day Justin ran into town, screaming, hands covered in blood, the men and boys jeered around him, demanded to know what he’d done. She fell, he cried, trying to put a baby magpie back in its nest. They dragged him out to Lake Rumour, couldn’t find the body. So they took care of him themselves.

They broke his leg, covered him in petrol, set him alight. Watched him fall, backward, and drown in Lake Rumour, thrashing.  Then they went back to their lives, never spoke of it again.

But still, from time to time, local kids visit Lake Rumour. Some stay the night. But they never come back the same: eyes wide, pulse thick and urgent like magpie wings, swooping. They all tell the same tale: a monster, skin bubbling, blood covered hands, leg limp and dragging, trying to drag them backwards into Lake Rumour.

Don’t visit Lake Rumour, The Elders say. Time runs funny there.

Scott-Patrick Mitchell (SPM) is a West Australian performance poet and writer. SPM’s work appears in Southerly, Island, Westerly and Cordite, plus anthologies such as Contemporary Australian Poetry.

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