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The Still Lake
Son of Stump

No wind, no warmth and no smell. Only cold rolled off the still lake. Seated atop cracking cement pillars less than a mile away he took in the eerie glass specter at the base of the valley. Unconcioulsy, he rubbed the red armband she gave him two weeks ago. Then he had been a student. Now he was a master in an army of masters. 


The lake refracted the sun into his eyes causing spots to dance across his vision. Shaking his head he picked up the Leaders little red book he had laid to the side and attempted to judiciously read like a proper red guard. He would be the best. He would always be the best, for her.  


The country's father was depending on him and those like him to clear the new path for utopia. A true hero was a necessity for such a future. And she would want that of him, he knew.  


But he could not focus on the leader's little book. The ominous, mirror-like sheen of the still lake guided his eyes up. He gazed out over the valley towards it. The landscape flattened before him until the body of water became a portal into another world... 


No!  That is counter revolutionary thinking! The leader's voice barked into his head an onslaught of recriminations and the boy's face turned red with anger and self-loathing. His right arm ached as a reminder of his dedication to the cause. That morning, he, and several of his comrades from school had used hammers to decapitate over forty stone Buddhas in the countryside. Cheered on by sobbing peasants who didn’t know how to feel, he had torn a muscle in his bicep smashing the weather worn face of centuries old idols. 


There was no need for such artifacts in the new People’s Republic, he thought to himself. His torn muscle ached.  


He ran his dirty course hands over his face trying to wipe away his disorienting thoughts and the light from the lake flashed him again. A massive shadow was standing on the glass surface of the lake. He jolted forward, almost falling off the cement pillar.  


It was gone. Just another apparition of his cluttered mind. But instead of returning to the red book he allowed himself to look upon the still lake again. The shock had enlivened him and after all, there was no one else there.  


As his eyes relaxed, he drank in the odd beauty of the still lake. The shadow returned, and it was massive. Its shimmering form drank in colors pulled from the air itself. An orange behemoth walking on spine like legs. It resembled the crayfish he, as a child, had fished out of muddy riverbanks during the famine years. His stomach lurched as those memories flooded back and the crayfish behemoth reflected his nausea, growing more vicious and intimidating.  


Ancient wooden buildings began to grow from the still lake blocking the monster's path. The old styles buildings. Beautiful in their design and execution. The monster tore through them like matchsticks. The boy's nausea grew worse and the ache from the torn muscle became excruciating.  


An ancient building grew out of the shell of the crayfish beast's head. The vision was out of control now. The boy could feel bile rising in his stomach. 


A man walked out onto the deck of building perched upon the beast's head. A man in a grey suit, a receding hairline and a puffy face with a mole below his lower lip. The leader! Just as he appeared on the red book! 


The leader pointed to the ancient buildings below and the giant crayfish smashed them to kindling. The boy watched his hallucination with horror from the hillside as his people's past was destroyed. The zeal he had felt destroying the Buddha was not present. Only sadness and horror.  His arm was in terrible pain now.  


He clenched his eyes shut, fighting back the tears that wanted to flow forth. What was happening to him? This had to be madness. The leaders' actions were for the people but what his imagination let him see was horror. 


Gradually he opened his eyes to look again upon the still lake. Again, it lay in the valley serene and unperturbed. That monstrous trick of nature. He climbed down from his cement perch and steeled himself. One day, I will drain this lake, he thought to himself. I’ll exorcise the land and utopia will come.  


The boy left the valley. In years to come he would return as an engineer with a promising career in politics on the horizon. He brought an army of workers, machines and plans to drain the lake.  


When the day came that the lake waters were channeled into a man-made river to nowhere his right arm burned with pain.  

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