The night was dark, the moon shy. The world was empty after the entire day’s noisy bustle. The cool wind ruffled the leaves of the trees, filling the air with rustling noise. It was only fitting that the silent life could finally vent out it’s fury. Each leaf seemed to scream aloud in pique, with the wind determined to carry the message as far as it could. The ambient silence only amplified the ruckus, and the wind hissed along in consternation. The night was raging.
Sleep had managed to douse the potential listeners, but there was one listener, awake, on whom sleep had given up, or maybe he had given up on sleep. He was no stranger to this umbrage, he heard it every night, felt it every night. The night’s rage was a part of his schedule, but tonight felt a little uneasy. The night seemed even more vexed than usual. He had learnt to live with the noise, even enjoy it now, after hours and hours of fright. He got to his nightly penance, a two mile long trudge on the jungle floor, barefoot.
The wind picked up, finally finding a listener. The wind roared and the trees swayed, and he tried to walk against the roar and bawl. The leaves shrieked even more loudly, surprised as every night with this man’s obstinate ritual. Every night he would wage a war against their disquiet, face their wrath to trudge to a lake nobody else knows about. A lake they were supposed to be guardians of. A lake that no one knew about or had managed to reach. Except him.
His repeated success in managing to get past their fury only resented them further, and each passing night, they tried harder to stop him. Tonight was the night he would be stopped in his tracks, tonight was when he would pay for his repetitive excursions against their will. Tonight was the night, when he would finally join them. Even the moon decided to show up, marveling at the man’s fight.
The man moved ahead, slowly but steadily, putting one firm foot forward at a time. The wind lashed against him, threatening to rip away every hair on his head and the skin off his skull. He never understood why the forces opposed him, all he did was go to the lake and look into it’s water, and wait for dawn. Years ago, he had heard that the lake was magical, and it’s still waters could show you your deepest wishes, and if you desired them with absolute purity, it could even fulfill them. The water had shown him nothing but the pitch black of it’s seemingly bottomless self, and occasionally, if the moon decided to be friendly, his own tired old face.
Why then, did he go to the lake every night? Surely the magic was a hoax, the journey futile? But he still found himself taking on the guardians of the lake every night. He had no idea why he did that. He was devastatingly alone, devoid of a purpose in life, until he had heard about this lake. He then made the lake his purpose, but after discovering it years ago, he still could not let go of it.
The wind had become a tempest, and the lower branches of the closely knit trees began swinging at him. It was when that happened he realized that he was close, almost too close, that the trees and the wind were trying desperate measures. It won’t be long, like every night, that they would let him reach the lake in countenance.
He put his head ahead, and with one final push, moved into the clearing. All of a sudden the wind dropped and the noise settled. He had reached the center of the storm. He fell onto the lake bank, feet bleeding, tired than ever before. After catching his breath, he looked up, and let out a scream of shock.
There was no lake. The place was the same, he could have sworn, but where once the lake was, now was a barren piece of land. Bewildered, he looked around, trying to make sense of whatever was happening around him. Everything was the same, like every night, just the lake had vanished.
He walked towards the land where the lake once was, but weary. He now had confirmation that the lake was magic, but how and what did that magic do, he had no clue. He noticed a region marked by queer particles, like someone had murdered the lake and left a chalk trail around it’s body. As noisy as the shell of the lake area was, the core was eerily quiet.
He hesitatingly put a foot beyond the marking, and found it firm. He then closed his eyes in apprehension, and put his second foot inside.
He gently opened his eyes after a few minutes, and looked straight at a lady. He recognized her as the one he wanted dearly, but one he never had courage opening up to. He thought that this was his eternal desire. Before he could say a word, the lady changed appearance.
She now looked like his late mother, whom he hadn’t seen for the most of his life. Staggered, he froze, unable to think or move. He tried to move towards her, but his feet were lead. Tears streaming in his eyes, he stretched out a hand towards her..
The lady changed shape again. Now she was his sister. And again. Again, and again and again. Each time she took the form of someone who he wanted to be with and be for but couldn’t. Then she started showing him his wishes, dead and unfulfilled. She then showed him his failures. Each passing form made him writhe even more in agony. He tried to scream but no sound came out. He tried to run but couldn’t move. He tried to close his eyes but he could still see things with his eyes closed.
He wept and wept, begging the lady to stop, wishing for death, wishing that he had never found the lake, wishing that the windstorm would have killed him. He writhed and cringed, tried to tear himself apart, pulled his hair our and gnashed his teeth in, when finally it stopped.
He had no courage left, and lay on his back, exhausted and dying. Each form the lady showed had sucked the reason out of his life. With every form, the lady had snatched a hitherto unknown factor to him as to why he made the journey to the lake every night. Transformation by transformation, she had shown him what he truly desired – love, acceptance, and success. But that comes at a cost, he realized. Knowing what he desired truly meant that he was wishing to be reunited with his loved ones, in a place where all his wishes would be fulfilled and he would have the success he deserved. Little did he know, he desired death.
Now he knew why no living man had found the lake before. Now he knew why the wind and the trees didn’t want him here. Everyone who found the lake had desires vested in the past, as reparations or regrets. The ones whose desires were held in the future had something or someone to live for. They needed no lake.
The lake was magic. It showed him his desires. And it also fulfilled them.
He felt water beneath him, and could slowly feel it rising. He made no efforts to move. Instead, he smiled, truest one he had in years, and waited. Waited to drown and finally fulfill his desire. He waited, to finally join the trees into warning any traveler searching for the lake, to convince them into trying to live.