You do not recognise the cabin by the water
rating: +38+x

New York, 2019.

Winston Carter stood before his window and swirled his glass.

He was on the top floor of a very tall building. His window stretched from floor to ceiling, making his room seamlessly flow into the air and city around it. Below, the cars crawled like ants across the streets. The people scurrying like their aphid livestock, uncertain and frail. The sky was covered in winter clouds. Winston took a large sip.

The room was grey. His suit was grey. The walls, floor and carpet were grey. A single abstract painting hung on the opposite side of the room; it meant nothing to Winston except the absence of meaning. His office was large, empty, marked only by a brown desk facing away from the window. It was a room which oozed intimidation.

He was a man of few and tasteful interests. Swarms of underlings would pass through those doors every day, hoping for favour or promotion. He would look at them. He would consider them, the shape of their words and the structure of their mind, and make decisions.

Every day he rose, pushed back the blankets, blinked, and began to move. His wife would keep sleeping, as thin light poured through the curtains. She had her own life. He would arrive at work. He would address his secretary and underlings in a gravelly, deep tone; a friendly one, that put people at a sort of ease, but which never undermined his authority.

How many faces does a man need? His staff knew one face. His wife knew another. His mistress, perhaps, knew the truest one, but are one's darkest parts more true merely because they're dark? His child knew him as a smiling face who brought presents, and who would occasionally ruffle his hair.

Everything existed in a time of perfect order. His tower seemed to rise, yearly, higher and higher. It would look down at the others. And he stood at the top of it, staring down, always staring down.

There was one thing, however, which existed outside of this clean-cut existence. A guilty pleasure. He liked to read the crackpot letters. Every company, every CEO got them- the letters from conspiracy theorists, or alien abductees, or socialists. His staff would comb through them, select the cream of the crop, and send them up to him to have a laugh at.

He sat down, and grabbed a couple from his desk. They were hilarious. Take this one, for instance-

-and they're coming for us. i know i sound mad but the liazards are COMING FOR US and we have to do something. youre the last one whos not oen of them i know it i know it and your have to help us stop them before they get to the predient-

Or this one:

-for when you and your kind will fall. Your abuses, your harmful attacks on the working classes will not stand. You are a monster, and those you stamp on for the sake of your own greed will fall. Capital should not rest in the hands of the-

And then there was this one:

You do not recognise the bodies in the water.

Winston frowned. Strange. Why was this one blank? Maybe his secretary had inserted a piece of printer paper by mistake. He shrugged, and threw it into a bin.

He returned to his work. A clock beat out the time, ticking, ticking, ticking, an endless tattoo of infernal regularity. Behind it lay a wall, thick and full of the lumpen sod of concrete.


California, 1978

"…and that's why Reagan's just not going to be the right choice. I don't like Carter- the other Carter, I mean-" he paused for laughter "-any more than you do, but if we're ever going to bring about socialism, it's not going to be on the backs of a guy who makes capitalism seem palatable."

Win Carter (he insisted on Win to everyone) smiled at the encouraging nods he recieved from others. He was relaxed, and happy. It was another night at Stone's place; they'd been swapping venues for all through the summer, a ready supply of semi-illicit booze passing through the dwellings of the great and the good.

Stone's house was a flat, modernist design, perfectly positioned at the edge of a cliff-face. His balcony was a massive great thing, stretching out on stilts over the ocean. Stone threw the best parties. It was a wonderful place to relax. A great red sun was setting over the ocean, and the light reflected up at the house.

God, it was good to be alive.

He was stretched out on a lounger, in a little circle of the friends he'd made in the last couple of years. They all looked at him in awe. Win Carter, valedictorian, law student at Chicago, the brightest mind among them. He secretly knew that he wasn't, of course- Simon Kells over there was a genius physicist, and Mary King knew twice as much about the legal system than he'd ever know- but he was charismatic, and ardent, and managed to temper his radicalism with realism. Nobody had to know about what went on behind his eyes. Nobody did.

He took another puff of the joint, and passed it to the guy on his left. He didn't know him; he was tall, dark haired, a slightly mocking smile over dark skin. Didn't look as impressed as the others. Win frowned, ever so slightly.

"Hey, man, don't think we've met before."

The dark-haired man smiled. "I'm Sam. Sam Cruz. Good to meet you."

"Yeah, and, uh, who do you know here, man?"

"He's with me", piped up Simon Kells. "Friend of mine from Northwestern, majoring in Chem like me."

"Ah, well-"

"I agree with you, by the way." Sam's voice was warm and deep; it gave a natural substance to everything he said. "You're absolutely right- we have to suck it up and do something unpleasant sometimes. It was well put."

Win smiled, and relaxed. This guy seemed OK. "So what do you think about what's going down in Iran…?"

The setting sun gradually lowered and lowered until it disappeared beneath the sealine. The others gradually drifted off, dancing and partying inside as the temperature began to dip, but many still hung around the balcony, chatting and making out. Sam and Win kept talking long into the night, a deep and fascinated conversation.

Sam was clearly a better mind than him. He had read more, seen more, knew people. He was a little vague about stuff, but that was OK; Win had always been a bit more theoretical than practical with his politics. Simon was the only one who was left; dozing off on his lounger next to them. Simon was his friend- his best friend, if he was honest. They'd known one another for years… he forgot how they met. School, was it? He didn't know. It didn't matter.

"Man, this is great. It's good to talk so someone who really gets it, you know? I like Simon, and the rest of them, but I'm never sure if they quite understand what I'm getting at.

"Yeah". A nervous grin was playing on Sam's face. The light of the moon was rippling on the water. It was a strange colour. To Win, it looked almost black.

"There's just one thing, Win- just something I want to check."

"Uh, what's that?"

"Do you recognise the bodies in the water?"

Win frowned. "I, uh… I don't understand what you mean."

He could see Sam visibly relaxing; his smile becoming wider, more genuine. "No", he said. "And you never will."

Strong arms grabbed him from behind, pinning him down. Kells' arms. He struggled, but he couldn't yell out; a sickly rag had been shoved over his mouth, blurring his vision and forcing his eyes shut. The last thing he saw was Sam reaching into his pocket and taking out two tiny capsules, but his eyelids were so heavy and Kells' arms so strong and all he wanted to do was slee-


New York, 2019

The rain was grey. It battered against the windows, lashing it with strange currents. A fleet of umbrellas swarmed below, tiny spheres moving towards and away from one another, following their own strange pathways. It reminded Winston of that British mathematician's experiment- the Game of Life, or something. Spiralling in formal but unpredictable patterns, all little dots on a screen.

Winston swivelled the chair back. Lots to do. Important work. He picked up the memo on the top of the pile and read:

Just wanted to check something with you real quick: you do not recognise the bodies in the water.

Thanks.

S.C.

Winston frowned. S.C…. why was that familiar? Someone he'd met in his student days? No… was it some place in ███████? He didn't remember. It was so long ago.

God, those were halcyon days. He, Simon, Mary… but Simon had killed himself last year, and Mary had married some finance dunce in Washington. He didn't remember much of why they were halcyon days, but his earlier years had never come to him very well. They weren't important.

This was strange. Why had this person given him this paper? It didn't make any sense. What did he want to check? A colon, a blank page, and then a "thanks."

Where did he know that name from? Was it high school? He hadn't thought about high school in so long, that he-

…Where had he gone to high school?

Winston sat back in his chair. He couldn't remember anything. He remembered elementary and middle school. He remembered being excited about going to high school, the local high school. It was called- was called-

Nothing.

Three years of his life and he couldn't remember it.

He stared again at the memo. Something about it was wrong.

The rain continued to pour outside. Pitter-patter-pitter-patter. It was such an ordinary, homely sound, while he was warm inside. He didn't want to go outside.

He pressed a button on the intercom.

"Dolores? Listen, could you get me the, er, I think it was the brown box with the black label. Should be in the storage cupboard at the end of the corridor. Thanks.

He sat back, as he heard Dolores' footsteps patting past his door. He looked at the rain. The water slipped, slided, obscuring the bodies walking below. What was wrong with him? His head was splitting open.

He'd arose, as normal. He'd eaten a bowl of shredded wheat. He'd dressed, kissed his wife, said goodbye to his son. His driver had taken him from his immense driveway, and they'd slid through the streets. They were angular, functional, useful. He liked that. A small part of him, buried deep within, had ticked slightly upwards.

Nothing had changed, and yet he felt that everything had changed. He stared outside. The sound of a plane roared, distantly, into his ear. It grated. It never usually grated.

There was something about the water. Something about… a cabin…


Northwest Territories, 1987

The view was gorgeous. It was full of luscious greys and deep greens. Northern Canada was a wild and reckless place to be hiking, but the two of them were old hands at the pasttime. They'd been friends since childhood and had been hiking together for the better part of a decade, and they loved it.

Winston (sometimes Win, but only to his friends) crested the top of the hill, and sat down. He was a successful man; still youthful, bright, friendly. He was a junior partner at a law firm in Chicago, but he was considering a move to New York. His was a figure which exuded solidity, intelligence, confidence. Nobody asked about whether his mind worked in the same way.

His companion was different; smaller, quieter, twitchier. He was by far the most intelligent of the two, but you wouldn't think that by looking at him, or by hearing his uncertain speeches. Winston had never quite been able to understand what it was Simon Kells did, except that his income was great and that he was surprisingly young for his position. A "director" of some kind- but directing what?

It didn't matter. They rarely discussed work. Last week, Winston had helped dissolve a sub-company with over 200 employees for a major corporation. He'd had to sit there, smiling, while a man who'd lost his pension ranted at him. Did it eat him up inside? He didn't know. He didn't know what that looked like. But he was definitely getting more practised at his smile. More numbed to it, too. He didn't want to discuss it.

"It's a mighty fine view all right, Simon." Below the mountain was an enormous lake, stretching out over the tundra. Its glisten reminded Winston of his youth, but he didn't quite know why.

"It's a good one. I'm sorry I couldn't see you for longer, Win- got to fly to Greenland. New project that, uh, work is setting up."

Winston frowned. What could Kells possibly— no, no, he wasn't thinking about that today. They'd just hiked for miles on end to get here; this was a day for relaxing. Pleasantness.

But…

"Ah, don't worry about it, Simon. These things happen. Listen. There's something I want to talk to you about."

Simon looked up, mildly, staring at Winston. Winston couldn't see his expression. He kept looking at the lake.

"Are you alright, Winston? Everything OK at home?" The water continued to ripple, gently.

"I've been doing some digging. Some… stuff in old files, that isn't where it should be. I think something might be…"

"Oh, you worry too much. You've always been a worrier." Simon was relaxed, his hands behind his head. Groves of trees waved all around.

Nobody came around here. It was remote; it had taken them hours to hike from the village, but it was worth it. The silver lake, the trees, the-

"Where did I go to high school, Simon?"

Simon bolted upright. He began to move a hand towards his pocket, but Winston didn't notice. His eyes were fixed on the lake. It was a pity he'd never learnt to swim.

"I can't remember. The name keeps going away. I keep trying to remember… I called up my mother. She doesn't know, either. I don't remember anything, except… I think there was a lake. Somewhere. But I don't-"

Winston was aware of Simon holding something. He turned, and saw a small rubber instrument in Simon's hand. It was pointed at him, and gave off a gentle hum.

"Why can't you just forget? This is the third time. I can't protect you forever, Winston. My influence has limits."

"What are-"

The lake rippled. It was not the same lake, and was not in the same country, but it was a lake. Its shape, construction, features left behind a ripple of all other lakes. A shared form, each reminding the others of something else.

Did anyone else survive?


New York, 2019

Nothing. There was nothing. Three days had passed, and not one bit of information.

He'd checked his past, his present, company documents, all the rest of it. Nobody knew where he had gone to high school. Elementary school, middle school, college- but nothing else. Just a hole, which nobody thought it worth commenting upon.

The rain had stopped, finally. The city was sodden. It was evening, and the sky was dark. The people and their cars shined up at him, illuminated by the lights of shop windows and mobile phones. A place alive, reaching, chaotic. His light was a tinny little thing, shining from a penthouse office and obscured by those below.

He sat back in his chair. He swilled his whisky. It was the same glass; nobody had taken it away. Where was Dolor- oh. It was Saturday.

He sighed. Stubble was growing under his chin. He'd told his wife he was out of town, at a conference; he'd told his mistress that he had to be with his wife but it's OK, baby, it's fine, I'll come see you Monday, OK?

Lying was so easy. It was all a matter of people management. The truth was just another reality, another idea planted in the brain.

A small white envelope was lying on his desk. He hadn't seen it before. He picked it up and opened it.

There was a small pill bottle, with two pills in; a green one, and a blue one. And a small note was wrapped around it.

Dear Winston,

Today is the day of my retirement. And I've done something very wrong indeed. Would you like to hear about it?

You've been going through the cycle again. Kells told me, before he died, that he'd been seeing the signs. He didn't want his friend to be taken in, so we cooked up our own arrangement. He was motivated by concern, but I wasn't. Termination just wasn't enough for me.

There was a cabin, by the water. Don't you remember? You couldn't swim. You hid in there, while they all went in. You were given life because of your deficiencies. And tell me, Winston, what do you have to show for it? What are you? What exists within your mind?

I see nothing.

If you want to remember, forever, take the green pill. It'll show you what we took.

S.C.

He didn't know who S.C. was. Who else had known Kells? Someone at his work, maybe… that's where they said he did it. Right through the eye.

He looked at the pills. They could mean anything. They could kill him. And did he really need to know?

He tapped the green pill onto his hand. No water. Whisky would do- bottle was almost dry, but pour, pour, pour, that's right. That was right. Shouldn't take pills with alcohol, but he didn't care. Maybe some rules were made to be broken.

He swallowed. He waited.

Nothing happened for a good long minute. He began to worry. What had he taken? Why the hell had he done tha-

YOU DO NOT RECOGNISE THE BODIES IN THE WATER

He shot back, almost hitting his window. Scrawled on every surface, on his desk, walls, window, on his face, on his hands, the door, the-

YOU DO NOT RECOGNISE THE BODIES IN THE WATER YOU DO NOT RECOGNISE THE CABIN BY THE WATER YOU NEVER WENT TO THE LAKE

It was in his head. All the memories. Birchwood High- how did he forget Birchwood High? And the- the field trip-

THERE IS NO LAKE IN ████████ COUNTY YOU NEVER WENT TO THE LAKE YOU DO NOT RECOGNISE THE BODIES IN THE WATER YOU DO NOT RECOGNISE THE CABIN BY THE WATER

Winston Carter collapsed, convulsing, on the floor. The cleaners had all gone home. They'd find him, on Monday morning, gibbering out of his mind. He'd keep saying the same thing, over and over and over again.

"Go back to the lake."

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