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Richard Laymon - The Lake

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Richard Laymon - The Lake
The Lake
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Описание книги "The Lake"

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If he catches up, he’ll kill me.

She couldn’t hear him. He must be far behind, but she didn’t dare slow down.

She pumped her arms, threw her legs out quick and far, felt the breeze in her face.

I’m really moving. He’ll never get me.

She looked back.

He was three strides behind her, a white silent phantom grinning in the moonlight.


Deana lunged to the right, leaving the path, her only hope to lose him in the trees. The underbrush tried to snare her feet. But it’ll slow him down, too, she told herself. She jumped over a dead branch, hurled herself through a narrow gap between two trunks, made a quick turn, and scurried up a slope. Near the top, the slope became very steep. She clawed at weeds for handholds. Her feet slipped on the dewy ground.

A quick tug at her waist. Clutching the weeds, she twisted her head around. He was beneath her, a hand clenched on the hem of her skirt.

“Ho ho ho,” he said, and yanked.

Deana clung to the weeds. With a raspy tearing sound, the skirt released her. It whipped down her legs, jerked her toes from the ground. The man cried out. Skirt in his hand like a dark banner, he flew backward and tumbled to the bottom of the slope.

Deana scampered to the top. Panting for air, she leaned over the edge and saw him start to climb again. She stepped back. The forest floor was dappled with moonlight. She found a fallen limb and picked it up. Raising it over her shoulder, she crouched near the edge.

Seconds passed. She listened to the rustling sounds of his climbing. Then his head appeared. He had lost his chef’s cap in the fall.

He had the cleaver clamped in his teeth.

Deana brought the limb down with all her strength. It cracked against the top of his head. Losing his hold on the weeds, he dropped backward. His arms waved. His back hit the slope and his legs kicked up at the darkness.

He somersaulted down the slope.

He was still falling when Deana threw aside her limb and rushed away. As she ran, she wondered if she should have followed him to the bottom and hit him until he couldn’t get up again—until he was dead. Too late for that. But maybe the single blow had been enough.

She couldn’t count on that.

At least she had given herself some time. If she could just find a hiding place…

Climb a tree, she thought.

Slowing down, she glanced at the nearby trees. One had a fork in the trunk that looked low enough to reach. She rushed over to it. Leaping, she grabbed the thick branch and pulled herself up. She wrapped the trunk with her bare legs. Writhing, she hugged the branch. She twisted, kicked, hooked a foot over the crotch of the trunk, and finally managed to squirm onto the branch. Straddling it, she let her legs hang down while she scanned the woods.

Her pursuer was nowhere in sight. Maybe he still lay at the bottom of the hill, unconscious or dead. If the blow with the stick hadn’t done it, maybe he broke his neck in the fall or struck his head on a rock.

Tipping back her head, Deana looked at the branches above her. If she got high enough, she would be safe. He would never be able to spot…

Cold fingers wrapped her ankles.

Her breath burst out.

He was beneath her, grinning up.

“Now I gotcha,” he said in a low voice.

Impossible! Where had he come from?

“No! Please!” she gasped.

He pulled, forcing her down hard against the branch between her legs. Deana shoved at the branch with both hands, trying to ease the hurt.

He swung by her ankles, his weight a torture, his momentum scraping her on the bark. Blood spilled from her, splattering his face. Gazing down, she saw a split crawl out of her pubic hair, widening as it climbed to her navel. Her sweater was gone. She was naked, and the fissure was moving toward her chest. She felt the thickness of the branch tearing her insides, driving into her like a wedge. Her rib cage broke open. And still he swung beneath her…

In horror, she saw her breasts on each side of the branch. When it reaches my neck, my head will pop off. “Please stop!” she shrieked, and woke up gasping.

Deana was in bed, in her own room. Wiping sweat from her eyes, she looked at the alarm clock. Almost three o’clock in the morning. She was tangled in sweaty sheets.

She unwrapped herself and sat up. Her sodden nightgown clung to her body. She peeled it off and tossed it to the floor. The air felt good on her hot skin.

Crossing her legs, she held on to her knees and took deep breaths. Her heart began to slow down. She remembered the nightmare vividly. A strange nightmare—such a horrible, distorted version of what happened that night.

If only the reality, too, had turned out to be a nightmare.


In her mind, she saw the car carrying him through the night, smashing him against the tree. She shivered at the memory and wrapped her arms across her chest.

According to the police, Allan had died almost immediately from the massive injuries. But Deana hadn’t known that until later, while she was waiting in the police station.

Fleeing through the woods, she had ached to return to him, get him into the car and rush him to a hospital. But the other was back there, pursuing her. So she raced on, then hid for a long time high in a tree, and later made her way down to a road where a teenaged couple on their way back from Stinson Beach gave her a lift to Mill Valley. She didn’t even ask them to take her back to the theater parking area.

For all she knew, then, Allan might still be alive. But the man might be there, waiting, and Deana couldn’t ask these strangers to risk their lives. She was afraid for herself, too. She had escaped, and the thought of returning filled her with terror.

It wouldn’t have done any good, going back. She knew that now, but the guilt remained and would probably be with her for a long time. The fear, too.

Sleep had been a refuge. She’d slept through most of the day after getting home, and gone to bed early last night. She wished she could go back to sleep now, but she felt wide awake and she was afraid of the dream. What if it came back?

What if it returned every night?

And maybe that other nightmare she’d had, had been a portent of things to come. It was too spooky to think about.

Swinging her legs off the bed, she reached up and turned on a lamp. She crossed her room to the dresser, took out a jersey nightgown, and put it on. The clinging fabric felt good against her chilled skin. She left her room and made her way down the dark hallway to the bathroom. After using the toilet, she returned.

With pillows behind her back, she sat in bed and opened a book. As she started to read, a quiet sound from the hallway made her stiffen. She darted her eyes to the door. A moment later, her mother appeared.

“How are you doing?” Mom asked.

She shrugged.

“Want to talk?”


Mom sat near the end of the bed, turning sideways to face Deana, a leg drawn up beneath her nightgown. “Trouble sleeping?” she asked.

“I had this lousy rotten nightmare.”

“Rough, huh?”

“It wasn’t fun. He caught me. Split me right up the middle.” Trying to smile, she drew a finger up the front of her nightshirt. “The mind plays funny tricks.”

“Hilarious tricks,” Mom said.

“Does it get any better?”

Mom shrugged.

“How did you…cope with it when my father was killed?”

“I guess you helped pull me out of it. When I found out I was pregnant, it gave me something new to worry about, so I stopped dwelling on the past.”

“Maybe I should run out and get pregnant.”

“I don’t recommend it.” Lowering her eyes, Mom frowned. “There was something else, too. Your father…It’s hard to think of him as your father…The young man who got me pregnant…”

“Charlie Payne,” Deana said.

“I didn’t know him very well. I didn’t actually love him. That must’ve made a difference. I took Charlie’s death pretty hard. I mean, I was there and it was partly my fault, so I had plenty of guilt to deal with, but I know it would’ve been a lot worse if I’d actually loved him.”

“What is there, a family curse or something? Look at us. Both of us lost boyfriends—lovers. You were eighteen, I’m eighteen. It’s kind of weird, don’t you think?”

“There isn’t any curse.” Something about the tone of Mom’s voice made Deana wonder.

“Just bad luck?”

“We were both taking chances, honey. Going where maybe we shouldn’t have been. It doesn’t take a curse.” Mom patted Deana’s leg through the blankets and stood up. “The important thing is not to blame yourself for what happened.”

“Not so easy.”

“I know. Don’t I know.” Bending over, she kissed Deana. “See you in the morning, honey.”

As she headed for the door, Deana said, “You’ll come with me to the funeral, won’t you?”

“Of course. We’ll go out tomorrow and buy you something appropriate.”


The mother’s face was hidden behind a black veil, but she felt the eyes on her, watching her, hating her. The preacher, standing beside the grave, spoke calmly of the sure and certain hope of resurrection. The mother, voiceless, damned her.

It’s not my fault. Please.

“And so,” the preacher said, “as the coffin sinks slowly into the ground, we bid a fond farewell…”

The mother started to move. She walked around the end of the grave, slowly.

Stay back.

No, don’t point at me. Oh, my God!

She took a step backward as the mother approached, but bumped into someone behind her.

“You! You did this to him. You filthy whore!” The pointing hand opened and darted, smacking her face. “You murdered him with your lust, you whore! Monster!” To the others, she shouted, “Look at her! Look at the monster! This is what murdered my boy!” The hands clawed at her, ripped her blouse open, tore it from her shoulders, grabbed her naked breasts.

Crying out in agony, she squirmed and tried to pry the fingers loose.

You should be dead, not him! Not my boy!”

“No! Let go!”

“You killed him, whore!”

She was dragged forward by her breasts, whimpering. Then the mother twisted and flung her. She hit the edge of the grave with her knees. Wildly flailing her arms, she caught her balance. But a shove from behind sent her down.

That’s where you belong!”

She fell and fell.

She wanted to scream out her terror, but she couldn’t get a breath.

Why is it so deep?

It always is.

She’d been here before. She realized that now. Familiar territory, this bottomless grave.

Only, it’s not bottomless.

She knew that. And she remembered what was below. Choking out a whimper, she flapped her arms and kicked, desperate to stop, to take flight, to get the hell out of here.

Pitch dark. Grave dark.

But she could see in the dark.

The coffin didn’t have a lid. There had been a lid when it was lowered, but not anymore. He wore a necktie and brown suit. His feet were bare. His face, as pale as chalk, glowed beneath her.

Okay now, don’t, she thought as she fell closer. Please don’t.

Oh, but he will.

Oh shit he will he always does but they were dreams before and this is real and he’s really dead so he won’t open his eyes this time, not this time, or reach up like a goddamn zombie to grab me, not this time.

The holes where his eyes had been opened wide.

He reached up.


Leigh heard her voice and opened her eyes as she thrust herself away from him. Below was her powder-blue pillow. She was on her hands and knees, gasping.

It was a dream. Of course.

Thank God.

And thank God morning was here.

Still braced on stiff arms, Leigh lowered her head.

Scratch one nightgown, she thought.

It used to happen a lot. But the last time, Deana was about four.

Talk about Allan’s funeral, that’s what did it. The last thing before sleep.

Leigh rolled off the bed. When she stood, the nightgown slipped the rest of the way down. She stepped out of it, picked it up, and inspected the damage. The gauzy fabric was split down the middle, breast to belly, and one of the straps had been wrenched from its seam. One for the rag bag.

No, better get rid of it. You don’t want Deana seeing it. Deana didn’t know about the dreams. Or about the funeral of Charlie Payne. And finding out wouldn’t do her any good.

Leigh looked down at herself.

She groaned.

Edith Payne didn’t grab her for real in nightmare-land and do this. Leigh had done it to herself.

But this was a new twist.

Not even in the old days when the dream came regularly did she ever wake up to find fingernail marks on her breasts.

Tiny little crescent moons.

They looked a lot like the ones Edith Payne gave her the day of the funeral.


When Deana woke up, she heard bathwater running. It was unusual for Mom to take a bath first thing in the morning.

She remembered the shopping trip. To buy a black dress. For tomorrow’s funeral.

Her fresh, morning eagerness collapsed. Her stomach went jittery and she knew she had to get up fast or she would lie here immobilized, sinking.

She swung her legs down, sat on the edge of the bed, and wondered if she could force herself to go running. She always went running as soon as she got up. She loved it—the peacefulness of the quiet streets, the smell and feel of the morning air, the way it felt when she was pushing to make it up a slope, and especially when she reached the top and there was level road ahead and she would really go all out.

Night. The woods.

Deana went numb.

She saw herself racing through the darkness, dodging trees. She felt the terror.

You weren’t going to think about that.

It was the running that saved me.

She rubbed her thighs, trying to make the goose bumps go down. As she rubbed, she stayed away from the bruises and scrapes she got shinnying up the tree.

I will go running, she decided. She had to do something, and maybe it would wipe her mind clean, at least for a while.

Pulling the nightshirt over her head, she stepped to the dresser. She put the nightshirt away and opened the drawer where she kept her running clothes. The faded red shorts, neatly folded on top, were Allan’s. His gym shorts from Redwood High. Deana lifted them from the drawer and held them up by the waistband.

He wore them that day on the Dipsey Trail. They were too small for him, and the seat ripped when he squatted to catch his breath. It happened at the top of those endless stairs. They weren’t even out of Mill Valley by then, and still had miles to go before reaching Stinson Beach—including a stretch through Muir Woods that was certain to be crowded with tourists. When the ripping sound came, he reached back and felt around. “Uh-oh,” he said. “We’d better go back.”

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