When I was a girl, my father would take me out on the lake on Saturday mornings. He would fish while I drew. It was the most peaceful, meaningful thing of my summers. When he died, just after I turned eleven, I still went out and sat in his boat until the sun set. My mother thought I was ridiculous, but I felt close to him—in the only way I knew.
And one day, when I was out sitting alone under the clouds, I felt like I could feel him close. I looked to the trees in the distance, then to the sky; and then I looked to the water and felt a strange pull on my mind. There was something calling to me from below the water, but from my position, all I could see was the reflection f the world I knew. There were bushes in the reflection, clouds, birds and my boat. Still, something called to me.
Reaching my hand into the water and feeling the coolness, I realized it wasn’t quite as wet as I expected. In fact, when I pulled my hand out, it was completely dry. I examined my skin, and then looked to the water once more. My father had told me how magical the lake was, but to never go in. But then, I could hear the call.
“Dahlia,” a voice spoke from beneath the boat. I leaned over the edge again and looked into the water. Then, without thought, I dipped my head beneath and found that I could breath. I dove in slowly, slipping into the world I could never see, and found that the upside down became right as I swam deep. Suddenly, I was on my feet and in a place where light was cool and blue, and darkness blazing red. The moon above was tinted violet and the sun had long gone.
“Dahlia, dear,” the voice spoke again. This time, I knew it was the voice of my father.
“Daddy?” I called out, but couldn’t find him. I ran all over the foreign place, bumping into creatures I had never known could exist. Some were tall and thin, backs hunched in strange twisted curves. Their faces deep and sullen, their eyes nearly gone in the shadows. Other beings were colorful and quick, skipping from one place to another, almost as though time was not a reality.
“Dahlia, come quick,” he called out from a distant black rose bush. I could see his silhouette beneath the ever-changing glow of the neon stars. I ran to him, but when I came close, I felt that I had to stop. I couldn’t get any closer. “Dahlia, dear,” he said as his voice grew rough. “You must pull me from this moor. Take me home.”
“I don’t… I can’t,” I argued, my youthful voice broken and weak. He grew angry at me and stepped out into the light. His skin was cloaked in sludge, his eyes black like the night. He began to charge, running at me with arms out and hands clinching.
“Take me from this waste!” he shouted, but I ran fast. I looked to the sky and tried to find my boat, somehow believing it would be there. But then I remembered how everything upside down became right. I looked to the trees and the brush in the distance as I felt my father come close. Ahead was a lake, water pink and lilies white. I ran with my heart filling my throat, and then I leapt.
For some strange reason, he did not follow. I know now that he must not have been able to come along, that he was beyond my world. I wish that I had not seen him so grotesque, so lost, but my mother later explained it was expected. For he had drowned in the lake by his own choosing; his life was meaningless to him. I missed him less after that day, and refrained from venturing out in the boat again.