A man came to me over the dusky waters of the lake, and no matter how I tried to ignore the fact at the time, I found myself compelled to tell you this story.
I would like to tell you that I am a mild man, of moderate means and a quiet disposition. My highest desire in life, up to that moment, had been to live quietly.
I like, or rather I liked, to watch the sun set over the lake - a very small lake, almost a pond in fact - that was made in front of my house.
I say that it was made; in fact, it is an artificial lake, product of the damming of a small brook. A landscape designer thought that it could be a brilliant idea,
and with the help of some tons of concrete, some trucks of rebar and a dozen workmen the lake came to be.
I was sitting on my porch. What can be more normal than that ? An American house, inhabited by an American, that likes to sit on the porch. It is really commonplace
I regret to admit that I did not have a can of beer in my hand, because I prefer cider. As I said, I was sitting on my porch, drinking a glass of cider. The sun was setting, and the first mosquitoes (certainly an unintended consequence of the lake) were humming.
I hate mosquites as much as anyone does, but the evening was so quiet that even the mosquitoes fit in. I assure you that these placid thoughts were not born of the cider, in fact I had only started drinking it.
I was looking at the lake, and noticed that at a distance from my shore there was a disturbance in the water. We don't really have fish in the lake, the management
has tried to put trout in but it did not work. There are some small silvery fishes, but they don't grow big, I don't know why.
It could not be a fish. Mind you, don't imagine something like a huge bubbling or a vortex or heavily churned up water. It wasn't anything really spectacular, and in fact I noticed it only because, due to chance and the position of my house, it was right in the path of the elongated reflection of the sun in the water.
I always liked to look at this reflection that, at sunset, extends all the way from the viewer to the horizon.
One of things that I enjoyed most, as a child, was the reflection of the sun at sunset on the lake - I imagined that it went all the way to remote places, New York,
Canada, Byzanthium, Europe - what did I know, I was a kid with some imagination and a healthy ignorance.
The disturbance in the water dragged me out of my reverie. It was approaching the shore, and it was resolving itself into something more definite. An object of some
sort was making a beeline for my porch. A turtle ? I had never seen any in the lake, but after all a turtle could live there, turtles eat ... what do they eat ? If
they ate weeds, the lake had plenty.
Yes, only a turtle would swim so purposefully towards the shore, and in fact (now that it was closer, yet still in the water) I could see that the swimming object was quite dark and roundish. A turtle most definitely.
Of course I kept looking. It was interesting to see signs of life in this entirely artificial body of water, and I had nothing to do but watch the slow progress of
The reflection of the sun made the swimming reptile very visible, as a black blotch that interrupted the golden path of light; and at the same time, by dazzling the
eye and overpowering its ability to adjust, it made the swimming animal indistinct, so much that I could make out neither head nor limbs. I just hoped that none of my neighbours would decide that the creature was a pest, and thus that it had to be trapped and killed.
Those last musings were interrupted when I saw that the turtle was no more; the black shape in the shining sun reflection had changed, and now it looked like a ball, the size of a melon, with something sticking out on the sides.
It was at that moment that I realized that the mysterious object had not, in fact, changed shape; actually, as it got closer to me (it kept getting closer, at a
steady but slow speed) it was emerging, and I was seeing more and more of it as it came out of the water.
A superstitious fear (I am not afraid of calling things with their name) came over me. Things, black things, don't just come out of lakes, not in my world, least of
all in my backyard. This could not happen.
Yet, it was happening. Slowly, slowly but irresistibly, the thing revealed itself, but always remaining in the golden reflection of the sun, coming straight at me.
I believe that it was the unfortunate light condition that made recognition so difficult; in fact I realized that it was a man only when he was out almost to his elbows. He wore a hat, dripping with water, just like everything else he wore. He was walking out of a lake, after all.
My fear became tinged with surprise and, you will understand, amazement. People don't just walk out of lakes. I have seen my share of horror movies and read scary books. Images of corpses walking, zombie-like, on a mission of vengeance inevitably assaulted me.
But this man appeared very peaceful. I could not describe his clothes very well, because they were soaked and dripping and probably muddy from the lake bottom. He had a pleasant expression, and he actually seemed quite embarassed.
He made his way out of the water (I thought that he had been slow before because of the friction; it is strange how I could already be calmly reasoning about the utterly unreasonable), and he walked up to me, emptying water out of his pockets and shaking his hat.
His hair was plastered to his head. He smiled and he said, very anticlimatically "Hi".
I (and you no doubt) had expected something more. He probably sensed my disappointment, and before I could ask anything he added "The lake was not here last time, you know.".
I nodded. "Nor the house ... nice place you got. Could I have some of that cider ?" I gave him my glass of cider. He drained the glass, and turned to look at the sm
all lake. He mumbled something about "having to remember it next time through the loop", and turned again to face me. His shoes squelched, and he kept dripping water. He smiled, and gave me the empty glass. "Thanks", he said, "gotta be on my way. You know ...", and he made a little gesture with his hand.
People don't move much their hands around here, it is generally considered something that is best left to Southern Europeans, the sign of an excitable nature. If you can't say it with your mouth, the common wisdom is, maybe you should not try to say it at all.
But his little gesture was very full of meaning. It made clear to me that he had appreciated the cider very much, that he liked even more the fact that I was not asking any questions about his rather extraordinary manner of intruding upon my summer evening; and that he would have stayed with me for a chat, but that he had business waiting for him somewhere, people waiting, things to do, quite a drag in fact, so he had to leave, what a pity.
It was a very meaningful little gesture.
I put the glass on an empty orange crate that I use as a table. I was about to ask him if he needed something, but he looked so compact, so much himself, the man that had somewhere to go (despite being soaked to the bone and dripping all over) that such an offer appeared inappropriate.
Actually, he was drying fast. Already his hat was turning a lighter color, and the hair on the back of his head was not sticking to his skin.
I would have liked another look at his face, but he was walking away. His shoes still squelched a bit, as he went on his way. He rounded my house and I could not hear him any more.
I went inside for some more cider.
To this day, I don't know whence he came, where he went or who he was. All I can say is that he walked out of the lake, he had a glass of cider, and he walked away.
And he was not a dream; dreams don't leave fingerprints on glasses.
Walking Man 6 -+*O*+- Walking Man 8 -+*O*+- What is Walking Man ?