Any writer’s dream is to have a honest critic who is effusive in praises and clear in criticisms. It is even more amazing when the same inspiring, encouraging critic sends a picture that prompts me to write. This post is dedicated to Janani Srikanth, the friend, the critic and the lever that turns the cogs in my brain. She is the reason this blog is active after a long vacation.
When this picture arrived in my chat window, the first thing that struck me was its tranquil beauty. The second thing that occurred was, ‘hey, this is a writing prompt!’. And after the ‘Why don’t you write on this already?’, I couldn’t not write. So without much ado, the picture prompt, and the story that it inspired.
Disclaimer: Though the prompt was from Janani, she did not in any way restrict me to the type of the story I wanted to write. That absolute freedom was what prompted this tangential off-beat story. A huge shout-out to her for reviving the blog again, and to the original source of the picture.
The stone skimmed on the still surface exactly seven times before it plonked into the water silently. What remained was only a series of ripples to show that a two-pound rock had just been swallowed by the lake. No matter how heavy the burden, the lake took it all. Maria watched dispassionately, deciding against throwing another stone, wanting to make the lake shudder. How could it be so calm when she was facing such turmoil? How dare it take everything she threw calmly inside and project such stillness?
Why wasn’t she able to be that calm?
Walking away from the embankment, Maria unlocked her car and looked around for a moment before getting behind the wheel. The vague feeling that someone had been silently following her had not dissipated. But the beautiful countryside was as silent as ever. The back of her neck pricked, and Maria looked behind once again. A flash of grey against the brown of tree trunks caught her eye and she gulped. Feeling completely defenceless and totally stupid like the character of a horror movie, she walked towards the trees.
Two raccoons were fighting over something just behind the trees, causing the dry leaves to rustle. Satisfied to see the grey fur, Maria let out a nervous chuckle. She drove away from the infuriatingly calm lake, feeling increasingly peaceful as the distance grew. Her activities had been careful, clear, constructed step by step, but the lake had been the point where she had faltered. Her thoughts wandered towards her husband, Morgan West, hotshot banker and the man who had time only for international trips, mergers and acquisitions.
That he had been a workaholic was acceptable, but he had been unable to spend time for her, and she had quickly become the trophy he had acquired and discarded to some dark shelf in the corner of his house. It was fine until Maria received the attention of her childhood sweetheart, feeling young and desired once again. What fifteen years of matrimony had not given her, five months of an affair had.
Maria’s conscience had pricked for having an affair, but she had been too weak to quit. Eliminating Morgan was the logical recourse, for in her desire infused state, murder was far easier than monogamy to commit to. The killing had been easy. Powdered arsenic in Morgan’s evening porridge had taken care of him. The disposing was what had taken time. She and Philip had argued a lot about leaving Morgan’s car in his summer cabin beside the lake, so people would assume a fishing trip gone wrong, but Maria had felt it safer to completely eliminate herself from the picture.
The fake documents were ready, and the stone called Morgan had sunk soundlessly into the lake. It would be days before he floated up, if at all the stones that weighed him down gave way. By the time anyone got wind, Maria would be someone else, travelling somewhere else, a new identity in a new place, a new person with a new partner. She couldn’t wait.
The first sign of trouble was the text from Philip, ‘Yoohoo, girl, guess what?’
Maria stopped the car with a curse as a picture of the lake appeared on screen. Her heart beat rapidly as she checked for any signs of trouble. The surface was still calm as ever.
‘Guess what, Phil?’
The grinning emoji was followed by a picture of a wet gunny sack on the bed of the lake. Maria’s heart jumped to her throat as she heard a heavy thud on the bonnet and saw the wet slime of kelp on her windshield.
‘$2 Million or this dead man will tell tales’
The last thing Maria saw before she blacked out was the adorned left hand of Morgan peeking out of the sack. The deceptively calm lake had been still both the times – when Morgan was thrown in and fished out. Maria had to pay the price, moving from the grieving widow to the cold-blooded murderer.