Chapter 6 – February 9A

8:42

The frozen surface of the forest leveled at the same time the trees and overhead branches grew more dense. Rune found himself in almost total blackness, becoming more unsure with each step whether he was still headed in the direction of the lake.

He stopped, listened. The night was as quiet as it was cold and dark. He held his breath, closed his eyes, focused on his hearing. Humming? He forced all his attention on that sound — yes his ears were ringing, but what he heard was distinctive, not sharp and stinging but a low steady murmur, definitely external, most likely mechanical. An engine, or generator. Off to his right.

He opened his eyes, took a few steps to the right, and almost instantly saw a small bulb of light, like a star but larger, at ground level between the trees. He stopped, examined the bulb, saw the outlines of others around it. Man made. He knew he hadn’t gone uphill, those lights couldn’t be from his subdivision. Had to be one of the homes on the lake.

Rune’s legs plunged forward, boots crunching into the frozen surface. He remembered the stories he’d heard about the lake, how it was man-made, created when the hydroelectric dam was built, how the dam had nearly dried up the East River and the bay that had given his town its name. How the birth of the lake had dealt the final death blow to Bark Bay’s crippled shipping and sailing industries.

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