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Klaus Yurk

Copyright © 2001
All Rights Reserved

There is a beautiful lake in a western state which is set like a misplaced jewel in the midst of a wild and desolate landscape. Long ages before the white man came into this savage country, the Indians knew about the lake. In the dim times so long ago that not even the oldest of the story tellers still speak of it, a tribe had sacrificed their fairest maidens to the one who lives in the deep.

But in time new tribes came and fought the old ones, and drove them ever to the south. The new people made the wild and barren country their home, for they too had been driven from their ancient place by a bitter and powerful enemy. They did not believe in the sacrifice of maidens, but they knew that the lake was sacred. They made it a forbidden place where only the medicine man might go when his days were ended to seek the face of the great spirit.

When the white man came he dismissed such tales as primitive superstitions. Yet somehow, over the many years, the area has retained its bad reputation and the dark blue waters eventually became known, first in common parlance, then officially, as Bottomless Lake.


The rain was coming down in great wild torrents. A cold wind howled across the desolate landscape, whipped the dark surface of Bottomless Lake, and shrieked across the lonely strip of highway that snaked along the shoreline. A single set of headlights appeared from around a bend and slowly made their way along the road as if they were fighting the wind and the rain for every inch of forward progress. Some time later they revealed themselves to be the leading lights of a large yellow school bus.

Inside the bus, the twenty-five junior high students who were returning home from a full day at a regional music competition felt the buffeting of the wind and the drumming of the rain only as distant forces that were powerless to inconvenience them. Their rolling shelter was a safe and warm little world unto itself. They had that casual indifference to the forces of Nature that only those who have been sheltered from them within the cocoon of our technological society all their lives could possibly have. They chatted and laughed and flirted, or simply listened to music on their headphones as they stared out the windows into the endless darkness, a darkness that was lit only occasionally by a particularly spectacular lightning bolt. A few were trying to sleep.

Those who worried about such things knew they should be arriving home in about an hour.

The bus driver, a slightly built blonde in her late twenties who was usually thought of as being in her early twenties, drove with the mechanical ease of long practice. She had been driving a bus for more than four years now, and she still enjoyed it. At the moment, however, her mind was not on her driving. The cozy warmth of the heater, the metronomic beat of the windshield wipers, the boring, endless black ribbon of highway, all had combined to reduce her alertness and put her mind into a state of almost dreamlike wakefulness. It was a creeping, lovely drowsiness.

She was wondering if she should go ahead and marry the man she had been living with for over a year now. She was certain that he loved her and that she loved him. She would probably never find anyone better suited to fulfill her wants and needs. Yet when he had asked her to be his wife, she had hesitated. So many marriages failed these days. To have and to hold till death do us part had always seemed unrealistic somehow. People changed. It was a big risk.

It was at that instant that a huge gust of wind and rain caught the broad side of the bus like a sail and slammed it aside. The driver's hand reacted automatically to correct for the pressure. Then she felt the loss of all pressure on the wheel which meant that the bus was sliding. She became instantly alert as the sensation of danger shot through her, only to recognize that it was already too late. She had time to cringe.

The bus sheared through the old and useless single-rail barrier without even slowing down. It fell through the air for slightly more than three seconds. Then it hit the water with an enormous splash. But there was no one to hear it. And even if there had been, it was a mere murmur in the night compared to the infernal drumbeat of the rain, the howl of the wind, and the boom of the rolling thunder.

The bus rolled over on its side and sank like a mortally wounded animal. No windows opened. No one clamored to get out. It went down very quickly and was gone. Spurlos versenkt. Lost without a trace. There was only the wail of the wind that cried over the bubbles that appeared briefly on the turbulent surface and then were gone.


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