THE DEVIL IN THE DEEP
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
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