Buyer, Seller, Brother
by harry hantel

The Seller’s eyes were pale green. The house had been on the market for over a year before he finally got a bite. He worked a fancy job in the city, didn’t have time to make it out to the country anymore, to make it out to the lake.

The Buyer was older, balding, already thinking about retirement in a few years. It had been his dream to have an old house like this for his family to spend their summers. He asked if the Seller’s family had owned it for very long.

“Yes,” the Seller said. “We’ve had this land for longer than America existed. Strangely, no natives were settled here. They passed through sometimes, but that’s it. The house has good, old bones. My family’s always watched over this place. If you decide to buy it, you will too. Your family will.”

The Buyer said, “I understand.” He stood and walked to the kitchen window by the sink, where the morning light on the lake was already turning to a gray afternoon. “Can we go out on the water?”

They walked down the stairs to the tunnel that let out by the dock. They placed two oars in the green canoe and carried it to the water’s edge. The Buyer noticed the stone mermaids that marked the tunnel entrance. They were mostly fish, just a woman’s head on a full fish body. He didn’t say anything about it. They paddled in silence. There was a moment where the sunlight broke the gray clouds and illuminated the lake like it was shining glass. The Buyer thought he saw the shape of a man outlined clearly through the brightness on the lake floor, like a hologram. He still didn’t say anything.

The Seller spoke, “No one loved this lake more than my father. My family all loved it, but he loved it more. He loved it so much my parents divorced over it. Mother couldn’t compete with whatever he saw in the lake. After that he swam in it every day. Spent his final days here.”

That night, after dinner, they smoked cigars on the porch. The Seller was certain the Buyer wanted the house. He asked him so.

“It’s so beautiful. I think my family will love it.” The lake gurgled and murmured its whispered words of approval. The Seller clapped his hands together.

Later, the Buyer couldn’t sleep. The old wood house creaked and groaned. Rain battered the roof. The Seller snored. Over the din he heard the sound of the refrigerator close. Quiet chewing and breathing at the same time. The slap of wet feet on the kitchen tile.

The Buyer tiptoed down the stairs. He jumped when thunder reverberated and the windows shook. The slapping grew distant then became an echo. The tunnel.

The Buyer ran now to catch up to the departing footsteps on the stones before the lake. The figure was walking into the water. The Buyer shouted but the sound couldn’t be heard above the storm. Still, the figure turned when it was covered up to its waist. A flash of lightning illuminated everything. The trail of slime from the lake to the tunnel stairs. The figure’s black and silver scales, his webbed hands and bent jaw and his pale green eyes. All of this was clear to the Buyer before the Seller’s half-brother disappeared into the darkness of the lake.

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