Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology

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The girl shot brusquely awake, gasping. She looked to the door. It hung to one side, violated like a torn fingernail. She turned and yelled for her mother, but nothing came out. Her mother slept undisturbed, peacefully in dreams. The daughter turned back to the door and immediately stopped breathing. There in the doorway, underneath a parka of rotten feathers, loomed a gaunt figure silhouetted in moonlight. Greasy, thinning hair dripped from its skull. Its menacing frame barely fit the doorway. Sharp, pointed fingers curved like blades from its hands. Frowning, it seemed ancient. Older than stars. The stench of seaweed and turned earth blew into the cabin. Slowly it rotated its mutated shoulders and raised its arms into the moonlight. The daughter saw its fingernails glint, and between them, a fine loop of string curled. As those cold, bright eyes stared into her, an odd certainty dawned in her mind. It was him. The face from her dreams, the creature pulling her, dragging her underneath the ice. She saw the string laced between its tortured fingers and knew what she had done. She had awakened one of them. The Sleeping Ones. The Inuunngittut. The ones that drag you under. Slowly a razor smile spread across the creature’s face, each tooth gleaming wetly with delight. A deep, grating voice birthed in her skull.

“C h i l d . . . ”

Her eyes widened in disbelief. The creature spoke without speaking. It had growled in her mind and yet remained frozen. Its milky eyes studied her as its grin curdled into a horrid frown. The daughter felt the creature’s mind reach out to her; its long salivary thoughts moaned in satisfaction. Frozen in terror, her eyes fell to its parka. Mottled black and white, its rancid feathers stank of the lake. Its arms hung low, string laced between its fingers. Suddenly, the creature rushed towards her, violently shaking its head. White eyes screamed behind its frown. It stopped short before the daughter, sour breath heaving into her nostrils.

“P i c k . . . i t . . . u p . . .”

“What?” the girl whimpered. The creature lifted one long, twisted finger and dangled the string in front of her.

“C o n n t e s s t . . .”


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Lake Crescent

Chapter One

Dad’s interest in myths, monsters, and cryptozoology had started with episodes of In Search of … when he was a boy growing up in Wyoming in the 1970s. Each week brought a new mysterious phenomenon to explore: Could plants respond to people’s thoughts? Did ancient Phoenicians visit New Hampshire? Were the images carved into the Nazca plains made by or for extraterrestrials? But nothing held Dad’s imagination hostage like the mystery animals — Bigfoot, Nessie, the swamp monster of the Louisiana Bayou. It took years to gestate, but when he came back from the Gulf War, he was obsessed. He started taking road trips with army buddies, visiting dark forests and quiet lakes, looking for creatures that conventional science scoffed at. Sometimes he’d take me along. But as the trips, which usually took place on school days, became more frequent, he usually ended up driving off by himself, leaving Mom and me waving in the driveway.

Eventually, he acted as if he was still travelling even when he was at home. He crashed on the couch or slept on the air mattress in the basement. His relationship with Mom became more that of lodger and host than husband and wife. He gave up looking for substantial employment altogether, opting to make just enough money to pay for his expeditions.

But for all his research, all his hours sleeping on hard ground and cooking over a campfire, the only things he had to show for it were a collection of blurry photographs and overflowing boxes of notebooks. When Dad took off, the notebooks were all that was left of him. Mom couldn’t bear to throw them out.

Every entry in those notebooks began the same. The name of a monster, or cryptid if you’re in that community, was written in capital letters, my dad tracing each letter in blue ink multiple times and underlining it with the same thickness. Then came pages upon pages of background — everything Dad had picked up at the local library or from TV documentaries. Finally, the entry became a journal, marked with the dates and times of his own explorations.

When I was a girl, I had no idea how far he drove on those trips. Only looking back can I compute the distances between Washington State, where we lived, and places like Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and Lake Champlain, Vermont. He even crossed the border into Canada, which seemed to have as many lake monster legends as it had lakes.

Dad’s last complete entry was about a lake monster called Cressie that supposedly lived in Lake Crescent on the island of Newfoundland in eastern Canada. Though Dad had written pages of background information about Cressie, there were almost no notes about his visit there. The only thing he had recorded, in the margins of the notebook, was the location and departure date and time for the ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland. The date he’d jotted down was one week after the last time I ever saw him.

I remember the day he left. Mom tore into him right there as he was packing the station wagon, her voice resounding through the trees that separated our property from the neighbours’. Dad never came back inside the house after that. He didn’t hug me or kiss the top of my head, just gave me his half salute and smiled. Soon, the back of the station wagon disappeared as the road curved around the splayed-finger branches of the evergreens. I never dared to cry in front of him, saving that for later, once I was sure he was long gone and I was in my bed, a pillow muffling my sobs.

I wonder how far he got before realizing he’d left his notebook behind.


Our expedition to Crescent Lake would be a wild goose chase. I knew that going in. But the terms of my deal with the TV network stated very clearly that I could pick any cryptid anywhere in the world to cover in our second episode. So, why not Cressie?

You couldn’t tell it was late April when we landed. The Deer Lake airport was thoroughly dusted with snow, and high winds whistled through the automatic doors as the oil patch workers ahead of us went outside to greet their waiting loved ones. We were officially one month into spring, but this part of Newfoundland had apparently missed the memo.

The season, however, seemed to change sometime during the hour-and-a-half drive to Robert’s Arm. The sun was out, and it truly felt like a spring day, though with a definite chill in the air. I was surprised to see the harbour nearly empty, with the fleets of fishing boats already out on the water.

I suppose they had to get out on the water as soon as the opportunity presented itself. Gone were the days when, as Captain John Cabot’s crew remarked, the sea was “full of fish that can be taken not only with nets but with fishing-baskets.” The catch each individual boat can now expect has, in the past few decades, decreased significantly.

Much of the island of Newfoundland is a scar left over from the ice age, the soil having been scraped off into the oceans long ago by the receding glaciers. The harbour at Robert’s Arm was cradled by tree-covered hills that rose up to the rocky cliffs, as if protecting it from the ocean that swept in through a narrow gap. The main road led to the docks and boats; smaller roads criss-crossed up and along the hills, leading to houses, huts, and cabins nestled among the wind-swept trees and lichen-covered rock. Forces of nature left their fingerprints all over this landscape, and though it was weathered and cracked, it refused to break.

This was a beautiful wild place, but I was just too tired to fully appreciate it. I hadn’t had a moment to truly rest since we’d left Silver Spring, Maryland, hours earlier.


We dropped off our luggage at the Lake Crescent Inn, had a late breakfast that included lots of coffee, then climbed right back into the two rental vans. Our schedule was tight, and we had to get started.

Robert’s Arm was a picturesque town, with old houses dotting the shore and aluminum boats with outboard motors and other pleasure craft listing gently in the harbour. It was also eerily still, but for the odd sign of life now and then: a car would appear for a moment, then disappear behind an outcropping of trees; a small aluminum boat with an outboard engine would tear through the water, then vanish just as quickly as it had arrived.

After we parked, I got out and stood gazing out over the water, breathing in the cool sea air. I noticed a huge building perched on the hill at the edge of the narrow peninsula that pinched the bay before it flowed out into the ocean. The peaks of its roof and the chimney jutted up over the trees like a castle guarding the entrance to Robert’s Arm. At the bottom of the hill, the trees opened to reveal the entrance to a driveway. The road that curved around the bay ended there, and on the side opposite the driveway was a dock that looked lonely so far from the others.

“Interested in a spot of ghost-hunting?” someone whispered in my ear.

I’d been in a trance and started at the interruption.

It was Duncan Laidlaw, a British paleontologist who’d joined our team for this expedition.

“It does look like a beautiful old place. But look where it is. Like it was built by someone who wanted to lord their wealth and power over everybody else,” I replied.

“I imagine that was precisely the idea. Why it was built up there, lording over all the other houses in town. Probably comes with a dungeon for deformed heirs or something of the like,” he said, laughing.

Duncan and I turned and walked down the dock toward a white-and-blue fishing boat, patches of paint peeling off it like diseased skin. Next to the vessel stood a hunched man. I assumed this was Phil Parsons, known locally as “Captain Phil.” We’d arranged for him to take us out on the waters of Lake Crescent in his boat, the Darling Mae. The purpose being to search for giant eels.

“Captain Phil?”

“That’s me,” he said, removing his Greek-style cotton fisherman’s cap and walking across the dock, hand extended. “How d’you do, my dear?”

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