Shimmering by Hannah Lackoff




Cara and I are at the lake

My parents have taken us for the day

The summer is so hot

The only relief we have is the water’s murky coolness

By August it will be like a bath


We sit on the dock

We laugh

And play

There’s no one else here in this secluded spot

Nobody else has discovered our paradise

Don’t tell Brody

I whisper to Cara

If her brother knew

He would destroy our Eden

Bring his little boy friends

With their loud screams and splashes

Ruin our secluded peace


It gets ruined anyway



An old friend

From years ago

I’d almost forgotten


He comes with others





Cara, in her two piece

Admires them

We keep our distance at first

Shy of people we used to know


I am remembering an old legend

And I tell it to the group

Trying to connect the bridge

Of our past selves to our present


When you swim out past the striped rock, I say

You disappear

Something from the deep grabs you

Cara looks at me

And laughs

To many Jaws movies, she tells me

Nat told it to me, I say, recalling in surprise

A long time ago

Nat laughs, remembering

And it’s just like old times

Well, says Cara

Let’s see who gets snatched today


We sit on the dock

Eating watermelon

Watching the swimmers


Who is as old as my dad

Swims out to the legendary rock


He climbs atop

Stands triumphant

He rests

Then continues on

Past the striped rock

Cara nudges me

And we watch

Waiting to prove the old legend wrong

All we can see is Carl’s head

As he swims



A smaller head

A man’s head

A head that is shimmering

Appears behind Carl

Then they are both gone


Cara and I look at each other

The watermelon tastes sour

It drops from my hand into the lake with a soft splash

I half expect something

To come and snatch it

Did you see that?

Hey, did you see that?

I nod



Should we say anything?

I shake my head

Who would we tell?

What would we say?


No one says anything about Carl

No one goes to look for him

Or even ask where he has gone


We talk and laugh as before

But the silences grow

More frequent


And it isn’t the same as it used to be

Maybe it never was


Someone starts a game

A silly game, really

Stand straight

Ramrod straight

And fall backwards into the water

Without flinching

Whoever does it the most times wins

Many times we go around the circle

And no one startles

We are acting like kids

And I feel a little embarrassed

But it is my turn again

So I start to fall

I look at Nat

Across the circle from me

And just for a moment

He changes


Like the man in the lake

Past the striped rock

I recoil

A reflex

Like getting your knee tapped at the doctor’s office

Then a spray of water goes up around me

You’re out, says Nat

But I don’t care

Did you see how he shimmered, Cara?




Cara and I are sick

I feel like sleeping

All week long

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday


and Friday

But I know I can’t


Cara’s staying with us

While her parents settle Brody

Into summer school

We were supposed to have the weekend

For games, sun, and fun

But now


Mom set up the cot

In my room

On the other side of the dresser

Cara sleeps there still

As late morning sun filters through the curtains

I get up to use the bathroom

When I return

Cara has made a cocoon of the covers

Curled up

Facing the window

Her back to me


I reach for my water glass

It is not where I left it

I search the floor

Thinking I may have spilled it in my sleep

And there it is

But still upright

An inch of water in the bottom

Has someone moved it, then?

Beside it is another glass

Clear blue

There is liquid in this glass too

And in the bottom

A coating of shimmering powder


I shudder

I want nothing to do

With anything that shimmers

I take the glasses to the bathroom

I hear a voice behind me

You’re not going to dump those?

My father

Is obsessive about conservation

No, sir

I take a mouthful from the blue cup

Careful not to swallow

Who would put shimmering powder in a cup of water?

I turn around

My father is watching me


My father


I spit my mouthful in the sink

Not caring if he sees

The water shimmers

As it goes down the drain

I fight the urge to swallow


My father



We’re going to the zoo

They’ve refurbished and reopened

With new exhibits

My mother loves animals


We see the local ones first




They were here before

So we move on


There is a wooden suspension bridge over a gorge

It looks like something out of Indiana Jones

Like it will crumble when we cross it

We cross anyway

It is surprisingly sturdy

Must be a trick, I think



This way to small aquatic animals




I watch with interest as a man scribbles in a notebook

He looks official

I would like to stay longer

My mother does not like small aquatic animals

Especially sea cucumbers

Marine biologists are creepy, she says

As we cross another bridge

My father laughs

Asks us if we’d like to rent a glass-bottomed boat

Go on the lake with him


The lake


I shudder

Afraid of the lake now

That the shimmering man will come again

That he will take me this time


No, I say

My mother agrees

We’re not at the best part of the zoo yet

Exotic animals

My father shrugs

Walks off by himself

He will be all alone

In his glass bottomed boat


And suddenly

I am suspicious

That this is what he wanted all along

To be by himself

Out on the lake

So he can visit his shimmering friends

It was him that put the powder in the water

He wants me to be like him
Like Nat

Like the man in the lake

I’m next

I’m next


We see all the exotics

Mother and I



A koala

Even the lion comes out of his den

My mother spots a sign

That wasn’t there before

Giant elephants, she reads

This way

It must be a new exhibit


We can’t resist

There are four enormous elephants in a pen

Slow moving giants

Their stomachs are above my head

I could walk underneath one

And it wouldn’t even notice


On a ledge behind the elephants

There is a fence

With more strange animals behind


With black marks

Like tiger stripes, really

They look like ferocious dogs

With their curled up tails




The closest one

Who has been watching me all along


And suddenly I know what will happen

He will land on top of me

And that will be the end

I draw my breath in fear

Barkgrowling he leaps

Then is stopped short by a rope

He was tied up all along


Let’s go, I say



I am afraid to eat or drink anything he gives me

It will have the strange powder in it

It will make me shimmer

Like them



We are going out to dinner

A rare occasion

In this family

Let’s go, my mother says

We are all waiting



Who is all?

Your father, she says

And some of his friends


You remember Carl?


How could I forget?

Everything seems to blur a little

Maybe it’s reality

Shifting from the one I know

To something new


Hurry, dear, my mother says

So I hurry

I try to

But my feet feel like lead

My brain has turned to mud


I go up the stairs and into my room

Then open a drawer in the dark

I have not turned a single light on

I know this house so well I could walk


Through the rooms and not trip


I grab my things and turn to go

Past the bathroom

My parent’s room

The closet at the end of the hall


As my foot hits the top step

Something opens the closet

And grabs me

It is my father

It is Nat

It is Carl


The darkness which did not

Bother me before

Now obscures all

But an outline of this man

Who has my forearms

Pinned in his grasp


The light from the kitchen downstairs

Has gone out

It’s pitch black up here

I shouldn’t see him at all

He is shimmering

Making his own light


I yell but no one comes

Who would?

No one is here

No one but the shimmering man



Hannah has a BFA in English with a Creative Writing Concentration from Wheaton College in Massachusetts. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has been published or upcoming in New Myths, Spark, Pinball, Kaleidotrope, 34th Parallel, Bourbon Penn and others. It has also been performed at Wheaton College.


1 thought on “Shimmering by Hannah Lackoff

  1. Pingback: Twenty Thirteen | Solarcide

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