John and his 9-year-old son, Darragh discovered lake dubh, around the back of their new house only a few days after they moved in. John was in his office, which was the only room that looked lived in. On the shelves were three books “Whatever Happened to Lisa Baker?”, “The Missing” & “Crimes of the Occult” all by the same author John Doran. Engrossed in his writings and surrounded by files, photos and newspaper articles the award-winning crime author was being incessantly disturbed by his son. Darragh stood at his father’s study door and watched him aggressively bashing keys on his laptop and greedily gulping down cold coffee.
“Yes, Darragh” – He didn’t move a muscle.
“I can’t find my boat” – Darragh said, “I’ve checked all the boxes.
“Can you play with something else?”, his father suggested.
“Well, I could – But, I was hoping we could go for a walk?”
“Darragh, I can’t – I’m really on to something here”
“Just for twenty minutes?” he begged.
John glanced out the window, “but its lashing, we’ll catch our death!”. “Dad, please!”. John turned around to face his son and sighed, “Fine, give me a few minutes to finish this chapter”. Darragh smiled and ran to get his coat and wellingtons and sat at the end of the stairs, waiting for his dad in anticipation. John was at his noticeboard, pinning printed pictures of missing children on his wall. Darragh glanced in every so often to find his father still researching their new village and printing out the last known places of each victim. They had names, ages and dates linked underneath them. Greg Fennelly aged 8: Missing 10th October 1967, Emma Flynn. Aged 10: Missing 11th December 1977, Mary Hartigan, aged 10: Missing 5th Nov 1985, all last seen at Lough Dubh.
Hours later, John and Darragh were amongst the high grass and overgrown clumps of shrubbery about twenty minutes away from their backdoor. John stopped at a gate and checked his watch. “There you go, end of the line, satisfied?”. Darragh walked toward the gate and felt something hard under his feet, a rusted, metal sign that read “Do not Trespass”. Darragh did not draw any attention to it and peered over the gate. “I wonder what’s just ahead”. “Well, you won’t be finding out” his father replied curtly. “Come on”. As John turned away, Darragh hopped over the fence and disappeared into the wood. His father annoyed by his son’s elusiveness, promptly followed.
“Darragh?” “Darragh!” “Come on now, that was not smart”. John was both irked and a little worried. And as he untangled himself out of the brambles, he saw Darragh standing on the bank of a black lake. The land was barren and desolate. John placed his hands on his son’s shoulder. Darragh Jumped in fear as if he wasn’t expecting his father. “Dad, there’s something in there….” He whispered. “Come on son, it’s too dangerous around here, the rain is getting worse”. Darragh grabbed his father’s hand and continued to stare at the blanket of still water. It was undisturbed by the wind and rain. He could not shake the unnerving feeling that there was something truly awful about that lake.
As the two returned to the house, John tried all the lights, “No electricity, that’s the problem with these old houses kid”, John sighed. “Well, what do we do now?”. “We’ll have to make do”. John lit the fire while Darragh gathered all the candles he could find, and they scattered the candles throughout the house. Once the house was adequately lit, John and Darragh settled down in the kitchen eating sandwiches. “Dad?”, Darragh asked timidly. “I saw something in that lake”. “You just have an overactive imagination because you have nothing better to do, you need a hobby”, John replied, slightly irritated. “Like what?”, “I can teach you the art form of photography”. “Is it easy?” “Well it will keep you out of trouble”. Darragh smiled meekly.
The next morning, the weather was much calmer. Excited, Darragh rushed out of bed and ran down to his fathers’ study, to see if he would follow through on his promise from the night before. He was instantly met with “I’m working” as soon as he reached the door. Darragh put his foot down, “But dad, you promised”. “Darragh, I need to work, but what don’t you take your bike out and take some pictures for me?” John reveals a film camera. “Cool!” Darragh was in awe. “Be careful now”. Darragh barrelled down a country lane and stopped sporadically, to take a picture of anything he thought was mildly interesting, a spider in his web, trees, a puddle, trees, a dead bird, more trees. As he made his way further down the laneway, he spotted a little opening to a small path. Intrigued, Darragh followed it, leaving his bike at the roadside. He wrestled through a thicket of trees and found himself at the lake. Hesitant, Darragh walked around the edge of it, slowly and began to take pictures. Through the viewfinder, Darragh saw something that one could not explain. A white blurry figure standing parallel across the lake. He slowly pressed the shutter and SNAP, the figure disappeared. Darragh’s eyes darted to every corner of that lake, but he didn’t see anyone. He was the only living soul there.
Darragh sat at the dining room table in a daze. His father was serving lunch. “So, how did you get on?”. “Nothing interesting”, John knew that his son was holding something back, but he didn’t pry. “Well finish up, and I can show you how to develop your pictures”. They headed up two flights of stairs toward the attic. As John opened the door to the loft, Darragh’s eyes wandered around the makeshift darkroom. The one window that would allow light to spill into the attic was now covered over and the small lightbulb above them projected a dark red light that filled only a few parts of the room. John took Darragh’s camera and opened it up, taking its insides out. He began to talk Darragh through the process but Darragh was only half listening. His mind wandered back to earlier that day. He saw something. He didn’t know what, but he knew he didn’t have that much of an imagination. While John continued to flick through photos in his study and take down notes, Darragh knocked on the door. “Dad, do you reckon those pictures are done yet?”. “I’ll check them with you in a minute”. Impatient, Darragh snuck up the stairs and headed for the darkroom. Pictures were dangling precariously from a washing line. Darragh studied them. There was one that stood out. Darragh reached up and yanked the developed picture from the pegs grasp and looked closely. In the picture, at the bed of the lake, was a little girl dressed in white. Darragh screamed “Dad!”. He moved the photo closer to his face, to make sure what he was seeing was real. “DAD!”. John rushed in. “What’s the matter? Did they not come out?”. Darragh handed his father the picture, shaking with anxiety. Johns eyes widened. He recognised her. “Where did you get this?” John asked coldly. Darragh knew he was in trouble, but there was no use in hiding it now. The evidence was in his fathers’ hands. Darragh hung his head, hoping he would get a bit of sympathy “I took it yesterday, at the lake”. Johns eyes did not leave the photo once. “That’s impossible”. He left and raced down the stairs, his manic footsteps getting quitter in the distance. Darragh followed. John was in his study, frantically skimming through files and pages and when he found what he was looking for her stopped. John grabbed his coat and Dictaphone and shouted to Darragh to get in to the car. “Where are we going? What’s wrong?” Darragh shouted but his questions where ignored.
They stopped outside a quaint little cottage. The garden, John imagined, would have been idyllic once upon a time. It may have been home to rose bushes and primroses, but now it harboured weeds and 12-inch grass blades. It had been purposely neglected. John ordered his son to stay in the car, but Darragh wanted to use the bathroom, in the hopes of snooping on his father and to find out what his intentions were. John knocked on the door and an elderly woman answered. She peered at John through a small opening.
“What do you want?” She asked.
“Hello, Mrs Hartigan. My name is John. John Doran.”
“And?”, her patience was waning thin rapidly.
“I just wanted to ask you a few questions?” John pleaded in his most earnest voice. “I’m a writer and well, I wanted to ask about your daughter?
“I’ve spoken to your kind already – “
“I understand Mrs Hartigan, but I would want to assure you it is merely a documented account of what you think happened to your daughter, please?”
Mrs Hartigan closed the door. John was sure he had failed. He headed back toward the car. The locks clicked and the front door opened wide. “Come in”. “Can I please use your bathroom?” Darragh asked. The old woman obliged. John followed Mrs. Hartigan to the living room. Darragh ran up the stairs and crept back down to eavesdrop. He listened. “Do you mind if record this?”. Mrs Hartigan nods. “I am here with Mrs. Bernadette Hartigan, the time is 14.36 on the 14th Nov 1999. Mrs Hartigan. Bernadette. What was your daughter’s name?” “Mary” – Bernadette answered, she tried to keep her emotions at bay. “And, when was the last time you saw Mary?” John worded his questions carefully. Bernadette hesitated and she took a deep breath, John knew this would be hard for her to recount. “It was Nov 5th, 1985. I let her play outside and she never returned”. “Did you suspect anyone?” John asked politely. She shook her head holding back her tears. “There has been something evil stalking our children in this village. It lurks in the depths of Lough Dubh”. John shifted in his chair “I don’t believe in ghost stories Mrs. Hartigan”. “You are a smart man Mr. Doran”. “And you’re a smart woman, you can’t possibly believe that a lake has had any connection – “. “How old is your son?” she interjected. John was puzzled. “What?” “How old is you son?” She repeated. John didn’t want to answer the question. “Darragh is 9”. Bernadette leaned and said with a cautionary tone. “Keep him away from that lake”.
The car ride back was silent. “Dad are you okay?”, “Don’t go near that lake, do you hear me?”. Johns voice was cold and distant. Darragh looked at his dad, worried. “Why?” “Because I said so!” John shouted “Anything could happen down there, son. You could fall or drown”. Darragh didn’t really know how to react to his fathers’ irrational anger. “I wouldn’t swim in it anyway”. John parked the car and aggravated he said, “Stay away from it”. When the clock struck 9.30pm, John had Darragh tucked in to bed and gave him a kiss goodnight. As Darragh always requested, his father would always keep the door slightly open, so the hallway light would spill in. John headed to his study and listened and scrolled through all his interviews. Darragh woke up in the pitch black, the door was no longer ajar. He shifted to his right side. Mary Hartigan stood face to face watching Darragh. He screamed. “Don’t go near the lake” she whispered in a hurried and terrified voice. From the shadows, elongated and scrawny arms snatched Mary and swallowed her into the darkness, she grabbed Darragh by the arm and he was dragged out of bed and transported to the lake bed.
John heard a thud from above. Alarmed he moved slowly through the house. He headed upstairs to check on his son. Darragh was missing.
In the cold dead of night, Mary held Darragh’s arm for dear life as the dark and disfigured shadow pulled Mary right into its bony grips. Mary’s screams were hellish. Darragh dug his nails in to the mud and tried to grab on to anything that would hold his weight. In his Pyjamas, he scrambled to his feet and ran to a small opening. He was free, he looked back and the shadow was gaining on him. The opening was now blocked by a tree. The woods were alive, the branches whacked him violently in the face and he became entangled in brambles. They slithered around his arms, legs and torso. The more he tried to rip at them, the tighter they got. He could not breath. The razor-sharp thorns ripped through his Pyjamas and sliced through his body. The large dark figure yanked him back and Darragh fell face first breaking his nose. Blood dripped off his chin and his vision was blurred. Blinded, his weak body was dragged back toward the lake. He thrashed and kicked and fought for his life. The shallow water began to vibrate as if thousands of piranhas were cloaked underneath. The lake nibbled at his toes. It was unimaginably cold. A hand gripped him and tugged him away from the water. “Hold on!” John was breathless. He pulled his sons arms and held on as tightly as he could, but his son was slipping through his fingers. Darragh was pulled under. John dove in straight after and he swam toward his son, he tried to push himself though. The lake became thicker and harder to push through and soon John could no longer see his hands in front of his face. The only thing John could see was a black mass with devilish yellow eyes, they blinded him as if they were full beam headlights on a country road. John covered his eyes and stretched his arms out for one last attempt to save his only son. But Darragh was swallowed by the deep dark abyss. John emerged with a violent gasp for air. “Darragh!” he shouted, as he treaded the oily water. Exhausted, he crawled back to the bed. John sat on the edge shivering from shock and the freezing temperature. He did not leave that place for hours. His son was gone.
The house was in darkness, empty bottles of whiskey were scattered amongst a river of papers and photos. For years after, every day at 9.30pm John would visit Lough Dubh. He found it extremely difficult to tear himself away. He could not leave. He was sure that his son was still down there alive. But the voices he tried to silence would always tell him that Darragh was dead and his body will never be found.