We would like to congratulate Ronan Streby for their winning short story, as part of our Spooktacular Flash Fiction contest!
“The Coldwater Incident,” by Ronan Streby
My Dad never liked 4th of July much. While everyone else ate barbeque and blew stuff up, he mostly just sat inside and read. He’d never say why, just that he “didn’t wanna talk about it.” When I got older, I decided to challenge the status quo and ask around. I think I now know why.
Back in 1969, when Dad was eight or so, he and his parents went to this 4th of July party with some friends of the family. Not a huge party, maybe 20 people at most. Anyway, nothing was really happening, so my Dad got bored. He asked my Grandma if there was anything to do, and she just said to play with the other kids. They were bored as well, so they all decided to go inside and watch cartoons. Before he went in, though, he overheard something. Great uncle Frank was all excited about something in the sky, telling everyone to look up. My Dad looked up too. He doesn’t remember what it was; like an aircraft or animal or something. Whatever it was, he just remembers that it wasn’t interesting enough to keep him outside. He went in, but before he could close the door, Grandma stopped him. She said that everyone was going to follow the thing and “see where it lands,” and if he wanted to go with them. He said “no” and said that he’ll wait inside for them to come back.
He and the other kids watched cartoons for a long time. Hours at least, but the adults didn’t come back. It got dark out, and some of the younger kids started getting upset. My Dad decided to call the police for help. My Dad remembered that the man who picked up sounded scared, like something big had just happened. He told my Dad that the police were very busy, but that they would come over to take care of them as soon as they could, and just to wait. They eventually came, but didn’t give any answers to the kids’ questions.
They say that the next day, the local police had to get help from Battle Creek to help retrieve all 17 bodies from Coldwater Lake. Beachgoers said that they all just walked in; like they were following something.
Dad had to live with Aunt Beth down in Indianapolis afterwards.