The weary voice of the waitress cut through the old man’s thoughts. His coffee, long cold in its chipped ceramic cup, stared up at him with a black satin sheen.
The forgotten newspaper slipped lazily through his fingers to the faded table top. He spread his hands wide across the newsprint. The bold type of the morning’s headline shouted from between thick fingertips. “HUMAN REMAINS FOUND AT LAKE LOUISE”
Remains, he thought to himself. That’s a pretty way of putting it.
Pretty enough so that the general public wouldn’t have to know the truth. The article noted that police were not releasing the identity of the victim, nor discussing if the incident was a case of foul play or accidental misfortune.
In a week or two the authorities would give up trying to identify the remains. With no leads, and no more of the corpse to be found, the verdict would be that some unfortunate camper had run afoul a wild animal.
It was a tidy explanation. It allowed people to shake their heads with a self-righteous tsk! and then forget all about such nasty business.
It allowed the truth to sink below the surface of the lake and wait for the next opportunity. So long as it was careful, so long as it was clever, no one would ever suspect such a fiendish hunger. It was the twenty-first century after all. And who believed in such nonsense any more?
“More bad news, eh?” the waitress asked, reaching down to retrieve the untouched coffee cup. “The world’s goin’ to hell in a handbasket, I tell ya. I’ll getcha a fresh one, hon. You just enjoy your paper. Flip to the funnies. That always cheers me up.”
He watched her saunter away and disappear behind a long yellowing formica bar. Twenty years he’d been a regular of this diner and still knew nothing about the middle-aged woman who had traded a lifetime for lousy tips and a smoker’s cough. Her name tag said “Doris” and that was all.
He wondered idly how many of us wander through the world without really knowing anyone. People become fixtures in our day-to-day lives. When they vanish, it’s more curiosity than worry that crosses our minds.
No one really believes that someone they see every day could be reduced to a tidy pile of ‘human remains’. Gruesome memories burned behind his eyes.
Blood red snow, and a cooler containing mangled organs that had once been a human being. The heart and liver were all that was left.
“It’s the iron,” he muttered to himself. “The iron is poison to them.”
In the old country, folk called them cailpeach. In old country, folk knew to respect the waters they haunted. But not here. No one believed here. No one knew well enough to fear.
It was perfect. The kelpie would continue to devour the foolhardy. And the media would continue to lament the hapless dead.