13 Days of All Hallows’ Eve: “Below the Surface”
“Just below the sparkles of the rippling surface, darkness closes in. The searing cold of a thousand frozen pin pricks torture your body. Your lungs begin to fill with the dark water, but just as your mind begins to go foggy, there it is. It approaches through the murky water undetected until a pair of yellow eyes are inches away from your face in the darkness. A tentacle the width of a tree trunk wraps around your waist, and before the whole scene can register in your mind, you are thrust upward, breaking the surface of the lake, blinded by the startling sunlight, and flung on to the solid ground once more. An enormous head and a tangle of tentacles sink below the surface once more, lurking just below the surface, ready to snag the next victim…”
“Lou, you’re so full of it. We know the Giant Squid is harmless!” Teddy Cornwald scoffed at his friend. A group of Hufflepuffs were sitting around the slowly dying fire in the common room hearth.
“Besides, if the Giant Squid is so menacing, why wouldn’t he eat his victims instead of just tossing them back on to dry land?” chimed in Becca Turner, who although assuming a skeptic manner, had been staring at Lou with her brown eyes open as wide as her small face would let them.
“Go ahead and go for a swim then,” said Lou. “Try it, and see what happens.”
Teddy looked determined, his freckled arms crossed over his chest, accentuating the fact that the sleeves of his pinstriped pajamas were about five inches too short for his lanky build. “I’ll jump in if you do,” Teddy challenged.
Lou looked a little nervous at this, his silvery white eyebrows twitched. “Fine. If you really need to experience it yourself, I suppose I can be part of an offering of sacrifice…” Lou rose dramatically from his armchair by the hearth and led the group, some reluctant and some eager, through the exit of the common room.
The gaggle of Hufflepuffs stole through the darkened castle and out on to the moonlit grounds of Hogwarts. They huddled on the bank of the Black Lake while Lou and Teddy prepared themselves for the plunge. Teddy sloshed into the lake with a purpose, pausing with the water around his waist to look back at his housemates. Lou tested the waters much more cautiously, dipping a toe in before inching his feet slowly along the muddy bottom.
“You don’t really believe that load of rubbish you were telling us earlier, do you Lou?” chided Teddy. “Hurry up! My legs are going numb.”
Lou drew even with Teddy in the frigid water. “Okay, okay,” said Lou. “I’m ready. On the count of three?”
The two boys counted down, then leapt into the water in unison, submerging themselves entirely in the shimmering darkness of the lake.
The cluster of Hufflepuffs crowded to the edge of the water, staring at it expectedly. Becca looked as though her eyes might pop from her head. Within moments, a huge tentacle burst through the surface, a small body wound in its grip. The soaked body of Lou was tossed unceremoniously on the bank. The Hufflepuffs let out a series of exclamations and hurried to their friend’s side. Once satisfied that Lou wasn’t seriously injured, the group turned back to the lake.
“Where’s Teddy?” asked Becca in a trembling voice.
They stood in silence, unsure of what to do next. “He’s drowned!” Becca shrieked as Chloe attempted to calm her, “We’re all going to be expelled!” No sooner had she spoken than out of the lake flew Teddy. The tentacle dropped him a few feet away from where Lou had landed. The group ran to his side. Teddy was shaking violently and was as pale as the Fat Friar.
“Teddy, what happened?” He stared silently out over the water. Lou was looking down at him with a terrified expression on his face, which had turned red and splotchy from the cold swim. Despite the concerned inquiries from his friends, Teddy remained resolutely silent and wouldn’t take his eyes off the water. He was taken to the Hospital Wing, and the whole story was confessed to Professor Sprout, but Teddy never explained what he had seen while under the surface of the lake that had left him in this state of terror.
He never recovered and never again uttered a single word other than three that he mutters in his sleep: “Not the squid.” Whatever it was that left such a lasting impression on Teddy wasn’t the Giant Squid. It wasn’t the known resident of the lake that instilled such fear in the boy; this was a fear of something unknown lurking in the lake, just below the surface.
For more, check out our other All Hallows’ Eve stories: