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It all began with a little red car…
Breathing in the sharp, icy air so heavily it hurt, I cried out my brother’s name. “Harry!” I felt drops of water leak from my blurry eyes and the strong, howling wind whip long, dark hair onto my cool cheeks.
It had been a bright and beautiful summer’s day when my nine-year-old brother and I had left the house that morning. Now I could see the sun's light disappearing as the evening began to settle in.
Our plan had been to visit the lake just a couple of miles from our family home and throw some stones in the water. We had visited the lake every summer since our grandad had discovered it, when Harry was only a four and I only ten. It was our tradition, and we always had a competition to see who could throw the heaviest rock the furthest. Due to the age gap, grandad had usually won, but in the years since he'd passed, I had taken his place as the champion. But Harry excelled in running. I could never keep up with the little scamp when he stole my most important possessions.
Now all that seemed silly.
Harry and I had been playing for a while, laughing at each other’s failed attempts to throw rocks further than a few feet into the lake’s water, when he accidentally threw his beloved toy car into the vast lake. The wind had carried the light weight of the toy, and it had plunged deep into the water.
Harry was devastated. Our grandad had given the little red car to him only hours before he’d died of cancer a few years ago. Since then Harry had kept the toy car with him at all times. He would never let anyone touch it or even out of his sight. Always afraid he would disappoint his grandad.
I had screamed at him not to run in, but as always he was faster than me. Before I could do anything to stop him, he’d run onto the large wooden deck and dove into the bottomless world, hiding under the murky water.
“Harry!” I yelled again after there was no reply. My voice strained and cracked from the forced pressure. I kept screaming out my brother’s name, but he never answered. Not a slight bob of his head fighting to surface or the appearance of a little red car.
“No!” I cried out, flinging myself off the deck into the water. The cold shocked the warmth from my body and paralysed me. I only just had the strength to cling to the decks post before I slipped under.
I gulped for air as the icy currents attacked my vulnerable skin. My clothes clung to me like my desperation to save my brother’s life.
My head turned up to see the sky suddenly blacken around me. All my eyes could see was grey building in a thick fog around only my body. I gasped and tried to bat it away, but it remained around me like a blanket.
Thunder crackled through the air and I screamed and jumped, tightening my hands around the post. Then lightening illuminated the dark sky.
In that moment, I caught a flash of a man dressed in full black with ebony hair; his gloved hands stroking calmly through the wild water in front of me. His warm hazel eyes met mine and I felt recognition spark inside of me. I felt my body automatically try and swim towards him and his familiar eyes staring into mine. The same welcoming gaze my grandad had always had…
Then darkness consumed me.
The next thing I knew thunder was clapping in my ears and water splashing around me. I suddenly realised it was me causing the splashes. My hands had abandoned the stable post and were now flailing madly in the freezing water.
Another strike of electricity burst through the air, and in the blinding light my eyes found a thrashing figure about twenty feet away from me in the lake. My mind registered my brother’s head surface above the water currents; his face drenched and his lips quivering.
“Harry!” I tried to push towards him, but a powerful, fresh current of water hit me and my body froze again. I felt my body slip under the water. The last image I saw was his wide blue eyes meeting mine and a gloved hand holding him above the surface.
Then the weirdest thing happened to me.
The fog followed me down into the water, and settled all over me. I felt hands grip my body, and familiar warmth course through me. My body felt like it was floating and my lungs seemed like they’d never need oxygen again. The fog carried me up to the surface, keeping me safe in its loving embrace.
My hands found the post again, and at that exact moment something even stranger happened.
All at once, the darkness disappeared from the sky, and the evening’s haze settled in again. The fog left me and dissipated into thin air.
I blinked and squinted all around me, unable to believe what my eyes were reporting. The water had turned calm again, and I no longer felt freezing.
I felt fine.
I twisted round at the sound of my little brother’s voice calling me. I looked up to see him standing before me on the deck. His clothes and hair stuck to his skin like someone had glued them on, but a smile was on his face.
“You’re okay?” I hauled myself up onto the deck, and then rushed over to him. I ran my hands over his face, arms and head, making sure he was really there. “How… What happened, Harry?”
He shook his head and gazed out at the lake. “A miracle,” he whispered.
I followed his eyes over to the water, and all of a sudden my mind filled with the image of the eerily familiar man wearing all black. “Yeah, a miracle,” I agreed.
Then the little red car popped above water on top of an abandoned black glove.
“Meg…” Harry’s voice wavered and I felt a tremble go through him where he stood beside me. “Do you think it was—?”
“That’s crazy,” I said, but tears stung my eyes.