They had seen lights in the sky several years ago. They reflected off the lake on a clear night when the moon was new. But then they lived in a place where even the usual seemed unusual. Light was not some thing they had a lot of at night so even a falling star while they were watching drew their attention. But this was different…it was the stuff that stories around the camp fire were made of. As time passed they began to wonder if they had really seen it.
The lake had been drained of all it’s water. He had told them a disaster was coming. He had not proposed a solution nor ask them what they thought. He had guided them to find the answer he wanted. When a life is lost they would grieve and move on. But when they thought their lives were in danger it was entirely different.
The lake was dangerous body of water. No one crossed the lake. A small breeze can cause waves that tip boats and lives are lost. So the strangers had been sneaking through the forest, taking a different path each week to bring the gold to town. Or at least that was what banker thought. The bank tellers loved it when they came. When the strangers approached they covered their heads and talked in a soft voice that was almost hypnotic. The bank president watched carefully when they approached. His curiosity was growing with each passing week.
They had appeared a short time after the lights. The bankers didn’t make the connection though. It was an unusually cold winter and surviving it had turned out to be harder than they had counted on. The snow shovels broke and young men collapsed from heart problems and exhaustion.
Time passed and winter turned to summer, winter, and then summer again. Then they stopped coming. When several month went by and no one came the bankers began to wonder where they were. Snow lay on the ground but that had never stopped them before. It was late in the third winter and the lake was only half frozen. In fact, the lake never totally froze after the light in the sky. Several boxes in the safe had been filled and the banker was secretly hoping that the safety deposit boxes would be abandon totally…at least for long enough. He had seen them carefully place the gold in the boxes as he peeked around the corner. While most banks did not have the other key to the boxes owned by a person, our banker was smarter than that. He always kept a spare. No blow torch for him!
So when they came empty handed the banker was puzzled. He allowed them to enter the vault and when they left, the bag they brought in was bulging. The weight of all that gold would have brought most men to their knees. When he checked, the boxes lay empty. He watched them as they approached the icy lake and climbed in the small boat. A light wind was skimming the top of the lake. Waves began to rise. He watched as the boat approached the middle of the lake and tipped dangerously, flipping over. The two people swam furiously toward shore grasping a small log. He could see them riding with the wind toward the shore. The water was so cold he didn’t think they would make it. He stood waiting for them and helped them crawl onto the ice.
Their hoods were pulled over their heads and they didn’t say a word. Walking back into the forest, they left the banker gazing at the lake, wondering at the loss of so much gold. The sweat on his brow told a story all it’s own. Greed filled his mind making it twist at the thought of the wealth. What could they do…could the town drain that dreaded lake, find the gold and share the wealth. Would they be convinced that it even existed! He knew that the tellers were curious but he was sure he was the only one that truly knew what they were putting in the boxes. He was the only one…now he knew exactly what to say.
As the level of the lake began to go down he watched gleefully. It had been simpler than he had thought. He had said casually one day that they were going to have a very wet spring. The average rainfall would be triple what they were accustomed to. He had seen it in the book. When they looked around and saw all the snow on the ground, the fear could be seen in their eyes. He was moving his house to higher ground and the bank would be moved to the crest of the hill. Move the town to higher ground for just one spring of flooding? No they said. There had to be another answer. With a hint and a push someone came up with the grand idea. They would drain the lake, spring would come and the lake would fill again. It was so simple. So the draining had begun.
Weeks had gone by and the lake still lay half full of water. Once he caught a fleeting glimpse of the people on the far shore watching with interest. Their gold, he was thinking will reappear before long. He would have to figure out a way to recover it before they realized what he was doing.
The rain did not come and the town was feeling a bit foolish about their emptying lake but curiosity was beginning to take over as downed boats, bones of lost people and a sea monster were found. But still no bag of gold was sighted and the banker’s mustache began to twitch. He had never been much of a swimmer so he knew he had to come up with a plan to distract the town people and the ghosts across the lake. On the day that the lake was totally empty right to the middle where the bag had sunk he would put on a fireworks display and prizes would be awarded to the person that had the best costume. No one could be recognizable or they would be disqualified. A future lake front lot with a log cabin would be the prize.
As the time approached the town was a buzz with the prospect of winning the prize. The banker had gone to the next town to purchase his costume and the ghosts across the lake waited for the final water to be gone.
They had all gathered at the waters edge in a variety of costumes. Two strange figures appeared on the edge of water dressed as aliens. If anyone had been watching they would have seen him walking across the lake bed in his wet suit and mask that night. It was the costume he had set out to buy. The lake was not quite empty but he could not wait anymore. He slithered around the boats and the sea monster in his flipper, getting ever closer to the middle of the lake. It was too late when he realized that the bottom was very soft and he began to sink. But he was close enough to the middle to see the sprouts of a thousands giant seeds beginning to grow. It took him a while to figure out that he had been the one fooled. The anonymous people had seen what he would do for gold. They had a crop that needed to be planted and harvested…just one time. When it did rain again someday and the lake began to refill they would be gone, the banker would be dead, and the towns people would be confused. But then they had always been that way and the loss of one banker didn’t affect them all that much. They would mourn and move on.
The fireworks has gone on as planned, the winners had been chosen and everyone went home with a small token of their involvement. The two dressed as aliens had won the contest but they refused to lift their masks. They did not go back the way they came but began a walk across the lake following the tracks of the banker.
The town people did not see the form rise from the lake bottom or the lights that glowed from within. The banker had disappeared from site under the oozing bottom of the lake. It had been a horrible end to a greedy life. The people woke that next morning all sharing a dream of gold, the lake being empty and the bank president that no one could remember.
Life began anew.