He’d gone fishing, at least, that’s what the sign said. What’s a business owner to do? It was always calming, and the pastime had inched its way closer to becoming a serious ritual. It’d only taken a couple years, after obtaining his new job in street cleaning. The water rippled at the motion of the electric stilts, the waves disappearing long before they reached the scattered horizon of the lakeside town. There was no wind, no voices to be heard, not even the movement of water. It was merely the hushed whiffling of the machine’s movement, and Vander’s own relaxed breaths.
He withdrew the fishing rod with the slip of a lever, and it slid out of the waist compartment. The click of a button, and it let its line drop into water, making more little ripples. It plonked as it did so, and somehow that was the most relaxing thing. He leaned back in his seat, and the electric legs supported this movement as sturdy as if it were stone. His eyes closed almost without thought. He wondered if he would catch anything today. There was hope, but little effort to actively think it over. He couldn’t concern himself. It had been difficult back at home. Surely, this was his time to unwind, even though this was double-duty in a sense.
A breeze picked up, and he adjusted the recliner knob without opening an eye. The machine obliged, no louder than the wind. He could picture the scenery in his head, which was as much of a retreat as the actual thing was. The sky was going a thin purple, and the horizon was as orange as a jack-o-lantern. Nobody came this far out into the water, that was for sure. That was the joy of technology. One could easily travel to wherever they wanted, but people as a whole didn’t seem all too interested in that. He seemed the only one, the last who wished for scenery like this. He wasn’t even sure how he could enjoy this so much.
He felt something catch on the line. He wouldn’t have noticed it, but the stilts alerted him with the standard bell tone. His eyes opened, and indeed, the line was moving. It wasn’t much, not in the slightest. He almost thought it was the wind in that instant. How many days after work had he visited here? Rather, how many months? He’d had no sign of catching anything. He was sure he’d been kidding himself. There was no hope, or at least, it was pseudo hope. He thought he knew that. The reality of this hope… No. The machine had sounded but surely…
He turned the dial to raise the line.
He went about it slowly, of course. He didn’t like how heavy the line was. The industrially built rod even seemed to bend a little under the weight. It was a fish, it had to be. He wouldn’t let himself have this. There couldn’t be… fish. And he finally…
It wasn’t a fish.
First he saw hair. Hair that had spent far too long underwater. Hair that was thickening up with algae, and a scalp that was a feast to the marine life. He made out, although he didn’t care to think about it too hard, a growth of water maggots sticking out from the decomposing skull. There was a frightening lack of blood, but worst of all was the face. The hook had caught the roof it it’s mouth, and so the jaw hung open in a silent scream. The decomposing flesh fell off of the bones, and made their own little ripples below. It had no eyes. He’d guessed they were the first to go. The nose was much the same, and so it was only a series of holes staring back at him. And couldn’t believe it was his son.
Vander looked away, prompting the machine to place the catch in the holding basket. It was still looking at him, he knew. Surprisingly, there was no smell which he had anticipated. The machine whirred. He retracted the fishing rod, confirming to himself that he was no longer on the end of the line. It had been hard back at home, but they found him. There had been so many question, so many that kept him up at night. Only one was answered now, but he didn’t feel the conclusion he had expected.
He alerted the machine into action, and the stilts turned back, giving him the sight of the city, and the remaining pumpkin glow of the horizon. It carried him home, and he was bawling by that point. What would his wife say? What did this say about him? What. He emerged from the lake, but the trauma would always stay. He had an answer, but that didn’t matter so much anymore.
He stopped fishing after that.