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Alan felt good for the first time in weeks. There were unanswered questions, sure, but just having asked them, having pondered them, he felt like finally he had a chance to disentangle himself from the weight he'd been struggling beneath.
Some of that feeling was Kelly. She was a great girl- great enough that he knew he didn't deserve her. And that had always been the problem. She was smart, pretty, sweet, destined to finish school and go do something with herself. And he tapped out with just enough school to be an EMT. Not a doctor, not even a nurse.
He closed his eyes, and forced that train of thought from his mind. He was making progress, and he would be damned if he was going to start undermining it the second he was alone with his own thoughts.
He glanced back towards Kelly. She was looking his direction. That felt hopeful, and he tried to bury that hope inside, where he might need it later.
Then he heard the rush of water. The lake had a gentle current, from the tributary pouring into it, and the outlet where it emptied. But the water was mostly still, and he could sometimes go minutes without hearing the waves lap against the shore.
This was different, bigger, and building, and he could see the slipstream getting nearer to him. A blade sliced out of the water, and he told himself it couldn't be what it looked like. This was fresh water, so it couldn't be any kind of shark or similar animal. And besides, he was standing ankle deep in the shallows, before a steep drop-off. There was no way anything could get to him there.
But the fin kept rising, until he wondered if it was a sail atop some strange kind of ghost ship. A thin smile crossed his lips as he thought about swashbuckling with skeletal pirates.
Then a boulder attached to what he thought was a fin broke through the waters. What was happening? Was someone draining the lake, revealing things that had been buried? No, a quick glance told him the waterline was right where it had been, so the thing was rising.
The rock had a strange shape, craggy but almost roundly aerodynamic; that sort of thing happened in rivers, where the blunted edges were rounded off by erosion and collision with other rocks. And in the rock he almost felt like he could make out the features of a face.
The 'rock' opened its eyes, and he saw finally that it was no boulder at all. It blew a stream of water from a blowhole in its neck, as more of its enormous body rose above the water. He could barely see its shoulders, but forty feet of it towered over him already.
He heard Kelly yell for him, but the thing was too huge- not just the lizard rising from the water, but the totality of the situation. What could he do against something like that? How would he even resist?
He saw its chest rush above him. His face was soaked, but he couldn't be sure if it was splash from the monster or if he was blubbering. He had never been so terrified, and in the same instant, he had never felt so completely divorced from his own dread, because it was so insignificant, a single grain in a sandstorm.
The lizard raised one of its stocky hind legs, the precipitation falling off the creature's body a waterfall. Alan had been crushed by fear for most of his adolescence, but now, faced with having a building-sized foot dropped on him, he couldn't muster a single thought for himself, other than, “Wow.”