The lake is quiet. It’s cold. It’s getting dark. In the fields and woodlands around the lake families are packing away picnic baskets and getting into cars, heading home now that night is setting in and it’s gotten cold. There are only a few families and young couples left out now, packing away their things or taking a last walk around the area while it’s quiet.
A ripple breaks the surface of the water. Slowly a head pokes out. First the long, slightly pointed ears, green and purple algae growing on the insides. Then the eyes, dark and glowing, focussed on the shore. Next the muzzle shows, long and slightly pointed. A concave profile with deep cheeks and well defined bones. The teeth that poke out from the mouth are curved and jagged, the front ones elongated like tusks. Duckweed hangs from them; it’s matted in the mane of greenish hair running from the top of the head.
It swims slowly, leisurely, towards the edge of the lake. Its ears are back and its teeth are bared. It can smell flesh, hear footsteps. Its limbs are already tensed as it swims, preparing for the hunt. It gnashes its teeth and smells the air. There are footsteps growing closer to the lake, and the kelpie speeds up its swim. When it reaches the edge of the lake it sinks below the water once more, waiting.
In a field a little way away, a child wanders away from his parents as they pack picnic baskets and blankets into the boot of their car. He wanders aimlessly down the path towards the lake. It’s quiet, it’s gotten cold quickly and it’s starting to get dark. There isn’t much left to do around the lake, but that doesn’t mean he wants to go home. He picks up a rock from the ground and throws it into the lake.
A ripple across the surface of the lake and the tips of a pair of long ears poke out above the water. After the ears a pair of dark, glowing eyes, then a long and pointed muzzle. Without a sound the kelpie steps out of the lake, drips of water sliding from its coat, but clinging to its greenish mane and tail and the duckweed tangled in it.
The child thinks it’s the strangest pony he’s ever seen. It’s scrawny, its cheeks are sunken, but it moves with a strength and grace that would have astounded and frightened anybody old enough to understand it. Its fur, mane and tail are a mottled greenish-grey. Sharp, curved tusks poke out from its mouth and the little boy briefly wonders if it’s a monster. Only briefly, though, before he reminds himself that there’s no such thing as monsters, and as a big boy he should know that. It’s just a little lost pony, looking for someone to play with, probably having wandered from a nearby field. He’s glad that there’s nobody there to see him blush.
The little pony walks towards him, its hooves not making a sound on the ground. He holds his hand out to it, allowing it to sniff at his palm. It licks him and it tickles. As the pony turns sideward he lets his hands rest on its neck. The fur there is harsh and coarse, not smooth like it looks. When the child makes to move his hand down the pony’s neck, to stroke it, he finds that his hands are stuck.
Slowly, quietly, the kelpie steps backwards, moving back towards the lake. Its hooves still make no sound as it walks. Its breathing is slightly laboured as it moves back to the water, dragging the child along with it. He struggles as the water grows closer, but to no avail. His hands are stuck fast.
It doesn’t take long. First the kelpie slips its back legs into the lake, and then its forelegs. The water slides up its legs, getting higher and higher. It slides up past the child’s chest, up his neck, and then over his nose and mouth. He struggles and kicks, but the kelpie only swims out further. It isn’t long before the child stops struggling, and after a moment his hand becomes unstuck from the kelpie’s neck.
The body floats to the surface, and the kelpie has to tread water while it eats. It takes its time, savouring the meal. It’s still finished before the child’s parents realise he’s gone. By the time they come down to the lake to look for him the kelpie is below the water and nothing is left of the child but a few gnawed bones. A pointed muzzle pokes out of the water, sniffing the air as they walk back to their car, the mother crying hysterically into a mobile phone.