Sunday, May 03, 2009

"End-of-the-World Pool" - by Scott Roberts

Every year, the writer’s group, Codex (, holds a Halloween short-story writing contest. "The End-of-the-World Pool" was my entry from 2008. I was given a story seed by the incomparable Laurel Amberdine ( to start me off: “A place which remains in perpetual darkness, no matter what kind of illumination is attempted.”

When I was a kid, we lived for a couple months in a gated community called Hilltop Lakes in Texas. Every day, we’d go to the titular lake there, and go swimming. This wasn’t a tame beach; I don’t remember there being sand at all. There were gnarled tree roots dipping into the water all along the side; and periodically long water-weeds would bloom in the warmer sections of the water. I was just learning to swim, and after she was sure I was relatively buoyant, Mom let me splash around on my own while she sat on shore. The water in the lake was murky; when you put your toes down on the lake-bed, they squished through clay rather than sand. There was only one section of the lake we were allowed to play in—the one away from the tree roots. Mom told us that she was afraid that we’d get our feet caught in the roots and drown.

That idea stuck with me. I’d swim to the bottom, and open my eyes to see nothing at all. The darkness was vast. I could feel the slimy water weeds brushing against me, and I imagined the tree roots sneaking their way through them toward my legs, like some knobby, wicked fingers that would latch on and drag me down into the clay.

The translation from that memory to The End of the World Pool is obvious, and I can now forgive Mom for traumatizing me. See? Writing Horror can be therapeutic…

My older brother, John, was the one to take dares. He willingly jumped into ponds, swimming pools, and drainage ditches at which even a rat would turn up its nose. There always seemed to be some yahoo willing to say those three magical words that turn boys into heroes or emergency room cases: “I dare you…” As far as I know, John never met a pervy swimming pool mermaid there beneath the water. He did manage to impress a number of girls, though, which I suspect might have been the point of the whole exercise.

His willingness to take dares was the source for Grant and Evan’s birthday dare tradition.

I stumbled across Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, Annabel Lee, quite by accident. I was bored with writing, and went scratching around the internet for something to ignite my brain. I’m not a big fan of Poe, but I was writing a spooky story after all. There’s a certain gothic element to the man’s work. Maybe you’ve noticed… Anyway, I didn’t feel like committing to re-reading his short fiction, so I Googled Poe’s poetry, and spent an enjoyable afternoon grazing on what I found. When I read Annabel Lee—well.

“Serendipitous,” said Grant.

“Adventitious,” Evan added.

“I dare you to go play in the street,” I said.

* * *

"End-of-the-World Pool" by Scott Roberts is available now in issue 12 of Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show

No comments: