Welcome to the Concept Art Writing Prompt, a new, much-demanded feature here at io9. Each Saturday, we'll post a piece of artwork, and ask you to write a piece of fiction based on that artwork in the comments.
Our first-ever concept art writing prompt comes from illustrator John Hendrix. The piece, titled "Autopsy Lake," was done as a cover illustration for The Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association.
If this piece inspires you to write a little flash fiction, please share it in the comments. I'll go first — I expect you all to do better than I do:
Jimmy took his time putting his clothes on. Children were sent to the lake in the dead of winter — when the ice was at its thickest — and in their frigid border town, that meant long underwear and wool socks. He'd pulled on his snowpants before deciding he had to pee, and it took him twice as long to put them on the second time. He filled his mind with urgent daydreams to let his fingers do their mindless tasks: lacing boots, zipping his winter jacket, breathing, not dying. As he thudded down the stairs, he could hear his father's finger rapping against the table, the way they did when Jimmy came down late for church or school.
His father checked his watch. "Nine o'clock, sport. You want to go out there when the sun's at high noon?" He turned his attention back to his newspaper. "You're a braver man than I," he said.
Sweat sprang to Jimmy's forehead, and he tongued the gap between his front teeth.
"Don't worry him like that!" his mother squealed, scurrying into view. As soon as Jimmy reached the bottom of the stairs, his mother, smiling broadly, dumped a brown paper bag into his hands. She smelled like cinnamon and oatmeal.
"I'm not hungry," Jimmy said.
"You'll need it for the trek," she said. "You've gotten so skinny, and you'll need energy to skate."
Right. Jimmy thought. Wouldn't want to miss skating. But he couldn't deny that he had lost weight. Rachel had teased him about it, poking at his ribs and whining that he could probably fit into her jeans. He couldn't help it. Ever since chubby Marvin Meeks told everyone he heard the ice crackling beneath his skates, Jimmy hard barely been able to eat.
"You got your skates?" his mother asked. When Jimmy nodded, he mother threw her arms around him, gripped his hair between her fingers, and whispered something in his ear.
Some boys walked through town before the big skate, waving to the shopkeepers and strolling mothers like conquering heroes. As if skating on Autopsy Lake actually did something, besides prove you were a man. Jimmy took the shortest route from his house to the woods. He paused only once, at Rachel's house, to wave at her darkened window. He saw a faint shadow waving back at him, and could have sworn she looked sad.
He distracted himself with thoughts of his favorite book, The Blank Sky. His classmates made fun of him for reading books like that, books where evidence of gods didn't sit atop high mounts or just beneath icy lakes. In The Blank Sky, people wondered if there were gods, but they had no way of knowing for sure. Even Rachel didn't understand. "I couldn't take living like that," she said one day in his room, tracing her finger down the cracked spines of his paper. "All that uncertainty." Right now, Jimmy could do with a little uncertainty.
Despite his nerves, Jimmy did end up digging his fingers into the paper bag. His mother had packed him three giant oatmeal cookies, packed with raisins and slivered almonds. Jimmy wolfed down two before reaching the end of the lake.
Jimmy had gone to Autopsy Lake for the first time when he was nine. He and some of the other boys had made the trek and sat on the banks, letting their feet slide out onto the ice. Jimmy was sitting at the metacarpals of Velepenir, the Sleeping Giant, who would rise at the end of world, carrying with him the hungry monsters who writhed through his skeleton. Jimmy sat for what felt like a minute, but was probably a mere ten seconds before a dark shadow swam up to the base of the ice. Despite the thickness of the ice, and the fact that it never melted all the way, not even in summer, Jimmy could clearly see teeth flashing at his heels. He pulled his feet back onto the snow, shot upright, and ran back toward the trees, screaming the whole way as his classmates' giggles faded into the background.
As Jimmy set up the tripod for his video camera, he vowed that today would be different. No looking down. Just smooth skating.
He sat on the bank, lacing up his skates. He inhaled the cold air, and thought about what his mother had whispered in his ear: "Thousands of boys have skated on that lake, and you're nothing special." Nodding, he stood up, pushed off, and let momentum carry him the rest of the way.
And now it's your turn.