Imagine, if you will, a wintry scene, the kind you'd find on a Christmas card. Fir trees wrapped in snow; a luminous grey sky. The focal point of the scene is a lake; deathly still, silent, pale, glowing. It was the lake that drew my attention, and I crunched my way over the snow to the lake's edge, leaving footprints like punctuation marks behind me. The lake stretched before me, a great, solid sheet of pure white; clean and unlittered (unlike the snow over which I had just come, which was scarred with the lazy scrawl of twigs and other such protrusions). The lake fascinated me. At the very centre of the expanse I thought I saw something move. Small and black it aroused my curiousity. I saw the something move for certain as I gazed, its form still no clearer despite the stark contrast it made against the white backdrop. It began to get bigger as I squinted: I realised that it was moving towards me. Desperate to determine the nature of the thing I screwed up my eyes against the glare of the winter sun and its reflection on the frozen lake surface, but to no avail. The black shape was visible not far off, moving yet not moving, solid looking yet at the same time of no substance. Animal or apparition it was impossible to tell and I intended to venture closer - when suddenly the thing was gone. The lake appeared empty as before, but to me it was no longer the same passive expanse.Cautiously I stepped onto the first metre of the now disturbed tranquillity. The ice held. Gaining in confidence I traversed the surface of the lake to the point where at the creature (if that's what it was) had apparently vanished. There was no sign that it had ever been there, but a tiny patch of disturbed white crystals marked that it had left suddenly. Leaning down I saw a perfect circle of clear ice, maybe a hand span across, with the snow that should have covered it piled in a bank around the circumference, like an ice-nymph's amphitheatre. Curiously I knelt at the edge of the circle. I put my hand gingerly on the surface. The black shadow drifted beneath my outstretched fingers! Startled I drew back, short of breath. Then, intrigued, I leaned forward once more. I had no doubt that I had seen something, that this was no trick of the eerie light. I put my hand once more on the ice, firmly this time, expecting the ice to somehow part in welcome. It was solid. I exerted some pressure but the ice continued to resist. I poked, I prised, I scraped! I tried to chip at the surface with a pen. I swore at it, rubbed it with my hands, hollered and stamped! Finally I took a run and threw myself bodily at it, creating a painful runway with my knees and thigh as I slid along...... ********* And now I am underneath the circle. It is not a hole. There is solid ice above me. Although not well, I can see the sky above as though through a porthole. I am almost entirely submerged in the lake, a lake that, beneath its icy upper layer continues to ebb and flow and live. Between the lake and its lid is a pocket of air that I breathe because my lungs can't help themselves. To stop them breathing would require great effort, and all my effort right now is directed at the manhole cover above me. Punching and scraping has failed. All is tranquil here, dark and cold and numb. My shouting and scrabbling is alien and somehow fill me with embarrassment. So now I am still in my icy prison. I stroke the underside of my captor with a fingertip: if I breathe close and fast to this glassy skin, I see signs that it is melting, yielding, as it begins to perspire. But at the same time its coolness is constricting and my breath must run out, my efforts come to naught, and I watch with despair as the spidery tendrils of frost remove all traces of my endeavour. Does the lake want me here? The apparition, of which there is now no sign, pulled me in, and the lake appears to like me, allowing the oily black water to keep me afloat. My lungs are getting used to their small pocket of salvation, and begrudge me my attempts to make a breakthrough. My limbs are now lifeless: it is as though the lake runs through my veins now, having displaced all my blood. Only my mind continues to rail against my captor, and it can do nothing whilst trapped inside a body governed by my slowly beating heart. ******** Epilogue I had forgotten about the dog. She's just come and blocked out my murly view of the sky. She sees me - I am her apparition, and now she scrabbles just as I did. Now she has gone again. My heart sinks at the thought of the destruction she must be wreaking with so many legs and so many claws. It hurts to imagine what she must be doing to my lake's exterior; scratching and gouging and pockmarking. It is too late to mourn the lake's decay, though, for in doing so I would only be mourning my own.