The lake has been frozen over since October. I know that because I was here when the ice formed. I’ve had this cabin for about a decade but I usually only stay a few weeks when I need some distance from the world. No one lives on Lake Wilcom but me. I built this cabin in my 30’s and then bought a 4-wheeler so I could get back here in the summer.
Unfortunately, the snowfall was early this year. I can’t get out and I know I’m probably stuck here until spring. It’s no problem, really, I’m self employed and the cabin is well stocked. And it’s just me to worry about. I’ll get more solitude than I intended but that’s okay, too. Plenty of books and whiskey in my cabin.
This morning started like all the other mornings. I woke up, made some coffee, sat in the bay window to drink it while I watched the sunrise. But as the gray streaks in the sky lightened to muted yellow, I noticed a shape out on the ice of Lake Wilcom. The object slowly gained definition over the next 30 minutes and I kept watching, confused.
There was no one out here. No town for miles and miles. No roads to get back here. That’s why I built here. But there it was in the middle of the frozen lake – a fucking pram.
My coffee went cold as I studied it, contemplated it. Who was out here? Why did they leave a baby buggy in the middle of the lake? Was it a joke? Was it empty? God, I hoped it was empty.
I finally left the bay window but checked on the black baby carriage throughout the day. I wondered if I should go out there and see if anything was inside of it. But I didn’t know much about frozen lakes and how much weight they could support. I’m a big man. What if I fell through? And the buggy had been out there all night. If there was anything in it, it was already dead. But still, someone had to push it out there and leave it. Why? My cabin was visible from the middle of the lake. Was someone fucking with me?
There were days I forgot about the pram entirely and days I couldn’t stop staring at it. The carriage froze, then thawed. Then froze again. One morning I woke up to a snow storm so bad it had completely buried the pram in snow. But I saw the lump in the middle of the lake. I knew it was still there.
It was early March when the weather finally broke. The access road to the cabin became drivable again but I didn’t leave. I wanted to wait for the snow to melt more. I wanted to see the baby buggy one last time before I left Lake Wilcom. Wanted to make sure it hadn’t been a hallucination brought on by extreme isolation.
It wasn’t until the middle of April that the snow melted enough that I could see the baby carriage again. The shade over the top of the cradle was torn and weathered. It whipped around in the early spring winds. Something else flapped there too, a baby blanket that hung out from the inside. It thrashed around angrily but never escaped the pram. As if it was weighted down.
I packed that night, ready to leave Lake Wilcom. For so many months it had just been me and that baby carriage. I was ready to drown in the big world once more.
When the sun rose on Easter morning I pulled on a sweatshirt and parka then loaded the car with my things. I took inventory of the cabin and made a list of supplies I would need to restock it after being stuck at the lake for an entire winter. Before I departed, I went to take one last look at the baby carriage.
But it was gone. All I could see where it had once sat for so many months was broken ice and glistening blue lake water. I left and didn’t return for two years.
I came back to Lake Wilcom in August of 2012. Before hitting the cabin I stopped in a nearby town called Brire to pick up the supplies that needed replacing from that winter a couple of years before. While I was there, I had lunch and read the local paper. It wasn’t on the front page, or even the second. The article was buried in the back, in the “Local News” section.
Brire Family Not Giving Up Hope for Return of Baby Benjamin
I didn’t read the article, because I didn’t have to. Below the headline was a picture of an attractive middle aged couple holding a baby. Behind them, a black pram with a blue blanket inside. I’d seen that baby carriage in my dreams off and on. It was the one from the lake, I was sure.
I left the cafe and headed up to Lake Wilcom. It was late afternoon by the time I got there. Everything was as I left it inside. I walked to the bay window and looked out at the lake. It shimmered before me, welcoming; beautiful blue waves reflecting an orange and pink sky.
I watched the sunset. I grilled a T-Bone. I read a book. I left the next morning.
Because as hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop myself from returning to the window time and time again. I couldn’t help but stare out of it, my eyes drawn to the place where the buggy used to be.
I couldn’t forget what was at the bottom of the lake. Knowledge I shared with only one other person who was out there somewhere.
I put my cabin on the market the following year. No one bought it, perhaps because of it’s isolation and accessibility. I took it off the market last year, but I’ll never return. The lake belongs to someone else now.
So the cabin sits alone on the shores of Lake Wilcom year after year. Winter after winter. Summer after summer. And the lake is quiet and smooth. Still and calm. Alone and forsaken. It’s been that way for years and it’ll be that way for years more. Just the lake, my cabin, and Baby Benjamin.