Summary:Mother (Susan) and daughter (Ettie) search for Hunter Lake, which is said to be haunted--whether because Native Americans tortured or were tortured is left unclear (see below). They travel down a scant trail to find their guide. They don't find him, but they do find the lake.
Discussion:Their guide doesn't appear, but the water begins to rise. They've heard creepy stories about the lake being the hunter (although a hunter was also said to have found the lake), so Ettie runs, losing a loafer. The mother at first thinks it is a tidal phenomenon but catches her daughter's fear and flees behind her, with the lake in pursuit.
Tides can be a little creepy. (See video.) However, they can't chase someone dashing up a hillside. And this is a lake, not an ocean, which has a lot more water. Tides redistribute earth's water due to the gravitational pull of the moon. So water from other parts of the ocean are piling up on the near and far side of where the moon is.
They find a cabin that Susan initially takes as their own, but it is white clapboard, not log. Susan takes stuffing the cracks with clothes while Ettie decides to wake up from her dream.
It turns out Henrietta (Ettie?) has a daughter, Joan, who knows that her grandmother died from fluid in her lungs.
Some of the strangenesses of the tale:
- It was all a dream: Ettie/Henrietta wakes up. This is supposed to be a big narrative no-no. But it creates a somewhat interesting scenario. Ettie recognizes this is a dream early on. However, most of the logic seems fairly straight-forward except for the lake. That Ettie recognizes this is a dream but Susan does not, seems like it should be important. However, it is hard to say what exactly that means. Does Susan have a flawed personality that Ettie does not? The text doesn't really support a strong case although maybe Ettie has a stronger dose of reality. But isn't it Ettie that creates the fear of the lake in the first place?
- Dual POV: This allows us to inhabit both consciousnesses--Susan and Ettie. This is possible through the dream. Is it necessary? It does allow us to examine and compare each POV. Clearly, Ettie's is the preferred perspective since she is the survivor. Yet Susan seems to be the cooler and more reasoning head. Somehow she never see this is a dream. Should Ettie have stuck around to convince Susan to wake up? Or maybe it is only Ettie's dream, so that only she can wake up. If the latter, why pick a Dual POV? Maybe it is just for contrivance to create an old-fashioned flavor.
- Present-day dream leaps into the future: The main body of the story feels contemporary to its writing, discussing internet and rabbit-ear TV being outdated. But what we thought was the present day becomes a dream of a distant past--presumably at least twenty years into the future where Henrietta has a daughter of her own. Henrietta is rather old-fashioned name to begin with. By 1970, it had fallen out of the top 1000. (By 1956, the top 500; its heyday seeming to be from the 1900s through the 1920s.) So even the name juxtaposed against the internet makes the story have a dreamlike or asynchronous reality.
- Is this supernatural or science fiction?: One might assume this is a tale of horror/fantasy, but it was included in Wolfe's science fiction collection. Was he just toying with us? Or is the lake a reality, an alien visitor? If so, how did Ettie manage to survive? Why did it select to kill Susan and not Ettie?