(Dis)Harmony by Dakoda Barker

At first, the road snakes into the valley, a narrow stream trickling down the mountain. Then it flows into a larger river and the road begins tracing the edge of the lake. Great forested hills stand all around, as if they were seats in a football stadium, but the hum of the engine and whoosh of wind rushing past are all that can be heard.

The car slows and turns. The gravel lot, empty save for two other vehicles, gently slopes towards the water. At its mouth, the bitumen has spread, slowly clawing its way toward the water. More successful chunks of bitumen sit among the gravel like chocolate chips, trekked in on shoes or tyres. Atop the manicured grass—too neat and too green to be natural—sits a weather-worn brown picket fence, an ineffective barrier were the handbrake to fail.
Crunching of gravel underfoot gives way to the hollow thud of footsteps on wood. The pier stretches out, suspended above the water, an interconnected wooden maze. Barnacle-covered boats gently rock to and fro. The dull knock as they bump against their mooring blends with the constant lapping of water, creating an irregular, unnatural tune.

Leaving the sturdy pier and stepping into the boat is almost disastrous. It sways on the whim of the waves, threatening to plunge everything into the unsympathetic water. The engine splutters, choking on the water left languishing inside, before stumbling to life. Slowly, the boat putters past its brethren, desperately searching for open water.

Once it has been found, a deafening roar erupts from the engine and everything else is drowned out by the wind. The boat porpoises as it accelerates, lake water spraying in its wake, a refreshing mist to take the edge off the biting sun. The marina shrinks in the distance until it becomes little more than a blur on the horizon, invisible if not for the knowledge that it still exists.
Along the lake edge, private piers jut out into the water like misshapen teeth. Houses nest between the trees on the bank, painted in bright blues and pinks and reds; they are the oversized, unnecessary flowers adorning the brown and green lakeside. Every so often, weeds spoil this flowerbed of houses. Decrepit shacks—colours fading, rooves crumbling, and piers collapsing into the water—dot the bank. Trees grow inside one, canopy replacing the roof, vines replacing the drapes, nature thriving in the absence of its previous inhabitants.

On the banks opposite the marina, civilisation shows no signs of taking root. Gentle waves—born of the wake left by the boat—wash onto the shore, bathing the untamed greenery. Sturdy, untouched trees stand tall as silent sentinels, watching the encroachment of modernity. The forest thins as the boat continues its loop until the marina comes back into focus and the only trees are far off in the distance, indistinguishable from the forest at large.

The engine emits a tired groan as it decelerates and then dies. The boat bounces against the pier and is left to join its brethren in the irregular orchestra. The thud of wood gives way to the crunch of gravel, and then the car doors slam shut. From across the lake, solemn trees watch as the car returns to the road, snaking its way back up the mountain.