Cayden drove the mud-splotched and bug-splattered pick-up truck down the narrow dirt road, just like how he always did on Saturday morning. As the dirt road gave way into dusty yellow grass and then into polished pebbles, the trees around him receded to expose the precariously close cliff edge overlooking the ocean. The water was angry today, like every other time there was enough wind to yank giant fronds from the banana trees that stood vigil on the seashore. Profound. This correlation perplexed him, just like how it would get hot every time his weather station thermometer went up.
However, today was going to be a special day, the day when he would get his girlfriend something for her impending birthday. Sure, they were only in sixth grade, and sure, he probably shouldn’t be driving his dad’s truck down to the ocean every Saturday, but he didn’t really care. His dad worried more for his “fine Cuban cigars” than whatever Cayden, his honorary son, was doing.
As the red truck rounded the last bend in the road that spilled out on a twig-infested beach, he saw, from his vantage point on three Oxford dictionaries, a shallow pond—probably a tidal pool left by last night’s lightning storm.
Denise loved anything from the ocean that remotely resembled life, so Cayden was determined to catch something to add to her enormous aquarium. That glass contraption was large enough for him to take a bath in. Not that he would have, as six Brazilian piranhas really ruin that experience.
Peering into the murky, sulfurous brew, he saw nothing except for the floating sticks and bubbles of smelly gas that gave this beach its name—Devil’s Beach. These bubbles spontaneously ignited at night, forming dancing pockets of fire. He scoffed. Devil’s beach indeed. What a stupid superstition.
He was about to call this pond a lost cause when, suddenly, a flash of red caught his eye. It whipped back and forth like a flaming meteorite disintegrating into endless sky. He lunged for the ephemeral burst of color, only to grab wet, stinking sand. On his pudgy stomach, he lunged again, and this time, with a cry of triumph, he grabbed it.
Instantly, there was a strong sucking noise and he got pulled down into the pool, arms first. Down and down he went, deeper and deeper into pitch-black nothingness, flailing his arms and kicking hard against the unknown force that was pulling him to an uncertain fate. Deeper. Darker. Eyes closed and mouth agape, he lost this tug-of-war. His screams were lost to the flowing mud.
Suddenly, there was no more tugging, and with a barely perceptible splash, he fell into another pool. No. It wasn’t another pool. It was clear water, and he wasn’t gasping for air anymore.
Cayden looked up from the confines of his new home, the glass fishbowl on the nightstand by his all-too-familiar bed. Above the rippled water and purple plastic castle, he saw a hand, his own hand, streaked with gray, trying to grab him, and his paper-like fins flashed wildly in consternation as he realized the true reason why that twig-infested beach was called Devil’s Beach. What a stupid superstition indeed.