It was still dark when I got to the beach. The moon was out, and it illuminated the fog. It glided over the water, and I could taste the salt on my lips.
I knew the water would be cold, but I was trying to commit to my new fitness routine. Everyone morning I’d swim to the buoy and swim there and back. The first time was awful, but I had slowly become accustomed to it.
I dropped my bag in the sand. The beach was empty, and it was technically still closed, but I was usually in and out before anyone noticed. I stripped off my clothes and jogged to the edge of the water. I paused for a moment, summoning a bit of courage, and ran into the water cursing under my breath.
“Jesus,” I said to no one in particular.
I was waist deep and I started to swim. I had never been a strong swimmer, but I hated running, and spending any amount of time in a gym seemed terrible.
I eased into my stroke, and tried not to choke on the water.
Usually, I wasn’t tired on the way out, but I noticed early on that each stroke took more energy than normal. It was like my body was getting heavier and heavier. I ignored and pushed on. I got halfway to the buoy when my energy waned. I was going slower and slower.
Then I stopped. I couldn’t hardly move. It was all I could do to tread water.
I felt something touch my foot.
I nearly screamed. At first, I thought it was a shark, but they weren’t common in the area. I felt it again. The bump was harder this time.
It definitely wasn’t a shark. This wasn’t a passing bump. I almost felt like a finger poking me.
I tried to swim away but my arms weren’t moving. It was like the water was getting thicker around me, holding me in place.
And then It grabbed my ankle. It was a hand pulling me down. I panicked and flapped my arms but I was no use. I was going under. I sucked some air before my head below the water.
I looked down and the only thing I could see was a dark hand around my ankle. If pressed I would have said I saw glowing eyes but it could have been moonlight.
I was running out of air.
I strained and clawed through the water, but it was no use I was being pulled down farther and farther. Finally, I gave in.
My lungs burning.
Every cell in my body craved oxygen.
All I wanted to do was breathe.
I sucked in a mouthful of water. I choked and coughing. Bubbles surrounded me as my last gasps of air left.
The last thing I saw was the moon through the waves.
I woke up spitting up water and sand. The sun was just coming up and I looked around only to see I was alone on the beach. My chest was pounding and my head hurt. I kept coughing up water.
I saw where I left my clothes but I as I got up my ankle was throbbing. I looked down to see a dark mark on my ankle. It looked like a birthmark, which would not be cause for alarm, but I didn’t have a birthmark there before. It was a strange shape, but my horror grew as I turned my ankle to see that it wasn’t merely a mark, but it took the shape of a small hand.
A child’s hand, I thought to myself.
I immediately scanned the water and the beach looking for whoever was in the water with me.
There was no one in sight. For a moment I caught a glimpse of a head poking out above the waves. But, it ducked under and there was no way I was going in the water to investigate.
I gathered up my clothes and hurried back to my car. Just as I was opening the door, a man and his dog walked by.
“Out early huh?” he said.
“Yeah,” I said as I tossed my bag into the car. I was trying to not look freaked out.
“Not many people swim there any more.”
“How come?” I asked.
“Couple years ago some little kid drowned. It was really sad. That beach used to be a lot more popular,” he said. As he said it, his dog looked out at the water and growled.
“Oh wow,” I said, “I guess I’ll start jogging.”
‘Yeah, it’s a little spooky at night,” he said as continued on with his dog.
Spooky was a understatement.
The near drowning because of some haunted beach left me in no mood to go to work. I called in sick and headed home.
I didn’t even change and fell into bed hoping it was just a bad dream.
But as I fell asleep my eyes popped open as I heard a child’s laughter from under the bed.