Updated: Oct 13
The boy’s skin above the crewneck of his tee-shirt was burnt deep red. Every now and then he splashed some of the cool, greenish-brown water on it to cool it off, but he had no intention of going back to camp for sunscreen. Besides, the sun was already on the west side of the lake, and the shadows of trees were starting to stretch longer and longer, like the arms of a hungry witch trying to catch him. He imagined for a minute that he was a frog and those long, skinny shadows were a giant eight-year-old boy reaching to pick him up and plop him in a big, blue bucket with 20 other frogs. He smiled to realize that meant HE was a giant! And he stomped in the mud like the giant of a fairy tale, chanting “Fee, Fie, Fo, Fum!” as he leaped for another frog and missed, falling to his knees in the soft, silty muck.
He had just got his footing when his eyes met two great, big eyes. They stared at him from the depths of the lake, just a couple of yards away. How big was that bullfrog? Its greenish-brown face rippled like part of the greenish-brown water. The desire to catch it - to be the mighty conqueror of the biggest frog in the lake - was so strong it scared him. But the size of those eyes - that face, staring at him, was pretty scary too. He wanted to turn around and reach for his net that sat beside the bucket. But he didn’t dare take his eyes off the steady, staring eyes in the water. He wouldn’t lose sight of it. He wouldn’t give it an unguarded moment to swim off into the deeper water unseen. He knew his parents would never believe it if he told them how big it was… how big WAS it? All he could see was the face, large as a dinner plate. It seemed not to be attached to a body. He searched the water around it for a pair of oversized, kicking webbed feet, but he could see nothing. He inched forward one tiny fraction of a step and then paused, waiting, not wanting to spook it. The slime colored eyes stared, undisturbed.
And then it seemed to float a tiny bit closer. Its smooth head took on a rounder appearance. Now the boy wondered if it was actually a frog - the biggest frog anyone had ever seen - bigger than any frog he had learned about in school. Or was it something other? But what? It stared unblinking, unbreathing. The boy’s heart was beating hard in his chest. Should he try to catch it? Should he dive forward and try to wrap his arms around whatever neck hid behind that relentless stare? Was it a fish? Would it slither out of his arms? Or would some flopping, floundering limbs keep it from being able to escape?
The eyes started to rise closer to the surface and the boy realized that now it was only a few feet away. When had it come so close? How had it crept so motionlessly toward him without him realizing? He hadn’t taken his eyes off of it even once. But here it was, coming closer now almost to the surface. And then, its jaw opened slightly and the boy saw teeth! Thin and sharp and white between its green lips. What was I thinking? he panicked. His heart raced and he found he was barely breathing. He was paralyzed in place as he now saw that this was certainly no bullfrog. It wasn’t a fish either. All desire to catch it had vanished and his only thought now was self-preservation. ESCAPE!
The creature seemed to read his mind, and its hideous mouth opened in a menacing smile. Scream! I could scream for my daddy! He thought. But no sound would come to him. And even if he could scream, his daddy wouldn’t make it down to the shore in time to save him. It was fight or flight. He had no way of knowing how fast the creature would be, but if its face was proportional to its body, it was bigger than him. Not to mention those knives in its maw, rippling their bullying threat at his unarmed, NON-giant stature. He couldn’t fight it. He decided he would have to try to run. His heart was racing as he realized another horrifying fact - his feet were sunk deep into the mud. There would be no way to swiftly remove himself from the watery home of this great, threatening whatever-it-was. Could he sneak backwards? Pulling his feet free in the slowest, carefulest movements? It was his only hope.
With all his focus, and never taking his eyes off of that gaping mouth and those hateful eyes, he willed his right leg to start slowly raising. Slower, he thought. Slower! The top of his foot felt the cold lake water touch it as it rose above the mud and a moment later dread filled his heart as “PLOCK!”
And the creature shot up from the water, twenty feet tall! Wild, terrible arms waved through the air! The boy screamed as the creature’s teeth flew toward his head!
A moment later, the lake stood serene and silent. Only a net and an overturned blue bucket lay quietly abandoned in the dwindling twilight.