By Melissa L. Webb
There’s a puddle under the bushes at the back of my school. It’s full of water even when it’s not raining. It just sits there, stagnant and thick, like primordial ooze from long ago.
Others walk past it quickly, head down, eyes averted, as if it’s something to be ignored at all costs. Later, they may have even forgotten doing it, but during that one moment, the fear is real.
I see it on their faces as they walk past. I see what they’re experiencing, yet I don’t get any of the same feelings when I walk by. Curiosity is the only thing that burns deep inside of me when I see that puddle.
I was late to school yesterday. I just stood and stared at that water, mesmerized by the inky darkness it contained. I felt drawn to it in ways I couldn’t explain. I needed to know more about it.
I tossed the banana I had been eating into the puddle. It floated on top for a moment before something seemed to stir below it, causing ripples to form in the murky water.
The banana began to sink as some kind of pulpy flesh began to wrap around it. The flesh squirmed against itself like a mound of worms disturbed. It quivered as it hooked itself deeper into the banana, causing it to disappear.
I stood there, amazed, as the water once again became still. What had I just seen? Something was in that stagnant mess. Something alive.
I was in total awe of the creature that called those dark depths its home. I wanted to see it again. I needed to see it again.
I reached into my lunch bag and pulled a shiny red apple from it. It glistened in the morning light as I tossed it into the puddle. The apple sat there on top of the water, as if waiting patiently to be devoured.
The water slowly started to churn as the creature below once again began to arise. Its flesh rose up around the red orb. The apple’s skin seemed to melt at the creature’s touch, causing fruity pulp to pool into the water. The creature’s flesh closed up around it, dragging the apple below.
I smiled to myself. I had a secret and it was the coolest thing ever.
After school, I checked on my puddle, saddened at the thought of being there empty-handed. But all sadness disappeared as I noticed a bird had somehow fallen in. It thrashed on top of the water, helpless to move. The liquid acted like tar, keeping the tiny bird from escaping.
I watched it flailing, my excitement rising in anticipation. The creature had waited for me. It had accepted me.
The water churned around the bird, causing it to panic even more. Still, it could not move. It just twisted and convulsed on the water’s surface, sensing its demise was close at hand.
I watched as the pulpy flesh once again rose from the water. It pulsated quickly, excited by the kill as much as I was. The bird squeaked in terror as the flesh adhered itself to it.
The feathers quickly dropped from the bird’s skin, like leaves falling from a tree. It screamed as the creature’s flesh tore into its own. Blood pooled around the creature, turning the puddle to a muted crimson.
I stood, frozen in excitement. My heart beating in sync with each scream. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here was life in its most primal form and I was witnessing it. The creature had done this for me.
The bird’s screams died as the flesh completely encased it. The creature lingered on the surface a moment longer and then sank below, back down from where it came from.
I felt drained, as if I had spent all my emotions in the last few minutes. I had experienced so much in such a short time. These were things most people couldn’t even imagine and I was living them.
That had been the creature’s gift to me. It took me out of society’s comfort zone and let me experience life as it was truly meant to be. It had given me so much; I knew I should give something in return.
And I know just the perfect gift. Today, I think I’ll shove my little sister in.
©2010 Melissa L. Webb