Many years ago, there was this girl who loved to swim. She would stay in the water for as long as she could, no matter how wrinkly her skin would become. She could stay for hours in the water if she was allowed to. Her peers, classmates or friends, and family nicknamed her water-rat or water-monkey. The former term being a much used figurative expression in the country she was living in at the time for people there, to describe anyone who enjoyed swimming a lot.
Her parents would sometimes joke that if she stayed too long in the water, that she would stay wrinkly forever.
The girl's name... She shall be called Sarah. This is not her real name, but her story is.
Sarah was considered a 'normal' girl. She did well in school, even though she had some difficulties and needed guidance now-and-again. Nothing too much out of the ordinary. The girl had friends, although not at school. So at school she spent all her time learning and doing school work. That way any time she had left after school she was free to do whatever she wanted to, be it meeting with her friends or swimming.
Her favourite thing to do was to see how long she could hold her breath for by swimming from one end of the pool or lake to the other side. Sarah would keep going until she was satisfied enough she did her best. Other things she liked to do in the water were 'tricks', such as doing as many underwater forward rolls as possible before needing to get up for air or the handstand underwater.
One day she was alone, swimming at the beach nearby where she and her parents lived. It was during the summer vacation and most people left to celebrate their vacation elsewhere, spending time at foreign beaches most likely. Sarah didn't mind, she enjoyed spending time by herself. Being with friends was always nice and fun, but as an introvert she got exhausted from spending time with other people, no matter how kind or helpful they were. As a person she needed time to herself to recharge. This was such a time.
She swam and swam and swam some more. The girl had lost track of time, as was normally the case for her when she went swimming. Sarah did some of her favourite tricks in the water. This was the first time she was allowed to swim by herself. Her parents thought she was getting old enough to start venturing out by herself.
"A young woman like yourself should by be able to make your own plans without your mum or dad by now. You're barely a child anymore. Well... you will allways be our child, of course," her mother said while hugging her.
Sarah remembered her mum's smile. Happy her daughter was becoming mature, concerned it might be going too fast for either of them.
It started to get dark. That was her cue to get out of the water and head home. Sarah couldn't remember last she had swam this long.
She checked the time. Her phone had stopped working. Sarah thought this was odd, as she had fully charged it beforehand, but she did not think too much more of it. The battery might have simply just died or something else. Eitherway she would have to check it at home later when she got back.
The young woman hope she wasn't going to be too late.
After having almost run the entire way back home, Sarah got out her keys to the house and put the front door key in the lock. She opened the door, closed it behind her and yelled: "Mum! Dad! I'm back!"
Sarah heard shuffling from upstairs and from the kitchen.
Her mother came from upstairs down the stairs.
"It's way too late, where have you bee-" Her mum stopped right in her tracks halfway coming down the stairs. Her face was starting to become pale.
"Honey, where did you put the spices I like? I can't find them." A man's voice came from the kitchen. It was Sarah's dad, preparing the meal for that evening.
"Mum, what's wrong?" Sarah tried to ask. She was worried. She had never seen her mum like this.
"Honey?" Sarah's father inquired nicely from the kitchen again.
When he didn't get a response he decided to investigate what kept his wife.
He opened the kitchen door and entered the hallway. His jaw dropped. A sudden rush of fear and anger overwhelmed him.
"WHO ARE YOU? GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE OR I'LL CALL THE POLICE!"
As he said this, Sarah's mum cried and screamed.
"Dad... Why..." The girl tried to ask what was wrong, what was going on. She did not get the chance to as her father was starting to charge her.
Sarah jumped out of the house, crying.
"Don't you dare come here again!"
The front door slammed shut after her dad had shouted his final words at her.
Sarah could not understand what happened. Thoughts running through her head.
She wept while walking the streets, trying to figure out what to do. Why did her mum look at her the way that she had done?
Why did her father suddenly turn to rage-filled human being with the near intent of... killing her?
Never before had she seen such fear and rage from either of her parents.
I hadn't seen Sarah in years. Her parents had reported her as missing. They had witnessed a strange incident the day she had dissapeared, but other than that the police had nothing to go on.
Sarah used to be my friend when we were kids. I was one of her few friends. It must have been... about six years after she had gone missing when I got a strange phone call.
I didn't know what to make of it.
The voice on the other end was unclear, but very distinct. They claimed to be able to clarify what had happened to Sarah. That is when I was told everything I have told you now, you, who are reading this.
I asked how they knew all this.
If I wanted to know what had happened to Sarah, if I wanted closure, I had to go to the beach near Sarah's place the next evening. I had to come by myself.
It sounded shady, but I would do that. However, just in case, I informed one of my siblings where I was going to. I had made arrangements with my brother on the off-chance I would not contact him by midnight.
It was the next day. It was almost time for me to head to the beach. Everything was set, everything was arranged.
I sat there, waiting. Daylight faded into dusk, which turned into night.
Tiredness seeped in, and sometimes I felt my head bounce around, trying to stay awake. Luckily I managed to keep myself awake enough.
Eventually I heard splashing. I got up and headed to the water.
The moon had started to appear and shone some dim light across the darkness of the beach and the water of the vast ocean.
Near where I had heard the splashing, I saw a round shape bopping in the water.
"Hello?" I yelled out, thinking it might be someone out at sea. It seemed dangerous to me someone would be swimming right now in the sea with it being so dark.
As a response, the round shape came slightly closer to my position. I was a bit anxious, as I didn't know what to expect, but if it was a person I managed to get out of harm's way, then I was happy enough.
The round shape stopped not too far away from where I was standing. It was still in the water, but it was rising up. A short, hunched figure was standing close to the shoreline.
At least it was a human by the looks of it, I thought.
"Who are you? Are you the one who phoned me about Sarah?" I asked the human figure.
"Yes," an old, crackling voice replied.
It sounded similar to the voice I had heard via the phone earlier.
There was a long, uncomfortable pause before the crackling voice continued.
"The Sarah you knew is gone."
"What did you do to her!" I shouted suddenly in frustration, surprising not only myself with my tone of aggression, but the other person in the water too. I saw the shape flinch in response.
"I... don't know." They replied.
"What do you mean you don't know?" I asked, more gentle this time.
The shape stepped closer to me, slowly.
Due to some clouds which had started to pass the moon, I could not make out the person's face when they came closer.
They were perhaps only two steps away from me.
"Just know Sarah is doing well," the figure said.
"Everyone has been missing her, where is she? Let her come home." I said this firmly, demanded them, but I felt rather hopeless.
"She can't come home... I... This was a mistake. I'm sorry. Just know she is OK."
They turned around and started to head back into the water.
I rushed towards them and grabbed their shoulder. I jumped and immediately let go. Their shoulder felt strange. Almost as if it was all dried up. That made no sense. They had just come from the water.
The person turned back around to face me. Just as they did, the moon's light was shining again as the clouds had fully passed.
Their face... It was all wrinkly. It barely looked like a human face. I was too locked on to their face to take note of the rest of their appearance.
I did not yell, and who - or whatever - they were, had seemed to appreciate I had not backed out in horror or shock.
"Sarah will be happy to know you took the news so well. Thank you." The voice sounded calm and somewhat satisfied.
They retreated back into the water.
I cannot say for sure I know who or what they were, but whatever happened to Sarah had changed her life for good. Maybe I had met Sarah that night, maybe not. The story I got via the phone... I believed more than ever now that I had experienced this.
Whoever or whatever that was, I have a feeling that they or Sarah got more closure than I did.
I hope Sarah is doing well...