I didn’t always want to be a lifeguard. When I was young I wasn’t even a good swimmer; my physique was more suited to doritos and playstation than athletics. But one summer something terrible happened that changed the course of my life forever.
My little brother drowned.
We had all been having fun at the beach, and he had only wandered out of my parents’ sight for a few minutes. But those few minutes were enough for him to disappear forever.
The first stage of grief I went through was anger. I couldn’t understand why nobody had intervened, how had no one seen him. But I soon learned that when people drown it’s not like how it looks in the movies. They don’t thrash around and scream for help. If you’re looking closely you might see a head bobbing up and down for a few minutes before it sinks down for the last time. You might not see anything at all.
That was the catalyst for my decision to become a lifeguard. I wanted to prevent other people from going through what tore my family apart. I practiced for hours every day until I was good enough to be hired on at the local beach my brother had drowned at.
I was never the Baywatch sort of lifeguard; I was skinny, pale and completely incapable of tanning. By the end of my first week my body was covered in so many freckles I looked like I had a skin disease.
There was a rumor among the other lifeguards that the beach was haunted, that the ghosts of drowning victims stayed there to drag others down to the same fate. I didn’t think there was anything to the rumor; I figured they were just messing with the new guy who wasn’t a part of their clique.
But I was about to find out there was something to the rumor after all.
The beach was closed that night, and I was sleeping in the lifeguard stand. I didn’t have a girl up there or anything, it’s just that being a lifeguard full-time didn’t really pay the bills. I was just nodding off when I heard the scream.
I sat bolt upright, my heart pounding out of my chest. Nobody was supposed to be here this late. But the scream came again, and louder.
I heard it more clearly this time. It didn’t sound right. It didn’t sound like someone in danger, it sounded like someone mimicking a distress call.
But I knew I didn’t have a choice. If there was a chance somebody really was in danger, I needed to help them.
I slid down the ladder and scanned the beach around me. It was totally deserted. Where the hell was the scream coming from? I scanned the horizon of water, and that’s when I saw it; a head bobbing up and down.
I sprinted through the sand and leapt headfirst into the icy water. I powered through towards them with all my might, my nose and eyes burning as the saltwater splashed into them. The head was staying underwater for longer each time. I knew I didn’t have much time left.
Just before I reached them, their head went down and didn’t come back up.
The water was too murky and dark. My head spun in all directions but I couldn’t see a damn thing.
I resurfaced and spit out the saltwater. My mind was racing through a million half formed plans of how to find the person before it was too late.
That’s when I felt icy fingers close around my ankle. My head whipped around; but no one was there. Yet the grip was strong, and its intention was clear as it began pulling me out to sea.
For a flash of a second I wondered if this was what had happened to my brother. If he’d felt icy hands on him pulling him under as his lungs filled with seawater.
I felt my other leg bump into something under the water. I reached down and grabbed hold, and my hand closed around a human arm. I yanked as hard as I could, and a woman came to the surface. It was the woman I’d seen drowning, but she’d been under too long. We needed to get back to shore as soon as possible. I kicked as hard as I could and I felt the icy fingers slip off my ankle. But I realized with horror that I’d been caught in the undercurrent, and it was now pulling me even farther away from shore.
I knew there was no way I’d get us both back alive as I watched the shore shrink in the distance. And that’s when I felt the icy fingers again. They clasped around each one of my arms and pulled hard. But this time they weren’t pulling me out to sea, they were pulling me towards shore, and out of the undercurrent. I kicked my feet as hard as I could, pulling the woman’s lifeless body towards the beach where I could perform CPR. With the pulling hands and my kicking combined we hit the shore hard; I stumbled out of the water and laid the woman down on her back.
It must have only been thirty seconds of CPR, but it felt like an eternity before she coughed up the water and started breathing again.
I sighed in relief and collapsed on the wet sand.
“Th-thank you.” The girl stammered out.
“It’s my job.” I said. “I can’t believe you managed to call for help like that.”
“Wh-what? I didn’t call for help.” She panted out.
I sat back up. Was there someone still out there?
I scanned the horizon. My heart stopped.
Standing at the water’s edge was my little brother. He looked just as he did the day he died, still in his powder blue swimming trunks. He smiled at me and waved. I started towards him, but he shimmered like a mist and vanished into thin air.
After that night the legend of the beach changed. Now they say there’s a ghost of a boy who pulls drowning people back to shore.
And they say he’s got powder blue swimming trunks.
Credit: Life Is Strange, Me Too