Prompt: Jamba, a Polish man visiting Australia, is a victim of a series of floods.
He watched the salty water rise to the tips of his toenails and then recede. The tide was rising. He would have to scooch back a few feet if he wanted his swimming shorts to stay dry. That was the most pressing concern he had. The simplicity of it was beautiful. It was what he had sought, what he had traveled half the world to find.
Jamba was Polish, and approaching his fifth decade in life. It was a life that he always wanted to be unassuming. He had a lovely family, he had an average face, and one day he was going to find a similar enough woman to be his wife. Even when he was young he just dreamed of lazy Sundays after a hard week’s work and a dinner of warm stew and crusty bread.
Mother’s Beach was much hotter than the European ones he was used to. He knew his pale skin was already burning, but that was a gift. It was part of a normal vacation. He had earned the itching painful peeling that would no doubt be hanging about in three days’ time. The water rose again, swallowing his toes completely.
He couldn’t help it. The thoughts crept back in, the fear. He opened his eyes and looked around. There were still plenty of beach-goers. Not a cloud in the sky. Jamba was worried that clouds were inevitable. It was why he chose the hottest place he could think of: Australia. Sure, there were obvious hotter ones, places in Africa and the Middle East, but, as always, he considered himself average. It had to be an average vacation spot for a man like him, pretending to look for a little adventure.
It had to be far enough. Jamba, you see, was cursed. It started generations ago, in the age of tiny wooden fishing boats being the talk of the town. His ancestor was the culprit: a carp fisherman. There were places he wasn’t supposed to go, deep dark spots in the water that everyone else shied away from.
He could’ve just been happy with his life, at least that’s what Jamba always shouted at his parents when he was younger, learning about the restrictions of their cursed lives. They were owned by their home waters. They dared not leave. The curse was possessive of their blood, to make up for his ancestor’s greed.
Those dark spots in the water, the ones that had no bottom, held a wealth of fish, which was what drew the fool in those ages ago. He cast his line into the blackness and was nearly startled off the side when there was an immediate bite.
He pulled in fish after fish after fish, each bigger and livelier than the last. The carp were so hearty that their gasping could be heard, like someone recovering from an Olympic performance. He was so busy pulling them in, cackling to himself, that he didn’t notice their purely black eyes.
There were so many fish there because they had the protection of something ancient, something that loved both the depths and a bit of company. The fish were its friends, and here was a foolhardy man stealing them away to roast them on a spit and eat them. Fine. He would be allowed. The fish would be the greatest he’d ever tasted, and it would be the end of his happiness.
His family became the entity’s new friends. As such, they could never leave Poland. They had to visit its hole in the water every two weeks and bring it gifts. They had to feed it blocks of raw meat, far pricier than anything they allowed themselves. Jamba had watched as they dumped the dripping meat into the water and watched it sink. Not even the satisfaction of ethereal jaws tearing it to shreds. The shadows simply took it. No bubble of a belch either.
Once he turned thirteen he had to drop it in himself. He wanted to refuse, but he remembered what happened to everyone in their bloodline when they did. The water came for you, and it wasn’t picky. Every time someone missed a visit there was a flood. There was loss of life, even from outside their line. Jamba had to move twice because the waters had suddenly, without warning, claimed his houses and his rooms. All his belongings. A full journal each time.
It was like he wasn’t allowed to have a life. Any time he built something it was just washed away, like a sand castle.
The water rose. It hit his shorts. Time to scooch back. The water rose again. Again it crept up his clothing. Jamba shot to his feet. He couldn’t believe it. Not here. He’d gone so far. He’d gone where the dark clouds couldn’t follow. It was his vacation because it was supposed to be out of the curse’s radius. Surely the entity in that deep watery hole couldn’t reach to any corner of the Earth.
The water took his feet again. The others started to notice. Mother’s Beach was acting up. The water climbed. They pulled their children out of the surf, leaving plastic buckets and shovels behind. Scuttling crabs emerged from their burrows and made a run for it in the hundreds. Even the animals were spooked. That made it a certainty.
Jamba ran for his life. He pulled ahead of the frightened and confused Australians. He had a bitter moment, where the shadow of the water grew, where he thought they had no right to be scared. He heard Australia was full of deadly things: spiders, spores, the heat itself… This should just be normal for them.
The first wave broke and bit at his ankles. There wasn’t much beach left. Soon he would be in civilization. The thing in the hole would be declaring war on Australia if it flooded that far. He looked down at his hands as he ran. No calluses. He was never allowed to work too hard. He had to be presentable whenever the entity wanted to spend time with its friends.
Someone tripped. People were going to die, and it was his fault. Jamba was crying, but when the people who dropped outnumbered the tears he forced himself to stop. He opened his arms wide and let the flood swallow him before it could reach anybody else.
The waters fell as if dead, pulling only one body back into the sea. Mother’s Beach was once again all sun, sand, and toys. The beach-goers stood there, a few of them wondering if the suddenly flooded ground was cursed. They chose not step on it, at least not until it dried.
In the depths Jamba saw one final sight. A school of carp, fat and dark-eyed, that had come to escort him back. The swam all the way there, across the oceans. Jamba let the water into his lungs. He never had children, even though he had wanted them. There was nobody to mourn but those similarly afflicted.
They would never hear of his passing, because the entity would handle the burial as soon as the fish brought him back. The hole in the water would eat him, like a gifted chunk of meat, and he would never be found, not even by accident.
You see, it was a terrible vacation spot.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by Warden2Hot during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!