I came prepared, my bathing suit on underneath my clothes. The air is brisk but warming steadily in the unseasonable sun. It’s the first day that gives a glimmer of hope for a summer still to come. The river is tucked away, accessible only through a stretch of surreal green woodland. I’ve clambered down onto the large grey rocks that protrude into the current. The light is bouncing off the amber water, sparkling like rhinestones. I draw my knees up to my chin, wrapping my arms around them and turning my face up to the sun. A soft breeze whispers across my face, and all I can hear is the rushing water. I breathe deeply, pulling the perfect moment into my lungs.
A shadow passes over my eyelids, and I flutter them open to see a tall, lean figure standing before me. I blink rapidly, reassuring myself that I’ve not imagined him. He’s wearing only swimming trunks, showing his tan, muscled body. Dark curls frame a wide, friendly face.
“Hey, sorry,” he says, smiling at me. His teeth are pearly white. His voice pitched low, soft and silky, difficult to distinguish from the running water behind him. “Didn’t mean to disturb you, this is just the best swimming spot in the river.”
“I know,” I reply. My tone is flat. He blinks at me, then laughs.
“Aye, of course.” He turns to face the river, hands on hips. “Think it’s deep enough to jump in?”
I rise quietly, joining at his side to peer down into the water. The pebbled shores slope into a dark swirling pool, depths unknown.
“I think I’ll let you test that one out,” I say, taking a step back. He laughs again, shaking his hair out behind him like a mane. Small bits of something shimmery and green flash in the sunlight, woven through his hair. It’s like… seaweed? I can’t quite make it out.
“You’re not going in?”
“I’m more of a wader.” I smile softly.
“Oh, I think we can fix that.”
I look up at him curiously. His smile is the same, wide and warm like the sunshine. But his eyes have changed. They look cold and hard, flashing silver in the rays filtering through the tree branches.
“Jump together?” He extends his hand out to me. I glance at it quickly, then back to his face. His eyes are blue, soft and shining like the sea. I must have imagined it – whatever it was.
I strip down to my swimsuit and join him again at the edge of the rock. I take his hand, still outstretched for me. His fingers are vice-like. I try to recoil but when I twist he only tightens his grip. I look to him for help, instead watching in horror as his face begins to shift, growing and elongating, his eyes once again silver in the shining light.
“Good,” he says, looking at my swimsuit. “You came prepared.”