"Shut up, stupid!"
She said it with no hesitation, no fear. Some would think she enjoyed this, and she did. Kaya would love nothing more than a dare, even if it meant insulting a to-be-respected adults.
Even if it meant getting in trouble with a lifeguard.
The young, slender man was getting heated up by the thirteen year old girl. His face turned crimson, his fingers playing with each other nervously. "You're not verified to swim that far out," he told her, not at all firmly. "There are jellyfish out there, and who knows what else!"
Kaya stood below his stand with her hands planted on her hips. "Excuse me for saying this, Your Grace." She paused to let the small crowd around her chuckle at her sarcasm. "But I am on a triple-dare. People are betting nearly five hundred dollars I wouldn't do it. You know what I could do five hundred dollars? Buy an education at a decent collage!"
Not all of this was true, but of course she didn't let that on. It was true people better more than what was worth of the girl, but only twenty dollars at the most. Kaya knew how to lie. She almost believed herself every time.
"I'll get fired," the young man responded. He looked about nineteen. "I could do with a good education too, you know. I won't be a lifeguard forever."
"Collin wants to be a doctor!" Shouted a man from the audience. Collin, the lifeguard, blushed more deeply than Kaya thought possible. She felt the small stone in her pocket. It always encouraged her to be stronger, to be more aggressive. A time she needed it was now.
"Look, you wimp. I've done this dozens o' times, many in worse conditions than this," she snarled. She already heard people betting she would win this argument.
Sighing, Collin rubbed his temples. "All right," he groaned. "But your ghost better not come crying to me when you die."
"If she dies!" Hollered a burly man. That earned laughs from several around him. The clank of money exchanges followed her as she got undressed for a swim.
Kaya tied her hair into a tight braid. Her blue-green eyes darted around, making sure her grandmother was not about. This would deserve a whipping if her elders found out. They probably would with all the village gossip, but somehow, young Kaya always managed to get away without it.
The crowd, bigger now, chanted. Their many voices echoed the distant thunder that echoed across the beach. Kaya gave Collin a warning state as he touched his whistle. He glared at her with reproach. "Everyone clear the shoreline!" He cried. "Anyone sane will!"
"I'm not sane!" Kaya called up to him as grumbling, the other sane people ran for cover. She fetched her boogie-board. Latching herself onto it, she waded in.
The waters were glaciers, melting apart by this very moment. Kaya didn't shiver. She polar-plunged in the winter, so why should she stop here? Kicking, Kaya made her way out to sea. She touched the stone in the hidden compartment of her board. Despite the ocean, it was warm, and seemed to be vibrating as heat poured off of its smooth surface. Peering under the rolling waves, Kaya saw nothing. No stingrays, no jellyfish, no sharks. Then her fingers slid over the stone once more, and suddenly she could see clearly.
Deep indigo tentacles swirled beneath her board. Each was longer than the length of her cottage, and each as wide as rent shed that held beach gear. Kaya froze. She counted, and realized that this was not an octopus.
Two angry red-amber eyes glared at her, glowing through the watery murk. The long arms reached for her, and in fear she disconnected with her stone.
The giant non-octopus disappeared.
Sighing, she kicked onward, and didn't touch the stone again.
What had happened back there? Only when she was not in contact with the stone did she see normally. Excitement was rising in bubbles within her chest. Magic! She hadn't believed in magic since third grade, and now she was back at that stage that was awful to her parents, now long dead.
The curiosity was too much. Kaya brushed the stone once more, and the creature reappeared, starting where she had released the dreadful stone. Now she did it again. Her sight was mortal. Beaming, Kaya kicked back to shore, wondering what else she might find. She touched the stone.
Two wisps of white drifted toward her. One had the face of a sage, the other of a youthful woman. "Ma," Kaya whispered.
The ghosts evaporated.
Kaya, shaking her head, walked home in the rain. She walked away from the magic, away from the ghosts, away from that vile sea creature. But all the while, she promised she would come back on the morrow.