‘The dangers of rockpooling’

In the impossibly clear water of this rockpool, there was nothing to see. Not like the algae-furred, barnacle-encrusted crevices Harry was used to. There were no dark shadows where crabs could hide, or pebbles for fish to dart under; not even a trickle of water washing in from land or sea.

Still, he spent great chunks of the day at its edges, while his parents and younger brother dug sandcastles and lounged on towels in the soporific afternoon air. On the surface, the water was bluer than the sky, and flat like glass, save for when he got close enough for his breath to unsteady it, or poked a finger in to feel the temperature: always warmer than he expected.

Sometimes he saw the outline of his face in it, the sharp contour of his jaw; the flash of eyes staring up from the surface. His blond hair. A pink forehead. A seagull above.

Other times, all that was just a blur, and all he saw were the tiny crystals of white sand below. He so desperately wanted to find something in it. There was just one rockpool on the beach: his only chance of catching something all holiday.

Each morning, he walked twenty minutes up the strand to check it. Each afternoon, the same. “Stay where we can see you, Harry,” his mother warned, and he nodded as he ran off, kicking up wet sand behind him. It was the last morning, and he’d almost given up hope, but he wanted to say goodbye to it anyway.

This time, a single frond of something sprouted up from the sand in the middle of the pool. It looked unnatural, glossy; a deep bluish black. Not how seaweed normally looks at all. He tried to reach in and touch it, but the currents his arm made pushed it away. Determined to touch it, he lay down and stretched his arm gently in, almost up to the shoulder, and waited.

Finally it swayed into his palm. Between his fingers, it felt fleshy and gelatinous. Were these leaves he was holding, or some kind of tentacle? There was no time to consider the answer. In a second, the black thing had grabbed him by the wrist and yanked his body into the water, almost too fast to make a splash. And before Harry’s parents could even look up, he had vanished.

Rockpooling