The sailboat was anchored just a few yards away and the sun had set. With the campfire slowing dying, and their bellies full of fresh fish, the lovers decided to go skinny dipping. As they descended, hand in hand, into the warm water, he felt something slip around his ankle and pull…hard.

(Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.)

Lola sat in the police station. She was pale and wet, staring incoherently at an empty wall. She was shivering beneath the shiny thermal blanket the officer had pulled from his car’s first aid kit. She closed her eyes, only to open them again quickly as the horrible events of the past two hours flashed through her mind. She bit back the bile rising in her throat, but the burning, awful taste only made her stomach lurch harder as she vomited their romantic dinner onto the precinct floor. Someone yelled, “Clean up! Aisle Six!”

The officer glared at the comic as he gently rubbed her back while she wretched. He whispered soothing and kind words, “It’s okay! We’ll get this cleaned up.” When she was done he quickly threw a roll of wadded up paper towels on the mess, and wiped and scooped all of it into his trash can, which he whisked out of the room. He was back sitting at his desk next to her, spraying air freshener, before Lola knew it. “So, why don’t you tell me what you were doing on the beach tonight?” Officer Dave Paul asked.

The story poured out of her. How the evening went from fairytale to horror show. James and Lola had set out sailing. The wind was just perfect for sailing. It made tiny silver shimmers all across the water. Lola explained how the sun had started to set and the ocean reflected the orange, pink, and purple all around them in such breathtaking beauty. James had leaned in to kiss her gently before going down on one knee and pulling a small velvet box from his pocket. Lola lifted her hand limply displaying the 2 carat diamond sparkling on her ring finger. When they got back to shore, James started a fire and they baked lobster, crabs, salmon and corn on the cob. Officer Paul nodded, recalling the mess he had just relinquished to the dumpster. Lola recounted strawberries and champagne, too. After stoking the fire, James had stripped down to his swim trunks. He had worn them under his clothes. Lola had been wearing her bikini under her clothes, too. James had to coax her to wade into the ocean in the early moonlight. Lola didn’t swim at night. She had seen <i>Jaws</i>. James assured her, as he took her hands in his, that they were only going to wade in the shallow waves. So, she had gone along. It was then that tears began to run down Lola’s cheeks.

Officer Paul handed her a tissue and gently asked her if she could continue. She nodded. She said they were holding hands, walking along the edge and had only gone into the water as far as their knees when James began to scream. He screamed something had his ankle. Lola thought it was a shark. Her mind had been racing and things happened so fast. He screamed that it was burning. He was holding her hand tightly and, suddenly, his leg seemed to pull forward, out toward the ocean. Lola grabbed his hand with both of hers. She could feel him pulling away and she pulled back. It was tug of war. His left leg yanked away from his body hard, his hip popped. He screamed louder. Panicked he told her to let go of him and get out of the water. She had his hand but he kept screaming for her to get out of the water. There was another yank on his leg. Lola thinks his hip dislocated that time. James screamed in pain and horror. He screamed at her to let go and run! She was scared but she clung to him desperately until she felt something brush against her leg. She let go of him and ran to shore. James didn’t scream again. When Lola turned around he was gone but she swore she heard teenage girls giggling. No one was there. Was it just seagulls?

Officer Paul had heard it all before. Almost every year. Same day. Same beach. The unsolved case files were staggering. The FBI was investigating them all as serial murders but Officer Paul knew the truth. His grandfather, Elias Paul, had told him the most frightening story. It was about the night Elias’ brother, Josh, had died. The story was a warning to young David Paul and his teenage friends to stay off Walnut Beach on Mating Day. Josh had gone there with his friends on the last day of school. The sun was warm and the water’s edge was chilly, but not frigid. As the sun set, the boys had dared each other to wade out as far as they could. The water was markedly cooler the deeper you went. Josh had been waist deep when his friends turned around and he was gone. One of Josh’s friends had run all the way to their house screaming that something had grabbed his leg and “it” got Josh. Elias remembered the blisters on his ankle. They were in the shape of a hand.

Dave Paul remembered his grandfather’s voice telling him the old wives tale. His gruff voice echoed in his memory. “When June is half and the moon is young, the mermaids mating has begun. Beware the sea, men young and old, for they choose their grooms when the water’s still cold.”