Daniel wandered off from his family. They stayed at the beach and Daniel climbed the rocks away from waves, looking for shells. Daniel was already 12 and felt like he could explore on his own and didn't need to drag along his sister with him.
The waves were loud. He couldn't hear his father calling for him. Daniel found a pretty, shiny shell and picked it up and put it in his pocket. He heard a slight chirping not far off, and climbed up on the rocks.
Above the rocks, a black car was parked in the field. The door opened and a man stepped out. Daniel stood up on the rocks and turned, looking back and seeing his family far away up the beach. The man walked away from his car and looked at Daniel, gesturing to him to come toward him. A woman opened the door on the driver's side and looked at her watch.
Daniel reached into his pocket and felt the shell. It was smooth, with a sharp jagged edge. He looked around but saw nobody else. The old man by the car shrugged and pointed at Daniel. "Boy!" he yelled.
Daniel stepped forward and approached the old man who was a dark suit and black tie. The man smelled dingy, like mold. He reached out and touched Daniel on the shoulder. Daniel flinched but didn't pull away. "Your next."
Daniel stared up at him. Up close, he looked very old. His skin overlapped in thin flaps. His eyes were glossed over. His frizzy white hair was sparse. His hand shook and dug into Daniel's shoulder. Daniel reached up to push away the man's hand. The old man had a tight grip.
"Don't touch him," yelled the woman from the driver's side. Both Daniel and the old man turned to look at her. Daniel stepped back away from the distracted old man.
"Boy!" called out the old man.
"Come back!" said the woman.
Daniel ran back towards the rocks. He stopped for a moment and looked back. The car door closed and the engine revved up. Daniel breathed hard. He felt his shoulder where the man had gripped him. It was wet. He looked at his hand and it was covered in green goo.
The car tore across the field. Daniel reached the rocks and jumped onto the highest rock. He looked down and saw the rocky embankment below, uneven and jagged. To the other side was a steep drop off to the beach below. "Come here," said the woman again, "you touched him!"
Daniel looked over his shoulder at the woman, the car was just a few feet behind him. She closed her door and came closer to Daniel. He closed his eyes and jumped off the rock to the beach. The fine sand cushioned his landing. The woman looked down from above as Daniel squirmed on his back like a trapped turtle. The waves crashed up on the shore.
Daniel screeched. A sharp pain shot up his leg and he curled up his knee to his chin. He saw the gash from the rock up the length of his shin. Blood surged. He spread the green goo all over his knee. Tears welled up in his eyes and he screamed. "Wait! Wait there!" the woman said. Daniel pushed himself back up against the rock and propped himself up. He reached into his pocket and threw the shell up at the woman. He took a breath, and looked down. His leg was clean. No blood.
He ran. Daniel didn't look back. He thought he heard the woman calling his name. He stumbled over the sand and lurched over a rock. Then he heard his father calling out. His father noticed him and pointed to Daniel. Almost out of breath, Daniel came to a stop by his father and mother and sister.
"Where were you?" his father yelled, "crap we were worried sick about you. Don't ever just wander off like that. This is our special vacation." His mother hugged him. His sister tugged at his hand.
"Yuck what is this?" she said, rubbing the green goo off her hands. Daniel pushed her back.
"Nothing," Daniel said, "let's go." The family got into their minivan and drove off.
Later in the evening, they came to the boardwalk. The lights were ablaze. A ferris wheel stood tall over the crowd and entertainment. Daniel walked with his sister and parents. "The roller coaster," his sister said, and ran over. His parents bought tickets. The roller coaster raced past. Daniel watched the light zip back and forth. Daniel and his sister got into line. She pushed Daniel. "I wanna sit in the front!"
"We'll sit where ever we get."
"I wanna sit in the front." She hit Daniel.
The line moved slowly forward. His sister folded her arms and stood in place. Daniel jabbed her, urging her forward. She remained rooted in place, and other kids in line slowly pushed ahead. Daniel grabbed her and yanked her.
"Hey!" she said, "stop."
"Come on, just move."
They shuffled forward in the line. Finally they reached the front gate. Daniel and his sister took a step forward. A woman's arm came down, cutting off their progress. The gate to the ride closed. Daniel looked up. The woman smiled at him, nodding her head. Daniel looked at her, and clenched his teeth. He looked around. At the gate stood the old man in his dark suite. The roller coaster made its full round on the track, and flew back into the loading station.
Daniel grabbed his sister's hand, pulling her back.
"Daniel let's go, we're in front!"
Daniel shook his head. The woman pushed them forward.
The old man looked down at Daniel. "Your next."