"Old Man of the Sea"

They were sixteen once. Their world was insular back then. Nothing could hurt them. There were no consequences. Then they found the cave: a small hole in the earth hidden within a cove that only appeared when the tide fell low enough (only one night a year). The hole was large enough for only Manny and him to fit through and, knowing that, Manny and he were taunted until they both agreed to crawl inside.

But he never came back out, and the police and the Coast Guard never found that cove. He was thankful for that. Under the dull light of a pocket LED, the boys had found the cave devoid of color, except for the occasional twinkle of reflecting light upon the rocks. He hadn’t liked the place, and even Manny had taunted him for wanting to leave when they found the soft grayish blue fungus clinging to the sides of the lake.

Manny had urged them forward, explaining that there was nothing to be afraid of in the fungus-covered cave. But he could see Manny hiding a heave here and a gag there whenever their hands squished upon the soft, spongy surface. Manny didn’t feel the prick on his ankle. He had called out, “I think I got bit!” Manny pointed back his LED, but there had been nothing. He explained that it had probably been a crab. The LED revealed nothing on his leg. Only a small big of bubbling fungus that had become eagerly attached to his skin and that was quickly beginning to spread.