Koko’s paddling slowed as we got close to the boat, which now floated in three foot of water. My feet squished into the muddy bottom when I stood and grabbed the boat to stop it from drifting farther. We were in the only section of the lake with a bottom like mucky quicksand. Koko let me scoop him over the side, but both of my feet sank deeper into the mire.
Ever so lightly, something brushed my right ankle. A tingly sensation zinged up my leg at the thought of the strange green creature with those big round black eyes. Goose bumps shuffled down my spine. I splashed at the water while struggling to lift a foot. Something like tiny fingers pressed against both sides of my ankle, lifting that foot out of the muck.
What the—? Little green arms flashed through my mind. Does it have fingers?
A scream ripped out of my mouth as I balanced on one foot, grasping the side of the boat. I wanted to move…needed to move, but all I could do was stare into the water and see nothing through all the stirred up muck.
Dad’s words rushed me like an echo from the past, ‘panic only increases fear,’ but if it were possible with one buried foot, I’d run like a crazy girl through the muck to shore, screaming my head off the whole way.
Maybe the fingers around my ankle were only in my imagination, but the flutters rippling topsy-turvy inside my stomach were real enough. I bent at my knees and with the help of my arms and my one free leg I managed to shift my weight toward the boat. In that same moment, those fingers gripped and pushed against my ankle.
My buried foot broke free and I rocketed into the boat, sprawling in a heap next to Koko.