Everyone said love was blind, but nothing seemed more blinding than pride. Selena stomped through the woods with anger burning in her heart, desire for vengeance itching through her fingertips, and her vision blurred with tears. Today she took the brave step of speaking out against Clarissa’s reign of terror, and instantly became a town pariah.
Clarissa was the town’s sweetheart. Being a descendant of the town’s founder and daughter of the CEO of the town’s beloved Sunshine Springs, made Clarissa untouchable. Admitting that something dark lurked within the soul of the bubbly, blonde, town princess was out of the question. Just like Selena would soon discover admitting something lurked below the surface of Sunshine Springs pristine waters would be.
Sunshine Springs had the highest security of anything in town. Large stone walls surrounded it with cameras pointed outward to ward off intruders. Security guards marched in circles around it day and night. All this because Sunshine Springs had the most delicious water of anywhere in the world. Even kids who normally thought water tasted gross and would quickly pass it up for soda or juice, made an exception for a bottle of Sunshine Springs water. No one could quite place a finger on the how or why, but when the smooth, semisweet liquid glided down their throats, everything felt momentarily right in the world.
This strong, blinding pride towards Sunshine Springs made it the object of Selena’s revenge fantasy. Sullying the pure waters would surely crush the town’s spirit, the way it had crushed hers.
As she neared the wall, she picked up a rock from the ground and chucked it at the security camera closest to her. It missed. With an aggravated sigh, she hurled five more until one finally cracked the lens. Looking left and then right, she didn’t see any security guards. Luckily for her, staffing was low due to the illness that plagued the town. In the past year, two hundred town members had died from the mysterious disease. No one could figure out what caused it.
Using the cracks between the rocks, she climbed her way up the stone wall. No one in town had access to the waters. No one had seen it. When Selena’s eyes fell upon the vast sparkling blue, her breath caught in her throat. She’d never seen anything so beautiful. The town was so concerned with the integrity of their gold mine, that even workers couldn’t step near the water. The entire process of extracting it became solely machine operated years ago.
Selena sat on top of the wall and pulled her knees into her chest hugging herself. Both her knees were bruised and scrapped from when Clarissa pushed her down on the asphalt of the basketball court. As tears streamed down her roughed-up cheeks, the mesmerizing waves of the spring soothed her soul. How are there waves in the spring though?
The waves grew bigger, and what looked like white, vibrant bolts of lightning flashed across the water. Selena gasped and threw down her hands to grip the wall, so she didn’t tumble over. A large object pushed up from somewhere in the depths of the water. The object was round, glowing, and see through. It looked…it looked like a jellyfish. Long tentacles lashed out in all directions, sending bolts of flashing light coursing through the water. A buzzing sound like a bug zapper filled the air in such a subtle way, Selena wondered if her mind made it up. Like when people heard a ringing or rustling noise instead of silence.
“Hey, how’d you get up there?” A man’s voice yelled.
Selena couldn’t take her eyes off the monster emerging from the waves. “I…I…are you seeing this?”
“You need to get down here right now, young lady! I’m serious. We’re authorized to shoot.”
“Did you…. did you know…that…” Selena couldn’t finish the sentence. All she could do was point. The security guard couldn’t see. He didn’t care.
“I’m giving you a count of three or I’ll fire. I don’t want to, Miss, but really you can’t be here.”
The jellyfish like creature, which was bigger than her house, started to throb and send out quick, sharp flashes of light. Then the lifeless bodies of fish popped up to the surface and floated dead. If it’s killing the fish, maybe it’s harming the water. What if the water is making everyone sick? Selena’s eyes widened as the thought crossed her mind. The throbbing of the creature grew more intense, and a wave grew almost as tall as the wall.
Then Selena’s vision went black, and she felt like she was plummeting through empty space.
She later woke in a hospital, where her mom informed her the security guard shot her with a type of taser gun. Her mother looked at her with an expression mixed of worry and disappointment. By now, her mother had surely heard how Selena did the unspeakable in pointing out a flaw with Clarissa.
“I need to get out here, mom. I think I found out what’s making every─”
“I don’t understand. You and Clarissa were best friends, I thought.”
Selena groaned. “None of that is important right now. I can save our town.”
“Save the town? I talked to Clarissa’s mother. Her daughter is devasted by the lies you’re spreading. Honey, I─”
“Mom, please. I need to tell everyone.”
“What has gotten into you?”
“There’s a creature in the water. It’s making everyone sick. If we get rid of it, we can─”
“Enough!” Her mother put a hand to her face and pinched the bridge of her nose between two fingers. “I know it’s been hard for you that your father left, and maybe you’re craving some kind of attention, but this isn’t the way to─”
“I’m not trying to get attention! I’m trying to help our town. Clarissa is abusive! The other girls are too scared to say anything, but someone had to. The water is what’s making everyone sick.”
Her mother pressed the button to call the nurse. “We’ll see if we can get a psychiatrist to talk to you. This is more than I can handle.”
“Oh, everything is more than you can fucking handle,” Selena muttered.
“What did you say?” Her mother’s mouth dropped open, completely appalled.
Selena tossed the hospital blanket, jumped up from the bed and ran for the door. Her mother reached out to grab her but missed. She fled down the hallway almost knocking over several nurses on her way. Luckily, the hospital had kept her in her cheerleading uniform instead of changing her into one of the gowns. If no one will believe me, I’ll have to handle it myself.
When Selena burst out of the hospital doors, she saw Benny with a bouquet of flowers. Sunflowers, her favorite.
“Hey, I was coming to see you,” he said.
Selena wrapped her arms around his neck. “I’m so glad to see you.”
“What’s going on?”
“I found something.”
“You told Principal Clark about─”
“Yes, and apparently that was a mistake.”
“It takes guts.”
Selena’s eyes fell to the silver gum wrapper ball on the sidewalk. “He didn’t believe me.”
“Didn’t think girls did that sort of thing.”
“I told him about the account she made. He went on some speech about how sometimes girls act out without a father around and I could get help.”
“Look, it’s not important though. I found something in Sunshine Springs. I know why everyone’s getting sick. They’re drinking the water and it might be infected by this creature.”
“This big, jellyfish type thing.”
“Crazy, I know! It’s true though. Why won’t anyone just come see? If I’m crazy, prove me wrong. Is the fear that I might laugh and say I got you worse than not believing me if I’m right? We could save people.”
“So, what do you want to do? Waltz in there and pull a giant creature out of the water?”
“I need to find someone who’ll believe me and can do something.”
Selena and Benny got a table at a local coffee shop, ordered their favorite drinks, and started searching for all the phone numbers they could find. They called the town government, called scientists, called security and workers of Sunshine Springs, and even called Clarissa’s CEO father. After three hours, everyone believed Selena to be insane and they were no closer to getting help. All they accomplished was further cemented her fate as the most hated in town.
Benny looked up from his laptop hesitantly. “There’s one other option.”
“What? Anything! I can’t believe this town. They refuse to believe anything could be wrong with their precious little spring.”
“We could call this monster hunter guy. He lives a few towns over. Has a podcast.”
“How will that help?”
“Well, he’ll hunt the monster. Film it.”
“Yeah, like our town will ever let a film crew in. Couldn’t possibly put out any doubt that our town… maybe we could lie. Maybe we could say the film crew is showing how amazing the spring is.”
“I’m sure people will have to sign releases, and they’ll say it’s the monster hunter guy.”
“Who ever reads paperwork?”
“It’s not like you’re very credible right now either. No offense.”
“Let’s call him. Couldn’t hurt.”
As Selena retold her tale, the monster hunter listened with interest. Before she even finished, he was in his car driving closer.
“I’ve been searching for this beast. You’ve no idea what you’ve found,” the man said and then hung up the phone.
Selena and Benny waited anxiously for the hunter’s arrival. They hid in bushes outside the walls of Sunshine Springs with a backpack of candy, soda, and chips that Benny felt made for good “stake out” food.
Finally, a small black sedan pulled up near them. A man with a hunched over back and a missing eye stepped out of the car. A thick scar ran down his cheek. He walked with a cane.
“We’re in luck team!” The man yelled to them.
“How so?” Selena asked while running towards him.
“Turns out I know an inside man.”
“What?” Benny shifted the backpack on his shoulders.
“I put out word to my podcast followers and one of my fans works here.”
“We’re getting in?” Selena asked.
“We’re getting in. Help me with my equipment.”
Benny rushed to gather the bags the man pointed to.
“Are you going to hurt the monster?” Selena asked nervously.
The man looked at her curiously. Before he said anything another car pulled up. A woman raced over to the hunter. With her frantic hand movements, wide eyes, and giggly talking, Selena could tell this woman was a major fangirl.
“This is so cool!” The woman squeaked. “My name’s Connie, by the way.”
“Selena. That’s my sidekick, Benny.”
Benny rolled his eyes. “Nice to meet you.”
The man referred to himself as Hunter, but Selena didn’t believe that was his real name.
“I got them to buy into this being a video that would boost our town pride and show how glamorous our spring was,” Connie said.
“Thank you so much! You’re the greatest,” Selena said.
The four of them entered through the gate. White diamonds made of moonlight sprinkled the top of the spring. The beauty captivated all four of them, leaving them momentarily breathless.
Then choppy little waves grew larger and broke against the shore in white froth. Bright pink and white lights flashed underneath the water. The ground rumbled. Hunter opened one of his bags and handed Benny a video camera. Then he opened another and grabbed equipment. At the edge of the water, he set up a makeshift lab and pulled out water samples. Soon he had to move back as the waves grew large.
“You’re right. He’s sick!” Hunter proclaimed.
“He’s sick? The monster’s sick? I thought the monster was making people sick.”
“He is with his sickness. This guy’s been here for decades I bet. His being here isn’t the issue. It’s that he’s sick.”
“Can we do anything?”
“We’ll make you better, big guy,” Hunter crooned at the water. “He sure is something special.”
Selena looked at Benny. His face had paled like he’d seen a ghost, but he continued filming with his jaw dropped. Connie jumped up and down as giddy as a toddler gearing up for a ride.
“How will you make him better?”
“You have that?”
“I thought you hunted monsters?”
“Well, hunting more in the searching way of things. I’d never kill a monster. Are you kidding me? These guys are incredible! My fans and I love them. Celebrate them. Their existence has benefitted us in ways that you can’t even imagine. We need them.”
Selena smiled as relief swept over her. “I’m glad. He’s so beautiful.”
Bolts of light danced across the water as the glowing body broke through the surface. It looked like Hunter shot the monster with a water gun. A stream of liquid squirted out towards the monster’s bulbous body. A growing tidal wave sent them all running back from the water.
Connie led them to an observation platform. Due to rarely being accessed, they had to shove the stuck door open. The platform had become overgrown with weeds and vines. Still, they walked to the edge and found an excellent view of the light show. They watched until the waters calmed, and the creature took on an enchanting purple glow.
“He’s feeling better.” Hunter grinned proudly. “I’ll need to give him a few more doses, but it’s working and that’s a good thing.”
“He’s amazing,” Selena smiled.
“I can’t believe I got to see this! I had no idea.” Connie shrieked. “I was so close this whole time and…no idea. Mind blowing!”
“Do you think this is why the water tastes so good?” Benny asked.
With a laugh Hunter said, “Yes, yes I do. I also think when healthy, the water is doing us a world of good.”
We did it. We saved the town. Selena thought. Knowing that no one would believe her and that her town outcast status would only remain planted firmly, didn’t take the smile from her face. Nothing could. Maybe they’d be too blind to see what happened beneath their noses, but that didn’t change the fact that she did what was in her heart and witnessed this incredible event. Her eyes fixated on the most beautiful creature imaginable, and as the love swelled in her heart, everything else faded away.