Firstly, I want to state that I never actually saw this thing, but if you’ll just stick with the story, you’ll understand why that’s even more important. When I was about fourteen, my Uncle and Aunt lived near enough the Gulf of Mexico that, when my family went to visit, we would all get on my Uncle’s little boat and ride around to the beachfront area near Gulf Shores, AL. There was an area that was open enough for a small boat to pull right up to the beach, where we were hoping to swim and have a picnic for the day. Now before I get to the meat of the story, I want to state that we’d never seen anything out of the ordinary in our boat trips. The weirdest thing we’d ever seen was a huge bunch of jellyfish during spawning season.
So, my Aunt, Uncle, Mom and myself all get ready to pull around to this little sandbar for a day of sun and fun. My Uncle drops anchor out far enough so that he doesn’t run aground and we girls all bailed out to head for the beach. It had a few sunbathers but it was by no means crowded, which was why we picked it.
Immediately, a freak wave slams into us out of nowhere and the boat nearly runs us all over. Huge waves start battering the boat, pushing it toward the shore. My Uncle hopped out and the four of us wrestled against the waves to keep the boat from being beaches miles away from home and effectively stranding us.
Somehow, we succeeded in getting the boat back out to calm water. My Mom, who suffers with low blood sugar, started having the most inopportune low blood sugar moment possible, almost fainting right there. My Uncle threw us a bottle of grapejuice from the boat, but the three of us girls were stuck on the beach after having to wait for Mom to get her strength back. My Uncle yelled that we should circle the beach and find an easy place to swim it to him. Only there was none. It was either shallows too choppy for the boat to rest in or the open water.
So, being the strong, independent women we are, my Aunt and me carried my Mother between us and swam out to the boat. We shoved her up into the boat quickly as she’s a small person but my Aunt, who is a slightly large lady, was having trouble getting her feet on the ladder. By that time, we were in very deep water, far from the beach due to the current, and I was trying to hang on to the boat while also helping my Aunt get aboard. Later, my Uncle told me we were in water that was over thirty feet deep.
Thats when I felt it. I’ve got chills right now writing this. It was a hand, and I know it was a hand because I felt each of its five fingers wrap around my ankle. I know how human skin feels, even after it’s got all pruny from being in the water a while. This was different. It was rough and scratchy, kind of like shark skin and the fingers had an odd suctioned feeling like octopus tentacles but not as thick, where they pressed onto my skin. There were also long nails that I felt digging into my flesh on further from the fingertips. The grip wasn’t hard, in fact, it didn’t even pull on me. It was more curious, like trying to decide what my foot was or maybe what it wanted to do with it. When I felt it, I got super still and didn’t move my leg, afraid I’d make whatever this thing was angry. I wanted to scream, but sometimes the fear is just so overwhelming that noise doesn’t happen. I know now that whatever survival instincts were keeping me from going insane and kicking like crazy might’ve saved my life.
My Aunt began to finally pull herself up from the water and it would soon be my turn. I felt the blood drain from my face as another “hand” latched onto my ankle, too. The fingers tightened, tensing slowly for what I was coming to realize would be a pull down into the water. I wasn’t a champion swimmer in the least, but I could handle myself. But whatever this was, I knew it outclassed me easily.
My Aunt’s feet left the ladder and my Uncle reached down to help me up next. I gripped the ladder rung with all my strength, preparing to either fight for my life or just be ripped down to the depths. Either way, I was absolutely terrified. The hands around my ankle must have felt me resisting their hold because the grip loosened ever so slightly and then, miracle of miracles, they pushed upward to boost me out of the water.
Shaking with relief, I tumbled into the closest seat and my Uncle drove us home, too exhausted for any swimming or picnics after such an episode. I never told my family or anyone what I’d felt that day. I mean, who would ever believe that kind of story? I sometimes don’t know if even I truly believe that it happened. But then I remember the utterly inhuman feel of those hands and how I was sure they would drag me to my death. I also remember that once we were all safely back in the boat, I watched for a swimmer to come up for air, for some sign of a person having helped me. There was none. No one on the beach had even bothered to ask if we were okay. Which makes me mad now when I think about it. There was someone who had, apparently, decided that we needed a little “helping hand”. Even though the thought of what that someone may be terrifies me, I’m glad that one-time meeting went the way it did.