“It’s salty,” little Tommy said, cupping some of the water in the palm of his hand.
“Of course it is son,” I chuckled. “You know the ocean’s salty.”
“Too salty!” He exclaimed, and flung the offending liquid onto the sand. I came over and knelt down, leaving my paperback on the beach chair.
“Daddy! Ouchie! It burns!” I could see tears forming in his eyes.
“It’s okay, son.” I took his little hand and felt the wetness of the ocean water on my fingers. It was warm, and tingled. The tingling increased and the warmth turned to a heat. He was right, it did burn…
Tommy began to cry.
And then, from down the beach, I heard a scream.
“OH MY GOD!!!”
I stood and squinted through the bright sun reflecting off the sand. The scream was joined by others from all around me and I could feel the terror of everyone on the beach becoming one rising wave of panic.
I saw a young girl run in with the surf, screaming, her tanned skin melting over her bikini. A fat man in a speedo ran in the water and fell. When his arms came up they were bone to the elbow, with great flaps of dissolving skin hanging like cloth. A young man pulled his tiny daughter in by the arms, dragging behind her the stumps that had been her legs.
I watched them come in, running, thrashing, falling, all of their skin melting from their horrified faces and revealing the white bone beneath.
Tommy was crying. From high above, the sun beat down on the beautiful white sand of the beach.