A Swim in the Nuddy
“Come on, pal — get your kit off.”
Dale shivered and looked up at the night sky from which the first flakes of snow were beginning to fall. “I can’t believe you’re serious about this.”
Ryan clapped him on the back. “A swim in the sea in the nuddy — it’s a tradition. You’ve had ten pints, you shouldn’t be able to feel the cold.”
“You really do it every year?”
Gareth laughed. “Every year, just past midnight on Christmas Eve. So get your bloody kit off.”
Dale eyed the black waves. It wasn’t a choppy night out at sea, but it wasn’t as calm as he’d like. He wasn’t the strongest of swimmers, and he wondered if the ten pints would improve on his doggy-paddling or make it worse. “Why do I have to go first?”
“New guy always goes first,” Ryan said. “Them’s the rules.”
“Can’t we all go together?”
“We need to keep watch, make sure you’re safe. If anything happens, we’ll swim out and drag you back here.” Gareth drew an X over his heart with his fingertip. “Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.”
Ryan shuddered as a bluster of wind swept past. “Get your fucking kit off, lad! Come on, you can do it. You’ll get a right rush after you’re done, I swear. And if you wuss out we’ll make sure everyone in the pub knows about it.”
Dale stamped his feet, rolled his shoulders and unzipped his jacket. Cheers rang out from the mouths of his friends as he rived off his shirt, kicked off his shoes and socks, and squirmed out of his trousers and boxers. He cupped his manhood and regretted everything. “Oh fuck. Fuck me, it’s cold.”
“Go on, lad — run!”
And he was off towards the sea, feet sinking into the moist sand with each step.
He cursed as he splashed into the water’s edge; the freezing waves bit into his ankles until they were numb. But hollering from the other men spurred him on. Soon the water reached his knees, and then his thighs, and then –
“Fuck, shit, fuck, shit, fuck it!”
“Balls in — worst bit’s over!” Ryan shouted.
Dale began to laugh despite the pain. His heart was hammering, his teeth were chattering, his blood felt like ice coursing through his body.
He cackled and threw himself in. His head went under and salt stung at his eyes, and then he thrust himself back up through the surface, whooping and cheering with sheer elation. He sucked in a lungful of cold, damp air and dived back under the waves, eyes open despite the sting and despite the dark.
Then he saw her. Long blonde hair fanned out around her head like a halo. She had skin so pale that it almost glowed in the murky water. Her huge, round eyes locked onto his and he couldn’t look away. She smiled with full, red lips and beckoned him with a willowy arm.
He thrashed his legs and clawed at the water in a bid to grow closer. She turned and swam deeper, revealing her true nature. Her tail was deep sea green with a metallic golden sheen which glimmered at him as she powered herself through the water.
He didn’t notice the burn in his lungs. He forgot about the sting in his eyes. He failed to feel the ache of lethargy in his muscles. She spun deftly in the water and turned to him once more. As he drew close she reached out for him and clasped onto his hands, drawing him near. Her fingers slipped over his arms, across his shoulders, round the back of his neck.
Dale gasped and drew water into his lungs. His eyes widened with a brief moment of panic, but her tender touch soon wiped away the fear. She blinked her round eyes; they were black, he noticed.
Her fingers wrapped around his throat and she squeezed and tugged. Her nails broke through the surface of his skin and drew blood. He continued to gaze at her, unperturbed. How could it be? Her eyes were completely black — no iris, no white. How could something so beautiful have such hollow eyes, he asked himself.
She rived at his neck, twisting it this way and that. He let her get on with it, feeling no pain. Clouds of blood drifted across his line of sight and then dispersed into the seawater.
Tiredness came. He closed his eyes. He wanted to kiss her and he puckered his lips, leaned towards her, yearning for her touch.
With a final tug, a tear and a snap, it was over.
The head flew through the air and landed on the beach with a moist thud. Ryan and Gareth grimaced as they inspected it, noting the ragged lumps of ripped skin and sinew on the torn neck. Already blood was leeching into the surrounding sand.
Gareth sighed. “Shame — I liked Dale.”
“Yeah,” Ryan muttered. “But it will keep her at bay for another year.”
“I say it every year — you should never have got involved with a girl who came from the sea.”
Ryan shrugged. “She was hot.”