Brady descended the steps into the pool, inhaling sharply as the icy water kissed his skin. He bobbed in the water for a minute, slowly inching himself deeper and deeper before sucking in a breath and plunging himself completely. Resurfacing with a gasp, he pushed his hair from his eyes, trying to breath regularly and let the sun warm him. After only a minute or so, the cold subsided and gave way to the summertime bliss of being in a pool on a hot day.
The pool was vacant, save for him. It was his own personal oasis in the midst of the smoldering heat of the apartment complex. Brady watched the asphalt as he floated to and fro, seeing the hot air curl off the ground like a stove burner left on. His gaze slowly drifted back to the water and the small bits of refuse that swirled around with him, and then to the pool floor.
The water seemed to churn and undulate as he looked on, the floor of the pool stretching from 6 feet down to hundreds, fathoms away, dropping rapidly with each passing second. A roar sounded in Brady's ears, a monster, a serpent, invisible but close and closing in, pushing through the water towards him. He scrambled backwards, heart racing, eyes wide as he clambered up the pool steps onto the hot cement, heaving breaths as he stared at the empty pool.
Brady felt idiotic standing alone next to the pool, soaking wet and breathing hard. Sitting down on the steps, he cradled his head in his hands. It was an old fear. Memories flooded his vision. He was 4 years old at his grandmother's pool, falling into the deep end. His sight blurred as he went under, panic flooding his senses, then waking up on the sidewalk, his cousins all huddled over him as he coughed up water.
Bodies of water had ever since been a secret phobia for him. At some point they had morphed into some sort of Lovecraftian fever dream of hidden monstrosities waiting below the surface, teeth parted in anticipation of him taking a step to far into the deep end.
Brady shook his head. It was stupid. He was being stupid. He looked at the pool. It was empty. The sun was shining. There was nothing to be afraid of. He was old enough to know better than to be afraid of something that didn't exist. Tired of not being able to relax at the beach, or even drift lazily in a pool without feeling the unnatural terror of an imagined horror watching him. It was just water. He had to come to terms with being afraid of the depth. The idea that he could drown. For Christ's sake, he was tall enough that he could walk from one end of the pool to the other and not even be fully submerged.
Setting his jaw, he climbed back into the pool, walking with purpose to the deepest end. He folded his arms across his chest and stood, taking slow deep breaths. He felt his heart speeding up, the tingle of fear on the back of his neck, but he tried his hardest to remain calm. He was done. Done being afraid of nothi-
Something touched his leg.
No. He shook his head, breathing like his best imitation of a Buddhist monk. It was a leaf that was in the pool, swirling around with the rest of the flotsam and jetsam that the cleaner missed when they skimmed the water.
But he couldn't bring himself to look down. What if it w-
It wasn't. This was a pool in the middle of an apartment complex. Nothing was going to happen.
It was there. He could feel it. It was behind him, under him, watching h-
There was nothing. Movies and television had done this. Twisted his mind from a young age and turning a trauma into an unrealistic fear.
The roar was starting again. A rushing sound, coming from everywhere around him, getting louder as his pulse quickened.
There was nothin-
There was. Something waiting below the surface. Something circling him. Swirling the water around him as he stood paralyzed, unable to look down in an attempt to quell his fears, unable to move to escape the very real threat that he could feel deep in his core.
Brady knew it was there.
Brady knew he was going to die. He felt it. The all too real fear of an impending doom. It wasn't a fake fear. It wasn't a phobia. It was a very real threat. The panic gripped him tightly. He couldn't breathe, he couldn't move a muscle out of the fear that the beast would strike. He knew if he twitched, it would attack, dragging him down to the depths that he could feel stretching out beneath him, opening up to the realm of his deepest nightmares. He was spiraling down into the abyss, the monster hissing in his ears as he fell deeper and deeper, his vision blurring, his lungs burning, his mind racing as it tried to comprehend the pure horror that was playing out before his eyes. He couldn't scream. He couldn't shake. He couldn't get help. He couldn't do anything.
In the end, his lack of action was his downfall. And the beast took him.