DeShaun reluctantly climbed into the raft. He unnecessarily tightened the straps on his life jacket as he settled into his seat. He hooked his feet under the seat in front of him and grit his teeth. A skinny white guy in long black Bermudas, black long sleeve tee, black aviators and a black life jack hopped in next to him. He flashed DeShaun a smile. “Wow, we are like total opposites,” the kid said waving between them awkwardly, “What with your skin tone and your white clothing. Like you’re a photograph and I’m your negative.” The kid chuckled.
“Yeah, not with your hair,” he argued and touched his gravity-defying natural hair.
The kid looked away and self consciously ruffled his dark brown hair to make it poofier. “Well, yeah this isn’t a photograph anyhow, this is real life. And, real life has real consequences.” He pointed a bony thumb at the people loading into the raft behind them. “For them. Not you. You’ll be alright. Just when it happens, take a deep breath. Okay, DeShaun? Big breath.”
The kid mimed several deep breaths. DeShaun rolled his eyes even as a cold shiver ran down his spine. The idea to get off the raft and go home was growing. Not that he could, Talia Elkin had suggested the white water rafting trip. He couldn’t let her see he was nervous. He offered her his best smile. She caught his gaze and winked. A spray of water hit her. Everyone laughed, except the goth kid. He just stared at DeShaun. His eyes could barely be seen behind his sunglasses and DeShaun was glad of it. Kid was weird.
Goth kid leaned back and said, “Hey guys, why don’t we skip the class five rapids today? I ate a big lunch. Might puke.”
Giggles erupted. A chorus of ‘no’s escaped the group.
“I tried,” Goth kid said with a shrug, “Remember that…after, yeah?”
DeShaun thought he might puke.
The guide ran through safety measures. “Grip with your feet. We are going to hit some gnarly rapids. If you are thrown out of the boat, get into the ‘down river swimmer’s position.’”
“Hey man, you should pay attention,” the Goth kid said as he put on his helmet.
The guide explained the commands. DeShaun found himself intently listening. The guide said the waters were rough but not terrible. He schooled them in how to hold the paddles. The kids behind him, Talia, Ram, and Alison were shoving each other and knocking helmets. The Goth kid ignored them, gripping his paddle.
And they were off. Paddles dropped with hard smacks into the water. The water was calm-ish. The sun was shining. The air smelled like water, plastic, and sunscreen with a hint of fish. DeShaun began to relax. The Goth kid was whistling merrily as he paddled. It sounded like a pirate song DeShaun had heard in a video online. Ten minutes in, and he had relaxed enough to enjoy himself. The water spray kept him cold. He looked cool in front of Talia. The weird kid was keeping his weird to himself. It was all good. He was one with Nature or some crap.
“We’re going to his some class two rapids. Should be a little bumpy. Nothing to worry about,” the guide shouted. “Remember to listen to me.”
The Goth kid sang out, “Fight, flee or surrender!”
“Dude, shut up.” DeShaun hissed.
“Defeat you can’t deny,” he warbled, “Better give up in the first place…”
“Sing it, Goth kid,” Talia shouted.
DeShaun’s eyes flipped to the guide as the boat hit the rapids. It was bouncy but bearable. He gritted his teeth against the spray. He choked on it, half blinded. The boat started to list then tip heavily to the left.
“High-side!” the guide shouted.
DeShaun through his weight right. The Goth kid didn’t. He reached out to grab him but the movement knocked the aviators off his face. His black eyes glowed red. DeShaun recoiled. The guide shouted instructions. The raft dissolved into chaos. The kids behind them were screaming.
“Or drown in the blink of an eye,” the Goth kid sang calmly as the boat capsized.
DeShaun took a deep breath.