Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Lifeguard (11/09/06)
TITLE: The Unseen Watcher
By Amy Michelle Wiley
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As it was, no one noticed the watcher moving closer to the boy. His grandmother only chattered innocently, unknowing. “You know, Paul, when I was your age ‘lifejackets’ were flotation devices we used when we went swimming in the water.” The woman tugged at the boy’s padded jacket.
“Swimming in water?” Paul giggled. “What for?”
“We didn’t have gravity-free air pools back then, of course. Here, it’s your turn to go in. Put your oxygen mask on.”
The boy shoved his mask on as he rushed for the entrance valve, doing a cannon ball that turned into a whirl of mottled blue and flesh tones.
The elderly woman settled on the other side of the glass with a magazine. She took no notice of the watcher as he donned his own lifejacket and slipped through the valve. The watcher drifted in a corner, pulling a hand-held screen from his pocket with easy practice, the movement hardly causing a quiver in his floating body.
A faint red haze appeared in the corner of the screen, clouding the image of the pool. “So you are here,” the watcher whispered. Even as the words escaped his lips, the screen he held went blank. For him, the air of the chamber seemed to grow cold, thick with the hint of a danger that was rapidly becoming a reality.
The children continued to play, ricocheting around in uncontrolled play. A girl bounced seemingly off the wall, yet there was no wall near her. Still, no notice was taken, save by the watcher. He was motionless, only his eyes moved, flicking rapidly between the blue-shirted boy and the space of the pool.
When it happened it came so fast that only the watcher saw. Paul was suddenly struggling, kicking as though stricken with a seizure. His oxygen mask slipped from his face. In moments he would be noticed by the others, floating with purple-tinged skin, dead from a seemingly innocent accident.
Yet before the last of the air could slip from the boy’s body, the watcher was at last seen, his voice echoing off the chamber walls as he shouted for help. He slipped the oxygen tube back into the Paul’s mouth and with almost the same movement he slammed into the empty space behind the child. With one yank, the head of a man materialized beside them, the film of his invisibility suit crumpling around his chest.
“Grab him,” the watcher warned to the adults who swarmed through the valve. The watcher himself cradled the boy in his arms, giving one kick to bring them to the valve.
The boy clung to him, consciousness returning as fast as the air to his lungs. “Who are you? And who was that man?”
“I don’t know who the man was, but he knew you were the president’s son.” The watcher looked over to the criminal, now surrounded by police. “But no matter, he won’t bother you any more.”
They exited the pool and the grandmother rushed over to clasp the boy in her arms. Paul smiled up at her, streaks from the panicked tears on his cheeks catching the light. “That man saved my life, Grandma. He’s a hero!”
The watcher’s eyes were already moving on, scanning the area around them. “I’m just a lifeguard, son. Just doing my job.”
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