I manage a residential pool near an elementary school. It only opens during the summer and it’s been a big hit with families for what I’m told has been a couple decades now. It pays alright and it’s easy work—hire a lifeguard, someone to replace the chlorine, and someone to fish out the crying kids that inevitably shit in the pool.
The pool itself is incredibly old, though, and I think that’s where most of the problems came from. The wooden fence around the pool was short and there were rocks all around it, meaning kids could hop it pretty easily. On busy days when they thought nobody was watching, young teens would hop over the wooden fence to get around paying the entrance fee. Little shits. I normally catch them and kick them out, but a few inevitably slip through the cracks.
And the security system. Blech. We lock up the entrance with a padlock, but that’s obviously not enough to dissuade people from climbing over the pool’s walls. That’s where our security system comes in. We have a camera that’s hidden away on the roof of the concession stand that picks up pretty much everything in grainy, 1980s VCR quality. And as manager, it’s my prestigious job to look through the tape every night. Worst part of the job, easily. I wish they’d upgrade the system but the city hasn’t touched the pool in thirty years so I doubt they’d start now.
I normally just sit down, fast-forward through the night tape and find nothing of note. There’s a fair share of people who sneak in at night to have a midnight swim. I don’t blame them—I’d do the same if I lived in the area. I do blame the older teenagers from a nearby high school who sneak in to have sex in the pool. Animals. I just hope the chlorine kills their chlamydia before the kids jump in the next morning and leave it at that.
Except one day—about a week before it happened—I saw the silhouette of a guy crouching on the fence. With the angle and grainy quality of the recording I couldn’t really see what he was doing there. He was just crouching, hunched over, his knees touching his chest, staring at the pool. I slowed the tape down, waiting for him to jump in, but he never did. He just stared at the pool all night. And then he was gone so quick that I didn’t even see him leave.
The next night, the same thing. Same guy, staring at the same part of the, not so much as moving a muscle. The way he was crouching, holding that unnatural position for so long, made me uncomfortable, but I showed the tape to my employees and they both found it funny. We figured as long as he wasn’t dumping any chemicals into the pool or setting up any video cameras to take pedo pics of the kids, there wasn’t much of a problem. I told them I’d keep an eye on it anyways, maybe use this as an excuse to get the city to put some damn spikes on the wall.
Some days the guy was there. Other days he wasn’t. The day before it happened, the guy had brought a friend. Both of them climbed onto the fence and then just crouched there. I couldn’t see their faces at all in the darkness, only their crouching silhouettes. Watching it made me feel sick, and I fast-forwarded through the entire thing. That afternoon I emailed the city, requesting some added security and through some ancient archaic methods converted the VCR video to something I could send them.
When I got into work the next morning, a police officer was standing outside the pool’s concession stand. She had a pencil in one hand, a notepad in the other, and was scrawling down something illegible. I tried to move past her, not seeing what she’d want with a residential pool, but she stopped me.
“You run this place?” she asked as I was unlocking the door. “Sure,” I said. I opened the padlock and turned towards the police officer, anxiety welling up inside of me. “We’re on the lookout for this girl,” said the police officer, showing me a picture of a blond-haired kid with a purple bow in her hair. “Sixth grade. Goes to the school around here. Did she ever come to your pool?”
I gave the picture a good, hard look. “No, I don’t think so,” I said, and then with some forced sympathy: “She’s missing?”
“Yeah,” said the officer, biting her lip. “We just started looking. Give us a call if you see anything.”
“Sure thing,” I said, and stepped inside my pool. And then I started to clean the pool. Grabbed my net. Got out some leaves, some dirt. But something was sticking out of the gunk. It was a purple bow.
I dropped my net into the water. My heart sank and then raced. I shook my head, and steadied my breathing. I was nervous from the talk with the police officer. That’s all.
I popped the tape in and saw an empty pool. Normal night, like any other. And then, in a split second, there was a dozen silhouettes all crouching on the walls of the pool, watching as a small figure thrashed back and forth in the deep end. It was a kid. She’d sink suddenly, forcefully, and then barely make it up in time for a short gasp of air before being pulled back down as if someone was beneath her. She kicked and screamed, her blond hair clinging to her face as I saw something clench around her ankles and pull her back down.
I couldn’t move my hand to turn the tape off. The silhouettes of the men who had stayed so perfectly still before now swayed back and forth slowly. And then, in unison, their heads began to turn so that I could see their faces, their noses hooked at odd angles, their mouths curved into smiles, their eyes bright and wide.
I jolted back, fell over on my chair. The girl didn’t come up for air again. Her bow floated to the top of the pool. The silhouettes turned towards where the girl once struggled and leaped into the pool after her. Blood started to bubble up to the top of the pool. Then a hand reached towards the camera and the tape ended.
I cried and vomited for about an hour before phoning the police. I told them what I’m telling you, though this version was a lot more neat and tidy. I wanted to snap the tape in half after I’d watched it but I knew I would need it to prove my sanity. Nobody else has watched the tape yet. I don’t know if people will see what I saw. I’m scared that they won’t. I’m scared of hooked noses and smiling faces. In my dreams they wait on the roof of my house for me. My house fills with water. I try to swim up but something pulls me back down.