This story was inspired by the photo prompt by Quill Shiv:
Don’t Look Down
“No matter what you see in there, do not touch the water. That stuff is poison.” The older man grabbed the boy by the shoulders and stared into his eyes. “Do you you understand?”
“How are we supposed to cross this without touching the water?”
“It’s easier than it looks. Just jump from stump to stump. Move fast and keep your head up.” The man released his grip and looked toward the other side. “Watch and learn.”
With that the man casually moved across the ancient stumps to the other side of the water hole as he had countless times before.
“I don’t know,” the boy stammered. “Can’t I just go around?”
“Not unless you want to add a few days to our trip. It’s best not to even look at the water. Try not to think about it. It can’t tempt you if you don’t look at it.”
The boy swallowed the growing lump in his throat. It felt like a baseball going down. He shifted his feet and hunkered down. He ran at top speed toward the water, hoping it was as easy as his father made it look. His eyes wandered down to check his footing on the second stump. His toes hugged the edge, but otherwise, his foot hold was solid.
“Head up!” his father shouted, but something in the water had already caught the boy’s eye.
The boy’s momentum carried him forward, though his foot made no attempt at landing on the next tree stump. He reached for the water, trying desperately to grasp some unknown object just beneath the surface. All memories of his father’s warning faded when he splashed into the acidic water.