In the deep, the two strong swimmers felt the pull and drag of the waves on their young bodies. They raced between waves, parallel to the shore, dragging their arms through the rippling turquoise liquid, flipping under the waves, somersaulting and splashing. Filled with joy and youthful enthusiasm for this warm tropical water. Movement toward the beach caught the girls attention and she swam through the breakers and paddled toward the shore, trying to see what was attracting so many people. Her ear detected a wailing sound as she moved closer. Her feet dropped slowly to the seabed and she stood up. The wailing became a siren.
“Jellies! Look at the Jellies!” people were yelling and gesticulating at the water. Just beyond the wave line the sea was covered with a blanket of bobbing gelatinous globes. “Get out of the water! Get out of the water!” The girls' stomach clenched and her heart started racing as her eye fell on the bobbing head of her brother just metres from the front line of Jellies. She raced back toward him, ignoring the cries of the crowd behind her. She ran through the water, her attempt to move swiftly taking on the frustrating slowness of a dream as the water sucked and dragged at her legs. Her terror for the fate of her brother pushed her onwards, she tried to yell and swallowed a mouthful of salt water. Coughing and spluttering she tread water and raised her arm trying to attract his attention. A wave of relief washed through her as he turned and looked at her. She was only two troughs from him. Horror gripped her as she watched the crest of the wave and pointed at the Jelly riding above him. He turned his head and quickly dived beneath the wave. She hoped he was out of reach of the tentacles dangling below the surface. Distracted by watching her brother she failed to notice the same Jelly as it crested the wave until the water pushed it against her abdomen. Abruptly she turned, instinctively using the next wave to wash the Jelly off before it tightened its contact. She headed for the shore, veering around the bobbing jelly, relieved to see her brother ahead of her. The panicking crowd concentrated at her part of the beach. They were waving and calling.
“Yeah Yeah, I know about the Jellies” she mumbled to herself as she reached shallower water and stood up to walk the last distance. The moment the air brushed her skin, intense scalding pain rippled along her nerves. She staggered and arms reached to hold her up.
“Call an ambulance!”
“Pour on the metho.”
“Call an ambulance!”
“No, vinegar, pour on vinegar!”
Acrid smelling liquids were poured lavishly over her body, momentarily intensifying the stinging then easing it to a duller edge of pain inside her skin, if only for a few seconds. Vicious purple welts were forming around her torso.
The hubbub of the crowd rolled over her as she tried to think through the screaming along her nerves.
“My brother, is my brother ok?” reassurances from the crowd and her brother's voice helped her relax enough to hear her mother telling the crowd.
“She's okay, she'll live. She has made it through the crucial three minutes so no need for an ambulance. Thank you for your help. She is okay. She is breathing okay...” her mothers voice flowed on reassuring the crowd of no permanent damage from the Jelly sting and was answered by an ebb of surprise and diminishing concern. The aunt gathered her northern browned children and laughed about the toughness of their southern cousins.
“We must have got the vinegar on you in time. There are only three recorded survivors of that particular jelly fish, that's why we have the sirens. You are pretty lucky”
“ Didn't you hear the siren? Would have served you right if you had died.” Her mother shoved her shoulder. “You can have a cold shower when you get back to the house and wash off any stinger left on you.”