I hold an arm up against the chain-link barrier and rest my forehead on my arm. Past the bridge railing, I watch the murky water flow. It seems gentle, but memories of thrashing against a similar current hold fast in my mind. I pick up a stick from beside my feet and poke it through. It spins and lands on the water with barely a ripple. I watch downstream until it disappears.
A scream brings me back. A mallard waddles along the rocky shore, followed by a child, no more than three years old. A man is pushing through a break in the fence that separates the walking path from the river. He shouts for the child to stop. The young one is not distracted by the pleading of its father, nor by the wail of sirens or the pulsating flash of red lights. It stumbles forward in miniature sandals and co-ordinated shorts and t-shirt with a wide smile and outstretched arms.
The duck hits the surface of the river and glides away. The child slows as it wades into the water, stops when the bottoms of its shorts get wet. It calls out, dejected. The father is kneeling at the fence, held at his shoulders by two strangers.
The water along the shore rises. It boils and surges, taller than the child, and envelops it. The swell hits the shore and breaks. As it recedes, the now shiny pebbles and stones are stained red. The surface stills, and the child is gone. A dark shadow slithers away under the bridge, back to the deep.
Photo by David Grandmougin on Unsplash