Ten Seconds by Megan Prevost

Lyle undergoes a dangerous initiation to become friends with Noah and Ethan; by Megan Prevost.

"I knew you were a wimp, but damn, it's just water," Ethan said. He stood with his arms crossed, a few feet from the hole in the ice. Ethan had driven the three of them out onto the frozen lake. Noah and Lyle had watched while he cut through the ice. He created a hole big enough for a person to fit through.

The wind bit at their faces, it was almost midnight and the temperature crept below zero. The three stood to the side of the lake where the ice was the thickest. The only light came from Ethan's headlights.

Lyle cowered away from the freshly carved hole. "How cold do you think it'll be?" Lyle said. He inched closer and peered into the water below.

"Pretty cold," Noah put his hand on Lyle's shoulder. "But it's safe, we've all done it. Just ten seconds and then you can get out. It's not that bad."

"You wanna hang with us, don't you?" Ethan said. He raised an eyebrow at the boy across from him.

Lyle nodded. His arms were covered in goosebumps, prickled hair stood on end. He took a step towards the carved out hole in the ice. Another step. He stood on the edge and looked down into the dark lake.

He was about to jump before Ethan stepped in.

"Wait," Ethan said, he held up his hand.

Lyle's chest fell with a sigh of relief.

"Jumpin' in clothes on, that's easy. You gotta do in just your boxers, then it's really a challenge." Ethan said. "Besides, that's what we all had to do. It's only fair you do it the same way."

Lyle turned to Noah for a look of approval. Noah nodded.

"Just ten seconds," Noah said. He looked down at his phone, a timer ready.

Lyle stripped down to just his boxers, he left his shirt and pants in a pile next to him, untied his shoes and kicked those off to the side as well. He put his legs into the water and lowered himself slowly into the icy water. His mouth pursed together and his eyelids slammed shut, the water like pin pricks on every inch of his skin. Lyle fully submerged himself but kept one hand gripped to the edge of the ice just in case.

Ethan paced around the hole and stopped where Lyle's hand was. He nudged it over with his boot. His smile was colder than the ice.

Ethan looked at Noah, "Start the timer." Ethan stood next to the pile of Lyle's clothes and watched as the boy before him struggled against the freezing temperature.

"This is too far man," Noah said, his voice quiet. "You didn't make me do shit when I wanted to be your friend."

Ethan laughed and shook his head. "I wanted to be your friend. You think we're really letting this kid anywhere near us at school tomorrow? Nah, no chance in hell."

"Guys!" Lyle said, his voice dissipated as his head dipped underwater. He struggled to reach the surface, "Guys, I can't feel my legs."

Ethan tapped the pause button on Noah's phone. "You're doing great, just a few more seconds."

Noah looked at Ethan. "Dude, you gotta help him, he's barely staying above water."

"He'll be fine," Ethan said.

Noah turned back to watch Lyle. He crossed his arms over his chest. "You better hope you're right."

Lyle struggled as he tried to reach for the ledge of ice so he could pull himself back out. He latched one hand onto the side. "I'm done," Lyle said. He held himself up and tried to get out of the water. "It's been ten seconds. More probably." His words fell apart. They caught in his throat, interrupted by teeth that wouldn't stay together.

Noah moved to help him out of the water. Ethan lifted his arm up to stop Noah from walking any further.

Ethan walked to the edge of the water and waited for Lyle to get out. "You did good, kid." He held out his hand to pull him out.

Lyle grabbed Ethan's hand and pulled himself out of the water. Lyle sat on the edge with his arms wrapped around his legs. "So, I'm in, right?"

"Oh, I don't know," Ethan said. He looked at Noah and then back to Lyle. "We'll discuss it and get back to you." The look of disbelief on Lyle's face brought a smile to Ethan's. Ethan grabbed the pile of clothes and tossed them to Lyle. He miscalculated just enough so they landed with a splash in the water next to him. "See you tomorrow, yeah?"

Ethan stood up from his crouched position on the ground and walked back to his truck.

In disbelief, Noah stood statue still.

"Come on, man," Ethan said. He slammed the truck door closed. After he waited for Noah (who didn't move an inch) for a minute, he took off.

"Thanks, Noah," Lyle said. His teeth chattered together loud enough to scare away the fish.

"Don't thank me. We're both fucked now," Noah said.


  1. The horrors of peer pressure and needed to be accepted. Maybe, at least, Lyle has a new friend in Noah. If he wants him.

  2. Very interesting take on what teens will do to be accepted. Frightening. I kept thinking Lyle was not going to live through this, that Ethan's joke would go too far. I want to know more about what will happen.