TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
The sailboat was anchored just a few yards away and the sun had set. With the campfire slowing dying, and their bellies full of fresh fish, the lovers decided to go skinny dipping. As they descended, hand in hand, into the warm water, he felt something slip around his ankle and pull…hard.
(Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.)
The sun was beginning to set, casting a low, golden glow across the water. The fish hadn’t bitten today and Elijah feared going home empty-handed again. The past months had been hard and his father, increasingly intoxicated and belligerent, was not adjusting to the tough times lightly. The thought of arriving home to another night of ridicule was daunting. So he decided to stay out for another hour or so in hopes of catching something.
He lowered his nets, and let the boat slowly trawl along. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Nothing. With the setting sun and the lullaby of the waves, Elijah fell into a sonambulatory state, going through all of the necessary motions, but taking no conscious part in them. In this ebb of livelihood, he failed to notice the wind’s acceleration or the sky’s swift darkening. He was too ensnared in his own exhaustion to notice the huge wave before it overtook the boat. The sound of the water hitting the wooden boat snapped him out of his reverie.
Everywhere, water was everywhere. Instinctually, he headed toward the tiny wheel house, frantically sliding on the now-treacherous deck as he went. As he got to the door, the second crash sounded and he saw the stern tip toward him in a completely unnatural position. No one knows how many hits the boat took after that but everyone knows that it went down, down, down.
Darkness overtook the sea and sky for the night.
As the sun once again began to tickle the water’s surface the next morning, the waters were calm. But down below, if anyone were listening, they’d have heard Elijah’s haunting howl of realization that he was miraculously alive, but fatally trapped. One of his legs was painfully caught on something. The net? The anchor? The motor? He couldn’t figure out how exactly he was confined, but no matter which way he tried to move, his leg wouldn’t budge and searing pain permeated his entire body. The key to his survival thus far, however, was the air bubble that had somehow been trapped in the boat with him. He could not move well or much, but he could breathe and that alone could keep faith alive.
He’d no idea how long he’d been down there. Of course, the beginning hours of his imprisonment were spent in the deep black of unconsciousness. Then came the screams. However, those, along with their compatriots, panic and despair, did not last as long as he would’ve thought, though who’s really counting the hours underwater? As soon as his rational mind caught on to the significance of the air bubble and the fact that he was still alive – ALIVE! – a sliver of hope appeared.
He wondered if his father even realized he hadn’t come home. Was he worried? Had he sent out a search party? The truth was that his father had imbibed into the wee hours of the night, passed out in his chair, and wouldn’t wake up for several more hours. He certainly hadn’t noticed his son hadn’t returned, nor had their boat. There definitely was not a search party.
Elijah, nascent in the stage of hope, began to think. Somehow, the exhaustion that had weighed so heavily on him the night before had lifted and he was renewed. He noticed the sunshine filter through the water. This had to mean that he couldn’t have sunk that deep. He also began to move his arms around in the water to get a feel for what lay around him. Not much. Finally, he ducked his head underneath the water, stretched his body as far out into the open water as he could, and tried to find the source of his confinement. He found nothing. He rose back up to his bubble.
Even though no one counts the hours underwater, when one’s alone down there, they pass slowly. With no viable escape plan, Elijah kept his head up, and tried to keep the faith. Faith can be fickle so Elijah tried to maintain it by singing to himself a lullaby that his mother used to sing him, one of the few memories he had of her. Over and over and over the words came softly out of his mouth. “All day, all night, angels watching over me.” He couldn’t remember all of the words, and barely captured the tune, but the repetition and warm memories brought solace.
His alertness was fading and delirium was setting in. Even though he could breathe, he’d had no food or water and a gentle slide into slumber was beckoning. Just as his head started to go under in sleep, his eyes momentarily popped open and he thought he saw movement in the distance. Immediately back into the realm of consciousness, Elijah pushed down, and stretch his body into the water again. There was movement. Those were people swimming toward him. There were holding hands and getting closer. Closer.
He caught one more large breath of air in his bubble, then sprung out, circling his hands around the man’s ankle and pulling as hard as he could. Elijah will never forget the man’s horrified face. He will also never forget how fresh the air felt in his lungs on dry land again.