Air

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A girl swims down to save her man

Air

 

“Your friend?.. Down there.”

She looked off the side of the fishing boat, tears of anger and terror rolling down her cheek. He pointed with his bony, ringed forefinger off the side of the boat towards the  seemingly calm sea, a small ring of islands vaguely visible in turquoise distance. The fishing boat was never intended for fishing. It was another vessel the mob used to carry out its offshore duties. This was a floating murder compound.

“What?” She looked over to the grey-suited man's terrifying, burned and heavily tanned face. He must have been living paradise for decades, but his face had become more shrivelled and scarred with time.

“I would say he has about 3 or 4 minutes of oxygen left in 'is tank... I ‘ear drowning is a blissf’al experi’ance,” he said bluntly in a harsh, Bajan accent. The man looked over to his cross-armed thugs sitting on the side of the boat, smoking cigarettes. “Then again, I also 'ear it is one of the most agonising ways to die… Feeling life slip out of ya' body” He pointed at his watch, tapping the crystal glass of the Rolex.

“Clock is ticking, lady. Gonna' 'av to move fast!” He smiled at her with his ominous, black chasms of eyes, then acknowledged the comrades around him with the same gesture.

She noticed the sun descending, pulling the blue out of the sky and replacing it with an orange glow.

With that, she turned and ran towards the side of the boat. She gasped so violently her chest felt like it might burst, as she dived past the two thugs, over the side and into the blue abyss.

The water was warm, but it was deep. The further down she swam, the blacker it became. The darkness engulfed everything, only vague outlines of rocks and coral were visible deep below her. Her eyes burned. Her chest swelled. She swam down, trying to conserve as much air as she could, moving slowly. She did not stop.

After about 20 metres or so, her ears begging to burst, she glimpsed something on the sand below, just to the side of a large boulder covered in coral, circled by hundreds of tiny fish. A steel chair stood there, its legs drilled into the rocks beside it. It seemed like a new addition. It must have been there for days.

Sat on the seat was a skinny, almost skeletal, man. His long, brown hair flowed like seaweed, he seemed to be breathing slowly through his tiny mouthpiece connected to a sizeable steel air tank that was been buried in the sand. He wore nothing but a pair of ripped, grey shorts. His body was shredded, scarred all over, with blood floating and forming like a cloud in the water from a large gash on his right arm.

She immediately sped up towards him. When she reached him, she grasped his arm. He looked up at her, startled. His pupils widened and his hands tried to grab her, but remained tied to the chair. She mouthed 'It. Is. Okay.' and after a second or so, he nodded. He nodded back and spat out his mouthpiece, letting it float towards her. He nodded his head at it, gesturing for her to take it. She took it, and a big burst of air seeped into her lungs. The air tasted disgusting, like it had been mixed with something retched. She immediately placed it back between his destroyed lips and looked at the rusty gauge on the tank, it was well into the red. Not long left.

She reached to unbuckle the restraints. When that failed she looked around and picked up a small rock on the ground by his foot, using it as a saw to get through the tough leather.

After what felt like a minute, precious time at this depth, the restraint on his right arm split and fell free. He immediately grabbed her, and mouthed some words of gratitude. He breathed a large breath of air into her lungs from the tank, then kissed her forehead before placing the mouthpiece in her mouth.

She needed it more than him.

She tried with aching arms to cut the leather on his left, but it was too tough for her to get through, so she moved down to his ankles…

But something was very wrong.

Her eyes gaped wide as she moved the leather aside, revealing a shining steel band around his ankle. There was no way she could cut through, with any rock, let alone this one. She felt her chest erupt, her heart flooding with emotion. She couldn't contain herself.

 

She could not save him.

 

She moved back up to his chest and shook her head at him, grabbing his thick brown hair from his shoulder as she did. She pulled the mouthpiece out and mouthed 'I can't…’

Those were the hardest words she ever had to say.

She floated still for a moment, then mouthed ‘It. Is. Okay… I. Am. Here.’

He looked at her hands, then back up to her, gracefully now. Then he smiled.

She felt that smile in her chest. He grabbed her head with his large hand, pulling her towards him and kissed her. He yelled now, into the water, as loud as he could, the vibrations reverberating across her face. He looked directly into each of her eyes, trying to calm her shaking body. She could barely keep the mouthpiece in her mouth. It was making a whining sound. The small needle had gone into the black line on the gauge.

Empty.

She cried a muffled cry as he held her in his arm. He mouthed again:

“Don’t Cry. I. Will. Be. Okay.”

She mouthed back:

“I. Am. Sorry… I. Love. You.”

With that, he closed his eyes slowly, then placed his hand on her forehead.  She watched him as he exhaled, then breathed in water.

His eyes opened momentarily in shock, then closed again as he shuddered violently. Then, he grabbed her ankles and pushed her up, towards the surface.

She couldn't move. She may as well have been paralysed. She began floating towards the surface. Her eyes hurt as she tried to cry, and her heart hurt as much as her lungs would allow her.

She looked back down at him. He had managed to stand up, with his ankles still screwed to the chair.

He raised his free arm to the surface, palm open, embracing what he had left. She watched his figure and his form faded again into the black abyss.

 

With that he was gone.

 

She floated, body motionless, before she hit the surface.

 

The air rushed into her lungs.

 


Submitted: January 21, 2021

© Copyright 2021 S.Kelleher. All rights reserved.

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