Witches Point

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story of a young boy going on a fishing trip and it's consequences in later life.

Submitted: August 25, 2010

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Submitted: August 25, 2010

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Witches Point

By

Roy Guy

?

It was not as if I was a lonely child, I just preferred to be alone. Some children have the ability to attract others like magnets, some like myself seem to be branded with a sign that says keep out, its as if we don’t belong. So most of my free time was taken up by hobbies I could do on my own. If it was raining I was either reading, writing short stories or making up ghostly plays, all acted out in a cardboard box theatre with self made paper puppets. If the weather was nice I would go for long walks through the woods and forests around our home or climb up onto the mountains above, it was nice to be alone. When it was really hot I’d sometimes go swimming in the brown water of the canal in the valley below or in the freezing water of the local outdoor swimming pool. But there was always me, never them, yet I began to love my unforced isolation, in a way it made me more independent. So when an uncle of mine who I hadn’t seen for years came to our house and asked me if I would like to go fishing, it came as a big surprise. Especially when he told me he that we were going to go sea fishing not the local pond where everyone mostly went. I said yes, not because I liked fishing, after all I had never been, but because of the fact that someone had actually asked me. The thought of seeing somewhere new had always held great attraction for me, particularly the sea. Books such as Treasure Island and Moby Dick had fed my imagination from an early age so the thought of seeing salt water for the first time really excited me. My uncle said he had a spare rod and would pick me up the next day at 4 am. Four in the morning, I had never seen that time before; I didn’t know it existed so it made the prospect of fishing an even more fantastic adventure. That night I went to bed early, it was impossible to sleep because my mind would not let me, all night long I kept thinking of tall ships, sharks, pirates and finding buried treasure. At three am I got up and within ten minutes I was washed, fully dressed and waiting by the front door with a flask of tea and a tin miners box full of sandwiches. There I stood in two pairs of old trousers, one of my father’s shirts, two pullovers and a duffle coat with a large hood on top. My feet were entrenched in a tall pair of black rubber wellies that were so large it needed three sets of long woollen socks on just to fill up the space. It was the middle of January, outside it was freezing cold and the North wind was bending the branches of the nearby trees as it howled its way up through the valley. I didn’t care; this was going to be one of the greatest days of my life. Each waiting minute seemed to last an hour it felt as if I was standing at that door for ever, when suddenly my ears picked up the faint sound of an approaching car. I ran outside, when I saw the headlights of my uncles car coming down the street I ran back inside, grabbed my things and rushed out onto the road to meet him. My Uncle was a quiet man, he didn’t talk a lot, but when he did it was usually something worth listening to. He was one of those special people who had travelled all over the world and seen things that most of us could only dream about. His mind was a treasury, full of precious information, I being young and impressive hung onto his every word.

This was the first time I had travelled so far out of the valley’s so when we arrived at our destination the sights and sounds that reached me made my heart race. It was about 5 in the morning and very dark, above us the starless was a fast moving mass of heavy grey, black clouds, penetrated here and there by the light of a sailing moon. Down the hill to our right you could just about make out the fast flowing current of a river as it ran out towards the sea.

“Don't ever try to cross it, “ said my uncle pointing “the current is very strong, it would take your legs away and wash you out to sea.” he added seriously “ .... quite a few people have drowned trying to”

I nodded my head gravely and stared out into the gloom. On the other side of the river was a long wild wind swept beach, as my eyes grew accustomed to the dark I could see and hear the surf breaking on the sandy shore.

“That's Newton bay... over there ...by those sand dunes” explained my uncle

I looked to where he was pointing, in the gloom they looked eerily like some human bodies huddling together to keep themselves warm. I turned round, to our left were rocks, some jagged, some flat, jutting out like closed fists from the grass plateau that curved gently up towards our car. In front of us the extended finger of a peninsula reached out into the sea.

“And that’s Witches Point,” said my uncle against the spray, blown on to us by the incoming wind it hit hard against our faces.

Picking up our gear we made our way down. The only thing you could hear was the noise of the raging waters as they roared and raged below, it was a threatening experience, I was scared but it was something I was not going to miss. Carrying all our equipment to where we were going to fish from was heavy going. It was over half a mile away and it was very dark, we had to make two trips over slippery grass and wet jagged rocks with a very strong wind lashing into our faces. We were going to fish off what fishermen call the Ledges, it is not a safe place to be if even you are only walking, but to fish from them is terrifying, especially at night and in these conditions. All you have to stand on are wet greasy rocks, they look flat but they are covered in jagged holes with razor sharp edges that can tear your skin off if you happen to fall into them. These rocks form a ledge that is about five yards wide and about a hundred yards long. Every now and then wedge shaped gullies, cut out by the force of the sea divide the ledge so that when the sea rushes into them it creates an explosion causing the water to shoot high up into the air hissing and spitting like an angry dragon. I walked carefully out to the edge and looked down at the sea below, what I saw was frightening. The waters repelled by the jagged walls of the cliff were surging angrily backwards to reveal a deep chasm of limpet covered rocks that were being engulfed by the, churning, swirling, foaming sea. Then as the large angry mass of roaring water moves out it runs into the huge swells created by the incoming tide, the titanic clash hurls up a wall of surf, making the whole surface boil and bubble entwining the currents to create whirlpools strong enough to suck the biggest man down. United the sea lunges forward again, as it closes in it rises and increases its pace. Then, gathering all its strength it runs along the cliff face and clatters like a machine gun down its entire length before sending its defiant waters leaping into the air to shower the rocks with hissing spray.Trembling I moved cautiously away from the edge. The Ledges are situated at the entrance to the Severn Channel which has the second most vicious currents in the world. To stand and fish off them is a precarious occupation even to the most seasoned, let alone an eleven year old beginner like myself. So when I had stood there looking down on those raging waters my heart was beating like it never had before.We were not the only ones there, all along the Ledge I could see the bright glowing Tilley lamps of other fishermen, some of them perched on positions far more precarious than ours.My uncle unfolded the cover on the lengths of rod and took them out, then he began to show me how to put them together by slotting the end of one into another, next came the reels, a single spindle for me and a multispidle for himself.Apparently it was a 13-metre tide, which he informed me, was one of the seasons largest, it was coming in fast and was starting to climb further up the cliff. Then he taught me how to feed the fishing line up through the rings of the rod. The roar of the sea drowned out some of his instructions so he had to repeat most of them.Although the bitter chill of the night was starting to penetrate into my bones the excitement of the sea grew in me and the uncomfortable conditions were eagerly forgotten. Next I was shown how to tie the trace that holds the hooks and grip lead weight to the line. The spray from the crashing waves was beginning to shower over us, and soak into our clothes but I was really enjoying the experience.Now we were nearly ready to fish; all we had to do was to bait the three barbed hooks which were blowing around wildly in the wind as they hung down from the trace. My uncle had brought along three types of bait. Mackerel Strips, Squid in pieces and Black Rag worm. The first two caused me no problem mainly because they were dead but the Ragworm squirmed and wriggled around in its plastic container like hairy snakes. They are horrendous; about three to six inches long, an inch wide, with hairy legs, and a pair of pincher teeth that can give you a fair nip. When I picked one up the fear of the sea left me to be replaced by a dread that bordered on a phobia. Perhaps realising its fate it wriggled and twisted until I dropped it onto the rocks, I was scared that it might eat my finger. Smiling at my vain attempts my uncle picked it up and calmly skewered it onto the hook.

“Now” he said with relish “all we have to do now is cast out”

I had never fished the calm waters of a pond before, so to cast my line out into the raging waters of a sea heaving and swelling before us seemed to me an impossibility. Grabbing his rod my uncle walked carefully over the flat wet rocks to make sure he missed most of the deep holes imbedded in them and stood as near to the edge as he could. I followed him out to watch, I didn’t take my rod. It was still dark and the wind was buffeting against us so fiercely you had to lean into it to stop it from blowing you over. In front of us the sea was seething and rolling angrily, heavy swells were rising up so high they were almost level with our heads then they broke against the cliffs before roaring with a crash back into the sea. We stood there like statues defying nature as the waters threatened our very existence. Terrified, I wanted to run back to the safety of the rear rock wall to get away from the menace of the raging sea but something inside me said no, so I stood there to scared to move.

Pointing outwards my uncle shouted into my ear. “ You have to cast over there, past those rocks, snag your line on them and you‘ll lose the lot.”

I looked outwards at some jagged tips of outshore rocks that appeared as the motion of the water uncovered them and nodded my head in acknowledgement then watched my uncle. Making sure that his feet were securely placed he slowly moved the rod back and fro until the heavy trace swung in and out like the pendulum of a grandfather clock. As it reached the maximum height behind him he whipped the rod forward causing the loaded trace to fly up and out in an arc towards the sea, with his thumb on the line the reel ratchet whistled from the speed of its turning until the hooks and weight splashed into the raging waters about 100 yards away. Standing back he let the line sink, when it hit bottom he wound in the slack and placed the rod on a wooden tripod, checking to see that the raised line wouldn’t graze the edges of the rocks he grabbed hold of the second rod.

“ Now its your turn”. he said giving it to me.

Trying to cast out was a nightmare. To stand in the dark on wet hole covered rocks looking down and sometimes up at a churning foaming mass of raging waves with a wind howling into your body is one thing. But to throw your body forwards towards that sea so that your line goes the distance needed to miss the snagging rocks that's something else, it seemed almost suicidal. My first attempt was a disaster. As I threw myself forward I nearly fell over. My line didn’t go out where it was intended, instead it spiralled around and wrapped itself up in a tangle of knots, so we had to stand there in the light of our Tilley lamp undoing them with cold wet numb fingers.My second attempt ended up banging into the cliff about two yards down, so after umpteen unsuccessful attempts I gave up. The swells were now rising so high they were crashing over the top so that every now and them we had to run back quickly to escape, even the spray seemed to be whispering deadly threats to us as it passed.My uncle seemed amused by my antics at casting but, even he thought enough was enough so taking my rod he walked to the edge and cast it out for me. My uncle went to his bag and brought out two small plastic like straws, bending them in half he tied them to the end of each rod, each one give out a green luminous glow.

“You can see the tip dip now.” he said looking at light.

The powerful heave and drag of the sea pulled on the lines causing the rods to bow forwards on the stand, then as the waves lunged inwards the slackening lines made them jerk back to their original position. I looked at the line.

“ That’s not a fish...you can tell if a fish bites, it’s a different type of movement, its like that” said my uncle anticipating my thoughts by pulling on one of the lines.

The night covered the true power of the sea that lay in front of us, now that dawn was beginning to break we could see the full might of nature growing before our eye’s.I remember thinking that if you fell into that raging cauldron you would have no chance, no matter how good a swimmer you were. As the morning got lighter we carried on rebaiting our hooks every twenty minutes. Sometimes a line would snag on the rocks, to retrieve it we would have to crouch along the edge pulling and tugging from every angle hoping that it will break loose. Sometimes the strain snapped the line and we would lose all the tackle attached to it, so my uncle would have to attach a new set of hooks and weights but in fishing terms our luck was out.

“ When the winds in the east the fish are the least” quoted my uncle ruefully as he told me about the times when you only had to cast out to catch a fish.

“We used to catch them this big” he said holding his arms out wide.

The wind was still howling and I had gone past freezing. We had had plenty of bites but hadn’t caught anything, my food and flask of tea had long since gone and I was beginning to wish I was home in my warm bed, then it happened. For the first time I had actually managed to cast out by myself. It wasn’t a good cast but I felt relieved because I had actually succeeded on my own. Reeling in the loose line I put the rod back onto the stand and sat down to wait for the elusive fish to bite. A short while later I noticed the tip of my rod quivering, it didn’t appear to be the pull of the sea (I’d got used to that by now.) or what my uncle called rod fever, when intense staring makes you think its moving. My eyes were now firmly fixed on the tip of the rod I shouted for my uncle who came to see what the fuss was about. For a while it didn’t move, then it shuddered and gave a gentle downward nod against the run of the sea. Not daring to take my eyes away I waited anxiously, oblivious to anything else around me, even the sea had stopped roaring. Then the rod began to move up and down in motion with the sea, were my eyes playing tricks, was the sea mocking us, then it moved again?”

“ Its bite, I think. “ he said hopefully “ let it feed a while and see what happens”.

The rod kept bowing up and down, I felt a fool.

“ Its gone” I thought

Then, just as we had given up hope, wham, the rod whipped right over until it was nearly bent double then it flew up and lurched forward, it was nearly dragged off the stand. Jumping up I grabbed it before it was pulled over the edge. I held on grimly, I didn’t have a clue what to do next but before I could do anything my uncle took it off me and started to reel in.

“ Its a big one “ he said, more to himself than me, then gripping the rod with both hands he tugged it back sharply.

“ Got to make sure its really well and truly hooked or it could get away, “ he added in explanation.

He walked closer to the edge, as he moved forward the line would slacken enough so that he could reel it in bit by bit. The rod was now bowed over in an arch. slowly he pulled it upwards making sure that he didn’t snap the whistling line which was now as taut as a cheese wire then, lowering it he wound in the loosened line. The clicking of the reel straining against the pressure could be heard above the roaring of the sea. My eyes followed the line out into the writhing waters, there was no fish showing yet. By carefully changing his stance and playing the tide and the line by backward and forwards movement my uncle was gradually beginning to win the fight.

“There she is “he shouted and pointed out to where, in the raging waters the silver grey shape of a large fish had broken to the surface, threshing about angrily it was trying its best to escape the hook that held it to the land.

“ Its a cod” gasped my uncle “ and it’s a big one “.

Underwater the fish had had the weight of the sea and the power of the currents to help it fight against the pull and guile of my uncle, on the surface it would be a lot easier to wind in. Next came the not so simple problem of dragging it over the tormented water to the base of the ledge and getting it up over the jagged rocks of the cliff face.

“ Get me the gaff. my uncle yelled, anticipating my thoughts.

“ What's that? “ I replied sheepishly.

With one hand clamped firmly to the rod he turned round and pointed to a long pole with a large metal hook on its end.

“ That! ” he screamed out in exasperation.

Nodding my understanding I dashed back as fast as I could go considering the circumstances and got it as quickly as I could.

“ You will have to help,” he said changing his position as I handed it over.

The rod which was almost bent double was nearly breaking under the strain of the fish, so I wedged my feet into some rock crevices and grimly held on to my uncle who was virtually being dragged over the edge. My eyes fixed on the sea. Coming towards us gathering speed was a gigantic swell, as it neared it rose higher and higher. I cowered down and shut my eyes, we were only two or three feet from the edge and the sound of it rushing closer made me fear for my life.

“ Look out “ my uncle shrieked.

I peeked out, looming before us was a tower of threatening water, I was going to move but before I could do anything it broke. The force of the wave washed me off my feet and flung me back slamming me into the rock wall behind. I tried to grab hold but when the water hit the same rock wall it stopped, reared up like an angry horse and hurtled back the backwash dragging on my legs began to pull me along with it. Then, just as it seemed like this was the end I felt the strong hands of my uncle catch hold of me, just before the last of the receding waters vanished over the edge. Making sure that I was okay he turned his attention back to the fish.

“ I’ll try to reel in the line on the incoming waves ” he coaxed softly.

The fish, which was close enough to see was thrashing and tossing in an attempt to escape but I think it knew it was fighting a losing battle, the only chance it had now was for the line to snap or for the rocks to cut him loose. For a while it shook, twisted and pounded his silver body against the water and rock as he fought valiantly for his freedom, then suddenly, he just gave in and surrendered to his fate. Leaning down over the edge my uncle waited for it to come near enough so that he could hook it with the gaff as another large swell began to loom up before us.

“ Wait for the water to rise and reel in as fast as you can “ he shouted handing me the rod.

The swell which had started as a small hump was thundering in like an express train, then as it was almost hitting the rocks he yelled.

“Now!”

Believe you me I wound that reel as fast as I could. Just before it broke my uncle lunged in with the gaff, using the waters forward flow to assist he heaved the fish up over the cliff edge onto the rocks, I breathed a sigh of relief, we had won. The feeling it gave me was so immense all my doubts and fears rushed away, but the elation didn’t last long, because when I looked down into the big round eyes of the dying fish I felt ashamed.A tremendous feeling of guilt surged through me, deep inside I felt we had done wrong. I know a Cod is not a pretty sight, with its huge head, pot belly and tapering cylindrical body it must be one of the ugliest fish in the sea, even so it was a living thing and it was still alive. Even now on the rocks below me it was continuously writhing around and jerking as it tried to get the hook out of its mouth to escape back into the life giving water. As it flipped and flopped its huge mouth opened and closed to gulp in the useless air in a vain attempt to breathe. I stood there watching with a profound sense of sadness but I could not let my uncle know, after all boys don’t cry.

”What do we do now”? I asked feigning eagerness.

Bending down my uncle picked up the fish by its gills, then after wrapping it up in an old rag to stop it slipping from his hands he smashed its head against the nearest rock.“ To put it out of its agony “ he said with assurance, yanking on the trace he tried to free the hook, but it wouldn’t budge, the fish had taken the bait so eagerly that it now lay deep down inside its stomach.

“Why did you have to swallow it so deep?” he said looking into the Cods sad eye’s. “ I’ll have to dig for it now.” he added with an air of exasperation.

Reaching into his bag he rummaged round and brought out a pair of long nosed pliers, then, grabbing the jaws of the fish with each hand he pulled them apart as far as he could and thrust them down inside the wide open throat. I thought it was dead, that the smash on its head had killed, I was wrong, it must have only been stunned because as the pliers were thrust further and further in it suddenly woke up and started to thrash back and fore. I couldn’t look and turned away disgusted, then curiosity took over and I looked back. My uncle was trying his hardest, but no matter how hard he tried he just couldn’t get hold of the hook, so after numerous attempts he gave up trying and cut the line leaving it buried inside. But the damned fish would not give up, it just wouldn’t die. So it tossed, gulped and squirmed for what seemed to be an eternity until my uncle decided enough was enough and pounded its head repeatedly against a protruding rock.

“That’s better.” he said giving it one more bash to make sure.

Taking off the rag he placed the fish on top of a flattish rock and got out his knife, it was razor sharp, and in one deft movement sliced down the flesh of its fat white belly.

“Always gut my fish before I take them home.” he said with a smile “Cod are bottom feeders they’ll eat anything.” he said pointing to the contents of the stomach that he had dragged out onto the floor, I held my nose because the smell was horrendous, but nevertheless I got closer. I must admit I was amazed by what it had swallowed, odd bits of metal, whole crabs, some fish and there was even a small bottle.

Five minutes later, gutted, beheaded and defined the fish now bore no resemblance to the one we had caught. The tide was going out, fishing time was over, cold, wet, hungry and tired, it was time to go home. Packing up the gear and gutted fish we made our way back to the car then left the raging sea and ledges behind. It was very quiet on the way home, talking was not something I wanted to do. What was initially an exciting adventure had become to me a tragedy, deep in my heart I had a inner sense, a feeling that somehow I would pay for what we had done.

Over the years I have often wondered why my uncle took me fishing. Perhaps it would have turned out differently if we had gone in the day to a nice calm beach but why the ledges? Maybe my parents had arranged it so that it would bring me out of myself, make a man of me, something like that anyway, what it did succeed in doing was to put me off fishing for good, however, life went on.

I left school at fifteen and went to work in a local factory; a few years later I got married we had two children, a boy and a girl. My life was not exactly bliss but it was relatively happy but, as with most people, there always seemed to be something missing.I never saw my uncle again, he died two years after our fishing trip and I have never gone back to the ledges, so for something to do in the holidays I decided to take the kids and have another look. For some reason I just had to see it again. When we arrived only the weather had changed. It was the middle of July, the sun was beaming but there was a cool wind coming in with the tide that took away its warmth. I looked out past Witches Point to where the white tips of a choppy sea tossed and turned, then back at the large inshore waves as they dashed against the rocks and raced up the beach to the feet of some men stood fishing. Not for Whiting or Cod they are winter fish but for the Bass who come in to feed under the shore bound waves. I sat down on a grass plateau and peered at the ledges I stood on all those years ago while the kids went off to explore the rocky pools for crabs.

“Do not go near the river it's dangerous” I shouted after them. “ a lot of people have drowned trying to.“ I murmured to myself as I remembered my uncles warning.

It was a nice day, I looked at my kids, my eyes squinting as the rays from the sun bounced off the water. I could see them walking and jumping over the rocks, giggling as they stooped down to search the seaweed covered sides of the rocky pools with their nervous fingers. They were enjoying themselves, I felt happy. Lying down on the warm green grass I looked up into the blue sky at the white drifting cotton clouds and closed my eyes and I could still hear the faint distant sounds of people talking, of children playing. The constant murmuring of the nearby sea felt like a lullaby, its constant rocking motion hypnotised my mind, unknowingly I nodded off to sleep. In the distance I could hear voices but they seemed so light, so far away. Slowly the whispers grew louder and louder until they were screams. My eyes blinked open, jumping up I looked around.

“What's wrong? “ I shouted at a small group of people.

“Down there “ they said pointing towards the river.

I looked down, I could see a small red object bobbing up and down. My eyes searched anxiously for my children, I couldn’t see them. Fearful, for what I might find I ran down the hill towards the river looking as I ran, then I saw my daughter jumping up and down, she was shouting.

“Dad! Dad!”

“Where's your brother?” I asked grabbing hold of her by the arms, but in my mind I already knew the answer.

“ He's out there. “ she said pointing an outstretched hand towards the river at the red pullovered shape of my son heading out to sea.?

Making sure she was safe I ran as fast as I could along the riverbank until I could go no further. Since my fishing trip the sea had become my fear. I was a very good swimmer but the thought of deep water terrified me, yet I knew that had to go in, if I didn’t my son was going to drown, but I had a weird feeling that I would never come out. Grabbing hold of a large beach ball that some one had left on the side I clambered over the far most rocks and jumped into the water. Before I could hit bottom the strong flow of the current built up behind my body and propelled me forwards towards my son who was about 30 yards in front. He could swim but he had never swum in such treacherous conditions as this, his idea of swimming was a couple of lengths of the local indoor pool. I had to get to him. I could still feel the riverbed so perhaps I could reach him before he was dragged out too far. We were being taken out past the rocks that make up the tip of the peninsula into the heavy grey waters of the Severn Estuary whose tidal currents are reputed to be the second most vicious in the world. I was very scared, for me and my son. Holding on to the ball lifted my body and gave me more buoyancy, by kicking my legs I could move faster than my son. He was only yards away with his back to me, I called out to him, when he saw me, his father coming after him the fear drifted away from his face. It's amazing how dads have this effect, children sometimes see their parents as having the ability to cure all problems no matter how bleak, especially their fathers, if only he knew how I felt. The water was very cold, and my clothes were heavy with water, but I knew it was better to keep them on because the air bubbles trapped inside could help me stay afloat.Out, out, out we went. Away from the protection of the shore we began to roll and sway as the heavy swells lifted us up and down. About 50 yards in front was a large warning buoy and I could hear its single bell clanging as it rocked. I was now about two feet away from my son, hanging onto the ball I reached out with my free arm, grabbed his collar and dragged him slowly to my side. Flinging his arms around my neck he clung to me like a leech, as if he would never let me go, as the current took us further out towards the buoy.

“If I can grab it then maybe we can hang on until someone comes to rescue us,” I thought to myself.

As the buoy tossed and bobbed from side to side its melancholy bell rung out like a funeral march over the moving surface of the water, it was an eerie sound. We were approaching it faster than I thought, you would not believe we were moving that quickly but it was chained to the sea floor, it was static we weren’t. It was now only a yard away. Making sure I still had a good grip on my son I kicked hard with my feet and struck out with my right hand to grasp one of the steel struts that ran down its side. We were moving fast, the buoy was not and the current kept pulling us forward and down, the barnacles imbedded on the steel cut deep into my hand and we were being dragged under the base. I held on grimly, however, to keep hold of my son I had to release the ball. Liberated it was quickly whipped away by the fierce offshore wind and skipped over the surface of the water until it disappeared amongst the waves. The sea never relents, when it's got something in its grasp, it will not let go, we needed a miracle and we needed it fast. I was being sucked down, there was nothing I could do and slowly but surely I was losing my hold. As the buoy rocked and swayed the clanging bell seemed to be laughing at me. It was impossible to hold on, my arm felt as if it was being torn off as one by one my fingers opened and peeled away. I knew if I failed to hold on we would be swept away, so gathering all my strength I released my hand and lunged out to grab the next strut. Seeming to sense my every move the sea reacted angrily, a large wave hit the Buoy, tipping it over so that the base, with us attached reared out of the water. When it tilted back we were dragged down past its submerged chain, the sheer strength of the water forced me to release my hold and we were pulled away by the current. Now we had no way of getting back and without the ball we had nothing to hang onto, that circle of pressurised air had been our lifeline, something that we could not do without.We were in a hopeless position. Out, out, out, we went, I looked back towards the beach the only things I could see were the rounded tops of the dunes and the rocks of the shore, they seemed a lifetime away. The sense of time is misleading, it seemed as if we had been in the water for hours yet in reality it had been only minutes, not enough time for a rescue to have been launched. It's a peculiar thing, in the beginning I had been terrified of what was happening now I was beginning to dream of my life, its as if my mind was closing down the avenues of fear when it senses that there is only one outcome. My son was hanging limp on my arm, our bodies numb from the cold, his eye’s were closed, was he dead or asleep? I thought about shaking him to wake him up, but I didn’t because that wouldn’t have been the right thing to do, he would be afraid again and that would be wrong. If he is going to die then it's better he doesn’t know. Does the sea have a conscience? Is there someone up there protecting us? I had never been a religious sort of person but I was praying now. As we drifted I noticed that the we were slowing down and beginning to circle around the peninsula. I strained my head as high as it would go, if we continued to move in this direction then we may have a chance, because on the other side of Witches Point lay a small shingle beach, could we have the luck to be pushed towards it? We were definitely turning that way but if we missed that beach the currents would drag us into the rocky face of the cliff where my uncle and I had fished from all those years ago, Round and round we went until I could see some fishermen, thankfully they could see us, they were wading out as far as they could and they were carrying their fishing rods. The tide was coming in so by kicking my legs and pulling hard with my free arm we began to move towards the shore. Elated I began to feel that everything might turn out all right, I shook my son to tell him the good news, but he didn’t move. His face was white and his head lying away from me rocked gently up and down. I was sure he was dead, but do we all have someone up there that looks after us, a guardian angel, because from his lifeless body I suddenly felt life, and then he gave a small cough.The fishermen were now near enough to cast out and reach. I knew from the experience of my uncle that some of them would be capable of casting this far so summoning up the last of my strength I managed to drag us a few precious yards closer. This was our limit, we could not get any nearer it was now or never. Raising an arm out of the water I managed to wave. Within seconds their weighted lines were splashing all around us but they were landing just out of reach. We crept further away towards the cliffs, out of the deep water swells began to rise, dragging us further back into the troughs behind. We were losing ground. Bobbing up and down we were being washed in and out like broken dolls and it was getting harder to keep afloat. Somehow I had to get hold of the lines before it was too late, so for a fraction of a second I let go of my son and grabbed hold of a leader trace that had just landed in the water about a yard away from my right shoulder. Feeling the line move between my fingers I closed my fist to hold it before the lead grip weight took it to the bottom out of reach. I had it. Turning my son round I jammed the hooks into the clothes on his back so that when they reeled him in his face would have a better chance of staying above water. Now I was free to grab all the available lines and place them so that it was impossible for him to topple face down. I knew some of the larger fish weigh more so there was a good chance that they could pull him in, one line on its own may have snapped but many wouldn’t. Once again I raised my arm to the fishermen, using the motion of the water they took up the slack and he slowly began to move towards the shore. As I looked on anxiously, they raised their rods up as high as they could and wound in, I could see their rods bending under the strain. The further away he went the happier I felt until he was near enough for some of the men to swim out and get him. Up until then my attention had been focused on my son, but unknown to me the current had pushed me into the channels tidal path now I was being taken straight to the raging waters surging beneath the ledges. Although my hands were free all my energy had gone, I tried to raise my arms out of the water to swim but my body would not, could not answer. I was near enough to the rocks now to feel the under currents created by the rip of the waves as they raged backwards from the cliff, the tormented waters turned by the incoming tide created large whirlpools that spun me around like a cork. On the ledges people were running around waving and beckoning, as they ran, their voices, whispers in the wind were drowned out by the roar of the sea. Covered by the foaming swirling waters, my body buckled and broke as the sea hurled me into the arms of the jagged rocks that lay waiting beneath the surface. All the fear and pain fell away and, as my mind closed I thought of the fish that we had dragged ashore. Of his eyes as they looked at me as it lay dying on the rocks and how he tossed and squirmed as he fought for the oxygen of the sea.


© Copyright 2019 Roy Guy. All rights reserved.

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