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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A child alone in a family.


"Breakpoint: After 87 seconds underwater a drowning person's internal survival instinct triggers a breath and they inhale water causing a rapid shutdown of vital organs and death.  There are 5 stages to drowning"

1. Surprise.
"Jesus! the water's freezing!!" Danny screamed to himself after plunging into the cold, dark waves. He thought it would be easy to drown and the vodka helped initially. But the ice-cold water was instantly sobering and the fear kicked in very quickly. 
It was 9.30pm on Sunday in early March and the pier had been deserted but for a handful of foraging seagulls.

Danny was just 14 years old. A skinny boy with raven black hair like his father and a stutter he'd had since he was 5. He was an only child to two obsessively career-minded parents.
On this Sunday he had meticulously planned his every move. On waking he'd put clean ironed sheets on the bed, smoothing out any creases. Then he'd made sure all his books were in alphabetical order by author's name. He hoovered the carpet and dusted every surface, checking for specks or hairs. All his drawers had neatly folded clothes and his mother had labelled them 'shirts', 'socks', 'underwear' etc.

He'd carefully washed and dressed, making doubly sure he looked clean and presentable for mother. Lastly and most importantly he took two drawing pins from his pinboard and put one in each pocket.

They'd all had breakfast without too much drama. That is until mother had spotted a drop of yellow egg yolk on his grey V-neck jumper. "Oh no! now we'll be late for church Danny... I'll just have to clean it won't I?... we're never late for church!" His mother, he thought, was like a coiled spring even at the best of times. It didn't take much for her to explode.
"S-S-Sorry mother"
"Sorry?!! I'll show you sorry!!"
Danny felt a surge of panic. He reached into his pocket and felt for the pin. Turning it in his palm he found the point and made a tight fist. A sharp jolt of pain radiated up his arm and he felt the wetness of a single drop of blood in his palm. The relief came and the panic subsided.

2. Breath holding.
Danny couldn't keep his head above the water. He was sinking into the darkness, the unknown. Instinctively he held his breath to avoid the foul liquid from poisoning his lungs. He could no longer feel the coldness. His body felt only numb.

Amy Black was at church with her mum and little brother Charlie and Danny exchanged smiles with her inbetween verses of 'Morning has Broken', despite his father giving Danny one of his murderous looks. Amy was his ally at school, although she couldn't physically stop the taunting and bullying from Jack Casey and his crew. Danny never knew why they hated him. Perhaps it was the neat navy tie and crisp white shirts he wore daily - ties weren't obligatory anymore and 98% of boys never bothered to wear them. Or perhaps it was the old 'Etonian' leather satchel and shoulder strap that Jack almost strangled him with. Each time they threw Danny's books in the mud he'd get hell from his Form Master and from his mother. Danny was sure his mother fancied Mr Evans because on Parents Evenings her skirts suddenly got shorter and her make-up thicker.

3. Flailing
He strained to keep his head up and his arms and legs flailed uselessly. The cold body of water engulfing, suffocating. He looked for a saviour, a rescuer. Someone nearby for a lifeline.

Sunday dinner was the usual interrogation. He'd sat with his four slices of chicken breast, three roast potatoes, a floret of broccoli and a blob of gravy (his mother's attempt at Haute Cuisine) until the clock chimed for 2pm and they all commenced eating together.
"You do realise you'll need at least three Sciences Danny, as well as English and Maths" his Father 'spat' at him.
"And don't forget Latin!" his mother piped up. She was obsessed about Latin just because she'd got a 'first' at Oxford.
Danny rarely spoke at dinner. It was all about them anyway. What they wanted. He loved music and wanted to learn guitar and play in a band. But that would have been "a waste of time" they said "when you could be studying for Medical School".

The pressure on Danny was a heavy weight to carry, like sinking in a sea of other people's expectations.
"Why have you always got your hands in your pockets Danny?" Mother asked again. If only she knew that in his pockets were a piece of salvation. A bit of calm, a distraction. But in the last few weeks his drawing pins were proving less and less effective and the wounds weren't healing fast enough.

4. Unconsciousness.
"I must breath!" Danny thought. "Even though I'm underwater my brain tells me to inhale." He tried to breathe and the water felt like burning lava as it filled his lungs. The most indescribable pain! 

After dinner he helped tidy up whilst his father went out to play with his precious car. Danny sat with his mother in her pristine lounge. He thought she'd be quite chilled now after knocking back the best part of a bottle of Proseco. He desperately wanted to tell her how unhappy he was all the time. About the bullying and how he used the drawing pins to help him. He was looking for a way out.
"What? yes Danny, what is it?" she was clearly slurring.
"I - I n-need to t-tell you something important"
"Well I'm..... mother??"
She had nodded off and all hope seemed to fade away. Danny sighed. "Drowning is a quiet, desperate thing" he thought.

From that point Danny merely went through the motions as he'd planned. He no longer held on to any notion of being rescued from his torment. He disappeared up to his room to 'do his homework' and poured himself a mug full of vodka mixed with blackcurrant. For two hours he forced himself to drink until he'd felt calm and ready. Then, half an hour after his parents had gone to bed, he slipped out into the cold night and headed towards the pier.

5. Surrender.
He felt his body start to shut down and it contracted violently one last time as the life was finally sucked out. And then he let go and suddenly there was no pain, just overwhelming peace and calm. His limp corpse drifted, dancing amid the turbulent waves.

Submitted: May 15, 2019

© Copyright 2021 Stephen Harding. All rights reserved.

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A story a lot of people should read. How one thing on top of another, how fear of failing, how never fitting in, can lead to suicide. Unusual presentation that worked so well.

Thu, May 16th, 2019 7:38pm

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