Above and below and inside me. Tendrils grasp at my hair, my arms and legs, pull me ever deeper. My chest is surrounded by a thousand pounds of nothing and everything, all at the same time. Pressure so intense, my lungs will burst at any second, will finally put me out of this misery. Will finally send me to a watery grave.
I open my eyes, which is exactly what I don’t want to do. The world around me is fuzzy and dark, except for that one bright spot, the one my body insists on fighting toward. It would have been so much easier to just die, to give up and relieve this agony inside my chest. But no. My skin forces my Will to comply, to urge itself toward that stupid light.
Swallows me whole and burns my lungs and screams at me to wake from the dream. The one where I am sure I will die.
Frigid liquid clings to my limbs, mocks my stubbornness at life. At my attempt to survive. I kick and punch and gasp. That ridiculous brightness laughs from above, like it knows my future, my past. My present.
On instinct my body flips and folds, as I search for the boat that carried me. The one that sank. The one that left me alone in the middle of the ocean. It is nowhere in sight, in a hurry to find a new home on the bottom of the sea.
I twist, blinded once more by the sun.
A lifeboat floats beside me, a man twenty-four or forty-six or sixty-eight, inside. He reaches to me, sun darkened skin covered in sweat or water or a combination of both. My hand–the traitor–reaches back before my brain can tell it, ‘No!’
He grunts, and heaves, his muscles in a quiver. Unsteady. Uncertain. Unspoken trust for a stranger. My body falls inside, pain an echo through my elbows and knees as I bump and jostle the wood planks of the floor. I roll over. Breathe.
My heart races, fingers and toes buzz, vision fades in and out.
“Th-thank you,” I whisper. My eyes close and I rest my head on the bottom of the boat.
“Not sure that I can offer much help.” His voice is gravelly, like it hasn’t been used in years.
I blink, sit up. “B-but, you saved me. Of course you helped…”
Melancholy does a waltz across his brow. His shoulders slump. “Only prolonged the inevitable, really.”
A breeze whips across my back, chills my clothes to my skin. “What do you mean? You’re here to rescue me, aren’t you?”
The man shakes his head. “I’m sorry but no. I saw your boat, thought that maybe you would be the one to save me.” He swallows. “You see, I’m stranded, too. I’ve been floating here for days.
“We’re alone out here. Your boat was our only hope.”
©Laura L. Zimmerman 2016