SINKING (Short story)


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My father’s fathers thought
The rat shouldn’t join lizards in a swim,
Not because they couldn’t be equals;
Lizards would dry soon afterwards
But the rat would take a much longer while…

A sudden pang of pain hit my left arm, then my left lap and swiftly some sort of paralysis grazed all the energy in the muscles. Slowly it got darker, and darker. I knew I was sinking further from the sun. Further, and further.  Away from everything I knew – my friends who sensibly played it safe at the shoreline, my family hundreds of miles awaiting my return, my love; the girl I couldn’t be with because I chose a new path, and now I wouldn’t evermore.

An hour or so earlier, we have arrived Koramo beach – a team of excited colleagues. That was to be our final picnic before we were scattered across the country after a rigorous six month course in communications. It was also a period of refreshed dreams, heightened drives, and greater expectations. Everyone was eager to report to base and start a new life on assured attractive salary. We needed to path ways memorably.  It was my first time on a real beach. Before now I have seen divers in deep sea, mind blowing ocean activities and the aesthesis of such huge water bodies and their environs, on movies. I came from a very small town which greatest aquatic boast is in the form of a small meandering stream bordered by green luxuriant manes on both sides. My fascination with the beach was infinite, I was like a young man who just met an obsession for the first time; I loved water. 

I didn’t see any harm coming. It was all fun packed; running along the beach, taking snapshots and then settling on the soft sandy shore to watch the wave rise and fall – smash into us – lovely, while we ate our fried chicken and had a few drinks. What could go wrong? I saw a few daredevils disappear under thirty –meter high restive waves, only to reappear on their calm trail. Then I saw him, she, whatever, swimming deftly into the endless distance of water. I was awfully captivated. I could do it, I thought. Without a word, I left my friends to satisfy this urge to defy a surge, to have that Atlantic water truly around me; I had to know how it felt to defy the strength of its huge, powerful waves. I needed it to feel alive, to live beyond dreams. Or maybe I was just tempted by whoever it was I saw.

Maybe I wasn’t aware of the danger yet, but I was sinking, sinking on my first day in the ocean. The pain in my muscles was racking my brain and I couldn’t move the arm and leg, and the other good arm and leg were perhaps still waiting for an impulse, perhaps waiting for my brain to emerge from whatever incertitude it might have sunk into. Maybe my body was stupefied beyond action or something, but my mind still was strangely unperturbed.  There was a sudden flash of my childhood. Back then when nakedness meant nothing I had enjoyed, not swimming, but sinking to the floor of my village stream whenever I went to take a bath. It was called playing-fish; I would pretend I was a fish. I would cease my breath for minutes and kept my eyes open in the pristine clear water while I picked fine, translucent pebbles I would show to my friends. The gentle stream would carry me along till I got to where we called the “deepside”. I never entered the deepside because village legend had it that it held the gate to something or somewhere ominous. I would make a u-turn because I never really liked it there, besides it looked somewhat threatening and the water seemed darker there. Though the deepside could have been little over my breasts at the deepest while the main stream was barely over my groin, yet I felt I knew all about swimming, especially as I could terrify the other kids by pulling their legs underwater because they wouldn’t see me coming.
When I jumped into the ocean, it didn’t feel quite the same; the thrill was greater. I did see the way the huge tides were dodged by those daredevils, so I emulated; going slightly under water when the surge approached and then resurfacing afterwards. It felt somewhat surreal – the calm, the gradual build-up and the careless smash. I was doing just fine.  

I was sinking. The air in my lungs was fast spent; I could feel an indescribable pain rising from within. I strongly felt like coughing but I knew I’d let water flood lungs if I did, and I let the pain push. I could hear my inner thought whisper, don’t panic. That was the only strength I got from my soul. And deep inside I felt I was not destined to die in water. The pain in my arm and leg, the rising pain in my lungs, the flashes of memory, the growing darkness, the sinking, maybe I was losing control. It felt like floating in a vacuum, I wasn’t on the surface and I and hadn’t touched the floor.

A while ago I was on the Atlantic maneuvering waves. It was such a beautiful feeling of calm under those turbulent waves, but now I was sinking and, did anyone out there even notice? Maybe it was the pains that pushed me to push; maybe it was just pure adrenaline – that animal instinct to survive. Perhaps it was the innate believe of where my death should or shouldn’t be, but I frantically pushed upwards and kicked behind and suddenly the arm and leg that didn’t feel like mine responded with a barrage of tingling, it spread across my body like I was struck by a million pins. And I pushed, and pushed fighting the pain, the rising nausea from working against my muscular lethargy. The water got brighter and bright as I struggled and suddenly I was at the surface of the ocean, a considerable distance from the shoreline. The air tasted like a mixture of milk and honey, I was alive – I could live again. Everything held a new look of splendor. I saw this huge wave approaching, and I braced myself, surrendered all my will and let it hit me to safety.

I lay on the beach for a while, my body roughly covered in sand. A weak wave of water splashed over me, I tasted the water – caustic, salty. I remembered the fresh taste of my village stream, I remembered the deepside; the ominous deepside, now I knew why the water seemed darker than the rest of the stream. The ocean is a vast deepside. I looked around, sighted my unsuspecting friends chattering away about a hundred meters or so, how innocent. My heart pounded against my chest, for the first time I was really scared. Soon I would join them, never to talk about my experience.

2009©J.Ifeme   

 

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