Illustration by Eric Drooker.
Words from my shitty novel.
I didn’t really sleep that night. I drifted in and out of some form of half sleep as I lay on the floor in Gareth’s squat. Watching the shadows of the dying fire dance across the ceiling I must have drifted off for a few minutes, long enough to dream I was floating in calm warm water, perhaps further south in the Atlantic, when Marina swam up from below. She told me that she had a secret and all I had to do was follow her deep down towards the ocean floor and she would tell me this secret. So I took a deep breath and followed her. She was naked and the light reflected off her bare tanned skin. My heart sank at the prospect of holding her again. I tried to keep up with her shapely form as she disappeared into the darkening depths. On the ocean floor there was faint green light all around us. I was about to run out of breath but then she took my hand and whispered the secret into my ear. She said, “All you have to do, to stay here with me is to breathe one lungful of water and then you will be able to survive underwater forever.” As my pulse raced and my blood began to beg me for oxygen I wanted to breathe that lungful of water but I couldn’t and I raced desperately for the surface. On the surface I gasped and sucked in a huge painful breath of oxygen. I looked around me and there was no sign of anything for miles. There was nothing but flat calm ocean.
When Gareth awoke I asked him what I should do.
“Nothing.” He replied. “There is nothing we can do.” He paused, “But go surfing.”
We changed into our wetsuits and walked across town towards the beach. On the sea front road the coastguards were patrolling and slowed down as they saw us with surfboards approaching the beach. In my mind I dared them to tell us not to enter the turbulent waters.
“All right lads?” They asked sombrely leaning out the window.
We both nodded. “Be careful out there.” They said before driving off.
A couple of other surfers were on the beach looking at the waves, as we were getting ready to go out.
“Hey did you hear about that girl who drowned last night?” They asked.
“Yes.” Gareth said as I remained silent.
“Pretty fucking scary. Hey I heard some people went in after her. Idiots.” He shook his head.
I stepped forward but Gareth grabbed my arm, “C’mon lets get out there, the tide will be just right soon.”
The storm had passed but the sea was still wild and choppy. The violent shore dump had receded with the tide and the conditions were just about surfable. We paddled out on Town Beach, where Marina had gone under, and sat just off Bath Rocks to catch some rights that were peeling into the beach. Every so often, I felt a shiver vibrate up the base of my spine, up my neck and out the top of my skull, as I considered the possibility that her body might lay several meters below me. I told Gareth about my unnerving concern and he told me he wished that I had not mentioned it. All I could think about while I waited for the waves was a vision of her now pale skin and vacant eyes wide open about to bump the bottom of our surfboards.
We rode a few gutless wind-blown waves and then paddled in. After we got out we saw Johnno sitting on the sea wall and we walked up to greet him.
“I just heard they found her a couple of miles up the coast.” He said.
I just about held it together and refrained from smashing my surfboard into pieces on cobblestoned promenade. I took a deep breath and tried to picture what condition she might have been in after a night in the cold waters. Were her eyes closed? Was she all bloated? Had she smashed against the rocks, resulting in a shattered skull and limbs that hung by mere thread like tendons?
But then I thought of her moment, her drowning moment and how I saw her dancing under the water and reaching for the sky.