Continued from ‘Daddy’s Got You‘
The river rushes up towards me. Black water sloshes beneath me like reaching claws waiting to drag me under and sweep me away. My heart seizes. My muscles tense and my body smacks the surface of the water.
My legs, stomach, arms sting from the impact, but my shoulder screams. The pain forces me to inhale. Water floods my lungs. My body rejects the liquid. I convulse as I cough, my body trying to purge itself of the river water. Yet, no air offers itself in the water’s place.
Panic explodes through my body, snapping my eyes open. Darkness surrounds me. Only a faint glimmer of light hangs above me, calling to me, offering salvation. I surge for it.
My feet kick out. My arms swing wide, pushing against the water. Pain bites down on my shoulder. My arms freeze and I bite down on my tongue to keep from inhaling more water, but my lungs burn with their hunger for air.
The current whisks me down the length of the river. It tugs on my clothes. It yanks on my feet, weighing down on me as if I were made of lead. A single tug bashes me into a rock. A throbbing sensation grows in my thigh from the collision.
Despite being in water, its icy coolness enveloping my entire body, red-hot fire sears my lungs and my shoulder. My arm hangs limp as my side. Yet, the rest of my limbs flail and beat against the water, fighting for the surface, fighting for air, fighting for life.
Only the faintest glimmer of light remains above me as day sinks into night. It waves and ripples, taunting me while the watery depths darken around me. The outlines of rocks blur before my eyes, flopping up with down and down with up, but I focus on the last glow of the sun.
My hand breaches the surface. I slap my palm down on the water, using the force to draw myself up. My lungs blaze like they’re filled with hot coals as I gasp. Air races down my throat like ice, quenching the heat, but offering its own type of burn in the fire’s place.
One breath is all I get before the river engulfs me once more. The current snags my foot. It draws me under. It ensnares my ankle in its clutches and holds me below like it’ll never let go and no amount of kicking or squirming will give it cause to release me. My struggles only encourage it. Its icy grip snatches up my other foot.
With more force than before, it wrenches me back to the bottom, bashing me against the riverbed. Mud explodes around me. It smears across my face, invading my gaping mouth and open eyes. The granules sting. I blink to remove them, to clear my vision, but even with them gone I see nothing.
The sunlight has faded. The river is nothing but a dark, watery depth with me at its mercy. And it takes full advantage of its power.
It drags me along the floor just long enough to slam into another rock. The sharp edge of the rock gouges the length of my back. It catches on my shirt, tears the material and slices through my skin before releasing me once more. I cut off my gasp pain before I can suck in more water.
I can’t inhale more water. I can’t hit more rocks. I have to get up. I have to get out…
But which way is up? Which shore is closer?
My one arm still hangs limp at my side while I let the current mold me. A dull pain like a fresh bruise beats on my thigh with every agonizing pulse of my heart. My thoughts fog now, the lack of oxygen taking its toll. Exhaustion ripples down my body, adding extra weight to my limbs, slowing each of my movements as I try once more for the surface, or what I presume to be the surface.
The slow, determined stroke tightens the muscles in my back and stretches the skin. The fresh cut along my spine groans in protest. I grit my teeth, barely able to think about air, much less pain, but I have to get out. I have to fight for this.
I lived this long. I’m not strong, but I’m not a quitter either.
The water seems to lighten. It changes color as I move towards the surface, the depth less deep, allowing some strange light to glitter on the surface.
The glow grows more and more intense. Brighter and brighter. More and more hopeful. I strain every muscle, focusing every nerve in my body on reaching the surface when warm air grazes my fingertips. And I slam into a wall of rocks used to mark the waterfall.
Next Installment: Rescuer