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The Death of a Current Keeper

**Dawn**

Although the sky is still dark, I can feel the impression of the morning and can almost taste the coming sun. I rise and crawl out from under my tent.

I wake up and drink the morning dew from the palm leaves on the three small trees that grow outside my temporary home. I drink the dew and turn to see the sky slowly start to gain contrast against the ocean. The trees are getting taller. Soon my morning view will be obscured by the leaves of the small trees.

The homogenous black of the ocean and the night sky slowly separate into the sparkling blue of the sea and the grey sky of morning. The breeze chills me and I try my best to absorb the cold air, storing it within me, knowing that the sun will soon peak above the horizon and chase any remnants of chill from my bones.

What a glorious day, I think to myself. I sit and think of the beauty of my home and slowly watch the grey morning be pushed away into the unimpeded soft pink of a cloudless sunrise over the south sea.

A sea bird’s call pulls me from my meditative state and I curse myself, knowing that my delay will mean the other current keepers will take the prime spots out on the water today. I was almost always late these days.

The seabird’s call begins to spread across the island, other birds taking up the sound in what soon will become a chorus of frenzied cawing. I can hear the frustration in the tone of their cackling. They must have already eaten most of the snails that washed in during last night’s hide tide. Food was beginning to run short for the cliff-dwelling sea birds and soon they would have to make the 3-day flight to our sister island, Sath. There they would stay for a few months until the food was also depleted then the birds would make the four-day flight to return to Mira, and the cycle would repeat.

At least until the island sank again.

As I run down the hill towards the ocean, the sea birds calling is drowned out by the familiar rhythm of crashing waves on the shore. The beauty of the morning and my love for my home causes a moment of sadness to well up inside me. I hope this place lasts longer than the last, I think as I continue down the hill to the water. My walk turns into a light jog as I notice the sun beginning to peek above the horizon — as if checking to see what the night had done to its domain while it slept.

I would of course camp closer to my one-man sloop to save precious time in the morning, but the view of the sunrise from my forest hill hideaway was worth the daily jungle jog. Just a few short years ago, my home was right on the water. But as the sea slowly receded, I found myself living further and further away from the shore.

I am old after all. Let the younger keepers get out early, they need the money more than I do.

Despite my lackadaisical attitude, my jog turns into a run as I hope, like every day, to shove off before the rest of the current keepers. I can see a few boats leaving the shore before my view of the coast is obscured by the forest once again.

**Morning**

“Where’s Grib? The sun is near up all the way outta the water this morning and there is still no sight of the ole man…” I hear Pit’s voice carry up towards me from the beach, echoing off the water.

“Late again, I suppos’.” Comes Jax’s reply. “not complainin’, makes my life easier.”

“Hope he’s aight” A third voice, Halper, clearly straining against the weight of his sloop while pushing in towards the water. “Haven’t seen him out early for over a week now.”

Pit responds as he so often does, quoting an old current keeper clique, “The current is cruel to the broken and vain”.

Then ads “Maybe its bout time for ole Grib to pull in his sails for good. We’ve lost old ones before out there on on..” His worlds faltered in his trademark stutter. “on the c-cur-current ya know?”

Pit was often underestimated due to his stabbing, inconsistent speech. Anyone that knew him, however, was well aware he was far smarter than most assumed. He was young, but due to his quiet confidence and natural intelligence, was unofficially thought of as the leader of the small group of keepers.

I manage to yell down to the beach through sharp breaths, “Don’t you worry!” “Grib’s acoming”.

I see their faces turn toward the tress but cannot make out their response. Their voices fade as they push their sloops out into the sea and sail toward the rising sun.

Damn. I think, kicking at a lost coconut shell. I gotta wake up earlier tomorrow. This would be my 5th straight day of being dead last to arrive at the current if I did not hurry. This was not the first time I had overhead gossip amongst the other keepers regarding my age. I was beginning to believe it a bit myself.

Bastards. What da they know? I’ve been current keepin’ longer than most of those boys ave been alive. My inner monologue becomes less true every time I say it. Maybe this would be my last year on the water. No respectable keeper could fault me for it. Arrogance had killed several keepers before and I often felt like the risk was no longer worth the extra income. After all, the current is cruel to the broken and vain.

The young palm forest I run through turns from dark oppressive green to a lighter shade of neon as the sun methodically busts its way above the horizon and its light is filtered through the green leaves of the forest. The specked lights on the forest floor constantly reshape themselves as the morning breeze moves the trees above. What a glorious day. Free of storm clouds, no moon in the sky. The only way it could get any better would be to catch a few high-profile parcels in the current this afternoon.

I run freely, unimpeded by the tangled vines of the underbrush on my daily worn trail. The young forest floor slowly gives way to reeds, then sand, as I near the beach. I notice the height of some of the trees is now reaching over my head. How long had this island been here? Could it have already been 5 years?

I slow before I reach the edge of the forest and quickly dive off of the trail to my small cache of supplies. I grab my spool of fishing line, my weighted net, and my whalebone knife… I frown as I look at the spool, looks lower than I thought. I may have to come in early today and climb the cliffs to find the agave plants that allow me to make more. ‘Less I rope in a few of those parcels, of course. Although, considering my late start that was seeming increasingly unlikely.

I run to the tree I tied my raft to last night and notice that the rope is taught. The tide must have reached the tree line and pulled my boat towards the ocean as it receded. Tides are getting taller during the night, I think with a twinge of sadness. High tides often singled the beginning of a sinking island. This one would be tough to leave behind, it had become a friend over the past 5 years.

I approach the beach in between my sloop and the ocean and layout 12 round pieces of driftwood, each a meter apart. This creates a platform of sorts to roll the raft into the ocean. As I begin to push my raft towards the sea, my bare toes sink deep into the damp sand. Almost every day I push my sloop into the water, but I never tire of the feeling of the sand sifting through my toes as I heave my small sloop into the surf. My last shred of morning tiredness is gone as the water of the ocean begins to wash up around my ankles. I smell the fresh sea and reveal in a sturdy morning breeze, perfect for sailing.

Out on the water, I notice the shapes of at least five other sails already heading for the shallow water current to the southwest, each silhouetted against the rising red sun. Looks like almost everyone was already well on their way to the current.

I was not going to get any prime spots today.

As I slowly push my raft into the sea I notice my young friend Joha emerging from the forest and beginning to prepare her raft. I guess I was not the only one distracted by the beauty of the morning. I toss a knarled hand into the air in greeting, and she waves back with a shrug looking at the sun and other rafts, knowing that she too, was going to be late to the current this morning. Good, maybe ‘ole Grib’ won’t be last after all.

With one final heave, I shove my vessel into the water and begin to collect the ropes I will use to steer the craft and angle the sail. As the sale rises to the top of the mast a man’s length above my head I feel the wind begin to fill it with its energy and my small one-man sailing shoop begins to pull away from the beach, accelerating. The sun begins to warm my skin, layered by dozens of years of tan and sunspots and the last of the morning’s cold is chased away.

This raft was my best work so far. Despite a small hole forming in the sail, the shape and speed of my sloop could not be denied. I pull the rope to attach to the top of the mast and lift the opposite side of the craft almost completely out of the water.

My shoop is no longer than two men in length and two arms in width. The lightweight wood, the thin design, and the oversized sail all work in harmony with the sturdy morning wind to all but lift the entire boat out of the water.

Joha, a younger and relatively new current keeper, sees me push away from the shore. She grins in that childish ‘everything is a game’ sort of way as he begins to quickly shove his sloop twoards the waves.

I like Joha despite her youthful arrogance. She has that disarming way of making you feel like you are old friends even though our conversations have been relatively few. She was built like a current keeper too, lean, short, and powerful, strong enough to hold a sail against the strongest wins but lean enough as to not upset the delicate balance of the sloops. Her dark hair was never tied, giving her a slightly wild appearance.

As I begin to leave the shore behind she kicks a wave passing by his ankles, sending droplets in my direction.

“Last one to the current builds tonight’s fire!” She bellows as she whoops and jumps on his boat, her momentum propelling the vessel forward.

“and does the cookin’ for today’s catch!” I yell back with a chuckle. The wind begins to increase my speed, leaving the young keeper behind.

I can’t help but smile a bit. She makes me remember my first few months of current keeping. Joha’s success as a keeper would only be impeded by her seeming inability to wake up early enough to gain the prime spots on the current. She was a quick learner, however, and never made excuses for her failures.

I am jogged from my train of thought by a large incoming wave. I begin to work automatically, decades of muscle memory replacing the need for critical thought. My callused feet grip the slick driftwood floor of my raft and I lean away from the wind, pulling on the rope attached to the top of the mast of my boat. I have been doing this for 51 years now. No one on the water can claim the same level of experience as me. I slide over the wave like it does not exist at all and begin to pick up speed, heading east.

Age was a funny thing. My speed and strength were not what they used to be but the longer I spent on the water, the more the waves and the wind seemed to be my ally. It was as if the elements themselves were happy to see an old-timer like me still out on the ocean, guiding my sloop over the surface of the sea.

As I careen away from the shore, I see the look of disappointment on Joha’s young face, knowing that her challenge will cost her an evening of gathering wood and cooking dinner for the group. Her bulkier craft is quickly left behind as I lean into the powerful breeze, zipping along the waves, sending thousands of tiny droplets scattering onto the wind-torn surface of the sea.

Inwardly, I am a bit worried about Joha. The fact that she was going to be last again to the current, was not a good sign for someone as new as she was. It is the new keepers that need to be out on the water first, their hard work and extra hours making up for their lack of experience. It was hard enough to gain the respect of the other keepers even if you were the first one out. Although she was a fast learner, I fear that the difficulty of the job might scare her off if he wasn’t willing to put in the work to taste success and gain the respect of her current mates.

I begin to catch up to some of the rafts in front of me but I know they will all reach the current before me. Turning my craft to one side, I look over my shoulder to see Joha outlined against the shore still determinedly chasing me, now at least 50 meters behind. I let up my grip on the rope, allowing some slack into my sail and enabling her to catch up a little. I decide to let her pass. Just this once. She needed to win more than I did, and after all, I enjoy making the evening fires.

As she speeds by I can see confidence wash away her initial disappointment.

“What’s wrong old man? Windy morning a bit too much for ya?” She jeers goodheartedly even as a wave crashes over the side of her raft, threatening to pitch her into the sea. She stumbles forward on his boat but manages to steady herself on the mast.

I laugh as she unsteadily regains his footing and redoubles her grip on the rope.

“Not so tight on that there rope, young friend,” I say. “A strong gust will jerk it straight from your hands and toss ya into the waves. A light grip lets you and the wind be best mates. If you’re a fightin’ the wind, you’ll lose. It’s not a battle, it’s more like a little dance”.

I prove my point by pinching the rope between just two fingers and angle my boat to make a full circle around her raft as she passes.

I smile again as she swoops past laughing. The childish grin on her face remains, but I notice her grip on the rope has loosened. Maybe that’s why I like her so much. Confident enough to think she can win, but humble enough to listen to the wisdom of experience.

The truth is she was right. The wind was a bit much for me this morning. My arms were sore from the intense morning breeze.

I let the sail go limp and just float for a few minutes. Morning is gone and the day begins with full zeal. I feel the heat of the sun reach down from the sky, scatter on the dazzling blue water and shoot every which way, soaking everything in a wave of comfortable heat. The morning chill I stored within me has washed away altogether and beads of sweat begin to gather on my brow.

After I catch my breath I stretch out for the rope again and pull the sail tight. The wind fills the sail once again and as I gain speed and begin to see signs of the current. What a glorious day. The disappointment of my late start is pushed away like the night sky, leaving only my joy and respect for the water and wind and waves of the southern ocean.

*Midday**

I begin to see my destination clearly, the great current of the South Sea before me. Upon approach, the current appears to be a river of darker water, flowing freely on the ocean.

The great south sea current has a beauty of its own. A terrible chaotic sort of beauty. It is part of the ocean, yes, but even out here on the open water, the current seems to be its own substance entirely. It is made up of dark sediment and debris-filled water, exploding across the ocean faster than any sloop could dream of.

The movement of the ocean collects wood and weeds and other mysteries of the sea into a single river of opportunity. Its muddy churning, white-capped, waters are ripe with materials and surprises ready for collection by any skilled keeper.

The current was dangerous, but only to the uninitiated, the heavy sediment-rich water could drag a man under if he was not a powerful swimmer and the dark churning water contained a number of hazards that could catch even the most seasoned current keeper off guard. But for all the danger that current contained, it contained far more possibility.

Further up the current, I see the other current keepers are already anchoring their boats on the edges of the dark water, hoping, like every day, that our sister island of Sath to the south sea will bring a day filled with pleasant surprises.

I anchor further down, the rule was after all that those who arrived last must anchor behind the early arrivals. The best pieces of driftwood, the best fishing, and of course the parcels sent from Sath, would most likely end up in the hands of the current keepers that were furthest up the line. Anything that slipped though would be picked up by the late arrivals, in the case of this morning, myself and Joha.

I was pleased to see that Joha had Anchored on the opposite side of the current, allowing us to chat during the day from opposite sides. It was not advantageous for one to anchor their boat in the actual current, as debris had a tendency to wear on the light frames of the sailing rafts. It was however not too difficult to sail over it to the other side, provided you had a keen eye for dangerous debris and enough momentum to carry you through the swirling waters.

There were dozens of useful and sellable things that the current could contain. However the most valuable were the parcels. Parcels contained messages and sometimes items that were sent down the current from the sister island of Sath. Every day, the people of Sath would create parcels by carving messages into driftwood and attaching those messages three-quarters of the way up a long bamboo shoot. They would then tie a rock to the bottom of the bamboo causing it floats vertically. At the top of the pole, they would fasten a large fan leaf – painted in different colors based on the kind of message or parcel it was.

If a parcel contained anything other than a message carved into driftwood, contents were placed in a coconut shell, sealed with wax, and attached to the top of the pole. These ‘parcels’ were then paddled out to the current off the coast of Sath, and sent down, destined to be snagged by the current keepers of Mira. It took parcels roughly three days to make the journey from Sath to Mira.

The leaves sticking from the top of the poles served as beacons for the current keepers. the current keeper who was able to snag a parcel out of the current would then deliver the message and or contents of the parcel to the desired recipient, as described in the message. The recipients then paid the current keeper, based on the value of the package.

An unpainted green leaf meant that the parcel was just a message, usually carved into driftwood using the seafarer’s typical driftwood shorthand, an alphabet that was read using both the shape of the characters and the depth in which they were carved into the wood. These unpainted leaf messages were the least valuable and most common.

Red leaves – usually painted using bird or fish blood – contained a trade request. These would offer salt in exchange for fish, or whalebone knifes for a shipment of fruit ext. ext. These were fairly common as well.

Blue painted leaves – painted with berry stain — were the most valuable. They contained a hollowed-out coconut usually with an item. They were rare mainly due to the inconsistency of current parceling. People rarely sent valuables in this manner because a storm could easily blow the parcels off course, causing the contents to be lost.

In fact, for more important messages, the people of Sath often sent two parcels with the same message, a few days apart. This increased the chances of the parcel being found in the current keepers missed one of the two, or if the parcel was pushed outside the current during its 400-mile journey.

Parcels were already a rare occurrence this time of year, but if you arrived late, it was almost a guarantee that any parcels that did come from the sister island, would be grabbed by the boats furthest up the line.

While the current keepers waited for parcels, they pass the time by fishing or pulling valuable pieces of driftwood from the current. Occasionally, a keeper might find a whalebone or a piece of coral.

The sun begins to creep up in the sky and I dangle my finishing line down over the side of the boat. I feel the slight vibration of the line as weeds and other current-carried mysteries bump into its length. It is not long before I feel the familiar tug, indicating there is life on the other end of the line. I wait patiently for the tug to become a steady pull and then, all at once, pull sharply on the line, sticking the bone-made hook into the mouth of the unknown creature.

I can feel its panic as it tries to dive deeper in order to escape its inevitable upward journey. Joha begins to yell encouragement from the opposite bank.

“Pull er up!” She yells, hoping for a fresh dinner tonight. “Don’t let him get away!”

This advice seems a bit obvious to me, but I let the matter rest.

I spin the spool to keep tension on the line as I slowly draw my prize to the surface. As the fish nears the surface, I see the sun bounce off its brightly colored scales beneath the surface. Seconds later, it burst from the surface into the air in a shower of sun-soaked droplets. I pull it onto the boat, grinning like a child. I’ve caught a sprig, one of the most common fish of the south sea. It’s smaller than average, about the size of a foot, but it will still be a welcome addition to the nuts, snails, and, plants that will make up tonight’s dinner.

It’s wide-mouth slowly contracts and expands as I gently pull the hook out. The sprig’s silver skin is covered with scales so clean and healthy, that they appear like tiny mirrors reflecting the world around them. I quickly grab my knife and dispatch the creature with a quick stab. I then tie the line through its gill and then the mast, letting the fish dangle in the water to ensure it does not spoil in the heat of the day on my raft. It is a small catch but will make a respectable addition to tonight’s dinner. Which I will now be cooking, I realize with a smile.

Joha, seeing my success, also begins to prepare her line, sitting on the edge of his sloop with her legs in the water.

“What’re you usin’ for bait old man?” She calls from the other side of the current.

“Sea bird tail feathers” I reply “I think these sprigs here like the color.”

“I prefer grasshoppers” replies Johannas with an assured nod “harder to catch um but the larger fish can smell them from a mile away once they are under the water.”

“And how might a fish learn to smell grasshopper?” I ask with a twinkle.

“Same way they learn to like sea bird feather colors I guess” she retorts.

She has a point, this one is sharp. “I suppose all we really know is what works and what doesn’t” I muse. “the why isn’t all that much for considering if you can keep yourself full. I’m sure glad we had keepers before us to figure it all out and be selfless enough to pass on the knowledge.”

Johannas stands up excitedly gripping her line. “except that maybe” she says while wrestling something out of the water, “we sometimes rely a little too much on the lessons of others, rather than our own experience.”

As if to prove his point, she pulls even harder on the line. Willing her captive out of the water. After a few seconds of struggling, she manages to pull a large piece of rotting wood from the current. She stares, scratching her head in disappointment before pulling his hook out of wood and pushing the log back into the water with her barefoot.

“Maybe,” I say with another chuckle.

Joha flashes me an annoyed smile, “and maybe you are just an old man hoping that some young keeper will take your advice and make you feel better about retiring.” she says with clear frustration.

I know the insult is said in jest, but the truth of it stings like storm rains. It was comments like these that often rubbed the other keepers the wrong way and made them hope for Joha’s failure.

Joha seemed to instantly regret it as well because she glanced up with a remorceful expression and switched his bait to a brightly colored gull feather.

Sometimes I forget how young she really is I think to myself as I pull in another sprig, this one a good bit larger than the last. Across the current, Joha seems to be struggling to untangle her line from around the bow of his boat.

“Hey Grib” she shouts.

I glance up, half expecting another insult.

“Agh, can you maybe, show me a few things in the evenings after we are done keeping for the day.”

“Well, that’ll have to depend on what sort of things you want showing.”

“I agh, am just not sure I’m cut out for the current. Wanta, give it all I got before I give up.”

I toss a surprised glance her way. “No one is cut out for that current. The only thing you’ve got to use against it is your time, young keeper. I started out just as green as ya, probably greener, but with the help of da others I managed my way. You will too… less you keep showing up late.”

“You show up late.”

“Tell ya what, you should early for 50 years, then ill stop harping on ya for an occasional sleepy mornin”

Joha smiles and shakes her head, glancing back toward the current.

“So you’ll help me?”

“Course ill help ya. But it’s past time you started to get a lil more friendly with the rest of tha mates. They’ll warm to you right quick long as you don’t step on their egos to hard.”

“Deal” came her reply

“Hey Grib” I glanced up again

“Thanks, I’m grateful”

“Not yet, your not. but I’m glad you feel so anyhow. It’ll make all the work I’m gonna make you do a bit more bearable.”

**Afternoon**

“Pa-Parcel up!” Pit’s cry comes from a few hundred meters up the current and jolts me out of my thoughts. When a keeper misses roping a parcel in, they would call it out so the next keeper knew to look for it coming.

My heart begins to beat a bit faster and I notice Joha stand up on her raft again, hand shielding her eyes from the sun as she squints up current, looking for signs of a fan leaf.

“It’s red!” She exclaims.

“Parcel up!”

The call this time came from Jax piloting the sloop directly up current from Joha and me. They had all missed it, it’s up to us to grab it before it shoots past the sloops and is forever lost.

As the leaf becomes visible over the horizon, it is clear why its capture has failed thus far. The parcel seemed to be caught on the end of a large spinning log. The fan leaf was spinning in circles as a small tree careened down the current toward my position. The tree made mad circles in the roaring current, threatening to knock any sloop over that dared try and come close.

The weighted net that was most commonly used to capture parcels from the current, was going to be useless here, as the spinning log would surely pull the net and the attached boat into the violent spinning circle. The other tool at the keeper’s disposal was an o-shaped basket device called a grass lance- with a practiced hand, a keeper could be thrown the loop around the top of the pole and pulled into safety. This, unfortunately, had the same problem as the net.

Another option was to swim out into the current and grab the parcel. This was dangerous at best as the current was unpredictable and filled with potentially dangerous objects moving at high speeds. In this case, the spinning log made the swim nearly impossible.

I watch hopelessly as the valuable parcel nears the area between Joha and I. There is simply no way to pull this one in.

Just as I am about to turn my attention back to fishing, I see Joha stand up on her boat. She flashes me that childish grin and dives headfirst into the water. In just a few strokes she breaks into the current and begins a mad dash towards the spinning log on which the parcel is attached.

“Joha!” I yell even as a giant spinning log, the parcel, and the young keeper speed down the current. “Don’t!”

I swear as I quickly pull in my anchor and angle my sloop into the current. Fool. I think as I steer my boat in the direction of Joha. As soon as my sloop breaks into the current I feel it begin to pitch and turn beneath me. The wind will offer little assistance in the jaws of the great south sea current. I struggle to keep my gaze fixed on Joha, wildly ducking the boom of my sail as my boat spins, floorboards popping with the sounds of hundreds of tiny unknown things slamming into the frame.

The young keeper tares toward the parcel with long confident strokes, her typical grin replaced by a look of grim determination. Just as she approaches the spinning log, a swell in the current obscures my view of the young keeper and I swerve to regain visual. As I push around the swell, I can no longer see her above the surface. I swear again, fear for my friend instantly replacing my frustration for her recklessness. I snag a rope, rough hands quickly tying a loop, throwing it over my head, and securing it around my waste.

I turn and drop my anchor just outside the current. My teeth come together in a snarl, not another one, not again.

I jump into the ocean fray.

*Evening*

I do my best to keep my head above the water and swim with the current toward the log, knowing that fighting is useless.

“it’s not a battle, it’s a dance”. The age-old keepers’ words haphazardly bounce around my head as I try to remain calm… The water churns around me bringing me up to the top of swells, then quickly barreling me back into the murky water.

I frantically pull a chunk of seaweed off my face and spin in the water, trying to regain a sense of direction.

Where is that girl? My thoughts are answered by the site of a hand grabbing onto the center of the spinning log. She had made it to the log but seemed to be stuck under the current. I redouble my effort and am forced to duck underneath the water as one end of the log comes spinning for my head.

As soon as I leave the surface of the water all sound becomes muted and distant. The sunlight so present just a second ago is all but extinguished by the soot carried by the current. I feel the mysterious chill once again begin to settle within me.

Something slams into the back of my legs and I pitch backward, losing my sense of where the surface lies.

Panic begins to make its presence known in the back of my mind. I can feel the current churning me in circles in the water. I am a seabird in a hurricane. I try to calm my racing heart, knowing how valuable the oxygen is that I am greedily pumping through my chest. I let myself be taken.

My lungs begin to burn for air just as I see a ray of light reach down from the surface. I kick with my legs and to my surprise, my head bursts from the water. I look up and manage to catch a glimpse of Joha, now struggling to make it to the side of the current, all thoughts of grabbing the parcel forgotten.

The rope around my waist suddenly tightens and drives the breath from me. My rope had run out and I was now dragging the entire weight of the craft against the current with my waste. I quickly reach down and untie the rope, acutely aware of the danger I had put myself in. As soon as I am free, the current takes complete control of me once again, threatening to drag me back into its depths.

I manage to get my head up just in time to see the log smack me in the side of the face. My vision dances with red spots and my thoughts blur as pain jabs into my skull, erasing all sense of calm and logic. The weight of the blow forces my head underwater and the current once again blankets me in its murky embrace. In my confusion, I gasp in pain and feel the sediment-rich current fill my lungs with a concoction of salt, dirt, and water.

I scream but the sound of my voice and rushing water are replaced by the sharp ringing in my ears. The pain bursting in my chest seems to have a sound of its own. A grating screeching, unrelating cacophony of rocks scraping cliffside, the dying screeching of creatures of whom I have no name.

The rays of the sun are gone completely, filtered out by the churning water of which I was rapidly sinking deeper and deeper. My hands flail wildly searching madly for a piece of wood to bring me to the surface or the hand of a savior. Somehow in the midst of my pain, I notice the pressure in my ears begins to build. I was going deeper.

The current drives me in wild circles throwing my helpless body into sticks and clouds of seaweed. My lungs scream for air and my body responds by once again trying to suck the air out of liquid water. I feel more sediment fill my lungs and a fresh wave of agony washes over me as I madly writhe in the churning inky water. My head begins to pound and I wail once again calling out for a reprieve from the chaos and pain.

The fire in my chest bursts into a volcano of pain and I claw madly at my chest, like an animal, hoping that if I can only dig my way into my own lungs, I might be able to tear out the pain that lives there. I can feel my futile struggle begin to weaken, my limbs begin to take too long to respond to my brain’s desperate attempts to return to the surface.

Then, like this morning’s sunrise, I begin to feel a strange warmth blossom from the core of my being. It is subtle at first, a single flame in the midst of midnight, but it quickly begins to grow. Soon it is large enough to drive away from the hurricane of pain. I grasp inwardly for it. I run towards it knowing it to be my only refuge from the pain.

It welcomes me. I feel it takes me further and further away from myself. The pain begins to fade just as it began. I jerk in strange convulsions, a final attempt to return oxygen to my fluttering heart. I give up. I let the current take me, I spin and tumble through the murky waters, completely taken by the current. My thoughts begin to tangle themselves up like a ball of the old line. Where was I? Why was I all wet? Who was I?

I am consumed by the light, the comfort of it washes away my pain, my fear. I am unafraid now, I wonder why I was so scared just a moment ago.

Just as my last shred of self dissolves into the comforting flame I think I notice a ray of sun, reaching down from the sun above the current, above the sky. I feel it if only in my imagination, tickle my cheek before it is quickly consumed by the waters of the great south sea current. I drift away, body and soul. My muscle’s final effort brings a faded smile onto my face and a single thread of thought meanders its way through my mind as I die. What a glorious day.

My being dissolves into itself, and I become one with the current, I forget all and allow death’s warm glow to welcome me, like an old friend celebrating my arrival home after a journey through the rain.

My body wanders down the current, sinking deeper, bound for the unknown reaches of the crushing south sea.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Fantasy, Fiction

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