In the pitch darkness of the stormy waters, he swam. Only the occasional burst of lightning far away illuminated the blackness. He was so deep, he could barely hear the thunder.
Somewhere his mind was insisting that this was wrong. Waters this dark and deep should have felt unnatural in their pressure and the demands on his lungs, but he felt comfortable here. Warm and lovely, the waters gave him an ethereal feeling, like he could float in their invisible currents with no effort and be perfectly safe. He had no idea how long he’d been down here; time lost all meaning in the depths.
Phantasms weaved in and out of his vision, gliding silently through the waters. He thought he could make out the shapes of dolphins, or perhaps sharks, but nothing was attacking him. He heard soft clicks, so his mind told him it was dolphins. He moved slowly, not wanting to spook them, and as his arms turned his body, he found his eye drawn to his wrist. A small circle of plastic wrapped around it, and even in the dark, he could make out his name printed upon it.
The feeling of wrongness in his mind grew as he stared at the bracelet. Beyond the thunder he began to hear another recurring sound. High-pitched, electronic, plaintive – his mind told him what it was, and he struggled to believe it. Everything felt slow and dark, smothered by the water. His arms barely moved when he commanded them to push, simply floating beside him like two lumps of lead. The overwhelming feeling of containment enveloped him, and he struggled past it towards the flashes of light and the soft, repeating beeps.
He closed his eyes, telling himself that his mind was right, that something was keeping him here, that this was nothing but a dream. He pushed that envelope that threatened to consume him, fighting ever upward, and even as the pain increased throughout his body, he pushed water away and kicked and strained as if his life depended on it.
His eyes slowly opened. The lights beating down on him blinded him for a moment. As the world came into focus, he looked around him. He was in the hospital, a doctor with the look of an undertaker near his life monitors – the high-pitched, plaintive beeps that had summoned him from the waters. His wife, holding his hand, sat nearby, her chin dipped downwards as she snoozed. Another doctor entered, much brighter than the first, and was saying something about the accident and the surgeries and the drugs. He didn’t care. He looked down at his wrist, remembered the sounds of the dolphins, and gave his wife’s hand a squeeze. She opened her eyes, focused on him, and rose slowly, lips trembling as she squeezed his hand back and whispered his name.
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