Posts Tagged ‘swimming’

A rising column of billowing steam rose from a fissure in the rocky ground. The steam spread, darkening the skies above a small volcanic island in Iceland. The island was more of a rocky outcrop in the sea, no more than 50 yards across. Blistering heat from the crater warped my view of the small fissure’s depths. I was prepared for it, as an oceanic scientist should be, clad in a bulky deep sea heat suit.  The digital readout on my arm unit’s display told me it was 5,000 degrees in the crater’s center.

Sounds good, might as well check it out.

I repelled down, through the thick steam and into the fissure. I reached the floor of what I quickly realized was a cave partially filled with water. I stopped and gaped a bit at the water’s surface. It shimmered with a purple iridescence. Small fish darted about the rocks in the shallows. I noticed a dive knife on a nearby rock and put it in my belt. Might be useful.

I waded out into the water. It didn’t seem to be hot at all anymore, so I sank down, submerging myself. An incredible kaleidoscope of blues and purples flowed around me. The water illuminated  an underwater tunnel so I followed it. The tunnel continued for a bit before the floor came up and opened into another chamber. I surfaced to discover the water was only a couple feet deep. On each side of the chamber were rows of alcoves, each holding a sunken boat still on its trailer. The alcoves continued for 100 yards down the cavern’s walls. The glittering illumination from the water let me see each alcove had a boat. There must have been dozens.

The boat chamber eventually ended with another underwater tunnel, so I continued. The water’s light abruptly ended at the entrance to the tunnel and I swam on, awkwardly in my suit, into the darkness. It soon felt like the tunnel had opened up, and I turned on the lights mounted on the top of my dive helmet. A huge underwater cave appeared. Pillars of volcanic rock supported the domed ceiling.

I hardly noticed all this, however, because my lights had revealed something else. One million sleeping sharks. I could have counted them all, but I didn’t have to. I knew there was one million exactly. The bright blue sharks carpeted the cave floor, gently swaying back and forth with the current. I froze, and started to back out very slowly.

Hoooolllly shit. I’m out of here.

They started to wake up, shaking themselves out of a deep sleep. It didn’t take long for them to notice me and start gliding through the water in my direction. I frantically looked around for something with which to defend myself. I reached below me and grabbed a few rocks off the floor. Each rock I hurled at the approaching sharks moved through the water at an excruciatingly slow pace.

Oh right, it’s underwater. This isn’t going to work very well.

I retreated through the tunnel into the boat cave and stood up in the shallow water. All light coming from the water had been extinguished and not even my helmet lights could penetrate its surface now. Shark fins knifed up through the surface and began to circle me. Occasionally one would brush up against my legs and feet. They seemed more curious than hostile. I wasn’t afraid. I gently tried to push them away. I took the knife off my belt, but didn’t use it’s razor sharp edge. There was no need to hurt them. Instead I kept the knife’s tip down and just tried to nudge them away.

The heavy rain had finally let up, and my young friend and I entered the barn looking for some mischief and fun.  The interior was poorly lit, but the ceiling cast a faint blue light down from its metal roof.  The barn’s large open space was completely flooded and had become a deep pool of black water.  On the other side of the door an old wooden boat lay broken but still floating against the wall.  Long ropes and steel cables hung from the ceiling, drooping across the water and boat.  Suspended high above the boat was the corpse of a man who had hanged himself with the cables.

We jumped in the cold dark water and began swimming out to the boat.  The plan was to climb up the ropes above the boat and then let go, plummeting through the open cargo hold below and rebounding back up off some old, warped lumber and out into the water.  It was going to be fun, my friend reassured me.  He’d done it many times before.

I slowly pulled myself up the ropes, mostly avoiding glances at the hanging corpse as I climbed.  Scattered drops of water still rained from the cracks in the roof near my head. My friend smiled up at me from below where he tread water near the boat, waiting for me to let go.  I looked down and grimaced.  The path to the open hole in the boat was not directly below me, and looked much too dangerous.

Instead I reached across to another hanging rope, this one suspended by a pulley near the ceiling.  I descended rather quickly as the counterweight on the other side of the pulley burst out of the water.  It was another corpse, pale and rotten.  I dropped into the pool and swam to its edge where it met a shop room inside the barn.  This room wasn’t flooded yet, but a steady rain picked up that dripped through the ceiling and penetrated my rain coat.  The cold water slid down my back and I hunched over, sneaking between bits of old farm machinery parts as I sought an exit.

I used to be a polar bear, but was now a man.  Apparently this is a rare thing, and a female scientist came by from the local research station to study me and ask some questions.  She was bundled against the cold in a bright yellow rain coat and thick boots.  I was dressed in a simple t-shirt and jeans.  I used to be a polar bear after all.  We walked along the surface of a frozen river and I tried to show her what I had learned in my time as a polar bear.   The most important thing was how to break the ice on the river’s surface.

It was simply impossible to break the layer of ice on top of the river in any way other than the method I was about to show her.  A thin ribbon of ice-free water slowly streamed by in the center of the river.  Small sheets of ice already broken off floated by on the edges of the water, bumping into the ice on either side.  I jumped up and down on the ice near the water’s edge to show the scientist how strong it was, then bent to retrieve a thin berg floating nearby.

Placing this small piece of ice on top of the solid sheet, I gingerly stepped back.  Carefully, I extended my foot and put the slightest pressure on top.  The ice instantly gave way, and a large chunk broke off and floated downriver.  My companion was delighted, and went to try it herself.  She picked up a thick layer of ice floating nearby and pulled it up on the ice she was standing on.  She set it down and then stepped out, bringing her full weight on top.  The ice shattered, sending her plunging into the frigid water below.

I just sighed.  Some bears just don’t learn very well.  With a jolt of realization I remembered she was not in fact a polar bear, but a human being.  I scrambled to the edge of the ice and peered over into the water’s depths.  I could see her a few feet beneath the surface, struggling against the river’s inexorable icy pull.  I pleaded with her to swim, to resist the bone chilling cold seeping into her body.  With a growing sadness I watched her limbs slow to stillness.  Her skin had turned a light shade of blue.

The ice I was kneeling on gave way, and I too plunged into the water.  I braced myself against the coming shock but was surprised when it didn’t come.  The water felt perfectly comfortable.  Of course, I used to be a polar bear.  Berating myself as a fool, I swam over, grabbed the scientist and  began pulling her back towards shore.  After a few seconds I realized I wasn’t making any progress.  The river’s current had picked up pace significantly.  I looked downstream and my mouth fell agape in panic.  Only a few yards down, the river plummeted into a narrow culvert in the side of the bank.  If we got sucked into that, there would be no coming out, even for a former polar bear.

I wrapped her arms around my chest, hoping that some flicker of life remained inside her giving her the strength to hold on.  I swam for the edge of the shore, but the bank hung out over the water’s edge, too steep to climb up.  Turning on my back in the water, I pulled us along upstream until we finally reached a section low enough I could heave us out of the water.

I lay on my back, clutching her to my chest, screaming for help.