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It was the first night, barely twelve hours after I departed from Havana, when I felt the initial sense of terror start to creep through my bones. A blanket of darkness had settled over the water. The vigorous waves crashed against my vulnerable body. Even though the Straits of Florida were a warm 84 degrees, I still had shivers going down my spine. The harsh wind was like a whip. Wrestling with the forceful waves was tiring, and I needed my strength. I still had at least 40 hours to go until I reached the exquisite beaches of the Key West, and it would take all of my body’s strength and will to get there.

As long as my arms and legs were, and as perfect as they said my body was for this swim, I was starting to doubt myself. My coach assured me this would happen, that I would doubt myself. I remember his last words vividly, “It does not matter what an amazing and confident woman you are in the pool; open water takes it all away. All you are left with is common sense and muscle.” Right now, I think my whole body is doubting even having the common sense and muscle. My goggles, suctioned fiercely to my bloated face, would probably never come off.

When I turned my head to the left to breathe, licking my salty lips, I saw the lightning crash down from the sky like a cheetah at full speed. It would brighter than anything I had laid my eyes upon in hours. It lit up not only the sky, but all around me as well. For a second everything around me could be seen. I soon realized the boats, following me for safety, were not present. There was not a sight of them as far as my floating body could see. My thoughts were not of fright, but of confusion. I must be mistaken. The waves were like slaps across my face, stinging my cheeks. Turning over onto my back, like an otter, I waited for more lightning to contradict my thoughts that the boats were absent.

Gone. The boats were gone; not even a lifeboat was left. I was totally and thoroughly on my own, out in the indestructible sea. This sea was not only indestructible, but also getting rockier by the minute. A ferocious storm was close, very close, and it would tear apart this area. I realized soon this must have been the reason the boats were not present; they had to have been ripped away by the howling wind and vigorous waves. Fog rolled across the surface of the water, making it even harder to see anything in the black of the night. The current pulled, wrenching me in the opposite direction from where I had been going before. I knew enough about open water to realize I couldn’t fight this current. I had to let it drag me to whenever it wanted, and hope that it wouldn’t tear me down into its depths in the process.

I couldn’t feel it at first, but it was when the normal numbing of my toes turned into a feeling of severe burning, that I realized why. The savage box jellyfish had come out to play. Box jellyfish, up to ten feet long, have venom known as one of the deadliest in the world. Their deadly venom contains toxins that attack the heart, nervous system, and skin cells. I had been told rumors of their adventures to the surface of the Straits during the night. When they come out, it causes a deadly scene. Box jellyfish are known to always win; the survivors of their scathing stings still feeling considerable pain weeks after. Winning is not an option against these persistent creatures, especially when all you can do is glide your way into their lair.

A fierce burning had seized my flesh in the obscurity of the night. Not an inch of my body felt as if it were not in flames. I had stopped voluntarily moving, only huge waves and convulsions from the stings rocked my torso. In the dark of the night, as a storm quaked through the sea and sky, I floated there. The venom of the jellyfish possessed my body. The stings and burning just wouldn’t stop. Forceful waves rolled over the deadly jellyfish and I. My fingers felt swollen to twice their size. Human instincts made my limbs thrash about in an attempt to flee from the murderous stings. All of the sudden I felt something hard, like land.

Could it be? Land? A surge of hope fled through my veins. Reaching over once again I felt thick wooden grooves. Some disappointment rushed into my heart, but there was still hope. With the last of my adrenalin I jerked my body up and over. A crisp cold air cut into my skin. Grasping unto the object, I landed with a smash unto this little block of heaven. I was no longer submerged in the violent water that was nudging me towards death. I curled up, like a dog, to get away from the destructive jellyfish. A swell of tiredness swept over me and the horrific pain did not stop. I held onto this tiny haven with the last of my life as I spasmed.

I let my will to survive ease and I accepted this being the last moments of life. A certain serenity washed over the corpse that was once my award winning tool. I loved the water, and hadn’t I always dreamed of dying in it? Could this be any more perfect? With the acceptance of my fate, the burning and pain had ceased. All I felt was the rocking of the waves, back and forth like a cradle. As I closed my eyes for the last time, I thought of what my mother had said before I left, “I always believed you and the water were one.” So I let the water and I, finally morph together, so that we could be one.

There was light, all this light. I heard yelling and pounding. A roaring ache suffocated my thoughts. Where was I? I felt soft and clean. What was going on? A scream surged out of my lips. It was then that I heard a sweet voice slowly sigh into my ear,
“Hush, hush. Don’t worry, you’re safe. Try not to move.”

“Where? What?” I managed to croak softly.

“There was a vicious storm while you were swimming; it rocked the sea and all the land around here, tearing down many seaside houses. The boats got pulled away from you because of the enormous waves and you were stung by many box jellyfish. Some fisherman a little ways out from the coast found you floating on a block of ratty wood. You were in very bad condition, so they called in help and we brought you to this hospital, in Havana, Cuba. You are in the ICU, in a hospital bed. Your team is in the waiting room. You’ve been unconscious for three days, however you seem to have made it through.”

“I’m not...dead?”

“No,” the nice voice grinned. “ You, my friend, are incredibly alive. It’s as if you are indestructible.”



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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

AriellaK said...
May 21 at 6:03 pm:
This piece is so well written! I love the ending and the descriptions of the characters feelings and the ocean around her.
 
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Death Basket said...
May 5 at 9:38 am:
This story was very well written and the transitions between paragraghs are very good. when it says "your team is waiting for you" were you apart of a diving team? or just a swim team? Thank you
 
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