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The Eye Of The Whale
That trip was too dangerous. She should have known, should have listened to the voice inside her head that began screaming the moment she placed her foot in that boat. But she had made the voice shut up, and stupidly allowed her brother, who had very little knowledge of steering a rowboat, take her out into the waves.
She could remember the cold air that hit her face, the splashes of water bouncing off the oars and landing on her hands. The beautiful night sky had been laid out before them, blue against waves of blue. The air smelled so free, so clean and crisp; she was out on the ocean, away from her parents who had probably continued their argument at the dining room table. She had been glad to get rid of them and took the first chance she could to leave the house. Unfortunately the quiet she’d been seeking had screwed up her life completely.
Lying in the hospital bed she thought this over. How stupid she had been, so careless. She wanted nothing more than to go back in time and change her mind.
She heard the door of her room open and after a few seconds it snapped shut.
Sobbing filled the air, hard gasping sobs.
She knew who it was and felt guilty for hoping she would turn right back around and leave, but she stayed.
It was quiet for a moment and then she felt someone touch her hand.
“Riley,” her mother’s voice said in between sniffles, “Why? Why did you go out onto the ocean so late at night?”
Riley wanted to scream, “So I wouldn’t have to hear you and dad bickering!” but she couldn’t say anything.
Her mother’s hand tightened its grip on hers.
She wished she could get up and leave the room, but she was trapped in a body that didn’t move.
Riley had no voice, no control over her body, and she saw nothing but black, like the night sky had swallowed her whole, spitting her out with only her thoughts for company, and the occasional visitor that would cry their eyes out.
Her mother stayed silent for a while, until the nurse came in and told her visiting hours were over. She left unwillingly, and even though Riley couldn’t see, she knew her mother was stalling. Finally she left, and Riley was alone.
The stillness, the dark; it brought her back to that night.
It was as though her mind had a mind of it’s own, directing her into thinking of only what she hoped would escape her; but it stayed; stuck to her brain like gum to a shoe.
It forced her to think of where she least wanted to be.
The ocean, the salt, and the eye; the waves lapping the boat. The moon glowing down on them as Jake rowed out farther. There had been a crash and she had looked behind her to find Jake standing, his oar lying across his seat. The boat had shook a little as he continued to stand.
“What are you doing?” Riley had asked.
He had smiled, his light green eyes looking into hers, “Going for a swim.”
She had smiled back, unable to stop it from spreading across her face.
Jake had always found a way to make the worst of times feel like the best. It was easy to become affected by his constant happiness, to smile and go along with him. As her older brother, she always looked up to him, but she wished she hadn’t that night.
The continuous beeping of the monitor by her bed sped up, as her heart leaped in her chest. She could still feel the ebbing cold, the salt in her mouth, the freezing waves as they crashed over her.
She forced her mind away from the thoughts and concentrated on the beeps the monitor made. The constant noise helped her drift away; it took her thoughts away and let her think of nothing.
“Good morning, Riley.” The nurse said happily as she walked in. “You’ve got visitors.”
Riley heard the sound of a window opening and felt the warm spring air filling the room with the smell of flowers.
“There,” she heard the nurse say.
The door closed and there was silence.
Riley felt the bed give way as someone sat on the edge.
She wanted to look, to see who it was; but she couldn’t open her eyes.
It was silent for a few more seconds, the monitor beeping to the rhythm of her heart.
“I’m so sorry.”
She could hardly hear his voice, but she knew who it was. She wanted to reach out and hug him, tell him she forgave him for his stupid carelessness.
Jake began crying, his tears falling on her pillow.
She felt him get up from the bed and then he pushed her a little to one side, giving him room so he could lie down next to her. As he placed his head on the pillow with her, she could sense him looking at her. There was a second of nothing, and then Riley felt Jake’s fingers entwine with hers. He squeezed them.
“I hope you can hear me…” He choked on his words, “I – I feel awful.” She could tell he was pushing back the urge to cry, “I should have told – told you before you went under – that I – I love you.” Jake let out a breath of air and she felt his hand grip tighter to hers. She wanted so badly to squeeze back, to let him know she could hear every word he said.
“It’s all my fault, I did this to you.” He was quiet a second. “Mom and Dad have grounded me to the point where I can’t do anything. They say coming to see you is my penance…”
Listening to him speak brought her back. She couldn’t stop the memory as it crept into her mind again, like water seeping into her throat. Couldn’t stop the visions, the voices from the past, as they bled through.
“A swim. Really?” She had sounded confused and almost delighted at the idea.
“Yeah, why not?” Jake said, then jumped right in the water, without stopping to strip down to his swim trunks.
She laughed as the water sprayed her.
“Come on!” Jake laughed as he shook the water from his hair.
Riley remembered looking in the distance where a small speck of white light was the only visible part of their summerhouse.
“Come on!” Jake had said again, only this time he hadn’t waited for her. He had grabbed her by the hand and pulled her into the ocean.
Spitting out water she had emerged to the surface laughing and gulping for air. She had been laughing so hard she had tried to feel her way back to the boat, but hadn’t found it.
Laughing caused her to become short of breath. As she had felt around, searching for the solidness of the boat, she had gulped in a mouthful of seawater. A small wave had gone over her, at the exact time she had been drawing in breath. The seawater had stung her throat. She had tried to break the surface, but hadn’t been able to find which way was up. She recalled flailing her arms about in the water, not knowing she was pushing herself farther away from the surface.
She had needed air, her throat was dry, and her head had begun to pound from lack of oxygen. She remembered wanting to open her mouth, to draw air in, but the only thing she swallowed was water. She had flung her eyes open, the salt stinging them, and wondering how she could have ever been dragged so deep. She hadn’t been able to see the light of the moon, nothing that gave her a sense of direction, just a dark endless blue.
Something had hit her foot and Riley had tried to get quickly away, but found herself turning in the water and looking straight into the eye of a whale. In the seconds before she had slipped into the coma she had seen the massive size of the creature, its eye completely black, without a pupil, staring right at her. She had opened her mouth and in shock had drawn in more seawater.
She sat up in bed, gasping for breath, her chest rising and falling rapidly.
She was awake; the blackness had realized her.
The monitor beeps had sped up, her mind was dizzy with the sights. She took in the room quickly and then looked to her left. The bed cover was wrinkled, but Jake was gone.
She looked at the door and found him standing wide-eyed in front of it. She felt her chest constrict and a dry sob escaped her mouth.
Jake stared at her for the briefest second, then ran and flung his arms round her, sobbing into her shoulder.