Frightening Fathoms

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My knuckles turned whiter as we flew up and down. I shivered. My teeth chattered. I was soaked to the bone. I tried rowing, but my shoulders were too frigid to move. We slammed into the beast’s claws, and I rose off my seat momentarily. I was unable to speak. There was that word, unable. I was frozen to my seat, paralyzed. We kept dodging the immense obstacles, sometimes coming dangerously close. Spray kept stinging my eyes. I shivered.
It was in Vail, Colorado; where the day went on as the fiery sun bore down on us. We stood waiting impatiently at the small recreation building waiting to get on a boat. You see, I was on my family vacation, with all of my aunts and uncles and cousins. We had all decided to go rafting as the main event on our trip. What better activity to do in the mountains of Colorado? Not soon enough, we were let into the low-ceiling building and asked to approach the counter.
The guide led us over to a small counter, where we were each handed a legal document, and to my surprise, he told us to put our names on it, just in case any of us were hurt or killed. I shook my head thinking, “What? Is he seriously asking us to sign our lives away?” Well, I signed the paper anyway, baffled. Before long, we were suiting up in our wetsuits, still damp from the last person who had worn them. (Eww.) We were soon on an old school bus headed towards the rapids site. Before we even arrived, I could hear the churning water splashing over rock after rock. For many minutes I became increasingly hotter in my padded wetsuit, shifting around uncomfortably, as the guide laid down the ground rules. Me, being a thirteen year old boy, only heard “Helmet, legs in the boat, feet under the crossbar, blah, blah, blah” while I kept just thinking, “Can we get in the boat already?!”
An hour later, we were cruising down the river. I was crammed in an unnatural position in the small craft. My arms and legs burned from the stress of the oar pushing against my arms. Our guide was shouting just to be heard over the screaming of the water. We were picking up speed now, gathering more and more momentum over each bump.
We were cruising along, the boat picking up more and more speed. I could slightly depict a churning, almost a gurgling noise as we raced further and further down the river. I no longer thought about rowing, it had become a secondary action. No longer could I feel my face, no longer could I make out the internal sound of my teeth chattering, no longer could I make out the numbness in my fingers. The one change I was sure of was the increasingly repetitive rocking of the boat, like powerful music reaching its end. As though crushed, by some imaginary force, I lurched forward suddenly, my teeth clamping down on my tongue. My eyes snapped shut. We slammed into a massive boulder and flew into someone’s extremely bony back. We hurtled down the river, but then, as though chaos itself had receded, everything ceased and became serene. Grimacing, I unhinged my jaw, and let my eyelids roll open. Although everything looked fine, I was learning not to trust my sight on this ride, more my ability to hear. Then, almost as if it was pre-cognition, I felt unease, the calm feeling disappearing, being replaced by a slow rumbling. I looked up to see mouths moving, but their voices were being drowned out. Everything had almost come to a complete stop in my mind, I couldn’t think. Before trying to figure out my predicament, my neck jolted forward, and my head hit the bony spine of a person in from of me (again). The whole river became vertical, as I was plunged down, into the very depths of the rapids. The amount of rocks increased, and the boat flew upward and downward, as we crossed the uneven terrain. My tongue now felt too large for my mouth, and I was unable to speak. We glided further down the traitorous path. I slammed even harder into the sudden realization that I was violently shaking, more out of the temperature of the water than fear. I had involuntarily closed my eyes, and that this wasn’t as much fun as it was at first. I suddenly questioned myself, “Why am I doing this? I started to realize that this was no mere game, it was actually dangerous, and if the boat flipped over, or I fell out, could I be seriously injured?”
The adrenaline rush never let up. The water now burned, ironically, from the numbed nerve endings when it scorched my face. A new image filled my mind, a black silhouette, fear. I rowed with my own pattern, being unsuccessful at moving the current course of the boat. I sank further and further, down into my seat. I feared of losing the oar, my hands now wet and clammy, and worst of all, shriveled , (where your hands look about 200 years older than they really are). I tried tuning my brain to a more pleasant frequency, only to find static. I started to fret, to look around with a wild, clueless expression plastered on my face. I tried to keep calm, as to not dampen my family’s fun, but also so I did not have to eat breakfast again (which was bad enough the first time around). I soon realized that it was not only fear, but noise, the screaming and laughing, each shriek or chuckle was like a sucker punch to my stomach. I soon came to realize though that the violent rocking of the boat was tapering off, just the tiniest bit, and the world coming back into focus and I relaxed my tense muscles, now weak. I found that I was freezing; all of my flesh not covered by my wetsuit was painful.
We stopped momentarily to let another boat pass, which allowed me to catch my breath. We were stopped in very shallow water, so I was able to get up and stretch for a few minutes before climbing back into the boat. A little shack stood beside us, old and crumbling. I don’t know why, but that image is still vivid in my mind today, it is as though the house frightened me slightly. It just stood there, all dilapidated, full of weeds and water lapping up at its shore. The shack also emitted a gloomy aura, as though it was waiting for someone who would never come to fix it. We got the signal to go off ahead, and as we rode off, I watched it get smaller and smaller.
Eventually, the guide said our stopping point would be coming up, so he said to stop paddling and let us just drift along the now calm water until we reached the point. I felt as though an immense weight had been lifted off my shoulders that I was in some way free now. We reached a little dip in the water, and that is where our boat gave up, and we jolted to a stop.
As I stepped off the boat, I became even colder than when I had been on the boat. I soon found my parents, and we stopped to get something to eat, and then board the bus back home. I climbed on the bus, exhausted, and laid back on one of the seats, the expense of the trip registering slowly in my brain, like molasses, and then… well, all I know then is that everything suddenly became quiet, and my ears were filled with the sound of a quiet, steady breathing.
The first thought you have about an event, will never be the same at the end.





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Brian O. said...
Jan. 24, 2010 at 11:25 am
Great memoir Ben!
 
ben w. replied...
Jan. 24, 2010 at 11:41 am
Thanks Brian!
 
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