By on Sep 25, 2020 in Fiction

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Underwater of lake

My whole life changed when I was 15. Everything I thought I would become. The future I thought I had. All gone. And I had such promise. I was a swimmer. Nebraska State champion in three events as a Freshman. I was going to go to college. Maybe the Olympics after that. But that all ended one blistery February day.    

It had been sleeting that morning, and the wind was howling out of the north. Mom picked me up from swim practice in the old grey bus from the nursing home where she worked. She was late, as usual. The second I staggered through the door of the bus, two things hit me. The pleasant warmth from the heater, and the smell of liquor on her breath. Dad ran off and left us two years ago. They say people sometimes drink to forget. I suppose that’s what she was trying to do.

It was an hour drive to our farm outside town, and I could tell she was a little buzzed because she was having trouble staying off the centerline. Sleet was forming an icy crust on the windshield, and she huddled over the steering wheel, gripping it tightly at the 10 and 2 position, just like I had been taught at Driver’s Ed. We were listening to some Tom Petty on the radio, and I could see the sign up ahead where we would be turning south toward Moses Lake. I was expecting her to slow down to take the turn, when she suddenly whipped the wheel to the right just before we reached the intersection. That’s when everything went horribly wrong.

The next thing I know, the tires are squealing, I can feel the bus up on two wheels, then we flip over. Sparks are flying along the blacktop. We’re crashing through the woods. Trees are flying past us. We’re sliding down a steep hill going somewhere fast.

It’s about here where I lost time. You know, when you black out and can’t remember anything. I just recall darkness. A darkness as black and absent of light as I could ever imagine.

Then it hit me.

It was an incredible, gnawing cold that felt like icy needles piercing every pore in my flesh. I opened my eyes and could see that I was submerged, trapped in the van, surrounded in murky, grey water. At the same moment the cold struck me, I also realized I was running out of air. And I assumed the van was somewhere at the bottom of Moses Lake. So, I guess my survival instincts just kicked in. I could see what appeared to be bubble of air at the surface near the roof of the van. And I knew I had to reach that bubble. I had to reach it or die there at the bottom of the lake. Frozen to death at age 15.

So, I pushed hard. As hard as I could toward the top, hoping that there might be some air, any air that could keep me alive. My mouth and nose broke the surface, and I took a quick desperate breath, filling my lungs the best I could.

For a moment, the only feeling I had was the relief of being able to breathe. But a second later, the piercing numbness of the water begin to close in on me. I could feel my body starting to shut down.

That’s when I saw it. There was a pale blue light, and it seemed to be coming from my feet. Then I felt something grab my ankles pulling me down below the surface. I fought whatever it was at first, because it was pulling me away from the air pocket. But the force was too powerful, and I went under.

Somewhere along the way, I blacked out again. When I woke up, I was laying on hard, frost-covered ground, and there’s some dude pumping on my chest doing CPR. It was a couple of days later at the hospital when I learned my mom had died in the crash. They said I was lucky to be alive. It was a miracle I had survived that long in the freezing water, one of the doctors told me. Yeah, right. A miracle.

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Bob Blundell is a retired mid-level manager who spent a career in the oil industry. Since he’s moved on from his day job, he has been pursuing his original passion which he abandoned decades ago. He has had previous fiction published in magazines such as Torrid Literature Review, Liguorian, GirlZ 4 Christ, and Blonde on Blonde. He has also had creative non-fiction published in magazines such as Testimony, The Bible Advocate, Spectrum, and Blue Ridge Outdoors.