I felt numb as I plunged into the coldness of the sea. The strong waves washed over me, I held my breath and pushed back upwards. For a few seconds, it felt as if something was pulling me back down then I broke through the salt water.
Gasping in deep breaths, aware suddenly of all the sound and touch again. I could hear my four friends on the cliff edge calling down to me, clapping and shouting. I had been the first to take the dive, not because I was the bravest but because I had drawn the shortest dune grass.
The waves echoed in my ears as well as the splashing against me. I could feel of the cold blow of the water against my warm skin, running down my hair and face. My navy blue swimming trunks flushed tight against my upper legs and waist. From above, came the heat off the sun, in a cloudless, crystal blue sky and the distant screeching of seagulls.
Letting the motion of the sea drift me away from the cliff, I bobbed about. Having had my minute of fame, though perhaps it had taken less time to fall, I waited for my friends to join me, it was one of the rules we had agreed on as we had walked up the cliff. We’d then swim back to the shore and meet up with the two girls who had stayed on the beach.
Something brushed my leg and I looked down into the settling water. It was properly just some seaweed but it could be a jellyfish. We had seen some washed up on the beach before as we had explored; clear and purple dotted moon jellyfish, a large flopping lion mane who’s sting would hurt for weeks and a possible barrel jellyfish, alien looking with it’s large domed milky white body and twisted tentacles trailing out of it.
The last thing I wanted on this holiday was to get stung or injured by something. I couldn’t see anything below the waves, just my legs kicking about. There came no tingle of pain, so it was just seaweed after all. A small part of me didn’t feel convinced by that thought, but surely, I argued with myself, I’d be able to see a jellyfish.
Looking up at the cliff, I watched the next person jump. They were wearing black shorts and had tucked their legs and arms in like a more practiced diver. I guessed it was Eric. I hadn’t stayed to watch the others draw, wanting my jump to be over before sense got the better of me.
It was an exciting but silly thing to do. The others though, had reassured me it was fine. They had jumped from that cliff often enough and there were no rocks as long as you jumped out a short distance away. If you jumped straight down, which was a stupid thing to do, you’d likely smash into the cliff side or the rocks that formed a wall at the base.
Eric hit the waves hard, sending up great splashes which washed over and caused me to struggle to remain a float. He reappeared some distance away to my right and we had to swim towards each other.
‘What a rush!’ he yelled, shaking his dripping dyed lime green hair back.
I paused, feeling something touch the bottom of my left foot then climb to my ankle. I trod water and looked down but there was too much disturbance to see.
‘Something’s got my foot!’ I shouted.
‘You what?’ Eric hollered back, ‘look, here comes Hoggy and Brad, the chicken!’
I glanced up in time to see the giant form of Hugh Hogson hurtling towards the crashing waves. I heard the slap of his over weight body hit the surf then I felt a harder tug on my leg. Twisting and kicking, I tried to release myself but the force of the waves bashed into me and I floundered for a few seconds.
My head couldn’t stay above water and all I could hear were the waves. The something tightened on my ankle, crawling up my leg and dragging me down.
‘Help!’ I screamed.
Sea water rushed into my mouth, the salt stung my eyes and I went under. The waves rocked around me, tossing me like a ball between children. I tried to look at what had got my leg, but everything was so churned up. I thrust my arms out and began sweeping them upwards like a bird trying to get off the ground.
Can’t breath! Have to get up!
Kicking and pushing, I fought against whatever was holding me and the current. My head popped up, I sucked in air, once, twice then was under again. I was aware of nothing but the tight pain across my ankle and sea in my ears, nose and mouth.
Stop panicking, hold your breath and look.
I stopped moving, breath held and chest tightening. Looking down, I saw a thin rope wrapped around my leg. I couldn’t see where it lead to; a rock, the sea floor? It ran away, back towards the cliff.
Reaching down, I gripped the rope in both hands and tugged. I couldn’t tell if it came loose or not. The sea seemed determined to stop my efforts though and it was as if it wanted me, was holding me captive. That was a strange thought. I needed to breath again.
Struggling upwards, feeling tried, I broke the surf again. I bobbed and looked around. Eric had been close enough before but now I saw no one just the white topped waves hurrying towards me.
‘Help! Help! I shouted.
I splashed in the waves and felt the rope tighten around my foot again. I knew this time I was going under so stopped speaking and downed lots of air. A sharper tug and the waves were back crashing over my head as I spiraled downwards. Blindly, I reached down to my foot, trying to curl my body to make the distant shorter. I felt the rope and panic soared though me.
Something grabbed my arm. A hand? Fingers? I felt myself being pulled up but at the same time the rope was tugging me back down. I was aware of someone else beside me and we both broke the surface together.
‘There’s a rope around my foot!’ I shouted, not even bothering to see who had saved me.
A large wave drove into me and I was washed away and down again. I’d only taken one breath and it was knocked out of me. I spun, kicking and trying to escape. I thought I felt someone or someones touching me and the rope was a constant pain and tugging.
Strong arms, yanked me up and I was able to breath again. I couldn’t see, there was too much salt water in my eyes.
‘Stay still!’ Hog’s voice shouted.
I thought about laughing, maybe I even did little bit. Didn’t Hog know that was impossible? The sea had decided to take me prisoner and it wasn’t going to let me go. I felt myself floating, the waves carrying me away. If I just let them it would all be okay. Maybe, the sea would be happy with just me and wouldn’t take them?
Water spluttered out of my mouth and my eyes eased open. My vision was blurred and I felt pain all over but it was worse in my left ankle. I wanted to roll to my side then try to sit up but two men in red t-shirts were holding me down.
‘Just breath and take it easy. You’re safe now,’ one of the men said.
Safe at the bottom of the sea with merpeople?
No, I was on the beach, I could feel the sharp shelly sand underneath me. Slowly, my vision and the sound of my ragged breathing cleared away. I saw my friends looking down at me; the boys dripping wet and the girls in their bikinis.
‘The ambulance is here,’ someone said.
I tried to say I was okay and didn’t need it but I just coughed up more water instead. The two coast guards and man from the ambulance got me on a stretcher and carried me up to the road and the awaiting yellow van.
Eric came with me, bring our bags from the beach. I was grateful but too tried to tell him. I dozed on and off during the ride and thought the sea was still trying to claim me. I spent the rest of the afternoon in hospital and was well enough to go back to the hotel in the evening.
My nightmares that night were filled with drowning and the rope. Sometimes I was surrounded by angry looking fish, other times it was merpeople, the rest I can’t remember.
Even since, I have stayed away from large bodies of water. Not even wanting to dip my toes in. The lingering idea that the sea was trying to keep me prisoner sticks with me, even though I know it’s not true, I can’t shake the feeling that there was more then just the rope holding me beneath the waves that day.
(Inspired from; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/06/25/weekly-writing-prompt-147/ with thanks).