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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 


 

Fiction



The Sun Under Water

I found myself alone, with only my shadow accompanying me under the hot sun.

At first, I was surprised that she had vanished with the boat, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to make sense. During our previous encounters, she never seemed to stay around long and that previous night was longer than normal. The long sojourn on the boat had offered me a welcome respite but I didnít expect our journey to last forever. I remembered the suddenness of her appearance the previous afternoon and the unexpected encounter that followed. I never thought these would last, and occasionally when they did there didnít seem to be any way of predicting what might happen. I thought of the boat itself and how it seemed ancient and young simultaneously as though it might have come through some kind of odd time travel portal that only seemed to appear sporadically. I stood there and how different everything seemed, even the water had been transformed, from dark to light, blue to green, hastily washing over the world beneath the sun, working quickly and chaotically, feverishly covering the secrets lurking below under its newly pronounced waves. Everything was unsettling and it was a little hard to stay balanced. Only a few minutes before, when I was on the boat, the ocean seemed to stretch onward forever surrounding us in what seemed like an eternal bathing glow that radiated calm. When I stood there alone on the platform, things had changed. The water seemed choppier and looked far from calm, somehow the serenity had been broken. I wandered over the other side and saw that the waves were taller and seemed to almost be crashing into one another, churning against one another in a seemingly futile battle for supremacy. I saw more signs of activity in the distance Ė boats, surfers and seagulls roiled the surface, frantically competing for their slice of the ocean. I remembered how I was able to transport myself and thought how I was able to emulate some of her mysterious disappearances in the disguise. I though of myself as a shadow and closed my eyes. I took a deep breath and allowed the sun light to soak through me, which gradually lit and warmed its uneven, slippery surface.

I looked around and the sudden impulses of energy surrounding me created a different atmosphere. I closed my eyes and felt its warmth seeming to pierce through me, while the noise and distractions of the everyday subsided and evaporated beneath its heat. I stood alone bathed in its light for a few minutes and slipped away, letting my thoughts drift back towards the ocean, not hearing or seeing anything else that would get in the way. After a few moments, I felt my body calm and decided to open my eyes cautiously. Things looked different to me and I noticed something unexpected. When I looked down and saw my shadow, it didnít have the same form. It seemed to have lost the heaviness that it had in previous days. It looked smaller and lighter than it looked and I felt it underneath me instead of above. I felt the waves surging under my feet and they rolled underneath the platform, slowly taking their slow pace through the currents. The waves themselves seemed to become barriers. They seemed to work against one another, attempting to keep the outside world at a safe distance. The currents surged and in their intensity, the diving board began to waver and shake, submerging and emerging from the water in rapid movements that were jarring. I nearly lost my balance and nearly tripped but was able to steady my feet after a few moments. It was a little difficult to keep my balance but I maintained enough to last there and after a few minutes I outlasted the surge and the waves began to subside. As the heavy surf rolled away I saw it diminish as it moved farther out, petering out just beyond my line of sight, rolling just past the buoys at the shoreís edge, It had been a long journey and while I wasnít precisely sure how much time had passed, when I looked around, I knew I had arrived at the right place.

Memories came flooding back to me and I remembered so much had occurred, but couldnít quite understand everything. I scanned around me and looked for any sign of her, but there was nothing, not even a ripple. I looked over the water back towards the distant islands and while some of them looked familiar, none of them seemed to match where we had been the previous day, it was a mystery how far we had traveled and where exactly that was. I was puzzled as to how she was able to vanish completely but knew why she had. No one else would really understand what had happened and sometimes, it was better to keep things to yourself. Other voices would only clutter and confuse things. More importantly, those steps had felt important but they werenít the only tasks that I needed to complete. I looked around and despite the relatively tranquil surroundings, I felt compelled to keep moving forward. I still felt there was plenty left to explore and figure out, the biggest mystery was what I would do first. With all that had happened, that decision wasnít as simple as it seemed, I took another deep breath and let the warm air inside me, slowly moving towards the edge of the diving board. As I reached the side, my weight caused it to tilt and slip underneath the waves. The unsteady platform took a moment for it to settle down. I waited for a moment and steadied myself. Crouching down, I watched the surface of the ocean and the mysterious deep, and knew it was my job to pursue even more hidden things beneath the surface. I stood up and felt the wind at my back and decided to go back in. The sun was still hot and there was plenty of time left, so I turned and jumped without hesitation. The water splashed and I found myself submerged under the waves once again.

I felt myself plunge below the waves and as I descended, I moved my arms and legs close towards my body to increase speed, there was no time to waste. I quickly felt my toes reach the bottom and I felt the thud of the surface as I contacted the mud.  It took me a few moments to adjust my eyes and when I looked around, the surroundings looked different. I saw things I hadnít noticed in my previous encounters, when I looked below I saw clusters of seaweed on the floor, covering up the mud below. There were large gaps that were clear with only soft sand. These were punctuated with small pebbles that slipped between my toes. As I moved quickly, I quickly reached areas that contained larger rocks, sharply dividing my steps. I looked up briefly and saw the sunlight shining in the distance, lighting things as I moved. I watched the waves above me and their diffuse light offered a strange protection that allowed me to move beneath unnoticed. I saw the outlines of the diving board in the distance and started to swim towards it. Something was drawing me back to its location, but I couldnít quite place what it was. I had been there so many times before during the summer, but I hadnít really examined it that closely. I wasnít in a rush but knew I had to get in and out of there quickly. The longer I was down there, the more I saw. There were many tiny striped fish swimming alongside me, and there were clusters of small hermit crabs crawling between the sea weed and I felt them pointing me forward in some way. They seemed to be pointing me to a specific location and I was seemingly being pulled in that direction. I kicked my legs behind me a thrust forward, further into the depths of the water.

My energy was getting a little low and I surfaced briefly to refill my air and take a rest. I looked around when I resurfaced and there seemed to be no one around, the waters were calm and the diving board seemed unmoved and sat patiently on the water, calmly awaiting my return. I was surprised that nobody else seemed to be looking for me, but maybe I shouldnít have. I wasnít sure how much time had passed, maybe days but also perhaps only minutes, I couldnít gauge how much the outside world missed me. I spun back around and took my breath in once again, though it seemed easier than it had. Quickly retracing my movements, I found myself directly underneath it at long last. I plunged lower and hit the bottom of the ocean again, my feet dragging on the muddy surface, scratching the rocks and seaweed as I made my path. The ocean above seemed deceptively calm, and I watched the shadow of the diving board, I hadnít noticed but its position seemed to be hiding something. I looked down once again and carefully surveyed the surrounding areas, it seemed a little darker and denser, like there was something there that I needed to see but I hadnít discovered yet. I scratched down into the mud and tried to uncover something but the only thing I found was more mud and dirt beneath layers of rock and clutter. It took a moment to realize but as I swam deeper, I noticed a strange occurrence I couldnít explain. I was able to hold my breath much longer than I had in the past, which allowed me to explore and dive for longer than I was expected. I had no idea how I was able to it, and I didnít really know why, but was happy for the added time I had to explore.

I scanned the depths more and couldnít really see what my goal was, but I kept moving forward into the mysterious task. I tried to maneuver underneath the board but I noticed that there were nets underneath it, blocking my movement forward. I tried to shale them loose, but they were anchored to the floor securely and I couldnít dislodge them enough to squeeze through. Getting out once inside looked like it would be an even bigger problem. I decided not to tempt fate and looked elsewhere and swam quickly to the other side of the structure to see if there was anything else to find. I was finally getting a little short of breath and jumped upward in a quick burst, holding onto the side of the platform for a moment while I caught my breath. I allowed the sun to dry off the top of my head and I listened for anything, but aside from a few distant seagulls, there was nothing to hear, the boats seemed to have been resting and the other people hadnít really arrived yet. I didnít mind the quiet and it helped me focus my energy. I looked out further into the water and I decided to look around and extended my search. I jumped off away from the platform and dove a little deeper into the water, skimming underneath the surface until I made a huge thrust back, moving many feet into the darker, choppier waters. Swimming at a faster pace I headed into the unknown section, wondering what I might find there. I looked down and changed position, charging into the surface head-first until I was close enough to examine the bottom once more. The surface was almost completely covered in rocks and their sharp edges seemed to purposely dissuade anyone from moving them or exploring them, but I wasnít going to be stopped. I decided to examine a section of them and started jostling them around, arranging them until I saw a pattern begin to emerge. As I moved them around, I could see that some of the rocks had a strangely triangular pattern that appeared when I looked at them closely. At first I couldnít understand what they meant, but as I drew closer, I recognized what they meant and saw that that they were pointing me to go even further. I kept swimming until I was well beyond past the buoys and its barriers. The sea began to get choppier and churned faster, its waves increasing in height and strength. It was hard to keep my head above water, but I kept going farther out until the platform was barely visible in the distance. It had been reduced to a mere glimmer on the surface, but I could still see its location. It was distant, but not too far away Ė I could still locate it and swim back easily if I needed to.

I decided that was as far as I would need to go. I took a moment to catch my breath and recharge my energy, and I watched my surroundings for any interlopers. No one was nearby, I saw no ships in the distance. I was alone and decided it was safe and isolated enough for me to dive down. I remembered where I was, a bit far at that point, but decided that was as good a place as any, I closed my eyes, held my arms at their sides and gasped for one more breath before plunging once more. I dove farther down than I expected, going deeper than I anticipated. The water pressure began to mount as I reached the bottom. My ears popped and flooded, and I could feel the weight on my legs and arms increasing. As I submerged, I tried to stay alert to the surroundings even though it became darker as I reached the lower depths. Finally, I felt my feet hit the sand once more and I felt the sharp rocks on my feet. I could barely make out the triangular formations which had become less prevalent more scattered but I could still follow them. I searched for something more and didnít see anything much down there at first, just the murky water. It was a bit rougher with faster currents, which made navigating the thickets of seaweed on the bottom more challenging. I felt a little lost between them and I decided to look around directly behind me. It was still dark but clearer in that direction, with little in my way. I looked around and saw some strange shadows ahead of me. I decided to move in that direction to find out more.

I couldnít explain how, but something seemed to be guiding me towards a specific location. I took another updraft and gulped in more air, then plunged downward back towards the same spot, kicking my feet quickly. I noticed that some of the rocks seemed to be reflecting the sun, giving me a kind of path. I followed it for a few feet and still didnít see anything special. I took a rest for a moment, and dug into the sand, grounding my feet for a moment, almost like I was standing, but not for too long. I held out my arms and moved deeper into the water swimming quickly to make progress. I was making good time until I reached an unexpected barrier. My way was blocked by a group of thick, overgrown marshy bushes that blocked the way forward. They were taller than I was but as I drew closer, they seemed to have an opening, they were almost string-like and porous. I could easily slip through them with little effort. I moved towards them and saw pockets of air bubbles flowing upward just beyond them, This was a good sign and I swam forward, pushing them aside with my hands. When I emerged from the bushes, I was surprised to see some strange sights. Streams of air bubbles circulated around, rushing up from the deep surface pushing me into their direction. I tried to grab them but they just popped in my fingers, but getting a little short of time, I opened my mouth and was able to swallow just enough to extend my time a little longer. I moved forward with renewed energy and I turned a corner, and discovered something strange as I swam downward, reaching deeper into the ocean. It was the last thing I expected to see.

(Continue to page two)