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The water is so frigid it’s crushing, the bubbles pushed through my nose scurrying away to the cold white sun splatted on the surface above. Brilliant shafts of broken light stab down through the gloom, just beyond the reach of my outstretched arms. Is this the kind of light flatlining people edge towards before being resuscitated on the operating table? If I move into it, will I die? No matter, I’m at peace now. All my accumulated torments, the pain the guilt, falling away like iron filings from a neutralized magnet, they fall with the crucifix I yank from my neck, they fall with the wedding band I twist from my finger, disappearing down into the freezing murk between my slowly egg-beating feet. Tilting my head back up to the light, closer and dazzling now, I’m ready. But there is the end of the dock swimming into view, waving arms and muffled shouts, familiar faces deformed by ripples. Blood thudding in my scalp, I cleave the water until I break through the surface, gasping and spluttering, the crisp December air raking my starved lungs.
“Paul!” cries Phoebe, dropping to her knees and reaching for me, “Help me get him out!” she barks at Dylan who’s standing there shivering in nothing but briefs, presumably Phoebe’s prior instruction to him being, “Get in there and get him out!” Dani is gawking, shotgun dangling at her side, behind her Lucy doubled over, impossible to ascertain whether the sound coming out of her is witch laughter or terror squeaking. “Now Dylan! He’s going under again!”
It’s true, I realize. I am going under again and, picturing my lifeless body settling into the black weeds and slime at the bottom of the lake where my ring and necklace lie, the panic swells. “I didn’t mean it, I’m not ready!” I gargle through a mouthful of fish water and, with a final adrenaline burn, kick with all my might and lunge for the dock. I miss and fall forward heavily, thrashing at the relentless water I’m starting to breathe, when Dylan’s hand appears from nowhere, bracelets flashing, and seizes my wrist in a grip so tight, so unbreakable, my arm would come out before the lake took me back. The last thing I remember through the other hands coming down out of the sky and hauling me up is thinking, are those little butterflies on Dylan’s briefs?
To be continued…
*Previous chapters of The Angle of Attack are available at: http://bit.ly/2u7rqcL
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