Shallow Waters

A flash fiction for the WC #42 contest. Haven't written in eons, so feel free to jump at my piece and offer some helpful critique!

P.S. If you enjoy the story, please leave a comment and/or vote.

Chapter 1

Samantha closed her eyes and leaned back as far as possible. The rope was raw in her hands; it stretched and groaned and creaked under her weight. The slim tree it was attached to sighed with effort.

“Let go of the rope, Sam!”

Letting go meant falling, plummeting into the cold water below. It meant being enveloped by it, being pushed down towards the underwater ground and feeling pebbles scrape against her skin. It meant seeing the sun get clouded by the white and blue of the lake. It meant feeling her throat tighten in fear. It meant seeing her father’s flailing arms again, hearing her mother’s panicked shouts – occasionally interrupted as the harsh sea washed over her – and children wailing for their siblings or parents.

With a gasp, Samantha opened her eyes again and gripped the rope more tightly. It chafed against the tender inside of her palms and the bare rolls of her stomach. One of her classmates, presumably newbie Jack, laughed at the clumsy deed. Everyone else was silent.

“Sam,” Mr. Simmons repeated, attempting to soothe her, “it’s fine. The water isn’t deep. Just let go of the rope.”

“I can’t,” she said, her voice an off-key tremble. The green-blue below her danced in the sun’s light, throwing turquoise shadows over the surrounding trees. It was bizarrely stunning.

Her teacher waded into the water, judging by the sloshing sounds behind her. His broad hands were warm and heavy on her shoulders. “Samantha, let go of the rope. I’ve got you.”

She hesitated, her grasp loosening slightly. “I’m scared.”

Mr. Simmons wavered for a moment. Samantha knew he was thinking of all those newspaper articles, the ones about Thailand and the tsunami; of the day when she’d returned to school and her parents weren’t there, and everyone had watched her with quiet fear. After all, what could they say that hadn't already been said? What apologies could they offer that hadn't already been uttered? What comfort could they give that she hadn't already been smothered in?

“The water is shallow,” he merely repeated. “I’ve got you.”

Samantha closed her eyes and let herself fall. There was a sickening slap as she hit the surface and then sank deep, deep down. The water rushed in her ears, a chiming laughter very different from the loud, murderous rushing of the sea that had come into the land and stolen people like they were cheap toys to play with.

I’m broken, Samantha thought, just like she’d thought when she’d tumbled and tumbled through the all-consuming ocean. Her legs felt as though they’d snapped in two again. I’m broken.

Her feet found the bottom of the lake when strong hands hoisted her up. Mr. Simmons, despite his now soaked-through clothing, beamed at her, and with him a dozen others that had crowded around them. Everyone was touching her. Hands were on her shoulders, her hips, her head, fighting to interweave fingers with hers.

“See?” he said. “You’re safe. We’ve got you.”


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