by Elous Telma
Chapter 11: Frank’s Sea Visions
A while later, Frank found himself in the tropics. He didn’t go with the organized tour; instead, he went into the forest alone to experience the flora, fauna, and adventure as he thought he should. He was surrounded by tall trees and all sorts of plants, but he kept close to the beach. It helped him to keep the water element close by.
There were frogs and bugs and a myriad of interesting creatures to watch. Frank’s mind was immersed in the “memories” of this enriched environment, and he was enjoying the feeling of wonder it gave him. That was until he heard a fracas and screams coming from deeper inside the forest.
A large group of indigenous people holding spears were running towards him. In panic, he started running towards the sea; he had no time to take off his backpack. Jumping over fallen branches and roots and pushing away foliage, he knew these people would soon catch up with him, and the noise kept getting louder and louder.
He made it to the sandy beach, which he remembered as a narrow, desolate one, about 50 meters in width. But this was a much larger beach, maybe two hundred meters of sand. There were small wooden boats along it.
Had he become disoriented in the forest and travelled to another part of the beach than the one he had initially seen? Be that as it may, he needed all the strength in his legs to get him into the water. But then what?
He tried to move one of the boats, but one man would need to work for several minutes to push it into the water. And it would move slowly on the water anyway; it was designed for more than one oarsman.
Enter the sea, then we see, he thought. If needed, drowning under the weight of his oversized backpack could be considered an acceptable option, given the circumstances.
Past the last row of boats, he was a few meters from the small breaking waves with a herd of madmen behind him. Some were already lifting the boats, while others were going after Frank. No spears were launched, and this is what worried Frank the most. Why did they want him alive? What did they have in mind for him?
As his front foot touched wet sand, he was already accepting a relatively fast demise by drowning. Then he saw the sand drying out. The drying continued. When his other foot reached what should have been water-immersed sand, the patch of sand was dry. The waters had moved back, and a narrow, dry path was cleared for him.
He kept running at full speed and, as he did, more and more water receded in front of him and closed in behind him. From afar, he looked like a frantic Moses, going farther and farther into the sea and yet remaining bone-dry. He glanced back and saw that the dry patch extended only a few meters around him and that the water was returning to cover the earlier part of his path.
Then he was running on the sea floor, meters below the surface, and there was water over his head. He was inside a bubble of air, forming a dome all around him, a few meters wide in all directions.
Frank took a quick glimpse behind him and saw people swimming towards the bubble and boats already moving rapidly towards him. He kept going, with his backpack strapped on him, not letting it go as he now saw new survival options where its contents could help him pull through.
He could run faster than the indigenous people could swim. The swimmers were being picked up by boats. They were moving straight and fast across the surface, while Frank had more distance to cover on the downward-sloping sea floor.
After a while, the boats were almost twenty or thirty meters directly above him. The floor didn’t seem to be getting much deeper for some distance; Frank decided to assess the situation and make sure no one was diving after him. He could clearly see the silhouettes of three boats, but couldn’t tell if they had sent divers. He breathed as deeply as he could to re-oxygenate himself for another sprint. Then he saw a splash next to one of the boats and realized a diver had been sent, probably for reconnaissance.
The diver was approaching him fast, with no equipment other than a spear. Frank walked backwards, adding some distance between them. The diver adjusted his route. Frank jogged backwards. He felt he would be no match for the armed diver. He looked around and saw no other divers.
The diver kept coming, and Frank wondered why he didn’t seem as bewildered as he was at what was happening. Yet, he realized, he probably didn’t look bewildered either; circumstances required complete focus on action. Frank moved further backwards. Then the diver stopped and started to surface, obviously in need of air.
This was an important little victory for Frank. He didn’t want to drown and he wanted to escape the threat. As the diver swam upwards, Frank thought that a bubble of air extending from below the diver’s feet all the way to his chest would impede him from moving closer to the surface and prevent him from getting fresh air.
And such bubble appeared, causing the diver enormous panic. Struggling to move towards the surface, Frank could bring the bubble downwards towards the sea floor and the diver with it. In a desperate attempt to breathe, the diver turned his head towards the bubble trying to breathe it in. Then, Frank made the bubble implode, leaving just fine foam like a soda fizzing after ice cubes are dumped into it. The bubbles quickly dissipated and traveled upwards.
The diver was left with almost no oxygen in his lungs, thirty meters or so under the surface, just meters away from Frank. Exhhausted, he didn’t even try to swim to Frank. He watched Frank easily back away. A few convulsions and the lifeless body of the diver sank to the sea floor, gently moving with the mild currents. Another small victory.
Neither Frank nor his pursuers could possibly explain these unprecedented phenomena, of course. The unlucky diver was the ultimate victim of this bizarre situation, but Frank still had no idea why all these people were hunting him.
The boats, now numbering dozens, were gathering over his head. He started running again for a few hundred meters, until the depth of the water increased considerably. He waited, and the boats gathered again. He formed a large bubble underneath the boats. The spherical shape of the bubble made the boats crash into each other and sink. Frank moved back to avoid them. Then he pulled the bubble and boats all the way to the sea floor.
The fall alone killed many, the crashing debris others, and whoever made it drowned soon after Frank dissipated the bubble. In true stoic form, Frank had been pro-active and thoughtful — as much as the confounding circumstances allowed.
A few minutes later, when clearly all the warriors had perished, he went to investigate the wreckage. There was nothing there to help him understand their motives. Just broken boats, dead people, and spears. He hardly expected to find any manifestoes.
Frank had no interest in getting out of the water; it seemed to provide him a formidable advantage. He chose to continue walking on the sea floor, the safest place he could find. He knew where civilization was: the bus trip had taken him about a hundred and fifty kilometers. He wouldn’t get lost; he needed only infer where the shore was by the sea floor rising upwards towards it.
He didn’t want to be in very deep waters because light does not penetrate far. He knew he would probably need to stop at night, although the moon might help him orient himself. He was able to walk at a pace of approximately five kilometers an hour.
Frank estimated that he had a good fifty kilometers per day in him. He would be out in three days or so. He had enough supplies for the trip. He also had material to start a fire to boil some water and distill it into containers, should he need to. He even figured out how to fish. He could use his fishing gear by casting the hook sideways, straight on into the water. But the easiest way was to trap a fish into another bubble of air. He would be fine.
It was a long way he had to cover, but it was impossible to get bored with it. His fascination was due not only to the uniqueness of the situation and the visual wonders but mostly to the feeling of safety and coziness that it provided him. He had been able to annihilate an entire war party.
He took his time and chose not to walk at night. At sundown, he would comfortably prepare for sleeping. He even created a little mound of sand to place his feet on in a slightly elevated position and make sure he would be as ready as possible for the walk the next day. He could live in such a place.
Finally, the town was easy to spot from underwater; all its lights were visible from a distance. It was even easier to hear. Motorboats were noisily entering and exiting the port all the time. He placed his ear onto the water wall to hear better. Then he waited until 4:00 a.m. and came out of the water about a kilometer away from the town, so as not to be seen. He left town and returned home as quickly as he could.
Copyright © 2015 by Elous Telma