Learning from Experience

We sat on what we could, finding perches on the gunwale and a pile of crates in the bow, and shoved off, our guide pushing the boat through the shallows before climbing aboard.  As we sailed away from the island, the sun slowly sank, and finally disappeared behind the trees.  It grew dark, and our guide passed the trip telling us that he had never known anything but this job, and this boat, and this water.  He took various travelers out for fishing and night swimming on the reef, and had done nothing else for all the decades of his memory.  There were four of us, total, including a young couple on their first trip together.  We were each armed with a pair of fins, snorkels and masks, and a waterproof spotlight, and with that measly kit, we slipped into the black water.  The infinite darkness was only cut by the constantly moving shafts of light, our individual lines of sight in the water, and everywhere it was illuminated was awash with a rainbow of nocturnal creatures scampering and drifting about.  I watched as the couple swam off in their own direction, and played games with each other, quickly learning not to light each others faces, at the risk of lingering blindness.

It was peacefully silent as our lights moved across the underwater scape, exposing its mysteries a tiny bit at a time.  Following a brightly colored crab across a rock, I was suddenly shaken by the unmistakeable sound of a scream, under water.  I spun in my place, my light whipping around in time to help illuminate my guide.  He was a few yards behind me, his spotlight clutched against his chest.  The shaft of light that should have extended far away from him was curtailed a mere foot from its source, barely illuminating more than the face of the bull shark that had found him.  Unmoved by his scream, the beast took its time, slowly swimming up to, and then past his spotlight, still held to his chest by petrified hands.  Displaying its enormous size one terrifying foot at a time, the shark then deftly slipped from the four spotlights shakily attempting to light it, and disappeared into the darkness, scarcely two seconds from when it had first been spotted.

Four people then levitated out of the water and ran thirty feet across its surface to the sailboat. That’s how I remember it, at least.


~ by horizonmanifest on June 2011.

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