William rubbed the crust out of his eyes as he stumbled through the gate behind most of his team. Groggy eyes peeked out from hoodies as the boys mumbled greetings on their way to the locker room. The black sky gave no hint of the approaching dawn. The cold white concrete of the floor and building created a slight shiver in William as he crossed the threshold. Warm layers were regretfully peeled off until only thin speedos remained.
The morning walk from the locker room to the pool was a rite of pain and passage. A bitter wind stung the boys’ bare skin as feet shuffled quickly across the cold concrete. William wrapped his arms around his torso and rubbed in an attempt to warm himself.
A gravelly voice called out snidely, “Had a good break fish?” William sighed and closed his eyes in annoyance as he recognized the voice. “Did’ja hear me fish?” said Brock, a blonde haired sneering boy who strolled towards William. An unusual scent of salt caused William’s nose to wrinkle. He wanted to turn to investigate whether the smell was coming from the pool but Brock was in front of him and William knew better than to turn in front of an enemy.
“D’ya really think you’re gonna start in my event again this year little fish?” whispered Brock dangerously. “Last year you took all the best events because you’re supposed to be some kind of prodigy. Well? What are you waiting for?” And without waiting for an answer stepped forward with eyes red and palms cold to shove William’s chest hard. “Get back to work little fish.” followed William as his body flailed backwards and plunged into the water.
William kept his eyes shut tight and stayed underwater for as possible so that he could delay the jeers. The scent of salt seemed to pervade even here underwater-maybe someone had dropped some in by accident or decided to change over but somehow William didn’t think so; the school pool had always been chlorine. His lungs began to burn slightly so he kicked upwards towards the surface.
The moment his head broke the surface towards fresh air he knew that several of his senses must be wrong. Firstly, there couldn’t be seagulls at school, they lived hundreds of miles from the ocean and there were clearly two flying right above him. Secondly, his nose insisted on telling him that the pool was saltwater and his mouth was left with a briny aftertaste. Lastly, that he should be no longer in his school’s half Olympic size pool but what seemed to be in the middle of some great body of water with no land in sight.
Panic threatened to overwhelm him as he struggled to maintain his treading water and sputtering water. How in the world did he come to be here? Maybe he had hit his head on the pool floor and was now in a coma. He pinched himself in an attempt to test this theory and indeed felt a sharp pain on his upper forearm. So much for that. A mounting feeling of fear filled William as he swam frantically in circles trying to decide on a course of action. Then he stopped spinning and shut his eyes as he had done under the water.
Slowly, William’s breathing normalized as he focused on what he could do. This was clearly not a dream or some sort of hallucination. Somehow, he had been dropped into an unknown ocean to die. This thought fledged itself at the forefront of William’s mind and caused his fear to transform into an angry rebellious attitude towards all those concerned. At who or whatever had caused him to be in this predicament. At Brock for his hate. At himself for thinking that he would die. So he did the only thing one can do in such a situation: He swam forward.
The sea of life can be an unknown and frightening place but you should make the swim forward rather than piddling in circles in your pool of a comfort zone.