Not Drowning But Waving

April 12, 2009

The world beyond the windshield was green and glowing, but it’d be awhile before Nora would notice.
Her old VW ended its careening tear down that remote Cape Cod road by bursting through a whitewashed wooden gate and rolling off the dock into the waters of Capstan Lake. Just minutes before, the Sleep overtook Nora. Now she sat, slumped behind the wheel as the car plowed into the depths.
Spasms of surging water kept poking through the not-quite-airtight seam along the driver’s side door, tapping the left side of her head like insistent wet fingers until she awoke from her narcolepsy. Her eyes fluttered open fully: The absence of a road, horizon line, or land of any kind momentarily mesmerised her. If not for the intrusion of the water spatters, she would have nodded off again.
The headlights of her Bug meekly nudged their way through the water before fading out in a few flickers. Tendrils of watergrass and amphibious plants danced lazily before their unexpected spotlight completely died, and Nora realized that she was underwater.
Mere seconds had ticked by, but they seemed to run on into infinity as she noted the alien world she’d literally been submerged in. Once the headlights shorted, luminescence sketched its way through the surface of the lake far above her; moonlight and light from nearby homes, she half-reasoned as she slowly moved her head forward and out of the way of the spurts of water pelting her head. The kelly-green liquid now jetted past the back of her head and pelted the passenger seat head rest.
Somewhere in her mind she remembered watching an old segment on the local news that instructed viewers on exiting a submerged vehicle. The banal, helmet-haired reporter said that thousands of pounds of water pressure made opening a door of a submerged car impossible, but that you could roll down (or break completely) a window, let the car fill completely with water, and then exit. Good thing she paid attention to the news that night, Nora noted with a dazed chuckle.
The VW’s windows rolled manually, so she wouldn’t have to try to break them. Curiously, Nora felt no sense of panic: She was in no hurry to escape. Maybe it was the restful green beauty of the lake bed surrounding her, the carpet of plant life swaying ‘neath the fragmented hints of surface light in the most lulling of rhythms. Or maybe it was the fact that there just wasn’t anything on the surface that she was that eager to return to in the first place.
Oddly relaxed, she traced her left middle finger around the circular-imprinted plastic knob of the windshield roller. Water filled the cab halfway up her shins now, and her feet had long stopped being cold and uncomfortable in their immersion. The pulsing water forced its way through the driver’s side seam more intensely, and another jabbing finger of water pushed through the upper portion of the left passenger window. Nora’s left hand encircled the knob while she unbuckled her seatbelt with her right. She gulped a deep breath in, and began rolling down the window.
The lake’s lifeblood rushed into the cab, filling the car completely in a few seconds. Her eyes adjusted to the silty water quicker than she expected, and she could clearly see the bed of the lake through the now-open driver’s side window. Complete silence but for the gentle pressurized throb of water surrounded her. Two stray air bubbles floated up from her nostrils, and she watched them ascend and refract the moonlight from far above. How far above, she couldn’t tell yet.
Nora relaxed her body, and without struggle floated out the Volkswagen’s window. A small school of fish moved out of her path with nonplussed, leisurely grace. She felt so peaceful right now, and the universe encasing her was so quiet and lovely, that she didn’t want to surface.
The water stirred the moonlight, sending shafts of white brillance strafing all over the hood and roof of the VW. The car’s primered-bronze paint looked unearthly. The watergrass and mosses conformed around the underbelly and tires of the car, and as her natural buoyancy continued to pull her upward Nora swore she could see those organisms dragging the car deeper, devouring the vehicle beneath the silt. She smiled, and time slowed to a submissive crawl as she continued her drift through the lake water to the top.
Somewhere in the abstract, a part of Nora’s psyche regarded her body’s ascent and noted that she was probably a good fifty feet underwater. Her lungs nestled and stored her gulp of air all the way up. She reckoned that she’d miss the quiet alien paradise that was spitting her out. She didn’t want to leave.
The last ten feet saw her slender form shoot up at its fastest, balls of bubbled air machine-gunning out of her nose and ricocheting all down her body until her head finally broke the water’s surface. She inhaled, deep but steady, when she hit the open air.
Back to reality, she thought regretfully. But maybe the water would take her back again soon if she wished hard enough.


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