A Nighttime Swim

Hey, I got no intention of dying today.

Most people don’t, but it still happens.

Ella pulled her attention away from the sarcastic voice in her head and concentrated on swimming. She’d struck out from the island strongly at first, but the water was colder than she was used to. Sure, back home she could have swum this and not fretted over it, but this wasn’t the warm river back home. Here the water was chilling her to the bone, and she was resolutely not thinking about sharks.

I’m thinking about sharks, continued the unhelpful voice in her head. Vividly. Would you like me to share with the class?

Leave me alone, I’m concentratin’, Ella snapped mentally.

We’re going the wrong direction, the snide masculine tones informed her. Ella swore, choked on sea water, spluttered, splashed, and found her rhythm again after a few heart-stopping minutes. She pushed on, doing her best to seem matter-of-fact with her swimming and not panicked. Not thinking about sharks.

Sorry, said the masculine voice.

Sure you are, Paul, Ella thought snidely.

I don’t want to die.

So let me get us out of here. We had to get off that island, didn’t we? Away from that man? Teacher my stinky left foot.

We could have stowed away on a boat.

They’re ships, and everyone tries to stow away on the ships. They’re searched. You know that.

Everything sounds like a better idea when the other option is being eaten by a shark, Ella. Even going back to the island and taking our chances with our ‘teacher.’

It was true, swimming back the other direction there was less water to cross and they’d be swimming with the current, not against it. It would be easier. Ella tried not to be tempted. She tried so hard not to be tempted she wasn’t thinking about what was happening, when her limbs stopped responding to her.

Paul? Paul!

I’m taking us home, Ella. Go to sleep.

swearing and struggling, Ella slipped back into the quiet recesses of their mind to wait out the swim back to the school