Wake up with a start, face crumpled into the pattern of the junction between my elbows and my jumper. Wipe the greasy patch on my cheek, I’ve been drooling again. Eyes adjust to the lack of light; since I was last coherent it seems the sun has been sluiced out of the sky by rain. Stiff back, legs jerk apart and unfold, elbows protest at the sudden uncurling. Throat hesitates; voice has slipped down past my stomach. How long was I asleep for? Shiver.
Strange sound. Dull roar, thudding and crashing. Like a headache magnified. Feel damp. Oh God! Floor is flooded. Water eddies around ankles, swirls around chair legs. How did I sleep through this? A teacup with a lizard curled inside it floats past. Its jewel green eyes and flashes of blue tongue give no clues. Lizard wriggles out of teacup and into my pocket. Her dry scales make a dull rasping sound as she coils around herself like a cat. A fabulously patterned snake is elegantly winding around my leg. Tickles as she works her way into my jacket and up my sleeve. She seems to be purring as she knots herself around my throat like a necklace.
Water level rising. Heavy thudding sound echoes. Door starts to creak and bulge. Hinges complain quietly at first. The lock strains and gives way with a sigh. There is a pause and what feels like an enormous inhalation.
You feel it before you can hear or see it.
First the white fringes, then the pale green foam, the icy blue swell and last the slate bulge roll through the door way. Heave and recede, mix in with the ankle deep puddle on the floor. Seamless. Inhale, repeat.
Waist high now and rising. Skin prickles. The sound is all muddled, Outside seems muted and hollow, inside my head is all crashing and squeals. Dark water rises. The current quickens and carries with it a tangle of twisted stockings, odd shoes and lacy petticoats rendered transparent like lithe jellyfish.
Shoulder high and rising fast. Ruined books flash past, ink sliding off as words collide on swelling pages.
Follow the procession of my earthly possessions out with the strengthening current.
Crashing sound inside my ears intensifies. Feel the blood pounding inside my head. Take the last breath as the first white fringes fracture over my face.
All in slow motion; lifted, carried, spun around. Holding tight to the precious pearl of air in my mouth. Flashing light and dark. Upside becomes rightside becomes underside. Time drags then crams like a fist pulling back and punching into jelly. Solemnly lucid thought; I didn’t think it would be like this.
Swirling slows and then stops. My feet are dragging on the bottom. Is the water grey or is everything that colour around here? Look up. I must be very far down; light from above seems so far away. The surface appears choppy and splinters the glow like handfuls of diamonds flung onto granite. Sound has become a feeling, the echo and roar played out inside the gap inside my ribs.
Shouldn’t I be dying?
Try and take a step forward. My foot raises a cloud of swirling dust but no forward motion. So thick and solid, feels more like oil than water.
Push hands forward, surprised by the pale grey luminescence of my hands. Pull myself forward on any available outcropping; door handle, chair leg. Every now and again the current will pull my feet up and have me suspended upside down like a lethargic acrobat.
I can feel a wriggle in my pocket. A lizard shaped head presses into my side. My necklace strokes my cheek reassuringly.
I have heard when you drown that it feels peaceful. The lack of oxygen makes you sleepy and relaxed. A sudden flashback to a distant holiday aeons ago; waves, sand, explosion, rolling under and over; indeed I remember the peculiar juxtaposition of calmness and total blackness before the roar and the spluttering.
Strange serenity, but not the blackness, no roaring and no balloons bursting inside my chest. Just the sound of the swelling and receding inside my ears and the sense of being encased like an insect in honey.
Perhaps I have died and this is the last few minutes of my brain.
So I wait. Shouldn’t I be having flash backs or some kind of epiphany? Where is the tunnel with the light and the booming voice? Feel vexed and somehow cheated at the unspectacular nature of my passing. Worried for a second that my life was so boring that it flashed past and I missed it.
Maybe I am not dying.
I take a look around. Strain to make out shapes in this seemingly eternal aquatic gloaming. Slowly at first and then with rapidity, shadows assemble into objects and subtleties appear in this monochromatic landscape. I am in a large paved city square, surrounded by stately buildings. There is a flagpole in the centre; but the flag has been torn from it. I must be so far underwater; even the tops of the buildings seem dwarfed by the wall of steel blue water rising above it. There are wide avenues and boulevards, colonnades and ornate carving.