The next few days were the epitome of bliss for Sean. He got up late, bathed in the sea, reacquainted himself with Guzzy, got his hair cut, and ate junk food like it wasn’t bad for him. Somewhere in the middle of their second week, Sean got a call from his friends saying they were coming down to the sea by him for a day and if he wanted to join them. Of course, he said yes.
So, it was on a hot Thursday mid-morning, Sean found himself sitting on one of the outer rocks of one of the pools at the foot of the cliffs, watching as some of his friends played tag in the water. He had been bathing earlier and had just pulled himself onto the rock for rest and to bask in whatever heat came into the cool pool. His friends soon tired of the game and most of them pulled themselves up on surrounding rocks. After a few minutes though, one of his friends, Cady, slipped down on the other side of the rocks, out of the pool and into the open sea.
“Come on!” he said, “Let’s see who can swim out the furthest here.”
Some of the guys instantly agreed and slipped back into the water. Sean stayed where he was, watching them lazily.
“Aren’t you going Sean?” asked Melissa.
Sean shook his head. “If my mother finds out, and she will, she’ll skin me alive.”
“Really?” laughed Melissa, “And you’re scared of that? Aren’t you the mama’s boy!”
Sean grinned at her. Melissa hadn’t been with their group long as she and Cady had only gotten together a few weeks ago. Thus, she didn’t know Sean’s mother as well as the rest of them.
“With a mom like mine,” he said, “that’s a compliment.”
“Besides,” said Marcus, “no one messes with his mom. She probably really will skin him alive so it’s best if he does what she says.”
“Keep calm and obey Sean’s mom!” about half of them chorused. Sean laughed.
“Pretty much!” he said.
Melissa looked surprised. “Honestly?”
“Yup!” said Nick cheerfully.
“Besides guys,” said Sean, “you know doing that is dangerous. Inside the pool, we don’t get the undertow so much but outside the rocks, you can get dragged under and bashed against all the other rocks out there. I wouldn’t do it, even if I could.”
“Oh come on Sean! You worry too much!” said Cady and with that he swam off. The others hesitated and then followed, but at a slower pace.
Sean sat up and watched them carefully. He was worried. He himself was a good swimmer, yet he knew the undertow might be too strong even for him. And then there was the other little problem that made him even less inclined to try it. The fact that he couldn’t float. Oh, he did everything like he was supposed to, but his body refused to float. It was almost as if he was too heavy for the air in his lungs to keep him up. When he tried the dead man’s float, he sunk, he couldn’t even get into the position for the back float before he sank, he tried the jellyfish float and sank like a stone. Generally, it didn’t bother him. So long as he kept his legs moving, he stayed above water quite fine. He could even do the backstroke like a pro, but floating, floating was beyond him. He had never told his mom though; for fear that she might ground him from the beach forever.
He watched as the other guys reached a certain point and then they all just sort of bobbed there for a while, refusing to go any further. Then Cady started swimming further out, toward the next barrier of visible rocks. The others didn’t go though. Cady almost reached them but then turned around and started swimming back. Sean rested back on his rock and relaxed slightly, relieved that he was coming back. A few seconds later though, he heard a shout. He sat up quickly and saw that the other boys were swimming toward Cady who appeared to be having difficulty in the water.
Sean said some words that would have his grandmother washing his mouth out with soap and slipped into the water and started swimming as fast as he could towards them. He caught up with them a little after they had reached Cady. They grabbed his arms and pulled him up, allowing his head to break the surface. He gasped for breath and then went under again. Sean was frantic, as was everyone else. They got his head above water again and then Nick went around him and held him from behind in the classic lifeguard position. But the boys weren’t out of trouble yet.
The strong undertow and current had them all now and they were almost on the rocks. Sean, thinking fast, went behind Nick, placed his hands on his back, and kicked like a madman. The others saw the sense in that and they did the same, fighting to break free of the current.
The plan worked. In a sense. They eventually shot forward. However, as they did so, Markus lost his hold on Nick and was left behind. Sean gave a few more hard kicks to propel Nick and the others to safety and then turned back and went for Markus.
Markus was already being dragged under. Sean dived for him, had to fight not to be dashed against some rocks, and eventually reached him. He grabbed him by the waist and kicked for the surface. Due to the two boys’ efforts and an outstanding performance by adrenaline they broke the surface. They kicked frantically once more and almost made it out. Sean gave Markus a large push forward, as much as one could push in water, and he broke free. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for Sean. He had lost his rhythm when he had pushed Markus and now the undertow grabbed him. He flailed about for a few moments and then he went under.
He found himself being turned head over heels somehow and then he lost all sense of direction for a moment. He panicked and kicked as hard as he could but made no progress as far as he knew. Just when he thought he would never reach the surface again, he felt something grab him, propelled him forward until he felt the current lessen, and then pushed him upwards. His head broke the surface and he gasped for air. Instantly other hands grabbed him and dragged him to safety.
They clambered up on the rocks forming the pool and lay there, gasping for breath. Sean coughed up some water but other than that and being frightened out of his wits, he was fine. The others were as well, although equally frightened. Melissa was hovering over an exhausted Cady while the other girls who were with them, were hovering over Markus.
“You okay man?” Nick asked Sean worriedly.
“Yeah,” Sean managed to say.
“You sure? I mean you went under too, for a bit. I thought you were a goner. Then you just came up all of a sudden. I don’t even know how you got that far away from the rocks.”
“Me either,” said Sean. His brow creased as he contemplated his strange survival. All the other guys were where he came up. None of them had been close enough to save him. If so, then, what was it, that had pushed him out of the current and to the surface?
“Sean you okay?” a female voice asked.
Sean turned his head to see Treela bobbing in the water next to his rock. Treela had been one of his friends for a long time.
He gave a tired grin. “See what happens when I don’t listen to my mother?” he told her.
The worried look on her face faded somewhat and she managed to crack a smile.
“Yeah,” she said, “you’re okay.”
“Actually,” Sean told her, “I’m probably gonna start shaking soon when the adrenaline wears off.”
“Then let’s get you guys out of the water,” she said and everyone agreed.
When Sean got home, he said absolutely nothing about their harrowing experience to his mother and prayed fervently that she wouldn’t use whatever psychic power that was at the dispersal of parents to find out that something had gone wrong. When she asked about his day, he only told her about the good parts and hoped he put on a pretty convincing picture. Apparently, he did though, because she didn’t seem to notice that anything was wrong.
They stayed up chatting for some time and then they both went up to bed. Sean didn’t go to sleep right away though. Instead, he sat by his window, listening to the waves crash upon the shore with wild and reckless abandon, breathing in the fresh, salt air, and thinking about what had happened that day. He was sure that something had pushed him to safety and the surface. Of course, in his almost drowned state, he could have just been imagining things, but he was sure that what he had felt was real. He sat there trying to sort out his memories of the time and eventually fell asleep.
Sometime, just after midnight, Sean, still asleep, got up and stood by his window, listening to something. Then, swaying unsteadily, he sleep-walked his way out of the house and onto the beach. He walked straight towards the water and then stopped. The sound of the waves seemed to be obscuring the sound and Sean wanted to go towards the sound. He turned to his left and began walking along the water’s edge, trying to get to a place where he could hear the sound properly. His path took him all the way to the beach where he had been bathing at earlier and all the way to the foot of the cliff. Sean paused at the foot of the cliffs, apparently trying to decide if going down to the pools would bring the sound closer or if going up the cliff might. Finally, he took a few steps either way. The cliff won.
Sean continued in his staggering gait all the way to the top of the cliff and then breathed a sigh of contentment. Here above everything, the sound, no, song, came clearly over the water. It called to him. It called to the blood in his veins, to something lodged deep within him. It tugged at him, tugged at his heart. It was beautiful, haunting, irresistible. He had to get to it. He had to get to the song. Without further hesitation, Sean swayed-walked to the edge of the cliff and then he simply took another step and fell off. Halfway down, he woke up.
The only thing he saw was the water below him, dotted with grinning rocks rushing up at him. He didn’t even have time to think much of anything. He felt when his body impacted the water. He didn’t feel anything else after that.