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Chapter 26

Saturday, March 17th, 2029


I wake up, the taste of salt water rushes down my throat and I’m struggling for air. My body is floating, but then it comes to me that I’m in water. My lungs burn as they try to get air, but the water keeps rushing in. I look above me and see light shining down, it’s the surface. I swim up as fast as I can, my vision filling with darkness once more, but I break the surface just in time and I’m coughing what seems to be a lung out. My breath comes in short interrupted spurts.

The sun shines down on me bright, it’s kind of overbearing. I have to keep one eye shut just to keep from going blind. I look around me and see land off in the distance in front of me and to my right. My left and behind me only show more water extending for what seems like eternity. I keep kicking my feet to keep above the water’s surface, but then it hits me that I’m all alone.

“Iris?” I look around me and see nobody else gasping for air around me. “Iris?!” I call out, even louder. Fuck.

I take a deep breath, not caring how much it burns inside and dive down. I open my eyes and look around me under the waves. It’s mostly dark, so I swim a little deeper, my body aching from all of the excess salt in my system. Even if I don’t need food I still need oxygen to breathe. I go deeper and then I see a shimmer of red hair. I look above me and thank any and every primordial deity above for letting it be a sunny day outside.

I swim deeper and deeper, trying to catch up with the now quickly sinking body of Iris. My lungs are beginning to fail me once more. I reach my arm down and I manage to grasp onto her outstretched arm. The second I feel contact I turn my head upwards and begin kicking my feet harder than I’ve ever done so. I look back down at her, her eyes are closed, she isn’t moving. I turn back and keep on swimming.

Come on, just a little bit farther. Come on!

I keep swimming and the ten yards from us to the surface turns to five and then two and then we both break through the surface. My lungs gasp for air a second time, the air enters and gives its sweet relief. I pull Iris close to me, she’s still not moving. Fuck, how am I supposed to do anything about this here? I’m in the middle of scenic nowhere and I have to work twice as hard to keep us both afloat.

I keep her head above water, making sure the slow waves don’t take her down again. Looking around, the mainland is probably a four minute swim, maybe longer since I’m not a single swimmer. I reach for her wrist quickly, thinking to check her pulse. It’s faint, but there’s definitely something beating there. I have no choice, I have to try to keep her breathing while I get to land. I have to try to perform CPR here in the water. I lift her head up once more and try not to panic.

Okay, I can’t really push down on her chest with how we’re kind of floating in the water, so I’ll just have to- No, quit thinking about it, just do it! I plug her nose, so the air doesn’t escape through them as I try to bring air back into her lungs. I take a deep breath as I go in and give two deep breaths into her mouth.

Her lips are so soft-No, absolutely worst time to be thinking about this. It’s not important. Okay, I’m supposed to do it again every five seconds if I remember right. I also begin kicking with my legs to get some momentum towards the mainland.

One, two, three, four, five.

I repeat.

One, two, three, four, five.

The mainland is coming ever closer, slowly but surely.

I repeat.

One, two, three, I can see the mainland approaching, just a few more minutes, Iris. Please hang on.

I repeat.

I check her pulse, silently keeping count in my head. She’s still beating, still fighting to live, even if unconsciously.

I repeat.

The shore comes closer and closer, a beach comes into view.

I repeat.

By my guess and since I’m going off of five second tangents, I should make it to the island in another eighteen rotations, give or take. I keep switching between breathing and swimming on and off and then back on again and my muscles begin screaming. My lungs have little air left to give and my body can hardly keep up with its constant pace of carrying another person alongside. Just before I’m about to burn out my leg touches sand below and I perk up. I push down with my foot and propel myself further.

The water dips to my waist and then I turn to hold Iris in my arms. As we move on, the less of it is the water holding her up and instead my own arms. I stand up, ignoring the cries of my muscles as I run out onto the beach. The sand is like an inferno as it absorbs and reflects the sun’s heat. I can’t run any longer, so I lay Iris down on her back and fall to my knees over her.

I don’t waste any time and begin doing chest compressions. Counting it out as I’d seen many a time before back in the orphanage. There was this kid Vinnie who would go into cardiac arrests and some of the staff had to give him CPR from time to time. After a few rounds of the compressions I perform mouth to mouth once more and then it is back to the chest compressions.

“Come on Iris, you can’t do this. Not now. God damn it I shouldn’t have let you come along,” I say to myself.

After a third compression her eyes open wide and she’s coughing, gasping for breath. I can see the life returning to her brown eyes. She tries to sit up, but then turns to her side and pukes up a ton of water.

“Oh thank god…” I begin.

“What?” Iris manages out.

I throw my arms around her tight and she coughs one more time. “I’m so thankful that you’re alive,” I say, holding back tears.

“I…I almost drowned,” she says, realizing.

“You’re okay, I swear it. I’m sorry, I didn’t know that it would drop us into the water.”

“You…you saved me.”

“I…I almost killed you.”

She pulls me up and puts her hands on my shoulders. “No, you saved me and I am forever grateful,” she says.

Before I know it she closes her eyes and kisses me. My eyes go wide and I begin turning almost every shade of red. The world around me melts into the background and the only things that remain are Her and Me. Her hair is hanging over her shoulder, her blouse and skirt are completely soaked. My clothes are much of the same, my jacket feels like it adds ten pounds because it is so waterlogged. I stop for one second to take it off and I toss it aside, it lands with a slosh on the sand. Iris laughs and then looks away, shyly.

“This…is something else. The first time I’ve ever seen you quiet about something,” I say, moving my hair out of my eyes with my hand.

“I…I just think you’re really cute. More than cute actually, you’re downright gorgeous and I feel so stupid for sitting here and saying it, but I also think you’re really smart.”

“That’s…a lot.”

“I know and I’m outspoken and brash and whatever everybody else calls me. I’m everything they say and I can’t change it. I-” I lean in to kiss her and she stops talking. This one is just as perfect as the last. I let go and sit back.

“You’re perfect the way you are.” Iris smiles and blushes, but then turns to look around her.

“That is absolutely wonderful…more wonderful than I can even express, but…where are we?”

I turn to look as well and off the beach there is a city in the distance. Buildings rise out of the horizon like outstretched arms willing to touch the realms above ours. Some of the tips reach past my field of vision.

“If we were just in the Salton Sea, which I think we were…then that could be San Diego,”

“San Diego? So…we really traveled halfway crossed the country in a matter of moments?”



“You’re taking this rather well,” I look over to her.

“I dunno, maybe I’m just a bit more at ease with you here.” I grin and then stand up.

“Well, we aren’t going to be much help to the world if we’re sitting here on the beach all day,” I say.

Iris nods, but then she looks down.

“Yeah, I guess we should move on, shouldn’t we?”

I place my hand on her shoulder and she looks up.

“We’ll have plenty of time to celebrate on the beach once we end this. We’ll lead whole new lives,” I say.

She smiles at this and then nods her head, “You’re right. There’ll be a time and a place for this, but now, you’re right.”

“So, let’s go see what we can find out in the city,” I say.

She nods her head once more and then begins jogging.

“Race you there!”

“Oh, you’re on,” I say.

Before I take off, I turn around behind me and I see the giant Statue of Liberty towering in the distance. I do not know how I had not seen it before, but I do now. It is a couple hundred feet from the mainland on its own little island and instead of it holding a torch Lady Liberty now holds a large stone sword. I look at it and then turn back around to reclaim the lead from Iris. A feeling of hope and joy begins brewing in my heart. I actually know one place we can stop by here in San Diego, as luck would have it. Let’s hope they’re still around.

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