The preparation is the hardest part. Psyching myself up to do this takes but a moment and sometimes I don't even bother, but that's usually a mistake. When I take the time to look, to scope out the territory, to plan my moves, I'm generally far more successful than if I just go for it without judging what I'm getting myself into. Planning is fairly crucial, for without it, I will thrash about, unsure of both the goal and the best direction to get there.
And the water is waiting to swallow me whole, which makes me pause and calculate my steps.
Possessed by the sure knowledge that my efforts will result in riches enough to last my whole life long, I take deep, quick breaths, intent on flooding my body with the most, the richest, oxygen I can suck in. I do it without ever having been told that this is the way. I do it knowing I must make up for the air I know I won't be able to breathe at will. I fill my lungs like a man at his last meal before a long journey into the desert, trying to capture sufficient sweets and succulence to carry him through what is sure to be a long fast.
Treading water and breathing hard, I focus hard on the spot. My pupils contract a bit to allow for the sun's shimmer on the flat but moving surface before me. My lungs expand to a capacity I've never requested before, and the air is cold and sharp along the insides of my cheeks and the top of my tongue. I will cradle this oxygen like the smallest of children.
I kick up, a single scissoring of my legs, which makes my body rise halfway out of the clean line of the water and I dive like a dolphin, all arms and legs and long lean torso. My hair skins behind me, along my back like a ribbon.
My mind is clear now, with one objective. There is only one thing to do and one way to do it, and failure is not an option. It doesn't even occur to me that this is not a possibility, that I will not succeed. I not only will, I have to.
The water is deep and deadly, and it gathers around me, assimilating me into its seductive silence like a womb. I slip through the water like a love letter into its envelope and stretch my body to it's longest and I kick again to propel myself ever deeper. I have never been stronger, I may never be this strong again, and I am too preoccupied now to notice it. But it engraves itself onto me, this strength, so that I will remember it later and always.
I am surrounded now by the blue; the body temperature warmth that calls to me to relax is both encompassing and lethal. If I succumb to it, it will hold me forever, and though it slips along my sides like silk, if I stay too long it will grab me by the throat and strangle the very life out of me. My fingers wave a little through the water and the water waves back, a solid thing and a fluid one all at once. I grasp handfuls of the water texture that gets squeezed away like it was never there and I push it back, towards the surface. I distort the water, and am also a part of it.
I kick again, and I remind myself sternly of my task. Distractions are suicide.
My eyes struggle with the water against them. My vision is blurred now and I'm forced to recalculate my angle of descent. I'm committed so I have to consider the fallacies of my surface vision. Everything looks closer from the surface, and the clarity of this water fooled me - anything seen from the surface is far deeper than I could have imagined.
I scan for a glimpse of what I could see so clearly just a moment before. Just a glimmer might change my path critically. If I can't find it again this might be my last dive. There are others just chomping at the bit to take my place, but this is my chance to prove my skills and I will not give it up.
There! There - that smudge directly below. Had I not seen the grayish blur straight down, I would have continued a long descent at an angle so wrong that any hope of success before running out of air would have been dashed. At these depths there is only one shot. You can't get to the floor lost and search like a dog sniffing out its lost bone.
I jackknife, using the muscles in my back to stop my angular plunge, and head perfectly downwards. I grin almost wildly, my eyes never once leaving my target. The water tastes strong in my mouth and I spit it out rudely, expelling some precious air with it and cursing myself for this stupidity. There is no luxury for congratulating myself, because really, I haven't done anything yet.
And now the water is a shocking cold. The heat of the sun cannot reach these depths. It surprises me, and on the surface I would gasp and laugh at the jolt. Here I just note the difference, let it wake up my tiring muscles and continue towards the dark bottom.
I bring my arms up along my sides, as close to my body as I can, so as to create the least resistance. Again I extend myself to the limit, and my fingertips brush the bottom. Frantically I pat along the floor, and then grasp the treasure in my right hand, and it cuts into my palm. The solid mass I hold is success incarnate, and I would not drop it even if it seared itself into my flesh like a brand.
I turn to look skywards, bunching my legs beneath me to kick off from the bottom. I'll swim towards light now, which takes a little re-adjusting. My toes grasp at the floor and create a strong place for me. I tighten my thighs and burst upwards. I am elated, and I struggle to maintain control because I still have to finish the journey and this is the hardest part yet.
Free from the bottom, and now I have my first thought of inhaling. Nature would have me breathe, but my mind overcomes autonomic instruction, and I push myself upwards. So close... the urges of my body will have to wait.
I concentrate on the waving banner of light above me. Even this far down it penetrates, illuminating this deep space, and now warming the water again. This new warmth encourages me and I concentrate on quick, clean movements of my body, the best to conserve my waning energy supply.
With the next kick, my legs begin to ache. My right hand is a fist and I use it and my left hand, which is almost a fin now, to pull water along and away from me. The water has had its taste of me, and wants me to stay, but I must fight it. I do fight it. My chest begins to contract without my permission and I can hear myself gulping for air, but my mouth is closed, my lungs get nothing. It hurts and I begin to wonder if I'll make it to the top alive. The sounds frighten me a little. I begin to get dizzy and I re-focus on the light straight in front of me with the same passion I had when obsessed on the blurry floor just moments before.
Kick and kick, burn and burn. There is nothing but my fist, my lungs and my legs now. I don't close my eyes for a moment, because if I do, the light might disappear. All I have to do is return - I know the way now - just return to my starting point. It can't be that hard... it's so hard... my muscles have no oxygen... I burn and ache and I love the light... I need the light and it's so close...
Breaking the surface, I vomit air with a loud yell, then inhale hard and fast in both panic and rapture. Gasping and clawing at the water around me, I lift my right fist high, the heady success of my venture overwhelming in it's immediacy.
"Daddy! I got your keys! Throw them again!"
- KNP Sept 15, '02