The Drowning Man

The Drowning Man | The Return of the Modern PhilosopherHis desperate screams for help echoed for miles in every direction, as he flailed wildly to keep his head above water.

The fact that he was out in the middle of nowhere, where his pleas might not reach another human ear, was entirely his own fault.

He had picked this remote lake because he liked to be cut off from the rest of the world.

It’s not that he wasn’t a people person, but life was a hell of a lot less complicated when you removed the rest of the population from the equation.

Of course, one might question why a man who couldn’t swim and had a serious fear of water had been out on a lake in a rowboat in the first place.

The boat!  Of course.  He swiveled his head to check his surroundings.

The rowboat was overturned about twenty-five feet north of where he struggled to keep himself afloat.

It might as well have been two miles because there was no way he was going to be able to swim to it.  He could doggie paddle a few feet on his best day, but that was when he was in a pool and could touch the bottom whenever panic set in.

The bottom of the lake was a good twenty feet beneath the cold, murky water that had soaked through his clothes, which were now weighing him down.

He screamed again, but it was a waste of energy.  Either no one could hear him, or no one wanted to help.  The bottom line was, he was on his own.

The Drowning Man | The Return of the Modern PhilosopherHe’d wanted to give her a perfect afternoon, and he knew how much she loved the water.  She had always been accommodating of his fears, but for once, he wanted to prove that he could make concessions for her.

That was why he loved her.  She had bent over backwards to adapt to his quirks to a point that he’d almost forgotten how incredibly odd he was.

He hoped an afternoon in a rowboat would make it clear how much she meant to him.  He’d packed a picnic lunch, her favorite wine, and he planned to serenade her after he’d rowed them out to the middle of the lake.

She loved it when he sang to her, and he liked doing anything that lit up her gorgeous eyes and brought a smile to her beautiful face.

But somehow, he’d managed to rock the boat and ruin their romantic getaway.  It had to have been him because he was always the one who caused trouble.

He was shivering uncontrollably, and had swallowed far too much lake water to remember how he’d wound up in the water.  All he knew for certain, though, was that it had been his fault.  Once again, he had ruined everything.  He angrily slapped at the water that was trying to kill him.

Then his eyes opened wide, and what little color was left in his skin faded.

He’d forgotten all about her!

Oh God!  Where was she?

He screamed out her name.

How typical of him to forget about her and only worry about himself.

Where was she?  Why wasn’t she answering him?  She was an excellent swimmer, so she had to be okay.

Of course, that was how he always thought.  She was so strong that he didn’t ever need to worry about her.  She always figured out a way to survive.  He, on the other hand, was the complicated one who needed her constant help and attention.

His legs were so tired.  He could barely move his arms.  He was losing his voice.  But he kept treading water and shouting her name.

Where could she be?  Had she abandoned him in the middle of the lake?  She’d never do that.  She loved him and knew he couldn’t swim.

Had she drowned?  Impossible!  There was no way she’d let a pathetic little lake get the better of her.  Besides, there was no sign of her body.

The Drowning Man | The Return of the Modern PhilosopherSo where was she?  Why wouldn’t she answer?  How come he couldn’t see her?

The panic attack hit without warning.  Like it always did.

Breathing, already a struggle in the frigid water, became even more of a challenge.

He went under again, but immediately forced himself back up, spitting out a mouthful of the lake the second he broke the surface.

He screamed her name at the top of his lungs.

He couldn’t survive this without her.  That much was perfectly clear.  Without her he was lost, alone, and barely able to keep his head above water.

He called out to her one more time, her name impossible to decipher through his sobs.

When she didn’t answer, he finally gave himself over to the panic.

She was his everything.  Without her, he was nothing.

He stopped fighting the pull of the lake’s bottom, and slipped beneath the surface for the final time…

About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
This entry was posted in Humor, Love, Philosophy, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to The Drowning Man

  1. Oh, Austin, I’m worried about you.

  2. ivviebengtsson says:

    That was a great story! Short but deep and it made me wish I could swim to help the character. I wish I knew more about him and that he had survived.
    Very well written!

  3. Sheila Moss says:

    That’s creepy, brrrrrs.

  4. donedreaming says:

    Sometimes you just have to bail out and save yourself or you’d go down with the drowning man ..

  5. donedreaming says:

    You could always learn .. it’s dangerous to depend on someone else to save you so best to be prepared and fear is a great motivator. Meanwhile breathe between the waves x

    • Austin says:

      My ex-wife was on the swim team at NYU. I used to tell people I married her so she can keep me from drowning. 🙂

      • donedreaming says:

        From my experience of drowning men they either cling on to you so tight they take you down with them, or they push you under as they climb on your shoulders to reach higher ground. Either way it’s not a compelling prospect for others in the water who, for personal safety, move away and not get involved further. If drowning men loved enough they would learn to swim before getting in to the water 🙂

      • Austin says:

        I did take swimming lessons from the ex-wife. So I might’ve been able to make it to the rowboat if the man in the story had been me. 🙂

  6. ebonyandcrows says:

    Ugh…this story made the panic/anxiety that I’ve been holding at bay surface up in full force! Amazing writing, very graphical. I can definitely empathize with the protagonist–now I’m gonna go have a cup of tea and relax my mind to tame the beast.

    • Austin says:

      Sorry for bringing any bad memories to the surface. Just trying tow write about my panic attacks. hoping that putting them out on the web will get them out of my head…

      • ebonyandcrows says:

        No worries, I can totally relate! It doesn’t help that I strongly feel the emotions of other people–whether it be fiction or someone’s real-life plight. It’s truly a double-edged sword.

      • Austin says:

        Well, thank you for checking out the post and sharing your Deep Thoughts.

  7. I like short stories like this one that leave so much to the reader’s imagination. Did she rock the boat? Great play on words, there! Maybe putting up with him just became too much for her. Well done. I’m glad to have discovered your blog on this rainy Pacific Northwest morning.

  8. adamjasonp says:

    Wouldn’t learning/improving the ability to swim help ease the panic— more in control? We can only really, at best, control ourselves, not so much our situations, and certainly not others.

  9. Pingback: Monday Morning Coffee Club: 3/14/16 | The Return of the Modern Philosopher

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