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The Abyss

Chiara Picchi

Decorative Green Leaf with pink stem

Frigid. Dark. Suffocating. The water like concrete as it closes in, dragging him deeper and deeper into the abyss. Lungs burn, starved for air, eroded by salt as water floods his nostrils, drips down his throat one drop at atime, arms flail, and strain, fighting against the current.


     Up, swim up; up where the sky blends with the sea and clouds mask the sun; up where seagulls are circling, crying his name as they wait for the body to come afloat; its dull eyes waiting to be pecked, ribbons of its flesh feeding the fish. Swim up where the wind whistles and the air is poison but one can breathe.


     Eyes sting, vision blurs, shadows dance at its periphery — sea creatures observing his execution, their instincts aroused by the thrashing and struggling as he battles to tread water.


     Swim. Swim. Swim.


     Fingers grasp the darkness and clench around water that slips effortlessly through them. It doesn’t care for muffled pleas and cries for help, it delights in the panic expanding his pupils, the oxygen escaping his lips, the last rush of adrenaline feeding his frenzy.


     Swim. Swim. Swim.


     With what strength? There is none left. Fabric clings to his skin and weighs him down — his cross to bear on his way to Calvary. Pressure builds, and old injuries awake, his ears shrieking in pain as it crushes him. How stupid it is, to end it all for a mistake, for a tipsy stumble off the dock. People will find his cadaver rotting away on the water’s surface, brought to daylight by the gasses expanding its intestines. They’ll ponder the reason behind his death — suicide perhaps, or maybe foul play. Oh, if they only knew the absurdity of it all, if they only knew that it was neither despair nor human cruelty that killed him but sheer misfortune. The shadows grow before his pupils, expanding in his vision until there is but a strip of light left for him to distinguish.


     Swim. Swim. Swim.


     He can’t. His limbs are refusing to obey commands, turning into marble blocks aiding his descent towards the unknown. A stream of bubbles escapes his lips and float upwards as light fades, cannibalized by blackness as his screams become distorted, muffled by the layers of waves piling upon him. Tentacles wrap around his limbs, tighten around his torso and squeeze. His ribs crack, bone fissures and splinters under its strength. Consciousness hesitates to depart, lingering undecided on the doorstep.


     So, this is how it all ends: in solitude. His partner will be curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea, a red pen skimming over piles of exams, waiting for him to come back and recount how his evening went. No mystic last words, no tear-stained goodbyes; their last interaction will have been a ‘see you later,’ rushed as the door closed.


     Perhaps all is not as dire as he thought. After all, things cannot worsen once you cease to exist. The world can burn, drown, tremble, explode, it won’t reach him. He will be untouchable, unscathed. He will not see the people he loves age and waste away. He won’t see the effects of time ravage his own body…


     A silver lining, right? Yes. A silver lining. His chest tightens, a knot closes his trachea caused not by water, but by an unexpected stab of despair. A silver lining. He’ll lose his friends. He’ll lose his family. He’ll lose his future. People will grow, have children, have families and find their path in life. He won’t. Where will he be? In some fish’s gut.


     He doesn’t want to die. There are things to do, places to go and people to meet and he doesn’t want to lose it all. He struggles against his restraints, mustering the last remainders of strength to kick at the ropes of flesh wrapped around him. The creature seems to recoil in surprise, but in a mere instant, suckers cling to him with renewed vehemence. Spikes dig deeper into muscle, eyelids part and death stares back. Shards of bone guard the entrance to the creature’s mouth, the oblivion ready to engulf him. Eyes sting, stabbed by salt, blinded by the crimson staining the water. The beak parts, approaches, inching closer and closer and closer. Alertness wavers, determination fades, flesh is sliced as the abyss abducts him.


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