I never played sports or got good grades. Even teachers disliked my smile, which was not sweetly childlike at all, only nervous and fey. I didn't have friends but I held elaborate notions in my head of being friends with the people in novels, or sometimes actually being those(more) people. For a couple of years, heartstruck at the realization of how I'd never accompany the Famous Five on their rambling adventures in the moors of post-war Britain (riding bicycles, tearing at fresh bread, laughing and fighting crime) I became George Kirren in my mind. Sulky blue eyes peering out of a tanned face, the way Enid Blyton always described her. Fierce and bold. That's how I pictured myself, and it was the first time I knew the triumph of imagination over reality. My own eyes were an ineffectual seawater-green, my skin pale, and I was lazy and shy and never bold. But I learned through reading and the tendency to absorptive fantasy that accomplishments never had to actually occur: I could imagine things. Friends, talent, a better more enviable self.
I also learned that there were accomplishments nobody else wanted. Never mind learning how to make friends, chase boys, skate lessons after school, jazz dancing, Girl Guides with the sash and badges.
There was less pressure in the neglected domains, and I could take my time learning. Reading books as fast as I could. Holding my breath underwater, to a count of 20, then 40, then over a minute. One day I might be kidnapped or held underwater and I sustained myself with fantasies of how I wouldn't die, how I'd fight back with my imagined karate moves and flee miraculously, escaping back into a world of obstacles and danger where moment by moment I created avenues of safe passage.(less)
Sometimes people hold their breath in moments of panic. In others, it is done before a release of stress. In Juan's case, it was being done because water is a poor substitute for air.
Though, he had only heard about that fact. He never actually tested it. (more)I mean, where would we be if people never tested given facts? We would live in a world where the earth was flat, women were half-men, and water was un-breathable.
As the ship sank further into the deep, this hypothesis seemed an attractive candidate for additional testing. Juan was grasping at straws here but maybe, just maybe, somewhere he had gills. Most likely not, but fortune favors the bold after all.
Cousteau always described the ocean as the warm embrace of the mother's womb. You are now beginning to realize what a lying git that tosser of a frog is as you find yourself being dragged down to the bottom of the North Sea by the cinder block chained to your(more) ankle.
The cold crush of ocean water reminds you of the fateful day when standing in the meat locker of Lo Fong's Chinese restaurant. "Don't fuck up," growled Hirsute Harry, every word punctuated by a stab in your chest by a sausage like finger.
You fucked up. Spectacularly. What should have been a simple job ended up with New Scotland Yard with their noses so far up Harry's ass he was sneezing bacon. You tried to hide, to lay low until things calmed down. Once Harry calmed down a bit he would see reason, he would realize things simply got out of your control.
Harry did not see reason, he sent Victor. The vicious bastard took a day to track you down. You were splashing water on your face in a dodgey hotel bathroom, you look up and there is Victor in the mirror behind you, maniacal grin on his face, upraised hand clutching a tire iron.
You came to just in time for Victor to unceremoniously dump you in the sea. Nothing but the crushing cold to keep you company.(less)
Danny was better than I was. At everything. Coach Thompson always let me know it too. He was the only one honest enough to tell me I wasn't as skilled as I thought. My parents had always told me I was perfect. I used to believe them. Then I(more) met Danny. I couldn't be perfect, because Danny was better. His grades were better. He had more friends. Girls liked him more.
I only ever beat him once.
It was the mddle of the night. We had sneaked into the local pool. After the initial excitement wore off, we realized it wasn't as much fun as we thought. When you sneak, you can't make noise. Being quiet in a pool means you can't do anything. So we decided to see who could hold their breath longest.
Danny won the first time.
And the second.
The third time, I was determined not to lose any more.
The seconds ticked by. My pulse throbbed in my temples. Each second became a lifetime. I couldn't take it anymore.
Danny was still under water. I waited.
He didn't move. I waited longer. Still nothing.
After a decades-long minute, I removed my hand from the back of his head. He bobbed lifelessly. I dried myself off and left, changing into the clothes I had hidden outside the pool fence. I threw the borrowed swim trunks in a trash can that was just close enough to be found, but far enough to be less-than-obvious. Coach Thompson would have a hard time explaining those.
Danny would never beat me again. I was perfect once more.(less)
It's the only effective way I've found for keeping the tears at bay. The familiar prickling begins in my nose and behind my eyes and I hold my breath and start counting backwards from 100 in multiples of four. 96, 92, 88... The tightness in my chest grows uncomfortable,(more) but I hold it until I can't feel anything but that burning need for air. 76, 72, 68... Until I can't feel that irritating stinging in my eyes, until I can't remember why the numbers in my head keep ticking down. 56, 52, 48...
I won't let the tears spill over. I am better than that. I am not a victim, not a weak, useless girl who just sits on her bed and cries. I hold my breath until the room starts to look pixilated. I hold my breath until I know that when I inhale again, my eyes will be dry.(less)
Leading me now, into the dark, Capt. Hazelton kicked through the reef and motioned something I knew meant, "we're here." He pulled back some debris to reveal a cabin. I lowered down beside him to see what he saw. I soon realized it was not something he saw, but(more) something he did not see. It was missing. I saw an contagious tension shoot through his body. I could see that his normally sullen face seemed even more desolate than before. I looked back at the cabin. I moved back some more debris and it wasn't there either. A couple typewriter keys floated by as I did. I was running out of air. I then felt the Captain kicking back to the surface. I placed back what I had moved as to not disturb the quiet past we observed. I made gentle leaps toward the surface, with the Captain about ten feet out in front. I then saw him latch to the side of the boat and then suddenly disappear from view as he sucked his body up through the membrane of the suface. I kicked upward once more and my head broke the surface. He was already drying off and smoking his pipe. I lapsed up onto the deck and regained my breath. He looked up towards me with the same composure as what I had seen earlier when we departed on this venture. After a brief silence he spoke.
"We need to return to Manchester."
"Why is that sir?"
"To change history, Ramsey, that's why."(less)
My step father raised me with the sink or swim philosophy. If I wanted to learn how to do something, it was always dive in head first and either succeed or fail. There was no middle ground, there was no dipping your toes in the water.
(more) This was became very apparent one day on the lake. I was maybe 6 years old - I was already a very good swimmer having taken lessons at the age of three and spending my summers camping near the ocean with my grandparents.
This day on the lake, watching my step dad ski and knee board from the boat looked like a lot of fun, and I really wanted to try it out.
After a long run on the knee board, my uncle circled the boat back to fetch him from the water. I saw this as my chance, I spoke up "Hey, I'd like to try knee boarding!"
My step dad and uncle looked at each other as the biggest grins crept across both their faces. "Sure son, we'll get you started on the shore, since it's easier to take off from there than deep water."
We headed to the shore and I jumped into the lake and dog paddled the last fifty feet to the shore - it was hard to swim with such a cumbersome life jacket. My step dad followed, dragging the knee board and tow rope along with him.
He got me set up on the board and strapped in, handed me the tow rope, and started going over some basic instructions. "Lean back, grip the rope tightly, don't lean too far to the sides."
As the rope started losing its slack he had one last piece of advice for me "If all else fails, hold your breath!"
There's nothing but white light and and emptiness above you but the bench supports your spine. You grip the iron bar above, staring past it without seeing, and strain to lift it. Your muscles writhe, something pulses in your temple as the fire spreads to your chest.
"Just on(more)e more," the trainer growls, a dark blot at the edge of your vision. "Don't hold your breath, dammit!"
You gasp, using all your energy in one final push as the oxygen floods your lungs, clearing the fuzziness for a second. The bar moves, your muscles scream.
The trainer grabs the bar as it comes down; you're spent and you can't hold it anymore.
But you did it. (less)
Count to three. Don't look up at him just yet. Try and unclench your fists from the balled-up lumps they are, clamped tight to the sides of your legs as you resist the urge to punch him in the gullet. Think of happy things: baby lambs, baby lambs gambolling(more) in a big green field, baby lambs with their throats slit... No. You will calm down. You will not think about the hours of work that went into this project that have now been wasted thanks to his mind-blowing incompetence and lack of care. You will not think about your boss's face when she realises that there will be no Power Point presentation to show to the clients who, twenty minutes from now, will be pulling up to your office building in a shiny BMW, ready to have their "minds blown" by the "wunderkind exec they've heard so much about." You will not think about those Manolos, those precious stilettos with their lovingly carved heels and divine vamp that you have just splurged on as a reward for all of your hard work (and in the process, emptied your bank account). You will not imagine yourself begging for pennies at the subway station in said Manolos, the laughing stock of the other homeless people in their practical hiking boots and hole-filled socks. You will figure out a bloody miracle that will somehow enable you to keep your job, wow the clients and not have you arrested for murder. You will not tell him that his "intellectual" glasses make a mockery of his gormless face and pea-sized brain. You will not stab him with the pencil whose splinters you can now feel making a pin-cushion of your tongue. You will exhale before you turn blue in the face with rage.(less)
Bite your tongue. Don't say anything. Don't let your thoughts seep out. They will only cut, stab, maim. She might deserve to be put in her place, but she certainly does not deserve to be hurt like that. Hold your breath if you must. Hold it until you pass(more) out. Then you can't talk, can't reveal what it is that you really want to say.
You just wish she would shut up and go away. That would make everything simple. That would keep the lava of your temper from boiling over into your words. That would relieve the strain of trying not to speak your mind. That would keep you both safe and sound and still a loving family instead of the shattered mirror that it might soon become. The only thing between that pile of glass scattered about the floor and the whole looking glass depicting a family full of false, smiling faces is your ability to keep air in your lungs and out of your mouth. Good thing you have had plenty of practice at not speaking every thought that flits through your mind. You were raised on biting your tongue. But how many years do you have left where you can hold your breath before something slips? (less)
"Hold your breath!" was the last thing Ankarra heard before the water rushed over her. She tried to find a grip somewhere, but her body was tumbling and she couldn't right herself. She hit a wall and the water pressure held her tight against it. She didn't know where(more) Greylan was.
Their damaged ship had fallen into the ocean of this planet. Enricia? Is that what Greylan had called it as they fell out of the sky? They were about to die and Greylan had still thought it an appropriate time to give her a geography lesson.
Ankarra struggled not to panic as her body cried out for breath. She would have to get to the cargo bay. The ship had been too damaged to contain the water now her only hope was to escape it. Hopefully the conditions of this planet could support human life. Well, she would worry about that later.
Something was pressed against her face. She was alarmed but then recognized it as a breathing mask. She put it on and gasped desperately for air. So that's where Greylan had gone to.
The mask could give them thirty minutes of oxygen. But they still had to move fast. Ankarra couldn't tell if the ship was sinking or not. If it was, the water pressure would eventually kill them. They had to get to the surface.
Ankarra felt a tug on her arm and took it as a sign to follow Greylan. Well, it was her ship. She should know the best emergency evac route. The ship had already filled with water, which actually made it easier to swim. From what Ankarra could tell, it wasn't freshwater, but it wasn't as salty as the oceans she knew. She could only hope there was nothing living out there.(less)