Inky blackness closed in as the current pulled her under again. Arms flailing and legs kicking furiously, she fought her way back to the surface, her lungs straining for air. She struggled in the churning water to keep her head above water and her panic at bay. Night was so thick she couldn’t make out where water ended and shoreline began, or even which way the river was carrying her. The ability to breathe, though frequently disrupted, was all that assured her she wasn’t still underwater. Suddenly, just as the river once again attempted to bury her in its depths, she felt something solid brush past her. Unable to see it, she groped around frantically in the water, willing her tired arms around what seemed like a log just as another wave crashed over her.
Coughing and gasping for air, her eyes shot open as the raft lurched and sent her rolling toward its edge. As her hands and feet fought to keep her from launching into the roiling current, her mind fought to distinguish reality from dream. She inched back toward the center of the raft, taking in the gray light of early morning and the menacing whitecaps raging around her. Confusion crowded her thoughts. She’d drifted off the night before lulled to sleep by the soothing rhythm of the water lapping calmly at the sides of the logs she’d called home for the last several months. What had happened while she’d slept? Where had these rapids come from?
As the morning wore on, the rushing current continued to buffet the raft, threatening to shred it with every pitch and turn. The rapids roared with fury in the light of day, their icy waves grabbing for her time and again. Was this it? Would the river finally reclaim its lost prize by destroying the raft that had saved her from it last time? She gripped tighter as the raft pitched severely to one side, the force of its landing driving the air from her lungs as the answering wave invaded her mouth and nostrils. She coughed and spluttered for air. Soaking wet and beginning to cramp, her fingers and toes were starting to slip. She didn’t know how much longer she could hold on.
Thanks to her dream, memories of the last time she’d had that thought flooded her mind. It was right before he had plucked her out of that flood and deposited her on this raft. Where was he anyway? Gathering her wits about her, she tried twisting her head around to search for him as another wave attempted to dislodge her and wash her overboard. Blinking rapidly to clear her vision, she finally caught sight of him sitting, as calmly as ever, behind her. Slowly, as the raft continued to pitch and roll, she turned her prostrate body and clawed her way to him. When she finally felt the soft fabric of his garment against the skin of her hands, she shot to her knees and lunged for him, burying her head in his lap, wrapping her arms around his waist, and holding on for dear life. His hand came to rest gently but firmly upon her, simultaneously sheltering and soothing her.
As the river continued to toss the raft about, she noticed how easily he shifted with its movements, but also how the two of them somehow stayed firmly in place. With every heave, she felt his grip on her tighten; she took comfort in how solid he seemed in her arms, in how firmly he kept her by his side, anchored to the raft despite the river’s relentless turbulence.
“The Rapids” © 2016 Amber Crafton. No part of this story may be reproduced in any form—neither in print, nor in speech, nor on the web—without my express written consent. You may use the contact form here on this blog to request permissions, if you so desire; please be very specific about how much you wish to quote/reproduce, for what purpose, and where. Thank you.