The Inkwell’s Half-hour Challenge for October is “Where Angels Fear To Tread.”:
The mind is such a strange thing. The events of that terrible day could not have lasted more than ten minutes, yet here I sit, eight years to the day, and still I’m tormented by that mental video, playing over and over again. Of course, I’ve been through the counselling sessions, and my family tell me there is nothing I could have done, it wasn’t my fault, it was a freak accident, and other such platitudes. But I stood and watched a dog, a child, his father, and a policeman drown, and I could not save any of them. I lived to tell the tale. I have no more right to life than any of them. I lost a fingernail: I don’t know how, I guess it was when I grabbed at the copper. It was really painful but I didn’t feel a thing at the time. I remember wondering where all the blood had come from: pathetic, really.
It should have been such a happy day: sunshine and seaside, but I spent most of it weeping and I’m weeping still. A lad playing ball with his dog on the prom: what could be more innocent? But the ball went over the sea wall and the dog went after it. The lad went after the dog, and the father went after his boy. They were gone in seconds: each one brave but fool-hardy, disappeared below the sea, crashing at the sea wall. I looked for a life-belt but it was missing from its stand, alongside the toilet block. There was nobody to throw it to anyway. Just the angry grey/green water and dirty froth. The copper told me to stand aside. I tried to grab at him as he dived in: I could see it was hopeless. Unlike the others, I did see him again: just a fleeting glimpse of his last desperate gasp for air; fighting to stay up; already swept thirty feet from the sea-wall. How did he get so far so quickly? The under-tow must have been monstrous. That face is before me now, a split second frozen for eternity, eyes open or eyes shut, awake or asleep, it makes no difference, he’s there just the same. Such a brave man.
Some evil bastard made a crack about the old woman who swallowed a fly, you know, from the song? Eventually, she swallows a horse: dead of course. And so it was that day: each one of them squandering their lives on a lost cause, like a sick joke, bizarre and disgusting.
I should have gone in after the copper. “No, no” they say “you would just have drowned, like the others.” “Yes, I know” I say “I should have gone in after him.”