August 5, 2010

Never in the last ten years of my life had I feared death. The fear was unknown to me as the worst possible way to die on my job was either by traps set in the sites I excavated- which did not happen as the traps, like a four year old, had their limit of playing hide and seek- or by consuming food articles that had been preserved for thousands of years. I had always thought it would be fun to be chased by mummies and their curses, but that had not been the case on this particular night of august, which had perhaps been the longest night of my life.

Zenya, my half-Greek half-Indian intern, had convinced me to take the sea route from Bermuda to Europe, where we were heading for our next project. My honeymoon had been cut short by a call from my University, asking me to ‘report my presence at the excavation sight ASAP’. While my newly wedded wife tried her best to be supportive, I had been sulking the entire time. How do you expect a man to love his job when you force him to work on his honeymoon? Making him inspect a mummy inside out when he should be having fun times with his wife.

But that was when Zenya had come up with the idea of taking one of her mother’s small cruise ships, which was quite a runner- despite its small size- making it easy to chart a seven day voyage to Portugal and thus giving us newly-weds enough time together to call it a honeymoon.

Despite having everything planned to the very last thread, I should have learnt that not everything goes as you desire, making me rethink as I write this down, why I went out into the sea. Why did I risk Zenya’s life and not think about my wife? Why did I have to be such a reckless bastard?

In spite of Zenya’s good call to cancel our sea exploration plans, I had gone ahead and paid a local to take me a little farther from the island for ‘research purposes’. Zenya knew what my purpose was- wanting to put my toe in the infamous Bermuda triangle waters- and she did not want me to go out there alone. I still keep hearing ‘Curiosity killed the Cat, Colin.’ in her voice. I had joked about it all the way until the weather started turning grey.

Within minutes the sea, which had been calm and clear all morning, was now covered by dense grey clouds. After she changed her colours, it didn’t take her long to start rocking our boat a little too roughly. The local boatman had started praying to his Gods while telling me now and then how my money was not worth his life ending in the storm. Yes, well, neither was mine! Zenya was the one keeping us focused towards getting out of the storm without getting into a fight. But the sea was literally pouring water on all our efforts, more annoyingly than before, and the winds were getting rougher every moment. It was when a humongous wave had hit the boat and all the systems had failed that I had prayed for the first time since mom left.

All afternoon we had been trying to find the shore through this resentful weather, only to be washed into the eye of the storm.

I had once read an article on why time seems to slow down in emergencies. Scientists say it is an illusion caused by the brain as it inserts more memories in between the one that actually happened. But what all happened around me had seemed too real to be some extended memories of mine. It had felt like time had really slowed down. I had seen the end of the eye above and the unexplored darkness of the whirlpool below me. I had seen Zenya’s shocked brown eyes staring for far too long at the storm surrounding us while her hands were reaching out for me from the other side of the boat. I had seen the boatman grip the amulet around his neck and kiss it, not letting it go for the fear of breathing his soul out if he parted his lips with it. I had seen the grey waves slow down, the water take the form of droplets around us as we descended into the iris of the whirlpool. I had felt my feet leave the platform as the descent began. I had felt my body float in the air as I grabbed Zenya, who had seen her life flash in front of her. I am so sorry Zenya. I am sorry for being the reckless bastard that I am. I had meant to say it out loud. The boat had been swallowed by the darkness of the iris in front of my eyes and we were next. Why had the time slowed so much?

As the three of us were being taken in by the iris of the whirlpool, I had witnessed lightening inside the sea surrounding us. Before I had a second to make sense of what just happened- how the dark, monstrous sea had suddenly lit up like a Christmas tree- time seemed to have had retreated to its normal pace. In no instance, we had been devoured whole by the storm and everything had gone dark.


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