Missing: Part Five.

by | Mar 13, 2024 | Uncategorized | 2 comments

Drowning. So this was what it was like.

“Are you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost – again,” Marie said to the shadow that was João. The young man was unable to reply, instead, reverting to vague gestures. He nodded then shook his head, neither of which answered the young woman’s question. “ You’re not, are you? Since you collapsed at the wall, you’ve been a basket case.” Her voice faded and darkness surrounded him again. He slipped back into unconsciousness.

***

Darkness. No structure, no features, no definition. One sense, cut away from the others like a severed arm. He tried to breathe. Something filled his mouth, throat and lungs but it wasn’t air. Cold, saline, liquid. Every breath, instead of avoiding death, hastened it. He struggled between the urge to inhale and the resulting inundation. Drowning. So this was what it was like. Every sailor’s nightmare, to be taken by the medium that feeds you and clothes your family. He wanted it to be over. Time after time, he’d re-lived this and imagined taking one last, deep lungful of water to end it once and for all.

He exhaled the mixture of air and water in a last gasp effort. Not to survive but to succumb. The final act would be to suck in the pure water, a source of life in another identity but this time a fatal act like the hangman’s noose.

Suddenly, there was peace, calmness. No more effort and no pain. He was floating, an inert corpse, bereft of life. No different to a piece of flotsam, a morsel from his own stricken ship.

Joao sat up. Darkness still enveloped him but the pressure was gone. He gasped for air and it was there in abundance; so much so that he began to hyperventilate. His chest heaved, greedy for every molecule of oxygen. The space around him began to spin. No definition, just sensation, like closing your eyes on a carousel.

Then hands on his shoulders. Not the massive strong hands of his father at home in Porto. These were like a child’s, demanding attention.

“Joao, wake up. Everything is fine. You’re having a nightmare.” A soft voice, feminine, reassuring him like his sisters did. Sisters? He had no sisters!

 Then light. Blinding, searing light burning his retinas. He closed his eyes and white hot became red hot as the sensation eased.

“Papa. Is that you? Uncle Bernard?” His language; his accent, was pure Breton. No awkward stumbling over the vowels. He opened his eyes to see his guardian angel again. Flaming hair, cream skin and freckles. Her expression was different, harder, more serious.

“Who on earth are you?” Maria cried, pulling her hands away as if he was on fire. For several moments, there was silence as they tried to take in what was happening. Marie was the first to speak.

“This is not right. Who are you, João, Jean or whatever your name is.” She sat back on a chair by the bed in which João was lying.

“Where am I? Why am I here in this bedroom?” Was all he could say.

“That’s not the answer. It’s a question. I think I deserve answers, not more mystery. I have taken you in and looked after you for three days. You’ve been unconscious most of the time. When you do surface, I get this. Some kind of act. Nobody speaks Breton like that anymore, let alone a foreigner!” Even in her angry state, she was beautiful.

“I’m sorry. This is just as puzzling to me as it is to you,” João replied, this time in French, rubbing his eyes. “I feel as if I’ve entered another world.”

“You’re not making sense. Why are you here? What is the significance of the plaque?” Marie demanded. Her patience was wearing thin.

“Wait, listen. You said there was someone. Someone who knows about the Françoise,” João said, trying to focus on Marie’s exquisite face.

“You can forget that! I’m a fit young woman and you’ve scared the life out of me. Can you imagine what it would do to a ninety-three old? She’s very frail.” Marie snapped.

João did the maths. Ninety three? That’s how old she’d be. There was a living human connection to the tragedy. Had he just broken that connection?

“Please! I must see Elodie. I need answers,” João blurted out.

“How do you know her name?” It was Marie’s turn to surrender to the crazy world this young man had brought with him.

“She’s my sister.” The words, again in the local dialect, came from João’s mouth but they were not his.

2 Comments

  1. Kenneth Childs

    I’m somewhat lost now.

    Reply
    • brian

      Sorry Kenzie🥺

      Reply

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