Cheating death in the warm sea

Saturday October 23 2021

The water was halfway up the windows of the car, and their feet were ankle deep in water. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA


Amos’ head whipped left and right so fast that his neck looked to be a mechanical hinge and his head some sort of grotesque toy. The grimace on his face didn’t make the picture any better.

To his left and a little to the back, sat a small girl with a face frozen in fear, tears so perfectly balanced on the rims of her wide eyes that they looked painted on, decorative little jewels to accent the cute face. To his right, or more accurately in front of him, sat a woman whose face was frozen too, in horror, except she was not sitting still; she was fighting.

“Amos, move!” She yelled exasperatedly as she inhaled a huge lungful of air and clawed desperately at a belt holding her in place, “Get Cherrie! Break the window! Quickly!”

Amos’ mind was stuck in a loop, his brain barely processing their near collision with a truck on a bridge high above the Indian Ocean. He’d swerved, they’d hit the railings, then they were flying through the air and then it had all gone dark and silent for a moment. He was sure he’d blacked out, because the next thing he knew he was here, whipping his head back and forth between his wife and niece, watching as their car bobbed about and sunk slowly, almost inch by inch, in the calm, swaying ocean.

“Amos!” Cindy, his wife, stopped fighting with her seatbelt and yanked him by his collar so that they were face to face, “Hey, can you hear me?” There was a sprinkling of concern in her eyes even as fear dominated every expression and motion of her face, “You need to move, now…you won’t be able to break the windows once we go under, Amos…do you understand? Get Cherrie and go!” She shook him once again but comprehension was flooding through his mind faster than the water coming through the floorboards and saturating the floor mats.

“Okay,” he said and his voice sounded strangled, tight, “We’ll be okay,” he repeated as he fought the anxiety that was causing his hands to shake so hard he could barely unbuckle his seatbelt.


The water was halfway up the windows of the car, and their feet were ankle deep in water. It was strangely quiet, aside from his and Cindy’s ragged breathing, there wasn’t a sound. The silence felt final, like everything had stopped and now there was only this moment…there would only be this moment.

Amos twisted around in his seat and reached into the back where their niece was sitting, a statue doll who was now coming to life as her lip trembled like she would finally cry, but fear had its clutches so deep there was no room for any other emotion.

“There, there,” Amos murmured as he unbuckled Cherrie, lifted her over to sit on his lap, then took a long breath to steady himself before saying as calmly as he could, “We’re going to swim a little, and I’ll hold you…okay?”

The little girl said nothing, but clutched onto him tighter as a sudden groan filled the car. They were sinking faster, the water lapped at their knees, sloshing them to the waist. Amos turned to Cindy who was still struggling with her belt and started to reach for her.

“No!” She slapped his hands away, “Break the window Amos…Now!” She screamed as he hesitated, worry creasing his brow even more as it dawned on him that her belt was stuck. He stubbornly started to reach for her again then stopped as a dark look came over her face.

He knew that look. And so fighting all his instincts, he squirmed about in his seat, leaning back against his still struggling wife, until he could lift his leg up albeit awkwardly, and begun kicking out at the window. His leg was jarred by the force but he could feel it start to give way.

Suddenly, there was a sharp snap as a spider-web of cracks appeared and spread evenly across the surface of the glass then exploded, letting in a massive wave of water that inundated him. Choking but now in complete survival mode, Amos held Cherrie tightly as he pushed his way out of the sinking car and then kicked up towards where the sunlight was glinting prettily in the dancing water.

He broke to the surface with a great roar, part relief, part grief. Cherrie was sputtering and sobbing loudly now, but she seemed to be fine.

Treading the warm water, his muscles throbbing, Amos scanned the surface of the ocean. Cindy was a good swimmer. If she managed to writhe out of the seatbelt, and she was slim enough to do so, she was a good swimmer.

The back of his throat felt dry and a painful lump was forming so that he felt like he couldn’t breathe or swallow. She was a good swimmer. A small boat was speeding towards them and above them, the bridge was thick with onlookers, but strangely enough, Amos couldn’t hear anything but the soft sounds of the water lapping against him and the low moan of a warm breeze.


The silence ripped apart like wet paper as a loud gasp behind him caused Amos to gulp down several mouthfuls of bitter salt water in fright. Thrashing her limbs to stay afloat, Cindy, panting, wild eyed and pale, surfaced.