It was a strange and silent world underwater. As Dave let the air he was holding in out slow and measured, tiny bubbles rose like smoke from a cigarette from his nostrils and closed lips, rising lazily, distorting the rhythmical dancing lights scattered all along the bottom of the pool, to pop at the surface some ten feet above.
He watched the perfectly round little circles escape upward as he continued holding his breath, counting mechanically in his head, only kicking off to the surface to draw a huge gulp of air when his mind begun to encroach on the edge of a trance as he stared at the bubbles, his heart rate slowing, his vessels constricting, while his muscles quivered from a desperate lack of oxygen.
“Seven minutes!” he heard the surprise in his own voice as he took another deep swallow of air and gaped in happy shock at the watch strapped to his wrist, “Seven… minutes,” he exhaled, he was ready.
Toweling off from the pool, Dave immediately drew on a pair of dark sunglasses before walking briskly back to his apartment, a short-term rental in a crowded highrise, the perfect place to disappear but still, he wasn’t taking any chances.
Closing the door on the tiny but comfortably furnished studio, he flipped on the TV before turning to a mini-fridge in one corner and fishing out a cold drink.
He’d been right to be careful. The screen filled with a picture of him, a flattering one albeit, and the newscaster’s bored drone filled the cozy room.
“…a dangerous ex-convict, he is now wanted in connection with a robbery where five million…”
Dave grabbed for the remote and flipped channels, settling on a cooking show where a robust hostess was skewering thick juicy hunks of chicken and tender chunks of brightly coloured vegetables before placing them to sizzle deliciously on a hot grill.
He’d had enough stress for several lifetimes. He plopped down onto his sofa-bed and sighed.
Tomorrow, he decided. He was done surviving, it was time to live.
A lukewarm sun filtered weakly in through open windows as birds chirped cheerily to welcome a new day. He’d hardly slept, but Dave felt fresh, alert, as he dialled a popular newsroom.
“This is Dave,” he paused unsure of how to continue, “I will be at the sea bridge at noon.”
Lights, camera, action!
Camera crews, police and curious onlookers drawn to the scene by the action, crammed onto a narrow two lane bridge straddling a deep channel that led out to the open sea.
There was much jostling but little sound, and that drowned out by the fast rushing waters below, in addition to the charismatic baritone of the man who was the centre of all attention.
Dave stood apart from the crowd, which had formed a tight semi-circle around him, his back to the bridge railing.
“That money was owed to me by a former partner,” his voice was compelling, calm, “I simply took what was mine,” his arms opened in a gesture of honesty as some of the reporters recording the scene nodded sympathetically despite themselves,
“Fellow never thought I would get parole and is banking on the public’s prosecution of me,” he paused again...
“I was only seventeen when I was first tried,” he paused as a murmur went up in the crowd while a zealous policeman yelled ‘On your knees, now!’ but was promptly shushed by an elderly onlooker, a woman who was shakily recording on her phone...
“They found me guilty only of proximity to the crime,” his voice broke of its own accord, “I am innocent of this as I was innocent then!
...My only crime has always been a bad choice of friends,” the crowd was bristling now.
Reporters, onlookers and even a few cops commiserating while the rest of the police began tightening the circle around him, drawing their guns as they realised he would not be coming quietly.
Dave noticed their advance but he was already on the retreat.
Leaping up onto the railing limb and graceful as a cat, he balanced like a tightrope walker as a collective gasp went up from the crowd.
“Don’t jump!” it was the old lady, her phone held askew now, worry furrowing her already wrinkled visage, a clamour that was taken up by most on the bridge.
But Dave was already deep into his breathing routine.
He stood perilously on the edge like a Gothic statue, so intently focused on inhaling and exhaling that he seemed to be in meditation.
The frigid hell
And he was, for in his mind's-eye, he was already in the water, writhing in its cold depths, already envisioning his plunge.
He didn’t even hear the screams that rent the air as he dived, pricking the surface of the deep water like a pin, leaving only a small ring of foam on the surface to indicate a happening.
It was frigid. Colder than he could have imagined, and for a few seconds a scream tore at his lips and strangled at his burning throat, begging for release; then so slow it was imperceptible, the familiar trance came over him, warming him like a magic balm, cradling him in its soothing rhythm.
He did nothing but hold his breath and let the current sweep him away.
Seven minutes later, far out of sight of the overwrought spectators on the bridge, in a cool green glade with slippery moss by the bank, Dave surfaced and was never seen again.
He was considered dead, so why would they look for him anyway?