Sample Sunday – Going Under

January 27, 2013 Uncategorized

Going Under : The first 1500 words

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When Karo saw the woman drowning in the canal, she did not think twice before diving in to save the victim. Too late, the teenager learned that the accident was not an accident. Now the people who tried to drown Liz to keep her quiet want to make sure Karo does not say a word.

A girl who legally does not exist has very few options. As the pressure from police grows and threats from the attackers increase, Karo needs to decide where to turn and who to trust if she is ever going to be able to leave her past behind.

Going Under

Karo did not even think before she dived in. The water in the canal was thick and greenish and she could hardly see the other woman below the surface. Drowning, the woman was flailing upwards, clawing frantically. Her head was still under the water. Karo bobbed up to snatch another breath, and then ducked under, swimming downwards. Her hand touched something sharp, jagged, and concrete, and she fumbled forward. Another touch – broken metal – and then, third time lucky, a leg. She pulled at it, running her hands lower in the water. Abruptly they touched metal, finding the tangle of chains that the woman was caught in. A hand brushed her head as the victim reached down, panicky, flailing, to yank at her trapped limb. Half drowning herself, Karo’s fingers slipped numbly in the cold water as she tried and failed to get a grip on the slick chain. Quickly she kicked off the bottom, breaking the surface and snatching another breath before she dived down again. The woman did not have that luxury.

She was bent over, tearing at her leg, but her struggles were getting weaker. With the woman’s head underwater Karo could not tell her to go limp, not to waste her remaining air. The victim would never hear. Reaching out, Karo caught hold of the struggling woman, blindly following the line of the woman’s body down to her trapped leg. The woman was clawing at her leg, at Karo’s arm, as her would-be rescuer fumbled with the entanglement. It was wrapped round her leg several times, tightly embedded in the flesh. Her struggles were weakening. Desperately Karo tried to grab whatever she was caught in, to lift it. If she could just get the woman up to the air…no use, it was too heavy. All she did was waste her own breath in the attempt, and had to resurface again. The effort had drained her and Karo was breathing too fast, using her air too fast, to consider options. Something hit the water by her head.

“Grab it!” There was a guy on the bank, holding the rope of the life belt he had thrown.

“There’s a woman trapped under here! She’s caught. Help me!” No time to think. Karo took another breath and, as she tried to dive, screamed as the woman grabbed her. The victim’s distorted face was under the water looking up, and there was nothing sane in her eyes. Her hands dug into Karo’s shoulders, pulling the teenager down as she tried to claw her way up to get to the air just inches out of reach. Water splashed Karo’s face as she was pulled under. Desperately the teenager kicked out, pulling away as her sleeve tore. If Karo did not get free, she knew they were both going to die. With the strength of panic, the trapped victim clung on. Karo grabbed her shoulders, forcing her away as she lifted her own knee, getting it between them, and used her legs to break the deathgrip. Dizzily she surfaced, drawing in air in a gulp.

Two hands broke the surface, floating, not moving. Horrified, Karo realised that when she kicked out the woman must have inhaled water. She was out of time. She filled her lungs and dived again, pulling herself down using the victim’s limp body as a ladder and guide in the dark water. Her frozen fingers jarred painfully against the metal wrapped round the woman’s leg. Karo gripped it, turning herself in the water to brace her legs against the bottom. She pulled at the metal, trying to get her fingers inside it for a better grip. Now the woman was limp there was a little more slack but, wound round her ankle, the chain was not coming off. Fighting to hold her breath, Karo forced the foot straight, pointed it like a ballet dancer, and wedged it under her arm. It gave her a little play to get her fingers between the chain and skin and, braced against the concrete, she yanked the chain downwards. Mercy of mercies, it began to move. A second hard pull, and suddenly the victim was floating upwards as her leg slithered free. Something knocked against Karo’s head and for a moment she reeled, disorientated, choking water, before sanity came back and she kicked upwards.

She broke the surface and turned over, looking round for the victim. The woman was floating limply, face down. Gripping an outflung arm, Karo got her onto her back, trying to keep the woman afloat, and her mouth above the water. With difficulty she tried to claw strands of hair out of the woman’s slack mouth. Her fingers touched dirt and leaves, but she could not hook it out and support them both. The woman’s limp weight and their sodden clothes threatened to drag them both down and Karo was beginning to tire.

Something hit the water by them, and Karo grabbed it on reflex, letting the life belt take their weight as she gasped for air. Suddenly the victim’s weight was supported as another arm looped under her back, The woman was lifted free, as Karo clung to the ring dragging in grateful breaths as her frozen legs hung in the water. She heard heard splashing as the other woman was lifted clear of the water. and then she found herself moving as the life belt was pulled smoothly in. At the edge of the canal she reached upwards, too spent to get a hand over the edge.

From the path, a policeman reached down to her, pulling her out, while a hefty shove from behind got her onto the grass. As she looked round another officer climbed out, dripping and exhausted. There was an eerie tint of blue lights flashing, and she could see people running. As she reached up to wipe her eyes she saw the filthy, bloodied, state of her hands and stopped. If she was in that state, the woman she had dived in to save must be worse. Slowly Karo clambered to her feet and made her way towards the bustle on the path, shaking her head to get the water out of her hair. There was no more she could do to help, but she wanted to know if the woman had made it. From the tone of their voices, the ambulance men did not hold out much hope.

“Crack the chest? Direct cardiac massage?” Karo stood clear and watched the ambulance men at work, shivering as she dripped dry. Her first clear look at the stranger she had saved made her shudder. Under the grime of the canal water and smeared makeup, the victim’s skin was pallid. Karo could not even guess her age.

“Wait.” The paramedic doing CPR gasped, between breaths. For a moment no one else spoke and then, with a sputtering heave, the body on the dock convulsed. As she threw up into the paramedic’s face, he ignored it, turning the casualty sideways with practised ease as the green, stinking, water soaked the concrete. His firm pat on the back may not have been best practice but it worked. With a few more convulsions, she expelled the rest. Her face was too pale and her mouth gaped, finally gasping in air instead of water. Suddenly, surreally, the situation went from talking about cracking rib cages to blankets and warming packs.

“Are you alright Miss?” Fully focused on the resuscitation, it took Karo a moment to realise the policeman was speaking to her. “Did you fall in?”

“Yes, I er…I saw her in there and jumped…take care of her. ” As her head began to clear, the implications of talking to a policeman began to sink in. She had to get away.

“She is being looked after, Miss, but you’d better head to hospital too. The canal water’s not the cleanest.” Looking down at her blackened work clothes and the mud, oil and algae that caked them, Karo shook her head, trying to think of an excuse to leave before they could start asking questions. Then she remembered that a few minutes earlier the woman had been breathing this stuff, and that the odd taste in her mouth meant Karo herself had swallowed it. Looking at the greenish stain on the docks, her own stomach heaved. As she was violently, horribly, sick, she could hear the officer calling for assistance, but she could not stop choking long enough to tell him she would be alright.

Somewhere she heard a door slam and the sound of an engine. By the time she had got herself under control and looked up, the ambulance had gone.

“Don’t worry, there’s another one on the way. Here. Rinse your mouth out.” A glass of water was pushed in front of her. Obediently she gulped and spat, trying to clear the taste.

“I have to head home. I have work tomorrow.” Despite her protests, she could not stop shivering. The police officer fiddled with the zip on her jacket, bundling it off and dropping it. It squelched on the dock. The cold cut straight through her sodden blouse but, a moment later, a blanket was wrapped over her and the chill faded. Karo huddled down, feeling like a refugee.

“I think you’d better wait for the ambulance.” The officer suggested, not unkindly. She wanted to protest, but her teeth were chattering too much. Wrapping her hands inside the blanket for shelter, she gave up. At least the ambulance would be warm.

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