“Is it dead?”
“I can’t tell from here. Why don’t you go and give it a poke?”
“Eww! No, you do it!”
“You’re the one who wants to know if it’s dead.”
“I wonder how it got here.”
“I don’t know. Flew?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“It looks kind of sad, just lying there like that.”
“Do you think it belongs to somebody?”
“Must do. It didn’t just materialise out of thin air.”
“But it’s not the sort of thing you just leave lying around. I mean, you’re not going to drop something like that without noticing.”
“But nobody’s taking any notice of it now.”
“Well, yes, except us.”
“What should we do?”
“What can we do? If you’re not prepared to get any closer, there aren’t many options. I guess we could throw something at it from here.”
“Like what? A brick? What are you thinking of?”
“It hasn’t moved the whole time we’ve been standing here. It doesn’t look good, I’m afraid.”
“Well, we can’t just leave it lying there like that.”
“Why not? It’s nothing to do with us. Why should we care if it’s alive or dead?”
“I don’t know. I just thought maybe we ought to do something. You know, to help.”
“How? We could chuck it some money, I suppose.”
“What would a thing like that do with money?
“I don’t know. We haven’t got any food.”
“Maybe it needs a place to stay.”
“I’m not taking it home with us.”
“I think I just saw it move!”
“What? No, you didn’t! You’re imagining things.”
“No, I swear. Look, it did it again. Its foot twitched. I’m not kidding!”
“You’re right. I saw it that time.”
“It’s rolling over. It’s looking this way!”
“What should we do?”
Air, the stuff of life, escaping to the surface.
I remain below, searching the depths for an answer.
The water is murky, which feels appropriate, given my state of mind. The currents swirl like my thoughts, threatening to spin me around and distract me from my purpose.
But I know the wreck is here. All the data points to this location, a months-long investigation culminating in this dive, this moment. I am alone, here in the darkness, a single beam of light showing me the path that lies ahead. But that is all I need; the light, the data, the faith that I will at last find what I am looking for.
The ship went down nearly a hundred years ago, lost in a storm one night during its voyage. A young woman was found on a not too distant shore two days later, unconscious, half-drowned, but alive and with another life growing inside her. Nobody knew who she was, where she had been bound, or what vessel had been carrying her.
She died, but the baby lived – my grandfather – adopted into a family from a nearby village and raised as their own.
The mystery remained hidden for many years, until my father started looking into his family tree and an old woman in the village finally told the tale. He kept it purely as a bedtime story to pass on to me, but it took hold inside me and I could not leave it alone. I had to know – where had she come from and how had she ended up on that shore?
It drove the direction of my life, needing to solve that mystery. I researched, I studied, I learned to dive and to survey the ocean. I found old records of sea voyages at the time and at last tracked down the ship that was lost two days before the woman was found.
And now here I am, still searching, but so much closer than I have ever been before, perhaps about to discover what I have been burning to know my whole life.
Who was she?
Who am I?
[Originally written for the weekly Hour of Writes competition - my first entry, published December 2014]