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Hold Your Breath

by Julie Lacksonen 8 months ago in Horror · updated 7 months ago
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For Keeps

Photo of San Carlos Bay by author

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the water. It doesn’t matter if I’m on it, in it, or under it. Swimming, boating, water skiing, SCUBA diving – I’ve done it all.

My name is Dolly, after the great Dolly Parton, but my mother always calls me “Dolly Dolphin.”

I met my husband, Joe, on a dive boat in Belize. His charm and good looks piqued my interest. His adventuresomeness kept me locked in. After our honeymoon in Hawaii, it was right back to work.

I am a marine biologist. I travel a lot, taking very depressing readings on the states of coral reefs around the planet, but I won’t get into details about that.

Joe is a writer, specializing in detective and horror stories. His novels have had moderate success. Most of the time, he follows me around and writes while I’m working.

Things started changing early on when he started grilling me about my co-workers. He doesn’t like that most of the time, I’m the only woman on a team.

Sex is rougher, sometimes leaving bruises or scratches on my skin. He is clingy in public. His constant presence is suffocating.

In an attempt to rekindle some of the earlier spark in our relationship, I suggested, “Joe, let’s take a vacation in Mexico, just you and me. I hardly ever get to dive recreationally anymore.”

His face lights up. I catch a flash of something sinister in his smile, but it’s gone so fast that I dismiss it as misunderstood.

I suggested driving since The Sea of Cortez isn’t far from Southern California, and then we can chat and listen to music.

We leave the following weekend. Enroute, Joe goes on for miles about his next idea for a horror story about a couple finding a pristine island on vacation only to discover that it’s infested with man-eating primates. At least he didn’t say zombies.

We check into our favorite hotel on the beach in San Carlos and then hasten to a boat rental office. We arrive 10 minutes before they’re supposed to close and go through the paperwork quickly. It helps when you’ve established a rapport with people. Before long, we are heading to Martini Cove for a quick snorkel. When I finally get in the water, I feel like I’m home.

After just five minutes, Joe grabs my fin and says, “I’m getting back on the boat. How much longer – like 10 minutes? I want some shrimp and cerveza.”

“We just got here." I can't help whining. "The king angelfish and surgeonfish are so beautiful. At least give me 20 minutes.”

“Well, okay, Babydoll, but only because you look sexy in that skimpy swimsuit.”

I blow water from my snorkel in his general direction.

He shrieks, “You’re going to pay for that.” He laughs as he dunks my head and holds me under the water. It goes beyond being a joke. If I wasn’t so used to being in water, I would have panicked. Instead, I simply dive down out of his reach and watch from below as he swims toward the boat. Just to spite him, I stay in the water for 30 minutes while he’s fuming on the boat.

We party hard that night. Joe has lots of beer. I stop at two margaritas, wanting to be clear-headed for our dive in the morning.

Our plan is to dive Isla San Pedro Nolasco, the big island, to check out the hammerheads and sea lions. It’s a long haul with a small dive boat, but with clearer, deeper water, I think it’s worth it. We may dive a sunken ferry boat on the way back.

We inspect each other’s equipment and then get suited up. We will swim into the current, making for an easier return trip.

As we descend to just over 60 feet, I count six beautiful sharks, gracefully milling about. I look at my air gauge and throw Joe a look of panic. I give him the signals, “out of air” and “share air.” We can easily buddy breathe to the surface. I watch in disbelief as he shakes his head and swims away to let me die.

I wait, holding my breath.

What Joe doesn’t know, is that I brought a “pony tank.” It’s a small hand-held backup tank which will easily get me to the surface. He also doesn’t know that while he removed the O-ring on my air tank, I did the same to his. How could he think I wouldn’t watch my air gauge? Furthermore, I put some chum in the pocket of his BCD (Buoyancy Compensator Device) in the form of some cut-up fish. As soon as he is out of sight, I relax and breathe with the pony tank.

By Jéan Béller on Unsplash

Joe will feed the sharks as I had planned, while I surface and head back to San Carlos Bay. I will swim, dive, snorkel, and sit on the beach all I want for the rest of the week and then go home and play the part of the horrified, dutiful wife.

Too bad Joe won’t be writing his own horror story. It may have been a best-seller.

Thank you for reading! “Joe’s horror story” can be found here.

This is what happens to Joe in the afterlife.


About the author

Julie Lacksonen

Julie has been a music teacher at a public school in Arizona since 1987. She enjoys writing, reading, walking, swimming, and spending time with family.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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