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Thalassophobia

tha·las·so·pho·bi·a

By Nicole FennPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 months ago 9 min read
1
Thalassophobia
Photo by Jesse van Vliet on Unsplash

Hey!

He yelled, screamed at the top of his lungs, water sloshing in his face and filling his mouth temporarily, the salt stinging his throat already as he lifted an arm to wave.

Hey!!

Desperate as he watched the stern of the fishing boat drift away, could see some crewmates still trying to gain back their footing from the wave to almost tip them over.

Overboard!

He yelled again, hoping the word would spark some concern among his crewmates. And yet, the desperation turned to sheer panic when he could only continue to watch the boat drift further and further away. Both arms now flung beads of water as he continued to call, yell, scream for someone. But, nothing.

It felt like seconds had passed as he watched the boat continue to float until it wasn't there anymore. The fog and haze from the continuously disrupted sea salt already shrouding the boat as they were fishing. No one seeing the wave, no one expecting the dramatic turn in the weather. Not until he was already treading in the water, watching the safety between the water and himself drift away.

What now?

What now? God, what does he do now?

The Atlantic was a bitch to deal with on a good day with solid ground under his feet. Now, a storm had just passed through and he had nothing under his feet.

Does he really have nothing under his feet?

He looked down to the water just barely under his chin, not seeing anything without sticking his head under; but knowing that there couldn't be nothing under his wading feet.

There could be anything.

The pulse ringing in his ears quickened, feet treading just a tad more desperate than a few minutes before with hands trying to push him up and out of the water as much as he could. To no avail. The ocean was beginning to wrap itself around him, closing in on him like a blanket and cooing to him to stop, to accept his feat. The ocean was calming like that, which is why he became a fisherman in the first place, finding solace in the sounds of the waves and views of the seemingly endless horizon while on the sea.

As long as he wouldn't have to get in the water.

Thalassophobia. The persistent fear of bodies of deep, dark water and what exists below the surface.

He knew what existed, knew the fish to fill their nets and hang from their hooks. Knew the species and creatures to swim up next to their boats, enticing bouts of happiness and cheers as they would breach from the water. But, he was safe then. He was separated from the ocean, looking down at the water and creatures.

Now - now he was in it. No longer on the high ground, feeling elevated from the species that swam below. Anything could be swimming just meer inches from under his feet.

There was a gasp, he was starting to shiver already, not sure if the sound came from him or the lull of the waves around him. Either way, he had to stay focused, had to stay safe, stay alive. Years of training began swirling in his head, trying desperately to remember what he was told if he were to find himself alone in the open ocean with no boat, nothing.

First, don't panic.

That was much easier said than done, but he did his best to take a few deep breaths towards the sky, attempting to keep as much water from entering his mouth as he did this.

Second, stay afloat.

If the water is calm, lay on your back. If the water is rough, lay on your stomach and lift only your head for air.

He paused to take into account the water around him, still slightly rough from the storm that had just passed through. And yet, the thought of lying on his back with no sight of the water around him was enough for the same thought to quickly churn his stomach. Ok, wasn't going to do that. Just tread and try to keep your head above the water.

Ok, what's next? Avoid hyperthermia.

The next shiver to shake him from his arms to his head caused a slew of curses to slip from his chattering teeth. Damn, he didn't have anything. No dry clothes, no raft to get him out of the water. He's heard different things about forgoing your clothes to avoid the weight of them to drain you of energy, at the same time it's all he had as a barrier against the chilled saltwater. Maybe his shoes? He did have boots on, finding them to cause his legs to tire already as they took on water. A hand reached to remove one of the boots until he realize - if he takes off his shoes and something brushes against his bare feet? His hand slowly retreated back to help him continue to wade through the water.

The persistent fear of bodies of deep, dark water and what exists below the surface.

He knew what already existed in the water, knew what could already be swimming amongst him and in the depths below. So why was he still so scared? There were no legendary creatures with tentacles that stretched for miles. No such thing as sharks four times the sizes he was already familiar with. And yet, his aching and numb toes curled in his water-logged boots at the thought of something of the sort brushing against his bare feet.

The sound of his teeth clacking and chattering brought him back to reality, the overwhelming desire to fold his arms in on himself to keep warm forced him to spin himself in the water; searching desperately for something floating, something to keep him up and out of the water as much as possible.

To his delight and immense relief, he finally saw it, a raft.

It was floating towards him, the fog of the surrounding sea obstructing his view of it until it was practically on top of him. He huffed a laugh, a grin breaking out on his face as he found a sudden burst of energy to swim towards it. The raft already had water in it, finding that it could have disengaged when the boat tipped and went flying into the sea with the wave that crashed over him and his crewmates. However, from what he could tell, it was still in one piece with no visible leaks.

Using what upper body strength he had left, both arms hoisted himself over the edge and into the small puddle of water, regardless, it was solid enough. He laid on his back with eyes seeing what they could through the dense fog.

HA! He suddenly sat up, You're not gonna get to me now!

But he was still out in the middle of the ocean, alone, cold, and a tad hungry. Ok, what next? Survive.

The hours started blurring together as he was able to scoop the extra water out of the raft with his hands, fingers squishing the inflatable material to find that there was indeed a hole towards the bottom. A pinhole, but enough where if he wasn't careful, he'd be back in the water again. The hunger that was barely there was now summoning whales, the noise grumbling from his stomach dramatic but felt throughout his entire body. He wasn't much warmer from when he had originally been in the water, but at least he wasn't getting any colder.

Hours felt like they were turning to days now, a fish swimming up to the surface now and then for him to grab with his hands. Thanking his older brother for showing him how to grab for fish and crayfish with his hands back at the creek near his parent's house. It was barley enough, sating that hunger for the time being until the same gurgling would come back begging for more - never mind his worsening thirst.

Don't ever drink saltwater. The irony of being surrounded by so much water that you couldn't drink wasn't as bad as the effects it has when actually drinking it. If there was one piece of advice he hung onto from his fishing boat's captain, it was the one to keep him from all sorts of stomach issues. Still, it didn't keep him from leaning over the edge of the raft, head resting on his arm as he looked longingly to the water lapping against the side of his raft.

That's when he saw it, the shadow. The incredibly large shadow just under the low visibility of the waves. He tore himself from the raft's edge, feeling his pulse race and pound in his ears. Doing a few double-takes at the water, he squinted his eyes. Did he really see that?

He fought every internal voice yelling at him to stop as he leaned over the edge of the raft again, looking for that shadow and hoping he wouldn't see it again. Until he did, and it was closer to the raft.

There was a yelp to jump from his chest, pushing himself away from the edge to huddle towards the center of the raft. All earlier thoughts of hunger and thirst were forgotten as the sun started to set and stars began twinkling above him, the shadow causing ripples in the waves around him. The raft started rocking, enough to make him nauseous with head spinning.

What the hell is that?

It was too big to be a shark, too unfamiliar to be a whale, and too solid of a form to be a school of fish. He felt his hands start to shake from fear now, the cold no longer the only bone-chilling feeling to shake him to his core.

His attention snapped to the side when he heard a splash, only seeing the disturbance of the water. It was too fast.

Another breathless scream to rattle his chest when a force hit the raft from behind him, the motion enough to send his body flying forward and to the edge of the raft again. Hands caught him, eyes searching the water frantically again for what could possibly be around him or under the raft. A cold sweat broke out on his forehead, breathing becoming more rapid as he looked into the deep ocean below.

Before he could throw himself back to the center of his raft, another push to the back sent him tumbling forward into the water.

Darkness had started to overtake his vision, clouding the corners of his eyes. The moment before he blacked out, he saw a tail as large and long as a whale's move just out of view behind him again. And then, nothing.

~

He awoke with a sinking feeling, as if he had been falling, the soft cushy mattress under him catching as he fell. White walls greeted him, eyes squinting and forgetting where he was for a second. His vision blurred, attempting to focus on the casted leg propped on a few pillows at the end of the bed. Blood still soaked the white fabric of the gauze, pooling in the fabric and resembling bite marks. Large bite marks.

Thalassophobia. The persistent fear of bodies of deep, dark water and what exists below the surface.

fiction
1

About the Creator

Nicole Fenn

Young, living - thriving? Writing every emotion, idea, or dream that intrigues me enough to put into a long string of words for others to absorb - in the hopes that someone relates, understands, and appreciates.

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