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Refusing to go under








The countdown ends abruptly. I open my eyes to a darkness so complete it is absence. It is cave-dark, the sound-absorbing dark reserved for underground things. I reach out.  I am suspended somehow, but not restrained. I swim I suppose – it is the best word I know for the motion. It is awkward, unpracticed, difficult. A single point of light catches my eye. It stands out like firelight in the void. It is impossible and beautiful. And I think then that maybe only impossible things are beautiful. They strike us as they do because we cannot really know them or tame them or possess them.

I do not expect to look down upon my own inert body, but I do. The crack is small, but I am fluid in this state. I am so much oil coating the surface of a sea of nothingness. I am the sheen of wrongness, pollution gaining sentience. A toxic spill sullying a sacred space.

I shouldn’t be here.

I watch the knife cut into bone. A bout of queasiness overtakes me as the water splashes. I think of slipping through the slit, wonder if I  could slither onto the floor like a snake. What sound would I make if I fell? Should I rejoin my body or abandon it? It appears to be ill-suited for escape at this juncture.

With an effort, I turn back. I should not be surprised to be consumed by dark, thrown off-balance.

The water is rising, as if fed by some secret spring. If I can just locate it, maybe I can….

I realize with a start that it is me. I am pouring out. Dissolving.

The aperture is my only hope. I wonder in a distant kind of way if there will be enough of me left to slither.

I slide through easily.


“She should be waking up. I don’t understand,” the anesthesiologist says. “Her pulse is strong.”

He turns then. Something has caught his eye. A strange gel beneath the girl’s right eye. Thick. Viscous. Too substantial to be a tear.

“Jan, come have a look at this.”

A figure in green scrubs approaches. “She seems fine to me. Waking. We should get her into recovery to finish the process. No one wants to wake up in the workshop.”

She’s right, he sees. The liquid has gone and something in the patient’s color has improved.


“The water…coming from somewhere. The water. I’m oil on the water,” the girl mutters. “I’m spilling out.”

“Shhh, shhhh, you’re still waking up,” the nurse assures her.


“She spoke of oil on water. She did not choose to submerge. She found her opening. She came through instead. It bodes well for the future. She could perhaps be tempted to pool into another body with the right convincing. “

Jan said nothing as the man she knew only as the doctor spoke.

This was wrong. But wrong was how you changed lives.

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