I have no idea just how deep the slipway was but I had seen skin reflected in the moonlight, I was sure of it. This was no momentary flash or silly thought but rather an actual fact, I had seen a survivor make the shore and since I would wish that it is something that someone would do for me were I in such a predicament.

I stripped, the cold and rain lashed me in an instant scalding my already cold skin with chills that were hard to even imagine, my body numb with the cold before I even entered the sea.

I dreaded all before me, but held my breath and dived in from the pier. My flashlight was waterproof, an old fantasy of finding a shipwreck full of Spanish gold stood out in my mind as the cold engulfed me.

I never had found the shipwreck, well actually, I had found a few (shipwrecks) but none of them Spanish and not a one with any gold on board; most populated with dead sailors and many crustaceans'.

Had the poor soul stumbled from the water just to fall into it again? The weariness that overtakes you after a long swim is depthless and saps all the strength from even strong men and women. It is easier in the sea, normally, as you can rest floating on your back but not on this night, on your back you would have been tossed like a corn in a popcorn bag.

The sea is merciless and violent; it pays no heed to the hopeless humans tossed upon its tremendous movements.

And so they would have just have had to head towards the shore.

The tide was on their side, if they could swim well and it was not yet so cold that hypothermia would have set in quickly. In the firth of Clyde which is just an offshoot of the Atlantic Ocean with difficult tides but slightly warmer water then It really was possible that someone did survive.

I plunged into the channel below the pier and tried to use my flashlight. They tell you that they are water proof but it went out with no notice in less than a meter of depth.

I went down farther. My ears are not so good with pressure and I knew I would have a headache if I went down farther but it was just by the shore and so could not be that deep. It was not even as deep as I had imagined as it must have been somewhere between fifteen and twenty-five feet when I felt the gravel between my fingers. I already knew that I was going to have a headache tomorrow. I tried searching and my lungs were much better in those days, I was a good swimmer yet no matter how good a swimmer you are you must still return to the surface for air.

I had seen nothing but I had not given up and so I tread water for a few seconds taking deep breaths then I blew out imbibing a few shallow ones before I descended again. I pushed myself down with my arms, kicking with my legs to give me depth. And again down there I saw a flicker of human skin but it seemed to be mobile and sinuous. I though perhaps it was a conger eel, white, as they stay hidden yet it had nothing like an eel in its movement and so rather I saw a human form swimming away from me. I doubted my perception in the almost complete blackness yet when I looked up, salt water in my eyes, down, perhaps twenty feet, I saw something break the surface, above me, pulling what looked to be legs behind it over the side of the pier.

I barely made the surface as my lungs screamed for air, barely, but I did. I made it without even a splutter, though with many gasps, and lying on my back trying to calm myself still it took a few minutes to regulate my breathing.

I used my already wet jeans to dry the worst of the water from me and dressed. I sat on a rock for a little while to recover my breath and think on what I had seen. The fellow had obviously stumbled back into the deep water channel after gaining shore. This would be easily done it being so dark, their eyes clouded with the salt water and the slipway being exactly what it is called; slippery. I was the same and had to keep rubbing my own to keep some clarity of vision, the teardrops from the salt and the silt in the water almost blinding me. Yet the one that had survived had obviously found the strength from somewhere and had made the pier. Either that or my eyes had been playing tricks on me. I did not know at the time which was the truth but was soon going to find out.

I knew I had to be careful as the tide came in quite rapidly on the west coast and though there was no particularly high tide expected, I could still be caught on the rocks before I made the shingle beach. But I need not have worried as the clouds broke for a few minutes, no more than ten but with some light I was able to cover far more ground safely and made the shingle beach way ahead of the oncoming tide.

I was no worse for wear really apart from a few scrapes here and there and the gash in my knee that I would clean thoroughly when I arrived home, well those things and a case of the shivers. I found the first group of searchers close by and asked if they had seen a policeman, to whom I would pass on my news but they had not. In fact, I think by the look of them that they hardly left the spot where they had arrived at the beach not that I could really blame them as the rocks and shingle were very dangerous to walk upon in this light. Farther along were a man and woman striding back from farther along the shore. I did not recognise them at first due to the long coats, waterproof trousers and hoods, until a voice shouted Billy?

I saw them change direction and head towards me. I still had no idea who they were yet they obviously knew me but then I had nothing on my head but my hair and my face was bare, theirs were all in shadow. As soon as we closed the man held out his hand for me to shake, I took it and held it giving it a quick shake as was the custom in these parts. I still did not know who it was, his voice was distorted by the wind and the ever roaring sea. I could tell it was a man and woman just from their heights and general shapes along with the fashions they were wearing.

No man would wear a lilac, windcheater and few women that I knew would own rigger boots.


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