Chapter 23 | Brando

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I'm swimming. It's dark. The air is crisp and I'm swallowing it gratefully. My lungs fully inflate so that I can feel them against my ribs. It feels good to feel.

      I wonder what I'm doing out here in the ocean. For some reason, I'm not scared. I should be worried that I'm seven-hundred miles from land, that there's nobody around me, that there could be a shark beneath the surface of the water. I should be screaming for help, but I don't.

      An engine roars up above. I look up and see the lights of a plane, weaving through the tapestry of stars. It's beautiful, but I'm so far away.

      My limbs are freezing. I'm starting to feel the cold. It spreads through my body as if my veins have suddenly filled with icy water.

      Once it becomes unbearable, I scream. I scream so loud that it hurts my throat. I feel the blood vessels burst in my neck. I'm drowning in my own blood.

      I have been alone my entire life, it's no wonder I'm about to die with no one by my side. I don't expect anybody to come to the rescue when I can't even rescue myself.

      I feel something tugging on my hand, pulling me under the water. I start to have a panic attack. I've been scared of the ocean since I accidentally watched the opening scene of Jaws when I was six years old. The great white shark has come for me. It's come to pull me under the waves. It's come to take me away from this world so that I may never know the love of another man. My time is up.

      I hold my breath and scrunch my eyes shut. Ambient noise fills my ears. A weight is unloaded on top of me. I stop breathing. I give myself over to the quiet of the sea. I'm numb. I no longer feel.

      A breeze catches my face. I'm confused – there shouldn't be a breeze under the sea. I take a breath, and then I open my eyes.

      I look up. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the dim light. It's painful, so I blink rapidly until my eyes become numb. I look to see where the breeze is coming from. It's the air conditioning. I'm still on the plane.

      My head feels heavy. I muster up the strength to keep my head up as I scan the cabin. The memories flood back to me – the turbulence, the screaming. My heart beats fast and I look down to my lap. My seatbelt is on.

      I sigh in relief. Then I hear a voice next to me. 'Hey, sleepyhead.'

      My eyes widen. I don't want to look. I feel as though I've been drugged.

      'You feeling okay?'

      I don't respond to him. I move my body forward but find myself sinking further into my seat. I feel sick.

      'I'm...' my voice sounds broken. 'I'm fine.'

      'Good,' Nick replies. I feel his hand on mine. Has that always been there? I look at it, confused. Where is Daxten?

      'I think I'm gonna be sick,' I say, swaying forwards.

      He pushes me back. 'Then let me get you a bag.'

      I watch as he pulls out a paper bag from the seat in front of him. He hands it to me. I don't know what else to do but take it from him. He smiles and rubs my arm.

      'You gave me quite a scare there.'

      'I'm sorry.' I feel the need to apologize, even though I know I shouldn't. I don't owe him an apology. I don't owe him anything. I put the bag to my mouth and lean forward.

      Nick rubs my back. I feel my muscles tense. I can't shake off the queasy feeling that eats at my stomach. It's not a hangover – it's worse. I did hit my head pretty hard. Is this a concussion?

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