Short story of a fisherman’s tale
“How’s it going Dave, caught anything yet?”
Dave turned around at the sound of his mate’s familiar voice.
“Hi Baz, wondered if you could resist coming down tonight.”
“Yeah, thought the salmon’d be running. The missus has gone to her mother’s, so might as well take advantage of the peace,” he grinned.
Baz set his gear down on the flat rock overlooking the Great Southern Ocean. It was getting dark; the wind picking up, it would be a cold night. The two friends were dressed for the weather though. Despite the cold, the lure of a good catch was too hard to resist.
“Fancy a drop?” Dave passed the flask, the smell of scotch strong on his breath.
“Nah. Thanks anyway, mate. I like to keep a clear head, gotta keep a watch out.”
Dave shrugged, taking another nip before slipping the silver flask back in his jacket pocket.
The two men stood side by side in companionable silence, the sound of the ocean a soothing background noise in the darkness.
After about an hour with no luck, Dave moved further along the rocks. He was now nearer to the water and could see the phosphorescence shimmering. The waves seemed to be bigger than before he thought. He shivered and sighed. “I’m bloody freezing.”
Taking his eye off his line whilst he searched for his whisky flask, he gasped, when suddenly he was up to his knees in sea water.
“Shit! That was close.” He was no stranger to the area and knew the danger of freak waves.
Deciding he should move back to his original position further up the rocks, he reeled in his line, but as he did so he was confronted by a wall of water. The force of the torrent knocked him off his feet, the freezing water picked him up as if he weighed nothing, tossing him into the giant waves, over the jagged rocks and out into the black night.
“Hey Dave! You okay?” Baz’s voice called out; for he had seen the monstrous wave, but he’d escaped a drenching. When he got no answer from his friend, he feared the worse.
“Dave!” he screamed, but the wind whipped his words from his mouth and out into the darkness. In his heart, Baz knew it was too late, but grabbed his phone and called the emergency number. That was all he could do, he was helpless. He scanned the waves, hoping for the miracle that somehow Dave had made his way back. The night seemed to be even darker, the wind even stronger, as he stood alone, waiting for help to come.
Meanwhile, out in the cold sea, Dave was battling to survive. The salt water stinging his eyes, the waves attempting to push him under, as if they were eager to claim him for themselves.
Screaming, mouth filling with water, choking him. The wind stealing his cries before they could be heard. He tried to swim towards the cliffs, but the relentless, ebbing tide, dragged him further out from shore. Facing five metre waves, he forced himself to stay afloat, but knew he couldn’t sustain the effort for much longer. His clothes were waterlogged and were dragging him under. Unzipping the heavy jacket, his hand brushed the whiskey flask as it sank down into the depths.
“Oh God, save me!” He prayed.
Baz was his only hope, had realised what had happened, and already called the coast guard. Dave lay on his back staring at the black sky, hoping against hope to see the beam of a helicopter, but knew death was more likely than survival. Gravity was winning as it tried to pull him down into the depths. His strength, failing fast, he reasoned he should take off all his dark clothes, his unclothed body would be be spotted more easily if a search had been mounted. Struggling out of the heavy outer clothes, Dave saw the irony of his selection of his underwear that morning, the fluorescent orange garment may yet become a lifesaver. Thinking of his wife and children, he railed against the unfairness of it all and gave up the struggle. His strength leaving him, Dave sank under the waves.
A noise, louder even than the roaring of the waves, penetrated his brain, and raising eyes to the dark sky, he saw a searchlight, discerning the whirring of the helicopter’s rotors above him, before it flew on past.
“Here! Here!” he screamed in frustration, but the wind whipped away his pitiful cries, defenceless against the the roar of the Southern Ocean. Pulling off the brightly coloured undies, and lying as flat as he could, so that as much of his white body would be visible to the searchers, he waited, until at last he saw the aircraft coming his way again. He waved the orange garment as the searchlight hit his body.
After what seemed forever, a rescue diver winched down to join Dave in the boiling ocean, diving under the water and securing a harness around his body. Within minutes they were being hauled up into the belly of the chopper. He lay gasping, vomiting seawater, a shivering, wet naked man, much like a sea creature caught on the end of a line. Snatched from an ocean deprived of a certain victory.
Later Dave, wrapped in blankets, spoke to his rescuers and even managed a rueful smile. “Thanks guys, your fishing trip turned out better than mine!”