This morning, I opened my eyes underwater and screamed. The sound waves vibrated in the ocean but no one could hear a thing. Calm down. Take a deep breath, I thought. But if I inhaled, the water would seep into my lungs and I’d drown.
I looked around for help, but all I could see were sharks. Above me, below, to my left, and my right. I shouted and shouted until I felt myself caving in.
Someone come save me. Take my hand and lead me to the surface.
Wild. Desperate. Frantic.
But never, never hopeless.
Seconds away from sinking into the ocean floor, I remembered: I can swim. I can pump my arms and legs and make it back to land myself.
But I’m still surrounded by sharks. Creatures that could grab hold of my legs and drag me back underneath. Beasts that would destroy me once and for all.
Then I saw it. Quickly: A flicker. A glitch. An illusion. The sharks disappeared for a blink and were back the next.
They weren’t real.
I didn’t wait another second before gathering my remaining strength and swimming straight through the sharks and toward the surface. It didn’t matter how long I could hold my breath anymore — reaching the top was my priority.
And sure enough, I started to see the sun above the water. Guiding me. Letting me know, you’re this close. Don’t give up now.
But it’s easy for the sun to speak, way up there, safe from the sharks and people and the earth. A shiver suddenly ran up my spine and traveled through every bone, and though I knew I shouldn’t, I turned my head back and saw them. The beasts were back. Swimming behind me at full speed, jaws open, teeth ready to dismember me.
My limbs weakened, and I could no longer slice through the water.
Not real. Not real. Not real. I’m stronger than this. I moved my arms and legs again, not ready to give in, until I was speeding through.
I would not let it take me any longer.
I cut through the surface and with my head now above the blue monster, I took the sweetest breath. Air filled my lungs and I cried tears indistinguishable from the ocean water. I was back. I was back. I was back. I had not lost yet.
I opened my eyes. I looked around my room, reality becoming clear once again, and before it could pull me back, I stood from my bed.
Today, I had won. The ocean is still there. Somedays I’ll struggle to keep my head above the water, and somedays I’ll be just inches away from the bottom.
But it doesn’t matter — as long as I always remember that I can fucking swim.
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