Congratulations to Rosemary this month!
The Remit was: Scary Story’ – including these words: triple, testament, triangle, tepid. (in bold type)
The Secrets of the Waters.
Jasper stepped down into the tepid water. The moon was reflected in it, giving a fair light to see by. He began to swim.
The moon gradually disappeared, obstructed by a passing cloud. An owl hooted somewhere in the nearby copse. He could feel the weed brushing against his legs and knew he must be careful not to be entangled in it. Silently he swam on, the darkness seeming to envelop him and he struggled to suppress fear. A weed brushed his left leg, then his right. He must not be trapped. The documents in the waterproof security pouch on his belt must reach the Resistance. The border could not be far away. Soon the moon would reappear.
The owl’s three hoots, punctuated by an equal period of silence, were like a triple-hoot code. He knew nothing of owls and thought that he would ask his mother, a keen birder who would know its species.
The river widened. Slowly, the minutes passed but he swam on, his endurance a testament to his rigorous training.
A piece of weed crept up his leg and wound itself around his right foot. He stopped to free himself but got a shock as he felt a hand holding his ankle. His heart beat fast. The ankle was held firmly, pulling him down. He snatched a huge breath before going under the surface. Who was this? Opening his eyes, he could see lights. They began to circle him. Apart from the person who held him, there were three others circling, lights on their heads like miners’ lamps. The triangle of lights moved closer. Suddenly, a hand took his other leg and he was dragged towards a dark shape. An opening appeared and the water was flooded with light. He was pulled inside. The door shut.
His training had not prepared him for this. It had taken seconds but seemed longer. Convinced he was about to drown, he was relieved when the water drained away leaving him on the wet floor of a dim, circular room. The creatures had disappeared with the water, yet there were no apparent exits.
Surveying and assessing his position, he could make no sense of it. Were these enemy agents or something extraterrestrial? Of the two considerations, he thought that the latter might be preferable. If caught by the enemy, his life would be short. The locations of Resistance cells would endanger many lives.
After a few minutes a human figure, gender indeterminate, in some kind of uniform appeared before him, steel-coloured hair swept back tightly to its head. It took all his training to suppress fear until he concluded that it was a holographic projection. It examined him as though he were a strange zoological specimen then reached out towards him. He was not afraid of harmless holograms. Then he felt it touch him. His heart went into overdrive and he collapsed.
He awoke on the river bank and instinctively felt for his security pouch. It was gone. He had failed. Had he just been dreaming or had he encountered a new enemy weapon? A submarine was hardly a new idea, yet it was different from any he had seen before. His chest itched. On opening his shirt he received another shock; operation scars were visible, no stitches, just pale scars. He must get back to civilisation, so he followed the river downstream.
In daylight the place seemed pleasant, unrecognisable from before. Alert for booby traps and snipers, he was nervous, though the sunshine and the birdsong distracted from his fears.
The landscape became familiar, which was odd, as he was far from home. More questions came into his mind. It was unusually warm for spring and the grain in the field was well advanced in growth.
At last, there was a farmhouse. A woman came out to hang washing on the line in the yard and was singing in his language. He was much nearer home than he thought. So that was not the river he had swum in at the border.
“Excuse me,” he called out. “I’ve lost my map. Can you tell me where I am?The woman looked up nervously, “Oh, hello, you gave me quite a shock.” She scanned him up and down, observing the scars through his open shirt.
Clearly, she thought he could be an enemy agent. He had to reassure her and thought quickly of a back story. “I was on leave and walking along the river when I was jumped on and knocked out. When I woke up, all I had left were the clothes I was wearing – and some cuts.”She softened and invited him to the kitchen where she made a sandwich and gave him some water.
“Thanks,” he said as he sat down. “What’s the date, please?”
“Are you all right? July 14th.”
Jasper’s cup rattled as he shook.
It had been April when he had swum in the river. If he had encountered the enemy, he would now be a prisoner of war or would have faced a firing squad.
On eventually arriving home, he went to his GP to be checked out. The man said, “The military surgeons have done a fine job on you. I can see you had by-pass surgery.
What caused your heart attack?”
“Stress of the job, I suppose,” claimed Jasper.
He was reduced in rank for losing the documents, though there was no evidence that the enemy had used them. He kept the heart operation secret.
The war ended. Life returned to normal until one day when his son came back from fishing at the local canal. “Dad, will you come with me next time I go? I saw some foreign soldier swimming in his uniform. I came home, as I didn’t like the look of him, at least, I think it was a ‘him.”
There was a thud on the floor. “Dad, are you all right? Mum, Mum! Call an ambulance!”
©R J Wells 2017