The roar in her ears is muffled now, the sounds of the shore distant and hollow. The water forces her down, her back slamming against the gritty bottom. Eyes clenched shut, the world around her is dark. Her throat burns; her lungs scream for air.
Above her, the surface plays an elusive game of peekaboo as each new wave dangles the possibility of her mouth and nose breaking the barrier between water and sky.
The barrier between watery grave and sun-kissed life.
Panic wells in her chest. Her mind races.
This cannot be how it ends.
She will not succumb to these monstrous depths.
Forcing her eyes open, she gathers what little strength she has left.
She is determined.
The next wave slams her back into the ocean floor; she skids toward the shore on its current.
The monster doesn’t realize it’s helping her now.
A lull. She twists against the water, willing her feet to touch the bottom.
The next wave crashes and in the second it passes, the current sends her downward, toes brushing the sand.
She springs upward, breaking the surface, arms moving in familiar repetition, stroking the current beneath her.
She is exhausted, but she can see the shore.
With a few more strokes, she’s back in quieter waters.
She reaches with her toes…
…a few more inches.
Lungs gasping at the pure air, she looks out at the horizon. The waves build and break around her.
With aching arms, she lifts her hands. Right hand fingertips to left palm, firm, steady.
This is the sign for standing.