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Gasping for Air

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Diego wasn’t panicking, no not at all, everything was fine. Or it had been until the current grabbed him, pulling him away from the cement wall that signified safety, the strong force pushing him ass over teakettle in the swirling darkness. He kicked out, trying to catch his feet on anything, maybe the wall or the bottom of the river or even breaking the surface but all he managed was another somersault through the water, no clue which direction was up or down. He could hold his breath as long as he needed to, but who knows where the current was taking him, he needed to get out before it swept him off to sea.

He kicked out again, flipping forward and thought maybe this time he was facing the direction the current was traveling, which gave him at least a starting point, if he could turn just to the right maybe he could swim across the current and reach the-

He slammed chest first into a rock jutting up from the river floor, hard enough to knock the breath he had been holding clear out of him. He couldn’t suppress the instinctive gasp he took, flooding his lungs with water. He was going to drown.

His mind snapped back to when he was just a kid, 14 years old with a chain around his ankle secured to a pulley on the bottom of the pool. If he looked up he could see his father sitting at a table on the edge of the pool, writing notes in his journal and occasionally consulting his stopwatch.

He came back to the present as his straining lungs took another gasp of water, the edges of his vision darkening.

14 year old Diego felt the pulley unlock and he swam to the surface, exhaling and sucking in fresh air. There was a clock on the wall, telling him that 7 hours had passed since he went under. “C-can I go yet?”

“Not yet. Exhale all the air in your lungs.”

“Please, father-”

“Do as you’re told, Number Two.”

He sighed and then finished it off with a loud exhale. Before he could even try to inhale again, his father flipped a switch and the pulley yanked him under again. He accidentally sucked in a bit of water in surprise but focused on stopping his lungs, not letting anything else in.

It’s hard to hold what isn’t there though.

It’d only been minutes, still longer than an average person, but he could feel the edges of his vision going black, the lack of oxygen finally getting to him. He flailed his arms, trying to signal that he couldn’t handle it anymore but his arms grew heavy and his lungs gave up, letting the water trickle into his mouth and nose as everything went black.

A hard yank on his leather harness and what little consciousness Diego still had felt as though he were sailing through the air before he flopped onto hard cement with as much grace as a fish out of water. The impact jarred some of the water loose and he vomited most of it up, gasping as he finally got a breath of air. The same rough hands that pulled him from the water were now pounding on his back, encouraging the rest of the water out as he hacked and coughed onto the ground. His whole body trembled, whether from the current situation or the memories it triggered, he couldn’t be certain. He clenched his fists and pounded on the ground in frustration when he couldn’t make the coughing stop.

“Come on man, I got you,” Luther said, rubbing circles across Diego’s back now. Diego squeezed his eyes shut, holding back his own stubbornness and forcing himself to accept his brothers help. He lay there for a few more minutes, until he felt like he had coughed out all the water and half of his lungs themselves, before shrugging Luther off and pushing himself to his knees and then slowly getting to his feet. He was shaking like a soaking wet cat, but he refused any further help Luther offered and stumbled his way back to his car. He accepted he was in no shape to drive at least and collapsed across the back seat instead.

He just hoped this all was worth it.