Prompt Day #302: Place a wheelchair-bound character on a sinking ship.
Here’s a short little piece of fiction with the subtitle “I couldn’t really come up with a good story for this one.”
I Will Survive
The cruise was supposed to be a celebration of my survival. The terrible fall that left me paralyzed from the waist down wasn’t going to stop me from enjoying my life. I’d signed up for the cruise to Costa Rica where I would meet up with my tour guide from a company called Accessible Adventures so go on a six day, five night white water rafting tour of the rain forest.
It was my preparation for this particular trip that I believed saved my life when the ship exploded and half of it sunk in pieces taking the majority of the passengers with it. The half I happened to be on was filling with water quickly. No one was going to take the time to help the guy in the wheelchair and no one was going to make room for my chair on the lifeboats. We were in the middle of the ocean, people were going to die. Many were injured already and most of the lifeboats were damaged.
Prior to my accident, I was a strong swimmer, hiker, and mountain climber but now, my dead weighted legs would certainly pull me under. There was no way my arms could do the work for all four appendages. I made a decision. If I could get back to my room and if my luggage was still intact, I just might survive this.
The elevator was out of order of course, so I abandoned the chair and belly crawled down the stairs. It hurt like hell but I didn’t have time to think about it, besides, my plan would require a lot more pain before this was over. The room was already flooded, I had to strain to keep my head above water until I could get to the bed. The ship was sinking fast, there wouldn’t be much more time. My suitcase was on the bed. I rummaged through it and found my bungee cords. I wrapped one around each leg twice over, making them as tight as I could.
I took my survival knife out of the pack and before I could think about it too much, I began to saw. I took big swiping cuts. As deep as I could get. There was a dull icepick sensation working down into my bones. I’d lost all motor control of my lower legs but had enough sensory nerves left to hurt. I gritted my teeth and hacked at the bone of my right thigh. My hand slipped a few times from the slippery blood. So much blood. The water was licking my wounds, washing away the blood and sending needles of pain shooting up into my groin. There was no time to scream, no time to stop. I watched my leg, now attached only by muscle and skin floating to and fro with the waves. I grabbed the leg and axed the last connection, releasing it into the ocean. I watched it bobbing along, periodically jerking under the water as fish picked at it and fought over the meatiest parts.
Once I had one leg off, it was easier to do the second. I felt dizzy and wasn’t sure if the pounding of my heart was due to blood loss or adrenaline. It didn’t matter at this point, if I stopped now, I was sure to die. I worked at my left leg, attempting but not obsessing to keep the two lengths relatively equal. Soon, I was free. I swam using my arms only, but without the heavy, useless lower limbs, I was able to keep myself afloat. I found a life saver and held on for, well, for dear life.
I felt the tug of fish drawn to me by the blood as they ate at my stumps. I didn’t care as long as the fish stayed small. My greatest fear of course was attracting a shark. I knew I needed to get to a raft or boat or land relatively quick. Instead, I floated there amidst the rubble for two days. I managed to catch a few small fish as they fed on my leg and in turn fed on them, trying not to think of the odd cycle of life going on in this situation. I hoped that the tourniquets would hold and the small fish would keep feeding, leaving little blood scent around me.
I was saved by a small fishing boat full of natives who spoke not a lick of English. They seemed to think I had been attacked by a shark and I could tell they were quite worked up at the idea of a shark large enough to eat both legs off at the upper thigh in one bite. But it got me to land and the hospital quicker.
Turns out, I was in Costa Rica after all. I couldn’t get a refund on my Accessible Adventure Package, but they did give me a voucher for next time…