He noticed that the door wasn’t shut as he had first thought, but slightly ajar. Strange, he could have sworn…but he hadn’t looked that closely. He could just swim round in circles and tell Jakki that there was no house. He remembered the face at the window he left behind when he ran away, and knew he had to go inside.
He flicked his fins and bumped a hand against the door. It didn’t move. Years of cold and damp had made it a poor fit for the frame long before he’d left.
“Don’t bang the bleeding door, you little turd!”
Ian braced a hand against the frame and pushed. It ground across the slate floor, but it gave way and his momentum carried him through it. Into darkness. He couldn’t see his hands. He heard his bubbles pass his ears, but he couldn’t see them. He felt his anxiety as he fumbled for his flashlight. It was only anxiety, he told himself, a long way from panic. This was not the time for panic.
The flashlight clicked on. Ian blinked in the sudden glare even as he saw the wall at the end of the living room. He threw his arms in front of his head before he gently collided with it. He felt the flashlight knocked out of his hand and opened his eyes to see the beam wandering around the room. The worn paint and bare floorboards were so familiar he felt sick. His repeat offenders must feel like this when they go back to prison, he thought. He retrieved the flashlight and the beam swept across the door to the kitchen. He saw a quick movement and refused to believe what had just appeared, because there couldn’t be a human figure in the room and it just couldn’t be “Dad!”
Next week: The Roll
Cover by Manda Benson
Other stories by DJ Cockburn available online