Ian kicked his fins and tried to twist his body toward the door he’d come in through. The door itself appeared in the flashlight beam, and he heard as much as felt his head thud into it. The sea exploded into pinpoints of light. He felt salt water in his nose and mouth as his mask and regulator shifted. He flailed his arms, feeling for the doorway, and somehow he was outside. He shoved the regulator back into place and found himself staring up at soil and boulders as the air in his drysuit rushed to his feet. Bubbles roared past his ears as he breathed in great retching sobs.
The image of that figure shimmered in his mind and a spasm of shivers shook him. Just as suddenly, he found he was furious with himself. It was stupid enough to be down here alone to start with, but he’d committed the cardinal sin of panic. Now he was still out of control and drifting toward the surface when he knew perfectly well that a simple forward roll like that would get the air out of his boots and into his sleeves so he could release it through the wrist valve like that. Uncontrolled ascent turned into a gentle descent, and he landed on his knees on top of a boulder. He needed the feel of firm ground while he got his breathing under control. He pressed his hand to his ringing head, though he could feel nothing but the texture of neoprene covering a solid object. The boulder beneath him would feel the same.
He glanced at his air gauge. A hundred and twenty bars left after seventeen minutes. He was ripping through his air, seeing things and now he’d banged his head.
Next week: The Living Room
Cover by Manda Benson
Other stories by DJ Cockburn available online