Coldwater Cottage – 18: The Ascent

Previous instalments: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Coldwater CottageIan shot through the door and blinked at the grey light bathing the boulders below him. He grabbed his air gauge and lifted it in front of his eyes. Twenty bars. Not much, but enough to get to the surface. He turned to face the house as he kicked upward, and perhaps he heard a distant voice say, “she was never really alone here,” but he wasn’t sure.

Back in the eternal grey between the surface and the bottom, eyes darting between the depth gauge and the Celtic cross in his hand. The cross glinted as red seeped back into the colour of his drysuit. Ian looked up to see the sparkle of sunlight on the surface above him. His head burst into the air, and he took the sweetest breath he’d ever tasted, for all the salt he inhaled with it.

He opened the valve into his buoyancy jacket, but the sigh of air died from the moment it started. It was enough to keep him on the surface, but Ian shuddered at the thought that he’d surfaced with less than one more breath in his tank.

The boat bobbed about fifty meters away. He could see Jakki’s blonde head as she lay against the rubber side. He was only ten meters away by the time she saw him. She leapt to her feet, but staggered and lost her balance as the boat rolled.

“Ian!” Her voice was muffled by his hood, but he could hear the joy in it.

Ian slipped his mask down around his neck and threw his arms over the side of the boat. He opened his left hand and expected Jakki to grab the brooch. She glanced at it, looked at him and time stood still as he saw that old look of trust return to her face.

Jakki sprang forward, leaning over the side to throw her arms around his neck. “I knew you’d find it.”

Ian pressed his face into her shoulder. “Yes,” he said. “I found it.”

The full story is available from the Amazon Kindle store, and is part of the Steel in the Morning collection which is available in Kindle or paperback format.

Coldwater Cottage was originally published in Lamplight 1:2 and subsequently in the Lamplight Volume 1 annual.

Author notes


Cover by Manda Benson

Other stories by DJ Cockburn available online

Steel in the Morning

Newgate Jig

The Endocrine Tyranny

Peppermint Tea in Electronic Limbo


Cassandra’s Cargo

Mars One

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