The Swamp (Part 17)

Hendricks could not even really see the sun anymore. It was up there somewhere, which was all he knew for a fact. That his skin was blistering and was going to peel off in chunks and strips was another fact. He giggled like a mental patient under his breath.

“You have to stop that, Henrique.” Luz rasped, the sound croaking like a rusty hinge.

“You finally woke up. You were out a long time. I was starting to get worried. I hate to ask, but how are you….” His question trailed off and he looked away. Her face, formerly so flawless, was now sore and bleeding in spots. Her lips were fissured like cracked dried mud on the riverbank after a long drought. He almost expected to see the bleached bones of an antelope in the boat, and this brought forth another series of giggles, which he tried to stifle with a fluttering hand.

“You’re a crazy man, you know that?” she laughed a little herself, and her laugh suddenly became violent coughing, bent over in the small craft. Hendricks stumbled over to her, concerned. He lifted her head up and gave her the very last of the water. She tried to push it away, but he would not relent and cooed to her, smoothing her hair with his fingers, making her drink.

She drank the last few drops greedily, her coughing spasm abated. She looked anguished, but he shushed her.

“You can’t cry now Luz. It’ll be like you’re wasting the water, okay?” he held her head up and she nodded, a slight smile upon her lips.

“But what do we do now? What?” she pleaded, begging for an answer.

“Why, we get rescued, of course. What else?” he tried to appear confident. “Hell, somebody’s bound to come along soon, right?” The look on her face told him to change the subject quickly.

“What’s that?” he pointed to some dark swells in the water. “Are those sharks?”

“Those are ballenas, how you say, whales?”

He watched as the huge creature breached, spraying water and splashing about fifty yards behind the boat. It was a Gray Whale and very beautiful, he thought. If only it could save them somehow. But that shit only happened in bad movies. In real life you died from exposure and thirst and they never found your body.

He finally remembered the episode of Man vs. Wild where Bear Grylls shows viewers how to build a desalination still, but you needed a plastic sheet and a bunch of other crap he didn’t have on the boat. Something else he was running short of was energy. All he wanted to do was curl up and pass out. He wished for the millionth time that day that he had a bottle of Excedrin Migraine but of course that would have been completely useless without a glass of water to wash it down with.

Hendricks noticed that Luz had fallen asleep in his arms, snoring softly. She looked so peaceful and innocent. He knew that they only had a little time left before they went mad with thirst. The end would not be pretty.

From his time in Iraq and from books that he had read he knew the damage that water deprivation had on the human system. The first thing that happened, which was already happening to him, were the headaches and lack of energy as the body shut down, trying to preserve any liquid it had inside.

His urine, the little that came out, was thick and the viscous fluid felt like battery acid coming out, as if he had some sort of advanced venereal infection. The next stage would be near asphyxiation as the walls of the throat and esophagus became inflamed.

If you are unlucky to survive long enough and don’t die right away, your bones begin to tighten up and crack at the joints. The body will seek fluid wherever it is left hiding in the body, deep in the recesses between bones, especially in the joints. This is perhaps the most painful of all the symptoms of dying of thirst and can cause severe cramping and makes it nearly impossible for a person to stand up or move their arms or even their fingers without electrifying agony.

How long did it take a person to die of thirst? Hendricks pondered this question the best he could while struggling with his mounting head pain and waves of nausea. He supposed that it depended on several factors. How much water the individual’s body could normally retain. Some people sweat more than others. How much fat a person had on their bodies was another important consideration. Fat has a lot of water in it and the body will use it as it dehydrates. Physical conditioning does not play a big part in surviving water deprivation. Mental toughness is certainly a factor and just the sheer will power to push through pain, though the headaches can diffuse this piece of the puzzle right away and make it difficult for anyone to focus on staying alive. The weather was probably the number one reason that they would not survive another day.

As the sun dropped below the horizon and the air began cooling, Hendrick’s headache began to dissipate. He struggled to stay awake but the blessed relief from the searing brainache forced him to close his eyes and he was snoring blissfully seconds later.

to be continued

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