The Swamp (Part 22)

Hendricks dreamed he was floating in a swimming pool. He was on one of those rubber rafts that have drink holders and he was sipping a frozen margarita through a long straw. He knew, somehow, that he was in Palm Springs, in the house that they would rent every summer for one or two weekends.

The sun was hot on his head, but he was so comfortable floating there in the pool, listening to the sounds of distant water splashing. Kids playing, he thought.

It nagged at him that there was something, something important, about the kids, but he could not quite recall what it was. The sounds of the kids splashing became shriller, more desperate and he realized that they were in trouble, drowning.

Then he suddenly remembered what it was: the kids didn’t know how to swim!

He spit out the straw and tried to yell “I’m coming! I’m coming!” but in his dream he couldn’t speak. The words caught in his throat.

He tried to struggle out of the raft but found to his frustration he found that he couldn’t budge.

He looked off to his right and he could see his kids caught in the ocean’s surf. He didn’t register right away that only a minute ago he had been in a pool and now he was out in the ocean somewhere. In the middle of the ocean.

His kid’s heads bobbed up and down in the mounting waves, and they slipped in and out, screaming for help.

Then he saw the dorsal fins.

“I’m coming!” he was suddenly able to scream, with a voice louder than he had ever had in his life. It boomed out of him, louder and louder. “Hold on! I’m coming! Daddy’s coming!”

He tried again to get out of the raft, but instead it flipped over, trapping him under the salt water. He fought for breath, thrashing about, until he could hold it no more and took in deep lungfuls of ocean water.

Hendricks woke up screaming, his face and body soaked in sweat. A round, dark skinned man in his early forties held him down, shushing him, trying to make him relax.

“Shhhh. Don’t do that. You are safe now,” said the man who wore a freshly laundered, tightly pressed white guayabera and black, thick-rimmed glasses.

“Where…where am I?” stammered Hendricks. He looked down and realized he was in a bed, in a largish room with portholes. Hendricks deduced from the size of the room and the furniture that he was on a yacht, and a good sized one at that.

“You are very lucky. Yes, you are the luckiest man in the world. We would never have found you if it was not for that herd of whales in our path. Amazing creatures! We steered around them and that is when we came upon you. Imagine our surprise! Oh my, very exciting! Very exciting!

It’s almost as if they, the whales, that is, they wanted to push us towards you. They are brilliant animals, much more intelligent even than humans I believe.” The roundish man droned on, then stopped short, seeing that Hendricks was looking shell-shocked.

“My apologies, dear sir. Unfortunately, as they say in my country, I have dasta, er, diarrhea of the mouth, yes?” he bowed. Hendricks had already figured out now that the guy was from India and probably rich as hell if this was his fucking recreational toy.

Hendricks tried to get out of bed, but the little man gently pushed him back. “No my friend, no. You cannot get up, yet. You are not well. Very very dehydrated.” It came out “berry berry dehydrated”.

Hendricks shouted, “Where is Luz? The girl that was with me?” Not getting an immediate response from the Indian man, he pushed up again. “I said, where is the girl? What have you done with her?”

Hendricks shoved him aside and stumbled out of bed and out of the room. The inside of his mouth suddenly tasted like glue. His feet felt funny, like they were stinging him with needles. He groaned, aching throughout his body.

“Luz! Luz!” he shouted.

The room began to spin and he collapsed on the deep shag rug. He propped himself to sit up against the polished mahogany siding that covered all of the walls. The little man came over and helped Hendricks to stand up.

“The girl is fine. Do not make so much noise. She is resting. She was not as burned by the sun as you, thanks to Krisha. Sometimes it is truly better to have dark skin. Heeheehee!”

“You are probably wondering who I am.” He helped Hendricks climb back into the bed. The man pulled a cold plastic bottle of filtered water and put it up to Hendrick’s mouth. He drank greedily and tried to grab the bottle, but the man pulled it away, shaking his head slowly. He dabbed Hendrick’s chin with a napkin.

“My name is Ravishankar Patel. You may call me Ravi. This is my ship. We found you floating in that little boat in the middle of the sea. You were both almost dead, I suppose. I am still contemplating all of the conundrums and consequences. Very strange. Very, very strange.”

Hendricks looked down, tired, “I’m…I’m very grateful to you, Mr. Patel. I know you want some answers, but well, maybe it’s better that you don’t ask.”

Hendricks looked away, then pushed his hands into his pockets, feeling for his stones. He realized that they were not there.

He looked at Ravi, searching the man's face.

Ravi stared back, then chuckled. “You are searching for your rocks, yes? They were falling out of your pocket when they hauled you up, so I took the liberty of putting them in the safe.”

“You…you know...?” Hendricks sat up.

Patel nodded, “Oh yes, yes. Thanks to the Goddess Kali she has delivered you exactly to the one person in all of the ocean who would know precisely what they are. Exactly what they are. I will give them back to you soon.

But first, please say that you and the girl will stay with me for a few days as my guests. You will have everything you want here. I only ask for one thing, your truthfulness.

For you see, I have deduced that you must have a most interesting story. I wish to know…no…I must know, who you are, how you came upon these exquisite stones, and yes, I must know every little thing that has happened to you. Your story must be most fascinating.”

“We will wake you in a few hours for supper. Until then, sleep. You need your rest.” He switched off the light and Hendricks was snoring in just a few minutes.

to be continued

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