UNDERTOW

A Short Aquatic Story

The raft floated along, rocking steadily back and forth with the sway of the ocean current. No land could be seen from any direction. The sun was setting, disappearing slowly below the far off horizon. It had been one day and one night since Cal pushed his homemade raft off of the shore of Palm Beach and into the unpredictable waters of the North Atlantic. The coast was completely overrun by the undead, and there was not a square mile left that was not covered in carnage. No one knew why or how, but the dead had come back to life everywhere. The corpses were bloodthirsty and feral. They attacked without any regard for themselves and could not be killed like a normal person. Cal had watched his coworkers devour each other as one by one they were all disemboweled. Only to rise up again, intestines spilling onto the floor, to come for him. Somehow he’d made it out and to the shore.

There had been many other people attempting the same escape route. Some of them never even made it off the beach. Tripping in the loose sand, carrying too much, trying to fit too many people on a poorly constructed vessel. Cal saw so many get taken down by the blood soaked, hungry eyed undead as he frantically rushed to get into the water. He’d made it out into the ocean, along with several others, but time had passed and he was now alone in the vast scape of water. The other vessels, mostly actual boats, had presumably sailed for the Bahamas. Cal had no idea at this point where he was floating. Since he was not on an actual boat, rather a very quickly and crudely constructed raft he’d built out of materials in a nearby garage he’d hid in for some time after escaping his office building, he had no way to steer except for a four foot shovel he was attempting to use as a paddle. The shovel was heavy and the current was so strong that Cal’s arms were, by now, completely exhausted. He had no choice but to let the current take him and hope to God he landed on a safe island before he ran out of the little water he had and dehydrated, or worse lost his raft and drowned in the ocean.

As he laid there in the pitch black water, soaking wet and on the verge of hypothermia, he could hardly believe that he was still alive. With every new splash of ice cold water, he began to wonder more and more if he should not just give up and end it here. Cal imagined the islands, free of corpses and filled with welcoming survivors like himself. The thoughts warmed his mind slightly and he eventually drifted off to sleep.

Cal woke, before the sun rose, with a intense headache and knots in his stomach. Grabbing from his backpack a water bottle, he desperately gulped down more than half of the liquid. He stopped and examined the amount of liquid in the bottle, which wasn’t much, knowing it was the last of his water. Between his headache and severe stomach pain, Cal knew he needed to get to land soon or he would likely die. As much as he wanted to get up and try to paddle, his body was just too depleted to do anything but stay alive.

Cal floated along through early morning and, just as the sun began to rise along the ocean, he saw the outline of hills come into view in the distance. Turning over, he looked out at the approaching island. It was quiet and Cal saw no one on the shore. As he floated closer to the beach he noticed a mass in the water about thirty or so feet off shore. With a rush of adrenaline he paddled toward the shore frantically, but despite his efforts to avoid it, his raft drifted directly towards the floating mass.

As Cal approached the dark mass, he realized it was not one large thing, but rather a number of dead bodies floating together in a clump. He tried desperately to paddle himself away from the corpses, but instead of pushing himself away, he accidentally broke off some of the bodies. They drifted around the raft as he paddled hysterically, trapping himself further in the cluster until the shovel got caught on the underside of the raft and slipped from Cal’s wet and bloody hands. He fell back on his ass and grabbed hold of the sides of the raft to stay on board. Looking around he saw that he was now stuck in the middle of the mass of bodies. The moment he stopped moving he took in the horrid smell that surrounded him on every side. The rotting, visceral stench of soggy corpse decay filled his sinuses, making him gag. His stomach lurched and forced up the little water it had left, followed by a serving of pure stomach acid.

Cal could still see the shore, but the mass around him was beginning to float out towards the open ocean. He had to do something now or he would be taken back out to sea. Using his shovel, he attempted to break free from the bodies, only to force the whole mass and himself further out. He knew there was only one option left. Gathering up all his remaining strength, Cal stood up on his rocky raft and got the best footing he could manage. With one deep breath he leaped as far as he could away from the mass.

He cleared the bodies by inches, bumping his head on a foot as he landed with a splash. Cal swam as fast as he could toward shore. The current was pushing him back and forth and he had to use all of his strength to fight it, but he slowly starting making his way towards the beach. His heart raced as he got closer and closer to land. Pushing forward he suddenly felt something cling to his ankle, and then suddenly he was under water. Cal struggled to get back to the surface, kicking at whatever had hold of him. Finally he broke free and made it to the surface. He gasped for air and tried to keep swimming but already he felt his ankles being grabbed again. As Cal was pulled into the water once again, he opened his eyes to see hands, with flesh nearly floating off the bone, wrapped around his feet. He struggled as hard as he could, losing air quickly, as the hands pulled him down to meet horrible undead faces. The skin and muscle floated around the heads like pieces of tissue paper, attached by thin strands. The eyeballs bulged out of the sockets and looked like oysters.
Cal felt sharp stabbing pains as the murky faces sank their teeth into his flesh. Cal’s fresh blood filled the water around them, turning it bright red like the setting sun. His intestines floated in long ropes all around him as what was left of his body eventually rose to the surface. Cal’s corpse drifted around the shoreline for some time. After a while the current brought back the mass of bodies and Cal’s carcass was swept into the clump of rotten corpses. The bodies floated in a mass a ways off shore as the sun rose into the sky over the ocean.        

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