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A Ring of Water Around his Neck

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Swimming was dangerous.

 

“Komaeda-kun.” the teacher was talking. “I know you don’t want to swim, but this is mandatory. Please hurry and get in the pool.”

 

Komaeda tilted his head away from the teacher with a headful of chlorinated water drowning him. He bounced his clasped hands behind his back.

 

“Komaeda-kun.” the words were stressed.

 

He dipped his leg into the water and sat on the edge of the school pool. He could hear his teacher sigh, but that didn’t outweigh his desire to avoid luck. He swished his legs around the cool water, watching ripples form. It would be easy to tip him over. He could feel water glide over his skin, opening his mouth to it. School accident.

 

The other students screamed at something. The screams turned to laughter. Hands on his back. His head hit the water, and he was moving his arm to swim up. Was that minor bad luck? Komaeda looked back. One of the girls nodded at him apologetically from the ground she slipped on. Students crowded around her. He smiled back.

 

He treaded water, felt it making currents around him. It felt nice. It felt comforting.

 

The sun was sparkling while cicadas chirped. He stayed in the pool. Played games by himself in an isolated corner, timing how long he could hold his breath. A numbness grabbed his legs while he was submerged. His legs couldn't move, and it hurt. He thrashed his hands. Small bubbles of breath escaped his mouth. He was sinking.

 

He was sinking for a forever when his lungs started burning, and he was going to die. He was going to die. He flailed and grasped for an invisible rope up. The last of his air left him. He watched it float away. He tried to inhale before he remembered there was no air to be had. His lungs were burning, and he really needed air. He couldn’t stop it. Not truly. He opened his mouth.

 

His brain questioned what his expectations were when he drew air in water.

 

His lungs were heavy with water, and yet he needed more. Everything was spinning until it was calm and quiet. He saw some strange things doing strange things. He saw his parents. Then he blacked out.

 

He gasped. Water was pouring out of him; his throat and chest hurt terribly. He felt like an endless fountain. He was gasping for air.

 

When he was finally home from the hospital, he opened his hand. Inside was a ring set with a luminous gem. The hospital staff thought it was his and left it on his bedside. It had been his mum’s wedding ring. He thought he had lost it in the winter. He had gotten free invites to a mystery movie from his favourite director in exchange. The movie had been terrible. He had gotten the ring back for almost drowning.

 

He stared at it till he started sobbing. He curled into himself until the tears ran dry again.

 

He hated swimming.