7 Days in May
Alex checked the instruments and adjusted his heading. Ten minutes more and he should be off-shore somewhere
alongside Military Road. Then it would probably take him a further ten minutes or so to find a secure place to hide his
submersible and swim ashore.
I’ll be there in half an hour baby. Just hang on, he promised his daughter.
The journey across the Sound and around to the southern side of the Isle of Wight had gone without a hitch, the
Dawn running silently on her batteries. The work he’d done on the rewiring had paid dividends, the new sonar set-up
guiding him safely to his destination, and even the seal he’d replaced was holding up.
When Alex finally surfaced it was to a dull rainy day, the small craft tossing about on the surging waves. Even though
it was early morning, the low clouds and lashing rain made it so dark that he was concerned about taking the submersible
any nearer to the shore for fear of damaging it. He sat thinking for a moment, bracing himself against the swells,
wondering how to get ashore.
Then a yellow blinking light caught his attention. It was a large warning buoy about fifty metres to leeward. The
coastline here was obviously dangerous with underwater rocks. He’d have to be very careful.
Keeping a sharp eye on the sonar Alex manoeuvred the bobbing craft as near as he could to the buoy. He needed to
be quick once he opened the hatch as the heavy seas might flood the small submersible.
Alex punched a few buttons and slipped a hand into the control glove that operated the Dawn’s claw-like appendage
attached to one side of the viewing bubble. It took him five attempts before he finally got a grip on one of the buoy’s big
anchor points, by which time he was dripping with perspiration.
Locking off the claw Alex donned his wetsuit, took a pair of flippers from a locker, stuffed a pair of deck shoes into
his pocket and squeezed himself through the tight opening of the hatch.
As he struggled his way out on to the top of the Dawn, he was met with pounding waves and stinging rain, almost
loosing his grip as he fought to dog the hatch closed.
Dropping backwards off the submersible, Alex fell into the sea, turning to orientate himself. He saw it coming too
late, just managing to raise a protective shoulder as the Dawn twisted on its claw, crashing into him.
Coughing seawater Alex fought down the panic.
I’m okay! I can do this!
His shoulder felt numb and he was having difficulty moving his right arm, but he kicked out with his flippers, keeping
his head above the waves, slowly fighting his way towards shore, wishing he’d used his air-tank, instead of just a face mask.
The morning light was dim, rain shrouding any lights that might have been showing from the houses dotted along the
shore. Alex could just make out the dark outline of a hill in the distance and set out towards it at a slow crawl. He was
strong but had never attempted a long swim in such dangerous conditions before.
Alex had only swum a short distance when he realised that he might have made a terrib le mistake. The clouds had
lowered, cutting what little light there was even farther. Behind him just black waves, in front an impenetrable wall of rain.
All sense of direction had suddenly deserted him.
The wind clipped the tops of the waves into long white frothy streamers that lashed Alex’s face. He was tiring quickly
but could see the rocky outline of the shore not far away. Thin fingers of sand stretched out into the sea, like a cupped
hand ready to support him.
His knees hit the seabed and he stood, bracing himself against the incoming waves breaking against his back, feeling
the exhilaration flood through his body.
He’d made it. He was ashore. As though in celebration of his success the rain eased and a weak sun showed through
Spitting salty sea water Alex staggered up the thin sandy spit and flopped down behind a large rock, digging a hole in
which he buried his wetsuit and flippers. Then donning the deck shoes he’d bought with him, he made his way across the
dunes to Military Road.
The swim had been the hardest physical undertaking that Alex had ever experienced and he felt exhausted. He needed
Crossing Military Road he found a thick bush and burrowed his way into the middle. The ground was dry and he lay
down, hands behind his head, thinking of his daughter and how good it was going to be when he held her in his arms
Alex suddenly realised that, since Karen’s death, he’d been distant with Dawn, afraid to get too close in case she was
taken from him, as his wife had been. The situation had grown without him really realising it, sort of crept up on him
unawares; an emptiness that had its origins in the terrible numbness of Karen’s funeral, a rejection that forced him to lock
away his feelings. Perhaps it was time to open that particular door again and examine what lay hidden behind it.
Being physically separated from Dawn this way had shaken Alex from his self-cantered behaviour, made him realise
that he had to change, make up for the loneliness he’d caused his daughter. Rejection could be a terrible thing to bear.
Alex knew this first hand, from the way he had felt after Karen had left him to raise their daughter on his own.