Here’s a short story that was another one of my writing assignments. I was a bit worried about this one; not too confident in it. But, the instructor seemed to love it. So, here it is …
Karina stared down at her local paper, acknowledging that the Gravenhurst Winter Carnival’s Polar Bear Dip would count as facing her fear of being trapped under the ice, unable to break through. Selena’s words echoed through her head – the only way to overcome your fears is to face them. Then the psychotherapist assigned Karina the homework of doing just that – picking one of her fears and facing it.
Karina folded the paper and shoved it across her breakfast table. It was crazy to even contemplate it. Who in their right mind would jump into freezing cold water on purpose? She had a long list of fears she could choose from. She didn’t need to start with one that had been a recurring nightmare for years despite the fact that she didn’t have a rational reason for that particular fear.
No matter how many times she tried to convince herself it was stupid, she couldn’t help thinking about the damn Polar Bear Dip. She logged onto the Winter Carnival’s website and investigated the event further. There was a consent form that had to be signed stating that you wouldn’t hold the town of Gravenhurst responsible if you were hurt or died. Yeah, totally crazy idea. Although, they had a scuba diver in the water and a medical team on standby. If her heart stopped from the shock of the water temperature, they could get it going again, couldn’t they?
On Saturday afternoon, Karina found herself on the chilly shore of Gull Lake with her consent form in hand. Her trembling breaths turned to mist as soon as they hit the frigid air. She couldn’t believe how many idiots were lining up to register for the dip. She should have brought a stack of Selena’s business cards to hand out because all of these people, herself included, had to be certifiable.
Once registered, Karina went to the changing area and stripped down to her long underwear, a long sleeved t-shirt, and water shoes. Then she walked out to where a large crowd was gathering around a six foot by ten foot rectangle cut out of the ice. The water was as black as oil and the ice at its edges was so thick she couldn’t see its depth as it disappeared into the inky pool. If she somehow ended up under that ice, she’d never be able to break through it.
It was as if she drifted into her recurring nightmare, her lungs burning for air as she pounded her fists against the ice above her, scratching at it until her nails ripped off. Her energy sapped with each passing second.
“Miss?” The sound of a pleasant female voice and the pressure of a cold hand on her forearm eased Karina back to the present. “Are you okay, love?” A stocky, grey haired woman with kind blue eyes edged in wrinkles stared into Karina’s eyes. How long had she been stuck in that dream?
“Yes, fine.” How was she supposed to answer that question? She wasn’t fine. She was about to do the craziest thing she’d ever done despite the fact that it could kill her.
Movement in her peripheral vision caught her attention and she watched a man wearing black swimming trunks leap off the edge of the ice, shouting out what sounded like a war cry. He hit the water with a kerplunk and disappeared under the dark ripples. Milliseconds passed before he rose up with another war cry, water splashing up around him as he dove for the ladder. He was swearing as he climbed out then dashed towards the warming tent, muttering expletives as he went.
Karina made her way to the edge, her entire body shaking, but she didn’t know if it was from the cold or from her fear. From this angle, the ice looked far too close. One wrong move and she could be under it. She began to slip back into the dream, picturing herself trapped with her lungs screaming for air. The sound of the crowd behind her, cheering her on, jarred her back. They began to chant, “Jump, jump, jump.”
Their words filled her until she was chanting along with them. Sabrina’s words echoed through the chant – to overcome your fears, you must face them. God, she didn’t want to live in fear anymore. This first step, this freezing cold step, was the first step in getting to a point in her life where she wasn’t paralyzed by fear. She could do this. “Jump, jump, jump,” she whispered and, blocking everything else out, she leapt into the air.
Hitting the water was like being hit by a Mack truck. Every cell in her body screamed in protest. Her body numbed except for the ice cream headache piercing her skull. She wasn’t sure she could move her arms and legs to get her back to the surface.
It was at that moment a memory flooded her mind. Her ex-husband had come home late and the dinner that she’d carefully prepared for him had gone cold. To teach her a lesson, he filled the bath tub with ice water and forced her into it, holding her under until her lungs were on fire. He let her up and she got in half a breath before he pushed her back under and she inhaled icy water into her lungs. Oh, God. This was it. He was going to kill her this time.
Karina fought against the arm that encircled her waist. The next thing she knew, she was breaking the surface of the water and gasping for air. She tried to fight the man holding her, waiting for him to shove her under again. But he led her to the ladder instead and helped her out. Coming out of the water into the wind was almost worse than hitting the water. She sobbed as two people surrounded her and led her into the warming tent. The grey haired woman helped her strip out of her wet clothes then wrapped her in warm towels. Bones, muscles, tendons – every part of her – seized. She sat in front of a heater, shivering from head to toe, trying not to think about her ex-husband. Damn him. Then a thought entered her mind. She’d survived. That thought began to thaw her body and a warmth spread through her.
Karina sat waiting for her Selena’s response after she’d told her all about the Polar Bear Dip. She knew exactly what she was going to say and she wasn’t wrong.
“How did you feel after the experience?”
Karina smiled, an expression that felt foreign to her. “I felt … triumphant. Despite everything he did to me, he didn’t kill me. I survived and no one is ever going to treat me like that again. For the first time in years, I felt empowered and proud of myself for jumping into that damn cold water.” Karina bent over, pulled a sheet of paper out of her purse and unfolded it. “I made a list of my fears and I’m going to face every one of them. I already have four checked off the list.” Karina’s face lit up as she handed the list to Selena. “I feel free.” And she did. Free of his control, of his judgement, of his abuse. She felt free to live her life without the constant fears that had plagued her for so long.
Hope you enjoyed it! Feel free to leave a comment below. 😉
Thanks for reading!