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Near-Death Experience


The boy and his father were hurtling through the stormy waves on the rickety catamaran, just off the shores of the beach. They sailed into the waves, flying into the air every time they hit one as the boy struggled to control the rudder. Any attempts to turn the rudder left or right were met with fierce resistance from the sea. They boy was worried and he expected his dad to be worried too as he glanced at him on the starboard hull. He didn't seem to be or if he was, he was doing a great job masking it with a look of excitement. The boy tried to calm himself down and tightened his grip on the rudder as he turned his face back into the oncoming wind which was whipping drops of cold seawater into his face.


In a few minutes, they would need to change course, start heading back towards the shore. The plan wasn't to venture too far out. They were just to sail about a bit in the morning and head back for lunch. When they had woken that day and seen the weather, the boy had expected his father do call it a day. They were sitting in the kitchen as the rain beat down on the window. The boy was nervously munching on his toast as watched his dad looking at the weather forecast on his phone. After a few moments, he looked out the window and asked his son:


“What do you think?”


The boy wanted to say that it looked a bit rough, that it might be a bit dangerous but he was worried his father might find that response disappointing. He slowly finished chewing his toast, using it as a stalling method, trying to summon up the courage to let his father down. He swallowed the bit down and looked at his dad across the table. “Should be fine,” he said, weakly.


The boy deeply regretted those three words as a particularly strong gust of wind flew into the mainsail and tipped the boat starboard. The port hull was now out in the air with the boy on it, the rudder uselessly dangling out the water. He gripped the side of the hull, desperately willing it to come back down. His dad jumped from the starboard hull to the port hull and his weight brought the hull crashing back down.


“Alright, let's turn it around!” His father shouted over the howling winds as he lay on his back.


This was it, the moment the boy dreaded. With as much effort as he could muster, he pulled the rudder towards him and slowly the catamaran began turning starboard. And the worst case scenario he had been playing over and over again in his head came to pass exactly as he envisioned it.


As the boat continued turning, it briefly found itself parallel to the constant onslaught of waves. It was in that small window of time that a particularly large wave emerged out the water and crashed into the port hull they were both sitting on. The boat tipped over and was almost at a ninety degree angle to the water. It could have been fine. The combined weight of the boy and his father could have brought the boat down as they it just a few moments before. But right at that moment, the wind also suddenly picked up and was caught by the mainsail. The boat continued to tip and was on course to capsize.


When the boat reach perpendicularity with the sea, the boy slid down the boat and into the sea, getting caught up in all the ropes and strings along the way and as he hit the water the boat finished capsizing and was on top of him. The boy, underwater and attached to the boat, was panicking. He wasn't thinking as he moved, some hitherto unused simian part of his brain had completely taken control of his mind and was doing everything it could do to preserve itself.


The boy was frantically pulling at the ropes, desperate to free himself, aware of how limited his time was. Most of the ropes came off almost immediately but one rope was tightly wrapped around his waist and linked to the mast. He pulled and pulled but it wouldn't come lose. He felt the panic in his chest rising, a blinding panic, a panic that would completely overtake him unless he extricated himself. It didn't matter how much he pulled, the rope wasn't coming off.


While this was happening, the 1% of his brain that wasn't operating on pure adrenaline, the rational analytical part of his brain was thinking “Huh, I thought my life would flash before my eyes at this point. Disappointing.” And then, in a moment of divine fucking inspiration, it occurred to him to pull the rope down around his legs and slip out. Already he could feel the panic subside and his usual self begin to creep back into his consciousness.


He swam out from underneath the boat and together with his dad, stood on top of the capsized catamaran, pulled on the rope on its underside and flipped the boat back into the right position.


The sailed back towards the shore and the boy couldn't help but be amazed that his glasses had stayed on his face the whole time.


Then he was amazed at his brain's capacity for mundane thoughts in extraordinary situations.

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