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Your Story 21 Winner: Conquered Fear

Out of more than 600 entries, we chose this entry, submitted by Jessica Kruger, as the winner of our Your Story #21 contest. Judging for the Your Story #22 competition will take place in late November. For more info visit writersdigest.com/YourStory.

A small peak loomed towards us, a scar on the picture-perfect landscape. I slipped my palms into the cottony pouch of my cardigan, attempting to dry them of their clamminess. Pulling my hands out, I couldn’t help but snicker at the several pieces of lint now stuck to them. It was a temporary release from the tension that was getting increasingly thicker.

If I were a coffin, the ocean was my grave, just waiting to swallow me up and bury me beneath its depths. Closing my eyes, I tried to visualize my reasoning for putting myself in such a situation—it did not come to me.

My mind buzzed with shouts of logic and want. Logic: thousands of people before me had been on this exact tour and never, not even once, had there been any casualties. Want: To turn around and race as fast and far away from the ocean, the dock and the boat that was now only 100 feet away.

I glanced around at the six others I would be sharing my very own “prison” with. Teetering on the edge of the dock was a little boy, no older than six, clearly testing his mother’s nerves. She called out a warning: “If you fall in, the big sea monster is going to come swallow you.” The words coursed out from thin lips and pierced the little boy with such ferocity that he stumbled back to the center of the dock, narrowly missing the two teenage girls perched on a foot stool. They paused their chatter to look him over, and in unison rolled their eyes, returning to where they’d left off.

At the end of the dock sat an elderly couple, their wrinkled toes hanging just above the water. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness at the thought of these lives being the least missed if found 500 feet beneath the sea.

A bell rang out and a weathered man ushered us onto the boat. Shaking slightly, I jumped aboard. It took ten painful minutes to get everyone settled and before I knew it we had disembarked. A loudspeaker crackled and the voice of the captain came on: “Today’s tour will be approximately five hours long, leaving our return time to be…let me see, around seven-o-clock. I will take you past Gabriola and through Georgia Strait, so just sit back and enjoy the sights.”

Three hours had passed and I was still alive. I looked around at the calm, blissful waters and decided that my dread had been a huge overreaction. Almost simultaneously, we entered Georgia Strait and the winds picked up. The boat slowly lolled from side to side, the spray of whitecaps licking at the boat’s hull. A heaped pile of seaweed shouting fluorescent orange caught my eye and I stumbled over to it, clinging to the lifelines.

The captain noticed my mission and asked me to hand them out to all of the other passengers. “Just as a precaution,” he mumbled, flashing a toothless smile. Without hesitation, I slipped one over my head, fastening the buckle and pulling it as tight as it would go. After feeling sufficiently strangled, I scooped the rest of them up and passed them out.

The rain suddenly began to thunder down and the waves grew taller. We all moved inside, searching out whatever shelter we could find. Glancing around the small quarters, I couldn’t help but look at the emotion each face held. There was fear, excitement, uncertainty, non-chalance, and outright nausea.

I realized that one little face was missing.

I snatched the arm of the little boy’s mother and asked her where her son was. She shrugged, but did not open her mouth for fear of what might come out. I panicked and ran outside to search for him—completely forgetting all fear I had. Running from port to starboard bow to stern, desperation began to sink in—I couldn’t find him anywhere. Just as I thought all hope was lost I heard a small knock from the porthole that looked into the head. The precious six-year old’s face peered out. Relieved, I turned to head back in.

The wind gusted, sending the boom flying towards me. It struck in one smooth motion and before I knew it I had been thrown into the icy waters. I shrieked as daggers struck my body, but nothing came out.

My last breath was filled with the salty taste of remorse.

To enter the current Your Story competition, click here.

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