For nothing more than curiousity's sake I've decided to start publishing these little bits of fiction (I think the term is "flash fiction") here. Feel free to comment or critique as you like.
"Christ! Did you see that?"
"Someone just fell in!"
"By the bridge." I jump to my feet, looking across the scattered groups of people, lounging and sunbathing in the early heat.
"Maybe they've gone for a swim?"
"Fully clothed?" No-one else seems to have noticed. I scan around for a life ring, I've seen one already, I'm sure. There! I start towards it.
"No! Steve, that one!" She gestures to one further down the bank, "The current's going that way."
I set off towards the farther ring. People have started shouting and I am properly sprinting across the grass, shouting "Excuse me!" as loud as I can as I cut round (and sometimes though) the groups of people.
Always polite though, very British.
Someone has already got the ring off the stand when I get there, an older chap I realise as he looks up; knows what he should be doing, but struggling to work up the nerve.
“I’ll go,” I say, pulling my shirt off, “tie it on.” I’m already barefoot, I dump my phone and wallet on my shirt (I feel guilty about that fraction of a second delay, but I promise you it’s really quick). Grabbing the ring, I take two running steps and jump in.
Is this what it feels like to be a hero?
I hit the water hard and nearly lose the bloody ring. The drop is further than it looks but I snag the thin blue rope and start to swim out.
Fuck. I’m already being carried downstream, fast. The current is way stronger than I thought and how the hell are you supposed to swim with one of these things anyway? I wrap the rope around my arm and surge into the river.
I can’t see shit.
I look over my shoulder and she’s moving down the bank pointing. I’m already fifty metres downstream from where I jumped in. She’s on the tow path now, shouting at the old guy to untie the ring. It’s a good thing that she’s got the brains.
Change of plan, no point fighting this current, just cut across and try and intercept.
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! The rope’s still tied on and now it’s hooked round my leg as well as my arm. A mouthful of water going down the wrong way. Coughing, spluttering, head going under again, rising sense of panic.
No. This is what it feels like to be a hero.
Released! The rope’s been untied. I roll onto my back and spew half-a-lungful of water out.
She’s still pointing where to go and I am unbelievably relieved to see the end of the rope in her hand.
Swim, check, swim, check, swim, check. I must be most of the way across? Why couldn’t the stupid bastard have fallen in on our side?
Suddenly her hands fly to her mouth and she’s not pointing any more. Must have gone under. I try to put on a spurt then check back. She’s pointing again, jumping up and down with frantic energy. Jabbing, not pointing now, I must be really close. I kick upwards as hard as I can to see further and catch a flash of something pale, something that might be an arm, as it disappears.
I’m tiring and desperate now and fling myself under the water, eyes wide, wide open.
There! Yellow t-shirt!
Grab. Slip. Grab. Slip. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Grab… got it.
Up, not far, gasping for breath. One arm through the ring, one under his armpits. He’s twitching thank fuck.
Suddenly I am surging through the water. Twisting, I can see that a bunch of people have taken the rope from her and there must be a dozen of them pulling me in. He’s slipping though, stupid bastards are pulling to fast and I’m struggling to hold him.
I kick and strain and heave and get my other arm down and under his arms; desperately I lock my fingers together, squeezing until my forearms are on fire.
There are people in the water now, taking the weight, untying the rope from my numb left arm.
She’s smiling at me and crying; I think I might be too.