Frigid water numbed his senses, as it replaced the last bits of air in his nostrils. His frozen limbs felt motionless, his insides burning. The ever-deepening darkness gave way to an intense light that blinded him like no darkness ever had. As his body sank deeper into the icy water, he felt his soul reaching out to the moonlight above him. As he descended soulless into the abyss, the burning within him silenced by the cold, he felt a jolt propel his body upward.
Cold sweat ran down his forehead as he sat up in bed. Every night he had gone to bed hoping he wouldn’t have to wake up from this nightmare. Each passing night had carried him into the depths of cold waters, progressively washing away the grime that concealed a dark secret buried within him. The secret that was now beginning to burn him.
“Hi mom. I am going camping for a few days. I will call you once I am back.” He typed the message with shivering hands, as he stood at the entrance of the woods on the outskirts of a small village, about 200 miles from the city. Shoving the phone into his thick winter coat, he rubbed his hands to warm them. As he made his way into the woods he looked up through the thick canopy of trees, mild sunrays struggling to penetrate the haze that enveloped the woods. Chilly breeze whispered trying to speak to him through the language of rustling leaves. With every step he took, an overwhelming sense of remorse overcame him. Before he realized he found himself staring through haze, at an old water tank, covered in moss and a mound of leaves. It would have been an insignificant piece of construction for many, but it rendered him motionless. As the curtain of haze parted to reveal the structure, dark memories began to inundate him.
As the memory came alive in his mind, a distant chatter of children filled the air. Little footsteps and childish laughter reverberated, as they moved closer. He saw five little boys playing and jesting. Four little boys, him being one of them, were innocently mocking their fifth friend for his fear of the water. As the isolated little boy with curly brown hair came to the fore, his round, hazel eyes mirrored fright. But the fright failed to translate as his lips stretched into a smile. With four little boys egging him on, he stepped onto the tank. Sooner than the boys could fathom, the little boy with curly brown hair had fallen into the tank. In that moment, the memory froze. His friends and he stood motionless, their eyes witnessing the sight of the boy almost entirely sunken into the tank, barring his beautiful round eyes. A strange amalgamation of fright and triumph lingered as a glassy layer on his tearful eyes. Those eyes had pierced his heart and stayed locked away for years, returning to hit him hard on this day.
All of a sudden, his nightmare returned. He began to feel the cold waters engulf him. His breath started to leave him. He suddenly realized what he had done and tried to swim upwards but the cold left his limbs paralyzed. In that moment, a glimpse of his haunting memory returned as he saw his three little friends and him run away, leaving their friend to die. Sinking into the depths of the water he felt his life slip away but realized that there was one thing that was unlike his nightmare. He could not feel the burning within him. The fire of remorse had been doused for good today. He shut his eyes and let himself go.
Winter intensified and detracted visitors from going into the woods. But on one such chilly morning, a man sat on the tank, writing something in a diary. Cold winds shuffled his curly brown hair and his hazel eyes looked serene. He smiled as a memory flashed past his mind. He remembered how the old woman had rescued him and helped him recuperate from the shocking incident. By the time he had returned to the camp his four little friends had left and returned to their homes in the city. Though they had never revisited, he had only them to thank for helping him get over his fear of water.