‘Afloat’ by Eric Burbridge

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It rained for twenty-four hours before Emory decided to get high.  The cast on his shattered left leg and hip itched like hell. He needed relief and waved the flame under the spoon.  He drew the heroin into the syringe, pierced his vein and watched the blood mix with the chalky white fluid. Thunder and lightning exploded outside and in his head.  He fell back on the bed and his arteries were on fire. Oh, no, fentanyl mix, they lied…they killed him.

He was cold and wet, darkness his only companion.  Focus. He passed out, but how long was he out, twelve hours, a day?  He splashed water on the bed the place was flooded. He managed to grab the headboard.  What do I do? An eerie silence fell over the place. The rain had stopped, but the window was open and the stench of sewerage in the water turned his stomach.  A splash in the other room, what was that? Contaminated water soaked into the cast; the itch returned. His lower half would be infected if it wasn’t already. Emergency flashing lights danced on the walls.

People in boats, it had to be!

He scooted to the opposite side and grabbed the chair before it floated away.  If he could only get on it and scream for help. The lights faded, then darkness.  But what were those glowing spots in the water?

Spots!  Those weren’t spots, but eyes just above the water.

A gator!

He snatched his arm from the chair too late. The gator’s teeth sank into his biceps as it tried to swallow his arm.  The pain was unbearable.

“Help!!”

Emory jerked back and forth and the reptile’s grip loosened.  He’d almost got his arm out when the gator moved with lightning speed onto the bed.  Emory punched its mouth. “Get back!” It didn’t. Instead its mouth snapped up his arm again, spun trying to flip him. The more he pulled the farther his arm went down the gator’s throat.  Flashing lights reappeared and revealed the black bumpy scales of the predator determined to kill him. The sickening smell coupled with panic made him puke. The contents of his stomach splashed in the water and face of his assailant.  Emory scooted back on the bed and so did the gator, locked on his arm, but the tingling stopped.

“Help…help somebody…please help!!”

The gator’s eyes popped open.  Oh shit.

A mandatory evacuation is in effect.  Please go to the upper floors of your residences if possible.”  A male voice with a heavy southern drawl shouted through a loud speaker.  Waves of water rushed through the window as a boat circled the house. He managed to move his arm in the gullet of the gator and felt boney ridges.  He opened his fist; his fingers would prevent his arm from going any further. The reptile wriggled one last time.

“Dead…you’re dead.  Help!!” The waves in the water started to rise and cover his face.

After all this, now he was going to drown.  A boat bumped into the house? “Anybody in there?”  A guy slipped through the window his helmet light shined in Emory’s face.

“Jesus, Willy there’s a big ass gator in here…he got a guy’s arm in his mouth!!”

“Help.”  Emory tried to scream but only whimpered.

The rescue worker waded through the putrid water opposite the gator.  “Be still guy…be calm. Your arm stuck?” Emory nodded. “Willy, get your fire ax, hurry.”

“OK.” The worked poked the gator with the axe and pushed it further on the bed. “It’s dead, Willy.”  He shouted. “Ok guy, I’m gonna chop its head off, relax…be still.” Emory nodded and closed his eyes.  He still couldn’t feel his arm. “Be still.” The sound sickened him and blood sprayed in his face. Chop, chop. He wanted to scream, “Don’t cut off my arm,” but couldn’t and lost consciousness.

Eric Burbridge has been published in numerous literary journals. He started writing at a young and continued through his retirement.

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