Stay clear of blowholes. They can lead to death.
He awoke and found himself underwater.
Sharp panic clawed his insides, but somehow he was holding his breath. The open shirt he’d been wearing billowed around him, churning with the cold, raging water. He wanted to shiver. Instead, as if automatically, he began to swim.
The blowhole. He was in the blowhole.
As hard as he could, he battled the swirling waves. Harder. Faster.
It seemed like an hour before he broke through the water’s surface. At last his head came up and he gasped in air. He drank in more, more. But just as he thought he’d caught his breath, the dark current seized him again. He managed to take in one more gulp before it dragged him down again—and under.
His lungs burned. The pain was unbearable.
His panic climbed to a frenzied terror. He struggled to keep swimming, but the waves battered against him, weakening him until he felt like an old man. Still, he forced his arms to move, his feet to kick. After an eternity, the current reversed and forced him up again.
He paddled with his arms and legs as hard as he could. As the water gushed over him like a geyser, his head finally burst through the surface once more.
He couldn’t see, even in the moonlight. There was too much blood in his eyes.
He threw his head back and once more gasped in wonderful, sweet air. His vision cleared a little.
Right there. The edge of the blowhole. He reached out for them. Slid. Reached again.
The surface was too slippery. His hands were numb. He couldn’t pull himself out of the hole. Another wave would come over the lava wall soon. The waves were monstrous tonight, the sea at her angriest.
Refusing to give up, he reached again.
This time, he found a knob in the formation. Just beyond it was an indentation, forming a sort of handle. The pang of hope in his chest nearly burst his heart. He grabbed onto the knob and struggled to heave himself out of the water.
Part way up. A little more. His chest ached, his arms shook with fatigue. One more tug. Just one more and he’d be out.
But he couldn’t do it.
His arms gave out. His hand slipped. He cried out and slid back down into the swirling water. He could hear the roar of the next wave gathering. His heart pounded.
He was still wearing his clothes. His open shirt. It might save him. Once again, he reached out for the knobby rock. With the last bit of strength he had, he tied the tail of his shirt around the outcropping. Maybe it would hold him up and keep him from being swept out to sea.
But just as he secured the cloth, the mountainous wave shot over the lava wall and rained down on him like a tsunami. It forced him down, down.
The water rose over his head. His shirt slipped off his body, caught around his neck.
But his shirttail held. He tried to grab onto it, use it like a rope, but his arm was twisted at the wrong angle.
Panic seized him. He fought hard. He had to reach the surface again but his strength was giving out. He couldn’t hold his breath much longer. He thrashed the water with his feet, beat it with his arms. He was so tired. His muscles, his ribs ached like fire. He couldn’t hold his breath. It was too much.
He fought to keep his mouth shut but his throat spasmed. His chest convulsed. Terror pounded in his eardrums. He would not open his mouth. He would not. Just a little longer.
But he couldn’t do it.
Of their own will, his lips sputtered and his jaw snapped open. He gasped and water flowed down his throat.
His body jerked. He gagged and coughed. That only made him take in more water. He was flailing now, his body convulsing. His head felt light. As if he were in a dream. He tried to wake up, but he could hardly move. Time seemed to stretch out into an endless vacuum.
His kicks slowed. His arms began to drift. His efforts to breathe ceased. And then there was blackness. He was still.
It was over.
Still tethered to the rock by his shirttail, his body bobbed in the waves as his life slipped out of him and into the sea.