CHAPTER TWELVE – One Minute to Learn How to Swim

“Hold your mainsails”, said Gruel. “Why do I have to do it.”

“Well, it’s about time you started pulling your own weight, kid?”

“What do you mean?”

“So far you’ve done nothing. My adventure, my boat, my map”, he tapped his noggin. “I saved you from drowning in open waters, rescued you from real pirates and know I’m giving you the opportunity to become very, very rich. And don’t you be forgetting that seagull!”

“That seagull was harmless.”

“You don’t know that. She ain’t someone you want to meet, kid.”

Gruel shook his head. “I know, I know. You’re scared of some old women and you lied to me from the start and made me think you died. So know you want me to risk death by jumping down a pitch-black hole and swimming five hundred metres underwater without anywhere to catch my breath.”

“Ay, that right”, replied Pete without a hint of indecision.

“Why can’t you do it?”

“Don’t you remember, I’ve got a peg leg.”

“Don’t you remember, you just took it off and miraculously grew back your left leg.”

Pete cursed, then said, “look at my belly. The hole is far too narrow for a jolly thief like me.”

Gruel knew he was right. Pete didn’t have the physique. However, he couldn’t swim. How was he going to do this? He knew his chances of surviving this were slim, but he made it this far. He didn’t want his adventure to end. He had to try.

He grabbed the rope from Pete’s shoulder and started to tie it around his waist. “Talk me through exactly what I need to do.”

Pete laughed his trademark belly-wobbling chortle and did exactly that. He also untied Gruel’s poor attempt at a knot and did a much more technical and impressive-looking knot.

Gruel composed himself. Pete patted him on the shoulder and wished him good luck. Then he jumped through the hole feet first.

Gruel assumed he would hit the water immediately but found himself falling. The air ripped through his hair then the water slapped his entire body. It was almost as cold as ice.

He had managed to hold his breath much better than the last time he was under the water. This time he was more prepared. He kicked his legs and waved his arms and began to move in the water.

Which direction should he go? Pete had told him to go north, but he had lost all sense of direction in the fall. His right arm hit something solid. It was jagged and rough. He found his grip and started pulling himself along as fast as he could.

Pete had told him to simply head north. It was a fifty-fifty chance whether he was dragging himself towards treasure or his death. Too late to change his mind know so he carried on.

Pete had also told him he would count to ninety seconds and, if he did not feel two tugs as a sign he had made it across, would pull him back up. The look on his face as he said it made Gruel think that Pete knew there was little point. The chance of bringing him back to life for a second time in one day was slimmer than a frayed bootlace.

The air in his lungs was running dangerously low. He hadn’t a clue how long he had been under the water but he knew he couldn’t last much longer. Just as he was about to give in he saw the light of an entrance. He sped up towards it but all of a sudden found himself being dragged backwards. Pete must have been dragging him back.

He pulled tried to pull at the rope but he was still going the wrong way. He yanked on the know but it didn’t budge. As his last attempt, he reached for his pocket knife, hidden in his sock, and started to saw the rope. He could feel it cutting through so he doubled his effort.

The air in his lungs was almost entirely gone. Then the rope gives in and he floated freely. He had been focusing so much on the rope that he lost the light. There it was in the distance, a faint flicker. He dragged his tired body with the last dregs of energy he had left to give.

As the light swallowed his vision his mouth opened. Into his lung poured a mixture of water and air.

He had beaten the odds. He had made it, somehow.

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