made me think I wouldn't be that lucky.
Briefly the rest of the chorus ran through my mind, perhaps somewhere somebody
was tolling a bell!
I could see the edge clearly, there was nothing more than a thin wire fence
and a few feet of steeply sloping grass verge between me and eternity. To
clarify things it meant an almost vertical forty or more foot drop into the
cool waters of the Sound. I briefly wondered whether I would clear the rocks
at the bottom, or if it even made any difference.
I must have been doing about forty miles an hour when I hit things, somehow
the option of diving to safety just didn't arise. There hadn't been anything
more than a few inches of grass verge and a feeble bramble hedge between the
road and the sea all the way, nothing to gradually slow down against, the
other side was no better. Give me a little credit, I had tried, but all it
seemed to do was batter my head against the roof. Anyway, when I say I hit
the fence I mean exactly that, I really hit it, sideways. I never had a chance
actually, especially on a wet road, but it had been worth the effort.
I wondered then if they would write that on my headstone.
'At least he tried'.
The car flattened the fence and spun across the short stretch of green. I
wasn't sure which way I was facing when I crossed the boundary between substance
and shadow, but the ride became suddenly smoother, quieter. Then the car somersaulted,
twice, quite slowly before hitting the water.
I think I must have been praising seatbelts all the way down, though my stomach
wasn't so appreciative, I could feel cheese and onion crisps in the back of
my throat. Even now I sometimes wish I had been outside to take a photograph,
it must have been quite spectacular. Touchdown I mean.
That's daft, of course I would have given almost anything to be somewhere
Impending impact with an almost solid surface brought both arms instinctively
up to protect me, but I still saw stars as the back of my head creased the
metal ceiling. Seat belts are designed to stop you going through the glass,
not what was in effect vertically up. The other side of the roof buckled,
blasting out the windscreen, forcing a wall of cold water into the car and
it began sinking fast.
I'd heard about moments like that, when your past life flashes before your
eyes. In my case it wasn't that explicit, just that day, that morning's 'accident'
re-lived in slow motion. Suddenly I began to wonder if it had been an attempt
to run me down, not that I had much chance to wonder.
I tried to remain calm, use my brain properly. There wasn't any hope of opening
a door until the pressure equalised, but the vehicle was sinking quickly,
I wouldn't have to wait long. Anyway I had more important things on my mind.
I could feel the air cylinder against my foot, it had rolled over from the
back seat, somehow jammed behind the gear lever and now pinned my leg effectively.
"Shit." An unnecessary word that came freely to my lips.
The movement through the water was confusing my mind, I hardly knew where
to reach out. In ideal conditions I can hold my breath for well over a minute,
in a pool as long as three.
These conditions were far from ideal.
"Bastards!" I screamed and precious air bubbled from my lips.
In the darkness both hands were lashing out blindly.
The word echoed around my head, breaking free from my subconscious, penetrating
My head was beginning to burn, pain from exposure to the freezing water.
"I am calm," I said to myself.
My fingers touched the netting around the cylinder once more, then moved sideways
Rubber! The boot. Move back.
I found the pillar valve, cranked it on and felt for the hoses. All three
My chest was pumping, lungs working up a pressure against my lip muscles.
Damn, whenever there is urgency, you want something quickly, it's always the
I slammed the hard rubber into my mouth and screamed out the stale gases from
God, how sweet the taste of air!
Breathing was strange, an irregular mixture of long inhalations and brief
puffs, the cold water didn't seem to want me to breathe out. Fumbling in my
pockets I found my woollen hat, and pulled it over my head like a balaclava,
it almost made my life bearable.
Only the thought of the night air above kept me going.
There must have been a good thirty feet of cold greenish water above me when
the car came to rest, raising vast clouds of sand. I could see nothing, but
the coarse grains bit fiercely into my hands and face. I groped around and
soon had both the aqualung and my leg free, and sat down on the sand where
the screen had once been. I hadn't a mask or fins, I had hardly planned to
go in! I reached out to open the door, but there was a slight problem there,
it was stuck fast. Turning quickly I grabbed the handle of the driver's door,
pushed the slippery metal hard down and threw my shoulder into the task.
"I've said it before, I'll say it again," I mumbled through rubber
and water. "Shit!"
Things weren't going too well.
Probing with my hands I discovered that the car was resting mostly on the
driver's side, the impact with the sea bed must have distorted the pillar,
preventing any movement. Just as the surface had destroyed any chance of opening
the passenger side.
Murphy's Law was running true to form, one window winder was inexplicably
broken off and as I spun the other around I discovered a large rock outside,
a leprechaun couldn't have squeezed out. There was no hope of digging through
the front screen, so logic prevailed. Moving awkwardly in the inverted vehicle
I found the rear screen intact.
I slid the boot from my steel tank and swung it towards the glass.
I fell over!
The next time I hit it. Clunk.
"Fuck it! My father told me there would be days like this, he wasn't
kidding." I was losing my patience.
Something to do with the density of water turned everything to slow motion,
it was like moving in syrup, there wasn't enough force to break the glass.
"Tools, I need tools," I thought. "Under the back seat."
I laughed, a stream of bubbles tickling my cheeks as they scurried past.
"In a pig's ear."
It was pitch black, and the way things had been spinning they could have been
anywhere, in or out of the vehicle. That was when I found having an upside
down car an advantage, everything seemed to be gathered on the distorted roof
close to the hole where the windscreen should have been.
Everything that was left.
I had a plan, flimsy as it was, to lever out the screen with a couple of screwdrivers.
Of course it had sounded simple as I thought it through, too simple perhaps.
I'd replaced the front screen once, pull out the central retaining bead and
push lightly from inside.
I was beginning to talk to myself too often, mumbling through the mouthpiece,
perhaps the distorted sound of my own voice gave my a little confidence.
I soon had the simple tools wedged between rubber and glass, twisting and
pushing to make some impression.
"Nice piece of glass, pop out for me."
I discovered the use of a new expletive as the flat blades slid uselessly
around. The retaining strip was on the outside, there wasn't enough play with
it in place to get the glass started.
"Why give me air if I'm only going to drown anyway?"
I scarcely believed in a deity, but fate surely hadn't raised my hopes so
far to keep me in a watery grave. This wasn't proving to be my idea of night
diving. A brief calculation told me that at my current depth I would have
started with around ninety minutes of bottom time, to stress my plight, in
ideal conditions. I had virtually no insulation to retain body temperature
and was burning oxygen to produce heat, coupled with a touch of hyperventilation,
over-breathing due to fear. Survival time on the surface was somewhere between
two and four hours. No, that was being optimistic, two hours sitting in wet
clothes on the beach.
I was up shit creek.
I tilted my head back, resting it against the roof, and sighed heavily.
"Bastards!" I screamed.
The demand valve fell from my mouth.
I had breathed again before I realised the omission, sucked in and not started
My head was in a pocket of air.
"A few more precious minutes," I squealed. "I'm going to get
out of this tomb, one way or another."