“I do not have to tell you that this is a life or death situation!”
Tom listened carefully to what Harry planned. He feared death, more so by drowning.
Including the boat operator, they were twenty four, twelve pairs in all. The plan involved one protecting the other and vice versa.
Harry instructed everyone to find things to hold onto that would float, plastic containers with caps, fish boxes made of styrofoam and big plastic floats from fish nets. Some of them were lucky to wear the improvised life jackets the operator provided in accordance with the law.
“Help me, Tom!”
Harry took a knife while Tom spread the volleyball net. They divided it into two-by-two feet squares that would be given to each pair. Both grasping the fabric tightly, separation from each other would be less of a probability. Tandems would have more chances of survival if they worked together.
The coast guard vessel was on sight but it was still almost half a kilometer away. There was no telling if the boat would survive the ordeal or would it shatter into pieces with them still on board.
“We have to leave the boat,” Harry yelled in haste. “We’ll have better chances in the water.”
“Let’s wait for the rescuers,” suggested the operator, his body shaking because of the cold. “They would be here any minute now.”
“You don’t understand,” Harry explained. “This boat cannot hold on any longer. We had already lost the bamboo structures that support it from overturning.”
“Listen to him, Harry,” one of his female teachers said, “he knows what he’s talking about.”
“It’s a risk we have to take, Ma;m,” Harry reasoned out. “We don’t want to be struck by the boat’s shattered pieces if we do not go overboard in time.”
Everyone considered his proposal. Based on experience, Harry always took into consideration the welfare of the majority. But even with that heartening thought, several pairs elected to stay on.
“Do you trust me?” he asked Tom, who had been his most ardent supporter for so long. “We will survive this.”
Tom nodded, sucking air to prepare himself for the dive.
Together they leaped from the boat’s tail, feet first. The risk of head injuries was lower than diving the normal fashion.
Within a minute of abandoning the boat, they heard agonizing shrieks behind them. They witnessed the boat, lifted to its highest level before falling on its side with tremendous force, breaking into two. Those who remained on board were carelessly overthrown to the water, falling hard like limp dolls discarded by an angry child. Those who were unlucky felt their bodies smashing on the boat’s wreckage.
Survivors did their best to stay afloat, flailing arms tried to push the water down. Gratitude and comforting words were exchanged, lengthening life expectancy a must.
Harry saw both halves of the boat coming fast, cradled by giant waves, ready to slam at them. The merciless design of Nature was uncontrollable.
“Submerge!” he shouted with all his might, warning his companions of the impending doom.
The crashing sound above was muted though the eerie sight seen under water looked nothing less but terrifying.
Harry watched his classmate struggling valiantly not to separate from him. He believed that Tom would not abandon him.
“Whatever you do, you will fail!”
His father’s words visited him once more. Even in the face of adversity, there was only negativity he remembered from the man who never loved him.
“No, Father,” he closed his eyes for a moment. “This time, I won’t!”
(to be continued)