This is the 25th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.
New Year Washout, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 26th December 2012
Word count: 794
Theme: adventurous jobs, danger, extreme sport, will to survive, survivalist, new year’s eve
Carl Whitney dropped noisily into the drain. There were places he would much rather be, but this New Year’s eve he was needed here, no one wanted their New Year’s eve parties disputed by issue from a drain after all.
“Guys, it’s Carl, it’s only knee deep,” he reported over his walkie talkie as he splashed onwards looking for the supposed blockage.
“That’s the report of sector sixteen alpha fourteen,” came the reply, “Just keep looking it’s raining East of the city it’s going to be messy in the flow today.”
“Copy Michael,” Carl said resuming his search with his trusty torch.
Twenty minutes later he still hadn’t found any kind of blockage, but he noticed that the water was now waist deep.
“Carl here, not found the blockage but there must be one water is waste deep, advise.”
“We’re looking into it Carl something seems wrong,” Michael said.
“Well hurry up this water is frigging cold,” Carl said snappily. He’d never get warm for the New Year party at this rate. He carried on his search, then realised in only a couple of minutes that the water was up to his chest.
“I’m getting out of here,” he said, fighting rising panic, and shivers from the cold water.
“Carl get out of there now!” screamed Michael. “The drain is flooding,” he added superfluously, “There’s a blockage at sector eighteen, it’s all being directed your way.
Carl wasn’t able to appreciate the information, he fighting to keep his head above the rapidly rising water.
He struggled to move forward even a foot towards his ingress against the flow.
He realised his only hope was to let go, and try to ride the flow to the next ladder. It was risky, but unless the waters eased quickly he’d down trying to make it the sixteen or so feet to the ladder back to his van.
Carl let go of his resistance and turned to face his new direction of travel, trying to spot hazards in nearly no visibility, caught in the tumultuous waters.
He knew he was passing beneath an office building, it would only be half a minute to the next manhole, but it was the longest half minute of his life. His body pulled and pushed, his shoulder was smashed against something painfully.
Then for a brief moment between the churning of the waters he saw something hanging in front of him. Instinctively he reached out for it. After waiting an eternity his arm latched on, and he he reeled himself in against the flow.
Beneath the water, with his last breath he screamed,” Climb!”, and inch by burning inch he pulled himself up.
He found a pocket of air in the short tunnel that reached up to the manhole, it smelt retched, and stale, and moist, it smelled sweetly of life to Carl, as he greedily breathed it in.
The water was threatening to drag him from the ladder though, so with new found breath and pure adrenalin he pushed against the manhole. Yet it didn’t yield.
Panic rose again. Something was blocking the manhole cover from moving.
He could hold on here and hope someone found him before his swept away again, or he could risk the even more pressurised water try for the next manhole. With a coin her left marks in the stones, whatever happened he wanted whoever parked on a manhole to pay.
Carl took a deep breath and lowered himself below the water again so when he let go he would be less likely to hit his head. Then he released his grip and flew off through the water.
It was only a few seconds more before he reached the next ladder, but he missed grabbing it and flowed on, though he did try briefly to swim against the current it was useless. He set himself ready, and the next one he grabbed, and managed to get himself bodily onto it, and climbed up, his lungs filled with burning coals again.
He pulled himself up, there was no air pocket to him this time, fighting panic he pushed against the manhole and it yielded. With the flow threatening to dislodge him, he heaved himself of off the hole and onto comparatively dry land.
“In Carl, answer us buddy,” Michaels choice pleaded over the walkie talkie.
After gasping in lung fulls of child dank air, he breathlessly spoke into his walkie talkie.
“Carl here,” he said, a relief to be in contact with someone after so nearly dying.
“Jesus, Carl, what happened?” michael asked, the microphone picking up cheers, and hollers on the background.
“New Year’s Eve swim, that’s all, New Year’s Eve swim,” Carl said letting go of the walkie talkie and relaxing for a few minutes more.