These are a few pages from ‘Fairland’ a novel in progress, which were given a public reading as part of a literary and cabaret evening at Sweeney’s pub theatre in Dublin organised by the Fumbally Dance Studio collective in 2012.
It had been a bad idea to swim. She had called it wrong. She could see that now. Her fingers and feet had numbed. She bit on her lip and felt nothing. And she was exhausted. Worse than exhausted: she had nothing left with which to fight. The shore seemed as far away as when she had set out. She had felt herself dragged constantly to the right, northwards, by the undercurrent, as she tried to hold a straight course towards Portshannon. She had probably travelled several miles: she reckoned she was probably off Hilford by now, but as far from land as ever. An hour earlier, she thought she had heard a helicopter but she could not be certain. If she had, it had failed to spot her. Perhaps they had found her brother. She wished she had done better. She had tried her best and failed. Then she could no longer think anymore or understand. She stopped swimming and floated passively, still moving on the strong current. Her eyelids grew heavy, her face felt swollen and rubbery. She sensed the life seeping out of her arms and legs and into the cold Irish Sea. Her eyes closed over. The water container slipped from her grip and drifted off. Her lifejacket kept her upright as she fell away into black darkness.
Badger came to, face down on the hull. He remembered immediately where he was and what had happened. For a moment he felt very alive, more alive than he had ever felt, but the moment passed and he became conscious of aches all through his body and of a strange coldness in his hands and fingers. It was still daylight. He wondered how long he had lain there unconscious. Minutes? Hours? He tested various muscles. His fingers still worked, protruding through his fingerless gloves. He drummed on the hull. His wrists and elbows worked. Using his hands and arms, like some kind of prehistoric beast he pushed himself up a little off the hull and raised his head. All he could see was sea. The entire universe was silent but for the lapping sound of the calm water against the boat. He moved his head left and right as far as his neck would allow. Water everywhere. No land. No shipping. Taking great care not to rock the boat, he began to turn himself over very gradually until he was seated upright. The sun was setting. It had been an unusually warm day for the time of year and an unusually warm week. He felt a faint heat from the dying sun, but he knew that once it sank under the sea, an evening frost would quickly descend. Right now, he felt like the only man alive, anywhere. If help did not come, he would soon be dead like everyone else. He wiggled his fingers again, to keep the blood flowing. Everything very carefully. Everything slow. Save energy. Save heat. He rotated his body, shunt by shunt, a full three-hundred-and-sixty degrees, rocking the boat precariously at one point, searching for land in the distance. Far away at the very end of his horizon he now could see the hills of Fairland. Visibility was good. He reckoned he was eight, perhaps nine miles off. He remained seated upright, wondering if the alarm had been raised, wondering if the boats were already out on the box, trawling the lobster grounds for him. Who would be among them? He knew all the fishermen from Rosscrann to Breggan. How far had he drifted? Were the searchers on the right stretch of water? Obviously not. He huddled himself up into a foetal shape to keep warm, allowing the rays to bathe his face. He prayed that Andi might be saved, but he was quite certain she was dead by now. Did he want to live on without his twin, he asked himself? He did. He wanted to live for her and for himself. Badger was determined to live. Jesus would see to it that he would live. St. Maur would protect him because he was a fisherman and he wanted to live on and remember and tell the world about his brave sister every day from now until the right time should come for him to die. Tonight was not the right time. He was certain of this. Jesus would save him.