Alex shivered in near panic as the empty boats approached. Time was rapidly running out and he still hadn’t formed a plan. Part of him wanted to escape to the safety of the shore, but he knew they wouldn’t let him bring his chest. Frantically, he scanned the decks searching for a way out of his dilemma and spied a small dinghy tucked into a corner of the deck near the stern. The crew kept this dinghy to run errands when they were moored or anchored in the harbor. Almost everyone’s attention was focused on the approaching lifeboats, so he started dragging his heavy chest across the deck towards the dinghy. Lowering the small rowboat into the water was difficult, but after struggling for a minute he was able to launch it and tie it to the rail. Jumping aboard the dinghy, he hauled the chest in with him. Whatever he did, Alex knew he must be careful while the chest was in the dinghy. It was very heavy for its size and would sink like a stone if it fell overboard.
Loosening the line he’d tied to the rail, Alex started to push off, but two sailors came running out of the fog towards him. They were the same two men who had accosted him earlier. “Hey, what are you doing in that boat? Stop!” one of them shouted, as they reached the rail next to Alex. “What do you think you’re doing? Get back aboard where you belong, you’re not going anywhere! At least not until we see what’s in that chest.” One of them grabbed the line Alex had just untied, while the second man reached down and gripped the chest.
Instinctively, Alex picked up an oar and swung it in an arc at the first sailor’s head. The oar caught the crewman high on the forehead and sent him crashing to the deck, and blood began spurting from the gash in his head. The second crewman let loose of his grip on the chest and lunged at Alex with his knife. Alex instinctively pulled his gun and shot him in the chest. Surprised at his action, Alex was momentarily stunned. The dinghy had drifted free and was about four feet from the rail when another sailor arrived and screamed, “What’s going on here, what’s happened? You can’t take that boat. Get back here, are you crazy?” Ignoring the sailor, Alex grabbed both oars, set them in their locks, and with a few deft strokes moved rapidly into the fog, quickly disappearing from sight.
Turning to retrace his steps he made another discovery. Bubbles, discharged as he exhaled through his regulator, had floated up to the overhead and displaced dirt and silt that had built up there over the years. That silt had filtered down into the corridor as he passed, and turned the water into a muddy mess. Visibility that had been clear as he worked his way into the wreck was now reduced to zero, and he could barely see his hand in front of his mask. Shaken by his predicament Martin’s first thought was, “How the hell did I get myself into a situation like this?” Fighting to control panic, Martin recognized that he was in a tight and dangerous situation. He was low on air and deep inside a wreck, and he couldn’t see to find his way out. His light wasn’t going to help him because its reflection couldn’t penetrate the muddy silt in the water. He wasn’t sure which way to go to escape, and that increased his anxiety. Finally, a little reason took hold. He turned off his flashlight and looked to see if he could make out any loom of sunlight from his entry point. He couldn’t, it was pitch black everywhere.
Trying to stay calm was becoming a chore. His breathing rate was much faster, and his air was almost gone. Needing to do something, Martin put his hand on the wall and moved forward until he found the door into the room he’d entered. He was relieved when he was able to reach that point, but the corridor beyond was still a lightless void. Moving in the direction where he thought he’d entered while keeping his hand on the wall for orientation, he rapidly tried to retrace his path by swimming into the sea of mud facing him. He didn’t remember seeing any other exits off the corridor that would trip him up, but he couldn’t be sure, he’d been too excited catching lobster to pay attention to anything else. Now he was so low on air he didn’t have any wriggle room, and he was thinking that if he made a wrong turn he’d be a dead man, but still he kept going. After what seemed like hours, he started to see the loom of light ahead.
Letting out a sigh of relief, Martin stuck his head outside into the daylight and was finally able to make out his surroundings. He thought that he’d escaped from the wreck just in time because it was getting harder for him to suck any air from his regulator. His spine was tingling with relief, it had been a narrow escape, but he would be okay. Still, he had a strange feeling that something wasn’t right. Tossing that premonition aside, Martin moved out of the wreck onto the safety of the sandy bottom.
He’d already started his ascent towards the surface when he sensed a shadow moving across the sand to his left. A great white shark, at least twice his size, was slowly swimming above the sand on the other side of the metal ridge. It was huge, and it was only 10 feet away. Martin momentarily stopped ascending as panic hit him a second time. If there was anything Martin feared it was large sharks. This monster definitely increased his breathing rate as his body prepared for fight or flight. He was also having trouble swimming, because he was dragging the weight of his bulging game bag. Just then he ran completely out of air. Sucking the last breath from his tank he knew he had no choice, he couldn’t hide from the shark, he had to swim to the surface for air.