Challenge 63 – Cold Embrace

Lady of the Lake

"I told you this was a stupid idea!"

"WHAT?" I shouted over the roar of the rain and crashing thunder. "WHAT

DID YOU SAY?" He tried to reply but I couldn't even see him in the downpour, let alone hear him. It was a stupid idea to go sailing today. I wanted to see the infamous Gales of November in person and now I going to be seeing the bottom of Lake Superior as well as the top. The day began sunny but clouds quickly moved in once we had lost sight of the shore.

Despite my warm clothes and the waterproof coat I could still feel the rain pummeling me like rubber bullets. I clung to the rope as a huge wave crashed over the railing. My hands were freezing and going numb. Holding as tightly as I could the rope shredded my hands and I didn't know which was worse – the freezing cold or the searing pain. Slick with blood I knew I couldn't hold on any longer. My heart was pounding. A dark gray wave crested white rose higher then the one. I took a deep breath as I felt my hands slipping.

This was it.

Time seemed to slow down as I watched the wave coming towards me like a huge hand. I had always loved thunderstorms, loved being soaked in the rain and staring at the cloudy skies. There were so many shades of gray mixing and churning in the sky and in that moment all I could think of was how pretty the dark gray of the water was before my hands gave way and I plunged into the lake. The tumultuous waters quickly sucked me under.

I thought the winter wind and cold rain had taught me what it was like to feel frozen, but I was wrong. The wind and rain had felt like knives, but the freezing waters were like fire. A cold so deep it instantly soaked through my clothes, through my skin, and inside my body. I never knew you could be so cold that you felt like you were burning.

Burning cold. A contradiction but burning was the only way to describe the sensation overwhelming me. Prickles like pins and needles stung me all over as my limbs slowly turned numb. My lungs were on fire and I wasn't sure if it would be more painful to let the air out or keep it in.

My heart was pounding so fast I thought it would burst. A primal urge took over and I flailed around, trying to get back to the surface.

I have to get out.

I have to get back on the boat.

I have to get warm.

I have to breathe.

Thrashing in the water only made me sink faster. Icicles were forming on my clothes and hair. My waterlogged clothing was turning into ice. My vision began to blur. It was dark in the lake. Dark stormy skies above and darker waters below. There was a flash of lighting and for a moment I could see. The boat had capsized and was sinking to the ocean floor even faster than I was.

The lightning flashed again, piercing the darkness. I could clearly see the face of a woman looming in front of me. I screamed, releasing the last of the air in my lungs. The face began to glow, a comforting and gentle blue in the darkness surrounding me.

The woman was much larger then me and I could feel her fingers like icicles grasp my shoulders. She pulled me close, embracing me in her glacier arms and pulling me down as she sank through the waters.

My heartbeat began to slow down, the burning pain in my body and lungs fading away. I stared into the face of this beautiful woman with her ice white skin, her pale gray eyes, dark gray lips and silver blue hair cascading around her.

The world around me, which was nothing but darkness a moment ago, was now a shimmering world of pale blue and snow white, glowing like the moon as clouds passed over it. She began to hum a haunting melody, holding me close as if rocking a baby to sleep. I was suddenly reminded of a phrase from my favorite song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot: Superior sings in the rooms of her ice water mansion.

My last thoughts as I sank into peaceful oblivion were the words at the end of it:

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early