Swim in the Dark

By John Magee

You’re an excellent swimmer. As a child, on the school swim team, as an adult once or twice a week still. Suddenly you find yourself in the water. It’s dark. Not a pool. Neither river nor ocean. A lake. Pitch black.

You swim, call out, listen. Nothing. Just your movement and the water. Remain cool-headed. Swim in one direction. Stop. Dip down. Seek the bottom with your one foot. Nothing. The water is still. Good. You change direction, swim five minutes, felt like an hour. No shore, no beach. Nothing. You change directions. Another five minutes. Nothing. Again and again. Each time your breathing becomes more unsteady. Muscles hint at cramping. Your mind is racing.

You cannot sustain your weight indefinitely. Suddenly light comes. Like a dimmer switch. The sun. In slow motion. Vaguely you see trees, a shoreline. Just a few hundred meters away. The water is clear. No more than five meters deep. Your heart no longer races, breathing becomes steady. Your strokes are powerful and uniform. You make it.

So it is often for Americans working in a team led by a German. Like swimming in the dark.

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