Confetti. That’s her initial thought. Such brightly coloured confetti floating around her like coral. Then a sudden feeling that something is off. A choking sense of dread but not knowing why. The water seems colder, brittle with waiting silence as she swims through the iciness. The sunlight seems patchy and she looks up to the surface. Shadowy lumps litter the edge of water and it takes her a moment for her mind to register what her eyes are seeing. Bodies. They are bodies. Floating to the surface in dull grey patterns, their eyes stare into blue void, seeing nothing.
They died in pain.
She can see that. Their faces are still lined with the kind of frantic, tortured desperation that only appears in the final moments of life.
They died afraid.
Fear gives way to sorrow. The realisation that the last thing they ever felt was the terror and grief of having lost the fight. To feel your life draining away and to know all your efforts, all that courage is wasted.
Why is she here and not with them? Wherever they are now.
How is she to say how sorry she is? To beg their forgiveness for leaving in the way she did, having abandoned them in the way she did? How can she plead with them now? Into the silence? Where nothing but the accusing echo of her past actions haunt her.
How was she to have known though? And she warned them…. she warned them this place wasn’t safe anymore. The curiously sinister way the colours of the water were changing, the odd noises, the sudden moments of quiet death that surrounded them every day.
We can’t win, we can’t beat them, whatever it is out there, it’s too cruel, too ruthless.
Yet their insistence that this was their home. She felt like she had no choice but to leave. She should have made a stance, like they did.
She should have remained loyal.
Time slithers past her and with nothing to hold on to, she sinks into her memories as the water around her becomes insidiously unfamiliar. Her memories become more vivid and the bleak reality being too much to bear she feels the final threads of her sanity snap.
This is how I die. This is how it is. Discoloured by my guilt, unable to heal from my loss, this is how I die… with pieces of coloured plastic floating round me like a macabre death dance.
And her moment does come as she knew it would. Differently though, different to how it was for them. She dies alone but she doesn’t die afraid. As her life drains away, she dies knowing she had the courage to come back, to face the damage she left behind and to feel the remorse she deserves. That’s enough for her as she flutters her tail one final time, on the cold, wet floor of that huge terrible machine. Human eyes staring down at her, waiting for her to fall completely silent.