The world around me was dark green and silent except for the sound of my own heart, still beating, but slowly now. I took another breath that wasn’t really a breath, just my lungs trying again. Nothing more than a reflex at this point. The battle was already lost, I felt pretty sure. Still, I hoped because that’s what we do until the very end.
I hoped someone would rescue me, even when I knew that wasn’t going to happen. The rapids must have pulled me too far; otherwise, someone would have gotten to me by now. It seems strange, but in those final moments I still imagined a future. A reflex of the brain, I guess, that refusal to quit, to give up and accept the truth. I thought about starting high school next fall. Not much to look forward to, from what I’d heard, but I’d still been sure it would be better. I thought about my family and the trip we had planned for visiting the Northwest. I’d been looking forward to seeing Seattle and Portland, getting out of the Virginia heat for a few weeks that summer. Part of me hoped we could still make that trip together. I couldn’t help it—I still wanted these things to happen. That was my world, the small one I knew, and I kept hoping to hang onto it.
But even now my heart was slowing more, the time between each beat getting longer. There was a light above me—I could see it through the murky water. Maybe it had been there the whole time and I’d been too scared to notice. Then there were voices, the muffled sound of people calling my name, and I wondered if someone had gotten there in time. I kept staring up at the light, which kept growing brighter.
Then the voices were fading.
I didn’t hear my heart anymore.
There was just the light above me. I swam toward it.