The Five Minutes

Submitted by Mike Vokos to Contest #8 in response to: Write a story about an adventure on the water.... view prompt

The Five Minutes

by Mike Vokos


Once upon a time some 200 million years ago, there lived on this planet some huge animals different from those existing today. Some of them were herbivores and others were carnivorous. Dinosaurs, Brontosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, Pterodactyls, and others dominated in nature. The Earth was then all green like a paradise full of flora and fauna. That is how life went on until 67 million years ago when a dramatic event put an end to this form of life.


A gigantic asteroid 10 km wide, the size of the mount Everest, sprang from the explosion and disruption of a dying first-generation star, billions of light-years away from Earth, fell at a speed over 40,000 km/hr, and equivalent to the force of 2 million nuclear bombs, into the tropical jungle of Mexico the now area of Yucatán, creating a crater 320 km wide and a depth of 19 km. At the point where it crashed, there was a huge deposit of sulfur that scattered in the air in the form of poisonous gases.


The crash was disastrous. Dense clouds of poisonous gases of sulfur monoxide and other poisonous gases, dust, rocks and melted earth crust dashed high in the sky. They were so thick that they hid the Sun for months, for years. A veil of darkness covered our planet. The Earth has frozen. Plants and trees withered without light and heat from our star the Sun. The various species of animals that survived the huge smash began to die of starvation and cold. The Earth became devoid of life, desolate from the dynasty of dinosaurs. Every form of plant and animal life vanished.


In this darkness of extinction, the Earth continued its journey around the Sun, passing winters in summers for thousands of years without the light and heat necessary for life.


Once the clouds dissipated, the light and the heat returned to the desert and frozen Earth. After the catastrophic strike some small hairy mammals, devoured by dinosaurs as a snack, hidden in the tree’s cavities and rock’s pits survived and evolved to stronger mammals, filling thus the loss of the dinosaurs. Clean oxygen refilled the atmosphere and life began its evolutionary process with new forms resilient to harsh conditions.


They deem that some species of them evolved into today’s human race. This is a theory about the origin of humankind, but it has not scientifically confirmed. As we shall see below it probably does not stand.


In the land of Mexico, where the asteroid collided into the tropical jungle, there is still a huge crater, the Chicxulub Crater, filled with rain and gushing water from the depths of the Earth. Because of this, a huge lake exists there now with scattered pieces of land to break the continuity of the water surface. Enormous caves exist inside the water peripherally of the crater joined by large openings. In the millions of years that followed, the erosion of the subsoil is clear. Trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms live in the waters and sides of the flooded caves of the lake of Yucatan.


In some places, the jungle‘s vegetation is so dense that the verdure reflects on the water molecules, coloring the lake’s water with grandiose hues. Some bold divers having this hobby dive into the calm waters of lake Yucatan, keyed up by the adventure inside the caves of the asteroid’s crater. However, diving into the uncharted waters is obviously dangerous as groundwater streams can pull the diver inside the labyrinth of caves.


-2-


I’m Ruth Kowalski, Polish-born in the state of California in a poor Sacramento neighborhood. My husband Robert Riley, a veteran of Vietnam’s war of Irish descent, worked as a sales manager in a chain of food, ice cream, and pastry shops. We always spent our free time together. On weekends we departed, with our small sailing yacht, the 24-foot ‘Lonelyn’ parked in the Key West Yacht Club, at the southernmost yacht club in the United States, for trips to the Gulf of Florida for fishing or sailing to the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. 


Freestyle diving was Bob’s favorite sport. It made him feel wellness and especially gave him spiritual serenity and clarity that he always sought to have. Sometimes we escaped to the Caribbean seas where, besides dancing and partying, we also organized guided diving excursions either without or with bottles of oxygen. He enjoyed diving with bottles to photograph the amazing beauties of the Caribbean seabed. He had boxes full of underwater photography from various seas around the world that we had visited together, or with friends when he was still single. In the free dive, Bob boasted about the 5 minutes he had as a breath-taking record. His physical standing helped him in this hard effort. He could go down easily at 30-40 meters with a single breath. A difficult thing.


In our last expedition, we hired a young Mexican guide, Ignatius, who knew the area well. We rented a Jeep Wrangler and after a two-hour rough ride between tall trees and other dense tropical vegetation, we reached finally the point where Bob would dive. The thick foliage surrounding the water allowed an opening of about 50 meters to be visible on the surface of the water. Ignatius told us that there are no crocodiles in this area because the basin is small and they do not frequent there as they cannot swim for a long distance that they love so much.


The day was sunny, although only a few rays could penetrate the tropical growth. The surface of the lake had calm greenish waters. At some point where the foliage let the rays of the sun pass by, you could see the water a little deeper, crystal clear appealing you to dive into it.


Bob was in a good mood, he was talking a lot and joking by habit. He was glad for the splash he was about to make. He was a fearless, brave and brainy man ready to step forward to satisfy his inquisitive mind.

“Come on, honey I’m ready, give me the rope,” he said.


After securing the rope in his waist, he walked to the water’s edge, wore his mask adjusting it exactly to the curvature of his face, turned to look at me and smiled, and then with his special technique took a deep breath, and jumped into the unknown waters of the Yucatan Crater for a maximum of five minutes of diving. I stood waiting for him outside, smoking one cigarette after another.


I watched him until I lost his white figure in the dark waters. Diving with feet down and body up. His hands glued to the body to provide the least resistance to water. He plunged like a plumb. He was usually diving with this freestyle until he reached the desired depth and then continued his explorations. He always wore a precision watch that showed him the depth, the diving time, the up of the surface of the water and the bottom, that is the direction of the seabed.


 I let the rope follow him slowly as he glided down in the silent waters. The noise from the millions of insects, birds, and other animal life weeping for their sorrows or moaning as they copulated had mesmerized me. Motionless, standing up for the five minutes of diving that seemed to me like five centuries. For a moment, I felt like a ghost in a weird world standing lone somewhere in the mess of the tropical jungle.


It had been three minutes, he had to be 20 meters deep as I checked out the marks on the rope. Suddenly the sky darkened, and it started raining heavily. The rain was so heavy so that all I could only hear were the big drops of rain banging on the leaves of the trees and plants. It shocked me when a flash of lightning tore through the black clouds and touched the ground of the lake’s border. Some fire lit up, but the pouring rain quickly extinguished it. It had already been four minutes and Bob had to come up. I understood why the rope was now loose and going up. I was pulling it slowly because the climb needed more attention. Seconds before Bob’s exit the ground beneath my feet moved in an abrupt way for a few ticks. 

“Earthquake” shouted Ignatius. 


By the time he finished his word, the earth ceased to tremble. I stared at the surface of the water and saw Bob’s white body a short distance before coming out of the water to take the fresh deep breath he needed.


At last, his head came out of the water. He shook off the mask and took a deep breath. He turned his head to look at me smiling. My torture was over. Bob swam a little towards me, grabbed some branches, and came out of the water. His diving ended successfully.


He hugged me and kissed me, as he always did after a winning effort, and he told me.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. For the first time, I saw such an orgasm of life in a deep well.”

“You’ll tell me all this later. Let’s get out of here,” I replied, wanting to leave immediately this mysterious place.

“By the way, tell me Bob did you feel the earthquake?”

“An earthquake?...no, no nothing”


When we returned home to Tampa, life was back to normal. Bob at his work, and myself at the campus of the University where I worked for several years.

“You can’t imagine Ruth the spectacular view I was seeing as I dipped into the calm waters of the crater. Millions of phosphorescent bacteria, shellfish, and other mollusks stuck on rocks of strange shapes. There’s life down there that we don’t know about.” I listened to him thoughtful because one week after his dive in Yucatan, Bob started to show signs of illness. I asked him how he felt and as always he replied.

“very well, my love”.

I was sure he was not telling me the truth.


 One month after the episodic dive, the signs of Bob’s fatigue and weakness were visible to everyone. He got permission from work to rest. His boss suggested that he leaves for a few days to get better.

“Darling, I am feeling too week to leave my bed. I don’t have the strength to draw my feet. Something inside my tummy goes on. Maybe a cancerous tumor that is growing every day.”, said while we’re having breakfast.

I looked at his belly, swollen and hard, and I couldn’t understand what was happening.

 

At Pensacola Naval Hospital, he went for examinations and immediately admitted for hospitalization. On the second day, they called me there to tell them about our adventure and his health condition after our trip to Mexico. They asked me not to tell anyone about him until they restored his health.

When I saw him in the hospital bed, off-color and weak, he could hardly speak to me.

On the fourth day, they hastily called me to the hospital because he urgently entered the operation room. They told me it was necessary for emergency treatment. I asked them to tell me exactly what was going on, but they were telling me confused and vague things that I didn’t understand. 

I was sure that they were hiding me, something very serious about Bob’s health that might put his life in danger.


The operation lasted all night. The surgical team that operated on him was renowned American surgeons.


A man dressed in a white robe, who probably was the head of the surgical team approached me outside of the operation room.

“Unfortunately, your husband has not endured the hassle of surgery and has not woken up from long hours of anesthesia. He lost his life. At 6.05 am his heart stopped beating.

I felt awfully shocked and burst into tears. The doctor held me in his arms so I would not collapse.

“What was the end of it all?

“I’ll explain to you. Come, please in my office tomorrow, when you have calmed down,” he said and left.


The next day, though I was in a desperate state, I drew my steps to the doctor’s door. He kindly welcomed me and explained to me that my husband Bob Riley had suffered a rare form of poisoning in his digestive tract and therefore they operated him urgently. He failed because he was too weak.


The death of my husband followed by the funeral and burial ceremony attended by many friends, neighbors, and colleagues from his work. Everyone was wondering how a healthy and robust man like Bob had so easily lost the battle of life.

My questions remained unanswered and the doctors’ explanation did not satisfy me either.

 I continued to live in a strenuous mode for the next two years, working and recalling the happy days of my life with Bob. Up to the time that one day I received a phone call from a stranger who introduced me as a journalist and told me that he had something to tell me about Bob’s death.

I agreed to meet him at a café near my job.


His appearance reminded me of someone, but I could not gain more from my memory. He kindly introduced himself to me.

“Do you remember me better now that you see me?”

“I’m sorry not because my memory doesn’t help me,” I replied.

“Well, I was a patient at the Hospital. They hospitalized me in bed next to your husband. I know the whole story”

“Well, um, please, tell me what you have to tell me, don’t keep me in agony.”

“The cause of your spouse’s death is not what they told you. They reflected it as a State top-secret case and didn’t tell you the truth“

“How do you know it?” I asked him.

“After two years of research I could read confidential documents but also I talked to the doctor who operated your husband. He died shortly after our discussion”

“And what did he tell you?”

“He confirmed the results of my research”

“I am listening to you carefully,” I told him 

“I live in a terrific affliction” I added

“Your spouse was the victim of a hair-raising event”

“What do you mean?” I asked

“His diving in the waters of the crater coincided with two violent natural events. A bolt of lightning that is an electrical discharge of hundreds of thousands of volts that passed through the environment of the area where he dived, but almost simultaneously an earthquake that shook the earth and the waters, exerting a lot of pressure on the mass of water, the surrounding walls of the cave and accordingly on your man’s body. These two events provided the energy for the components of life that continue to exist underneath after the asteroid’s fall. The ingredients of life transferred by the asteroid from the original star.

The combination of all these events caused the transdermal penetration into your man’s body of life unknown to us. Your husband functioned as the cradle of a new life’s fast-paced pregnancy with the energy your husband’s body offered to this freak entity.“

I remained speechless, literally scared.


“At the hospital after the exams, they found out the reality and put him in a hurry in the operating room to remove the new life he carried in his abdomen. The separation accomplished, but it doomed your man. The goal of the physicians was to remove the indefinable alien and kill it before it went off in the air with your man’s abdomen ruptured. Their attempt succeeded, but unfortunately, your husband died before they killed the monster. This is the absolute truth.”


My eyes full of tears stared at him muted. It all seemed inconceivable to me.


“I’m sorry, Madam. Your spouse became the trigger for the expert researchers and scientists to figure out that there is life in the vast Universe that surrounds us, and that life on Earth came from somewhere far away that we will never know. They discovered new types of amino acids, proteins, and DNA suitable for new formulas of life. Life on Earth has many times disappeared and reappeared in various forms because of such violent phenomena that are constantly happening around us in the Cosmos' chaos”.-


The End



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9 likes 12 comments

18:40 Oct 09, 2019

Yes, I agree with Michelle Veikos... How could be writer of short story judged by likes and people who have to log in... This is not about talented people but about who have a lot of friends and they are going to make likes to their friends... nobody knows for which purpose ... I wish to Mike Vokos many others inspirations and continue with writing... I like his ideas ... the way of writing ... Bravo, Mike ... Do not let nobody to disappointed you ... Keep writing... Anna

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19:41 Oct 09, 2019

Matt here (from Reedsy) 👋. Just to clarify, the judging is not based on likes, you'll see the recent winner of 'Little Women' doesn't have the most likes. It just so happens that after the winner is chosen, it gets more exposure and slowly the number ramps up over the week.

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12:05 Oct 05, 2019

Hey Mike, you got only 9 likes and the winner 16 or 24? :-o) Unluckily you crumbled in a "likes mechanism" ditch. The judging team is doing business, not literary work. They defy basic rules of fiction writing, that is why they don't justify their pick of winner. Good luck!

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10:34 Oct 06, 2019

Thank you for your comment.

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22:04 Oct 03, 2019

Perfect, Mike. Provoking to think...

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06:04 Oct 04, 2019

Thank you Katarina!!

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10:02 Oct 03, 2019

Excellent idea! A thought-provoking plot.

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06:03 Oct 04, 2019

Thank you Michelle!

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04:51 Oct 03, 2019

Excellent use of English! Thank you for the story!

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06:02 Oct 04, 2019

I am so happy. Thank you!

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20:54 Oct 02, 2019

Hey, read this story I liked IT very much

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06:01 Oct 04, 2019

Thank you so much!

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