The shock of the mysterious woman’s words reverberated through Awethu’s soul-self into his true body, which tried valiantly to open his eyes. But Awethu remained floating on the boat with the faceless man.
“Go,” the faceless man said.
Awethu blinked in confusion.
Another head popped out of the inky black, next to the woman whose eyes matched his own. It was a girl, looking about the same age as Inami. She pulled one arm out of the water, giving a wave. “Welcome,” she said.
“This is your sister,” the mysterious woman said. “Cwebile.”
Another head popped out; this girl looked younger. She too, waved.
“Mbali,” the mysterious woman said. “Your second sister.”
A third head sprang up, looking no older than five. “Phili,” the mysterious woman said. “Your third, and youngest, sister.”
“Go,” the faceless man said.
Awethu tried to speak, but no words came forth.
“Go!” The faceless man slung back his trident, and with the handle, knocked Awethu out of the boat.
The inky black water reached out and caught him, pulling him deep. Panic seized him, and he began to thrash his arms, kick his legs, but he had no idea how to swim. His floundering attempts were doing nothing of use, and he sank deeper and deeper. His lungs burned, as he was using up too much energy with his useless thrashing.
“Relax,” said a voice.
“Breathe,” said another.
“You’re perfectly fine,” said a third.
“Stop thrashing about,” said a fourth.
“Why’s our brother acting so weird?”
But Awethu did not listen. He kicked, and flung his arms about, as his torso twisted this way and that. And despite his true body being safe and sound where he left it, his soul-self, here, in this dream place, still had lungs and they needed air. His mouth opened without his permission, as his brain shouted, “No!”
But those lungs paid no heed as they inhaled, drawing the water deep inside him.
He froze in shock, waiting for a new kind of burn, but it didn’t come. Instead, a tickling sensation developed on his neck, under his jaw, tucked near his ears. Bubbles floated out, all around him.
“Relax,” a voice said. Long, slim arms wrapped around him. “I’ve got you. Now just breathe. In … out … that’s good. Keep going … in … and out … Well done, my son.”
As his body recovered from its exertions, his eyes began to focus. The water no longer looked inky and dark, but as if he was looking through a piece of pale, clear, zircon. The light blue shimmered, and in the distance he could see people. Lots of people. Except they were not people, exactly. They had long, long, long fins at the end of their legs, instead of feet.
“Whoa,” he said, before snapping his mouth shut in surprise. His voice worked, underwater! What kind of crazy dream is this? he thought.
“This is home, son,” the person holding him said. “Now relax, and hold out your hand.”
He did, and the person let go, sliding over to his right, and took the hand. “See,” said the woman with eyes that matched his own. “You are just fine.”
Awethu silently shook his head. He wasn’t sure what he was, but this wasn’t fine. This was crazy. This was the weirdest dream he had ever had, and he was ready to wake up right now.
But his true body, back on the bed, would not obey.
Tell us: What should you do if you can’t swim but fall into a deep body of water? Has this ever happened to you? You should try not to panic, and float on your back. Panicking uses up energy quickly.