I was cold. The Pacific water temperature in March is in the mid-fifties; the surrounding water was constantly pulling heat from my body. It was like being wrapped up in a warm blanket on a snowy day and then having someone pull the blanket off. To overcome the heat loss, I had to swim at a rate fast enough to create heat, but still my skin always felt cold; it was as cold as the water. I could feel the cold working its way deep into my muscles.
An offshore breeze carried the warm sweet smells of smoky bacon and fried eggs, buttery pancakes, and the rich acidic aroma of brewing coffee across the water. I had been swimming for more than an hour and my stomach was grumbling loudly. All I had to do was reach the north jetty, turn around, and swim the last half mile back to the pier and then I'd be finished with my workout.
I I was starting to relax, stretching out my arms, feeling my hands and arms pulling the thick water, feeling the rotation of my shoulders and core, and the light kick of my feet. My body was slipping through the water like silk sliding across ultrasmooth skin. My breaths were long and easy, and I felt good: I was back into my pace, moving with the flow of all creation. Everything was in sync, the currents flowing around me, the song of the ocean, the breezeexcept everything below was strangely still.
All the fish had disappeared.
Lifting my head, I looked to my right and then to my left. I couldn't see anything. I put my face back down, and stared into the water through clear goggles. It was like looking into a well at midnight. I couldn't see anything, but I knew something was there.
The water began shaking harder than before and I was being churned up and down as if I was swimming through a giant washing machine. The water shifted, and I was riding on the top of a massive bubble. It was moving directly up from below, putting out a high-energy vibration. I felt like there was a spaceship moving right below me. I had never felt anything this big in the water before.
Excerpted from Grayson by Lynne Cox Copyright © 2006 by Lynne Cox. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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