During a sports lesson out on a river, Tim gets Hypothermia. How he survives and what happens after may change his life forever.
Any help in editing or feedback would be great, this work is far from finished and I need some help.
The story I have to tell begins in gym class one cold and wintery day.
I remember my sports group in our uniforms, the girls chatting away on the bleachers while the boys and I were competing over how high we could get against the basketball ring. Well, not all the boys; Michael, the quietest kid in the history of the school was sitting in the corner as far away from the rest of us as physically possible, he wasn’t talking and he was completely alone. But that was nothing out of the ordinary for him, many at this school doubt he can even speak, they all think that he is mute in some way. I used to think the same way until I heard him answer to his name at roll call one morning, which was the only time I had heard him speak. He is a solitary figure, one of those guys that are alone even in a crowd. The girls find him interesting, the guys think he’s strange but of course nobody is willing to go talk to him because we all know we will get snubbed.
Of course; a guy like that attracted many rumours too. Some are believable, like the idea that he won’t speak because he is too slow to be able to keep up with a conversation. But, I could see that he wasn’t stupid; despite the fact that he missed most of his classes, in fact, almost all, he was still one of the top students in the year level, maybe even the school. Others were completely ridiculous, like the one that spoke of him trying to kill himself.
The teacher’s arrival broke me from my stare, thankfully. Last thing I needed was someone thinking that I was becoming obsessed with him. Mr Finn took the roll and we all got ready for another lesson of basketball like we had received for five weeks now. What a surprise when he dropped the bombshell; Mr Finn liked bombshells. “Today class, we are going to go canoeing.” A groan came from some, others were excited. Sam and I were confused; we didn’t even know that the school offered canoeing.
We were told to take our bags and walk down with him to the river nearby. There was no need for a bus according to the pencil pushers at the school office because the canoes were already down there and the river wasn’t far. But as soon as we stepped outside we realised what a stupid idea this whole thing was, it was freezing out there in the elements, so cold that immediately I couldn’t feel my ears. But no-one was willing to show weakness in front of our peers and strode out into the weather stoically.
Thankfully it didn’t take too long for us to reach the river but somehow it was actually colder down there. But at least the wind was blocked by the embankment and the trailer waiting by the water’s edge.
Mr Finn asked us to pair off and there were no surprises with who picked whom. The girl’s all paired off with each other, Sam stayed with me; and because no-one wanted to be seen dead with either of them, Mr Finn was with Michael.
We then carried the canoes down to the river and jumped in, moving off down the river straight away. The class was having fun, spraying each other, having races and so on. I’m sure that Mr Finn had a plan for the lesson but no-one would stay still long enough to listen. So instead, Mr Finn passed the time by keeping pace with his students and trying, desperately, to get his silent companion to engage in a conversation.
A futile task as we all well knew; yet still all the teachers and even some of the students kept trying. I guess they thought, with typical adult logic, that he was merely lonely and all that you had to do to get the boy to open up was to be friendly with him. Usually the kids nearby took a wager to see how long it would take for the teacher to give up in frustration. But today we were all too busy having fun to pay either Michael or his poor companion any mind.
Not too long after, when we had travelled a way down the river from where we started Sam decided it would be funny to rock the canoe. I told him not too, scared that we would fall in. He didn’t listen of course, claiming that he had done it before with someone else and nothing had happened then. I am certain now that this person Tim talked about was experienced and knew how to keep the thing upright even with an idiot rocking it. He kept going further and further to each side despite my protests; until, inevitably, I fell in.
Somehow Sam managed to stay inside the boat and dry and we both laughed it off; the rest of the class hadn’t noticed and I didn’t find the water cold at all like I had expected; in fact, it was rather nice, not warm but certainly not cold. After a few moments I reluctantly tried to get back into the boat from the water; but every time I failed, it was almost like my hands were unwilling to hold the side of the boat and pull me from the water. Eventually after the umpteenth time we decided it would be easier by far if Sam took the Canoe over to the bank so I could get in without having to climb.
Despite the fact that the bank appeared to be private property I doubt the owners would have minded, it was after all, a good half an hour back to the trailer and where we started.
It was while I was transitioning from the warmish water and back into the boat that it started to get cold. It was nothing like I had ever felt before. This cold went deeper than anything I had ever known, reaching right inside my chest to take hold of my heart in an attempt to freeze it solid. Breathing had become too easy, and with every breath I got colder.
Like the fool I was, I paid little heed to the sign of danger that it was and did not mention it to my friend. We struck back out into the river with the rest of my class and that’s where the breeze hit me. It made me feel even colder, an impossibility I thought until then. My hands become so numb that I put the paddle in the boat behind me so it wouldn’t slip from my hands and lost.
Sam, noticing this, asked what was wrong; but again, like the fool that I was I just told him that I was too lazy to keep going. He laughed and kept paddling forward. That’s when I started to shiver.
Everything from my feet to my jaw started to shake uncontrollably in an effort to get me warm. My teeth started to clatter together with such force that I still find it strange that they did not break. My shaking was so noticeable Mr Finn noticed and asked if I was ok. I managed to nod my head quickly before the shivering took hold again, and the teacher was satisfied. But Michael, probably wondering what had taken the teachers attention off of him, looked over. He looked again.
“Mr Finn, raft up with those two now!” he ordered a surprised teacher. So shocked was he that he complied with Michael’s order immediately and without argument.
They paddled in our direction with an urgency that made me start to think that there may in fact be something wrong and as soon as they were close enough Michael jumped across the remaining stretch of water into our boat to have a look at me, only serving to reinforce that suspicion. I am quite certain that had anyone else, even the teacher tried to cross boats in the same reckless way, they would have tipped everyone in. Michael inspected me efficiently and without a word.
“Mr Finn, we have a case of Hypothermia here.” By the sound of his voice I could tell this was considered bad news. The teacher did not receive the news any better than Michael delivered it. His face paled and he started to look wildly around in a kind of subdued panic, looking for something, anything to do that would make this problem better. I was just as confused, but mainly because of each person’s reaction. I was only a little cold after all; it wasn’t like it was life or death.
Michael asked Sam, who was just as confused as I, to cross into our teacher’s canoe so Michael could take me back to the trailer. Then Michael turned to Mr Finn.
“Mr Finn. I will start to head back to the trailer where I have a change of clothes and a blanket in my bag as time is most certainly an issue. Can you please round up the students and bring them back as well?” The Man nodded as he was once again given a purpose. I watched him take off with my friend. Then the canoe was turned and we paddled off with a speed far beyond the capabilities of anyone in my class.
It did not take long before we were out of sight of the rest of the class, and it was here that Michael spoke again.
“Take off your shirt and put this one on.” I felt a soft lump hit me in the back of the head and I turned to pick up the clothing that had fallen into the centre of the boat behind me. I looked up in thanks and took note of the fact that it was his shirt. But I thought no further of it because something else was taking my attention.
The boy had muscles. Big bulging muscles that would make many of our female classmates blush upon seeing. He looked like he could take down Billy, the boy who constantly picked on him, and win; the question was then, why didn’t he? I quickly turned back to the front and put on the new shirt, shoving the question aside.
The shirt was long-sleeved and dry, which was a considerable step up from before. But, it was still a shirt and thin as it was; no real defence against the cold and my lower legs were still going numb.
Perhaps it was just because of my frozen brain, or the panic as parts of my body started to shut down, or even the sight of Michael, the biggest nerd in the history of the school, with muscles that rivalled a movie star; but eventually a real concern entered my mind. “What about you? It’s freezing today and you have nothing on now.”
“I will be fine.” He grunted. “I have enough endurance to take the elements and get you back safely.” Endurance? I didn’t think until then that he had anything even remotely resembling that word. We had never seen him do more than was absolutely necessary to get around and he never did well at the endurance tests that the school like to torture us with so this was news to me. But, looking at his muscles, I could believe this strange boy’s words.
We arrived in the section of river that we had begun in in record time, and the trailer became visible to us both. By this point, I couldn’t feel anything below my waist anymore and it was starting to scare me. I’m ashamed to say it but I was relieved to see that wheeled monstrosity with the school logo on the side.
What happened next should never have worked. If I had of been the one steering the canoe, I would have slowed down and gracefully parked next to the bank, allowing us both to get out without too much trouble. Except, I wasn’t the one steering, and Michael was not interested in grace. He sped up, pumping his arms to get the canoe to new, faster speeds and aimed the boat straight at the bank.
“Shit!” I yelled in panic. Then I realised, after opening my eyes, instead of crashing and sinking which would have been the normal thing to have happened. We went halfway up the bank; I was awed. I didn’t know you could do that with a canoe.
“Get out.” He said.
“I can’t. I can’t move my legs.”
He sighed and threw his paddle to the bank, stood up and stepped out onto dry land. He took the handle at the front and dragged the boat further in. Then he dropped it and once again walked towards me, there was no doubt as to what he intended.
“No, no, no. You are not carrying me like a sack of potatoes.” I was a human being after all, and a man. What would everyone say if someone saw us? Michael sighed and kneeled on one knee so our faces were level.
“Obviously you do not understand the severity of the situation that you have found yourself in, so let me explain. You have hypothermia. In other words, your body is so cold that it is slowly shutting itself down in a last ditch effort to keep your heart and your brain from dying, this is your body trying to save your life. But this is not the case. Your arms and legs will slowly shut down, then your torso, finally your heart and brain will give in and then you will die.” There was a momentary delay as Michael’s words sunk into my frozen mind. It took a few moments, but suddenly I understood what he was saying in one big rush. “I cannot save you while you are sitting in the canoe.” Scared and finally comprehending the danger I was in I nodded my consent.
“Good.” He picked me up like I was nothing and carried me over to the trailer. Again I was surprised by this strange boy’s strength.
He leant me against the trailer’s side. The metal felt warm against my back, a strange feeling knowing that the metal was in fact cold enough to freeze water on. I knew because we had been doing just that earlier.
I watched as my saviour walked back to the boat and, picking it up with one hand, he put it next to me on its side by leaning it against a few bags. Immediately I felt a little warmer as the wind was blocked. Next he picked another bag up from the pile and dumped it next to me, obviously it was his. He pulled a thick, wool blanket and a tracksuit out of it, hardly fashionable, but warm.
“Put this on.” He threw me the tracksuit. “And make sure to get rid of all your wet clothes. I will be on the other side of the trailer, call me when you are done.” Shaking severely, I pulled off all my old clothes and put on the tracksuit. These were huge achievements considering my upper arms were the only thing that would move and even then they were so stiff that they would barely follow my commands. As for my hands, forget it.
When I had finished I called out that I was ready and he came back round. He took the blanket and sitting down next to me wrapped the blanket around us both. I balked, I wasn’t gay.
“Don’t be such a baby. If I heat you up too fast, it could be very bad. My body heat is the only source that will help here. Anything else will send you into shock and kill you”
With these words I began to feel really strange. As if I were witnessing the world around me from the bottom of a swimming pool. Everything I saw and heard was all strangely muted and warped as if the world was merely a dream.
I began to laugh uncontrollably and Michael looked at me in worry. The fact that the boy, considered to be the biggest Nerd in the country, called me a baby. The thought was hilarious, more funny than anything else before in my life.
I watched the rest of our class turn up; out of breath. I laughed a little at the fact that Michael had taken the same journey and was barely even tired. Then, nothing.