Uisce Cuid I (Water Part I)
Berlin, Deutschland (Berlin, Germany)
At precisely five minutes to twelve, Florian Fischer walked out of the school pool’s dressing rooms, more self-conscious than he had ever been in his entire sixteen years of life. The eyes of the entire school were upon him. For the umpteenth time that day, Florian wondered what on earth had possessed him to enter the race. It was a spur of the moment thing, brought on by a surge of testosterone and a quickly fading hope that he might win, and impress Mia Becker, a girl he was sure he loved for the past five years.
He had known her most of his life, but he had yet to have a proper conversation with her. Any time he tried, the words stuck in his throat. He promised himself that if he won the race, he’d go and ask her out. Not that winning was an entirely likely possibility at this point.
In that spur of the moment when he had signed up for the school’s annual sports day swimming race, less than twenty-four hours ago, Florian had of course conveniently forgotten that Max Hoffman, the local water-polo champion was also competing. He had spent half the night fretfully praying that Hoffman would be struck down by some terrible illness. Naturally, that morning, Hoffman had looked as healthy as ever.
He started to shiver as the water from his shower cooled rapidly. By the time he reached the pool’s edge, he was surprised the water hadn’t frozen on his skin. Nervously, he took a glance at his co-competitors. He instantly wished he hadn’t.
All five of them were heavily muscled, and were at least six inches taller than him. Two were on the same water polo team as Hoffman, who was standing next to Florian with a content look on his face. The other two Florian knew worked out at the gym every day. His only hope here was that the others had so much muscle that they’d sink.
Knowing he’d regret it, he took a look at himself, and did his best not to break down and cry. He didn’t have much muscle on him. In fact he didn’t have much anything on him, besides skin. He could see his bony knees shaking with the cold and nerves. Compared to the other five, he was a skeleton. And skeletons weren't exactly famed for their prowess in swimming.
Florian knew he could swim. In fact, among his own small group of friends he was easily the best swimmer. Only four years previous, he had been taking swimming lessons. But Florian was nervous, and starting to panic. His throat was tightening, his breathing getting shallow. He was usually quite calm, but when faced with the giants before him ...
He gave a shudder that had nothing to do with the cold, and stared into the water.
I wonder if I drown in there, would it save me the embarrassment of losing this race, he thought briefly. Then he gave himself a mental slap in the face. Be serious, he thought chastisingly, it’s only school, losing a race is hardly the end of the world.
But then that sneaky thought crept into his mind, as it did every time he tried to think rationally about the task before him. “What will Mia think...?” this thought said.
Florian looked into the crowd and found her face immediately. She was chatting animatedly with her friend, her gorgeous blonde hair shining in the pool lights.
Florian looked away quickly, not wanting to catch her eye. Maybe she won’t notice me, and never know I lose, he thought hopefully. He gazed around the pool deck, looking for the gym teacher, Herr Müller, to start the race. He was at a small desk near the stands, checking the swimmers’ names. He caught a small smirk grace the teacher’s lips as he checked Florian’s name.
A voice to his right distracted him.
“Fischer!” Hoffman called, and extended a hand. “Viel Glück,” the taller boy said, wishing Florian good luck; the epitome of sportsmanship. That was exactly what Florian hated about Hoffman. It wasn’t as though he was the typical sports star, with a slow mind and quick temper, regarding everyone else in the school as beneath him. In most schools, a guy like this would be synonymous with the school bully. But Hoffman was actually a nice, smart guy. The thing Florian hated about him was, there was nothing about him you could hate.
Keeping his paradoxical disposition towards the swimmer locked away, Florian gave a weak smile and accepted the hand, but gave only a nod in reply; he really didn’t trust his voice at that point.
A shout from Herr Müller brought Florian back to focus. The clock at the opposite end of the pool said it was a minute to twelve. Herr Müller started to explain the race. It was fairly basic, to the opposite end of the pool and back. Any other day, it would look like a piece of cake, but today Florian thought it was 50 metres of pure agony.
At ten seconds to twelve, Herr Müller began his countdown
The swimmers pulled on their goggles. Florian started to sweat with nerves.
Five seconds to twelve. Florian crouched down, ready to dive. Herr Müller, he knew, was deliberately dragging this out.
Three seconds to twelve, Florian stretched his arms out in front of him.
Then several things happened at once.
The clock struck twelve.
Herr Müller blew his whistle.
A drop of water fell from Florian’s right hand into the pool.
The teenager heard a voice that both boomed and whispered the word “Gut.”
And 1,180 kilometres away to the south, an old Irish pound coin hit the surface of the Fontana di Trevi, and caused a huge ripple. This ripple shook across the world, faster than the speed of light. A ripple unlike anything ever seen before on this planet.
It was a ripple, but not of water.