Excerpt for The Green Room

Though volcanoes hadn’t erupted on O’ahu for a couple million years, volcanic rock existed all over the island. The pencil-thin rays penetrated the porous a’a, a type of jagged lava that would slash a body as easily as the teeth of a Moray.

Storm squinted with the effort to stay calm and scrutinize all visible aspects of her enclosure. Think. Someone put her in here, so there had to be an entrance. She twisted her neck until it hurt to examine the ceiling, which was getting closer and closer to the top of her head. There was no place to drop a five-eight, hundred-forty pound woman and a nine foot surfboard through the ceiling. So the entrance had to be underwater, at least once the tide came in.

Storm’s throat closed with desperation and tears burned her eyes as she looked at the tiny beams of light that seeped through the rock like the mockery of some ethereal fairy. Is this what happened to Nahoa? Her gaze flitted around the cave again, this time so frightened she didn’t take in any information. Had he been in this very place?

Storm remembered the police detectives’ comments about the damage to Nahoa’s body. Sharks loved caves, didn’t they? And they sensed blood from miles away. Was there one in the dark water beneath her, circling to defend its territory?

“Help!” she shrieked again. Her voice worked at full volume, a hoarse and desperate shriek that died in the closed acoustics of the cave. At the same time, she pulled herself back from the abyss of terror and told herself to think about the entrance to the cave. Even if it was under water, tides in Hawai’i weren’t the twenty-foot changes that occur in other parts of the world. She could dive to it—if she could get free.

Storm shuddered. She’d just have to take her chances with sharks. Weren’t reef sharks the ones who liked caves? They were smaller than tigers, hammerheads, or whites, and not as apt to attack humans. She was counting on it.

She jerked at her bonds. Her hands were numb clubs on the end of burning arms, but she had to get them loose. As she yanked, the surfboard jerked, then teetered. It was rising with the water, and becoming less stable on its rocky shelf. If she fell off with her hands tied, it would be nearly impossible to get back on the board—or the abrasive ledge. She tugged again, this time more gently. Yes, she was attached to the surfboard itself, by its rubbery leash.

Storm found comfort in this knowledge for the simple reason that a leash was something she knew. At one end, the rubber tubing would be attached to a hole in me tail of the board, usually by a narrow nylon cord. At the other end, which normally wound around her left ankle, should be a Velcro band. Not that she expected to be bound by Velcro; that was hopelessly wishful thinking.

She had to get the feeling back in her hands. She needed to move her wrists and arms to get the blood flowing, and maybe, just maybe, loosen the tubing. If it was as old and abused as the board she sat on, it may have hardened, even cracked, with age.

Nahoa would have tried this, too, she thought with a stab of desperation. And pushed the fear away Anger was okay, but terror would only freeze her and keep her from considering her options.

A sucking sensation, a whalloping thump, compression of air, and more water rushed into the cave. This time, it nearly washed her from the board. Storm sucked in a jagged breath. On its heels, another wave rolled through the little cavern, and the old surfboard, for the first time, lifted completely from the uneven shelf and teetered beneath her knees.

Storm twisted her wrists, grimacing against the rough, tight truss. She twisted them one way, then the other, slowly at first, as she tried to ignore the friction of the rubber against her skin. Slowly and carefully, she rotated on the board so that she could rub her wrists against the knobby lava wall. She needed to find a small, sharp outcropping at the right level. Her abraded shoulder hit the wall and she winced. Damn, the entire wall felt like knife blades. Salty, stinging blades.

Her hands were so numb from cold and diminished blood supply that she could barely manipulate them. But she felt the salt in her fresh wounds, by God. And when her sawing efforts didn’t hurt quite so much, she figured the lava was scraping more rubber than skin. So she used her pain. With each ripping millimeter, the elasticity of the leash diminished. Instead of retaining its tightness, the resilience of the rubber seemed to lessen. Either that or the blood she imagined now circled her wrists acted as a lubricant. Whatever was happening, she had to keep it up.

Meanwhile, the incoming sea water floated her higher in the small chamber. Her chest now lay directly on her thighs, and the awkward pose increased not only the strain on her shoulders, but caused the bones in her knees to grind against the gritty, hard surfboard. Tears of effort filled her eyes.

A particularly loud crash, with subsequent gush of water, bumped her head against the ceiling. She yelped, then allowed herself a bellow of rage, with a concurrent blast of effort against her restraints.

Storm sagged forward and moaned. The pain in her lacerated wrists was so bad she felt faint. She couldn’t even feel her hands, let alone the binding rubber. It was all she could do to keep from flopping onto one exhausted hip, but her instinct for survival restrained her. If she tipped over the board now, she’d never have the energy to get back on. It was all she could do to stay balanced.

“Owwww, help,” she keened, and her voice rose and fell with exhaustion. Head turned to one side, she watched the last pinhole of light sink below the surface of the water. A subtle glow from below was all that lit the cave. And only a few cubic feet of air remained.

© Deborah Turrell Atkinson

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