In the meantime, I saw one of my favorite episodes of seaQuest earlier this afternoon. It's one of the few episodes I remember from way-back-when. And in watching it, I began to wonder what those poor folks in the sunken mini-sub were thinking during all that time they spent stuck in a sinkhole, running out of air.
So I wrote this little snippet, which ended up taking me a few hours as it made me rack my brain trying to remember my lapsed French. (It's been six years since I've used my bilingualism. I'm a tad rusty! ::wink::)
***Dedicated to Darwin, because I don't think he got enough appreciation for the trouble he went through to bring back the information Bridger needed to find the mini-sub.***
Josephine didn't know how much longer she could keep the children calm. For that matter, she wasn't sure how much longer she could keep herself calm. But she was determined to try. She had to be strong for the children. She had to help them first. By the time she could let her own panic run free, it wouldn't matter.
It'd be too late to help any of them.
They were down to their last hour of oxygen, and the children knew it. While the children were resilient and very brave, many of them had already broken down into tears. Josephine racked her brain trying to come up with stories to tell, games to play, songs to sing to them. Anything to take their minds off the time, off the minutes slipping away, off the ever-decreasing hope for rescue and survival. Anything to help them hold on just a little longer.
Anything to help herself hold on a little longer.
Up front, she could hear her fellow teacher calling repeatedly for help. Carole's voice was starting to go hoarse, she'd been at it so long. Josephine didn't even have to strain to catch the edges of desperation lacing Carole's tone as the blonde repeated her message for the umpteenth time.
"Ce c'est le sous-marin, Turismo. Nous vraiment besoin d'aide. S'il vous plait, quelqu'un, venez au nos secours." Her voice trailed off to a whisper as she put her head in her hands. "Exaucez nos prieres!" she begged.
Silently, Josephine prayed with her. There was little else they could do.
"Mademoiselle! Mademoiselle!" One of the children suddenly cried out, and Josephine's head shot up. That shout hadn't been one of fear; it had been one of excitement.
Stumbling to her feet, heart in her throat, she made her way past the now quiet children to the girl who'd called out. Young Sophie was staring out the small porthole, her face all but pressed against the tempered glass, an incongruously large grin lighting up her expression.
Not daring to hope, Josephine laid her hand on the girl's shoulder and looked outside the mini-sub into the blackness of the water she feared would be their grave.
At first she saw nothing -- nothing more than water and darkness, the lights of the sub not quite enough to pierce the eerie black of the ocean's depths. Then something streaked just past her field of vision, and Josephine's eyes narrowed in an effort to focus on the unknown shape. She held her breath as she concentrated, aware of nothing but the inky blackness outside and the pregnant silence inside.
"Regarder!" Sophie said, raising her finger to point near the upper left corner of the viewport. Josephine leaned her head further down to see.
It took only a moment for the faint blur to come fully into view, and Josephine gasped at the sight that met her eyes.
"Un dauphin!" she breathed.
Sophie nodded, staring with wide-eyed wonder at the sleek grey creature that drifted gradually closer. Other children began to crowd around the windows, hoping for a glimpse of the beautiful animal. Even Carole paused in her radio transmissions to crane her neck out the main viewport and try to catch a glimpse of it.
As the dolphin swam closer, the "ohhs and awws" of wonder turned to cries of concern. The poor animal was covered in blisters, its smooth grey skin cracking and blotchy in spots all along its streamlined body.
"Qu'est-ce qu'il y a eu?"
"Je ne sais pas," Josephine answered sadly, unable to think of what might have happened to cause the animal's injuries.
While they spoke, pondering the painful-looking sores, the dolphin floated onto its side to look inside at them. Josephine fancied its intelligent dark eye was filled with emotion as it stared back at them.
"Je voudrais que vous pouvoir pretions-nous l'assistance." She told the animal, holding its gaze with her own. "Nous avons grande besoin de votre l'aide."
The dolphin blinked at her, its long lashes closing briefly over its kind eye. When it tapped its snout against the glass by her hand, Josephine imagined it had actually understood her plea for help. She smiled at the fanciful thought, and stroked her fingers lightly over the glass as if she were petting the only company they'd seen in hours.
Then with one last look, the dolphin was gone. Its powerful tail propelled it slowly upwards out of the sub's view. Josephine and the children all sighed with sorrow as they watched it leave.
The atmosphere inside the sub, temporarily lightened by the distraction of the animal's visit, descended once again into pessimistic resignation. It was as if with the dolphin's passing, any last shred of hope the children held faded. They huddled together, dried-eyed but depressed, staring aimlessly out into the empty abyss.
Forty-two minutes later, when the seaQuest rescued them in the last possible moments before their air ran out, neither Josephine nor the children realized their prayers had been answered...
... thanks to the miracle of a dolphin that could talk.
Moonbeam's Endnote: For one thing, I wouldn't guarantee the few lines in Francais are all that accurate. For another, the story didn't quite turn out the way I wanted. It's not as good as it should have been, or as it could have been. But it is what it is, so I'm done with it.
All the same, don't think I'll post it anywhere else but here. :P