Time was running out.
You could hear the grains of sand tapping against each other as each and every second dropped from the future into the present and then slipped into the oblivion of the past.
The darkness was spreading all around me. The sea was heavy above my head – it was like wearing a very heavy, very wobbly woolly hat that had been soaked thorough with more water than you could spit at a vicar. And to be perfectly honest, it was heavy everywhere else too... above my shoulders, above my chest... even above my backside.
There were only five minutes of air left in The Austin-Matthew’s-Inflatable-Deep-Sea-Diving-Tank®. After that was gone, my life would end. Thank goodness that I was wearing my Automatic Release Volcanic Mist Spray Deodorant* ®. At least I wouldn’t die a B.O. Bear ®.
My right leg was trapped in the clasp of a giant man eating scallop. The details of how I got there were nothing more than a hazy memory now, but I did recall something about warm salad, olive oil and a brand new episode of the top reality cooking programme, Super Chef!!! ©.
There was no escaping this one.
There was only one way out and that was by taking the heavenly route in the watery version of an old-fashioned type of 1930s car... the sort with running boards and blasting machine-guns when the doors were thrown opening. At least I could thank Big T for sending me on the Speak-Like-A-Private-Detective-From-The-Fifties®... that was about the only crumb of comfort I had.
Suddenly a thought sprung into my head like a Tasmanian Devil on a Pneumatic Pogo Stick ®. Had I taken the chicken out of the freezer to defrost? Or would it be Chicken Lollipops ® for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Then another thought popped up like a finger being stuffed up the inside of a grubby nostril - If only I could make this scallop swim, it would open up its mouth and I could pull my leg out!
I said it out loud; just to make sure the idea was real and not just some foolish dream. That was a mistake... as I let out valuable seconds of air from the oxygen tank and almost choked on a passing haddock. I made a New Bear’s Resolution ® then and there. In future, I would say things to myself quietly as a thought... that’s if there was to be any future.
Four minutes of air left.
The scallop had buried itself deeply into the sand. It was ready for an afternoon nap in front of the prawn racing. My leg in its mouth didn’t seem to be bothering him at all.
A gentle rumbling sound echoed around.
What was it?
He’d come to pluck me from the icy waters in the nick of time. He’d stopped the usual routine of twenty-four seven grazing and even now, as my air ran out, was thundering towards me in a speedboat. No doubt he’d travelled to the harbour in St.Tropez where he’d played some cunning trick to divert attention from a very quick and very snazzy speedboat. Either that or he’d just pushed the owner in the sea and made off with the sleek vessel. And now he was whipping across the waves of the ocean in a final, desperate attempt to rescue me.
Thank goodness for donkeys!
I swivelled my head round and looked upwards. Anytime now, I’d see the turbulence and foaming water caused by the spinning propellers of Ripley’s rescue boat. Then he’d plunge into the depths, swim down towards (chewing grass, most likely... either that or a kebab...) and pluck me from this watery finale I was facing.
And I waited.
And I waited.
Three minutes of air left.
The sound echoed around even more.
It was as if it was coming from beneath me. That was it! Ripley was burrowing through the centre of the Earth from his favourite grazing-hole in Nidderdale and, any second now, was about to burst from the ocean floor like a rampant bedspring.
I waited again.
And I waited again.
And I waited again.
Then, suddenly, from the ocean, burst absolutely nothing.
Two minutes of air left.
I listened again. The echoing came even louder.
It was close-by...
And seemed to be getting closer...
It was snoring!
I twisted. I turned. I pushed. I pulled. I opened my Underwater-Bear-Thesaurus (For Use In Case of Emergencies) ® and checked it.
Then I twirled. I rotated. I shoved. I heaved.
I even hummed ‘Happy Birthday to Me’ to myself (in the style of Frederic Chopin, Piano Sonata No.2 in B minor, Op.35) –if this blooming scallop wasn’t going to let go of my leg then it would be the last time I ever heard that annoying song. Or any song come to think of it.
I looked down at the snoring scallop. There was no movement at all. Not even a flicker. The scallop was nicely settled for its afternoon nap. I hadn’t realised he could be so shellfish.
I tugged, I heaved, and I kicked and I punched. I referred to my Underwater-Bear-Thesaurus (Use In Case of Emergencies) ® but, in the rush to find some suitable alternatives, I flicked open the wrong digital pages and ended up poaching, fricasseeing and buying a small, yet highly decorative, pair of underpants on eBay.
Then ‘Happy blooming Birthday’ (this time in the style of Al Tabor, circa 1940) popped into my head again.
“Good Bye Vincent!” I whispered through closed lips. I’d already learnt my lesson about not speaking out aloud underwater. “Goodbye – forever!” My eyes watered. At least I think they did. It’s hard to tell when you’re submerged under millions of cubic metres of brine.
One minute of air left.
A tiny fish swam past.
“Good bye little fish”
I looked up at the darkness above my head.
Everything was black.
“Stop, Vincent!” I thought again.
But the thought was out loud and a bubble of oxygen escaped from the mask. I gasped. It was the last bubble left in the tank and I watched as it floated up towards the surface of the sea.
I was out of luck.
Out of time.
And out of oxygen.
I was doomed!
TO BE CONTINUED...
*Automatic Release Volcanic Mist Spray Deodorant ®: Ideal for adding to the body to affect body odour and the smell associated with bacterial breakdown of perspiration in armpits, feet and other areas of the body. Tiny crystals of the Automatic Release Volcanic Mist Spray Deodorant ® are planted inside shirts, shoes or underpants and when rubbed quickly and rigorously together provide 72 ½ hours of protection. In other words, it stops you stinking!