Excerpt: 'Love Always, Petra' by Petra Nemcova

I looked around. I couldn't see anything -- a jumble of floating objects blocked my vision -- but I could hear people crying out. Two women were on a tree behind me. I knew there were two because one was speaking English, the other was speaking Thai. They were screaming for help. In the distance I heard a child crying; after a half hour or so, the crying stopped. I was thinking of all the people, of Simon, and I was sending energy to them, praying for them, and hoping for the best. It helped me to stay focused.

Time passed. The sky stayed blue, and the sun beat down. Cuts and scratches covered my arms and legs, none of them very deep. Even so, the water was bloody around me. I thought I must have been having internal bleeding, but I put it out of my mind. For many hours the water steadily lowered. I eased myself down with the water, staying on top of it to help soften the pain. I kept splashing water in my face so I wouldn't faint. I know I must have drifted off quite a few times. Once, I was brought back into consciousness by a tickling, pinching sensation on my left leg. I looked down and saw a little crab crawling around my ankle. I couldn't reach it because I couldn't move, so I broke off a branch from the tree and tried to get the crab onto it. I wanted to set him down somewhere where he could crawl. Every creature has a right to live, even a little crab.

As the water receded, I saw that a patch of mud had formed below me and I tried to get on it. I hung on to the tree branch and began lowering myself. The stabs of pain stopped me. I couldn't do it. I passed out. The sun woke me. It was so very strong. My whole body was hot, and the scratches were stinging. I splashed water on myself, that filthy black water. I put my head down and passed out again. When I awoke, I saw that the water had gone down so far I couldn't reach it anymore -- nothing to ease the stings of my flesh. It was now getting toward evening. Soon the sun would go down. The day had been filled with the sounds of people crying and screaming for help. I didn't call out. I knew that screaming wouldn't help, and I had to save my energy. Did anyone know we were there? Even the helicopters that eventually flew over went off quickly. I remember thinking there must be many people worse off, so the helicopters should go where they were most needed.

It was around 6:00 p.m. when I heard different kinds of calls. "Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello."

These weren't cries for help; they were cries of help.

The others around me began screaming, "Here! I'm here!"

"Here, I'm here!" I was screaming, too.

In the distance I saw two Thai men pushing their way through the chest-high water toward me.

"I'm here! I'm here!"

They reached me, and I was so happy I burst into tears.

"Kop Khun Kha, Kop Khun Kha. Thank you. Thank you for coming," I cried.

The men bowed and smiled. They didn't speak English. One man opened a can of juice for me. It had been nearly eight hours since I'd had anything to drink. I was lying flat out and couldn't sit, so he helped me swallow by holding my head up. The other man was wearing swimming trunks with swimming shorts over them. He took off the outer pair and tried to slip them over my legs. I had forgotten my nakedness.

"I can't. Thank you, I can't put them on," I told him. "I can't move my legs."

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