Against the Current: Part Three
Nash hardly knew what he was doing anymore. He was so cold and exhausted that he was hardly able to function. It was all he could do to just keep putting hand over hand, pulling himself along the rope. He was no longer thinking of anything. He was completely on autopilot. The current kept threatening to pull him downstream, but his exhausted hands continued to find the rope and he kept on at his steady pace. He had forgotten where he was going and what he was doing.
Nothing else existed but him, the river, and the rope. He knew he had to keep following it. And so he did. Hand over hand, inch by inch, along the rope he went. Several times along the way, he was hit by debris or thrown against rocks, since he wasn’t paying attention. Being a sponge, he wasn’t hurt much by these obstacles, but they threatened to jeopardize his already shaky hold on the rope.
As the current dashed him against a particularly large boulder, he felt himself lose his grip. He felt a strange combination of panic and relief as his hands left the rope. Nash expected to be pulled downstream, so he was vaguely surprised when, after a few feet, he felt a strange tugging around his middle and he stopped moving. His belt, of course, was still connected to the rope, saving him from being swept completely off course.
Nash was completely exhausted. He couldn’t get up the energy or initiative to move. He knew he was on a mission, but he couldn’t remember what that was, and he was just so tired. Lying there in the water, he decided it was over. He let his eyes close and was about to release himself to his fatigue when something grabbed his arm and pulled him back. Nash looked up at this strange turn of events and saw a red Skeith clutching desperately to a rope and boulder with one hand and Nash’s arm with the other.
“What are you doing, Spongey?” the Skeith called out. “This is no time for a nap!”
The sight and sound of Alfazard was enough to remind Nash of what he was doing. Instantly, he was once again aware of his overworked and screaming muscles, but he was also energized with the adrenaline of a mission to accomplish. He wanted desperately to rest, to stop on the rock for a moment, but he knew it wouldn’t help. If he didn’t leave now, they would never make it back.
Quickly, Nash made eye contact with the Skeith, who looked more terrified than ever. Nash wanted to say something to comfort him, but he had no extra energy to waste on words or extra time to spend thinking of a consoling phrase. Instead, he reached forward, grabbed tightly to the rope and glanced backwards toward the Skeith.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then, with an apprehensive glance, Alfazard let go of the boulder and the rope and clung tightly to Nash. Immediately, Nash began moving back the way he had come. Each movement required immense effort. The bulk and weight of the Skeith was pulling them both down. The current was proving too much for them.
Nash kept moving more and more slowly, until he was barely inching along. I have to keep moving, he thought. I have to get this Skeith to safety. But he knew he couldn’t do it. His grip was slipping. He couldn’t hold onto the rope much longer. He tried to picture Larry in his mind. The little lurman was his best friend, his only friend really. Would Larry understand if Nash didn’t return? It didn’t matter if he understood or not, Nash could feel himself fading.
“Come on, Spongey!” a terrified voice hissed in his ear. “We’re almost there! Don’t give up on me now! You promised!”
That was the push that Nash needed. Larry’s slimy face popped into his mind. He had made a promise to his friend and to this Skeith. Nash never broke his promises. Almost there, he said to himself. You promised. He kept moving hand over hand. Almost there. You promised. Almost there. You promised. Almost there. Nash was so focused on moving hand over hand, that he never even saw the log that hit him.
* * * *
Nash’s eyes fluttered open, but he shut them immediately with a groan. The brightness of the room was too much. He blinked rapidly as his eyes adjusted, glancing around the room, trying to ascertain where he was. Sterile white walls, metal bars on his bed, neovision bolted high on the wall; he was in the hospital.
Nash tried to sit up, but his head throbbed so badly that he instantly lay back with a moan. His head felt like it was going to crack in two and his muscles were still aching, but he was warm and dry, so that was an improvement. He closed his eyes again and tried to remember what had happened. How had he gotten here? He vaguely remembered something about the river... but he was soon distracted by the feel of something slimy on his arm.
“Larry!” Nash called joyously scooping up the lurman into a hug. One look at his friend, and Nash’s adventures in the river came back to him.
Larry gave an annoyed chirp, but allowed himself to be hugged.
“I know, buddy. I’m sorry for leaving you behind, but I had to. You understand, right?”
Larry glared at him for a few seconds and then relaxed into a shrug and chirped resignedly.
Nash pulled him into another hug. “How did you get here?”
“I-I brought him,” came a timid voice from near the doorway. “When they pulled us out of the river and were carrying you away, I noticed him crawling frantically toward you. He’s not as slimy as I expected.” It was the red Skeith. He looked uncomfortable.
“Oh...” Nash replied, feeling rather uncomfortable himself. “Right... thanks.”
Alfazard nodded in return and an awkward silence fell over the room.
Nash broke the silence by asking the question that had been on his mind since he’d woken up. “How did I get here? I mean... the last thing I remember we were still in the water. How’d we get to the shore?”
The Skeith shuffled his feet and looked away. “Well, there was a big log being swept down the river and I don’t think you even saw it,” the Skeith began, talking rather quickly. “You were so focused, you know? You just kept pulling us along the rope. I tried to warn you, but the river was so loud you couldn’t hear me. And then it was too late. The log ran right into you and you were knocked off the rope. Luckily, you were still connected through that belt you were wearing, so I was able to pull myself back to the rope. I tried to wake you up, but you were knocked out pretty good. I kind of thought you might be...”
The Skeith trailed off, but shook his head and rapidly finished his story. “Anyway, I figured we must be pretty close to the shore by now, so I went along the rope and pulled you along as best I could. A couple minutes later, a bunch of the teachers were pulling us out of the water. That’s it.” He was blushing.
Well, no wonder my head hurts, Nash thought to himself. Out loud he said, “Well... thank you for getting me out.”
Alfazard shook his head again. “No, I should be the one thanking you. You saved my sisters... and me. I never would’ve made it that far without you.”
“Well...” Nash could feel his face turning scarlet. “You’re welcome.”
The Skeith nodded and turned to leave the room. When he was almost to the door, he hesitated. “Why did you do it?”
Nash was startled. “What?”
“Why’d you come out and save us?” the Skeith prompted, turning back toward the bed.
Nash thought for a moment. “I don’t really know. I didn’t really think about it. I just heard that some kids were trapped and no one really seemed to be doing anything about it.” He shrugged. “I thought I could help. And I guess I kind of wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that I could do it.”
“But why did you come back for me?” Alfazard pressed on. “I haven’t exactly been nice to you.”
Nash felt himself blush again. “Yeah, well,” he shrugged, sheepishly. “I promised I would.”
The Skeith stared at him for a moment and then broke into a puzzled grin. “You really are a strange one, Spongey.” With that, he turned once again to leave. When he got to the door, he turned back with a grin. “I’ll see you at school, Nash.”
*Note: Thanks for reading :) I hope you enjoyed this story based upon my sponge Grundo, Nash64 and his lurman, Larry. I would like to say thanks to all my Grundo-loving neofriends. Neo would not be nearly as great without you. Special thanks to Taylor for letting Nash come and live with me and to confetti for her assorted awesomeness.