This story was written for the same challenge as Claudette's 'Out of the blue'. The challenge was to write a story inspired by one of three pictures. The picture I chose is described in the story.
My thanks as usual to my proofreaders, to the copyright owners for letting me use the characters, and to Gerry Anderson and his team for creating them.
Gordon looked at the picture he was holding. He had been rummaging around in his desk for a ruler and had found it beneath a pile of letters. He sat down on the bed. It was years since he had seen it last, but looking at it now brought back all the old memories and feelings.
It had been almost three months after his hydrofoil accident. John, back on Earth after a month on the NASA space station, had turned up at the hospital only a week after Gordon had been taken out of the body brace. During his time in the brace, Gordon had lost a quarter of his body weight – all of it muscle. He had known he would not be able to walk straight away, but had been shocked to find out how helpless he was – not even able to sit up unaided or hold anything but the lightest of objects.
John had been taken aback, and not just by Gordon's physical condition. He couldn't remember ever seeing his brother so low, even when he had been in the body brace. The following day John had arrived with a photograph, which he attached to the foot of his brother's bed. "There you are, kiddo," he had said, "that's to remind you what you've got to work for."
The photo was one of the sort displayed at diving shops to drum up business for their undersea safaris. Gordon could just imagine the way John must have used his charm to sweet-talk some shop assistant into giving it to him. It showed a figure in scuba gear emerging from an underwater cave, silhouetted against the light streaming down from the surface.
Gordon had looked at the photo and remembered what his physiotherapist had told him at their first session. 'If you want it badly enough, if you are determined, then you will get there." Looking at it again now, he gave a shiver and unconsciously began to rub the muscles of his arm with his other hand.
The therapy sessions were tough, but the frustration of being so helpless was even more so, and gave him the incentive to carry on, even though some of the exercise machines felt more like instruments of torture. The only relief was when he was taken to the pool for hydrotherapy. The first time they had put him in the water, he felt like crying. He had even asked the assistants just to let him lie there for a few moments, revelling in the sensation as the water caressed his skin. While he was in the pool at least he had the illusion that he could stand and walk normally – supported by the water he was able to retrain his muscles in the movements they had first learnt when he was small.
On dry land it was a different matter. In the gym he had been strapped in a harness that took more than half his weight, but when he tried to stand it still felt like he had one of his brothers sitting on his shoulders. But every night and morning he would look at the picture at the foot of his bed at resolve to do just a little bit more the next day.
John had accompanied him in the pool over the next few weeks, helping him go over the exercises after his official therapy session was over, and playing around in the water with him as they had when they were children. After a few weeks he had felt his co-ordination returning, and his body begin to respond in the water in the way that he was used to, weaving and twisting as they played their games of tag. One day, while helping him out of the pool, one of the assistants had remarked, "Gordon, we're all amazed at the way you manage to move in the water."
Before he could answer, John cut in "Well, you see, Gordy and water have always had this special relationship."
Oddly enough, the hardest part had been trying to regain dexterity to his hands and fingers. "You've got more muscles and joints in your hand than you have in the whole of your leg, and they've all got to work in the proper order to do what you want," his occupational therapist had told him as she put him through yet another set of exercises.
Sitting there on the bed now, holding the photograph, he could remember the feeling of triumph the first time he had been able to write his name legibly, or type an email without hitting all the wrong keys.
Eventually, after four long months in hospital and another as an 'out-patient', he was signed off and sent home. He could walk by then, but though the muscles were working again, he still needed to build up his stamina. He took himself for walks along the beach, and every day tried to do one more length of the pool than he had managed the day before.
One day he had walked down to meet the mail plane as it landed.
"Hi, Gordon, how ya doin'?" Mark was the regular pilot on this run and had been following Gordon's progress since his accident.
"Still plugging away. I've got my medical for WASP coming up next month, so I want to be fit for that."
"Yeah, I can understand," said Mark. "Hey, you like dolphins, don't you? I flew over a pod of them on my way here, and it looked like they were heading this way.'
Gordon had thanked Mark and hurried back to the house with the mail. He had swum with dolphins in these waters a couple of times, and was keen to do so again. He found Scott, who was home for a couple of days leave, and persuaded him to accompany him in the boat.
Mark had given him an approximate location and they soon found themselves approaching the pod. Gordon slipped over the side of the boat and swam cautiously towards the sleek grey beasts. He had long wanted to study the dolphins that frequented these waters and get to know them better, but at the same time he was aware that they were wild creatures and respected their space. Up to now, the dolphins had more or less ignored him as long as he did not get too close, and he was content to watch them from a distance.
On this occasion, though, he suddenly found he was the centre of attention. Several of the larger creatures broke away from the pod and made a bee-line for him.
"Hey, what's going on?" said Scott, more than a little concerned. The dolphins were ignoring him, just concentrating on Gordon.
"It's OK Scott, they're not attacking me," replied Gordon, though even he was a bit surprised by all this attention. One great beast was actually touching his arm with its snout, and deep within the bone he could feel a buzzing sensation which reminded him of the ultrasound that the physiotherapist had used on him. Something clicked in his mind. "Hey, I think I know why they're all so curious - I've just realised what I must look like from their point of view."
"What do you mean?" said Scott, still a little worried.
"They see with sonar. My arms and legs must look like a mosaic to them, with all the fractures. They've probably never seen a human looking like that before." He reached out a hand and tentatively stroked the head of the creature that was nosing him. "It's OK, honey, it doesn't hurt any more." He felt close to tears himself at that point.
They had stayed with the dolphins for some time until Scott looked over at his brother. "Come on, Gordon, we'd better be getting back."
Gordon gave the creatures one last pat, then turned to make his way back to the boat. Only then did he realise how far they had drifted, and how tired he was. Scott was already a couple of lengths ahead, and Gordon paused in the water, about to call out to his brother to slow down, when he suddenly found himself being lifted and pulled along. He clung to the dorsal fin in front of him, catching a glimpse at Scott's startled expression as he shot past. Arriving back at the boat, he gave one final pat to his steed, who then disappeared beneath the waves as Scott came up beside him.
"That was….something else" said Gordon, still slightly breathless from the experience.
"Yeah," answered Scott, "I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes."
A couple of weeks later, during which he had swum with the dolphins twice more, Gordon had finally persuaded his father that he was fit enough to try some scuba diving. Tin Tin was home that week and agreed to be his swim buddy. Gordon was delighted to be back beneath the waves again. They spent a little while exploring the coral reefs before deciding to check out some of the underwater caverns. Gordon had told Tin Tin to keep an eye out for the giant water mamba, a rare visitor to these parts. He managed to go on at some length about its life cycle and habitats before she finally realised that he was pulling her leg.
They were emerging from one of the caverns when he happened to look up. Tin Tin was ahead of him, and the light streaming down from the surface was outlining her figure in the mouth of the cave. Just like in the picture. It had been a long, hard struggle, but finally he was there.
Just then the door to his bedroom slid open, making Gordon jump. "Hey, Gordon," said Alan, "didn't you hear the alarm? There's been an undersea mine collapsed in the north Atlantic. You need to get down to TB2."
"F.A.B!" replied Gordon and, dropping the picture on the bed, he ran from the room.