It was just before midnight when they threw him him off the boat into the Pacific. The last thing he saw after he broke the surface of the water was the night sky. Out here, away from the cities, you could see the stars shine and glitter in their cosmic glory. He wished he had learned the constellations- he wanted to be able to say, Oh, the Big Dipper was the last thing I saw, or That's Cancer, or Ah yes, Orion. But to him, it was simply a great swathe of confusing natural beauty.

As he slipped swiftly and smoothly to the ocean floor, dragged downwards by the steel ball chained to his ankle, he took stock. He made a point to quell his panic.

Good news: I'll survive this. I made the Pact, and the Pact is Inviolate. I'll still be alive long after those pricks upstairs are in their graves.

Bad news: It's going to be a very, very long time before I breathe again.

Good news: I remember that the coast of California is that-a-way. I'll remember because the current is tugging towards it at the point I passed through. I have an escape route, even if it will take a while to use it.

Bad news: Oh, hell. All of it is bad news.

He inhaled deeply, accidentally, about four minutes after his captors threw him in the ocean. His brain functions ceased about a minute after that.

His corpse kept its downward course, but there was no struggling during that time.

Soon enough he revived, spewing lung-water into the ocean while spasming desperately. He panicked, thrashing wildly and trying to scream for help. Ocean water forced itself through his mouth into his lungs again. Five minutes after he filled his lungs with saltwater again, he died. Then the Pact revived him once more.

And so on.

He didn't know how many deaths it took for him to reach the bottom of the ocean. All he knew is that there was no more rushing sensation around him, and that there was sand beneath him. Calm now, he judged it to be the sea-bed. He felt the shackle on his right ankle, trying to see if he could slip his foot out. He died four more times before he gave up trying to loosen it. Purely in the spirit of experimentation, he picked up the steel ball with both hands to see how much it weighed.

Even underwater it weighed quite a lot.

He thought to himself, This is going to be pretty miserable.

He tried to work out in his head whether it would be quicker to drag the ball with him to California (though in truth he was no longer 100% certain in which direction California lay) or first try to break the chain- perhaps with a rock lying nearby.

He elected to try to find something to break the chain with. He wasn't sure he could achieve vertical movement with the steel ball, so he'd likely have to rid himself of it eventually anyway. Far better to get rid of it now, while he-

He never finished his thought, at least not in that lifetime. When he revived he groped blindly vigourously for a rock, or a bit of hard shell, or some bolt cutters a sailor might have thrown overboard.

Nothing nearby. He died again. When he revived, he kept looking.

He was completely goal-oriented. He had made stubbornness a habit years ago.

There's no earthly way he could gauge how long he spent searching and dying and reviving and searching before he found a usable chunk of rock. He ground it and smashed it against the metal links and it was only after it crumbled in his hand that he discovered that it wasn't a rock at all. His last thought was that it was probably corral or something. Maybe a porcelain figurine someone threw overboard.

Darkness. So utterly black that you could stick your finger in your eye and you still wouldn't see it. Freezing as well. Even if he were to magically find an operable breathing apparatus, he would still die pretty quickly from hypothermia.

For some reason, the immense pressure wasn't crushing him like a tin can under a Humvee's tire. He assumed that it had something to do with the Pact.

He often wished to himself that he had never made the Pact. Immortality is great, so long as someone doesn't toss you into the Pacific Ocean with a steel ball around your ankle.

After he found a new rock, he worked at the chain nearest his right ankle with a focus and intensity unreachable by anyone save for the desperate and the autistic.

Chink, chink, chink, death, revive. Find the rock again.

Chink, chink, chink, death, revive. Find the rock again.

Chink, chink, chink, death, revive. Find the rock again.

If he thought of anything at all in that dark, chilled hell, it was the starry night that was his last sight. In his memory it was so beautiful that he doubted it. He figured that his memory had built it up to fantastic proportions, and the real night sky was probably nothing like it.

He figured out a way to control his death throes. He would place the rock directly under his sternum when he drowned so as to not waste time looking for it each time. Even if he only saved a second or two every iteration, in aggregate it could add up to years saved.

Chink, chink, chink, death, revive. Find the rock again.

Chink, chink, chink, death, revive. Find the rock again.

Chink, chink, chink, death, revive. Find the rock again.

When his rock finally broke, he found another.

One day, the chain link broke. Maybe from decay from being under water for who knows how long, maybe from the rock. He felt, obscurely, that he should celebrate or something, but nothing came to mind.

He had been attacking that chain link for so long that he had forgotten what to do next. He died twice before he remembered he was headed for California.

He tried swimming upward for the surface. He couldn't rise very quickly against the pressure. When he drowned he sank back to the floor where he revived again. He thought, Well, that didn't work at all.

He tried walking. Walking underwater is really difficult. It took only three deaths to convince him to try lying flat on his belly and pull himself along with his hands.

By this point, he did not recall a time he hadn't spent his time blind and frozen, and dipping into and out of death every few minutes. It seemed natural, obvious even. But he was fixated on the notion that once, long ago, he had spent time in the sun, with other people around he could talk to and interact with. He even vaguely recalled a woman who had grabbed him by the shirt and kissed him slowly, exploring his mouth with a warm tongue before leading him out to the dance floor. He abruptly realized he was naked, his clothes long since torn or rotted away.

He sensed over a great deal of time and that the water was getting warmer, and the pressure less harsh. He kept going, trading deaths for yards.

He wondered, as he pulled himself along the ocean floor towards what he hoped was California, if he still had a sense of sight and smell. He assumed that he did, but what if it had dissipated through lack of use?

His worries were soon answered. It had lightened up so gradually over the previous mile that he had almost missed his sense of sight being returned to him.

He spent a long time there, lying with his back to the ocean floor, staring up at the surface far above him. He just relaxed, arms behind head, drowning and reviving and absorbing the kaleidoscope of weird colors and blurry lights above him. Soon, too soon, it turned to darkness as night fell in the surface world. He could just barely see the stars again, obscured by the waterline.

Once the inky sky lightened, he became one of the very few people to see the glory of the sunrise from beneath the waves. He stayed there for twenty four hours straight, reacquainting himself with the concept of night and day.

He thought, Wow. This is fantastic. I could just about lay here forever.

Then he thought, No, I couldn't. What am I talking about? I have to get up there. Right now.

He resumed crawling towards land. The light got brighter, the water warmer. The ocean floor became covered in some kind of slimy green substance that made finding purchase difficult. He gashed his foot on a broken beer bottle, but the wound healed once he died and revived.

He broke the surface at just before midnight.

Turns out, he was in Mexico.

Close enough, he thought.

A shame that he couldn't speak Spanish, but no matter. He might have ended up in China or Thailand or something, where he would have needed to get on a plane to get to California. He wouldn't have wanted to fly over the Pacific, looking down into the ocean from tiny windows.

A dark-skinned, bushy-eyebrowed priest gave him clothes to wear and let him sleep in his church just a half mile from the shore. He gladly took a long shower in tepid water. That wasn't enough to wash the ocean smell off of him, but it was definitely a step in the right direction.

The priest, who's name was Father Pedro Morales, asked him in English what on earth had happened to him.

He considered the pros and cons of answering honestly. Then he said, "Ghi weuss hahn da shrtees..."

He hadn't quite gotten back into the groove of talking yet. After several tries, he got something intelligible out: "I was living on the streets, and my little nest got wiped out in a storm. No one would let me stay on their turf, so I was force to wander until I found you."

And why, Father Pedro Morales wanted to know, wasn't he wearing clothes?

"...I was robbed. It's bad out there, Padre, they kill you for anything you have."

He dimly recalled hearing that Mexico had a lot of random violence around the time he was thrown into the ocean. He hoped that there was still enough crime to support his story.

It never occurred to him that it didn't really matter if the priest knew he was lying or not. Food, company, shelter, these were luxuries.. On a purely physical level he had no actual need for these things, for the Pact would keep him alive no matter what, for good or ill. And if Father Pedro Morales detected his dishonesty and for some reason decided to cut him off, so what? He could move on to somewhere else. Head northwest and reach California at last.

He thanked the wizened priest and moved on, in ill-fitting jeans and a t-shirt proclaiming his support for a football team from Honduras.

He made a note of the church's address, and of Morales' contact info. When he rebuilt his fortunes again, he would returned and flood this little place with more money and projects than it could handle. He was the kind of man who liked to look after people who help him.

It occurred to him, as he trekked out towards the U. S. border, that he was probably obligated to avenge himself on the bastards who threw him in the ocean so long ago. They were dead, presumably, but surely they must have families or businesses or something for him to attack. He could go on a rampage and start destroying everything they had ever built or left behind, to deny them their legacy to the future. But right now, that felt like way too much work. You'd have to track down every single one of the pricks on the boat, figure out where they lived and who they married, figure out where their sons and daughters moved to and who they married, what businesses they owned and who bought them out...


Maybe sometime later. He could save that project for some time in the future, if he ever got that bored.

In the meantime, he decided, he'll get to sunny Southern California. He'll hit some used bookstore and pick up a a guide to the constellations. Never make the same mistake twice, that's his motto. Most importantly, he resolved, he would never willingly put his head under the water again. Showers don't count, but baths would.

Let immortality begin again.