The bag tightened around my entire body as I was lowered into the icy water. I sank slowly towards the darkness below, too cold to flail or resist its menacing pull. The handcuffs, which were tightly attached to my pale hands, were the only remnants of the outside world I had left. I took a deep breath and forced myself to relax, but I knew I never would.
How many seconds had passed now? 10? 20? I knew my lungs couldn’t hold out for long.
Suddenly, I felt the bag relax around my body as the pressure equalised. But my mind would still not cooperate. Relax, I thought. Just relax before you do anything.
And then I remembered something: The key.
Attached to a string beside my head was a small key, which I knew would open the handcuffs around my wrists. I squeezed my eyes shut as I grabbed the key, already feeling the effects of oxygen deprivation. I desperately fumbled with it, trying to find the keyhole in the handcuffs in the darkness. My chilled fingers had a mind of their own, and it took many valuable seconds for the cuffs to unlock from around my bruised wrists.
My victory was short-lived, as my lungs began to burn and my diaphragm convulsed. I reached out tentatively for the red zipper in front of my eyes, and pulled down with my last remaining strength. The bag fell from around my body, and I experienced a feeling of pure freedom, floating in the confines of the water.
Perhaps this is where my story ends, I thought to myself.
Perhaps it doesn’t, replied another part of me, as I kicked towards the surface.
The dancing lights were so far above me that I thought I was finished. My lungs were under such immense stress that I expected them to collapse in on themselves. As my body instinctively inhaled, I braced for the water to pour down my throat and fill every orifice of my body. But it never came. All I got was….air.
“Congratulations!” said a voice beside me, “you’ve just completed Round One of Fear Factor! Now you advance to Round Two, where you’ll be forced to confront your fears once again…”