When I opened my eyes for a moment I could see only mangled icons of sky, cloud and sun. I could see ripples ruined as they sailed above me into my nose and toward my right foot. Each concentric circle got larger and larger until it faded from my field of vision. I couldn’t move my legs and I was fairly sure my back was broken. But my arms began to sync with my brain and started frantically trying to pull my body away from an undercurrent.
I didn’t know where I was or how I’d gotten there, but I sensed danger very close by. I knew enough not to reopen my eyes or I’d lose my contacts to the rippling water. But my first sighting had been paper-thin slices of blues, aqua and dark greens. Bubbles made me think surf was around me somewhere.
Out of nowhere, a couple quick scenes flashed onto the insides of my sealed-tight eyelids. Brush, bramble and nakedness. Another person, a man, stood before my mind’s eye with his arms extended in a shoving motion. It was him – my tormenter – glaring over the craggy edge down toward the water. I tried to stop moving so he’d think I was dead, but the current kept pulling me to my top left side.
Instantly, I knew where I was. I was laying a few inches under water below one of the Niagara Gorge’s tallest cliffs. Craggy walls of stone, littered by small trees and brush, rose before me up to the bright blue sky. I knew opening my eyes would render me blind, and would need them to spot a passerby if I had any hope of staying alive. So, I kept my eyes shut and began to swim with my arms as fast as I could – toward my right foot.
The fact that I was still alive was unfathomable to me. But the fear that my tormenter might make his way down to the river’s edge to confirm my demise caused a surge of adrenaline and I was able to pull myself up toward the shoreline. My hands flailed and found a soaked log stuck at both ends in bramble and muddy rock.
The churning growling I’d heard in the water was the infamous Niagara Whirlpool. Known to residents and tourists for its wild wonder, the massive swirling giant is nothing short of a vortex in water, a God-sized drain down in the Devil’s Hole.