What now? Well, I thought, I should at least see where the left tunnel goes and then I could always go back, rest, and then maybe think of a new strategy.
I entered the left tunnel. It went leftward for a short while and then started into a clockwise curve. Maybe it was curving back toward the direction of the blocked pathways. In fear, the journey seemed endless, but eventually I came to a passage that seemed strangely familiar. There was a sharp jagged rock by a gnolum that reminded me of something that I had totally forgotten, because it was such a minor injury: coming in, I scraped myself on the rock, swimming swiftly in a panic behind Utcoozhoo. Yes, this was the rock. Now I had to think, how many more turns were there when I scraped myself? I had to try to bring the memory back in detail. There I was, annoyed by the scrape, ignoring the pain, focusing on where Utcoozhoo was swimming, and then we did, turn, turn, turn, turn — dum, da, dum, dum, or something. I thought: it doesn’t matter; it’s just that there were four turns, so I must be at the place for the last four turns. Yes, that has to be it: left, left, right, left. Was I right or did I have to go back?
I couldn’t waste anymore air thinking about it. I turned left, then left, then right, then left.
Hurray, I was out of the tunnels. I swam past the orange-blue mosaic and didn’t think I could make it.
I floated upward, and gave one last kick. I burst out of the water like a flounder, falling onto the rock of the Nipeiskwari where Zawmb’yee was waiting for me.
She was going to give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but I put up my hand to stop her because I was gasping so hard I thought I would suck her lungs out. While I was breathing in and out, in and out, I pointed at my cheek and she kissed my cheek.
She said, “Utcoozhoo is in the Forbidden Zone, and reactivated its pfayohiqusi. He used the grp’nl to send me a message in the sacred quarters. He said the tunnel collapsed, and I didn’t think you were going to make it.”
“It was,” I said, “a close call and …”
Zawmb’yee burst into tears, and my tear suppression self was too overwhelmed by her love to stop my eyes from flooding. I couldn’t deserve all this when I had done little, and I hated to see her suffer. “I’m alright,” I said, but I felt so sad to be in a world of gloom.