This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people,

places, things, incidents or institutions is wishful thinking.

Vern Tuttle was not the sort of person that one would expect to run

for office. If you had asked him to name his homeroom representatives in

junior high, he would be forced to admit that he didn't know, and that

he had voted for Mr. Ed both times.

The incident that changed his life forever happened on a hot September

day in the year 2004. Vern had returned from a summer that he spent with his

parents in the Caribbean. He'd missed SCUBA diving ever since he'd

gotten back, and had been waiting for an opportunity to try it on his native

soil.

Unfortunately the only place one could dive (SCUBA or otherwise) in Phileas,

Wisconsin was the swimming pool in the high school. And a certain river that ran

through a valley twenty miles out of town.

The sky was clear, utter blue; but the water of the river was still black.

Vern was disappointed, used to the warm blue water of the Caribbean. But around

here the only place you could find blue water was in Widow Thatcher's toilet bowl.

Vern pulled on his diving suit and strapped his oxygen tank to his back. It

made his shoulders and back ache-it was so much lighter in the water. He pulled

on his goggles with the two corrective lenses melded into the faceplate.

Ready, he slowly waded into the water. Even through his wet-suit he could

feel the cold; and he had bought a specially insulated one especially for this

occasion. After he was about ten feet from shore, he kneeled and sunk under the

water. He slowly swam a few more yards, and the floor of the river dropped from

beneath him. It felt exactly like freefall, he tilted himself towards the distant

floor of the river and starts paddling towards it.

There were fish all around him, few of them taking notice of him. They

weren't the spectrum of colors that he had experienced in the bath-warm waters of

the Caribbean. They were all different shades of muddy gray. It really didn't

bother Vern; he didn't do this for the sights.

He never felt anywhere near as alive as he did when he was SCUBA diving. He

had never felt so light, or so free. He had often dreamed of going into space,

and imagined that zero gravity must have felt something like this. Mankind had

invented the airplane, but it was only in space and in the water that he could

truly fly.

He reached the bottom of the deep river and started to swim in parallel to

it. He'd been following it for close to twenty minutes when he noticed that it

dropped off steeply a few yards ahead of him. He stopped swimming, but his

momentum continued to pull him slowly towards it. He pulled his depth gauge

into view and read it. He couldn't go down much deeper than this; besides which,

he'd have to surface again fairly soon. His tank only lasted for an hour, and he

didn't want to walk back to his car when he could swim.

Suddenly Vern felt himself jerked forward, he tried to push against the

current that was dragging him towards the sinkhole, but to no avail. He suddenly

noticed an odd pattern of sand that was being thrown up from the bottom of the

river. It was then that he realized what he was facing: a whirlpool.

Abandoning the idea of moving backwards, Vern manically tried to climb his

way to the surface, but the current was pulling in both directions. If only there

was something to grab onto! That was it, he thought to himself, he tried to grab

something on the riverbottom, but he could find no purchase. He left gash marks

in the sand as he was pulled into the watery abyss.

Things had been happening so fast that it wasn't until Vern plunged over the

side into the sinkhole that Vern realized that he was probably going to die. His

reaction to this thought was rather unexpected.

When you're in the middle of life and there's no apparent threat, the idea

of death tends to worry you. But when you're actually in the process of it, it

feels different. Vern didn't want to die, but now that it seemed that he had no

choice, he supposed he'd have to live with it. Or... Aw hell, he thought to

himself-he didn't want his last thoughts to be something so trivial. He should be

thinking of something grand and spectacular: castles in the air, cities

overlooking galaxies, women who liked him...

The current was spinning him around like a top, he started to fell nauseous.

He suddenly worried about vomiting-he didn't want to choke to death on his vomit.

Then it occurred to him that it was probably better than the way he was going to

die.

Suddenly it all came to an end-had he died? No, he still felt pain, he

felt like... he felt like... Like he was touching air, like he was falling. It

was nice, it was like how you felt when you were falling asleep-but this felt

more real, more physical. Vern slowly opened his eyes, and saw absolutely nothing,

but could feel wind on his face.

His curiosity was quickly snuffed out as he slammed into the water, feeling

like he'd hit a brick wall. Then there was nothing but darkness.