She dived into the pool, dazzled by the early morning glare which almost threw her off-balance. A menacing shadow in the shape of a stingray stealthily crept along the pristine bottom and caused her to thrash about, desperately vying for air as she choked on chlorinated water.
Memories flashed through her head like an erratic flywheel. A calculated smile towards the cleaner as her heels clacked down the hallway like unforgiving staccatos, leaving behind an upturned soap-box in her wake. Carelessly tossing a 1000 rupee note at the wizened stall owner who sat draped in sweat-soaked rags; his eyes clouding over in shame as he fumbled with the wooden flute worth a fraction of the price. Classy swing and toned hues of jazz in the warmly lit bathrooms upstairs for the boss. Down one level to the dingy, rat-infested stalls assigned to her sub-ordinates, where the lights flickered unsteadily.
The aquamarine bottom began to blur. Time seemed to impossibly slow down as the conductor raised his baton, primed to rewrite her destiny. A strange moment of clarity where each line on the palm of her hand appeared to form a delicate matrix. Spiderwebs. Fractals. The universe expanded.
Her head broke above the water in a silent scream as she frantically inhaled in bouts of air; thoughts jumbled like overpowering spices competing with each other. Seconds passed as she warily stared at the tall apartment towards the east which continued to cast dubious shadows onto the pool floor.
The slight click of the pool gate indicated the arrival of yet another holidaymaker. He wore a gold chain and had what seemed to be perpetually startled eyes; most likely a reflexive reaction to her attempts at polite conversation when it became apparent that he spoke no English. He mumbled his apologies and went to sunbathe; skin slowly turning a petrified pink.
The sun leisurely moved around, and the shadows lifted.
An unexplainable sense of impending doom descended on her as she walked towards the beach. Harried parents ushered their children along. The frantic beeping of horns prompted the miniature poodle next to the pie shop to embark on a fit of agitated yelping, and the confronting smell of cigarettes and wet dog nearly caused her to retch.
She lay on the sand, marveling at the textured granularity as her eyes closed and she slipped into dreamless sterility.
Purple shadows bloomed like delicate blossoms under her eyes as he placed his arm around her. Elaborate spiderwebs; fragile tendrils snaking downwards like Japanese bonsai. Cornered, trapped. A rat in a maze, a butterfly in a cage. His arms remained strong and inescapable. The woman must be cared for. Well-worn, bastardized phrases of affection. A choir of men chanting. We will take care of you. A legion, an army. She began drowning in the repeated assault on her senses and woke up, gasping for breath.
Help me, she said soundlessly.