Welcome to The Echo’s annual feature — Summer Soap. Now in its fourth year, Summer Soap is a daily fictional serial run over 12 parts, which began yesterday and runs for a fortnight. Called One Summer In Cork, this story was written by Christine Kannapel, from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. You can catch up with previous episodes at echolive.ie
In this second episode, the main character, Julia, tries to enjoy the summer solstice fun.
BEFORE I knew it, I was dancing around the bonfire too. Then Rory was, and then Ben with some encouragement from Maeve.
My hands didn’t seem like my own, they flickered above me in the firelight — licks of fire themselves.
I spun, spun, and spun! I leaped and felt like I would never find ground. Stars swirled into a wheel and I thought I could see it rolling into the ocean. Then, as if I’d been smacked with a bat, my head seized with pain and all my sight vanished.
“Julia?” Ben said, cradling me. “Sis’?”
I looked up at the stars, as if I was expecting them to have disappeared. But they were there and the sky was not yet completely black. Then I remembered.
“Who hit me with a bat?” I cried, jumping from Ben’s arms.
“No-one hit you with a bat, sis’. You just passed out,” Ben said. “Let’s get you to the car so you can rest.”
I couldn’t say no. I did want to lie down.
“Where is everyone?”
Ben took a minute to respond as he helped me down the hill.
“Swimming. I was thinking about joining, now. Will you be okay if I do?”
“I mean, I guess. But, leaving your sister alone at night in the middle of nowhere isn’t the best idea.”
As if responding to my complaint, Rory came bounding down the hill with a flashlight in hand, though it was not yet dark enough for it.
“I saw you two leaving from the hilltop and thought I’d make sure Julia’s alright,” he said.
“Hey! Would you stay with her?”
“So now, you’re going to leave your sister all alone with a near stranger at night in the middle of nowhere?”
“Rory’s cool. Maeve trusts him.”
“I am cool, sure,” Rory chuckled.
Ben helped me into the car and then took off up the hill.
“I’m not sure what happened,” I said, feeling my face burn.
“Not to worry. It happens to all of us.”
“Do you mind if I close my eyes?”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll keep off any danger.”
I climbed into the car’s back seat and broke into one of the water bottles Maeve kept for emergencies. Maybe I just needed to hydrate?
When I woke again, Rory was napping in the passenger seat and at last, complete, voluminous night had arrived.
I had an unexpected burst of energy. I felt infinite!
“Rory?” I said gently shaking him.
“Huh? Oh! Sorry, I thought I’d catch a sleep too.”
“Want to find the others?”
We ran up the hill and down it’s other side towards the beach. I watched the waves and felt an urge to rush into them.
“Do you see anyone?” I asked as we neared. It looked as if everyone had left, but Ben and Maeve had to be around somewhere.
“Huh.” Rory mumbled as we stopped in our tracks.
The beach was shaped like a horseshoe and there was a miniature cove right under the rising moon.
“That’s a well,” Rory said pointing his flashlight in the cove’s direction.
“Like, a drinking well?”
“A holy well, like. Haven’t you heard of them?”
“I don’t think so?”
“People used to think that the water could cure maladies. They made pilgrimages especially.”
“Want to check it out?”
The shore grew rockier, unexpectedly perilous in the night.
The well was deep. I could imagine that under summer sun it was turquoise. I could picture a smooth sandy bottom littered with smooth rocks — an image I would expect to see in a Mediterranean tide pool.
“See the wooden cross there?” Rory said. “That’s a sign this is a well.”
“The well looks deep.”
“Should we see how deep?”
Rory threw off his shirt and pants.
“Aren’t you cold?” I said, as he started to back away.
“We’re used to it in Ireland!” he shouted as he ran.
“What if the well’s not deep enough?”
The water consumed him, gurgling. He didn’t resurface.
“Rory!” I shouted.
I stumbled in after him.
There was immediate laughter.
“Sorry, I couldn’t resist!”
He was behind me; I splashed him and then my head seized with pain again.
I heard Rory’s voice shout something else, but I didn’t catch it.
I couldn’t stay afloat, so I reached for him. The well was swallowing me; I floundered, my feet reaching for any rock or stone. I think Rory grabbed me, but my body was numb.
Waves rose above us. Or were we sinking?