Michael groaned as he slowly regained consciousness. His clothes were soaked through with bathwater, partially from Megan's splashes but mostly from the flooded floor. He saw through cloudy eyes the outline of his wife in the tub; Megan was nowhere to be seen.
"Helen?" he mumbled, sitting up.
She was whispering something over and over and gazing down sadly.
"Helen?" he repeated, growing more alarmed. "Where's Megan?" Helen didn't appear to hear him. He strained to discern what she was saying. "Helen?"
"Not on a boat," whispered Helen. "Not on a boat. Not on a boat."
"Not on a boat...not on a boat...not on a boat..."
What was happening? "Helen!" he shouted, startling her from her reverie. At last she looked at him; he saw that she was weeping.
"Helen?" he asked. "Where's Megan? Is she...still in there?"
Helen turned her gaze back to the water. "Yes." Her choked tone and haunted face sent sudden chills of horror through her husband. Has she gone insane?
"Helen"-- he was afraid to ask, but had to know-- "what did you do?"
Helen was still looking down. "I saved her," she whispered.
"You saved her?" he repeated.
"Yes," said Helen.
"Not on a boat." There it was again. "Not on a boat."
Then he noticed that one of Megan's blackened feet was sticking out of the water, propped on the tub edge where it had come to rest. It wasn't moving.
"Oh, Helen," whispered Michael, his body ice-cold, "what have you done?"
"Come and see," she replied quietly. Her voice sounded almost reverent. She's insane.
Dreading what awaited him, Michael forced himself to crawl through the puddled floor to the bathtub edge. He steeled himself and looked inside.
Megan, her face covered in the black welts, lay beneath the water. Her face was frozen in an expression of horror and fear. The sight of his child motionless under the water was too much for him to bear, and he broke down and sobbed.
"Jesus, Helen," he cried, "you killed her. Why did you kill her?" He scraped the tears angrily from his eyes and looked again, his grief quickly transforming to rage. How could you, Helen?
Then he saw Megan's eyes flick towards his face, then back to Helen.
"Wait," he said, alarmed.
He remembered when his father died, how he could have sworn the chest in the casket was rising and falling, how the mind insisted despite all evidence to the contrary that the ones we love still live and breathe. Was this the same illusion?
"Megan?" he ventured, testing her.
Her eyes turned to him in response.
"Megan?" he repeated.
She stared at him, and as he studied her, he observed tiny columns of bubbles rising from her nose. They ceased for a moment, then rose again, then again in a steady rhythm.
"My God," gasped Michael. "Is she... breathing?"
Helen nodded, still gazing down, tenderly stroking the girl's face. "Yes."
"But-- but--" Michael stumbled. "That's not possible." He looked at Helen with alarmed eyes.
Helen looked back at him. "Not on a boat," she said.
Where did that come from?
Then it hit him.
That's when he told me, Maria had written, that he wasn't like me, that he couldn't live where I live. I said I didn't understand, and then he blurted out that he was from the sea. I was confused, and I asked him what he meant. From the sea, like he lived on a boat? And he shook his head sadly and said, no--
"Not on a boat," whispered Michael, and as he looked down again, he recognized his daughter's rash as the scales they were. "Oh my God."