As a complement to our Under the Microscope feature, read our suggested rewrite of the extract from May 2016 Writing Magazine
The Loss of Perception, original version, by Michael Northeast
Head first I plunged into the inky night swell of the Atlantic. This was no accident; John my sailing companion knew well the dangers out here. He had shaken me awake to help clear one of the lines from the rudder of our sloop. It was nearly time for me to relieve him at the helm, so half asleep I tumbled from my bunk already clothed and made my way up the steps to the stern. John seemed to be trying to get the torch to work, banging it against his hand and muttering to himself. The light came on as I passed him to lean over the back of the yacht to feel for the obstruction. There was a bang and I thought he had dropped the torch, then my ankles were grabbed and before I could think of resisting he lifted me over the stern into the sea. No mistake. No time to yell! Premeditated and neatly done.
Below me were many fathoms of ocean and we were about fifty miles from the Portuguese coast. Somersaulting below the surface in the dark I started threshing around in panic, the cold gradually penetrating my survival suit and robbing me of any vestige of security. Then my lifejacket tipped me upright and I burst to the surface. I could see nothing, no point of reference except the stars crystal clear above me. The seducing creep of cold water penetrated every part of me as I gasped and gulped trying to steady the panic that was engulfing me. I had been deliberately pushed over the stern of the boat… and now I was going to drown or die of the penetrating cold.
The sea was calm with a slow lazy swell but there was no sign of the sloop, she continued on her passage.
The Loss of Perception, McCredited version, by James McCreet
I plunged headfirst into the midnight Atlantic swell, somersaulting below the surface in the dark. I thrashed in panic. The cold penetrated my survival suit. Then my lifejacket tipped me upright and I burst to the surface, gasping.
I could see nothing – no point of reference except the stars. I tried to steady the panic. Cold water numbed every part of me. I’d been deliberately pushed over the stern of the boat and now I was going to drown or die of exposure. Many fathoms of ocean were below me. I was about fifty miles from the Portuguese coast.
This was no accident.
My sailing companion John had shaken me awake to help clear one of the lines from the rudder of our sloop. I’d tumbled ready-clothed from my bunk and ascended to the stern. John seemed to be trying to get the torch to work, banging it against his hand and muttering. I remember the light coming on as I passed him. There was a bang as I was leaning over the stern and I thought he’d dropped the torch. Perhaps he bent to retrieve it. That’s when I felt hands gripping my ankles and tipping me into the sea. No time to resist. No time even to cry out in surprise.
The sea was calm with a slow lazy swell. The sloop was a pale, silent shadow receding.