Breaking out of the water, his lungs filled with cold air. Thin hair matted down and pale face framed by the splashing water. The world glowed red behind tightly closed eyes.

Throwing out an arm, he grasped the wooden dock. Pulling up his weight, both forearms holding him up, he drew in breath after breath.

Basking with his face in the sun, he stayed hanging in the water, savoring the clear air that had been absent for what felt like half a lifetime. In and out were the only thoughts.

Finally his eyes opened, the vision blurred in spots by drops of water on eyelashes. With a deep breath, he finally brought his body out of the water. Crawling on his knees on the dock, the sun-warmed wood felt welcoming to his skin. He rolled over and fell asleep with the sun on his smiling face.

Waking later, the sun slightly lower, he got up. He dusted off a bit and stretched onto the balls of his feet. Looking around the horizon, his eyes finally adjusted. At long last, with a deep sigh of relief, he set off down the dock and along the path.

A slight grin curled his cheek.