Throwback Thursday | An UNDERWATER Excerpt: “Ferryman” by Val Prozorova

I was nineteen the first time I died.

It happened entirely by accident; I had never kayaked in the sea before, too used to the smooth and still waters of the New Zealand lakes, and the waves overbalanced me. Upside down in the water, two thoughts circled first, the rope meant to hold me certainly did its job, as I could not get the knot undone, and second, I hoped I had on clean underwear. The paramedics have worse to deal with, but it would undoubtedly be embarrassing.

If anyone found me, anyway. The rope still caught in what I quickly understood not to be a wet knot had my lungs burning from my held breath. I made several proclamations in my youth that I wanted to become one with nature. Perhaps, I should have made it clear that I did not mean it quite so literally.

A water baby, swimming from a young age, playing with water, and attempting—pitifully—to draw it, people often joked that I was half fish. They couldn’t be more wrong. No gills on me, just flared nostrils and pursed lips and fumbling fingers against a knot that wouldn’t give.

Crazy thoughts flew through my mind:

How far does the water beneath me go?

Should I look?

Can I turn the boat over by sheer tenacity and hope for the best?

Did I miss that matinee performance?

Like graduation, did I forget to sign up for my own ceremony?

A movement pulled my gaze, desperate enough that I would reach out to a shark for help; perhaps, mercifully, one’s life didn’t flash before their eyes, but their desires did. Because the man swimming towards me now certainly personified many of them. Dark skin, dark eyes, and hair that swelled with the waves themselves, so long that it swept almost like a tail behind him. His effortless motion through the water, entirely graceful, opened my mouth to gasp. Oh, the flaw in that plan.

Cool hands found my skin, colder than the water around us, and the burning eased in my lungs, in my stomach, in my nose. The howl of my blood in my ears quieted. He blinked, and behind his eyes lay oceans deeper still, like sun reflecting off the sea, the fish mingling quick within it. He held the entire life of the water within him, and as I watched, I calmed.

He drew his fingers over my lips and leaned in to press his mouth to mine. Like winter, like the cold breeze of early morning, his breath–if it was breath–speared through me, down my spine. Was it common for dying bodies to grow erect–for their final visions to bring about such a visceral response to the stimuli of dying?

I would take this death with all the trimmings.

His kiss grew colder, the sea around me darker than before. The coils of his hair covering my view of the sun, of the sky, of any chance of breath—and I really cared little. I didn’t care because my hands finally gave up struggling with the useless death-knot and pressed against this man instead, fingers spreading over his cheeks and running down the sharp lines of his jaw. Skin smooth as velvet until I tried to draw my fingers back and found the softness gone, like the skin of a shark, like little jagged edges of sandpaper that pulled tiny drops of blood as my fingers snared against it.

His body shivered with it.

I moaned.

I could no longer feel the kayak, I could no longer feel anything of this world at all, just where he touched it, just where I touched him. His kiss did not relent, something like a vacuum between us that held him aloft and me beneath. But as he kissed me, I stayed alive, whatever pocket of air held within my mouth by his slowly collected my soul within it, and I happily offered it to him.

Worse ways to go than by the kiss of a beautiful man, I supposed.

His hands sought over me, now, over my hammering heart, down to my stomach and lower still, against the rope and then beneath it. Against my groin and between my legs. His grip, here, too, remained unrelenting, coaxing quick and practiced against my helpless body, and I all too happy to respond.

I thought of home, for a moment. My boyfriend moping that he had not come with me on my great Pacific adventure, sending sullen messages asking when I would come back even though he had my itinerary taped to the refrigerator. Always good with his hands, in his trade and in our bed, I could watch his hands work for hours over a cabinet or a bookcase or between my legs as I struggled to remember my own name.

Did a near-death orgasm constitute cheating?

Did a full-death orgasm constitute the sexier version of a death rattle?

The hand between my legs turned, just so, and the constant rubbing pressure against my briefs, against the silken fabric of the board shorts over them grew to something remarkable. Whatever thrall this creature held me in, I never wanted it to end. And he didn’t seem to want to let me. Every tease and touch and stroke, every coiled motion of his entire body pushed his arm down against me, his fingers further back between my legs, enough to have me bucking into him. Up, and up, again and again, hands seeking desperately against his cutting skin, through his hair slick like silt.

Then, he pulled back, dark eyes blinking wide at me, lips curling up in a smile of a coy thing that knows just what he is. The water rushed back into my lungs and winded me, just as earth shattering, just as mind blowing.

I blinked.

He blinked.

And with a serpentine tilt of his head, he arched closer to me to seal his lips around my pulse, stealing my heartbeat long enough for my entire body come apart against his hand, systematic, like clockwork.

Explosions of heat low in my stomach and chest and throat and forehead, relief so hot against me I feared the ocean would boil. My hands sought over his shoulders and down his back, fingertips rubbed ragged against his skin, body bucking up out of the stupid kayak to get closer, to wrap around him entirely, back arched, head back and—



I woke throwing up on a boat.

Attractive, I know.





Val Prozorova is based in New Zealand, and wishes to see the world. She has been writing for most of her life, mostly homoerotic stories as erotica became an interest early, but she is also known to pen a science fiction story once in a while. Between working on novels and collaborative pieces, she dabbles in short stories of any variety, and enjoys fighting her chihuahua for rights to the laptop keyboard.


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