"May or Hammond: First Aider?"
"What, including the Kiss of Life?! No I'd rather die......if I were injured and the choice were between those two, I'd rather die."
Neither of them would ever have expected this. Never in all their years of doing their jobs did either of the presenters or the crew dream that this would happen on a simple road test of a new off-roader.
Jeremy had called it right at the start of the film - "If this thing actually works off-road, I'll eat my dog!". So far, Richard had been looking forward to proving him wrong about this car - being the champion for off-roaders for a number of years now, despite the teasing he got from both his colleagues.
Now though, it seemed that Jeremy was right after all.
They'd gone off the main road and onto a quiet woodland track where they'd been given permission to film by the local council (as long as they stuck to said track), and that's where the problems had started.
The track had left the woods about a mile behind and now they were trekking across what appeared to be open meadows. The mere smell of the countryside made Richard grin - moreso when he spotted Jeremy's scowl out of the corner of his eye.
"Oh come on" he laughed, steering the car around a large rock and towards a gentle hill to their left. "You love this, you know you do!"
"When have I EVER been interested in off-roading, Hammond?" Jeremy retorted, winding his window up as it started to drizzle.
"I thought you liked the countryside?" his companion quizzed, shooting him an equally confused glance out of the corner of his eye.
Jeremy rolled his own at that. "Yes, but I like the countryside because it's quiet and not crowded and full of buses and bicycles and you can actually move in your own backyard."
Cresting the top of the hill, Richard gently eased on the brakes and the car rolled to a gentle stop.
"I know, but look at that view!" The excitement in his voice was only outweighed by the child-like shine in his eyes, and as he gazed out of the windscreen, even Jeremy had to admit it was a rather breathtaking view.
A pristine lake shone in the single ray of sunshine that had decided to poke through the heavy clouds overhead. The soft pebbles and dirt of the shore surrounded by lush green grass and a border of trees as the meadow spread out below them for what seemed to be forever. In the distance, they both heard the sound of a farmer whistling for his sheep, and then the sound of a sheepdog barking quietly as it ordered those sheep back into line.
It was, undeniably, beautiful.
"Tell me that's not stunning" Richard whispered, beyond captivated at the sight.
Jeremy smiled at his friend, and replied in a fondly annoyed tone, "Just get us down to the lake so we can go home."
Chuckling and rolling his eyes, Richard eased the car into gear and started to drive down the hill. Then, the peaceful atmosphere was shattered by the sound of a loud bang and the front of the car suddenly dropped about a foot.
Frowning at the jolting impact, a distant part of Richard's mind reminded him of the only other time he'd felt that same sensation, and - with a growing sense of dread - he realised it could only mean the same thing.
Sure enough, one of the front tyres had suddenly gone flat - they suspected later due to a sharp rock or stick penetrating a weak area of the rubber - and the car was now only running on three wheels.
Instinctively, he pressed down on the brake pedal in order to stop them from going down the hill too fast. Nothing happened - if anything, the car just kept building speed.
"Shit!" he cursed loudly, fear starting to rise as he tried the useless pedal again and again - with the same result. Shit!
"What is it?" Jeremy demanded, heart suddenly clenching in his chest as he registered the utter terror in the smaller man's features.
"The fucking brakes aren't bloody working!"
A cold chill came over them both in a wave as the realisation hit them almost at the same time. No brakes, a sloping trail going downhill, wet grass and mud, and did we mention no bloody brakes, all led to one horrifying conclusion: they were going to crash.
The remaining tyres were scrabbling for traction as Richard wrestled with the steering wheel in an attempt to keep the car on the path. Beside him, Jeremy was yelling and swearing - trying his hardest not to either panic (bit late) or reach over and take the wheel from his friend.
Then another bang; something else had gone wrong, and the car slid violently to the left - skidding on the dewy grass as it continued its descent down the slope.
"Fuck it!" Richard screamed, wrenching the handbrake with one hand and trying desperately to regain control with his other hand clenched tightly around the steering wheel.
All this did was lock up the wheels and send them careering down the hill on more of an angle than before. There was nothing else they could do - a crash was inevitable at this point.
"Hang on!" he yelled across at Jeremy, replacing both hands on the steering wheel and clenching his jaw, wide eyes fixed in a straight line out of the windscreen.
"TO WHAT?!" Jeremy replied in an uncharacteristically shrill voice, but then there was a loud crash as the locked wheels hit something hard and the car started to roll onto the slightly flatter part of the slope towards the edge of the lake.
Not having crash helmets (they hadn't exactly anticipated this happening on a casual road-test, after all) meant that neither of them were protected from the hard impact against the sides of the car. Glass shattered into millions of tiny shards, slicing both of their skins like scissors cutting through tissue paper. The passenger's door caved under the impact, and almost simultaneously with the first thud, Jeremy was knocked unconscious - his head colliding with the door panel as it impacted with the ground.
Even at this point, Richard was still trying - in vain - to regain control of the car and stop the crash from continuing. But gravity was working against him as they continued to fall down the slope towards the water, and barely a second later they were on the roof, and then onto the driver's side - into the shallow waters of the lake.
The last thing he registered was a loud splash followed closely by more glass shattering, before the side of his head struck something hard and jagged and he too descended into darkness.
Having been on a separate route down to the spot at the lake's edge where they would finish the final part of the film, the crew had left the boys with their in-car cameras to capture their banter as they continued to drive towards the lake. They'd been planning to get some beauty shots of the car next to the lake tomorrow, as it was starting to get dark.
Rounding the bend, Iain was - at first - confused; there was no sign of either the car or the two presenters, and by the sound of the bangs and thuds that had preceded their mad dash to their current location it had to have been a fairly sizable crash. They could see the churned up dirt and choppy grass that indicated the path the vehicle had taken, but nothing beyond that.
So where were they?
Then one of the young camera assistants tapped him on the shoulder with a shaking hand, gazing out at the vast body of water behind them with wide eyes filled with horror and a face so white it could be mistaken for being covered in the thickest winter snow.
Dreading what he might see, Iain turned around slowly just in time to see the last of the bubbles vanishing on the surface of the lake as something heavy disappeared under the shining ripples of murky water.
The realisation hit him like a ton of bricks right into his stomach, and he felt the blood drain from his own face as he let out a frantic yell.
"Shit! They've gone in the fucking LAKE!"
It was so dark when Richard opened his eyes some indeterminate time later that he wasn't even sure he was really awake. His mind sluggishly trawled through its hazy memories in an attempt to recognise where it was, but something else proved to be an enormous help in that department before he could even become fully aware.
Everything around him was wet. The view both outside and inside the cabin was tinted with a strange brownish-green hue, and there were things floating almost ominously around him.
The second thing he realised - rather quickly - was that everything seemed to be moving in slow motion, except for the growing need for oxygen. Instinctively, he'd tried to take a breath to satisfy this need, only to be greeted with the sensation of a rather large quantity of water sliding down his windpipe - rather than air.
That was....odd, he mused as his body immediately began to protest the foreign liquid invading his lungs. Why was he breathing in water?
Then he remembered; they'd crashed into the lake, and now it seemed they were well and truly in the lake. And that he would probably be in serious trouble if he didn't get out soon.
He could feel the panic at the realisation rushing up through his body, heightening all his senses (although he wished it hadn't), and he started to struggle to get out of the seatbelt. Thankfully, and probably due to some distant part of his mind remembering when he'd been in this exact situation under much more controlled circumstances, it came undone reasonably quickly and he pushed the driver's door open.
He didn't know how long the car had been submerged for, nor did he know how long he'd been unconscious, but the struggle for oxygen was becoming more and more noticeable now (no thanks to his ill-fated attempt at breathing seconds before). His muscles were screaming at him, his heart was racing in his chest, his lungs desperate to take a breath - but he knew that if he did, it would only be a breath of water, and that would only compound the issue.
Vision beginning to grey out, Richard finally spotted an area of the water that was lighter than the expanse of darkness around him, and he swam frantically towards it. He just prayed that he would break the surface soon and then everything would be okay.
Finally, what felt like hours later, he felt his head push through the surface of the water and the cold snap of fresh air was like a piece of heaven to his almost hypoxic brain and lungs. It was such a shock to his system that it made him cough violently, even while struggling to stay afloat. Opening his eyes, the brightness of the world was another unwelcome surprise, and he couldn't help but wince as he tried to shake the dripping water out of his face.
He could hear shouts from the bank, and he was vaguely aware of a few familiar voices among them - Iain, Andy (when did he get there?), and a few other members of the crew.
Then he remembered his travelling companion.
Forcing his eyes open again, he tried to squint at the bank to see if he could spot the familiar shape of the ape amongst the gaggle of onlookers that seemed to have congregated on the shores of the lake.
His recently-settled panic suddenly reared its ugly head again when he realised that he couldn't see him. That could only mean one thing, he concluded as his heart began to pound in his chest once more.
Jeremy was still down there.
And - despite knowing he was not the strongest swimmer in the world, or even in Guildford - Richard sucked in a deep breath and dove back beneath the surface of the lake; ignoring the frustrated and alarmed cries of the crew on the bank.
Eyes once more adjusting to the darkness of the world beneath the water, Richard tried desperately to remember in which direction he'd swum not two minutes earlier. His fear was intensifying by the second as he remembered that Jeremy's chances of survival were decreasing every moment he wasted trying to find the car in the murkiness of the lake.
Yes, THANK YOU, he growled internally at the part of his brain that was insisting on reminding him of the first-aid training they'd all gotten, and he propelled his body further down into the lake.
His lungs were starting to protest again, but he forced himself to ignore them. He simply couldn't waste time returning to the surface for more oxygen, so he kicked on.
Finally, at last, he spotted a familiar-looking dark shape sticking out against a log and wedged between some rocks at the bottom. Breathing an internal sigh of relief, Richard swam as fast as he could down to it and returned to the open driver's door.
Jeremy was still sitting in the passenger's seat, eyes closed and tiny air bubbles escaping his open mouth. Swallowing past his growing fear and nausea, Richard squeezed himself back into the cabin of the car and began fighting with the latch on his friend's seatbelt. It was proving much more stubborn than his own had been, and it was a good twenty seconds or so before it finally gave up and came free.
Next challenge then.
With the seconds still ticking by, Richard decided he had little choice but to take hold of Jeremy's upper body and pull him to the surface. Easier said than done, he grumbled to himself, considering the size difference between them.
Somehow managing to loop his arms under the taller man's armpits, he began the agonisingly slow process of making the second trip back to the surface. Now only able to use his legs to move forward, and with a heavy weight pulling him back towards the bottom of the lake, Richard could feel his strength waning alarmingly quickly.
But he had to keep going. Jeremy was going to- to die if he didn't.
Gritting his teeth and letting out a frustrated yell that could only be translated by the startlingly few bubbles that escaped his mouth, he forced his legs to kick harder. His lungs were starting to scream at him again, so was his heart, but he pushed on.
He was nearly ready to pass out from a combination of lack of oxygen and exhaustion when he finally broached the surface once more. He didn't even have the strength to be relieved that they were (somewhat) safe. Now, he tried to focus all his remaining energy on just getting them both back to shore.
The closest bit of land was the shore to their left - the crew could join them from there as it was just a bit too far to try and swim back to where they were waiting on the bank straight ahead. Dragging up the last of his energy, Richard started the slow movement to the welcoming sight of the shoreline.
Finally, what felt like an eternity after they'd gone into the lake in the first place, they were both out, and on dry land at last. Coughing weakly to try and clear the water from his own lungs and panting hard in an attempt to replace the lost oxygen, Richard glanced over at Jeremy's still form beside him.
The large form that was.....almost too still......
"Jeremy?" His voice was weak, and he was still very much out of breath, but it still should have been audible to the other man. "Jeremy?" he tried again, louder this time.
Still no answer.
Dazed brown eyes flicked automatically to his chest, and waited with panic threatening to boil over for the third time in the last ten minutes.
There was nothing. He wasn't breathing.
The sudden burst of adrenaline that accompanied that realisation forced a cry from his throat as his body flew into disorganised action. Seemingly on auto-pilot (God knows at that moment he couldn't do this consciously if he tried), his hands flattened onto the part of Jeremy's chest that he vaguely remembered from the first-aid course, and he squared his body beside him - arms locked, knees shoulder-width apart, head down - and began to press as hard and as fast as he could.
Thanks to his own exhaustion, it still wasn't that fast, but to Richard it felt like his whole body was racing. Racing against some deathly clock that hung ominously over his head; racing the dark, cloaked figure holding the scythe, standing off to the side tapping its foot impatiently as it waited.
He could vaguely hear someone shouting his name, and someone else shouting something along the lines of calling an ambulance, but all he was focused on was the shape in front of him.
"1...2...3...4...5..." his counting was timed exactly with his breaths, but even he could tell he wasn't going fast enough. The realisation only made him more determined and he forced his arms to go harder.
"10...11...12...Come on, you bastard!" He ignored how desperate his voice sounded, as well as the tears that were now mixing with the lake water dripping down his cheeks. His breaths were getting more hitched and his compressions were getting weaker. "Come ON!"
Then, warm hands were on his shoulders and trying to pull him away.
"We've got him now, Rich - it's okay mate" it was Andy - his voice barely betraying his own fear but more focused on calming the distraught, exhausted man beside him.
Richard didn't even have the strength to fight back. He just fell backwards into Andy's arms and started to shake as the shock, emotion, and exhaustion finally took over, the tears in his eyes finally starting to tumble down his cheeks.