01 – The Burning Seas

newYAproject

As I was planning on writing to Chuck Wendig’s prompt, I saw a beautiful illustration by Julie Dillon on Twitter. Well, I was inspired, and worked in the rest of the prompts. Enjoy these 1000 words with prompts from #WOW555, #3WW, Inspiration Monday, Writerish Ramblings, and Word-A-Week:

JOY: THE PRESENT

Joy frowned at the scene before her. She crept into the shadows, pausing slightly before each move towards the still form of Madam Vess. Her actions felt jejune, but she pushed her former mentor with her foot, before thinking of checking for a pulse in the carotid artery.

Joy said a few silent words, and placed her cloak over a woman who had infuriated her and challenged her. The last four years since Joy’s thirteenth birthday were full of training, tasks, and study. She had felt she was ready to return to her people a year ago, but Madam Vess insisted she continue her studies.

Now, there was no Madam Vess to hold her back. There was no one, in fact, in the barren outpost she lived. Joy performed her duties for a day or two longer in preparation of her journey. The call of the sea had never really left, and without Madam Vess to constantly fill her thoughts and tasks, the pull only increased.

She could see the sparkling sea from atop her tower on one of the few islands that dotted the pristine blue sphere. Pristine from the surface, but below…

Below is not something I wish to think about.

The sudden thought palliated her place in the world. Would she really turn her back on her people? Without Madam Vess informing the protectorate, she could hide from her responsibilities. She only needed to escape them for another year, and she’d be too old for the ritual.

She shook her head and frowned. Leonard, one of her tutors, had told her that the good of the many outweighed the needs of the few. Or the one, she finished the adage, closing her eyes. No, she would return to her people. She would perform her duty. The stone stairways and arches of her home would be a welcome sight after so much time away.

Joy carefully donned her travel clothes. Her pants were as dark as the depths away from their sun. Her shirt was a tight wrap, the color of the crustaceans that frittered to and fro on the beach. She frowned at the blemish of coverings she had on her feet. Up here, they protected her as she walked.

Walking was the second most difficult thing Madam Vess taught her. Two full years she had to learn to hold up her body. A body that grew strong for the tribulations ahead. Standing erect in a world devoid of life-giving water was… Well there weren’t words to describe it. And filtering oxygen without water? She knew it was possible, but until Madam Vess held her down – her hair and translucent skin covered in sand and bits of shells… Let us just say that knowledge of a thing and experience of a thing are worlds apart. She gasped as the water dried from her body under the fiery sun. She panicked as the water evaporated from her neck gills and she tried to crawl back into the sea, but Madam Vess forced air into her mouth and started Joy’s lung. It was vestigial, and breathing air accompanied walking as her first lessons.

Joy stood at the great drop. She scooped up handfuls of water and poured them over one gill, her head at a lopsided angle, then the other. She knew of the ritual to return to the sea, but there was a moment of trepidation. Madam Vess, Leonard, and all her tutors were more experienced transitioning from water to land, but she now did it based solely on her lessons.

Joy continued the process alternating gills until she felt a tightening in her chest as her body made the switch from lung to gill. No longer did her bosom swell with breath. The sea actually burned her lung. When Joy could no longer take in breath, and her vision started getting fuzzy on the edges, she fell into the sea. The water prickled her gills, and she suppressed the panic of not drawing in breath.

Joy closed the nictitating membrane over her eyes and stared at the sun as she sank deeper into the abyss. The pressure should’ve felt like home, but four years was a long time to acclimate. Her joints strained under the increasing pressure. Each was burning with the power of the sun. A sun she had no interest in before she was chosen.

The Sea Burns! The thought would’ve brought tears to her eyes, but her body was a work of art. It is both beautiful and an engineering marvel. The ancients lived above the water and ventured to the sea in scant forays. But, that was before…

It was best not to dwell on before. Joy lived in the now. She yearned towards the future, not caught up in the deeds of the past. She would be welcomed as the savior of her people. They wouldn’t care that she grew brown hair on her head. They wouldn’t care that she moved sluggish now that she left the surface.

She would be welcomed, and she returned early as well. They Joy before her still had a year left before her crystalline form eroded away. Still a year before her brilliance dimmed. A year before her sacrifice was fully realized and her people could go about their lives for another five years.

Five more years to train the next Light of Joy, she thought as she twisted her descent to bring her legs to absorb her touchdown. She was still thinking of life above the waves. Such movement was pointless in the cold depths. Her thrashing sent up a plume of disturbed bubbles.

Something’s not right, she pondered as her home materialized in front of her. There was no hustle and bustle. The Light of Joy still bathed the city in heat and light, but the city – her city – was abandoned.

A dread fell upon her like kelp cast aside. She was so focused on her city, she failed to notice a menace circling above.

Next: The Shielding Tide

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About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degree in Computer Systems and Applications and is currently attending Northern Arizona University. View all posts by Mark Gardner

10 responses to “01 – The Burning Seas

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