Lawrence University Creative Writing Club Spring Serial Story
It took less than ten seconds to propel Lennerd to the surface. Eight of those seconds were spent screaming in abject fear and horror. By the time Lennerd thought about wondering just where he was, he hit the surface of the water, jumping like a hooked marlin. The brief sensation of the sun’s bright rays, the smell of the air, it was heavenly. How long had he been underwater? It was midday, the sun straight overhead, as small waves rolled by him.
Gasping in surprise, Lennerd laughed in joy, before grunting in pain as he slammed stomach first onto the surface of the ocean, before falling back into the water. The pain sharpened his senses and clarity returned to the sailor, survival instincts cushioned by the insanity of the past few days. He poked his head out of the water, intending to look for any landmarks, before choking. He…he couldn’t breathe?
Swallowing, he tried to breathe air, but…there was nothing there. It felt like he was sucking in noxious gas, the substance causing him to sputter and cough. The very air, it…it was toxic! Even as his eyes watered, Lennerd tried to breathe, hoping against hope that he was, that something was wrong. A rogue wave hit him in the face and the ensuing undertow sucked the sailor down five feet, as Lennerd opened his mouth to scream, before blessedly breathing in oxygen.
He…he couldn’t breathe air? Panicked, Lennerd tried again, moving more purposely up to the surface. It was true! He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t breathe surface air at all. Moving down from the surface, he tried to move around, finding himself swimming through the open water as a large group of cownose stingrays swam through the water in the far-off distance, the group so thick that it looked like a massive ball. Granny Coelacanth had talked about them during her time guiding him down to King Davy Jones. Apparently, they tasted pretty good…well, as good as any stingray could taste; better than sixgill stingrays, which tasted like mud. The old fish had a lot of weird thoughts on how to make a stingray taste good.
It almost looked like a single massive creature: the fever, as granny Coelacanth called them, of stingrays moving in concert as they soon vanished out of his view, leaving him alone in the bright blue ocean. He looked around, moving in a small circle as he turned around. There was nothing, it was like…there was nothing there. All he could see, every which way he turned, was the bright blue water of the ocean. No landmarks, nothing. There was absolutely nothing there. Even when he looked down, he couldn’t see anything but the water, just a dark chasm.
Where could he go? What could he do? Even if he moved to the coast, he couldn’t breathe in actual air. Would he have to live like a mermaid? Stuck under the piers watching actual people go on about their days above him?
Lennerd looked up at the sky and thought about King Davy Jones, swaying with the current as he tried to relax. What had the king thought as he was ripped up to the surface? Had he, too, been like this? Stuck on the opposite end of the world, in an alien area? Melting from the sheer pressure, and breathless from the pain? There was nothing he could do. Shaking his head, Lennerd tried to put his thoughts in order and relaxed, just watching the sky.
There was nothing else to do, and so for several hours Lennerd just watched the sky, watching the clouds. The sky began to darken, the sun retreating, and he knew, sooner rather than later, he was going to be in the dark by himself, underwater. Just what was he going to do?
A brilliant flash of red lit up the dark water, and Lennerd squinted. Just, just what was that? Dark shapes burst by him, flashing brilliant colors. Green, blue, red, he was hypnotized. Just, just what was happening? One of the shapes slowed from its burst of speed, turning one bright big eye to stare speculatively at him. A big squid! Lennerd looked at the creature. Why did it look so familiar?
Wait…Lumen? The small fish glowed, being held in one long tentacle of what had to be Doctor Morga. “What in Davy Jones’s name are you doing here? Are you alright?” the little fish asked curiously. “Wait? Did Granny Coelacanth lead you the wrong way? Why that old leath…”
“No, no,” Lennerd said hastily. “Nothing like that. The king didn’t believe me.” There was silence for a second as both Lumen and Doctor Morga processed this.
“The king didn’t believe you?” Lumen’s voice rose every word. “Why I won’t believe this, this is preposterous, this…” the little fish’s words turned into hateful murmuring as Doctor Morga looked at Lennerd, one big eye moving around his person before blinking.
“One…day,” the big squid droned, confusing Lennerd. He frowned; just what did he mean? Lumen understood immediately.
“Oh, oh no. That’s not good. And the shoal was last reported near the orda caves. That’s not good at all.” Lumen started muttering again, before he and Doctor Morga started…staring at each other, the squid moving the little fish in front of his eyes. “Um…hmm…no, that wouldn’t work.”
“What’s wrong?” Lennerd asked.
“Oh…you run out of the ability to breathe underwater tomorrow. In 26 hours, to be exact. Unfortunately, the ability to breathe air, well…you don’t get it back,” Lumen spat out.
Lennerd blinked. “What?”
“The king, the king was supposed to fix this, but he was…of course I should…no. No, this is fixable!” Lumen snapped, turning in little circles as he muttered so fast he looked like a ship prop. At last he came to a decision, stopping upside down to look at Lennerd.
“Tell me, Lennerd, have you ever gone looking for a kraken?” Lumen looked at him curiously.