She walked on the ocean floor, a voluptuous, billowing dress stretching its endless train out behind her. A shimmery cloud of glitter stirred about her feet with the fine sediment, curling into pearly plumes that rose around her.
Except for this disturbance, the water was crystal clear. Its cold, glassy plane stretched on for miles, colorful fish drifting past, shark silhouettes swarming high overhead. While she didn’t see any of the great beasts themselves, the voices of the wales echoed through the depths as well, that constant chorus she could never seem to turn off.
Where did they call from? Where did they gather to play their enchanting symphony? Or did they call to each other across the water?
And then, up ahead, the water was no longer clear. A murky pall loomed, clustered and still, obscuring something great. A large area of the sea floor was shrouded in murk.
This shroud drew Breya like a moth to a flame. She felt the reflection of it cloud her eyes, drawing her in as if transfixing her, possessing her.
The calls of the wales grew louder. A few more steps, and she felt the vibrations of them, moving through her. It took her breath away–
But what breath?
Had she been breathing, underneath the water?
She walked until she stood at the edge of the pall, and there she paused. What lay within? The calls of the wales were loud now, shrill and reverberating.
A large, glowing jellyfish drifted out of the murk, slow and graceful, manifesting first as a ghostly light and then shedding the murk and appearing in full glory. It rotated ever so gradually in front of her, and she reached up, enchanted, as if to touch it with a finger.
Then the voices of the wales became deafening, and a force of water blew against her like wind just before the great bodies of the creatures emerged in a torrid rush, the pod parting to just barely skirt her.
The jellyfish was churned into the current, tumbling away in a rush of bubbles.
Instead of being bowled over, Breya was simply lifted from the sea floor, where she levitated in breathless wonder.
A dozen or more wales blasted past, their voices echoing around her, their passage stirring the murk from its clingy vigil. The rush of bubbles sustained the obscurity for only a few moments, but as the wales disappeared behind her, clarity seeped over the area.
What the pall had been covering was no less than a city.
And Breya stood at the gates.
She had seen Atlantis in her dreams many times before, but the last few times had been different, like this. They had begun to end with her standing at the city’s gates, rather than drifting about the ruins of the place – and somehow, that felt more symbolic than usual.
She stared in awe at the gates for a moment before closing her eyes and taking a deep, sweeping breath, filling her lungs to the brim as if to ingest the very essence of the place.
Yes. She could breathe.
Cold, ancient nostalgia filled her senses. Magic sparkled through her lungs like a drink of champagne.
How easy, she thought, to get drunk off this place. How divine to revel in its blue liquor.
She opened her eyes, and stepped through the gates.
– Excerpt from ‘Deep Breather’. Available March 28, 2014