Sea Legs

Image of Long Story Short Award - 2022
Image of Short Fiction
Long before the moon controlled the tides, before Aphrodite rose from her bed of sea foam, before the oceans trembled in fear of the titans, there was Her.
She was a city of sin and glory, deceit and shadow. And I was going to uncover Her, bit by watery bit.
Then, I would return home, my warm hand in Kath's, both humans with no mystery left to solve but our great love. The way she always wanted it; full certainty.
At least, that's what I told myself as I boarded the submarine, as I said my goodbyes and kissed my mother's red cheeks. She'd packed a peanut butter sandwich in my duffel bag, on top of Kath's old floral quilt. As if I were on a school field trip. As if I'd return that very afternoon.
Not long after I'd been desperate enough to nibble at the stale crusts lingering in the plastic bag, She began calling to us. Siren calls, luring us from the deep, begging us to join their ranks. To succumb. To become one of them.
"It's Her," I said. "It's Atlantis."
Morris nodded. We made a small crew, the four of us. The Plato Project. We were believers, bound together by a faith in Atlantis, an irrefutable knowledge of Her divine being. Morris, Adri, Will, and me. Determined to stand firm, to discover Her rather than become one of Hers.
Lost people in search of a lost city.
After the first wave of Siren calls, Will found me reading in the study. He'd seen algae clouding the ship's walls, scales sprouting from its rudder. I leapt up, throwing Kath's battered Dickinson book across the room; she had loved the classics. But before I could scrape the scales from the ship, Adri stopped me. "Know your place," she said. "The ship is adapting. We must respect it."
The Plato Project was a mission rooted in science. Faith in facts. And maybe another researcher would balk at a submarine growing a tail, but not Adri. Never Adri. She was our fearless leader, and in a way, she was like Kath, a scientist with her head screwed on so tightly that it was obvious when the screws became loose.
It made a strange sort of sense, then, that she was the first to succumb to the Siren's calls. To become one of them. I imagined Kath in her place, so long ago, swimming to the bottom of the ocean, never to be seen again. And as per my job, I recorded Adri's daily activity. I was a scribe to her downfall.
I tried not to think about Kath in Adri's position, about her fleeing my arms and jumping into the sea all those years before. About her sky blue eyes turning as deep as weeds. About her lungs losing air as slits formed at her sides, until they could breathe water. About her laugh, loud and lavish, becoming nothing more than a distant scream as her books gathered dust. About her pink skin becoming grayer by the hour, until one day, there was nothing left of her here.
Adri was the first to go. Then Morris. Then Will.
One by one, until I was left alone, surrounded by yellowing Plato pages and spilled ink and stale sandwich crusts. Covered in barnacles and salt and perhaps a few scales. I heard them with every passing minute. Calling to me from Atlantis, from Her great mouth.
And still, the only Siren call that could lure me was hers. I waited until I was certain my limbs would fall from my morphing body, until I could exhale my last shaky breath of oxygen. Kath's call was waiting for me, clear as day, brighter than the world above.
"My love," she sang. "Come home."
My webbed fingers reached for hers. "I'm here."