You think this will help, Jane? You do? You do? Stygi asked, leaping from the Kanken bag Jane carried to her shoulder. Jane turned into the rec room, dodging an Amonkhetian refugee on the way; the halls weren’t that big, and the ship was packed lately.

 

“Dunno, Stygi. I’m not… the best at this, but She… doesn’t seem to care about protocols a whole lot. Still, I- like, man, She saved Proud’s ass. She helped a lot. I wanna be sure I’m putting into this relationship as much as She is. And I…” 

 

Need a break, Stygi offered, helpfully. Need sleep! And rest! You don’t eat enough either, and not NEARLY enough nuts. Only coffee. 

 

“…I might be running a bit raw, lately,” Jane admitted, after a moment. That might have surprised an onlooker- not the fact, but the admission. The young Druid is known for being as stubborn as a rock sometimes, and a hard worker to boot. But there’s shadows around her eyes that could rival a raccoon, and she’s pale, a little worn looking, with hands that don’t stop moving as they check herself for all the things she might need for this adventure. “I don’t wanna take too much time, we have work to do, but-“ 

 

Nothing wrong with making sure She’s happy. She gave me handsome eyes after all! I am the most handsome squirrel now. Stygi preens a moment. When we get back to Earth, I want to find a lady! Not that anyone could ever replace you, Jane, but there’s that one who lives in an oak tree a few trees over… 

 

“I am not even remotely ready for that conversation and we are not having it,” Jane grumbled, and stepped through the door to what has been dubbed the Holodeck. 

 

And with good reason. 

 

“Tardi, run sim Ocean Vibes please,” she asked, and when she stepped forward a second time it was onto a black sand beach. 

 

A dark cool ocean stretched before them, waves crashing rhythmically against the small sandy beach. It sat nestled under a sheer cliff face, long and thin, a perilous game trail the way up from here to the area above. Where Jane stood, the smell of the ocean was strong, and she inhaled, slowly, consciously unclenching muscles that had been tightly wound for a while now. 

 

Stressful business, saving the world. 

 

“Thanks, Tardi. Reroute anything that isn’t Lyndi or urgent to my P3,” she added, giving the ceiling- now a flawless, endless sky- a smile. Thankfully, the simulation room worked both for training AND relaxation. She’d reserved three whole hours for this, just in case she needed them. The time to skimp was not when one was attempting to reach out to one’s deity. 

 

Oof. And ain’t that a thought. MY deity. …Damn, if She’s not cool, though. It’s a new feeling, being proud of a god, but that whale! And seeing her! Five red eyes! Now that’s a bitch you don’t wanna fuck with! And yet, She still is kind, and teaches how to home make yogurt. It’s… cool. Really cool. 

 

Me five months ago would choke on her goddamn coffee if she heard me think it, though. 

 

“Okay. Let’s get this show on the road,” she said, and plopped her Kanken into the black sand. Jane changed there on the beach: a simple black bikini, the top more like a crop top in design, and tiger patterned men’s swimming trunks over her bikini bottom. Stygi hopped down, sniffing the sand. 

 

Jane! Jane! I want to dig Jane.

 

“You go for it, dude. Make yourself a sand castle. Just don’t get sand on my towel,” she said. “I’ll be back in a bit. Kinda hate that it’s basically fake water but… it’s the thought that counts? Right?” 

 

Well, yeah! Hey Jane! Look at this rock! Stygi nibbled on it. …It’s a salty rock

 

She shook her head, smiling at him and leaning down to hug the squirrel, so dear to her, an anchor for her sanity in hard times. 

 

Then Jane turned to face the water. 

 

It wasn’t just water, here. 

 

Here, it was Hers: the wavelets lapped at the foot of the beach but also at a set of old, ooooold stone stairs, as black as the sand or as deep night, leading up into the Temple where she first met the eldritch goddess. It was in better repair now, of course. They’d fixed the undead infestation and broken the curse that held Her half-asleep, and told the lizardfolk nearby. So now the cracks in the stone pillars were mended, things straightened, and the general air of disuse absent. 

 

It was still empty though. Jane wanted privacy for this. 

 

She stretched a moment, feeling the sun on her bare skin, warming her. Then she started walking toward the water. As she did, she spoke. 

 

“So… hello, I guess. Hope this is alright. Thanks for the save- saves, multiple. It was really cool seeing You in person, and that whale was awesome.” She grinned, then, the flash of white teeth, including the tiefling double canines, that marked a real one- not crooked, but delighted. Happy, for half a second. “I’m… not actually here to ask for anything. The world isn’t falling apart at this specific moment,” Jane added, as the grin turned wry and the water reached her knees. “Shockingly. But. It occurred to me half the time we need something from You, and… I dunno. That’s not how I want this. Whatever this is turning into, it’s more than transactional. And I’ve been…. a god damn mess lately, with the worry, and being scared, and I can’t find two seconds to try and unwind somehow without feeling bad about it.” 

 

The water was cool, but not intolerable. It was almost soothing. The bottom, still black sand, was faintly warm from the sun but getting cooler as she went deeper. It tickled her hips now. Waves slapped at her, the force of them making her stagger a little.

 

“I have got to get a little peace somehow, though. Or I’m gonna go nuts. I was…. I just wanted to kinda focus on being, for a bit. Here. If that’s okay. Uh. There’s- there’s a place, in the back of my mind, that feels like water and tastes like salt, and it’s been helpful in, um, grounding me? Or whatever. I wanted to- to go there, physically. To get a hold of that peace. And, uh, maybe just vibe with You a little? If I could. If that makes sense. If it’s okay. …I’m assuming yes cause I haven’t been yeeted out the water, but still. I’m talking a lot,” Jane said, as it reached her chest. A big wave was building, higher than her head, coming in fast. 

 

“…Time to dive in.” 

 

Fuck it.

 

She leaped forward into the wave that would have swamped her, into deeper water, turning into a decently sized remora- a long, skinny, sucker mouthed scavenger fish- as she did.

 

Being a fish wasn’t too different from being a person. The bits weren’t in the right spots but there were no new senses to deal with and movement was fairly intuitive. Remora Jane took a second to orient before flicking her tail and moving off into deeper water at a leisurely pace. 

 

Despite having designed the simulation, Jane didn’t actually know what was down there- if anything. She’d used scans of the area from REM files and what was publicly available from the elves and other sources to build the design, and deliberately not looked at the results when they finished compiling. The point wasn’t to know. The point was just to… go.

 

Faint whalesong and the sound of the water filled her brain as she swam, not heard with any ears but present just the same. Breathing with her gills was oddly tactile, and that comforted her; Jane was a very tactile person. She felt some of the shaky anxiety leave her, a little bit of calm center return, as she went still and let the feeling of moving with the water lull her for a moment. Then she continued on, looking for the bottom of this little cove. 

 

Other fish swim by her. Even a sharkllike creature, bulky and menacing in the distance; but it didn’t bother her. There’s other things in the sea, easier to catch and better tasting, than she is. Dolphinish clicks are distant, but a nice background to the equally faint whalesong.

 

It’s… quiet. Not silent, she thinks to herself as the sunlight dapples begin to fade a little. But quiet. Away from things trying to kill her, away from her work and the other countless demands on her time like the refugees that packed every corner of the vessel (though that wasn’t their fault). Nobody looking for her. Nothing that she has to do. 

 

All she had to do was swim, and breath, in the quiet dark depths of the cove. 

 

And while it’s cold, it doesn’t feel like it, honestly. The pressure should be weighing her down, but it doesn’t. She’s fast and free and proves it by zipping ahead a little, spontaneously, before she slows again to a more sedate pace. Darkness grows, but she has other senses she uses to help navigate, and gimlet eyes for the growing gloom; it doesn’t impede her. She passes kelp forest bottoms, rocks, the wreck of an old ship. And then the ground turns downward, blacker, deeper. 

 

She follows. 

 

It’s a little harder to see even for her now. But there, at the bottom of the cove, is something so big it doesn’t need much light or looking to be identified. Plus, it’s already lit from within.

 

The whale skeleton has long since been stripped of flesh. It looks weirdly at rest, half curled, things growing on the ribs and the sharp teeth and… some other projections she can’t quite identify, but are definitely bone. Tessaran whale maybe? Or something else? Absolutely massive, whatever it is. For a moment, Jane tilted her head. The place for the mouth is nearly circular, and there’s… strange openings in the skeleton, the anatomy is whale-like, sure, but vaguely wrong. Could this be one of those… eldritch whale things? She wondered, but there was no way to truly tell. The bones of the flippers rest half buried in the bottom. Crabs skitter away as she approaches. The ribs are as tall as a house, each and every one, and the whole thing shelters a thriving miniature ecosystem of crustaceans, starfish, bottom dwellers, and other animals that use the skeleton for protection, food, or both. Kelp-like seaweed has started to grow on it. Strange coralesque growths hang upside down from the spine. Some of the denizens twitch at her arrival, like the crabs, but many don’t; a remora isn’t really a threat. Several of the other fishlike sea creatures sport biolumescence at this depth, and as she gets closer, so does the kelp, faintly and almost cheerfully greeny-blue. Little fingerlike projections of the coral-stuff at the bottom emit a purple-pinkish glow, a hanging moss-like algae that dangles from one rib is nearly yellow… The glowing decor of the skeleton gives a nearly vibrant, neon light, in this dark place. Anemones bloom. Life, from death.

 

Well, I mean, if this isn’t it, then I’m just damn terrible at this, Jane thought. 

 

Winding herself through the ribs, she eventually found a good place to attach. The remora’s sucker mouth let her hang, easily and without any effort, from just below the eye socket of the skull. The current of the ocean moved her gently, like rocking a baby, as Jane briefly closed her eyes. 

 

And breathed. 

 

The sound of water. Faint whalesong. The skittering of a crab. 

 

Her own rabbitlike heart, small and still beating, somehow defiant of the last five months.

 

She breathed again, letting a growing feeling of… quiet, of serenity, chase away the worries of doing it wrong, or how long it had been. She breathed a third time, and sunk into a meditative place Jane knew, but had trouble reaching on a regular basis. Mindfulness was not something that came easily to her. But here…

 

…She breathed saltwater, and it felt like serenity.

Author Cael
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Comments (1)

  • Sielic
    May 30, 2020 at 11:43 pm
    Yeah buddy! Vibing in the ocean depths.

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