The Underwater Abyss
The sea floor was not unlike the stories my mother had told me. It was lush with coral and seaweed and multicolored fish. I don't remember much of how I managed to reach the tropics, but I do remember the reasons why I had fled to the ocean. The air had soon became deadly and no one could survive at the surface. Cracks appeared in the great buildings as they tumbled to the grounds with crashes that shook neighboring houses. The gods were fighting. It was the only explanation. But which gods I would not be certain of until much later.
* * *
Lady Artemis was the first to tell us to seek shelter. She had warned us of the peril on Olympus and how soon the air would not be safe for the demigods to breathe. Only the gods would be able to travel the earth. At first, her warning was dismissed as a false alarm because after years we could still breathe on land. We hunted the various monsters around the world and the Hunters grew in number as we recruited more young girls. Everything seemed peaceful there was no sign of a pending war...
Thalia Grace was the first to notice the change; that seemed appropriate since she is the daughter of Zeus. But a daughter of Hades was the first to tell me about it.
We had just finished chasing the Nemean lion thousands of miles and were somewhere near the Andes. The mountain range was intimidating and we had set up camp along the base. Our wolves guarded the camp and once the moon had risen into the sky we retired to our tents. I shared a tent with a daughter of Hades, Mara. She spoke to few and was a year younger than myself physically. That was the first and last time she spoke to me.
“Everyone is dying.”
And as if beckon me, she stepped to the opening of the tent and held a small, pale white hand out to me. I followed her and she made her way to Thalia Grace. The lieutenant was not surprised with our arrival.
“Xena, Mara, how are you?” she asked with a smile on her face but a frown in her eyes. She looked agitated, like there was a problem she couldn't fix. When the daughter of Zeus stepped to the left I saw Lady Artemis standing there with a grim expression on her face. Thalia was smart enough to explain what was happening. “Lady Artemis is right. The air--” she paused and closed her eyes. She inhaled deeply and then opened her eyes again. “The mortal air is thinning. Lady Artemis doesn't think we will have much time left.” Now I understood the reason for her distress, but I wanted to know more about this. How we could escape this. Surely we would not be effected.
Lady Artemis looked at us and beckoned Thalia inside her tent for a meeting. Mara and I, understanding our cue to leave, walked back to the tent we shared, but sleep did not come easy for either of us. I could hear her toss and turn in her sleeping bag and I myself stared at the lantern that was dimly lit and hanging near the entrance of the tent.
Thinning air...no wonder Mara had made that unnerving comment, but surely we would not die. As Hunters we had stronger endurance than mortals and demigods....But we were not gods. We would not be able to survive for much longer. But where would we go?
The next morning Lady Artemis gathered us in the center of camp. The air felt thiner, as if just discussing the matter of thinning air had caused the process to accelerate. The other Hunters, especially the newer recruits, looked confused but some of the older ones were grim as if they knew what was happening. Thalia stood next to our Lady Artemis at the front of the group. Neither of them looked cheerful. When our Lady Artemis began to speak all fell silent.
“This matter has gone unspoken for too long and now we are paying the price. The gods are at war and as a result the mortal air – the air which demigods, mortals, monsters, and demititans alike all breathe – is thinning and soon the earth that we travel across endlessly will not be able to support any walker other than a god. This means that you all – my sisters – must take refuge somewhere beyond the ground. Be it the air of Olympus or the depths of the ocean that is your choice, but you cannot stay here. It is with all my regret that I disband the Hunters today and forever until the end of time.”
The area was so quiet I could hear my unsteady breathing. No one dared to move but their voices were taken away from them by the disturbing truth. It seemed unreal, unthinkable, but we all knew it was the truth and now we all had to go on our separate paths.
Without a doubt I would go to the ocean, to the sea, because I knew my mother would be there, somewhere, among the waves.
* * *
The water looked inviting but I was still hesitant to dive into the water and travel to the depths. Since Lady Artemis's announcement we had lost five of our original number. Mara was the first to perish then two of the older Hunters followed her, then two of the new recruits followed them to the Underworld.
I was worried about the others and I hoped that they would journey to the ocean like I did, but I immediately knew they wouldn't. Few could breathe underwater so I knew they would have gone to Olympus. Maybe they had the right idea. They would be able to see the sun again.
I closed my eyes and when I opened them again I jumped into the water.