It’s strange for me, after all this time, to remember how it felt to be trawled along behind a forty-ton mythological beast in something just barely more sea worthy than an inner tube. There was a great deal of bumping around inside the balloon ballast, as the collisions occurring outside affected us inside as well, though dampened and slowed. There was a lot of crying, too, both from the baby and from his mother.
I’d like to remember that I was perfectly calm. But I wasn’t. In particular, I remember panicking when we felt Leviathan rushing into some higher depth. The atmospheric pressure lessened and I felt myself bloating. My stomach started aching and the cramps began as gas expanded inside my belly. I remember being a far less holy man than normal.
But the real shocker came when the balloon popped. The air blew out, jostling us, and then quickly filled up again with water. Something had punctured the outer membrane. We were in trouble. Our oxygen disappeared in about half a second, giving us no time to fill our lungs with air. The balloon quickly filled with water and began to collapse in around us, threatening to entangle us, separate us, and hide us from one another. It was difficult to find the exit. The balloon was keeping us imprisoned within its bed sheet snares.
I was fortunate in that I had been partially sucked out by the puncture. I was able to twist my body around and get my torso outside the ballast. I kicked around the inside of the balloon with my legs, until I found Liz and hugged her between my knees. I must have looked like a ballerina. My arms were stretched upwards and the ballast was billowing like a skirt. I pulled with my arms while Liz struggled and fought until we were all in open water.
Already I could feel the fire inside of my lungs begin to burn more intently. Leviathan was swimming away from us, seemingly oblivious. Sure enough, he had a long orange piece of balloon-cloth trailing from his mouth. Those moments were the last I spent in his hovering, sad and erudite presence.
I wondered darkly if perhaps Iara had allowed her spite to ruin our hope.
Liz was already beginning to burble, and I could see the alarm in her eyes as she clutched Jonah more and more tightly to herself. She was always the better swimmer, but she hadn’t had the time to get her breath before being expelled into the ocean. Jonah, of course, was fine, breathing comfortably in the water with his gills. His only concern was his mother. In her anxiety she was placing too much pressure upon his little ribs.
It was too bad my son couldn’t oxygen share like Iara, because that would buy us a little time.
And we needed a little time only, I discovered. For there, in the distance, perhaps only a couple hundred yards away, was a bright shape: a complex, up on stilts, at the base of an underwater mountain. My mind began to flip and my heart caught in my chest. Against all hope, hope was found. For when I looked more intently, I could make out portholes and bay windows and I knew that Leviathan had discharged his task more faithfully then I’d first imagined.
We were within striking distance of the Daedelus.
I gestured to Liz and began to swim in that direction. I had no air, but I refused to give up. I had endured so much. I had fought for her for so long. I had overcome monsters and myths and every manner of evil. I couldn’t quit. Maybe, just maybe, we could get a little closer and the Daedelus could pick us up in a mini sub or with a diver. Or something.
But when I looked back at Liz, to encourage her and to bolster myself, I saw she was clawing at her throat. Hope turned to ash. I felt teased. Bubbles burped out of her, heading upwards. This was the end! Even Jonah was temporarily forgotten, floating beside his mother paddling his arms slowly and looking concerned.
I used my last good push of energy to get close to her. I don’t know exactly what I thought or what I meant, but I grabbed Jonah and held him to his mother. I wasn’t even thinking. This was purely instinct. The will to live and the desire for Liz to live had taken over. I pointed to his mouth, and then to hers. Her look of horror, her refusal, appears even now when I close my eyes. And then that horror erupted into something angrier, more primordial, when I turned the boy to my own face instead.
I coughed into my son’s mouth and then sucked oxygen back through his little lungs into my big ones. He hit me and tried to pull away, but he was only a baby. He couldn’t have weighed twenty pounds, and I forced him to act as a re-breather for me. I was sucking so hard his gills inverted, and I could see discoloration on his neck.
Despite being in her death throes, Elisabeth came at me with that famed matronly aggression. She scratched my face with both hands. Blood came away from her claws in ribbons. It hurt, but I kept pushing myself away from her. The pain wasn’t just physical. I felt sickened by what I was doing. Liz screamed, bubbles rushing to the surface, her voice strangely lowered in the pressurized environment. She was a banshee. She passed out. I was barely able to keep Jonah away from her. But, with my breath temporarily caught, I released his mouth from mine and began to pull both wife and son along with me back to the Daedelus, one in each arm.
Two more times I had to borrow breath from my boy, and twice more it was a fight for both our survival. Liz never regained consciousness, and when I finally dragged us to the exterior door of the airlock, so had Jonah.
At that point I had no clear idea of whether I was the hero or the villain. I know I did it to save my family, but I think I also did it to save myself.
I just don’t know if I succeeded.
The exterior hatch unwound and I pushed the two of them in before me. I was already running out of air when the door was pulled shut and re-secured. I thought I might need to take more from Jonah, as the venting process in that dive room was slower, much slower than I remembered, but I told myself then that I would rather die than take one more thing from anyone. I was done with taking.
And that’s when you came in, Commander. You opened the hatch and found me there gasping for breath, my wife and child unconscious. And that’s why Liz refuses to see me or speak to me since waking up from her coma. And that’s why she’s called me a murderer and wants me arrested, or dead.
She thinks I killed my son.