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An introductory piece for my character Bad Trip, featuring Snini’s Callisto. Warning: some gore and terror.
Waves roared around her, angry monsters in their own right. Rain cascaded down in stinging sheets. The ocean roiled gray and violent, foaming at the mouth and yelling at the heavy, lightning laden clouds above. Currents tugged and pulled at her below the surface.
She raised herself higher out of the water, riding from the trough of a swell to the crest. It was near impossible to see more than a body length away through the haze of the storm.
Gills flaring briefly in the cold air, she dove back under. There was an instant of silence before the sounds of the ocean came into focus. It was a different cacophony compared to the surface. Lower sounds, more groaning and shifting, less high pitched winds and booming thunder.
With honed senses, she tracked where the currents carved through the jagged rocks of the mainland. Swimming close to shore was always a gamble, but one that she took without thought. The years had toughened her hide and it would take more than a brush with a rocky shoreline to put her out of commission. All it would do was slow her down.
The seabed dipped below her. Open water stretched to the west.
No longer hindered by the rough waves near the surface and the threat of rocks and reefs, she flicked her tail. Water parted before her, flowing over her aerodynamic build with ease. She had to catch up before they found a shallow harbor.
Her eyes were accustomed to seeing in dark waters and at night. Not that it mattered this time. She detected the fuel that was leaking from the boat like a shark sensed blood and thrashing. Its rank odor and painful bite on her gills was enough of a trail to follow.
“She can’t take much more of this! One of these swells is going to capsize us!”
The captain of the frankensteined boat wiped a wet hand over his face. The old fishing tub was accustomed to unfavorable seas. His crew were experienced sailors and had weathered far worse storms than this. The fifteen of them had survived two capsizings, one fire, three pirate attacks, and a stranding over the years. He knew they were only panicked because of the particular part of the ocean they were in.
He didn’t blame them, but there was no use getting tied up in knots over it.
“We’re almost home, men! Hold it together a little longer,” Captain Clementine yelled.
He resumed helping a handful of his crew tie down what was left of the barrels of gasoline. They’d already lost two overboard, and in this day and age, that was like losing two uncut diamonds.
“We should’ve seen a lighthouse by now,” one of his men said.
Clementine followed where he was looking. The mainland was barely a faint outline in the rain. They had to take the boat further away from shore to avoid the sandbars and reefs, but in turn that made it difficult to spot the harbor.
“We’ll see it,” he said.
Privately, he wondered if there even was a lighthouse.
Callisto swam like a streak of lightning. She wasn’t even sure why she was trying to catch up to the boat. During a storm like this, she should have been out in the open ocean with her pod, not chasing down a boat full of humans this close to shore where she was sure a human settlement was located.
But she had spotted the hulking Sea Skimmer earlier in the day and had a bad feeling about her presence. Once Callisto had come across the boat desperately trying to make it to the harbor barely a klick north of here, she knew exactly what was going on.
The other Aqrion was stalking the boat.
Thankfully, Callisto had a head start on the much larger creature. She could hear the boat’s engine and see its hull. Her twin sets of eyes stung momentarily as she poked her head out of the water to the side of the boat.
Humans scurried around on top of it, shouting and yelling at each other. They were scared. Below the surface it wasn’t nearly as bad as it was above. If only they could swim as well as she could.
She squeaked at them.
Callisto dipped below as a swell rolled through. She watched in fascination as the boat plowed through it and popped out on the other side, streaming stinking water off its deck. Boats were like poorly made Aqrions that only floated. She supposed that made them like dead Aqrions.
She shook off her surprise at the morbid likeness and surfaced again closer.
She squeaked and rattled off a series of clicks.
One of the humans gripped the side of the boat and pointed at her.
She waited until several of them were pointing before diving under and taking a position at the bow of the boat. Hopefully they would be able to follow her white coloration and vivid iridescent stripes.
The boat turned and the engine rumbled.
They were following her.
Come on, humans, you’re almost to your land. Just a little farther.
Through the crashing of the waves, she could hear the boat’s engine. Like a rapid heartbeat that was futilely pushing the boat closer to safer waters. If it got over the sandbar it would be beyond her reach.
Her teeth flashed in her dark maw and her gills fanned out in alarming shades of neon pink and purple.
The scent of fuel was growing stronger. Putrid. Burning. Tantalizing. Teasing her with its acrid notes and fiery bite.
A softer scent penetrated the haze of storm and fury.
Living. Breathing. Pure.
Something else was present along with the boat full of humans. Something smaller. Not made of metal and rank smelling. Something alive.
A flicker of anger flared the bulbs on the ends of her angler spines. Only an utter and complete lunatic would risk beaching on a sandbar or in a harbor to lead humans to safety. She pegged the creature as either a few dolphins or a lone Phin Singer that had strayed from its pod.
It should have turned tail sooner.
She turned her sharp nose downward. The black abyss of deep water welcomed her. Her trippy, oily colored dorsal patterns nearly glowed in the darkness while the rest of her disappeared. Fish and squid were entranced by the undulating bands of color and the bright eye spots that stared blankly out into the nothingness.
Once upon a time, she had blended in with the inky depths perfectly. Then, bit by bit, scale by scale, the humans had changed her. Destroyed her smooth onyx scales. Turned them into shining, glimmering, pulsating swaths of acid green and flaming orange with strips of vibrant pinks and blues, all permanently burned onto her from years of oil spills and toxic chemicals. She could never hide again.
And neither could they.
The ocean surface rippled directly above her. One powerful twitch of her tail sent her rocketing skyward. The fish and squid that had been lured in scattered.
The abyss released her from its dark grasp.
Her eyes rolled back into her head.
She didn’t need to hide anymore.
Callisto sagged in relief. The sandbar rose under her like a protective gate. Once the boat was over it, the humans would be safe and could get to shore. Then she would have to make her way back out to sea to weather out the rest of this storm. Her pod probably thought she was crazy for attempting this.
She ducked out of the way of the hull of the boat.
They knew where they were going now.
They were homefree and her job was done.
Some Aqrions would give her grief over helping humans when humans were notoriously dirty and prone to killing Aqrions and their cetacean brethren, but these weren’t whalers. She scented no blood on their boat. Only fuel and the strange dry food humans ate. And they had trusted her to get them to safety.
With a satisfied nod to herself, she turned around in the water and was immediately overshadowed.
Metal beared down on her as the boat was crushed.
She shot out of the water in a spectacular breach. No longer buoyed up by the saltwater, gravity yanked her back down. Between her and the water, however, was the boat.
Her weight crashed onto its aft, flipping its bow straight up into the air. Humans were catapulted off its deck, splashing down in the water around her like minnows. Above the waves and the rain, she could hear screaming.
Using one forefin, she pushed several of them under the waves.
She sank her long needle teeth into the hull of the boat and reared back, shredding the metal. Boxes and barrels tumbled into the water. Using her chest to keep it steady, she tore into it again, ripping it asunder.
Netting snagged her teeth.
Disgusted, she slid off the back of the boat and lifted her head as high as she could, unraveling the tangle of netting. A human wailed as the lengths of rope encircled its limbs and hauled it upwards towards her.
Her hind fins brushed the sandy bottom of the sheltered harbor. It was shallower than she thought it was going to be.
She hooked a claw on the edge of the boat. It wobbled precariously in its battered state. She sank lower and lower into the shallow water, until finally the boat rolled and capsized. The netting still attached to the deck of the boat dunked her head under as it flipped.
Thrashing, she sent sand up in a cloud around her and the wreck. Her belly scraped against the seabed and her ridge of fins danced above. This was becoming tiring. Her simple hunt had turned into a more dangerous game this close to land. Soon the other humans would be alerted she was here, and they were better equipped to deal with the likes of an Aqrion, even one as big as her.
At last, after much flapping about and clawing, she dislodged most of it from her teeth and sheared through the rest.
Amongst the ball of rope now being tossed about aimlessly was the human. Her eyes narrowed. It wasn’t much fun to be tied up in a mess of rope and left to die, was it?
She bared her teeth.
The human was barely a snack. No more than a bite that left the lower limbs still tangled in the netting. Though she preferred the taste of squid, this was far more satisfying.
A beam of light cut through the water and the rain.
It was time to go.
She heaved herself around, pushing off the sand with her tail and hind fins. With nothing left to do and her mission accomplished, she slunk out of the harbor with a splash and disappeared back into the depths.
Callisto was going to hurt in the morning. The big brute had bounced her off the seabed. Thankfully, it was sand and not rock, but it had been a surprise nonetheless.
When her head cleared, a horrifying sight welcomed her.
Complete and utter chaos.
Debris from the wrecked boat sank to the bottom, the sickening scent of fuel leaking out into the surrounding water. Even worse than that, humans floated around lifelessly.
Callisto choked on the scent of blood. The large Sea Skimmer was making a hasty getaway now, leaving behind a graveyard from a one-sided battle. The cloud of sand left in her wake made navigating the wreck that much harder.
Slowly, she poked her way through the floating netting and crates. She nudged a human with her rostrum.
She knew some Aqrions disliked humans, but this was plain absurd. It was one thing to take on a whaling ship in open waters when an attack had been initiated by the humans, but another thing entirely to chase a harmless transport vessel into sheltered waters.
Another human hung limply in the water, buoyed up by a rafter of boards.
She touched its leg.
The human flinched.
Her eyes widened.
A live one.
She surfaced. It was the one that had pointed at her earlier. It had a rugged face with a strange mane sprouting from its head and around its mouth. Perhaps they were like catfish whiskers.
The human eyed her warily.
She bumped into him, offering her dorsal fin.
The human’s odd fingered fins wrapped around her taller dorsal fin with a hesitant grasp that quickly turned into an iron hold as soon as she took off. She was careful to not dive down too deep. Humans couldn’t hold their breath like she could, after all.
Beams of light swept over the water and humans on the land were yelling. Her eyesight wasn’t very good out of the water, so they looked like blobs running up and down the wooden platforms that stretched out into the harbor.
Her heart raced the closer she got to one of the wooden platforms. This was way too close. But she had started a rescue mission and she was going to finish it.
The human let go of her abruptly and clung to the wooden poles that jutted down into the water. Other humans were pounding towards them down the platform.
Callisto gave the human a look.
It nodded its head at her and murmured.
Then the other humans were helping to pull that one up onto the platform.
She dove back under the waves and high tailed it away from all of it. The humans. The wreck. The blood. All of it.
The open ocean was like the embrace of a close friend. It was familiar and friendly and comforting.
And yet, she knew for a fact that a monster lurked out here in the waves with her. Lived alongside her, too. It was a sobering thought. One that made her long to get back to her pod and put this storm behind her.
The depths swallowed her up as she headed home.
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