Cover design by Chrystalla Thoma
Many thanks to Claire Bugler Hewitt, Arlene Webb and Jean Davis for critiquing and proofreading this story for me.
Stabs of pain in Mantis’ chest, in his arms. Cold stinging his skin. He was going down, sinking in the heaving waves.
He surfaced, gasping, then sank again. He kicked at the water, managed to take in another gulp of air, struggled to remain afloat. A wave washed over him, sucked him under. He fought it, kicking at the murky water, beat it with his hands, his lungs burning and his mouth full of salty water.
Jinsen had said you just hold your breath and you’ll float. He didn’t say anything about the impact, the sharp bite of the cold, the dark, the panic. Probably never imagined Mantis would one day be thrown off a Gultur patrol boat. Who would, back when they’d huddled around a fire in a back alley of Sikyon?
Mantis twisted in the water, fighting to rise. Dying suddenly seemed a possibility. Twelve years old, that was too young to die, wasn’t it? Fear made him struggle harder. Unless you looked death in the face, Jinsen said, you didn’t know what life looked like.
Jinsen was full of shit like that.
Brightness rolled somewhere above, and he arched toward it, flailing against the pull of the water, reaching toward the light.
He grasped the light, or thought he did, and then his head broke the surface. He opened his mouth, gasping for air, choked on the water in his lungs and started to sink once more.