Here is a short story based on the following photo.
Oxygen. Yes, oxygen that is the thing I need. I feel the need for it burning my lungs. It’s dark, and I can feel the current pulling me along. Which way was up again? I can feel my limbs moving, striving to desperately find the surface. A seed of panic starts in my stomach and slowing grows until I feel it paralyzing every limb. Not yet I pleaded to the darkness, I need more time. Don’t take me yet. Consciousness is slowing slipping away. I can feel it on the edges. How strange it is to feel one’s consciousness slipping, and yet still be so aware of what is happening. My mind presented facts to me coldly, plainly, sharply.
My limbs are growing tired, and they resist my minds incessant order to move. The water feels thick and heavy, alternately warm and cold. One last reach, and my hand has broken the surface. Hope renews my energy and I double my efforts.
The first gasping breath is almost painful to my tired lungs. The second was better. I wipe the water from my eyes, and try to catch a glimpse of my surroundings before another wave crashes down on me. I cough, and lift my eyes to the grey sky. The clouds are a dark ominous green, with veins of yellow and black coursing through them. Lightning strikes and highlights their color. The wind picks up and beats relentless at my face and hair. I was thankful, not for the first time that I had cut it before setting out on this mission. Everything about this weather bade me unwelcome. Maybe it was a mistake to have come, but to have turned the council down would have been a worse fate.
Anya, don’t let them take me!
I pulled myself into a ball as the young voice echoed through my mind. Oh Natalia! She was only six. What could the Betrayer want with such a one?
That isn’t who he was after, you know it isn’t. He wants what you stole. A life for a life, the debt has not been paid.
I tried to shut the voice out of my thoughts; I had to get to safety. I had no time for the demons in my head.
I turned in a slow circle, gasping when I saw what was before me.
It was a castle made entirely out of black metal. Smoke plumed from one of the many turrets in a manner that suggested it had always done so and that it could not be bothered to change now. The windows were dark and were framed by metal twisted in an ancient pattern. Marble stairs led from the shore to its iron gates. They were open in a silent dare to enter.
Tired as I was, I had to get out of there. I was too exposed and vulnerable in the ocean. Taking a deep breath, I dove beneath the surface, and struggled to move my aching body in the direction of the castle.
Move with the current, not against I floated a moment, trying to judge which direction it was moving. Once found, it was only a matter of moving with it, and focus on holding my breath and then letting it out in moderated increments. My feet strike land, and I surface.