The sun warms my skin, drying the ice-cold water spraying me with each crashing wave. Salt and sand sticks to my hair and face.
"Come on, Shawn!" my sister calls from deeper in the water.
I rub my eyes, laughing as a wave rushes past me. "Lucy, wait up!" I call to her.
She flips her long, dark hair over her shoulder and dives under a swell, kicking and splashing me as the wave roars in.
I cover my eyes, the force nearly knocking me off my feet. As the water pulls back out to sea, the sand beneath me slips between my toes.
After taking a deep breath, I plug my noise and dive into the icy water. I open my eyes once I'm down under, blinking through the salt as the ocean stirs around me. The world transforms into a swirling rainbow of colors.
I kick, propelling myself forward until my lungs burn and I need to come up for air. I burst through the surface and push my bangs out of my eyes, laughing as I gasp for air.
"I'm the Queen of the Sea!" Lucy shouts. She pulls a wad of bright green seaweed from the surface and drapes it over her head like a crown. She looks like a beautiful mermaid, the salty water glistening off her sun-kissed cheeks like glitter.
"What about me?" I spit out a mouthful of saltwater through the gap where I lost a baby tooth as I paddle up to her.
"You can be my dolphin advisor." She takes another fistful of seaweed and plants it on my head. "You can have a crown, too, even though you aren't royalty."
"How generous of you, your majesty." I giggle as I pretend to primp my hair beneath the crown of slimy seaweed.
Suddenly, something rumbles in the distance. The water churns around us. Then, out of nowhere, a massive swell crashes over the two of us, knocking me under. I'm flipped upside down, and the top of my head grazes the sandy bottom. I try to grab my crown, but the seaweed slips through my fingers, rushing away into the depths of the sea.
My lungs burn for air. I tumble in the surf until finding my footing and kicking off the bottom. When my head breaks through the surface, I gasp for breath.
"Lucy, I lost my crown." I cough as I search for her amid the cresting, undulating sea.
"Girls!" the voice of my mother calls from the shore. "Don't swim out too far!"
I turn back, but I can't find my mom. I can't even see the shore. The ocean stretches on for as far as I can see. Our bungalow on the beach is gone, and the dunes that protect it have been swallowed up by the rising tide.
"Mom!" I shout. "Where are you?"
My tiny legs struggle to tread water. Seaweed brushes against my ankles, wrapping around me like wispy hands and pulling me down.
"Lucy!" I call frantically, searching the white-caped ocean for my sister.
Another wave crashes over me, sending me tumbling and rolling. I finally manage to right myself. "Help!" I shout when my head breaks through the surface. "Lucy! Where are you?"
"I'm over here," a voice whispers from somewhere behind me.
I struggle to turn myself in the water as the seaweed crawls up my legs. It pulls on mu like two anchors, trying to pull me down under.
I wipe the salty spray from my eyes as I search the ocean, but I can't find Lucy anywhere. Above me, the sun burns hot and red, baking the earth. The sky melts like a pallet of watercolors into the raging sea.
YOU ARE READING
Down UnderScience Fiction
Shawn, a convicted criminal, never thought she'd see the sun again, let alone call another star system her home. When she's offered an out from her prison sentence, she embarks on a dangerous interstellar expedition along with 18 of Earth's most int...