Reece and I spend my break in silence, with me sitting at the ledge the pool whilst he stares stonily ahead, pretending I don't even exist.
When it's over, I slip on my nightgown and Rob comes to get me, leading us through the familiar employee tunnels toward the testing facility. It's a place I've come to both fear and despise, and as we approach the door at the end, my pace slows down considerably, forcing Reece to walk into the back of me.
He puts his hands out to steady me, turning me to face him with eyes that hold suspicion. "What's the matter with you?"
"Nothing," I swallow before continuing on down the hallway.
Once we get to the facility door, Rob rests his card to the electronic pad and quickly ushers me inside. Several doctors are already gathered around a water tank–a large, glass box just big enough to accommodate one person. I close my eyes for a brief moment, wishing I'd taken those pills at breakfast, after all.
"What is this place?" Reece asks from behind me, his voice laced with unease.
"They didn't brief you on this part, comrade?" Rob smirks before turning back to the rest of the water tanks. "This, my friend, is the testing facility."
Slowly, and without a word, Rob takes me by the arm and pulls me towards one of the tanks, positioning me in front of its door before holding out his hand. Nervously, I slip off my nightgown before stepping inside, my eyes fixed on Reece as he leans against the back wall, his own eyes trained on mine.
The door slithers shut and I turn towards the doctors, fixating on one in particular: Dr. Megan Wells. Her blonde hair is scraped back today, her clipboard held tight between her perfectly manicured fingers. She always seems to be the one in control of these tests, the one who decides when it's time to let me out of the tank.
It's why I hate her the most.
The facility door swings open again and in walks Jackson, with a nervous looking Asia trailing behind him. My heart aches, desperate to reach out to her, but all I can do is watch as she's led into the glass tank opposite.
She sticks her tongue out when she meets my gaze, pulling a brief smile from my lips. Despite everything Marine World does to us, Asia is always able to keep her spirits up, and with them, mine, too.
"Test one, commencing," Dr. Wells says.
I close my eyes, feeling the water beginning to rise from the holes at the bottom of the tank. It trickles between my toes and up the lengths of my legs, sending my heart racing as I fight to steady my breathing. Usually, being in the water can bring me a sense of comfort, an inkling of peace, but never inside of this tank.
I take a deep breath when the water reaches my bottom lip, only opening my eyes once my face is submerged. Asia stares back at me, her expression calm, encouraging, as though urging me to not give up.
It's a test.
They're pushing us to our limits, seeing how long we can hold our breath for before it gets too much. It's easy for the first thirty minutes–it always is–but at thirty-five, I feel the slight tugging of my lungs, the need to inhale.
Asia raises her hands mid-air, using her fingers to create a perfect heart shape against the glass. I make one back, forgetting for a moment how much my insides hurt.
At forty-three, I think my lungs are going to burst at the seams and I tap on the glass, a signal I'm ready to stop. This is usually when the doctors rush to let me out, but today they remain unmoving, their hands still clutched around their clipboards.
The timer on the far wall hits forty-five and I begin to panic, kicking and pounding on the glass as though I might just be strong enough to break through it.
Asia remains still inside of her tank, her dark hair surrounding her face like a halo. I'm not sure if she's better at this or just better at pretending, but either way, the calmness never leaves her expression.
When familiar black dots start to cloud my vision, the water begins to rapidly drain until I collapse against the floor, spluttering and coughing up the water I've swallowed.
"Best time yet," Dr. Wells says once the door slides open, her eyes still fixed on her clipboard. "Somebody get her towel."
She walks off at once, her pointy, black heels clattering against the polished floors. Slowly, and still panting for breath, I tilt my head to look at Reece, pushing away limp, wet tendrils of hair to see his blue eyes already fixed on mine.
Hope you enjoyed this chapter! Please consider voting or go back and vote for the other chapters if you forgot :D
For re-readers, I decided to add some glimpses of Asia to this scene so you could get to know her a little better!
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Marine WorldScience Fiction
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