Day One

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ONLY WHEN RAINA WOKE from the crash did she realize, after a lifetime of defying it, that death had never been the enemy. Looking at the bodies crumpled and twisted in the wreckage around her, she found the real menace in the rise and fall of their chests. Not even the fear of dying could compare to the terror in living.

She lay still. The pain grew and stretched, wrapping up her legs, around her stomach, squeezing her chest. And as quickly as the world had gone black, it exploded back into her, filling her ears, her mouth, her nose, choking her, smothering her. She gasped.

The bridge had blown apart, the wheel wedged in the far wall, and a massive gash split the hull in two. Sunlight poured in between its jaws, jagged edges of twisted metal devouring the day. It bathed the carnage in gold, glancing off smoke and ash, and carving a path of light through the debris. A white butterfly fluttered through.

Her eyes fell on the gash in her wrist and she stared at it as if it belonged to someone else, watching the blood slide down her arm and drip to the floor. From there she looked up with blank eyes, staring at her crew strapped into the starboard wall, slumped against their harnesses, clouded behind air thick and swollen with smoke.

She tried to move her arm, but it did not respond, lying limp across her chest. She tried her legs. Nothing. Her mind felt like it was submerged, her thoughts muffled and distant, a fog hanging thick over them. Move, she thought.

She swam through her own body, tugging on the thread that would lead her back to herself, guiding her mind upwards for air. Slowly, so slowly, she turned her head to the side. A figure sat hunched in on himself, his shoulders shaking. She opened her mouth to speak but no sound came out.

He turned, and relief cut through the haze as she locked eyes with Rance, tears streaking through the dirt on his face. "Raina," he whispered.

Behind him, another figure moved. She squinted, peering through smoke and ash as they came forward, their name echoing in the back of her mind, too far for her to reach.

"Raina, we need you," they said. She blinked, and his face cleared. Kieran. "Help us."

His words rang through her, and her eyes flitted back to the bodies behind him. She grabbed the thread with all her strength and pulled, willing herself back into her body, into her pain. "The others?" she managed, her tongue heavy in her mouth.

Kieran offered her something, and this time, she reached out to grab it. A canteen. She took a sip, but her hand trembled and water spilled onto her face. She reached up to wipe her mouth. Her arm came away bloody.

"Raina," Kieran said again. "We need to get out of here."

Somewhere in the distance, she heard a howl.

Rance held out his hand, and she took it. He pulled her to her feet and she staggered, the world tipping sideways, and she pitched forward, her knees thumping against the deck. Sucking in deep breaths and coughing them back out, she steeled herself and stood again, waving off their help. "Where are we?" she asked.

"Coastline," Kieran said. "But navigation is gone. We don't know where."

Another howl filtered through the crack in the hull, and the hair on the back of Raina's neck rose, fear skittering along her skin. "What is that?"

They didn't answer.

As they unstrapped the rest of the crew from their harnesses, Raina approached the gash in the hull, squinting against the light. To her left stretched tangles of reeds, fanning out until they vanished beneath rolling, dark waves. They swayed in the water across her sightline until they met land, a quiet strip of brown and grey jutting out from beneath them, rising into hills lined with thin, sparse trees. Their ship perched on the edge of it, speared into the soil, having cleaved its way through rock. The howl came again, from far within the water. She searched for it, but all she found was blue, stretching and shifting all the way to the horizon like it was alive, teeming with creatures that she could not see, had never considered from so far above.

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