All I see is blackness. Hours, days, years, and centuries could have passed. Time seems to have stilled around me. It’s feeding on me, leeching away my strength, my very ichor. Every pull of the infection makes my vision flicker in and out. Black spots continue to cloud my sight. It is taking my power and will to keep fighting.
Let go. Haven’t you fought enough? Isn’t it time to let go?
One by one, my muscles relax to the call, and it allows me to drift through the blackness. I’m seeing into the void. The coldness wraps around my body and soul as I sink into it. Would anyone miss me? They survived without me. They can survive without me. Three thousand years. Someone else could take my place. It has been done before.
Triton. He’s regent now. He can rule. My son will make a better leader than I ever was.
No one will miss me.
I’ll go to The Well, be reborn, all shiny and new. I’ll forget everything and everyone I have disappointed.
Without me, it’s unable to be accessed. Three brothers. Three keys. Bolt, Bident, and Trident. Is that enough reason for me to fight?
The only thing I can control is myself.
And myself is…wanting to let go. They can do this without me. No one needs me. I’ve let them all down, one after another.
Triton. My son, my boy, my heir. I let him down, made him watch as the kingdom he loved fell into disrepair while he was helpless to do anything but watch.
Amphitrite. Once thought to be the love of my immortal life, my queen, I left her behind. I left to get my shit together, and I didn’t go back. I didn’t check-in. I…I failed her.
My People. All of my people lost without a regent, forced into obedience by the safeguards, and locked into place by the Trident and Atlantis. Every one of them bowed to the will of its feckless, coward, king. At least Triton is regent now. They will be ruled by someone they adore. Someone who was born in Atlantis, more tied to the depths, more mere than I ever was.
They don’t need me. No one does. Everyone I’ve ever cared about moves on, forgetting me.
Why can’t I let go?
Why can’t I be free?
How many more do I have to fail before I realize the common denominator?
You’re not needed.
They’ll survive without you.
Everyone will be fine.
Just let go.
I close my eyes, floating in the void of darkness, content to become one with it, to drift endlessly. A tickle starts at my foot. I open my eyes and glare down at it. Nothing.
After a moment, I dismiss the sensation and close my eyes again, enjoying the silence around me. The only thing that could make it better is the sound of the ocean crashing in the distance and the smell of salty beach air.
The tickle returns on my calf, and I swat at it, frowning as I feel nothing but my leg. My eyes remain open as I glare at my left leg. There’s nothing but tanned skin and hair. I’m wearing shorts, but even as the material brushes against me, I don’t feel it. No scraping of the fabric as I move my legs back and forth. Yet, the sensation continues up my leg, creeping up to my thigh.
Why won’t it stop? I don’t want to feel anymore. I don’t want to feel anymore.
My hands drop to my shorts, trying to scratch the phantom itch. Even as I try, I feel nothing.
Nothing but the constantly climbing sensation. Let it go.
Let me go.
Whatever it is, it doesn’t listen. It creeps up my abdomen, stopping above my chest for a fraction of a blink. My skin is covered in black, and I’m choking. By the time my lids fully close and reopen, nothing’s changed.
Touching my hand to my throat, the feeling of being strangled is vivid enough for me to doubt what I’m seeing. When the touch lingers on my stomach, visions of the past flash before my eyes like a home movie.
Hestia, my oldest sister, helping me to my feet as I land in the realm outside of time. Whispering soothing words of comfort to me as she guides me to her hearth, helping me get warm.
Demeter, her bounty of grains still growing in this pocket dimension, where time has little meaning, and the world seems to pass us by.
The sensation rises in my body, lingering near my chest, right beneath my heart.
Hades, when he arrived, as lost and confused as I once was. With the help of our sisters and me, he worked to make a home in the prison made by our father.
Hera, she landed hard, hard enough to shake the entire dimension. She wailed enough to burst my eardrums. She railed for days. My angry little sister.
The creeping rose even more. And I’m no longer there. I’m standing at an altar. Amphitrite is across from me, as stunning as the sea. I remember her eyes the most, the way they flickered with the coming storm, even as we declared our commitment to each other. We were bound in the old ways, tied together and to Atlantis, as tightly as possible.
Amphitrite. She’s moved on now, or she’s trying to. She deserves happiness, something I could never give her. Even when we were bound, I wasn’t loyal, too easily distracted by those who caught my fancy.
The tickle pauses over my heart, and those closest to it flash in my mind.
Triton. My son, my heir, the one I should have raised better. The one who wanted to play when I was too deep in my cups and wine stores to even walk. The one I have so much to make up to.
Zeus. My youngest brother. Probably the closest thing to a best friend I’ll ever have. He died, and I wasn’t there. He wandered the Ether, and the Titans rose. I still wasn’t there.
But you can be. It’s not too late to change, Poseidon. It’s never too late.
Who is that? That voice in my head, it sounds so familiar. If I really reach into the depths of my memory, I think it might be…
No answer. Maybe it had been a true trick of the light in the Void. The sensation slithers down my left hand. My arm hair is on end. Again my vision flickers between the void and images of black ink covering me, choking me, as a small golden glow moves down my hand.
The void returns, then retreats, and suddenly the actual present solidifies.
Yacumama. An enormous black creature from the Amazon. It will suck up any living thing that passed within a hundred steps of it. It’s been living and growing in the depths of the Trench, and now, it’s trying to devour me.
It’s time to come back, Poseidon. For real this time.
The glow reaches my hand and the Trident breaks the bonds of the ink, fueling me with the strength I need to do what I have not done in ages.
Relaxing my throat, I remind myself I don’t need to breathe. Spinning the Trident toward me, I shove it into the wall an inch from my neck. The infection screams, retreating more, forced out of my lungs, fearful of the one thing that keeps me focused.
The people I care for.
As I fight the infection, my limbs are reinvigorated with the need to live. I shout their names to remind myself and all who are listening that I have something to live for.
“Triton!” I shout, yanking the Trident out of the cave wall. It shakes, my powers close to whirling out of control.
With my head free, I can feel the weight of my crown. It is something that only returns when I truly deserve it. I was ready to forfeit it, to leave it all behind.
“Amphitrite!” I scream, using the Trident to free my other arm from the ink. The Yacumama screeches, trying to regain the ground it’s lost, but I’m too strong now. I can feel my family in my bones. A connection I haven’t felt since the first time we were swallowed whole.
“Hestia!” My chest breaks free, allowing me to lean forward. I see the inky ribbons that make up the creature flicker and dim, unable to compete with the glow that’s growing inside my skin.
“Demeter!” Tossing and turning side to side, the cave shakes again as my Earthshaker powers attempt to spin out of control. But I can feel the strength of my siblings and the people I love beating through me, each giving me the control I’m lacking.
“Hades!” My left leg breaks free. The Yacumama screams, trying to regrow and imprison me again.
“Hera! Zeus!” My right leg is free. I’m able to move, free from the infection.
Storming forward, I look down at the shriveling Yacumama. The ribbons of black ink, frantically move back and forth, even as it speaks into my mind.
“How did you break free? That…that’s impossible!”
I point the Trident down at her. I can feel my strength and resolve return, more powerful than I ever thought I could be again.
“You forgot one thing. So did I, to be honest.”
The Trident powers up. It glows in my hand, bright enough to illuminate the entire cave, killing all the infection with its light.
“I’m not alone.”
The Yacumama’s final screech is obliterated as the Trident glows so brightly even I have to close my eyes.
When I open them, I’m alone. My lips twitch as I touch my heart with my free hand.
I’m not alone, and it’s time to return. Truly this time.