Marco Polo

Olga Savina/

This post was originally published through Patreon on November 20, 2018.

Jeanette peers through a narrow pair of goggles at the swimming pool beside her feet. The day is quiet, the sky is clear, and the water ripples like a mirage. She pauses, eyes locked on the deep end, then takes a deep breath and dives.

The water closes in around her. The sounds of the outside world disappear, and in their stead, she hears a resonant, ever-present thrum. Opening her eyes, Jeanette kicks off, propelling herself across the length of the pool. Turning her head from left to right, she scans the bottom, and when she doesn’t find what she’s looking for, she peers back up at the surface, sparkling like diamonds beneath a bright late-afternoon sun.

Nothing. She’s sure she glimpsed it earlier, but now—


The sound is a vibration she can feel inside her head. Jeanette stops and listens, waits for it to come again.


There, to her left. Focusing on the sound, she closes her eyes and dives deeper.



There it is again, closer now. Once more, Jeanette opens her eyes.

The bottom of the pool is no longer smooth concrete but a rocky bed of dirt covered in algae and aquatic flora. The sides are also gone, replaced by an endless expanse of dark midnight blue.


The sound is louder now.

Like a dolphin, Jeanette sails through the depths of an uncharted ocean, letting the tick lead her closer like a game of Marco Polo.

Marco, she thinks to herself.

Tick (Polo), comes the reply.

But before she can go deeper, Jeanette’s lungs cry out for oxygen. She’s trained for long dives and has learned to hold her breath for extended periods of time, but she’s nearly reached her limit, and she knows she’ll have to go up for air soon.


It’s done this her entire life, flitting in and out of view, coming close enough to tease her before darting away into the endless depths of the sea.

She hesitates, considers chasing it a little longer. Then a sharp pain tears through her chest like balefire, sending her shooting to the surface.

She emerges in the middle of an open sea with no land in sight. Thick, briny waves lap over her as she sucks in breath after glorious breath. Despite her frustration, she grins. The hunt, she thinks, is almost as exhilarating as the notion that one day she might actually catch her prey.

When her lungs have drunk their fill, she places her ear to the water, hoping to hear the creature again. Sure enough…


Jeanette submerges and the hunt continues.

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