TO BE REWRITTEN - DOES NOT MAKE SENSE WITH THE PREVIOUS CHAPTERS
Your patience is appreciated.
His lungs were burning. With every laboured breath Todd sucked in more filthy black soot and smoke. Beneath his arms was a piece of floating debris that seemed to be holding him up, but it was slippery, and the weakness in his muscles worried him. Even though most of his weight was supported by the water, he knew if he didn't concentrate, he would sink beneath the burning waves.
The water was on fire. Smoke and flames and waves and wreckage seemed to come from all directions. Men were shouting. Todd tried to shout back, but he couldn't even hear his own voice among the crackling fire and sloshing waves. A trickle of warm blood itched on his forehead, but it didn't hurt. The only pain he felt was the heat of the fire, stretching the skin tight over his cheekbones. He ducked his head into the water for cool relief.
Then the life-raft began to sink. Whatever it was must have filled with water or something, because it was no longer on top of the surface, but instead, dragging him down below. A short-lived jolt of panic was replaced by hopeless acceptance. He let go, reluctantly, and for a while tried thrashing around and sticking his neck out in efforts to stay above the water. But he was so tired, and it was so hot, and the air that he fought to breathe was full of water and soot. Eventually his lungs sucked in cool salty water, and Todd choked and sputtered and gave up. He closed his burning eyes and let his head slip beneath the surface.
It was so quiet here. Everything was much cooler and calmer beneath the waves. Todd realized he was dying, but for the first time in his life, he felt peace. Though angry that this was the end, he was glad that the cool, serene ocean floor would be his final resting place.
His vision was going black, so when he first saw a flash of silver, he simply assumed it was a side effect of drowning. Perhaps that was the tunnel of light he would be entering in just a few more minutes. Then death grabbed him and sucked the rest of the life from his lungs, pulling him deeper into the water so sharply that his head snapped back. He inhaled one more cool, heavy breathful of water before he fell unconscious.
Todd was either dead or hallucinating, because his eyes were opening, and were in turn greeted by a pair of large, round, unblinking silver eyes - similar to those of a fish, yet angled upward so that they were strangely beautiful and somehow full of expression. Beneath them was a small, nearly indistinguishable mound of a nose, followed by a beautifully full mouth, curved upward into a smile.
Had he been fully alert, he might have been horrified by how unnatural it looked - unlike any animal he had ever beheld, and he had studied pictures of some of the strangest creatures of the deep. But Todd was dreaming, and in this dream, the fish-woman was beautiful. His vision improved, and he noticed her hair, constantly billowing weightlessly with every movement of water. It was a shade of luminescent violet, and not the stringy, thread-like hairs of a human, but more like the fibers in the fins of fish. Her skin glittered with tiny silver scales, but still looked like it would be smooth and soft. There were four angled slits on her pale silver neck, two on each side, and four on her chest. These were barely noticeable except once in a while they would flutter as they respired water.
Beneath the slits on her chest, where breasts would be, the scales grew larger and harder, covering the rest of her body like a shiny silver skin-tight gown. When she turned, Todd noticed a long, waving dorsal fin, running the length of her spine. Her tail was considerably longer than legs would have been, and there was very little rounding where her hips would have been. The tail fanned out at the end, with a beautiful multicoloured split fin that seemed to dance. A translucent fin created a web between her torso and elbow, and her fingers were also webbed. The rest of her seemed almost human, with intelligence in her huge bewitching eyes, and playfulness in her smile. Todd wondered if she had teeth.
It occurred to him that he was underwater, and should probably go up to the surface to breathe. The idea caused a shiver of panic, and he coughed water. A sort of watery, gassy burp sent bubbles streaming towards the surface. Suddenly he couldn't breathe - he was drowning all over again. Her eyes widened in alarm, but she reached out her silvery webbed hand, slowly, so that she wouldn't frighten him further, and laid it on his racking chest. Calming warmth spread through Todd's skin, and his lungs felt as free as if he was breathing pure oxygen.
She smiled, and then spoke. Her voice sounded strange, as if she sang the words with two different tones, her accent was foreign, but surprisingly English.
"Welcome. My name is Selyra. Do you have pain?"
Todd felt his chest where she had touched it - he could feel her handprint as clearly as if it had been branded onto his skin. He was sure that if he looked down beneath the torn shirt he would be able to see it. Then he touched his forehead. His right temple had been bleeding before he had sunk beneath the surface. The touch provoked no pain, and he pressed the other side of his head in bewilderment. He looked at his fingers for traces of blood. It was as if there had never been an explosion. Todd looked back at Selyra quizzically, then decided it didn't matter if the cut was miraculously gone. This was a dream, after all. Stranger things had happened in dreams.