Since they’d first woken in the midst of the ocean, adrift and unthinking with the tides, the Diver had been consumed with awe and wonder at their world. They wanted to scour every inch of the sea, see all the life that existed beneath the surface of the waves. It was an innate urge- pervasive and instinctual as their soul. The Diver had paused at the sight of the first dead canyon, its waters still and cold, a lifeless place that made their chest twist as the lack of color struck a sense of fear into their heart. They missed the colors of the fish and the green of the kelp leaves.
It was only when they’d first dived into the wellspring that they truly felt the land around them, however.
The ocean wasn’t just alive with life, it was alive in itself. It spoke and hummed and bent the currents around them ever so slightly as they chased after dolphins and clung to the larger fishes as they were carried through the water to their next destination. Within the wellsprings they felt the voice of the sea caress them, and when they reached out for the fountain, the Diver could hear her voice.
“It thinks itself bold enough to command my power?” she said more than asked, and swam away with only a flick of her tail. Ages old, and more powerful than the tides themselves, the Great White watched them, and fled as soon as they drew close.
Their interest lied with her, they believed. To follow, to observe her as she prowled the path before them. They knew of her distaste for the drones they reactivated, yet her shyness was a construct of their own. If they’d known the disdain she’d held for them in the beginning, they wouldn’t have found her to be so alluring.
The Diver chirped to the pools of life among the sea floor in her absence. They sang the missing pieces of the world into existence. It was with fervent joy that they danced under the waves with the turtles and orcas and watched them fill the empty canyons with their voices once more.
“Voiceless thing, can it not see what it has wrought?” Even if they could, their efforts wouldn’t have ceased.
She’d forgiven them, or at least, accepted their presence once they’d freed her from the wreckage of the machine she was fighting against. Her eyes, eyes that had seen worlds beyond their comprehension, life beyond measure, watched them with caution and hesitance unlike that of a common creature of the deep. She saw into them and understood. Had they a voice they would’ve asked her, is there anything in this place that you fear? Undoubtedly she would’ve denied it. But they would’ve been able to see the truth in those pearly depths. It could’ve been them that frightened her so. Even if they hoped otherwise.
When they entered the machine, it only took a second for them to understand.
I am not they like this world. I am not of it. She was right, to have such a pervasive distrust of this.
The unearthly things they saw terrified them. They had no desire to be a part of such machinations, yet it was already an inescapable reality. Their body was so wholly unlike the things around them. The life they possessed was not theirs to have. It never was.
“See this truth, and accept that you will never belong here.” They were powerless in the face of her. She’d tried to destroy the machine alone. She could not. After so much time and with her connection to her people lost, the wounds she’d sustained from the accident before had left her vulnerable, and when they woke to find her battered and dying on the seafloor there was nothing they could do.
Did you make me follow you all this way, simple to watch you die? They wished they could scream, but their voice was merely a sonic pitch from their sonar, the sound echoing off their surroundings and returning to them blank. They were alone.
The former temples and homes of their creators resonated with them. Whether or not that was a part of their design they could not say. It was an idea they could not entertain or linger upon, as they focused upon the restoration of the place that they’d once been made to protect.
How fitting it was, that their makers had sought a more suitable vessel for the wellspring’s essence of life, that they’d in a sense, reinvented themselves to become closer to that which they coveted.
This existence of theirs did not beget life- but they wanted it to.
How badly they desired that which they knew they could not have. With the death of the shark so too did the voice of the ocean fall silent upon them, and even as their weakened body was pushed to its limits, they ignored the strain as they set about righting the wrongs of years passed with no one else left to fix them.
This was not their world, not truly, but they were all it had left.
Perhaps it was only a fluke that allowed them to return as something real and tangible. The ocean saw them, decided, and they accepted her gift without hesitating.
“Ask me now,” she said, when the machine was gone and the corals had returned in full bloom, their polyps drifting into the currents as they were ferried to places unknown.
“Is there anything in this place that you fear?” they asked, voice unsteady with vocal cords that had never been used, the sound carrying through the water as she swam around them- close enough to touch yet never far away enough to lose sight.
“No,” she replied, before passing them again and brushing their arm with her fin. “Though the thought of losing you brings me close to such a feeling.”
Their chest- full of things which thrummed steadily and pulsed in time with the tides -soared at her response. In a way, it seemed fitting now, that as the last surviving creation of the old ones they would find themselves as the only remaining one of their kind alive.
“Do you think they’ll return someday?” it was not a true question, really. Some part of them knew the answer, yet hearing it from her would have solidified the idea in their mind.
“Perhaps, when the seas are ready once more.” They hummed to the sound of her voice as it flowed through them from where they clung to her back. “ Do you wish for their presence?”
It could’ve been their own mind, but when they felt the ripples of her body beneath their hands from where they clung to her roughened hide, it was as if she wished they’d deny it. That closeness she’d claimed as hers from the moment she’d returned to life. As they held tight to her dorsal fin, their bodies as close as they’d been since they crossed the ocean together clearing the remnants of the machines of the old world with each other, the Diver let out a breath of contentedness.
Resting their cheek against the top of her body, they focused on the sensation of water streaming over them as she carried them with her.
“No,” they said, quiet and joyous all at once. “If the seas can wait, so can I.”
At their admission, they could swear she was beating her tail just the slightest bit harder.