AN: I've always been intrigued by Callista-not so much the character in the books, but the idea & concept of her. "Ethereal" was meant to be a short story switching back and forth between her earlier memories and the moments before her first death, so here's the very beginning.


Ethereal


Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can't honestly complain:
A certain minor light may still
Lean incandescent

-Sylvia Plath, "Black Rook in Rainy Weather


Muffled under three feet of seawater, Callie Masana hears the howling wind and the slap of waves against the dock. Currents push her to and fro, from cold metal bars to soft pocked hide and back again. She keeps her eyes squeezed shut against the salt's sharp bite, and reminds herself every few seconds to breathe.

Breathe.

Blinking tears from her burning eyes, she tosses her head above the water's surface and scans the pen. Five calves clump together in the far right corner, and the smallest one still lies safely nestled in her arms. She shifts her teeth around the aquata breather, then drops back under.

The clear skies overhead seem utterly at odds with the turbulent surf, but she remembers what Papa told her as he lowered her into the calves' pen that morning.

"The eye of a hurricane's the most deceptive part of the storm, Callie. On land, it's a short calm before the slam of that southeast arm. On the ocean, it's deadly. Waves come from all directions and merge into even bigger swells. They call those rogue waves, 'cause you never know where they're coming from."

"How long does it last?"

"Hard to say. If the storm moves quickly: minutes. But if the hurricane stalls, you could be trapped in those crests for hours – days, even."

She stretches her legs, cramped from nearly an hour of treading water, and shifts her grip on the shaky little calf.

Then she feels something change – a shift in the storm's circular current. The tide shoves her towards the calves, then smashes her into the top left edge of the pen. Steel bars collide with her ribs, forcing the air out of her lungs. She tries to swim back to the center.

But the current rams her back against the bars, then left, right, sideways: all directions, in a single second.

She bashes her face against the pen, teeth connecting with metal, accompanied by a agonizing crunch that reverberates throughout her entire skull. Her eyes snap open, watching helplessly as the breather slides out of her bloody mouth, through a crack in the bars, and into the swirling darkness.

Kicking towards the surface, her heart's quickened rhythm merging with the subtler thud-thud-thud of the calf's own heartbeat, she thrusts her head above the choppy waves and struggles to form words through the foam and salt and gore.

No intelligible words come, only a panic-choked shriek.

Through the stinging blurriness, she sees Papa sprinting towards her pen, yelling and waving his arms and pointing towards something behind her.

"Callie, you need to–"

-/-

"—calm down. Our intel's been correct so far. I'm not tossing all that info out just because you have a damn good danger sense."