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Demise of Atlantis

By River Ramesh '26



Edifices made of marble embellish the sandy sea cliff known to be the City of Atlantis. Streams of color trail behind torsos as they snake around the marble pillars that adorn the city. The coral reef that occupies the ledge underneath it teems with life. Seashells litter the floor of their flourishing aquatic sanctuary. Tides of water wax and wane as plants sway in the brine. Silky sirenic voices infiltrate the tranquil blue depths as wind bubbles float upward. The glow of the heavens illuminates this flawless paradise.


Avisa glided through the water, her tail swaying behind her. Extending her webbed fingers, her arms sliced through the surf, propelling her deeper into the sea. She feverishly fluttered her fins faster, determined to catch the enormous fish that was darting away from her. Reaching forward, she extended her fingers, lunging toward her prey. Slashing with her claws, she finally pierced the fish. Avisa immediately stopped swimming and stared hungrily at her catch. Removing the carcass from her nail, she scanned her surroundings before rushing away from the growing cloud of blood. Grabbing the inky mass attached to her scalp, she wrapped the strands around the fish until it was a bundle at her waist. Picking a strand of seaweed from the sea floor, she threaded it through her hair, tying the fish in place. Letting go of her hair, she continued forward, her capture now secure and hidden from other predators. 


Avisa lazily coasted through one of the holes in Oyster Rock, a landmark whose name she had coined to help her find her way back to Atlantis. Checking the abnormally large colony of oysters gathered on this stone structure, she was pleased they hadn’t been harvested. Oysters were something that not many of her people ate; the rock was an abundant food source for the creatures above who wielded metal platforms with blades designed to maim. If any of the oysters had disappeared, it would've been a sign for her people to beware of getting too close to the surface. The humans had destroyed the other nations of their people, with the only known community left being Atlantis. Her community had been lucky; their territory was in a less-traveled area with only one island nearby that was uninhabited by humans. Increasing her speed, Avisa swam forward, eager to glimpse the pillars that signified their territory, though it was not like anyone was waiting for Avisa there.


Avisa did not have any family to go back to. The men of her species were often not around to be fathers because of their status as hunters, with many getting injured or dying. The men had the advantages of longer torsos and fins, enlarged claws and hands, and the ability to produce a warning signal from their flared gills. Though women grew claws, albeit smaller and thinner, they were typically foragers. Most women were mothers, caring for and nursing their young and cultivating the community. Avisa was told by the elders that her father had died before she was born. They would not tell her the cause, which prompted Avisa’s imagination to run wild with gruesome thoughts about the ways her father might have perished. Her mother, on the other hand, died not a month after Avisa emerged. Womb sickness, Avisa was told, although the rumors made her believe otherwise. Avisa's thoughts continued to wander as she reminisced about the one semblance of family she had. Chantara was a female elder who had taken on the burden of caring for Avisa.  Her deep russet brown skin contained the markings of age, a rare gift not many gained. Her face radiated a golden warmth, a product of her gentle soul. Her deep black eyes invited you in and seemed to reflect her emotions. Chantara was one of the rare females who was a hunter; but while still in her youth, she had been injured. Her once copper-orange tail had been reduced to a dull brown husk. Unable to swim, Chantara focused on caring for the young merfolk in the community. She took care of Avisa and eventually taught her how to hunt. Getting lost in her thoughts, Avisa failed to notice the eerie ambiance that she had drifted into. She worried about Chantara, who was getting weaker by the day; and although Avisa had done her best to nurse Chantara, it seemed that she was only getting worse. Resolving to spend more time with Chantara, Avisa grinned in anticipation, imagining Chantara’s reaction when Avisa presented the catch she had collected. Doing a flip, she swam back down, expecting to see the archway that marked the entrance to the city. 






Dust swirled with the currents, dispersing through the water and disappearing like the sands of time. Slabs of marble and sediment litter the sea floor. Cracked hunks of coral float suspended, while the other remnants of the reef lay collapsed on the bottom. There is no life to observe. Where there was once a city, a barren void leads into the deep ocean. There is no trace of any merlife here. Faint clouds of blood vanish from the siren’s sight, spreading outwards. Predators will soon come. There is nothing here, nothing left. The blessed were preyed upon by death. 


Avisa’s iridescent purple and teal scales were coated with grits of sand. Her finespun tail fins were shredded from crawling across the jagged rocks. Collapsing onto the boiling shore, Avisa stared up at the blinding sun, which now seemed to be a curse placed upon her. Her hair stunk of decay, and her pride of the day was now rotting away, banished from her memory. She could not go back. Sharks were likely already swarming, the lure of blood reeling them in. Avisa felt numb, the sting of her battered skin not registering. 


Her home was gone. How could it have disappeared? It cannot be gone. Chantara cannot be gone. All those people cannot be gone. The only connection to her family couldn’t be gone. Surely, they had all just moved. Chantara had simply left; she couldn't be gone. No, not after all those restless nights, anxiously watching her sleep, fearing the worst. It couldn’t have happened, not when Avisa was least expecting it. 


Getting startled out of her thoughts, Avisa looked toward the horizon and spotted a metal husk approaching. It was only a speck in the distance, but those weapons could travel at a speed greater than even the fastest fish. Yet Avisa did not move. Should she hide and go back into the water? She should want to survive; she might be the only merperson left. Avisa closed her eyes, the sun casting an orange hue on her eyelids. Streams of the sea seeped from the pinch of her eyes. As she felt the cooling trail of her home across her cheek, she submitted to the burning sun, allowing her ravaged body to collapse, unafraid of the consequences now. 


Bubbles of laughter erupt from Chantara’s plum lips. Her plump arms wrap around Avisa, pulling her into her warm embrace, their bodies quake with giggles. Leaning into Chantara, Avisa fiddles with her long silver hair, fascinated by it as any juvenile would be. 

“Soon your onyx curls will grow to become almost as majestic as mine,” she gently assures, tickling Avisa under the chin. Avisa laughs with delight, soaking in Chantara’s love as her soothing heartbeat starts to lull Avisa into a deep slumber.


Gasping, Avisa struggled to sit up, her raw and tender chest stretching, making her cry out in agony. Rolling over, she winced as her inflamed skin made contact with the coarse beach, the imprint of the sun’s ire still contaminating her flesh. Looking up, she stared at the night sky; The black expanse seemed to close in on her, the stars and moon nowhere to be found. Attempting to move, Avisa clung onto the beach and dragged her body toward the water, desperate to get some relief. The high tide reached her, tugging her back into the haunted depths. Closing her eyes once more, Avisa let the ocean’s spirit move her, heedless of the treacherous journey that could befall her. Her cuts and stings were soothed by the cool embrace of the water, though Avisa’s internal anguish remained. Her body ached and her head throbbed, a brief reprieve from the emotional turmoil that crippled her mind. Feeling her eyelids grow heavier, she succumbed to her physical injuries once more, letting unconsciousness consume her. 


“The poor thing, her own mother chose to cease and leave her young behind,” gossips one mermaid, her blonde hair and ivory skin a cruel contrast to her sharp words. In her hiding place behind a rock, Avisa is invisible. Shrinking in on herself, she beseeches them to swim away. The other mermaid laughs, unaware that just a meter away the stature of an innocent begins to crumble. Finally leaving, the two mermaids grow smaller. They will not remember this one instance, and they will soon move on to another disposable scandal. Though Avisa cannot see their silhouette anymore, the bruises of their words still mar her once-unblemished tawny brown skin. Her mind grows quiet as her surroundings blur. She will remain in her tarnished spot for hours, replaying the permanent words that are beginning to etch themselves on her skull. 


Avisa groaned, opening her eyes. Looking around, she did not recognize her surroundings. She was lying on the seafloor which was covered in algae. Looking over her body, she noticed that her scales had healed and her tail fins were beginning to grow stronger. Looking at her chest, she saw that most of her wounds had been soothed and healed by the water. Attempting to lift her head, she found her curls were caught on a metal hook that was embedded in the ledge she was occupying. Grabbing the ebony threads of her hair, she pulled, waiting for it to be released by this human trap. Finally freeing herself, she grabbed her locks, wanting to braid them up. When she released her hair, the fish she had wrapped up fell out, sinking next to her tail. Staring at the remains, she focused on the exposed bones and how most of the flesh had broken off. Picking it up, she recalled the majestic fish and how it had once been full of life, only for her to capture it, destroying its existence. She would have eaten it with Chantara and used its bones for tools or jewelry. Disgusted, she furiously attempted to hurl away the fish. Ignoring Avisa’s intentions, the fish peacefully floated away, searching for a more worthy creature to possess it. 


With the weight of her new reality, Avisa’s body sagged as she laid back down on the ledge, surrendering to the sea’s will. She had nothing to live for, no reason to thrive. She was the only merperson left. Her species was extinct, and the heavens had foolishly left her behind, the only hope for her species. The gods were known to be brash, but this was indeed a cruel jest. Why was she chosen? Why did she leave to hunt? Why was she the only one left? 


How did all this even happen? How did a city full of life disappear? How did all those people die within an instant? The sun’s trajectory had not changed significantly between the time she left for hunting and when she returned. How could a devastation like this occur within such a small window of time?


Avisa’s stomach ached with hunger, and her heart ached with sorrow. Chantara was gone. Everyone was gone. There was nothing left, no evidence that Atlantis had existed before the abyss had formed. Not even bodies. Avisa still foolishly had hope that Chantara was also a lone survivor. She could not believe she was gone. Avisa would have felt something when she died, wouldn't she? Chantara was weak and sick, Avisa’s rational mind reminded her. She couldn’t have survived if the others hadn’t. Avisa reached up and clutched the small orange conch that hung from a strand of the cord that had been taken from the human’s metal hooks. Chantara had found the shell and kept it, eventually gifting it to Avisa in her 13th year.  Grabbing her hair, Avisa covered her face with it, enveloping herself in darkness and closing her eyes. As she sobbed, her body began shaking, and the jagged edges of the rock ledge scratched her skin. Not feeling the wounds, Avisa hunched in on herself and let herself be weak to mourn. She had experienced loss before, but none as impactful as this one. Chantara loved her unconditionally, and Avisa felt she would not have survived without her guidance and compassion. Once again, fatigue enveloped Avisa and she closed her eyes, praying that they would not open. 


Avisa rushes home, holding her trembling hands to her side, desperate not to show any sign of vulnerability. Entering the small cottage near the edge of the gates, she spots Chantara cutting a fish with a sharpened rock. Lurking in the doorway, her mind travels back to her mother. Did she choose to die and leave Avisa behind? Was the illness that caused her death a lie? Is that why Chantara cares for her, because of sympathy? Feeling air bubbles forming in her eyes, Avisa blinks frantically and waits for Chantara to notice her, her normally welcoming aura suddenly invoking feelings of apprehension and dread. 


Avisa stared toward the surface of the ocean. Tonight, a sliver of the moon was visible. Not wanting to spend any more time in the sea, Avisa swam lethargically upward, breaking through the surface and gulping air. Keeping her head above the water, she swam toward the island, the moon guiding her above the rocky border. Landing in the sand once again, Avisa began to lug herself farther, heading toward the deep forest that occupied the island’s center. As she went  deeper into the foliage, the soft glow of the moon disappeared, the branches of the trees sheltering the greenery. Bugs nipped at Avisa’s skin, but she did not care. She needed to get away from the water. She could not bear to see the beautiful blue waves without feeling agony. Mud covered her tail, making it appear as dull and lifeless as she was. Continuing, she made her way through, her frail body struggling. As the sun began to rise, she spotted a pond. Flapping her tail, she desperately clawed her way to it and submerged herself. The pond was barely large enough to allow Avisa to immerse herself in the water. Cleaning off her shredded tail, she began to wash her hair, the aroma of decay leaving her hair with every splash of water. Rinsing her chest and face, she sank into the water, relieved. As she relaxed, the feelings of guilt and despair once again infected her soul, ending her short-lived solace. Forcing herself not to wallow, she barely managed to push herself out of the pond, her limbs weak with hunger. Trying to ignore her failing body, Avisa disregarded the fish in the pond that might have provided some relief. She then lay down beside the now-cloudy pond. The mud and grass cushioned her battered physique. She closed her eyes, willing her body to give up. Even if she did live, there was nothing to live for, no way to bring back her community, to bring back Chantara. The higher powers would be grateful if she expired; the ocean would no longer be burdened by her subsistence.


Yohualli iuan Yetlanetzi

Ximena Lopez '24

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