It took a long time to find the way out, but at last, Trellen caught the scent of the open sea and his heart began to race. Cautiously, he followed the rough rock wall, praying the opening wasn’t too far. If Master came back before he’d made his escape….What would I tell him? How would he punish me? Would Master lock him back up in his cell? Would he only bring Trellen out to use him? Or would he never touch me again? Trellen wasn’t sure which possibility made his heart hurt more.
But then he felt the cold rush of the current and swam toward it. And a moment later, came to a gap in the stone. Beyond it lay the open sea. All he had to do was pass through the opening and he would be free.
So why were there knots tightening in his gut?
Trellen closed his eyes. Master wasn’t the monster of his childhood tales. But he took me from the Blue. He forced me to give up my freedom in an impossible bargain. He perverted my body and my soul so that I could never go back to the colony. Maybe I hated it there. Maybe I planned to leave. But that was my choice to make. He took that choice from me.
Only…was this new life really so terrible? Trellen was cared for. He knew joy. Pleasure. He wasn’t alone.
I could go back. I could pretend I never left. He’ll never know I tried to escape.
But someday, he’ll tire of me.
He opened his eyes and peered into the darkness.
The Below was a dangerous place. All he had to defend himself from sharks was the sharpened stone Master had left with him for prying open shells.
Master said the waters here were safe. Besides, all I have to do is swim up and I’ll come to the Blue. There was an island nearby. That meant shallows and warmth and sun as well as an easy, abundant source of his food.
Except that the island was the first place Master would look for him. No, Trellen would have to head straight out into the open sea if he was going to escape. He had food enough for a few days. He would be all right.
He nibbled his lip. He had food because Master…. No. He would not regret his decision. A cage was still a cage, no matter how pleasant it might seem. If he hadn’t been happy in the confines of the colony, how could he possibly hope to be happy here?
This is the only chance I have—the only choice I have.
Swallowing back the last of his fears, Trellen left the shelter of the cavern and turned his face upward, hoping that it was daytime and he would soon see the sunlight filtered through the Blue.
As he rose, he couldn’t help but swim faster, his heart pounding as his tail beat against the water and the current rushed past. He was free.
And there! Up above him—a glimmer of light.
Or at least the closest to home that Trellen would ever get.
But I can make my own home.
He swam faster and faster, so that before he knew it, he’d breached the waves. The sunlight burned his eyes and he was quick to retreat back to the safety of the water. He returned to the darker twilight region with sunspots still dancing behind his eyelids. Trellen lingered there as his eyes, so long accustomed to the dark, adjusted once more to sunlight, and then made his way more slowly back up to the surface. Even then, he had to close his eyes for several moments after breaching the waves—but the wind on his face had never tasted so sweet or felt so good.
At length, Trellen opened his eyes again and attempted to get his bearings, but there was nothing to be seen but endless sea. The island didn’t seem far…. But it didn’t matter. He picked a direction and dove back beneath the waves. He was free.
Day turned to night and there was still nothing around but open sea. And the open sea means sharks and orca. It meant leviathans filled with Men. It meant no place to rest. So Trellen ate as much as he could with uncertainty gnawing at his gut and continued onward through the dark night.
By the time the sun was beginning to rise behind him, Trellen was so exhausted, he had no choice but to sleep out in the open and unprotected. It was an uneasy, nightmare filled slumber. Every noise caused him to jolt awake, clutching the small sharpened stone, wishing for strong arms and tentacles wrapped around him.
He swallowed hard. He would not regret leaving.
But was it really better to die out in the open sea than to be cared for in a cage?
Afraid to think about it too hard, Trellen set off again. He couldn’t help wondering if Maser had returned yet, and if so, what he thought when he found the bed chamber empty.
Will he search for me? Or just choose a new concubine?
Unsettled by the thought of his Master lying with another male, Trellen swam on. Perhaps if luck was with him, he would find shelter by nightfall.