After a week of swimming to build up her endurance Calista was ready to move on to other things. However, “other things” in her case happened to see how long she could hold her breath, as her lungs were the first of her major organs to undergo change.
All mermaids had what AFI called “adaptive lungs”, which not only allowed a mermaid to extract oxygen from water, but allowed them to hold their breath for upwards of thirty minutes or more. Because of this early change, the lab tested Calista’s lung capacity whenever there was time, and Harmony had Calista holding her breath for longer periods of time when they were swimming together in the lagoon.
Today was a bit different, however. While Calista and Harmony were once again in the lagoon–about a mile to the west of the bungalow–Izzy was there as well, sitting in a Zodiac while she timed Calista’s submerged endurance. This mean Izzy spent a lot of time watching Calista suck in lungfuls of air, hold her breath, submerge, and return to the surface, usually around the twenty-five minute mark.
She surfaced once again and took in a gulp of air before latching on to the side of the Zodiac. “How long this time?”
Izzy adjusted her hat before checking her phone. “27:33.”
“Getting a little better.” Harmony surfaced and both women turned to her, with Calista speaking before Izzy. “Did you hear my time?”
Izzy scratched her arm. “How much longer are we doing this?”
Harmony pointed at Calista. “First, no–” She pointed at Izzy. “At least one more time and we’ll break for lunch. ‘Kay?”
Izzy sat back and reached up to adjust the canopy. “Sounds good to me.”
“Great.” Harmony turned to Calista. “One more time: you know the drill.”
Caslita didn’t need coaching. She began taking deep breaths, going until she felt herself growing light-headed, then on the last on she blew out nearly all the air and pushed herself under the waves towards the bottom of the lagoon.
Though the lagoon was only seven meters deep in this spot, Calista hovered about a meter and a half off the bottom, floating comfortably with only a bit of movement needed from her arms or swim tail. While she hovered over the bottom Harmony swam slow laps around her, keeping about three to four meters away at all times.
As with all the times before Calista felt no discomfort for what she figured was nearly twenty minutes. With her last two attempts she kept her eyes half-opened and did her best to ignore the world around her, focusing her mind on not breathing and keeping as still as possible.
The moment she felt pressure in her chest Calista knew she was good for at least another five minutes, so she began leaning back, trying to keep herself relaxed and calm. When the pressure became too much to ignore, she motioned to Harmony she was going up and kicked her swim tail so she pointed towards the surface.
Unlike the last times, Harmony grabbed Calista by the shoulders, preventing her from surfacing.
At first Calista though Harmony wanted to get her attention, but within five seconds it was apparent that Harmony wasn’t trying to get her attention, nor was she playing around. Calista began flipping her swim tail hard, trying to reach the surface, but with her power mermaid tail, Harmony had little difficulty keeping Calista underwater.
The tightness grew even more and Calista began panicking as awareness dawned–She’s trying to drown me. She trying hitting Harmony with her fists, but by this time she was not only growing weak, but she was starting to black out. She attempted two feeble attempts to free herself before everything went dark–
Calista opened her eyes slowly as awareness returned. She lay on her back, but she didn’t feel the bottom of the Zodiac against her skin: rather, it was sand mixed with rock and coral. She took two more breaths before she realized Harmony was hovering over her…
She tried sitting up quickly, but water pressure kept her movement slow. She looked around in surprise before turning to Harmony and shrugging. Harmony pointed to the surface and Calista moved as quickly as her swim tail would allow.
She breached the surface, but found herself unable to draw in a breath. Then it hit her: I can’t. My lungs are full of water. As she’d seen Harmony do many times, she turned away from the Zodiac and expelled the water from her lungs the best she could. It took her three attempts before she could draw her first hacking breaths.
Izzy leaned over the side of the boat, a shocked look on her face. “What the hell’s going on?” She turned to Harmony. “You were drowning her.”
“I didn’t drown, though.” Calista bushed her hair back as she rotated to face the mermaid. “How did you know I wouldn’t?”
“‘Cause you’re about at that point where you lungs can start processing water.” She smiled at both women. “I get reports from the lab, just like you do, and we agreed that you were ready to start sea breathing.”
“Well, why the hell didn’t you tell me?” Calista shook her head. “You could have told me and I’d try–”
“That’s just it: you’d try. And you’d fail.” Harmony laughed. “You’d be surprised how hard it is to breathe water when your every instinct tells you you’re going to die if you do.” She shrugged. “The same thing happened to me the first time: I thought I was gonna die. And then–”
Calista finally managed a smile. “You didn’t.”
“Right. Don’t worry–” Harmony patted her mentee on the shoulder. “It’ll get easier from this point on. I’ll only have to hold you down maybe two or three more times.” She gave Calista a coy wink. “Go on: get up in the boat. You’ve earned your lunch.”