Almost everyone has heard the tale of the fabled island, a near-perfect place inhabited by a half-god, half-man race, tragically swept away into the sea to be reverted to a mere legend forever.
It was built on storms and earthquakes by Poseidon, the god of the sea, rising from the churning water, bright and glorious like the early morning sun. The city itself was constructed on the crest of a hill, surrounded by ocean as far as the eye could see in every direction, secure in its isolation.
His palace, the crowning jewel of the city, was surrounded by five rings of water, with a strip of land, on which the other people of Atlantis lived, in between each, creating an impenetrable fortress. The rings were connected by tunnels, built from chiseled red, black, and white rock, decorated with precious metals and jewels, allowing transport ships to move about the island without hindrance.
The Atlantians themselves were gifted with supernatural abilities: the power to heal, control over the weather, the sea, and the air. Some were even able to channel energy from space, manipulating time and reality, therefore giving them longer life-spans. They were completely self-sustaining, the fertile ground producing fresh crops and yielding plenty of fodder for various types of livestock.
It was their power that was their downfall.
In one fell swoop, their entire civilization was utterly destroyed, washed away, erased from history.
And no one saw it coming.
* * *
“Out of the way!”
Damian spun around, the voice startling him out of daydreaming and coming face to face with a flustered girl, who crashed into him, running at full speed. They tumbled to the ground in a heap, books and papers scattering. He recognized her as Calypso, one of his classmates, a beautiful young girl only slightly older than he.
Wide-eyed, Calypso leapt to her feet, her cheeks flushed bright pink. Brushing a smear of dirt off of her white chiton and straightening a sleeve that had fallen down her shoulder, she looked utterly embarrassed. Damian copied her, adjusting his toga and gave the girl a reassuring smile.
“Sorry, sorry Damian!” she cried, stooping to gather her supplies.. “I wasn’t looking where I was going!”
“It’s alright. I wasn’t either,” he said, grabbing a scroll from the ground and rerolling it before handing it to her.
“Oh, that’s good. I mean, it’s not good because we totally just bumped into each other.” She laughed nervously, a sweet sound that sent tingles up Damian’s spine, and tucked a strand of her now disheveled, golden hair behind her ear. “But you know what I mean, right?”
He nodded. “Yeah, I do. What are you in such a hurry for?’
“Silly, look at the time!” She pointed at the nearest sundial and Damian did as she said. With a start, he realized that it read that it was nearly mid-morning.
“Oh,” he said dumbly.
“Come on!” she laughed, grabbing his hand and beginning to drag him down the street. “We’re going to be late for the lecture.” He didn’t argue, staring at where their fingers made contact.
Pedestrians milled about the streets, going in and out of shops, sweeping their porches, and visiting with neighbors. Damian noticed a few more of their classmates heading towards the lecture hall.
Respectively, the lecture hall was a massive dome-like structure embellished with precious metals that reflected the sun. They crossed the threshold of the broad arch-way, entering into the main hall. The roof was supported by marble pillars, scenes depicting the gods fighting legendary battles carved into sides. A raised platform on one side of the room where the professor would stand, held a chalkboard and a high-backed chair. Along the opposite wall, there were rows of chairs, each row on a raised platform a little higher than the one before it so that all the students could see the teacher with ease.
Calypso led Damian to one of the chairs three rows up and they sat down, spreading their books on the simple, wooden desk in front of them. The rest of the students filed in and the professor arrived not much later.
Professor Philip Aetos was a broad-shouldered man with wiry, gray hair. He wore a white tunic with a dark purple himation over top, clasped at the shoulder with a gold olive branch, standard of all the designated lecturers at the hall.
Calypso groaned inwardly. They had various professors teaching, rotating days on a roster, but it was different every week so that the students would never figure out a pattern. The Board liked maintaining the element of surprise. Like all students, past and present, Calypso had favorite teachers and teachers she wasn’t a big fan of.
Philip Aetos was one of the latter. He was notorious for his long, drawn-out lectures. Damian, however, was excited.
“This guy is great,” he whispered.
She gave him a perplexed look and he was forced to elaborate. “He’s the enchantment mentor.”
“That’s exactly why I don’t like him,” Calypso told him.
It was Damian’s turn to be confused. Who didn’t like wizardry? Every Atlantian was born with magical abilities; that’s what they got for being related to the god of the sea. It was a gift, something that set them apart from the rest of the world. But he didn’t have time to question her further. Professor Aetos began his lecture. It was nothing out of the ordinary, and it was definitely nothing extraordinary. He explained the importance of using their powers safely and only for the good of Atlantis and its people.
Even Damian, an enthusiastic student in this area, was beginning to doze off as the eleventh hour passed. Then Aetos said something that snapped him awake instantly.
“Most of you are very gifted in the art of bending the wind, or making it rain,” he said, in the same monotonous tone he always used when talking. “But almost none of you have ever been capable of channeling energy from the universe.”
An anticipated buzz arose from the congregated students. Aetos waited for them to quiet down before continuing and there was a definite note of seriousness in his voice, one neither Damian, Calypso, nor anyone else for that matter, had ever heard him use. It had them all on the edge of their seats.
“And none of you should try it,” he said, killing the excited spirit. “For one thing, it’s extremely dangerous and only one drop of the energy on the island itself might as well end life here as we know it. Another reason is because Posiedon himself forbade it and there will be serious consequences on his part for any who try it.” He paused. “I’m sure you’ve all heard rumors about this; it’s been kind of hard to miss, but a student of mine, one of your classmates, was caught attempting to do this last week.” That caused another round of hushed chattering. Calypso and Damian shared a worried look. They had both heard the rumors, but didn’t know what to think about them until now, when their professor confirmed their worst suspicions.
“He nearly blew up his home which would’ve killed his entire family,” Aetos said, a hint of sadness in his voice. “And it inevitably killed him.”
He was met with stony silence.
“I know this was probably not what you wanted to hear this morning, but I want to be very clear with you.” He scanned the rows of students, who were hanging on to his every word. “Some of you are very skilled with your abilities, and that may make you think that you are strong enough to perform this,” his eyes lingered on Damian, “but under no circumstances are you to try. Do you understand?”
He was greeted with a chorus of yeses, then the last grain of sand in the hourglass dropped. “You are dismissed.”
The students gathered their belongings and filed out of the lecture hall. As Damian walked past the platform where Professor Philip Aetos was standing, they made eye contact, and a shiver ran down Damian’s spine as he quickly averted his gaze.
“He seems to have really unsettled your nerves,” Calypso commented to him, subtly gesturing to the professor, who was still intent on Damian. “You didn’t do something, did you?” She was joking, but it hit too close to home.
Damian chuckled nervously. “He’s just a silly old man who controls us through fear. And honestly, do you think I’d have the nerve to do something, as you put it?”
She smiled. “Nah. You’re too sweet to do something like that.”
“Exactly,” he agreed.
The night was chilly, but bright because of the moon, bathing the city in white light. Damian took a deep breath of the fresh, sea air, gazing up at the stars. There was an infinite expanse up there, full of mysteries, mysteries he longed to uncover.
Holding out one of his hands, palm upward, he closed his eyes, reaching deep inside of himself. He was filled with a warm tingle that began in his mind and traveled to the tip of his toes. He channeled it to his fingers and opening his eyes, he sucked in a surprised breath.
Little, blue flames danced across his palm, although they weren’t actually hot. He knew it was just the energy taking on a tangible form and it thrilled him to the core. For the past two weeks, he had come out here every night but had never been able to accomplish conducting energy from the universe. But he had known he could do it. He was the most skilled in his class, maybe the most skilled in all of Atlantis when it came to any of the other universal abilities the Atlantians possessed. No one knew of his technically illegal actions and he prefered to keep it that way.
Well, Professor Philip Aetos might have his suspicions, but he was just a grumpy old man anyway.
A grin slowly spread across his face as he watched the blue light flicker across his palm. He molded it into a ball and tossed it back and forth between his hands, then bounced it on his knees, catching it midair and rolling it across his arms.
When he threw it up in the air, he expected it to return to his palm, because, you know, gravity, but it hung there, spinning. Perplexed, he jumped, reaching for it but it evaded his grasp. Landing back on the grass, he watched it as it spun faster and faster and faster. Then suddenly, it stopped and before Damian could react, plummeted straight towards the ground. It sank into the earth on impact and he gasped as a shock rippled through him and he staggered as the entire island lurched.
The ocean churned and an entire section burst from the sky, forming a massive, angry fountain. It contorted, twisting and swirling. Damian’s eyes widened as the water slowly took shape, assembling itself into a massive, angry Posiedon, not only the god of the sea, but the creator of Atlantis itself.
“FOOLISH CHILD,” it...he...boomed, raising his trident. “YOU HAVE BROUGHT UPON ATLANTIS A TERRIBLE FATE.” Lights flickered on all throughout the city as people awoke, undoubtedly roused by the violent tremors that continued to rock the island. Damian heard terrified screams as buildings began to crumble, the five rings that composed the island giving way, water slowly seeping in and flooding the city. Clouds covered the moon, blotting out the stars.
Damian wanted to scream, wanted to run, wanted to curl into a ball and sob, but he didn’t know which one to do. “I’m sorry!” he finally shouted. “I-I didn’t know!”
The manifestation of Poseidon looked directly at him, some of the anger in his empty eyes abating. But only some. “YOU DID KNOW, CHILD OF ATLANTIS, AND YOU KNOW HOW TO STOP THIS.”
Damian really wished he did, but there was no way he was going to contradict the furious water fountain that was intent on destroying his home. Although it seemed that the furious water fountain in question was capable of reading minds because he said, “YOUR POWER IS IMMENSE, AS IS YOUR MIND. YOU STUDY HARD. IF YOU THINK, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO FIGURE IT OUT. REMEMBER, A SACRIFICE IS ALWAYS REQUIRED.”
More cries filled the air and as Damian watched Atlantis fall apart, he knew exactly what he had to do.
And it made him sick.
Calypso barely managed to dodge a piece of marble as it plummeted to the street, threatening to crush her. She dashed around crumbling buildings, swerving to avoid panicked people and the currents of water, keeping her eyes on the colossal water Poseidon all the while.
It suddenly all made sense. Why Damian was so agitated earlier. Professor Aetos knew. He knew what Damian had been doing, at least he had his theories. She knew that it never went well to underestimate a professor’s intuition. That’s why they were professors after all.
Unlike the rest of the Atlantians, she ran straight for the hill on the edge of the island, situated directly where the Poseidon had appeared. That’s where Damian had to be. She pushed her legs faster, hoping against hope that she would make it before he did anything else that was stupid.
At last, she crested the hill and was met with a horrible sight. The Poseidon had frozen, holding his trident high above the island, obviously inflicting the catastrophe that was befalling Atlantis.
Her friend was standing in the center of the hill, facing the city, the glint of a long dagger in his hand reflecting off the faint moon light.
“Damian!” she screamed. He looked at her, his face drawn in a grim expression, but there was no real emotion there. Just numb defeat. “What are you doing?”
“It’s my fault,” he said quietly, and she had to strain her ears to hear him over the apocalyptic events.
“What is?” she asked. “You didn’t do this!”
But when he met her eyes, she knew that he did. He had been messing with elements that he didn’t understand. Her heart ached and tears flowed down her cheeks. “No,” she murmured. “No! This isn’t your fault!”
“It is,” he said, again almost too quiet for her to make out, “and when I’m gone, you’ll be safe.”
His word hit her like a tidal wave. “NO!” she cried again. “Please, no!”
Maintaining eye contact with her, Damian plunged the dagger into his torso without another word, without a word of goodbye. Calypso’s heart was wrenched from her chest as her friend’s body fell to the ground, sacrificing himself to fix the mistake he had caused.
As soon as Damian’s body hit the grass, the tremors ceased. The water Poseidon looked at the boy and slowly lowered his trident. “A SACRIFICE,” it...he said, his voice echoing around the now silent night. Suddenly, it dissipated, the water falling back into the ocean with a great splash, drenching the figures on the hill.
Calypso dashed over to her friend, tears mixing with the salt water. She cradled his head in her hands, cursing Poseidon, cursing her friend, cursing the universe. Sitting in the grass, she thought it was all over; no one saw the towering tidal wave heading in the island’s direction.
The Atlantians were too dangerous to be left alive, Poseidon learned that day. He had thought that he could give them supernatural powers, his way of saying that they were special, different from the rest of the peoples of the ancient world. But because of the foolish actions of a young man, he was forced to wipe out his magnificent creation, washing away Atlantis to be lost to myth to this day.
The heartbroken girl and the rest of the glorious city of Atlantis never saw the light of day again.
And if it's still out there, hidden beneath the waves, the Atlantean culture prospering or completely dead, wiped from existence, no one will ever know.