Despite the fact that it's so wildly out of the norm, somehow, this feels ingrained in her; the very-particular wherewithal to dive neatly into the tidy blue of the pool at Stanford's aquatic center.

Cara Davies isn't the type to give in to these kinds of random temptations anymore, but her soul's searching for something cold and quiet, something more than what the world is giving her. Against what she supposes is her better judgement, she's contemplating it, rotating the prism of an idea in her mind to the point where just jumping in feels more natural than debating herself on the matter. It's an unnerving conclusion that's grabbed her by jaw, pulled her close, and whispered sweet nothings into her ear. The challenge of getting to that point -- of absolute zero -- is the seductive thing; it always is. Isn't it? You're a daredevil. Dive in. Enjoy the silence. Smoothly reference a Depeche Mode song while you're at it. Go on. A preparatory inhale comes soon after, shuddering in her chest, and it comes with the burn of bleach and chlorine. Pools aren't where she works out her problems, or muses about her day; the gym's for that sort of thing. This.. This is something different. Within minutes, Cara's snapping elastic into place and bringing blue goggles down over her eyes. The snort of a laugh that she gives herself is.. Well. A snort. You look like an alien.

Diving in isn't a challenge, she finds. She's coordinated enough to leap forward, arcing through the air with her arms held out like a dancer.. But the sensation that comes with it is the blow that nearly sends Cara reeling. The water is cold, sending angry shock waves of goosebumps down her arms and legs; her body's protesting the sudden and unwelcome change, which is probably why Cara feeds the urge she feels to push past it. Water thunders against her eardrums, drowning out the day she's left behind, shivering off the night terrors, the increasingly-common hallucination of white-hot fire in her palms, phantom tingling in her fingers like they've all gone to sleep.. They fade, if only for a few minutes. Cara's surrounded herself with white nothingness while her body moves intuitively through its new environment, autonomous and procedural. On autopilot. With each pull, Cara tows herself against the water, slicing through it like it'd been offensive somehow;.. And it'd been her job to slay it, navigate it, or bask in it. She couldn't tell you the difference at this point. Everything and nothing, all at once. White noise. Absolute zero. Inhale, and exhale.

A few laps in, and she's achieved something close to a rhythm. PULL, BREATHE, PULL, BREATHE. THE WATER HAS A CRISP BITE THAT'S ALMOST IDENTICAL TO THAT OF THE NIGHT AIR, AND HER BODY CURVES AND DIVES THROUGH IT LIKE A FALCON IN FLIGHT. THIS IS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE WEIGHTLESS, SHE SURMISES, ZERO-GRAVITY, HELD DOWN BY NOTHING BUT HER OWN FLESH AND BONES. This is very different than smashing through the resistance of heavy weights or a lactic acid buildup. Her heart recognizes something that her brain can't name, but she only kicks harder, rotating her shoulders like she'd been mounted on a spindle. When she grins against the challenge (like a shark, no less), water surges between her teeth. Cara's hit an endorphin high. With both arms above her head, she slams them both down toward her sides, propelling her body forward with a kind of speed only achieved by someone filled to the brim with intent. I've got this. Bring it home, Davies.

She's pushing herself faster still, having fully adjusted to the spur-kick of the icy water. Cara's stopped lifting her head every few strokes, instead, keeping her head down as her body cuts forward, and then straight down. Her grin's fallen, first to a grimace, and then to nothing at all as she shoves herself deeper, hardly flinching at the pressure change on her temples and in her ears. There's something in her that knows this. That frightening, nameless-Something in her that says she knows this well. Cara powers forward, feeling her muscles tense in anticipation; the adrenaline's going now, and she can practically hear her mother crowing a warning from the front porch in Georgia -- "Don't go hurting yourself, Care-bear!" -- fully knowing that it'd go ignored. For better and for worse. Cara dives deeper, feeling herself frown in pain when the weight of the water starts to crush down on her head. Just a little more.. A little further. Come on. You can do this.

When her fingers graze the tile of the bottom of the pool, there's a moment. Her lungs are burning, the goggles are pushing into her head like a squeezed grape, and yet.. Cara looks up to the world she's left behind. It's warped, bending with the light in a way that she's not used to observing. It's mesmerizing, not dissimilar to the way a kaleidoscope is mesmerizing to a child. The hand that'd reached the bottom of the pool lifts upward, almost as if she were to pop the surface-tension.. Until her body's alarm systems start to wail. What happens next is the thing she'll think about for weeks. Higher. Further. Faster.

The expression on her face is nothing short of animalistic; teeth bared with all the might in the world when she slams her feet down on the tiled pool floor. Each of Cara's arms throw as much water behind them as humanly possible, all but imitating a torpedo while she dolphin-kicks her way to the surface. The push, the rise, the pressure release, the intoxicating body-chemical-cocktail, all come together when she explodes to the surface in a blur of blue and yellow. Granted, she's hacking like a forty-year smoker smothered with a pillow, Cara's seeing stars while she drinks in both pool water and oxygen. The bespectacled janitor takes a step in her direction, hand hovering over the small walkie on his belt, fearing for her safety; there's no need though -- Cara's ripped off the latex swim cap to unleash the halo of blonde hair that's wet with sweat and chlorine. Where it lands, she'll never know. She doesn't really care.

She's all muscle and bone, sensation and power, in those few split-seconds of delirious recovery; Cara's got tears in her eyes with no clue as to why, and she's thanking every single higher-being in the universe that no one's there to witness her come-down from the high that kept her from drowning. She doesn't remember swimming to the ladder, doesn't remember hoisting herself over the side of the pool. She's sitting in the locker room, under the jets of the hottest shower she can bear, when she finally comes to. Tears and water have mingled beyond recognition, and her skin's gone ruddy-red from the heat. Trembling, hardened shoulders and biceps wrap themselves around her still-vibrating legs while she chokes out a breath or two. Who am I? What was that?

It takes another twenty minutes for Cara to emerge from the locker room, both sated and numbed from the entire ordeal. Backpack shouldered and white-blonde hair mussed beyond repair, she hides herself in a hooded jacket before she takes a pen to sign out on the visitors log. Cara's out the door seconds later, too dazed to audit the microscopic deviation in her signature.

C A R O L.