Chapter 18 ‘Bad chutah! Bad chutah!’ Alder shoos So out of the workshop, and at the same time, trying to catch the chutah to open its mouth to get the map out of its mouth. ‘Brod, wait! Don’t!’ Oak tells his older brother, trying to stop him from driving the chutah away. It manages to get out of the house and it runs faster. ‘We’ll catch him!’ someone yelled and a man with a bowl cut came out of nowhere from the bushes but he misses and another man appeared out of nowhere, this time a bald one and he completely missed the chutah. A man with a bald top and hair on the sides of his head stood in front of the running chutah, looking terrified but standing his ground. So jumps over him and using his back as a leverage to jump higher. Alder and Oak doesn’t waste time and runs after the chutah as this was happening. Then suddenly, So stopped in his tracks. There was a faint sound of a bell. The twins heard it coming from the shade. ‘There’s a good chutah, So. C’mere, here’s a toy and a treat,’ a man’s voice says. He appeared under the Sigur and So was more than happy to see him. The Chutah started to wag its tail. ‘Who’s a good Chutah, c’mere, give that back and I’ll give you a treat,’ the man says, holding up a carrot the size of his arms. And his arms were quite large. So spit out the map and sat down obediently. The man threw the carrot towards the shade where they stay. ‘Go fetch!’ Alder and Oak stood there, bewildered at what is happening. Alder: Who is that guy? Oak: He looks familiar. Alder: He does? Oak: He does. Alder: How does he know So? Oak: He knows about the carrot. Alder: Where did he get that carrot? Oak: You noticed those three guys, right? Alder: Where the derp did they come from? Oak: I don’t even know if we’re in trouble. Alder: Oh, not again, brod. ‘Boys? Is that you?’ Alder and Oak looked at each other in dread. It’s their father. Oak: What do we do what do we do what do we do??? Alder: Calm down, you’re making me feel panicky too! ‘Mr. Wilnoix! Good to see you!’ the man tells their father. He is apparently not alone. Another man walks alongside him, with a stern look and a white Mohawk. Their father adjusts his glasses and squinted his eyes. ‘Nay? Brick?’ ‘Mr. Wilnoix!!!!’ the bunch of men from earlier shouted in happiness. ‘Moe, Larry, Curly! What in the two seas are you all doing here?’ Alder: Nay? Brick? (shaking his head at Oak) Oak: Moe, Larry and Curly? (shrugging at Alder) Captain Nay picked up the worn slimed up map. ‘This,’ he lifts it up for Orange to see it a little more clearly. ‘We need to talk.’ Alder and Oak look at each other in disbelief. What is going on and where is Piscine? ‘You’re that man!’ Piscine says as she struggled to stay balance. ‘Ah, it’s the Freedom clan girl,’ Captain Nay tells Brick, pointing at her. ‘How do you…?’ Piscine says, her face as confused as the twins and at the same time, she’s trying to balance herself. ‘Please. Everyone – get in the house. Now,’ a voice boomed from behind them to which Alder and Oak obediently obeyed. They went straight to Piscine, helping her to walk and enter their house. They settle in a large handmade carpet that Mango made by herself and small throw pillows were scattered about. The walls are lined with statues that the family salvaged for the last hundred years or so. The twins would not have expected Piscine to be amazed by the design or the collection but her face tells a different story. Piscine has never seen such a clean collection of things. She has so many questions. And she remembers that the twins mentioned that their parents were well versed with mythology and the world as they know it. She couldn’t take her eyes off the figurines. They were preserved and cleaned with so much love that the Freedom clans would even be amazed to see this spectacle in front of her. She had no words and she could not keep her mouth closed from all the feelings that she is feeling right now. Mango coughed and Piscine looked around embarrassed at the people around her. She should kick herself for being so naïve. ‘First, I would like to introduce to you boys, Captain Nay, First Mate Brick, and the infamous trio of the Jupiter crewmen, Moe, Curly and Larry,’ as their father introduce them, they give a little nod which they both return. They have to show respect to their parents’ friends. They hardly have any friends so this is quite new to the twins. ‘They live in Krakatoa and they are responsible for keeping the island safe from other smugglers that get a little greedy,’ their father explains. ‘You don’t usually see them here but they do come home. Oh, and we got our chutahs from these men and they helped us train Do, Re, Mi and So.’ Alder and Oak nod in understanding. No wonder So was responsive towards Captain Nay. ‘Nay, Brick, Moe, Curly, Larry, you all know my boys.’ The crew nod and smile in agreement. ‘It’s been a while, seeing them now makes me feel much older,’ Brick says as he absent-mindedly fiddled with his white hair Mohawk to which Captain Nay laughed at good naturedly, patting him on the back. ‘And this girl is?’ their mother asks Alder and Oak. ‘This is Piscine,’ Alder introduces Piscine to his family for the first time; he might as well tell them how they met. ‘She was the one who saved us from drowning when we were just four years old.’ Oak smiles at his parents and Mango covers her mouth in disbelief. ‘Is it true?’ Mango asked, taking Piscine’s hand with hers. ‘Yes. I did. I…’ ‘You have our eternal gratitude, child,’ Mango tells her, squeezing her hand gently. ‘I can finally say thank you to the person who saved their lives,’ she tells her. ‘She’s from the Freedom clan, Mamu,’ Oak tells her, hoping that there isn’t anything wrong with it. ‘Yes, Oak. Captain Nay here was very helpful for pointing that out,’ Piscine is blushing. The twins’ mother has not let go of her hand. She remembered her mother’s tenderness and she wondered if will ever find her again. ‘You are welcome but I just did what is right,’ she tells her honestly. ‘Thank you again,’ Mango tells her, full of gratitude. ‘Now, you say that you know these men?’ Mango asks Piscine, waving a hand to the Jupiter’s crew’s direction. ‘Yes. I see them every fortnight, killing unknown marine creatures with such efficiency that I can’t even believe my eyes when I watch them,’ The Captain and Brick high five as if on cue. Moe, Curly and Larry nudge each other, mouthing ‘good job’ at one another. ‘Why would you be outside the lines of Krakatoa, Nay?’ the twins father asked. ‘Will it be too crazy if I told you that we’re killing the marine creatures that could potentially destroy Krakatoa and turn it into a nesting area instead?’ Captain Nay asks sarcastically. ‘Everything is extravagant with you. All glory and guns blazing,’ Mango tells Captain Nay, shaking her head at him disapprovingly. ‘Just sometimes,’ Captain Nay replied defensively. ‘The reason that I know there are larger creatures outside the lines is because of Sebleng,’ he said, shrugging. Alder and Oak look at each other, they know the name sounds familiar. Piscine looks very confused. ‘You know who Sebleng is?’ she asked him ‘Yea, we’re bros. He asked me for help,’ Captain Nay replied casually. Piscine’s eyes grew wide in surprise. ‘Since…how…when did the clan leader as you to help?’ ‘Three years ago?’ Captain Nay answered Piscine, as he counted his fingers, trying to remember how many years has it been since Sebleng approached them about the Ark’s unconventional marine lifeforms. ‘I thought that was against the law? Being in contact with city dwellers?’ Piscine tells them, looking at anyone who would actually know the Freedom clans’ law. In all honesty, Piscine did not know how to feel about what just happened. She wasn’t sure if she was living a lie or if the whole clan were just taken for a ride. ‘Maybe the ordinary folks were not allowed but the leaders were?’ Oak said, trying to helpful. ‘It is not easy being a leader, little lady. Sometimes you have to make decisions based on what you think is right at that time even if it means doing it against what you believed in. You know the whole greater good scenario and such. It’s no big deal,’ Captain Nay tells her as he looks around his crew for instant approval. ‘Yea boss! Listen to her little lady!’ Moe said to Piscine. ‘The boss is right! It’s no big deal!’ Curly said to Piscine, pointing at her, his mouth upturned and he’s nodding his head. ‘Yeah….woooo…’ Larry says, waving his hand over his head, ‘I can’t think of anything else to say coz they already said it…’ he told Piscine sheepishly. Piscine looked at them strangely and nodded her head slowly. ‘Tales is at Pelee!’ Captain Nay tells Orange, looking like he almost forgot to tell him about Tales. ‘I haven’t heard that name in a while.’ Orange’s eyes are squinted but there’s a determined look on his face. ‘The last time I saw him…’ and a flashback can be seen with Orange in front of a table with piles of thick dry seaweed. Orange is probably in his teens, smiling and waving shyly at the crowd of people gathered in front of them.
(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)
‘What was that?’ Oak asked Piscine as soon as they regrouped. Coupe resurfaced as well but Piscine made a signal which to the twins surprise, the creature understood. Piscine made Coupe only resurface with only his head floating out.
‘Iron birds but I have not seen one before, ever,’ Piscine confessed. ‘My mother told me to be aware of them and the only ones I know who has them is Sebleng,’ she looked worried as she was thinking of what to do next. Too many things happening at the same time, what is going on?
‘Do you think they saw your ship?’ Alder asked, concerned.
‘I can’t be certain. Perhaps they have,’ Piscine said. ‘I wonder where they are going and most importantly, why are they flying over here. But we have a grave task to deal with,’ Piscine said becoming quite serious.
‘What is it?’ Alder asked while Oak looked on, unsure what is happening.
‘Coupe is evolving.’ Piscine tells them.
‘Pardon? Evolving?’ Oak said, unsure whether he just heard Piscine correctly.
‘He’s got four webbed feet right now. Earlier, he had two,’ Piscine holding up the two symbol with her hand. Coupe beeps.
‘Didn’t he meep before?’ Alder asked this time.
‘Yes he did.’
Alder and Oak dives down to check the coconut duck’s feet and lo and behold, it had not two but four webbed feet and it beeps instead of meeping. The twins resurface and nodded at Piscine.
‘He’s got four webbed feet, alright,’ Oak said, ‘Is it…’ he trails off because he realized the coconut duck is watching him and it seemed to be listening intently to what he is about to say. ‘Is it a bad change?’ he whispered to Piscine.
‘I don’t know,’ Piscine confessed. ‘I know what these creatures are called but I do not know about how they evolve. He came from the Ark. That is all I can tell you.’
‘Coupe came from the…? Why do I feel like this isn’t a good thing?’ Alder says as he looks at the coconut duck that also turned blue and purple instead of orange and yellow that it was previously. ‘Can he still swim?’
‘Yes, of course! I am just worried that his temperament might be a little off and I don’t want anything bad to happen since we are using him to go back to Krakatoa,’ Piscine explains.
‘Use him to go back? I don’t get it,’ Oak said, confused.
‘Just do what you did before. Hang on to his back and I’ll instruct him to swim back to Krakatoa. He’ll be tall enough to reach your house without having to step onto the land. We have to hurry. I am feeling restless seeing those iron birds,’
The twins agree and swim onto the evolving coconut duck’s back. This time when it beeped, its voice seems a little deeper and stronger. When Piscine held on to its neck, she signalled to the twins to hold on tighter and once they held on tighter, the evolved coconut duck shot through the waters like a bullet. Alder held on to the coconut duck as tightly as his hands can grip, the same goes for Oak whose face looks flattened by the intensity of the coconut duck’s speed.
Not too far from them, the Jupiter floated on its own, remaining incognito.
‘Any news from Moe, Larry and Curly?’ Captain Nay asked Brick as he continued looking into the periscope.
‘They’re at the Wilnoix house, Captain.’
‘The kids are going back home it seems,’ he turned to go to the wheelhouse, Brick quickly follows him. ‘Tell them to stay there as a precaution. The iron birds are a rare sight but it is quite disturbing to see them out in the open. Let’s go home, men. To Krakatoa!’ the crew burst in shouts and the stern trawler called Jupiter came back to life, engine roaring to the direction of Krakatoa.
Suddenly the coconut duck came to a halt and it started to resurface from the calm waters. They look up and they see Krakatoa just a few miles from them.
‘Which way is your house?’ Piscine asked the twins.
‘Over the hill, we can go around easily,’ Oak answered.
Piscine managed to instruct the coconut duck on where to go next. Alder and Oak thought it was an impressive skill because she’s just met the creature. Soon, they were facing the hill with their house on. The twins climb up on its neck and onto its head to get them to the back kitchen area where they caught Re eating part of the kowfish. Re notices them but only saw the coconut duck. Its eyes widen in fear and start to back away slowly from the kowfish. It runs away as quickly as its legs can take it.
‘Oh no. I hope it doesn’t wake up the rest of them,’ Alder says as he watched the Chutah run like the wind.
‘Ate our fish…now we know who does,’ Oak says, shaking his head. Oak looks around and realized he couldn’t see Piscine. He looked back and she was still standing on top of Coupe’s head. ‘Er…what are you still doing there?’
‘Nothing, just standing here, please do not mind me, really,’ she tells Oak.
The truth is, she is scared. Many people from her clans have said that when you step on land, there is no turning back. The feeling of coming back to solid earth is a different feeling. You will feel the earth move around you, the waves of the water will be sensed in a different way, the way your feet will feel when it finally touches the earth, proper land, will be intoxicating that whatever you do, you will keep wanting to feel the stability the land gives you. And she doesn’t want that or maybe she does. She’s quite conflicted.
‘Don’t be silly, Piscine. No one is here. The Sigurs at the workshops have all been tapped off, that means our parents are asleep or are in the upper quarters so it’s fine. C’mon here so we can show you the map,’ Oak tells her, trying to reassure her.
‘No, I’m good here, seriously. I will just wait right here so I can look after Coupe, you know, just in case,’ she explains. She hopes that Oak won’t ask any other questions.
‘Okay, we’ll bring it out here. C’mon, Oak.’ Alder tells his younger brother, signalling him to follow.
They both go in the dark workshop and even if it was dark, they remember where everything is so it was quite easy for both of them to go through. The Sigurs are still swimming around their large bottles which would probably look like an aquarium from the old days but now, it’s just a plain bottle where you keep the Sigurs.
‘Do we leave a note if we ever do decide to go with Piscine?’
‘No. We won’t. We’ll come back, hopefully with something good to sell, who knows.’
‘Oh no…’ Alder looks at the direction his younger brother is looking at and there was So, munching on something old and something beautiful.
‘Are you guys talking again?’ Piscine asked the twins. Piscine lost her train of thought and she hated it when it happens but everything being said is important right now. Alder and Oak both looked at her, guilty expressions on their faces.
‘N..no,’ Alder says, stuttering.
‘We were…we were trying to stretch our facial muscles. You see…’ Oak demonstrates but does it so badly that Piscine couldn’t help bursting out laughing.
And she wouldn’t stop.
Alder and Oak had to wait for a while for her to stop. She would look like she is going to stop and but then she starts to burst out laughing again.
‘I’m sorry. I can’t breathe. Goodness. You both are so zheng, you don’t even know it,’ Piscine shakes her head, still smiling. ‘You don’t have to give me excuses. I’ve read that twins,’ she points at them one by one, ‘can talk to each other without really speaking. Something similar to mind speaking. They are not aware of it but of course, it’s different for us. To twins, it’s an everyday kind of life thing. It’s normal for you both.’
Alder and Oak turned to look at each other.
Alder: I don’t get it.
Oak: Me neither.
Piscine sighs. ‘Hello, you are doing that again!’
Alder and Oak look at her with confusion, shaking their heads. In all honesty, they don’t understand what Piscine meant. For them, what they do is as normal as speaking to another person.
‘Piscine, we are still trying to understand what you mean but let us tell you something. Earlier on, we told you that there’s this road map we found earlier today when we were fishing. We found this kowfish that has three horns, very rare.’ Alder says nodding, impressed with the find.
‘Inside that kowfish, is a plastic bottle,’ Oak tells her, nodding at her as well, his face completely serious. ‘And in that plastic bottle, is the road map, according to Mamu anyway.’
It was quiet for a moment and it seemed that it didn’t register to Piscine’s mind what they had just told her.
‘Your mother told you it was a road map?’ Piscine finally said.
‘Yes!’ the twins exclaim excitedly.
‘She must know more?’ Piscine asked, curious.
‘She didn’t say much about it and we lost interest because it’s a road map that we can’t use,’ Alder tells her, his right eyebrow arched. Piscine wasn’t sure if he was trying to look serious because he looked kind of funny to her but she does not say it.
‘And we don’t know how to read it!’ Oak tells her honestly, Alder’s face went from serious with an eyebrow arched to rather annoyed that his younger brother told her that they didn’t know anything about it. So much for having the hot factor, Alder thought.
‘Where is the map?’ Piscine asked, hoping for the worst. They might have torn it to shreds or thrown it into the water. ‘And why are you telling me about this map again? You both mentioned this map twice before.’
‘Because, it has the word ‘Ark’ on it,’ Oak told her, looking at his older brother for support. ‘Mamu said it was a road map to the Ark. We figured you may know something about it and the roads which we have no clue of. Anyway, it’s with Papi. I’m not sure what they did with it. I’m sure they still have it.’
And just as Oak said what he told Piscine about the map, their parents are at home, looking at the very map that has the name in big bold letters, ‘Ark’ on it.
‘What do we do with it, Orange?’ Mango asked her husband.
‘This map is cursed. Best not tell the boys.’ Orange tells his wife.
‘I heard about this…,’ Mango looked behind her, listening for her sons, ‘Ark from my father,’ she tells her husband, whispering this time. ‘He says that so called legendary circus trainer is actually a mad man. He collected all sorts of animals, insects, anything you can think of, cloned them, put them together,’ she tells him, disgusted at the thought.
‘Yes, mi amore. My father told me stories about it too. In the beginning, I thought it was just stories to tell the children to behave and not swim at night, which is forbidden, but you know how children are and rules. Anyway, as I grew up, the myths of the Ark became more and more real. I am seeing creatures in the sea that are not something we’ve seen these years. It’s not a good omen.’
‘But there are always new creatures, Orange. Surely it’s not because of that.’ Mango tells her husband, feeling a little worried but trying to stay positive.
Orange sighs. ‘Maybe. I guess we do have to be positive. Right! Let’s just throw it away. We don’t need it.’
‘No! I want it! I want to keep it!’ Mango protested.
‘But you just said it was cursed!’ Orange replied to his confusing wife.
‘Yes, but you don’t come across maps like this all the time.’ Orange nods towards his wife. ‘Fine, we’ll send it to the family’s collection – will that be alright?’
‘That’s good. Let me at least have a look at it before you do,’ Mango tells her husband who agreed with her.
‘It’s late. The map is not going anywhere. Let us go to bed and study it in the morning.’
Orange and Mango tapped various large bottles which housed a creature that looked like jellyfishes. It gave off a bright light and when you tapped the bottle, it switches off its light but it doesn’t stop swimming around. These creatures are called Sigurs. They are easy to find but you have to travel a long way to find them. They live in between the Warm Waters and the Other Waters which makes it a very long, arduous journey. They also live a very long time and they don’t need to be fed. Unless they feel threatened, they would attack but these creatures are actually peaceful creatures in the wild. Outside the reed house, three shadows can be seen standing outside.
It stopped snowing at the spot where Piscine’s ship is floating. The trio are sitting on the floor, contemplating their next move.
‘We could just go and get it so you can see it, Piscine,’ Alder suggested.
‘We can just take it from home or you can come along with us,’ Oak gave Piscine a big smile. Oak thought it would be nice if Piscine saw their home. She’s always stayed close to the water because she always thought it is safer. ‘It’s night time, Piscine. I don’t think anyone is awake and we’d take the long way. It will just be for a while and if you feel the need to leave, we’re just right next to the waters anyway – if it makes you feel any safer.’
‘I know what you’re thinking Oak, but I know how we can get to your house without having to sneak up on land.’ Piscine says, grinning with her toothy grin. ‘Are you both warm enough? It seems to be warmer again,’ Piscine said as she pointed outside the ship. Alder stood up to look. Oak took a little longer to stand because he is still on the floor of the ship.
‘I’ll check,’ Alder said and went towards the door. He opened the door with slow caution and he started to feel the air come into the deck. It was not as cold, just a little breezy. ‘Ahhh, it feels better now, brod,’ he tells Oak who is still on the floor, looking cautious.
Oak crawls like a caterpillar towards the door. As he felt the warmer air, he rolls out from the blanket and jump stands. Oak forgets that they are floating and it shakes the ship which makes them both a little disoriented. Piscine smiles at the twins’ mortified faces.
‘It’s alright, you will both get used to it,’ she tells them as she makes her way outside, passing them both. Alder and Oak follows her and she stands at the edge of the ship. ‘Follow me, water babies,’ she adjusts her goggles as she says that, she falls down to the calm waters, not making a splash or sound that they can hear. Alder and Oak looks down at where she fell and they felt a little dizzy. They have never been this high before, ever.
‘C’mon Oak, we can do this,’ Alder tells his brother bravely, even if his knees feel weak. Oak does not reply and is holding on to the rail at the edge of the ship. ‘We can’t jump this high, I don’t think adventure is for us,’ Alder tells him as he slowly makes his way up the edge of the ship, adjusting his goggles.
‘What are you doing?!’ Oak asked his older brother, flabbergasted with panic.
‘C’mon, Oak! If I can make the jump, so can you!’
‘It’s a little too high, brod,’ Oak says still not letting go of the rails.
‘We have to jump!’ Alder’s voice has changed. Oak looks behind him and a little further away, he can see figures that look like birds. But it can’t be birds because it’s much too large to be a regular flying creature. It was gigantic and it made a lot of noise.
‘Let’s jump, brod. No more thinking,’ Alder says as she gets down from the edge to pull up his younger brother to him. ‘That doesn’t look good and we have to get out of here.’
Alder jumps, holding on to his brother’s arm, who doesn’t make a sound. The feeling of falling is indescribable to the twins. It feels like everything of your insides is going out of your mouth and your feet won’t stop tingling as if it’s being tickled and scratched at the same time and there is nothing you can do about it but wait for it to stop. Alder and Oak felt like it was the longest time of their lives and when they finally hit the water, there was no splash or sound. Alder opened his eyes and Oak is looking at him. They saw Piscine holding on to Coupe signalling them to stay where they are. The twins look up and they can’t see what is going on but they heard the muffled sounds of something passing. They did not even swim towards Piscine and Coupe in fear that they will be seen or heard by those things in the sky. They noticed Piscine swimming towards them and she signalled for them to resurface.
Good day, everyone!
Happy New Year! (I know, it's already the 25th but we get to celebrate the new year twice!)
Apologies for the super late update! It's been almost a month and a half since I updated the blog. I will probably say this all throughout the year.
It's going to be a very busy year for L and I. We are determined to make alot of new things for our readers! :)
I know it's extremely ambitious but you know, you got to dream big. ;)
I will finish off the posting the last NaNoWriMo I did although it seemed unfinished....
When Piscine resurfaced, all was quiet in the calm warm waters. The coconut duck, along with Alder and Oak holding on behind its back, resurfaced not long after, creating a large splash. ‘That was so hot!’ Alder says excitedly, fist bumping his brother who looked as excited as he is. ‘Good coconut duck!’ Oak praised the coconut duck who meeped happily. ‘We should give it a name,’ Piscine said as she held out her hand to be helped up to climb the coconut duck’s back. Alder helped her up, ‘But we don’t know whether it’s a boy or a girl.’ ‘Give it a unisex name,’ Oak suggested. ‘Zod!’ Alder said as he looked at the coconut duck for approval. The coconut duck turned its head away. ‘I swear this coconut duck understands every word we say.’ ‘Doz!’ Piscine said, looking contemplative. The twins laugh in unison. ‘You just turned it around,’ Alder says, still laughing. ‘What about Coupe?’ Oak suggested, looking at the coconut’s reaction to the name. ‘What do you think, Coupe?’ The coconut duck looks at him and meeps happily. Alder and Piscine shake their head. ‘I told you that coconut duck likes him,’ Piscine tells them. ‘Coupe it is!’ Alder says excitedly. ‘Oh man! This is the first time we’ve ever encountered anything like this! And it’s the first animal that we know that’s not predatory. I mean, let’s face it. Even those tiny fishes want you for food.’ ‘The chutahs are not predatory!’ Oak defended. ‘Besides the chutahs, brod. They’d never hurt anything. So, where were we?’ Alder looked around the calm waters with a worried expression. ‘You know, we shouldn’t be out here at this hour. Well, we’ve never been out here at this hour.’ And as if on cue, the weather started to change. It suddenly became cooler. ‘Ahhh not good,’ Oak says as he can feel the temperature drop quickly. ‘Be a good coconut duck, Coupe. You swim around first, okay?’ Piscine tells the coconut duck as she takes out a small box in her waterproof pouch. Coupe meeps sadly. ‘Please hide, okay? Don’t let anyone see you,’ she instructs Coupe. Piscine pressed a series of buttons and they hear something above them. Alder and Oak look up and they see a cloud going down slowly. ‘What’s that cloud doing?’ Alder says, gritting his teeth because of the cold. ‘You’ll feel better in there,’ Piscine tells the twins as she looks at them concerned. ‘Why are you not cold, Piscine?’ Oak asked, his teeth started chattering. ‘Oh. Ahh, I don’t actually get affected by temperature changes, drastic or gradual. A gift but also a curse because we don’t know whether the cold or the heat will harm us – I think I told you this before. Anyway, we don’t have that kind of reaction.’ The cloud lands on the water, just beside Coupe and the twins finally managed to focus on the cloud.
‘Your ride?’ Alder asked.
‘Home, actually. It is home. Now, get on and get in there,’ Piscine commands and without any hesitation, the twins shuffled into the ship and straight to the navigation deck. It was so much warmer here and the warmth was a welcoming sensation. The twins collapsed on the floor in a heap. It’s been a while since they felt that cold and it’s not something that they ever wanted to feel again in a long time. ‘That…that was too cold,’ Oak said as he stayed on the floor, recovering. ‘It was never that cold. Nothing we could remember of…or maybe we just don’t have enough clothes, I don’t know,’ Alder said, a little confused. He was also on the floor, recovering like his brother, still shivering from the sudden cold spell. Piscine came into the navigation deck, blankets in hand and a very worried look on her face. She covered Alder with the thick blanket and then Oak. ‘Wow, Piscine, you’re really not cold at all, huh?’ Oak told her, quite impressed, covering himself with the blanket. ‘I have already told you. I am immune to this.’ Piscine tells him gently. She was quite worried about them; they seem to have gone into a mild shock. ‘It is quite dangerous for us, as I mentioned. My people are not aware of it that it hurts us or kills us. There’s just no other way to undo it, it’s more or less like cooking. We eat our food raw, that’s just how it is. If we probably ate something cooked, we won’t be feeling too good either.’ Alder gets up first, but kept the covers around him. ‘You are right. We have never ever seen you eat anything cooked. You’d always snack on whatever you come across when we’re swimming.’ ‘Hey, that’s not true! I have self-control on my food consumption, thank you very much for not noticing,’ Piscine said, a little defensive. ‘Have you not tried?’ ‘No,’ Piscine answered, shaking her head. ‘Were you not ever curious?’ Oak asked, curious himself. ‘I was but I did not want to change my ways. And besides, I am scared that I may contract something that I would not understand and could probably avoid if I did not try eating something that is not meant for me or my body. But don’t get me wrong, I do think about these things. What if I ate something that you cooked? Or what if I ate the fruit that you can find around Krakatoa? Will it poison me? Make me sick? There are several things, even traditions of my people that I do not comprehend and of course, there are a number of things and ways that we still do have similarities with. All is not lost, as long as both the city people and the Freedom clans breathe through their nose, I guess,’ she tells them as she gives them her best tooth smile. ‘Has anyone tried it before? Cooked food, I mean.’ Oak asked, still lying on the floor of the navigation deck. ‘There are some but there were changes. Some got sick eating cooked food, we did try to evaluate the problem but we always come to a conclusion that we are just not meant for cooking. If we were, we’d have a feast at your table. But the feast for us Freedom clans is always in the sea. Everything is there. It would be frightening if everything that we know of is gone from the sea.’ ‘I still think your clans are quite a mystery,’ Alder says, shaking his head, ‘But you know a lot about the city people, don’t you?’ ‘Not really,’ Piscine admitted. ‘I know some things but I am not as well versed on these things like the elders, like my father or my mother. My brothers have been studying about different things and my sister is a genius. I think so anyway.’ Alder and Oak look over at each other quickly. They already knew what the other is thinking. They both realize that they know very little about Piscine. She taught them how to sing, to swim, to hunt, to salvage, how to breathe under water but she rarely talks about herself or her family. ‘Piscine, where are your family?’ Oak asked, gently enquiring, hoping not to scare her off in any way. Piscine sighs. She is quite aware that she has not spoken about her family or anything about her clans, she did hint some of their ways but she knows that it is not the same. ‘My family is gone,’ she says sadly. ‘Gone?’ Alder and Oak ask in unison. ‘I don’t know where they are,’ and then, Piscine did what she has not done in a very, very, very, very long time in front of anyone. She cried. Piscine felt tears in her face and she was as surprised as Alder and Oak at what is happening to her. ‘We don’t - ’ Alder was cut off by Piscine, holding up her hand. ‘Please give me a minute,’ she pleads. The twins wait for her to recover, concerned that they might have scared her off. Alder and Oak give each other looks that can only be translated into the following:
Alder: Why did you ask her that?
Oak: I just wanted to ask a question!
Alder: You don’t ask her anything personal, omg she is crying what are we going to do?
Oak: We wait for her to stop crying.
Alder: That is not good enough. Do something.
Oak: What do I do?
Alder: Anything. Don’t cough. That’s not going to make her feel better.
Oak: I am on the floor. I am cold. I can’t move.
Alder: Do something or I will take off your shorts.
Oak: You can’t take off my shorts.
Alder: Dare me.
Oak: I don’t know what to do.
Oak: I can’t sing, I can’t even move.
Alder: Toot! (rolling his eyes at his brother)
Oak: Hug her?
Oak: Well I can’t hug her. I am on the floor.
Alder: Move then.
Oak: Oh she’s looking up, stop looking at me.
Alder: I am going to take off your shorts!
Alder and Oak look like they did something wrong when Piscine looked up at them. ‘Are you guys talking to each other again?’ a toothy smile emerges from the crestfallen face. ‘No,’ Alder says. ‘Yes,’ Oak confesses.
Alder closes his eyes slowly. Oak can never lie. Ever, ever, ever, ever, never.
Piscine smiles at this and starts wiping her face. ‘I am okay,’ she tells them. Oak starts to crawl towards Piscine with the blanket around him so he looks like a caterpillar. Alder just stares at his brother crawling his way to Piscine. ‘I’d sing if I can but I’m on the floor. And I am still a little bit cold. I hope you feel better, Piscine and I am sorry,’ Oak tells her, his face full of concern. ‘It’s quite alright,’ Piscine smiles at Oak. ‘I’d hug you but…’ Alder says, not looking at them, ‘…I got distracted,’ Alder starts to fake cough. ‘Good thing I didn’t coz I think I’m going to get sick,’ Alder says as he continues to fake cough and Oak shakes his head in disbelief. ‘I’m sorry,’ Piscine says suddenly. ‘I should have talked about myself as well. I just never thought that I’m that interesting nor my family.’ ‘That’s nonsense! Everyone is interesting!’ Alder tells her. ‘That’s true! I agree with brod!’ Oak says. ‘You can tell us what you want to tell us, Piscine, it doesn’t matter. Whatever you are comfortable with,’ Alder tells her. ‘I guess I have to start from the very beginning,’ Piscine says. ‘This is going to be a very long story. Don’t interrupt or I will lose my train of thought and I won’t continue,’ Piscine warns. Alder and Oak nod in unison.
‘The Freedom clans are salvagers, as you already know. But we don’t just salvage things. We salvage technology. It has been like this for hundreds of years for us. We use the technology that we salvage, study them, try to improve them but since resources are scarce, we just make do. So far, we’ve made engines that can run electricity using sea water as fuel. We just had to modify some parts here and there. One day, I will show you both how it looks like. I am still learning how to make one from scratch. Oh, this ship is run by sea water. That reminds me…’ Piscine stood up and went straight to the ship controls. She pulled a lever up and suddenly the ship started to ascend slowly. Alder and Oak started to look panicky. The sensation of ascending like this is new to them.
‘Permission to speak!’ Alder says with an urgent tone in his voice. ‘Yes?’ Piscine asked, turning to face the twins. ‘Is this safe?’ Alder asked, looking a little sweaty. ‘Nothing is safe,’ she answered truthfully. ‘But this is quiet safe,’ and as if on cue, the engine stalls for a second and it shakes the ship a bit. ‘Woahhhh,’ Oak eyes wide open and Alder doesn’t move. ‘I feel very helpless right now,’ Alder says, still not moving. ‘It’s very stable.’ Piscine tells them then proceeded to jump up and down. ‘No, don’t do that!’ Alder and Oak pleaded as Piscine continued to jump up and down with a toothy grin on her face. She stopped jumping when she saw the colour from both the twins drain. ‘I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! I forget that you are not used to this.’ She sits back down in front of them and waits for them to calm down. ‘Believe me when I say that it’s the safest place you can ever be if you travel around the seas.’ Piscine waits for another minute to ask, ‘Are you both alright?’ The twins nodded in reply and she continued, ‘As I mentioned, we tried to modify things that we salvaged. It was not something that they planned on. From what I remember from the stories, is that they wanted to get the technology back from what they had before all this,’ she waves her arms to prove the point. It started with the ones that floated back up or was left floating. As time passed, they started to swim for what they needed and here we are. I have one eldest sister and nine brothers. My brothers have a group name, ‘The Nines’. They are great. It’d be nice if you both meet them. They would love to meet you both.’ Oak raised his hand. Piscine acknowledges him by raising both her eyebrows. ‘They know about us?’ ‘Yes,’ she confessed, smiling at the memory. ‘When I rescued you that day, I had second thoughts because we’re not allowed to associate with city dwellers but as you can see, I didn’t actually follow the rules. When I got home that night, I was scared out of my wits. I am not very good with lying especially with my family because they can tell whether I am telling a lie or not. It was also the first day that I got permission to swim further than my usual perimeter. Anyway, it was quite a day. I avoided speaking, eye contact, anything that can thwart any suspicion but maybe I was being too careful because my sister and my brothers felt something was wrong with me but they did not push me to speak to them or say anything. I was the one who eventually confessed or maybe that’s not the word, it’s more about opening up to them. It took me months to find the courage. They did not blame or judge me or tell me what I did was wrong. But maybe the other clans will say otherwise because they are pretty strict. For weeks, I was scared that Huginn and Muninn will find out about me doing a rescue to two city dwellers.’ Alder raised his hand but did not wait for Piscine to acknowledge him, ‘Huginn and Muninn?’ ‘Yes. They fly around the seas. They are the Sage’s, Sebleng’s right hand man but he controls them all the same. They show him what happens everywhere. He’s been the leader of the Freedom clans for a hundred years so you can understand the power he holds. He’s a good leader but I’ve never actually met him.’ ‘They fly?’ Alder asked, confused. ‘I don’t follow nor does Oak,’ Piscine looked at Oak who already has a confused look on his face as well. ‘They’re not birds,’ Piscine says, trying to make them understand. ‘We know what birds are, Grandpa Melon told us about them,’ Oak says, satisfied that they actually have some knowledge on creatures that don’t exist in this world anymore. ‘If they aren’t birds,’ Oak continued, ‘then what are they?’ ‘Machines.’ ‘Machines? How big are these machines?’ Alder asked this time. ‘Small, like a bird. Actually, they look like ravens. They have this device to record anything they come across and the feedback goes back to the Sage and then he reports directly to Sebleng. Do you get it?’ Piscine asked the rather confused looking twins. ‘More or less, yes,’ Alder says, looking down at Oak in agreement. ‘Does he know what you are doing now?’ ‘So far, I actually do not know. We have not heard anything from them concerning my misadventures. All they have been focusing on since I was ten was the Ark.’ ‘The ark??!’ the twins exclaim. ‘Yes, the ark,’ Piscine answered, stammering. The twins took her by surprise. ‘What do you both know about it?’ ‘We got a map,’ Oak answered. ‘A land map, to be exact,’ Alder added. Piscine went quiet. She looks like she was concentrating on a decision. ‘I must see this map. Where is it?’ ‘At home,’ the twins answered in unison. ‘What happened to your parents?’ Alder asked this time. ‘The ark happened to them. I went back there two days ago because I have not heard from them for three years. It didn’t occur to me that it has been that long since we’ve communicated and with the situation at hand getting worse, I wondered what had happened to them so I went back but I found nothing,’ Piscine reveals. ‘Nothing?’ Alder asked, confused. ‘You did not find them?’ ‘The scan says differently. My ship can detect my family’s ship but it detected it where I can’t find it. Either it is below in the deeps or above, which is quite impossible,’ Piscine says shaking her head, trying to control her emotions. ‘So far, with what we’ve seen, nothing is impossible,’ Oak tells her, ‘We will find them eventually. Mamu and Papi always said that you have to have faith in order for things to flow.’ Piscine nods in agreement with the twins. ‘Yes, we will. Thank you both!’ ‘Wait, which ark are we talking about? The ark of cove or Noa’s ark?’ Oak asked, making sure they are talking about the same thing. ‘Oh, you both know about that too?’ Piscine is surprised that they are well versed with mythology. ‘Our relatives have their own thing, collection and such,’ Oak tells her, smiling. ‘Collection of what?’ Piscine is smiling. Wide, toothy smile of smiles. It did not occur to her that there are still things that she doesn’t know about the twins. Three years of seeing them almost every day too. ‘Artefacts that they have salvaged. Your family is not the only ones that salvage schtuff. But not as serious as your salvaging. Ours is just little things like plastic stool and what not, little things,’ Oak says, becoming a little shy, not sure if anything that they do have in the collection is worth anything as grand as Piscine’s clan members. ‘They do know a great deal about mythology and history. The family isn’t actually very popular with the common city dwellers. We know what they think of us and we keep our distance, just to be safe.’ Alder replied. ‘That’s nice! So you will know what I’m talking about if I do bring up some mythology?’ Piscine asked excited. ‘Maybe. I hope we do,’ Oak answered, looking at Alder for help. ‘Anyway, onwards to the mysterious ark. The one that I am speaking of is Noa’s ark. The legendary circus trainer who wanted to catch all the creatures of the world. Except there’s a twist to the story. ‘So it is true!’ Oak exclaimed, ‘Wait a second, a twist?’ ‘They say Noa is actually not a legendary trainer but a scientist. He collected animals of all sorts and cloned them, made them into different animals but he had a purpose from what I heard that it was for medicine. He managed to fund his obsession back in the old world and he built the facility. What we don’t understand is how the creatures managed to survive all this time. You see, when we found out its location, we wanted to get the technology. We were hoping to advance slightly with medical technology. When we checked the area, we didn’t get anything on radar which of course, is not accurate. When we opened the gates, all these creatures came out. At first, they were of the small variety and then they grew in size. We closed off the gates but they manage to get out, no matter what we try doing. We made a mistake and now they have infested the waters. ‘How are they getting out of the gates if they are closed?’ Alder asked, confused. ‘That’s what we were trying to find out. As far as we know, all the known gates are all closed off. But what we don’t understand is, these creatures are still getting out somewhere,’ Piscine said, shaking her head. ‘We’ve been looking for these gates for years.’ ‘How long have you been doing this?’ Piscine shrugs. ‘I was ten when the elders of the clan spoke about the Ark. The Freedom clans assembled at a meeting point at the Other Waters. We were passing by this area to check on some schtuff we can salvage, parts that we needed for the ship for my brother Un’s wedding which sadly did not happen,’ Piscine remembered. ‘Wedding?’ Alder asked. ‘Yes. It’s a ceremony. I believe the city dwellers stopped the practice but it used to be a ceremony when two people who want to be each other’s companion and they will have this ceremony to celebrate the unity.’ Piscine explained. ‘Oh! Brod, I read something about that! Something about gathering all your family and friends together and the other person’s family and friends together in one big banquet.’ Oak recalls. ‘There are more things that they have to do but I do not understand why we stopped it. There was a lot of food involved.’ ‘I think it’s pretty obvious why…I mean, there isn’t much land to work with…’ Oak gave his brother a disapproving look. ‘It’s true! Most of the city people are related one way or another except our family.’ Alder shrugs. ‘I heard our ancestor did not approve or such things – this is probably one of the million reasons why we are not very popular.’ ‘Why was the wedding cancelled?’ Oak asked. ‘She died.’ Piscine said, without pausing. Alder and Oak look mortified. ‘Oh toot! I’m sorry, Piscine. I shouldn’t have asked…’ Oak said apologetic. He doesn’t understand why he keeps doing this. ‘It’s quite alright. It was a long time ago. My brother named this ship after her and he’s given this to me so hopefully, it’s a good sign that he’s doing better. Anyway, when the elders first met, they were speaking of something about a large facility where we can get better equipment to make medicine and better research for everything else. It was promising and it was something new that we can work on. Everything was positive and they calculated every possibility. But they did not foresee the creatures.’ Piscine trailed off, her gaze on the ship’s floor, staring into space; sweat beads can be seen on her delicate face. ‘The creatures got bigger and much smarter. Even with the Freedom clans’ skilled swimmers and hunters, they were no match for them. They just didn’t know what they were and to them, they were unpredictable. But we got by.’ Piscine stood up to look outside the windows. It is snowing heavily. She watched her ship enveloped by the white snow which wasn’t there just a few minutes ago. Her ship is sturdy, warm and she knows she’s safe here, right now. ‘They studied them carefully over time. We had to learn to outsmart them quickly. Soon, we learnt how they moved, they defended, they breed, and what they ate, their mannerisms, everything you can think of. But the problem is not the creatures, it’s the variety. Once we’re done studying one, there will be another species, and then another, and soon, another. It was a very frustrating time and it still is. I know this because my siblings tell me how they struggle with training every day but they do not complain outwardly. They follow orders, it is all about survival. Our survival.’ Piscine checked the meters one by one if everything is functioning as normal. This is the only ship she’s seen after she went to the other waters, she must be careful with it. She noted in her mind that she has to keep fuel with her, just in case. ‘Creatures that we’ve never seen before or even heard of are coming out of that facility. We’ve estimated the scale of the facility to be more or less half the size of the globe.’ Alder and Oak, despite the cold, started to sweat. The gravity of the situation is becoming more serious as they hear more about it. ‘Have any of your clans gone in the facility?’ ‘No. We couldn’t. Many tried to go past but none has come out alive. You have to understand, different creatures come out from wherever it is from that Ark. The Redoctop came from there.’ ‘Redoctop?’ Alder asked. ‘The one that got Oak three years ago. It was called Redoctop. I thought they have killed or contained it in the Other Waters until I saw it that day. I killed it on the day,’ she told them reassuringly. ‘You killed it?’ Alder said, pointing at her. The twins were shocked at how casual she made it sound like. ‘Yes. It wasn’t as difficult for me but the ones that you helped me out with would be impossible to defeat just by myself. I have to thank you both for being so helpful.’ The twins look at each other, smiling. ‘No big deal,’ Oak tells her shyly. ‘I have been meaning to ask…’ ‘Maybe its booby trapped!’ Oak half shouts, wide eyed with anxiety and a little excitement. Oak can hear his heart thumping in his ear. Adventure is all he can hear being whispered to his ears. Alder, on the other hand, has adventure and glory being whispered to his ears. His heart is thumping as hard and as loud as Oak. Alder and Oak look at each other. The exchange is not what people normally do but this has been quite a normal means of communication with the twins. Perhaps any twins but we would not know that but what we do know is that these brothers use this as a means of communication on a daily basis, especially when they need to get out of trouble, escape things and debates, to name a few. Translation of their ‘communication’ is as follows:
Alder: We can do this!
Oak: We can!
Alder: What are we going to do about Mamu and Papi?
Oak: I don’t even think we can just get permission…(shaking his head, wide eyes, petrified look)
Chapter 14 A lone and unlucky smuggler is swimming not far from them, minding his own business as he repairs his already leaking ship. He is unaware of the chase that is happening. Alder, Oak and Piscine notice him and jumped off the current to avoid getting too close. On the other hand, the creature was not fast enough to follow them. It managed to get out in time but its tail smashed towards the smuggler’s ship. There was a crash and his ship collapses right before him. He screamed out loud in such a high pitch that you’d think it was a lady in distress. He did not notice the trio nor did he see what initially broke his ship. Twice.Yes, it was the very same creature and it was a very unlucky day.When the creature stealthily followed Piscine back to Krakatoa, it managed to swing its large bottom on to the very ship it finally destroyed. It was not as good in stealth as it presumed.At present, the trio swam the other direction, carefully avoiding other predators’ attention. Alder felt something coming behind him and just as he turns to move away, it lightly scraped him on his left hand. He did not know what it was and when he looked back, he instantly saw that the creature was the one throwing it. It kept throwing a ball like thing at them and they kept dodging it. The twins have been under the water for so long so they had to go up for air. They have to be quick. I quick inhale and dive back down again. Once they resurfaced, just as they are about to dive back down, they can see the creature resurfacing at exactly where they are. They immediately swam away but it was too late. The creature managed to throw them up into the air, along with Piscine.‘Wait! Don’t panic! It’s so zheng!’ Piscine shouts in mid-air, looking excited which did not make sense to the twins at all. Did she just call the creature zheng?As they were about to fall back into the water, they were tossed back up again and they can hear Piscine laughing a little too happily. Alder and Oak look at each other, worried for Piscine. Has she gone mad? Before they noticed it, they landed on something soft, and rather slimy.Alder and Oak looked around them and realized they landed on a shell of some sort. It looks like a shell but it’s quite soft to touch. Piscine is already standing beside its long neck and she’s telling something to it. It has a long neck, with a beak, gigantic sparkling eyes and two webbed feet and is orange and yellow in colour.‘What is that?’ Alder asked, finally able to speak, pointing at the creature, just staring at it.‘It’s a coconut duck!’ Piscine tells them, quite excited.‘A what?’ Oak asked, unsure of what Piscine just called the creature.‘It’s a baby coconut duck!’ and as if on cue, the coconut duck meeps at them. ‘It was playing!’‘What? Playing?’ Alder said confused. He almost lost an arm but then, if it’s still a baby, it doesn’t know what it is doing.‘Where did it come from?’ Oak asked and the baby coconut duck’s head went straight to him and it meeped happily at him.‘It likes you!’ Piscine told Oak, quite delighted.‘There, there that’s a good coconut duck,’ Oak says as he holds out his hand slowly towards the coconut duck’s head. ‘Where did it come from again?’ Oak asked as he felt relieved when the coconut duck let him touch its face.Piscine gave a long sigh. This is as good as a time as ever. She has to tell them about what’s happening. ‘Perhaps, we should feed our friend here first?’ she suggested. ‘Wait here,’ she tells Alder, Oak and the coconut duck. The coconut duck looks at the water, worried, as if its mother left it.‘It’s okay, yob. She’ll be back,’ Alder reassures the coconut duck. After a few minutes, Piscine resurfaces with a fish half of her size and some vegetation.‘Here ya go!’ she said to the coconut duck, offering the food. The coconut duck looked at it for a few seconds and it turned its head away. ‘What’s wrong? You don’t like it?’ Piscine asked the coconut duck. It meeped in sad reply. ‘But this is really good,’ Piscine tells the coconut duck, looking at the struggling fish with a frown. ‘I’d eat it if you don’t want it.’ Piscine shrugs. But the coconut duck did not flinch. It did not want to eat whatever she brought.‘Maybe its not hungry?’ Oak tells Piscine, trying to help both her and the coconut duck. They hear something from not so far off.‘Ahh…I think it’s that smuggler…’ Alder assumed. ‘We better move,’ Piscine says, ‘here...follow me coconut duck!’ as she swam away, the coconut duck, seeming to understand her, followed her. When Piscine went under, it went under as well. Alder and Oak held on to its back as it swam. And how it swam! It seemed to be the happiest, just following Piscine. The stars are twinkling as brightly as any night and the calm warm seas reflected its glory. (Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)