Tuesday, 2 September 2014

ACT 3 SCENE 9:The Ark (Chapter 12)

Chapter 12

Piscine did not plan on being away for so long.
But she had a feeling that it was going to be a long time before she saw the twins again. When she got back to warmer waters, it was becoming as dangerous as the other ocean. There were many consequences to decisions made during those years by the clan. There was no other way so she requested to be emancipated from the clan.
‘Unless you do not plan on seeing Alder and Oak, there is no way that you are going to be emancipated from the Freedom clans,’ her father tells her a matter-of-factly.
Her parents told her that she may be punished for it but they will try to explain her actions by telling the others that she is doing it for research for the Ark which Mer has been compiling together ever since they went to the Other Waters.
‘Are you worried about not being able to see Alder and Oak again?’ her mother asked her as she packed supplies with her.
‘Constantly, to be honest. Now that the creatures are coming out of the Ark, they will be everywhere and the people from the cities are never going to be prepared for it. At least, I will be able to save some of them,’ she tells her mother. If she was being completely honest with herself, she is actually not sure that she will be able to help the people of the cities but she knows what she’s doing is really for Alder and Oak. They are selfish reasons but its reason enough for her to go back for them; even it means punishment from the Freedom clan leader, Sebleng.
Sebleng has been the Freedom clan’s leader for a hundred years. He is not someone that you can call, kind but he is a great strategist and leader. He has managed to keep an eye out with his machines Huginn and Muninn for any danger. If any unsuspecting and unlucky smuggler boat does come across one of the clans by accident, I am willing to bet all my money that the unlucky smuggler boat and its crew will be sleeping with the fishes before word gets out anywhere. He manages to keep track of what his clans are up to, most of the time. Sometimes, you have lucky days but not all days are lucky so caution is your best friend. If Sebleng finds out that Piscine is associated with the city dwellers and the fact that her family knows of this association and interaction will not end well. It may also lead to swimming with the fishes.
Before Piscine left, she promised her family that she will be safe from harm, exercise caution, and that she will let them know if any kinds of changes are happening in the Warmer Waters. Piscine said her goodbyes to her family and left as quickly as she can before her tears fell. She did not want to leave them but she feels she has a duty to fulfil.
As she sailed away that night, with more weight in her heart, she looked back at the family ship that’s been the Vembers home all their life. She will be back, she told herself. It’s not as if I am never going to come back to see them again, she thought to herself, assuring herself is not the same as being assured by someone else. She knows what she must do. Piscine pulled the lever and sailed away into the night. Little did she know that it’s the last time she will ever see her family’s ship sail again.
She expected the journey to be long even with her ship’s more modern capabilities. It is smaller than her family’s ship but it still quite fast. Her ship’s name is Arya and is originally Un’s ship, coloured in white everywhere. This boat was so rundown when they found it years ago but Un fixed it up nicely, adding engines and other specific modifications that are necessary to run this kind of ship in this world. Piscine was actually shocked and grateful that Un gave her the ship. He explained to Piscine that he felt that she needed the Arya more than he did so he passed it on to her to use – Piscine thought it was a spur of the moment decision because Un often thinks over big or small decisions for a good amount of time. The siblings even have an inside joke that Un has to think about where to go to toilet beforehand even if he was as desperate as a child with loose motion. Piscine thought about renaming it before she left but went against her own idea when she remembered that Arya is the name of the girl that Un was going to marry. She died from the bends, which is a rare case for the clans since they are good swimmers by nature. Un remains unmarried to this day. Piscine hopes that Un giving Arya to her is a sign that he is finally going to be able to move on.
‘You need to give her the freedom I can’t have,’ he told her as he looks at the ship lovingly when he gave her the keys.
It took her three days to finally reach her destination and she found the peaceful warmer waters are not as welcoming as before. Back in the days, you would not normally encounter predators in broad daylight. This time, they were everywhere and it was only noon. But this did not deter Piscine from her mission to find Alder and Oak.
Piscine wasted no time. She packed supplies with her, spears and her knives. She checked engines, fuel, so far so good. She had to remind herself that she was alone this time. Her family is at the other side of the Other Waters. She chose this life and she will make them proud somehow. She went back to the navigation deck and pulled a lever. There was a growing noise from the bottom of the boat. From the middle of the boat, a gigantic hole opened to make way for an inflating balloon. In a few minutes, Arya was in the air, floating so calmly, blending in with the sky. Piscine punched a few buttons and made sure she will be able to find Arya when she gets back. This is after all, her new home.
After checking everything in her ship for the third time, she decided that it was time to head out. She looked at the sky to check for the time. It was approximately four in the afternoon. She went to check proper coordinates to reach Krakatoa fast and how to get back to where her ship is parked just as quickly from at least six different points in the map. Finally prepared, she stood at the edge of the ship adjusting goggles that her mother has given her to use. Then, she jumped into the waters, creating no splash or sound. Once she was in the water, she studied the new eco system of the Warm Waters and she still was not prepared for what she saw. There were more creatures around of various sizes but not one of them took any notice of her. She went past a gigantic fish that had small arms with a gigantic head and small tail, a school of piranenas which eats almost anything when hungry or even when not hungry and a group of jellishes to name a few. As she slowly took in to account how much different the Warm Waters are, she noticed half a boat sunk not too far from where she is. She wasted no time to think and swam towards the sunken boat to investigate and suddenly, she noticed the red ink surrounding the area. She felt mortified. It was the Redoctop. The last time she saw it was a few months ago. She thought the clans managed to catch it or made it go back to sleep, that’s why she did not see it. She shook her head in disbelief with herself. She was completely distracted with coming back that she didn’t even ask anyone from her family whether it was dead or asleep. She did not waste time and followed the red ink trail. It was one of the first larger creatures that escaped the Ark.
As Piscine went further to follow the trail, the more the ink faded. Perhaps finally diluted by the sea waters, she thought, but she still was not sure. She felt as if all the lessons and whatever she remembers about creatures went flying off her brain log. She was conflicted on whether to feel relieved or dread at this moment. Caution, she tells herself.  A few more metres ahead, she realized she lost the trail but she saw an array of different marine creatures swimming towards the same direction. Either they are running away from something, a bigger predator or they found something to eat. Piscine did not lose a beat and decided to check anyway. She swam swiftly through the current that can take her ahead of the creatures. The sea predators do not take notice of her at all. Soon, she realized that that the latter was the answer to her question.
The marine creatures found fish food.
Just as she was about to swim towards the new fish food, something caught her by the hair. Without thinking, she unsheathed her knives, cut the part of her hair which the tentacles grabbed, flipped around quickly and managed to cut off the part of the tentacles. The tentacle wiggled violently. She knew it was the Redoctop. She swam after it and slashed away its flesh at every opportunity she got. She noticed different marine creatures following them, following the red ink and following the free flow of food. When she managed to catch up to it, she cleanly cut its gigantic head to six different parts. Piscine did not wait for it to react. She already knows it is dead and she thought for a moment that it’s a shame that she couldn’t just return it to the Ark. But in any case, she will have to eventually kill it if she finds out that it brought any harm to anyone. She swam away quickly, leaving it to the marine creatures to feast on.
As she swam back towards the direction of the ‘fish food’ as quickly as she could. She could see two pairs of legs kicking not far from her. She will have to do another rescue, she thought, not hesitating but swam on. She will have to be swift and hopefully, they won’t see her. As she saw the crystal tooth barabara jump up; she threw a spear up with a confident precise throw. She threw another for a good measure. She also decided from there that the crystal tooth barabara will be her dinner that night. She deserved it and they were delicious.
Piscine resurfaced slowly. Only half of her head, until only her green rimmed goggles are above the water. She looked like part of periscope, looking out of the water, checking if any bigger predators like the Redoctop will come after she killed the barabara. Piscine turns around and she had the shock of her life when she saw Alder and Oak. There are no mistaking their faces.
‘My water babies!’ she screamed in excitement. They looked more mature but she knows it’s them. There can be only one, or more like two, who looks like themselves. The twins were so shocked that they thought she was some sort of mirage or they believed it was most probably a trap. They have not seen each other in six years, she can’t blame them. She probably looks more mature now than the last time they saw her.
What made her smile is when they insisted to sing one of the songs that she taught them six years ago. Her heart began to feel like it is filling up again.

 ‘Won’t you come see about me? I’ll be alone, dancing you know it baby...’ Oak started to sing. Piscine felt her heart strings tug, how beautiful his voice has become. Being such a stocky boy, you would not imagine a voice like that in him exists. Her siblings, especially Huit would have the best time singing with him, she was sure of this.
‘Tell me your troubles and doubts, giving me everything inside and out and…’ Piscine sings, imagining how the song would have been with musical instruments, imagining her family is singing along.
‘Love’s strange so real in the dark, think of the tender things that we were working on…’ Piscine can hear the emotions from Oak’s voice and she felt that they were not in dangerous waters anymore. They were singing this song at the rocks were they met and she is playing a ukelele as they sing together.
‘Slow change may pull us apart…’
‘when the light gets into your heart, baby…’

And when they swam towards each other, hugging and laughing together out of relief and happiness that she found them in such unexpected, almost impossible circumstances, she knew that she was home.

‘Don’t You forget about meeeee….don’t don’t don’t don’t!’ they continued singing in unison.

As she reassured them of the waters being safe, although her thoughts were on how to keep it safe went into overdrive. How she will do this on her own, she thought. She had a feeling that Alder and Oak were unfamiliar with the waters in the current line they are at, so she told them that the creatures are quite the norm around these waters. Although it is not as safe as it was before they meddled with the Ark. She felt pleased that she decided to bring the inflatable boat along. This was one of the these she found in her early days of scavenging and she can finally put it to good use since none of her clans felt that they needed such things. She also managed to find wooden oars floating about earlier that she found a little strange but she shook off the feeling and decided to use it anyway. She will have to investigate later. Right there and then is a good day. She will not have it any other way.

As she swam next to the inflatable boat carrying Alder and Oak. She took off her goggles for a good measure so she can see the twins more clearly. She noticed that many things did change, not just to her but to the boys as well. Their voices are deeper, their faces more angular and mature, they are much taller than she remembered too. She remembers being able to hug them and her hands will meet but this time, it doesn’t. Perhaps there are more changes that she does not know but there is time. She finally noticed that she cut off her hair during the fight. Her mother loves her hair and she would most probably get a lecture on it later on. She realized how much better they are at swimming, which makes sense since they managed to survive the attack of those predators. The thought of the boys getting better at singing warms her heart immensely. She will teach them more songs, making a mental note of it. When Alder asked her how long she’s going to stay this time, she wanted to tell him that she’s home but she felt that it would be inappropriate and she did not want to discuss what is going on with her family right now so she told them she would be around for quite a while. There is no need to elaborate. There will be time.

As she makes her way back to her ship, she told herself that she will tell the twins about what is happening eventually. Perhaps she may not have to if she found manages to contain the creatures’ migration which is most likely impossible but she will have to try. She wondered how her clan fares in the Other Waters. When she got back on board, she went to back to the navigation deck, checking the codes. No messages so far. They should be fine, she thought. She will not tell them about the red ink giant called the Redoctop. She did not think it was appropriate to worry her family over something she’s sure she can handle. But she will write an assessment report for Mer.

Time quickly passed as it always does, and after many moons, at the Other Waters, the family’s boat sinks slowly towards the deep end. The Vember clan never named their ship; her parents always thought it was a mere superstition that didn’t need attention despite many who spoke to them about their error.

The nameless ship disappears into the darkness at the bottomless waste of the Other Waters while Huginn and Muninn flies over the spot where it sank.

(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)

ACT 3 SCENE 9:The Ark (Chapter 11)

Chapter 11

Piscine is ready to go out with permission granted by her parents to seek out the boys whom offered their friendship to her.

‘Anak, please be careful. They may be young but who knows whom they’ve told about you,’ her mother tells her as she does her warm ups. ‘It would benefit us to know how the city people fare now but it will be a great disadvantage if any of our clan members know about this. Be especially aware of the iron birds. There are no other but them.’

‘I will, Mom,’ she assures her, ‘If in doubt, swim back home,’ she repeated what her mother told her all these years, every day as she adjusted her industrial goggles.

‘Precisely. Seek them out, find out what you need to and get back here before dawn. Now go before I change my mind,’ her mother tells her and as quick as a fish, Piscine jumps off the boat, enters the water feet first and makes no sound or splash.

The waters in this area are definitely different from the other ocean. The ocean is not something you would call safe but this is the closest to safe that you can get here. As she swam closer to her destination, she checked water temperatures as instructed by her mother, she checked the marine life as instructed by her father and she snacked on some small fishes here and there and when she got closer to Krakatoa, she checked the perimeter of the island before getting any closer.

Piscine did not know where to start looking for them or how to look for them. Will they be on a boat out? Will they be still living in the island? She followed her intuition and went to the last place she saw them. As she swam towards her destination, she saw two figures by the rocks. They were sitting by the rocks where she left the boys the last time. She was not sure if it was them. What if there were other twins in the island? She swam towards them very slowly; she needs to exercise caution, just like what Quatre taught her. The figures finally see her as she gets closer to them. Only one way to find out if it is them, she thought.

‘My water babies! How much have you grown?!’ she calls out to them as she swam closer. The boys stood up quickly from where they were sitting and were looking around them cautiously. Piscine stopped swimming and looked around again. Caution, Piscine. Caution, she can hear Quatre saying it in her head.

‘Piscine!’ they call out to her. She gave them the widest smile she had and swam closer to them. How much have they changed since the last time she saw them?

After finding out what they have done all these years, catching up a little bit and finding out that they didn’t tell anyone about her, she felt even more relieved. The reunion was highlighted with the knowledge of their names. Alder and Oak but they will always be her water babies. She told them a little about their ways in the Clan, as Mer instructed her to do and hoped that they agree to a little secrecy when it comes to her.

As she swam back home for the night, she thought of how short of a time frame she will only spend here but it’s for the best and she will not waste a single moment.

Another highlight of the day is the marriage token. She did not plan it. She believes it was the fates that led her to find that pearl. There is a saying in their clan that if you find a pearl in the waters, and someone is very important to you, you are destined for that person. It just so happens that she found two of the same person and she thought it was magic. She will tell her family about this one day. For now, it is her own secret.

When she got back to the boat, the only question anybody asked her is that if she found the twins which she happily reported that she did. She told them how they did not tell anyone about her, how much they have grown, how much she told them about their customs and what they know as instructed by Mer, what they plan to do in the next few days before they sail out again. Her siblings were so happy to hear her stories. As she lay in bed that night, all she could think about is how happy she was, teaching them how to sing. Her heart felt full and she went to sleep with pleasant singing dreams of the twins.
When she got up the next morning, she thought of the things that she needed to teach them before she left again for the other ocean. Singing, swimming, fishing, stories from the other ocean and more singing. She must not forget to tell her family about every detail on what she taught them. Mer will keep a record.
Happy times always seems so short. Soon, it was the third sunset. Piscine helped prepare for the journey back to the other ocean and her heart, overflowing with happiness, feels mighty heavier.
As she made her way to their meeting place, she kept telling herself that she will not feel sad. She won’t show sadness to Alder and Oak. She must not. She is older. She will not be weak.
Piscine arrived at the rocks and even as hard as she tried to mask her sadness, she couldn’t help but feel the overwhelming feeling of separation. Suddenly, the twins did a salute – something she’s seen in books that they have at home but they were awkward but practiced salutes. They thanked her for saving their lives, that she will be their best friend forever, that they would always think of her and that they will wait for her.

Piscine felt her ears go hot and she squealed, feeling all the love she has burst in her chest. She cannot wait to go back. She will teach them more skills and she will teach them more songs to sing with her. She took them in her arms and it was the warmest feeling she ever felt.

(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

:EPOCH Files turns 3!

Before I go to bed, I would just like to express my gratitude and love to everyone who's always supported me with my dreams.
And to my creative partner in crime, Linds, I can't even begin to describe how grateful I am that she understands my over the top weirdness. You will go places and I am glad you let me drag you into this! *high five explosion*

You can find the webcomic here!
Or here!

Stay safe! *fistbumps, highfives and hugs*

Here's a crewfie!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

ACT 3 SCENE 6: The Ark (Chapter 10)

Chapter 10

Piscine opened her eyes.
She blinked several times and she felt relieved. She finally saw the sun shine through her window for the first time in four years.

She looked outside and she has never seen friendlier waters or skies since. It felt good to be back.
They should be almost there. She gets off the bed quickly and goes into the exercise room where her sister and two of her brothers are working out.

‘Good morning,’ she says, greeting them, a small hint of excitement in her voice can be heard. She went straight to the sink to wash her face.  

She picked up two weights and started working out.

‘Excited?’ Un asked her, not stopping his push ups.

‘A little nervous, I suppose,’ she answers, smiling, not stopping her count.

‘I wish we could meet them. They sound wonderful, Piscine. We still haven’t seen anyone that look alike,’ said Neuf, the youngest of her brothers.

Mer sighed, ‘If only Pop will let us but I doubt it. It would have been nice.’

Piscine had so much going on in her head, even if she was focused on doing her weight lifting. The biggest question in Piscine’s mind is if they would remember her?

Piscine’s family knows about the twins.
It was not long after they arrived at the Other Ocean. When they arrived, they wasted no time to gather the older clan members. And as their usual routine, they started to reminisce about memories from the old world. There were crazy stories about how people idolized other people called ‘pop stars’. The people offer everything they have even if the ‘pop stars’ give very little in return. Old tree names, old animals, birds, religion, customs, cultures, the way of life is terribly different from what they know now. Some clans talk about how people were terrible then.

Piscine was filled with guilt. She didn’t want to be terrible! Everyone is so good with each other and here she was, lying to her family. She was carrying the burden of her rescue from her family for seven months now and she felt that the guilt she is carrying will not feel lighter any time soon.
Piscine thought and thought of whom she should speak to about it first.

Mer knew a little about it but Piscine knew that she wouldn’t tell her parents about it. So she went to work on hinting to her brothers – hopefully one of them would tell her parents. But subtle hints did not work for her brothers. She had to face up and be brave. She will tell her brothers directly.

She started with Un. She went up to the navigation bridge where she would usually find him.

‘Hey Cine! Did you bring me food?’

The question caught her off guard because she was so focused on how she should hint about the twins. ‘No! I won’t bring you anymore!’ she answered him. ‘Mom said you eat too much.’ Un laughed and slapped his stomach. ‘Welp. It can’t be helped. It’s so cold around here.’ Un, is the eldest of the brothers and is twenty-eight years old. He eats so much that he’s gained more muscle and is not as lean as his brothers anymore. They sometimes joke that he’s so stocky that he could live in one of the three cities with no problem. He’s got blond greenish hair, two toned, just like Mer, and with friendly smiling brown eyes. He’s a bit of an obsessive compulsive disorder because he likes to keep everything clean. Even his eating habits are completely different from all his siblings – he likes to use a knife, a fork and a spoon. He is also in charge of the cleaning roster which he rotates equally among himself and his siblings.

Piscine looked at the maps on the table absentmindedly, determined to say something about her guilty conscience. ‘What if I told you that I helped some people when they were drowning?’

‘That’s good, Cine. You should always help people when they need help,’ Un answered without missing a beat.

‘Yeah, Cine. Helping people is a good thing,’ a voice said behind her. It was Deux with Trois and Quatre following behind him, joining them in the navigation deck. Deux is twenty-six, a little taller than Un, bespectacled with gray eyes with two toned curly hair that dominates all over his head. He  likes instruments but is not much of a singer. He can play whatever instruments you put before him with no problem whatsoever. Trois is twenty-four, with two toned bed hair with the prettiest blue eyes you will ever see in the land, he has a hawk nose which makes him look a little scary sometimes especially when you disturb him when he is reading. He does not like being disturbed in his me time Quatre is twenty-two, lean with muscles, the usual two toned hair that are short and spiky and eyes that so small that it looks like there are no whites in his eyes, just black. He is the most skilled hunter among The Nines, being able to study creatures weaknesses and behaviour quickly.

Piscine wasn’t prepared to have four of her older brothers in the deck, at the same time, discussing this.

‘Hey Un, Pop decided to go to Brooks Range to check the area there.’ Quatre informs his older brother.

‘We’re not too far,’ Deux said as he checks one of the maps on the table.

‘I hope it’s not too cold for swimming or food, the last few areas was harsh,’ Un says as he checks the buttons and needles in front of him.

Piscine unconsciously chose the ‘flight’ option and was about to bolt for it when Trois asked her a question she dreaded to hear.

‘Cine, what’s the matter?’ Trois asked his sister who looked so troubled. ‘You can tell us – ‘

‘I saved two boys who looked alike and they live in the city! You can tell Pop. I am ready to be punished!’ Piscine said as quickly as she could, not stopping to even breathe. There, she finally said it. They can tell their father and she will just have to face whatever punishment that is going to be given to her.

Her brothers started to look like they’re struggling. She wasn’t sure about the expressions on their face. It was Trois who snorted and then there was laughter. They were laughing. Piscine is quite confused. Are they laughing because of the punishment or it’s because she’s doomed? Her brothers are quite tickled and they haven’t stopped laughing which just made Piscine a little mad.

‘What’s so funny?’ she asked them, hitting Quatre in the arm because she felt annoyed and mocked.

‘We believe you!’ Quatre said to her.

‘You don’t think I’m serious?’

‘No, we do!’ Deux said but he still won’t stop laughing.

‘Then, what’s so funny? I broke the rules and I should be punished!’ Piscine’s voice is demanding punishment for redemption. Trois wiped the tears in his eyes from laughing, went to her side and kneeled so he can look at her.

‘Piscine, if you did save two boys from drowning, isn’t that a good thing?’ Trois asked her, his blue eyes looking at her which made her relax a little bit.

‘Yes, that’s what Mer said too but we’re not allowed to have contact with anyone outside. And that was my first swim outside the perimeter and I feel like I did a bad thing when I saved them but I don’t regret it either because they looked so happy and they said they wanted to be friends and….and…’ and Piscine started crying.

The door opened with Neuf coming into the room and the rest of her brothers, Cinq, Six, Sept and Huit.

‘We brought food!’ Six said happily then saw his sister was crying. ‘What happened?’ Six is the tallest of the brothers. He always has to crouch everywhere he goes and he has not stopped growing. He’s got a shaved head and yellow eyes that mesmerize you in if you look too long. And his favourite past time is dancing. He studied all kinds of dances: ballroom dancing, the Macarena, the Cha cha, belly dancing, disco, flamenco, even Gangnam style which he does not like to admit to like. Once every full moon, The Nines would have a sort of dance that many of the clans think is quite unique but if you are in the old world, they would have a term for that dance and it’s called interpretive slash bboy dance. It is always different and unique.

‘She saved two boys from the city,’ Quatre tells his younger brothers who just came into the deck.

Cinq, Six, Sept, Huit and Neuf went quiet, looked at each other and shrugged at each other.

‘Anything bad happened after that? Or what?’ Cinq asked, concerned. Cinq’s distinct feature is his large mouth. He’s got huge blue green eyes and hair that seems to just flop down on his head. If he was in the old world, he would have been hair commercial perfect and when he walks into the room, time just slows down and you see every strand of his hair flip from side to side, perfectly. To this day, the brothers use this to their advantage to defeat creatures.

‘No. She just feels like she did something bad.’ Un answered, his attention back to the wheel.

‘Stop being a baby!’ Neuf teases his sister. Neuf is the youngest of The Nines. He’s got red tinted eyes, his two tone hair tied in a ponytail and he’s pretty tale for his age. Perhaps he’ll be taller than Six. He is quite quick on his heels and everything that he does is lightning quick. If he was in the old world, they would think he’s like a ninja.

‘I….am….not…’ Piscine said between sobs and started to cry again. Trois hugged his youngest sister to console her.

Sept went over to Neuf and hit him lightly on shoulder. ‘Don’t make her cry even more!’ Sept is the shortest among The Nines. His two toned hair is the straight and long, reaching his back. His eyes are the colour of the beautiful sunset and he could be quite serious. His hobby is mainly juggling which does not match with his personality. He juggles anything he can get his hands on. Wrenches, fishes, babies, anything he can carry, and he will juggle.

‘What??? She is!’ Neuf answered back.

‘Piscine, saving a life is not a bad thing,’ Huit tells her, his small colour purple eyes reassuring. His hair is parted in the middle. Huit is the sarcastic one among The Nines and he loves to sing. He will sing opera, pop, jazz, metal, he will know how to get it right.

‘She thinks she should be punished,’ Quatre tells his brothers amused.

And then, they all started laughing which made Piscine cry even louder.

‘Ahhh we’re making too much noise,’ Un tells his brothers, taking control of the situation.
‘Can anyone care to explain to Cine why she would not be punished?’

‘Can I sing it to her?’ Six asked.

‘No!’ the rest of the brothers say in unison and more laughter followed.

‘Cine, Mom or Pop will not punish you for saving lives. Why would they do that?’ Sept assures her.

‘Because…because…they’re…from the…city…wahhhh!’ Piscine continued to cry.

‘We would do the same thing if we saw that,’ Huit assures her, nodding in agreement with his brothers.

‘What…’ Piscine looked up to look up at her brothers.

‘It really doesn’t matter, Cine. As long as we’re not trading, I guess.’ Cinq said, shrugging.

Piscine stops crying and wiped her face with her shirt. ‘Did you ever have friends from the city?’ she asked.

The brothers looked at each other and shook their head. Sept spoke, ‘It just never happened to us. Not that we won’t do the same thing that you did. If we saw anyone drowning, we’d save the person if they need help. But there are other cases to think about but those are grown up things. Eventually, you will learn and experience this. We will not tell you what you need to learn but we will guide you. All of us will. Now, if Pop or Mom gets mad, which is likely to happen, but believe me, little sister, they will understand you.’

‘But…but I want to see them again.’ This surprised the Nines. They didn’t expect this.

‘Well, sister,’ Huit answered this time, ‘you just made it a little more complicated.’

In the course of a few months, Piscine managed to get up the courage to tell her parents about the brothers that looked the same. She made several attempts to tell her father about it. Sometimes, an accident will occur or a meeting with the clan elders were called. There was even a time when she thought she had finally told him about it, only to find out that he’s been asleep the entire time due to a long week.
But this day was different. It was after lunch and her whole family was there. They have been having their meals together with the other clans that were gathered here but this time, it was different. Her sister and her brothers have been giving her looks the entire meal. Meal times are quiet so the only way to communicate is to give out subtle facial expressions at each other and they do it quite well too.

‘Pop, Mom, can I tell you both something?’ Piscine starts off nervously.

‘Yes, what is it bunso?’ her mother asked.

‘I managed to deadlift today!’ she tells them excitedly but her expression tells another story.

‘That’s great! You should teach her more, Mer. She still has a long way to go,’ their father says proudly, taking a large bite on his raw fish. Their mother smiled at Piscine, nodding in approval.

‘Also,’ she starts, taking a deep breath, ‘I saved two boys,’ Piscine told them.

‘Oh, that’s very nice – ’ her mother said.

‘They’re from the city,’ Piscine continued, interrupting her mother. ‘They were drowning and I had to save them.’ Piscine felt so much weight from her shoulders disappear but she can feel her insides fall on the floor at the same time.

Piscine’s father did not say a word but he was looking around the table at her siblings. They were all watching their mother, not saying anything and looking particularly attentive. ‘Nines, secure the room.’ And with that, the brothers got up from their seats and checked outside the room they were in.

‘It’s clear, Pop,’ Neuf reports back to their father.

‘Trois, Quatre, Six and Sept, stay outside and let us know if anyone is coming.’ The boys shuffled out of the room and the rest of the brothers stayed watch inside. ‘Next time you want to tell me something, please let me know if it’s going to be like this,’ their father sighs, ‘Anyway, do go on, Anak.’

‘And I want to see them again,’ Piscine says finally. She looked as if another huge weight came off her shoulders but her expression is as worried and nervous as it was in the beginning.

There was a moment of silence before her mother said anything. ‘Is that all?’ she asked gently.

Piscine nodded and couldn’t look at her mother in her eyes, just staring at her half eaten raw fish.

‘It seems that your sister and brothers know about this already because they don’t seem surprised at your little adventure,’ her father finally began to talk. He got up from his chair and went to the water tanks. He poured himself another glass of water and drank it completely.

Mer looked unfazed by this observation but the younger of the Nines looked a little nervous.

‘When did this happen and why would you want to see them again?’ her father asked, his voice booming in the room.

‘This happened about ten months ago and I want to see them again because…because I’ve never seen anyone like them before. They look alike!’ Piscine bravely answered her father. She felt she might as well say everything before they disown her.

Her parents look at each other in surprise. ‘Twins?’ her father said and he started to laugh, ‘Count on the Vember clan to find rare things in the world indeed.’ He sits back on his seat and drank from his cup. ‘And you gave your friendship to these boys so freely?’

‘No, I did not. They asked me for my friendship. I didn’t have time to answer because I had to come back before the anchor went up.’

‘To be honest with you children, this is dangerous,’ their mother answered this time. ‘Cine are putting yourself at risk for this friendship,’ she concludes.

‘But that’s not fair,’ Piscine protested.

‘Nothing is ever fair in this world, anak,’ her mother concludes.

‘Me and your mother encourage friendships of all kinds but the city people is another thing. We know a great deal about them already.’

‘But they are still children, like me,’ she protests.

‘What if we teach them some of our ways through Cine?’ Mer suggested.

‘And what would we get from that?’ Un asked, finally speaking.

‘Human behaviour study subjects? It would be great to see if the city people can actually do what we do if they try,’ Mer said, shrugging. Piscine wants to hug Mer for being on her side on this but she does not understand why she would be so willing to get herself in trouble but it did not matter, she had an ally and it was Mer, the voice of reason.

Their parents looked at each other. Their father nodded at their mother who doesn’t look too satisfied. She sighed and looked at Piscine straight in the eyes. ‘Perhaps it can be done. They are children and there’s no harm if Cine becomes friends with them – as long as no one else knows,’ their mother concluded.

‘You told us before that it was quite dangerous. Won’t other city people take her if they see her?’ Deux asked, worried.

‘There’s a possibility. We are as extinct as the breeds of animals from the old world. Though she will blend in quite well since she does not have two tone hair like all of you,’ her mother reasoned, her thoughts overclocking.

‘Piscine, this is not an experiment nor is it a game. Your mother and I encourage you to have friends, even if they are from the city but since it is going to be dangerous, we are having second thoughts about this. We are breaking the rules as well,’ he added. Piscine knows very well that this will not go very well with the main Freedom clan leader. And the possibility of the Vember clan being cut off completely is also quite likely.

‘I understand…’ she tells them. She can feel her vision blurring and her face feeling hot. She felt better telling her parents about this but at the same time, she wished she did not.

‘Piscine,’ her father called out to her.  Piscine looked up and smiled her toothy smile even if she felt tears coming down her face. ‘Don’t cry, Anak. I will think about this situation throughly. If you improve by the time we come back to warmer waters, then I’ll consider this friendship that is important to you. Now, your mother & I are tired. We are going back to our rooms.’

Piscine looked at her sister and her brothers with wide, surprised eyes. Mer winked at her and her brothers gave her the V-sign, smiling with their toothy grins.

She will get better, faster, and stronger.
She will see them again.

After an hour of working out, she went back to her room and got ready for the day. Just as she was about to leave, she looked back at her reflection and saw that much has changed since she came back. Piscine is now fourteen, taller, hair thicker and much longer and looks more mature.

Will they remember her?

(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)

Thursday, 1 May 2014

ACT 3 SCENE 5: Updates from the Ringmaster

Oh, it's been a while, hasn't it?
High fives, fistbumps and warm hugs from me!

I've been quite preoccupied with life.
And I have been keeping up with work and comic work at the same time - which is a good thing.

I believe I may have found a steady area to stand for a bit...for now.

I will be updating everyone with a project that I've been working on with Elleoser/Shenli in a few days.

For now, I must sleep. It's another early morning and another late night.

Til next time! :D

Much love,

ACT 3 SCENE 5: The Ark (Chapter 9)

Chapter 9

Piscine woke up slowly. She did not open her eyes but she could hear the sounds of her family’s voices, above.

‘Morning has broken, like the first morning. Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird. Praise for the singing, praise for the morning…’

One of her brothers was singing. It was probably Huit. He has the best soothing voice for her. The one playing the guitar is probably Deux. He always likes to strum these kinds of songs. She finally opens her eyes and she takes in the morning light coming in from the large window of her room.

The first thought she had was the twins. She wished she could see their faces.

Her attention wandered back to reality. She wondered if her sister, Mer, was already awake. She listened carefully and she knows the exercise room is either empty or she’s still asleep or she’s done. Besides, Mer wakes up early every day, just to prep. Prepping takes her hours. She doesn’t mind it and Mer sometimes offers to help her but she doesn’t force anything on her. She is quite laid back and Piscine appreciates her.

Mer is an exercise freak. She loved working out with the equipment that they’ve salvaged way before they were all born. Mer could deadlift one hundred and twenty kilos of weight with no problem. That’s how she starts off and then she adds more plates every half hour, depending on her schedule. She does this every day since she was ten. If you see Mer in person, you would not think she has the strength of twenty large men. You will actually know that she likes a boy when she tackles him. It was her way to show affection, her family figured. She is lean, like the rest of the family. She’s got two toned hair, green with blonde streaks with green cat-like eyes. Actually, all but Piscine has two toned hair colour. Piscine’s got her father’s hair and her mother’s sharp features. Mer and the rest of her brothers are a good combination of her parents’ looks and personality.
But Piscine was quite different but this doesn’t mean she was loved any less. It was a strong unity of a unit.
Piscine pondered whether to stay in bed or get up now. She didn’t want to move. Maybe dreaming a little about swimming with the siblings will be nice.
So she closed her eyes again.
In her dreams, she swam towards a bright area, and she knew where she would find her water babies there. Suddenly, she stopped swimming. Not because she did but she was stuck on the spot. She kicked and she moved her arms but she stayed in one spot. She felt a sudden change in the waters. She looked around her suspiciously, her awareness on high alert. Then she saw it.

A body of a child, falling deeper into the deep waters.

She unconsciously kicked her legs to swim towards the child but she still stayed in the same spot. She started to panic and felt as if something is holding her in place. She looked back at the falling body and it was disappearing from her sight. She noticed another body of a child falling into the deep waters and she knew it was the second boy.
Her water babies are drowning.
She kicked and kicked and she stayed in one place.
No, she told herself, this is not what happened. It can’t be happening. She needs to save them.

She woke up with a start. She was covered in sweat and covered with blankets.
She shook off the worry and got off her bed. She shouldn’t have thought about the twins.

Piscine went straight to the exercise room and opened the door.

Mer was already in the room, she looked back at her when Piscine opened the door, went inside and closed the door behind her. Mer was tying her long braided hair up. She’s thirty years old but looks younger than her years.

‘Good morning,’ Piscine said to Mer, her troubled mind can be sensed from her voice.

Mer turns around to look at Piscine and a look of concern crossed her face. ‘What’s wrong, doll?’

‘Nightmare,’ Piscine says as she goes straight to the toilet sink to wash her face. She goes back out and looked for something she can use to shake off the nerves. She took the skipping rope because it seems like the only thing she can use right now. She started skipping and she kept thinking, ‘just a nightmare, just a nightmare’ in her head.

‘Do you want to talk about it?’ Mer asked as she sat on one of the benches right opposite her.

At first, Piscine was wary whether to do so or not but maybe it would make her feel better. ‘I dreamt that I couldn’t save two people drowning…actually, children younger than me,’ she told her, hoping not to show any kind of emotion.

‘That’s rough, doll,’ Mer said sympathetic, a look of concern on her face, ‘it’s just a nightmare,’ Mer assures her, shaking her head and smiling her toothy smile at Piscine.

‘Yeah, it’s okay,’ Piscine says as she continued to skip rope without stopping. Mer went over to the weights. She took one in each hand and started to work out again.

After a few minutes, Piscine can feel stress on her legs and she feels better. ‘See you later, Mer,’ she says as she goes towards the door.

‘Did you manage to save them, doll?’ Mer asked her suddenly. Piscine felt her stomach churn. ‘You don’t have to explain anything. As long as they are okay, then it’s fine. It’s a life, after all. It’s more important,’ she continued.

‘Yes. Yes I did, Mer.’ Piscine confessed without holding back. She turned to look back at her older sister.

‘Good,’ she said, nodding at Piscine. Mer lifted the weight over her with no problem. ‘Glad to hear it,’ she said, smiling her toothy smile. She put the weights down on the floor and breathed out. ‘Go shower, you’re filthy.’

‘Yes!’ Piscine says, smiling at her older sister. She closed the door behind her and went straight to the showers. Piscine felt better and she knew that the brothers will be okay.

(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)

ACT 3 SCENE 5: The Ark (Chapter 8)

Chapter 8

And so, that is the story on how the boys got back Piscine in their life. But what they don’t know is, Piscine has a secret from them.

Piscine ran away from home.

But with the blessing of her immediate family so it’s not really running away from home but perhaps, you can say that she’s ran away from the Freedom clan.

This is not the first time this happened. Many who have tried have met different grim fates.

Will Piscine meet the same fate?

Piscine is twenty-three years old. Tall, lean with green hair and multi-coloured eyes. She has a very charming smile and a very tooth grin. Piscine is one of the many children in the small clan of Vember, one of the many groups that form the almost mythical Freedom Clans. If you look back to the very beginning, when the world started to change, you will find that the Freedom clans are made up of a diverse group of people, and with prominent occupations. Among the ancestors are pirates, scientists, navigators, ship builders, teachers – talented geniuses, they all sound very promising but the one thing that the people of the Freedom clans did not excel on is cooking.
Not one of their ancestors cooked. Or learnt how to.
It’s not that they did not try. They did.
They have tried very hard and once, they managed to burn an entire city – just for trying. They can make chemicals, mix them and be quite successful but cooking among the Freedom clans is unheard of.
Hence, they eat all their food raw.
Their diet consists of seaweed and seafood that is not cooked.
This would probably explain the toothy grin. Over time, evolution will play its part and their teeth change over the course of hundreds of years, stronger and able to bite even the toughest leather in whatever land that is left in this new world that they know.

Piscine has an ordinary Freedom clan family. Piscine has an older sister and nine brothers that followed and then, there was her. They are all two years apart in age. But it was not like she felt left out with them. The siblings were actually close, rare these days in this new world where sibling rivalry runs nigh. The clans even gave her brothers a group name. They call her brothers ‘The Nine’.
Her sister’s name is Mer. Her brothers are named, Un, Deux, Trois, Quatre, Cinq, Six, Sept, Huit and Neuf, in that order.  

Her parents have very ordinary names of Ariel and Eric. One of the best things about her parents is that you can see that her father clearly adores her mother, another rare display of affection among the almost indifferent ways of the clans. Once in a while, their father would sing her mother a song about kissing a girl ever since she can remember. Her mother loves to sing. She sang old songs from the old world which was passed on from her ancestor. There is never a time their household didn’t sing. The Nines like to sing a song about being men and Mer’s favourite song about being crazy in love.

Most of the Freedom clans love to sing. It was a way of life.

When Piscine saved the twins the first time, it was out of curiosity. Or perhaps, it was finding another person, at that age, not knowing how to swim - at that age - that got her curious in the first place. She just turned ten years old and she is finally allowed to swim out of the perimeter of the ship docks. She also got a new pair of safety goggles which was large enough to cover half her face. She swam faster than the fishes around her and even if this was the first time she is outside, she knew where everything is around them. It was the last hour of the swim and she knew that they will not go back to the calmer Warm waters for another few years. Just as she was heading back, she saw an odd boy falling down like dead weight and turning clumsily, swimming the other way, down to the deeps, instead of the surface. At first she thought that the boy might have just made an honest mistake and will double back and swim back upright.
But he didn’t.
He kept kicking and going deeper.
She thought that he’d be fine – he will eventually realize it.
She turns to swim back home but she felt compelled to look back and when she did, she saw bubbles around the boy.
He is drowning.
He was in so much trouble.

But she can’t save him.
It’s forbidden. She will get into so much trouble. The clan will disown her. Her parents may even disown her.
The clans have no contact with the cities whatsoever, not even trade.
But then he will die if she doesn’t do anything.

She can’t and she starts swimming back.
She can’t.
She won’t.
She shouldn’t.
He will die. He will die. He will die.
He is a baby.

She turns around again and she sees a second boy, swimming down, towards where the boy was falling.

Someone is going to save him, he will be okay.
She swims towards them, just a little bit. She noticed the ‘rescuer’ is slowing down. She saw the bubbles and she knew.
He’s going to drown too.

The next thing she knew, she was swimming towards them as fast as her legs can take her. She goes for the first boy she saw. When she reached him, he was unconscious. She grabbed him and shot straight towards the second struggling boy, grabbing his chin as gently as she could. She held them close. She will rescue them, there is no turning back.

When they resurfaced, the second boy gasped and gasped for air.

‘Slowly…Slowly…’ she tells him, surprising herself. She’s never talked to a person from the city before. She wonders if they speak the same language, if he didn’t, she could always try the ten other languages she’s learnt over the years.
The boy looked at her, still dazed and very confused. She smiles at him and she looked at the first boy to check to see if he’s alright. She blinked. She turned to look at the second boy again and turned to look at the first boy again. They look the same, she exclaimed. She’s never seen anyone like this before. Is this normal for the city people?
She swam towards some rocks by the island’s pier. She had to be careful – she knew she was very close to a city. No one should see her. She let the second boy climb up the surface and checked the first boy as he did. She told him that he need not worry about his brother and she gave him air.

Soon, the first boy started to cough. She felt relieved. He will be okay and she felt great. The first boy started crying and ran for his brother. They hug each other and that’s when she realized that she had to go back. If she was late, they might ask her too many questions. She started to swim back and she felt that it would not be nice if she did not say goodbye. So she turned back, watching the brothers with new affection. She told them to be careful and called them water babies because babies from her clans swim like them. She waved to them, because it is the nice thing to do.
The second boy asked her for her name which genuinely surprised her. She did not assume anything nor did she not think that they would ask her for anything, let alone her name. This made her feel good. She told them her name. Then, she heard the second boy asked for friendship as she dove into the water, swimming back home.
When she got back to the ship, her family was anchoring out and ready to sail out. She was glad she made it on time and that she did not have to explain herself in any way. Her sister, Mer, is showing her mother some items she’s salvaged earlier and the Nines are comparing things they’ve salvaged nearby. Her father mentioned about going to the other side of the ocean. The clans are meeting there and there’s something about some Ark. The details were not clear because all she could think about is how she has to pretend that nothing happened to her. She had to act natural. Nothing happened. Talk to your sister. Help with the ship checks. Talk to your brothers. Talk to your mother. Help your brothers. Help with the engine room checks. Talk to your brothers again. Help around. While she was doing this, she’s practicing on how she would tell them how her swim went. All she did was swim. And salvage. Snacked on some fishes then salvaged whatever she can and swim some more. She practised as she checked the barometer. She practiced as she sang with her family about a whole new world. She practiced as they ate the large fish they caught for dinner. She practiced as she got ready for bed. She can do this, she can do this, she kept repeating to herself and she felt as if her heart is going to escape from her chest.
It’s not that Piscine didn’t love her family. She loved them with all her heart.
She just did not like lying to them or keeping secrets. There were no secrets in the family. But no one asked her about the swim so there was no need for her to lie.
All was well.

As she lay in bed that night, their ship flying towards to the other side of the ocean, she could not hear the loud snores of her brothers nor the waves of the water nor the winds whistling or the creaks of the boat. She could hear echoes of the boys’ voices.

‘What is your name?’

‘Let’s be friends!’

It was all she could think about and she fell asleep to the memories of their voices, singing in her head, replaying the moment all over and over again. She hopes they will meet again one day and when or if they do, she will ask them for their names. And they will be friends.

(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)