Oak is lying down inside the houseboat. He has to lie down sideways because he can’t actually fit because of his stocky size. He’s waiting for the fishing lines to take bait but it’s taking a while…perhaps, a nap of five minutes, he concludes, as he takes a peek up at the sky to estimate the time.
The sound of the calm waters of Krakatoa lulled Oak to an easy slumber. Five minutes became fifteen.
‘BROD!! BROD!!’ a voice starts yelling not too far from the houseboat.
Oak doesn’t flinch. He has a smile on his face and is probably already having a good dream.
Alder is walking towards the houseboat with stilts on. ‘BROD! It’s huge! It’s a kowfish! Hurry! Get the stilts! I need you to…’
A large shadow looms over Alder, he looks up and sees the gigantic kowfish with three horns, a rare kowfish – if I may add, with its gigantic mouth open and he opens his mouth to scream but nothing comes out. He’s going to be its dinner, Alder knows this. The kow is too fast and he can’t react on time, even if he could be as fast as it is. Suddenly, dual stilts went flying towards the kowfish’s mouth and it falls into the water as fast as it came up.
‘Porbida! Go after it, brod!’ Oak yells at Alder, half awake. Half of Oak’s body is out of the houseboat and it’s tilted horizontally.
Alder quickly loses the stilts and dives into the water. Oak slowly slides backwards into the houseboat. After a few minutes, he hears a splash of water and a loud thud at the other end of the houseboat. Alder comes up from the side, looking exhausted but smiling.
‘Brod,’ Alder says, coming up slowly to the houseboat, ‘This is good. Look at this! We can sell this for a lot! Three horns!’ Alder sits next to the kowfish, pointing at each horn, as if he is counting them for Oak.
‘They might think it’s a mutation,’ Oak says, shrugging.
‘They always say it’s a mutation and then you see it in the Labs at a high price. We’ll take the meat, we can eat anything anyway.’
‘It’s up to you. I will do the talking since you always lose your cool,’ Oak tells him as he inspects the horns, feeling it on his finger.
‘Of course I will lose my cool, they’re always cheating us.’ Alder is standing over both Oak and the kowfish and wondering how they’re going to smuggle this into Krakatoa.
‘Maybe we should cut it up now?’ Oak suggests, already on the same train of thought as Alder.
‘This is going to take a while. I don’t want us to get stuck out here at the waters so late.’
‘Who’s in the post tonight?’
‘Probably Roxas but I can’t be sure. But if it is, I know how we can just go past without inspection,’ Alder says, grinning widely at his brother.
The winds carried them easily and soon enough, they found themselves home just as the sun sets at the horizon.
Krakatoa has been their home all their life. The twins, Alder and Oak Wilnoix. Twins are very rare at these times but it’s not unheard of. Very uncommon, just like a third nipple or a second pinkie finger. They were named after trees that are as rare as the three horned kowfish. People reports that they still exist but there is no proof.
Perhaps it’s only a myth.
Perhaps it isn’t.
The twins were born three minutes apart but they were born on different dates so you can imagine how different these two are. Alder Wilnoix is the older twin. He has a certain charm to him that many young men have too but he is more gregarious about it, so to say. He is very popular with the young ladies and he likes to lead them on playfully but he only has eyes for one – but he will not admit this to anyone but his younger brother, Oak – if he cared to ask. Oak Wilnoix is a little stockier and taller than Alder. Kids always ask him to carry them over his shoulders and he doesn’t mind it. You can always see him around town helping the townsfolk with chores. While Oak is indeed the stronger of the two, he is more calm and understanding of the morons around town. He does not get into fights because they don’t dare fight him. Alder on the other hand, does the physical fighting for both of them.
As they arrive at the port, Roxas waves to them from his post.
‘The Wilnoix brothers…’ he says a little loudly, looking back, checking the reed house nearby where two of his male senior officers are probably getting frisky with each other. ‘…hey guys! Why so late?’ he whispers.
‘We got something for you!’ Alder says in half whisper, winking at Roxas. Roxas blushes, smiling widely, as he anticipates what Alder is taking from the large sack.
Alder presents to him a bunch of chocolate crabs tied together. Chocolate crabs are a delicacy around in Krakatoa and this makes Roxas blush even more. ‘Tha…thank you, guys!’ looking at both twins in surprise. The truth is, Roxas always feels this way whenever he’s being given chocolate crabs by the twins. It’s not as if they are making fun of him, it amuses them that he’s always genuinely happy about the gifts, even if it means that they did it, just so they can go through the port gate with smuggled goods and late entries because of more smuggled goods.
‘Go now before they’re done with their er, break,’ he tells them protectively, whispering urgently. ‘Alright, Wilnoix brothers, you clean and you can go through. Quickly now!’ he commands them as he winks at them. This sends shivers down Oak’s spine but Alder winks back – just to make the guy happy and who wouldn’t be happy with a successful smuggling?
‘I don’t know how you do it,’ Oak tells Alder as he alights from the houseboat.
‘There’s nothing wrong. You think too much into it.’ Alder tells him.
‘You know, five hundred years ago, that would not be allowed.’
‘Who are we to judge these things, brod? Let’s not get into one of your history lessons. There’s a reason why it’s called history too, you know.’
‘I suppose.’ Oak shrugs and helps Alder unload the kowfish carefully. ‘How are we going to carry this home without being seen?’
Alder looks around and there are still a number of Sigur bottles turned on. ‘We should be able to carry it quickly across the bridge without being seen. Its dinner time and the only person out right now is Lug, who is – as usual – drunk. I still don’t get how he gets drunk on those parries.’
‘We’ve smuggled so many things back home that if Lug wasn’t always drunk, we’d probably be regulars at the Cocoon.’ Oak whispers to no one in particular.
‘Let’s go.’ Alder says and the twins carry the rare three horned kowfish past the drunkard Lug, into the cover of the night, back home.
Their mother, Mango and their father, Orange, stare at the rare three horned kowfish, that is now on top of the worktable.
Their parents were named after fruits that used to grow in the old world, according to history records. Unlike the norm, both their entire families were named after fruits and they both have rather unconventional childhood – both families like to collect artefacts. It’s very unusual for that time because the entire population felt the survival is always important. Their ancestors before them collected all sorts of ‘treasures’. A plastic stool from the island of ‘Ikea’, an entire CD collection of a man called Kenny G, to name a few. Mango and Orange had a mutual understanding that they can do what their families do and learn how to ‘survive’ and ‘adapt’. Most of their family ancestors and relatives have been in unfortunate circumstances – unable to survive a storm or getting eaten by a gorishark. Some can’t even swim. Mango’s ancestor recorded that once there were only four seasons in a year – whatever that means. Weather changes are like moods – how can they say such silly things? It rains, then it snows, then it’s sunny and then it’s summer again. That’s normal. The old world sounds so silly to them sometimes. Orange’s ancestor wrote about animals called cats – which is most probably an ancestor of their pet chutah, only much much smaller. Chutahs can be as large as a houseboat but they’re gentle and can be used as transportation. They like to live indoors so you need a big reed house if you want to obtain one. It’s also part of Krakatoa’s law. They have four chutahs and their name is Do, Re, Mi and So. It is quite a childhood for their parents. Also, their parents proudly call themselves ‘hipsters’. The brothers think it’s one of their quirks.
Orange has tears in his eyes. ‘I can’t believe this, boys! A three horned kowfish! We can’t cut it up…’ he says with such pain in his voice and his expression just magnifies the feeling because of his bottle butt thick glasses.
‘It is dead, Papi. You can’t keep it on my worktable.’ Mango says to her husband as she shakes her head in the dead kowfish’s direction. I can’t make harnesses for So if you don’t get rid of it.
‘But it’s a three horned kowfish!’ he says again, trying not to say it too loud, in case the neighbours hear it. ‘We can preserve it. Put it in the Wilnoix artefacts gallery!’
Alder moves the kowfish to its side and pokes it. Oak, with a knife in hand, is standing next to him. ‘It’s not pregnant and it’s certainly very dead. We can sell the horns, Papi. It should sell well.’
‘We can eat the meat. We’re all hungry, aren’t we? We can share it with Do, Re, Mi and So,’ Oak added, thoughtfully. ‘We can use the bones for fertilizers for the herbs.’
‘They’re going to give us such a low price for those horns at the Labs. We might as well keep it,’ Orange says sadly. Before he can protest, Oak slams the large knife on the kowfish’s head, decapitating it cleanly from its body. Oak hands the large kowfish head to Alder, ready to retrieve the horns for their collection.
‘Wait…’ Oak says suddenly. All four of them stare at the glinting light being reflected inside the kowfish. They all look at each other and look closer. It’s shiny and something is inside it. Oak pulls the cylinder out slowly and looks inside, his eyes squinted. Alder, Mango and Orange looks at Oak’s magnified eyes which are as big as the cylinder. ‘Is that a map?’