The twins look at each other and cross the room, going towards the decapitated kowfish. Oh, the adventures that could have been. They carry the dead carcass to the backdoor where the outdoor kitchen is located. They set the kowfish on a large cutting knife table.
‘Tonight is your turn, right?’ Oak asks Alder.
‘Yes, don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of this.’ Alder replies and picks up the large axeknife next to the table cutting board.
‘You sure?’ Oak asks worried. ‘Don’t forget to hide those – most of it,’ adds before he turns around, heading back to the direction of the house as Alder brings down the axeknife down to cut the kowfish in half.
Oak stops in his tracks and Alder stops midway from bringing down the axeknife again to the carcass. Not too far away from them, they hear a voice, no, it’s not talking – the person was singing.
Oak and Alder look at each other and their expressions strained, trying to locate the melody. Their expressions both form sheepish grins. Alder sets the knife down the cutting knife table and wipes his hands on his pants, following Oak who was already on the way towards where the singing voice is coming from.
‘We’ll just say ‘hi’,’ Oak tells Alder, looking a bit distracted.
‘Of course, brod. I am just coming along, just to make sure you don’t get in trouble,’ Alder teases him.
‘We have to take the long way,’ Oak tells him but continued walking along, not waiting for an answer.
‘That’s always the plan,’ Alder replied, amused.
They go down the hill from their house as quick as swimming fishes, past three rows of reed houses, past the water condensation well, past another five rows of houses, crossing the bridge – Lug still asleep on the ground, still drunk and if anyone sees him, would take him for dead if he didn’t occasionally snore here and there. They make it back to the pier and there at the rocks, a silhouette of a person can be seen in the dark. The twins could have gotten there much more quickly by just going straight down the path from their house but they didn’t want to be seen by anyone – as always.
The singing stopped and the silhouette looks back. It is holding something with both hands. On its left hand a triangular shaped object and on the other, a short stick. It strikes the triangle with the stick and it made a nice tingling sound.
‘Let’s dance…put on your red shoes and dance the blues…’ it sang then hitting the triangle with the stick again.
‘Let‘s dance to the song they’re playing on the radio,’ Oak sings, who is not so bad. If he was in the old world, they would use machines to manipulate his voice and autotune it, even if there isn’t anything wrong with his voice and a few singing lessons would suffice. Another hit on the triangle with the stick, followed by a giggle.
‘Oak, Alder!’ a voice of a girl playfully calls out their name but kept her tone in whispers.
‘Piscine! Where have you been?’ Alder asks as they make their way closer to the rocks. Oak is blushing beet red but he is saved by the darkness surrounding him – or so he thought since he keeps forgetting Piscine can see everything in the dark….in colour.
Piscine is not from any of the cities. She is part of the Freedom clans. The Freedom clans are the sea nomads of the new world, they keep moving around and as they do, their makeshift cities change almost every time. If you try and pinpoint the origins of these clans from the old world, they will be from all over the world with the same collective thought that they had a better chance at survival by moving all the time. They get by collecting different things you can salvage in the waters, the Warm waters or from the Other waters, it doesn’t really matter. They are many of them, some in smaller groups, and some in larger groups and are scattered all over the waters. People from the cities would most likely tell you that these people are savages and that they would attack you but they don’t find any interest in any of the city people. They keep to themselves and there is nothing that they would need from neither the city people nor the smugglers. Smugglers do not dare associate with these clans either. One of the reasons that they are not very well liked is because they developed a mutation. Nobody knows when it started, how it started or where it started. They spend so much time in the water, fishing and salvaging in deep waters that they have developed lungs that can hold breath longer than the city people or the smugglers or anyone in known history. They can dive much deeper in the waters too. They can easily walk on land, with a little difficulty but swim faster than the fastest cold blooded creature you can think of. Their limbs are a little longer and instead of being stocky like the rest of the population on the remaining land surface, they are quite tall and very lean. They’ve also developed a resistance to weather changes. They cannot feel heat or cold. Often, this is their downfall because they do not have that kind of sensitivity to temperature change in the waters. Many have ventured too close to volcanoes without realizing the intense heat that has surrounded the perimeter. The city people can think of a number of things they don’t like about the water nomads but they are the best navigators and weather predictors. If they don’t want to be found, you will never find them. The clans will find you instead.
Also, they don’t cook their food. They eat it as it is. But they are not savages, they will share their food – you just have to like to eat how it is, there is absolutely no cooking allowed.
The twins met Piscine when they almost drowned.
They were four years old and their Uncle Blueberry, Mango’s cousin, was in charge of teaching them swimming. Oak did not take to the waters very well and was terrified, crying the entire day. Alder did not have a problem which was a huge relief for Uncle Blueberry. At the end of the day, Oak unwillingly swam and managed to swim towards the port, which was a feet away. As Uncle Blueberry concluded the end of the lesson, they were walking away from the port when Oak slipped and fell off. He managed to enter the water without screaming and he went in so cleanly that there was no splash. When Alder turned around, his younger brother is gone and is nowhere to be seen. Oak, on the other hand, panicked. He sank deeper and deeper, unable to move. He knew he won’t be able to get to the surface if he did not move so he moved his feet, and then both his arms. He was moving! He kicked and kicked but what he did not realize is that he was going deeper into the waters.
Uncle Blueberry instructed Alder to stay on the port and dived into the waters. Alder watched the water surface with so much concentration, his heart beating faster than he can remember. His eyes started clouding and tears started falling from his eyes. Uncle Blueberry resurfaces and he was empty handed. He tells Alder to look for his parents right now and he dives back down. Just as Alder is about to run, he sees bubbles on the other side of the port. He screams at where his Uncle dived, calling out to him. He runs to where the bubbles are and he knows for certain that Oak is there. Without thinking, he dived in.
Alder kicks and swims deeper, remembering what his Uncle taught him. He must be faster to get to Oak and he kicks faster and faster. And then suddenly, he feels a pain on his left side. This makes him stop and he realizes he needed air! He was going to drown but if he doesn’t continue, Oak will drown too. His started seeing black dots and he started to struggle.
Suddenly, he felt a large slimy hand take hold of his chin and he felt as if he was falling backwards. The next thing he knows, he was on the surface! He took a large gulp of air and his lungs was pumping air so fast, it felt it was going to burst.
‘Slowly…slowly…’ a girl’s voice. Alder turns, still a little dazed and a girl of about ten years old, wearing a large safety goggles with green hair is smiling at him, holding an unconscious Oak.
She looks at Alder confused and looks back at Oak and then back to Alder. ‘You look the same!’ she says, giggling. She swam to the rocks by the pier and let Alder resurface. Alder felt his face go hot because he’s never seen anyone look like her. Alder realized that Oak wasn’t moving and was about to say something when the girl interrupted him.
‘Don’t worry about your brother, he just needs air,’ and when she said that, she put her mouth on Oak’s mouth and breathed into his mouth. Alder was wide eyed and did not know what was going on. She did it several times and then, Oak started coughing and spitting out water.
‘He will be alright,’ she tells Alder. Oak started crying, reaching out to Alder and hugging him. Alder was crying as well.
‘Be careful next time, my water babies!’ the girl said. When Alder and Oak looked up, she was already in the waters, waving to them.
‘Wait, what’s your name?’ Oak asked his voice still coarse.
The girl giggles and said, ‘Piscine’ and she dives back into the waters.
‘Let’s be friends!’ Alder shouts but the boys weren’t sure if she heard them. When they went back to the main port, Uncle Blueberry was still in the waters with other people also swimming. Their father saw them first and the boys can’t remember what happened next. There was a lot of screaming, hugging from everyone and crying from their mother.
That was their first encounter with Piscine.
(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)