Parting is indeed such sweet sorrow.
Time passed slowly. The boys mentioned her sometimes. They both knew that they think of her but they don’t say it out loud. When will Piscine come back? How long will her hair be the next time they see her? Wasn’t she blonde the last time they saw her? No, it was the light from the sun, you doop! She always had green hair. Oh right, like seaweed. Or grass. And more time passed, another two years have gone. How slow has the days felt but it went on. The boys grew taller, taller than your usual ten year olds in the cities. They became better swimmers, faster runners, trying to learn as many things as they can. Soaking up knowledge like a sponge.
One of the things that Piscine taught the boys was whistling. They’d whistle when they work, when they wait for fishes to bite or when they wait by the rocks at night, hoping that Piscine will show up.
By the time they are eleven, they got into more trouble, especially when they go to the Labs at Pelee. Alder always loses his head whenever they are given low prices for rare items – items they’ve swam for, of course. People usually ask questions but they don’t dwell on it. There are bottle openers, bottle caps, straws, containers, just to name a few of the many things that float around the waters at the deep end. They don’t always sell what they get and people of Krakatoa keep to themselves. Or so they would like to believe. The people of Krakatoa do not dislike the Wilnoix. They just think they are quite strange but since they are a well-liked family, they don’t question their odd behaviour.
Oak’s fascination with history peaked around this time. He would study about it more and ask all his family members for stories they can remember. He even took lessons on how to take care of the Wilnoix gallery so he can read the books that are part of the collection. He wasn’t allowed to take any of the books out in the collection but he is more than welcome to read it there.
He read about Cthulhu, the dreaded sleeping god of the seas, which frightened him immensely. He asked his father about it and he told him that this was just a story or maybe it was not. You can never be too sure about history. This gave him nightmares and when he told Alder about it, he started sharing his nightmares too.
Oak was not allowed to read any of the books in the collection after that, not until he is ready and is a man.
But by the time he was twelve, they allowed him to go back. Alder developed an interest in different things as well like knitting, cooking, the art of seaweed tea making, how to make fried ice lollies to name a few.
It’s been another four years; they thought Piscine would show up soon…but she didn’t.
‘You think she’s coming back?’ Oak asks his older brother, as he threw a stone at the water, skipping several times.
‘Who knows? Maybe she got lost?’ Alder replied coolly.
‘Maybe…do you think anything happened to her?’ Oak asked.
‘I don’t know…had a…no, I shouldn’t say that,’ he said and he slaps his mouth.
‘Don’t say such things. It’s not very nice. She’s one of the Freedom tribes.’
‘Remember, these clans have lived out there in the waters for centuries. Only the red knight can take them away.’
‘Brod, who is this red knight you speak of all the time?’
‘I could tell you…but you will have nightmares.’
Thirteen came and went.
Piscine still did not show up. The boys have stopped thinking about it so much and continued salvaging things from the deeps, as far as they can go.
One day, Oak was taking a nap on the reed boat and it was Alder’s turn to go look for ‘schtuff’.
Oak opened his eyes suddenly. He sensed something and he didn’t move a muscle. He felt something moving around below his feet and it’s certainly not Alder. He looks down slowly, trying not to show that he is awake. A bunch of tentacles is feeling around the area below his feet. Oak closes his eyes again. The colour from his face has completely drained.
This is the day I die, he thought to himself. The tentacles, he’s alone, the weather looks grim; it’s Cthulhu. He is going to take me down to the very depths that no one can come back from. Even further down to where those cities float and are eternally asleep. He will take him and Alder will not know what happened to him, maybe his parents will find this out that he’s missing because of Cthulhu and curse that book that gave them nightmares as a child.
The red knight is Cthulhu and this is what will take you or anyone away from the world of the living.
Oak opens his eyes and one of the axesaw is just right next to him.
If he lets Cthulhu take him now, he will never see Piscine ever again and he will not be able to tell her about the history that he learnt, how faster he is at swimming, how quickly he can determine what kind of current is good, where they find new schtuff and the songs he’s been practicing since she was gone.
He picks up the axesaw and gets up. The tentacles are still feeling around the boat and as if on cue, it started to wrap its tentacles on the sides of the reed boat.
It’s going to bring the boat down, Oak thought. He looked around and Alder is nowhere to be seen, probably still in the deep end. He hopes that his older brother is safe. A large slimy head started to surface on the water and Oak can now see its large red rimmed eye.
‘Not today. Not today.’ Oak said before he ran towards the creature, holding up the axesaw over his head, determine to hurt Cthulhu.
Alder resurfaces and has a large grin on his face. He found some colourful things in blocks and when you press them together, they stay together and then you could take them apart. They can probably make schtuff with this and couldn’t wait to show Oak. He’d love these. Alder looks around and the boat is nowhere to be found. He looks around confused. He may have wandered off too far but he is certain he can’t be too far and he knows he’s at the same area. But where is the reed boat?
‘Brod!!!’ he calls out. Everything is quiet except for the sound of the calm waters and the wind.
‘Brod!!!’ he calls out once again.
He looks up at the sky. He can’t have been gone that long. Where the hell is Oak, he thought, annoyed and worried at the same time for his younger brother. Suddenly, something resurfaced a few feet away from him. He swims towards it and he realized that it’s part of a reed boat. He decided to swim to it for closer inspection.
‘What the derp?’ he says a little too loudly, perhaps trying to comfort himself to the sound of his voice. He swims towards the boat as quickly as he can and he is surprised at the massive damage. It finally dawned on him that it’s their reed boat because of the flag that came along with it. He went up at the side, wondering if he’d find anything and what he saw did not make him feel any better.
He saw blood on one side of the boat.
This shocked him and he didn’t know what to do or feel. He was a jumbled mess of emotions and he didn’t know why he couldn’t move.
The next thing he knew, he jumped back in the warm, calm waters. Oak, his brother, where is he, he thought. He must find him; he must not have gotten that far. He swam as fast as his legs can take him and he dived as deep into the waters as he could go. This has never happened before. They have never been attacked by anything in their life. This is the first time he’s ever seen an all-out attack. The creatures never attacked them, why now?
He kept swimming and swimming.
Just as he was about to turn around, the colour of the water is different from not too far off.
It was red.
He followed the flow of the blood and he saw several different creatures were doing the same thing. They were after the blood and they were going to eat whatever it was. Alder swam faster and faster. He cannot lose to these things. He must find his brother now. It was the only thing in his mind. How can he face Piscine when she comes back? How can he tell her that he wasn’t a fast enough swimmer to save his younger brother again? How can he show her what he and Oak practiced? The singing and the swimming games they thought of?
Just as he got closer, he saw a figure moving.
Is that Oak, he asked himself, not stopping to think. He unsheathes his own axeknife. If any of these creatures attack, he will not hesitate to fight.
As Alder got closer, he saw that Oak is alive! But something is holding him down and it was gigantic. He swam towards his brother and slashed the tentacles that are holding him down. He grabbed Oak by the collar and swam up, knowing that Oak had probably been under for quite some time. They both gasped for breath, not stopping to swim away.
‘Don’t stop! Go! Go! Go!’ Alder shouts at his brother.
Oak, looking quite exhausted, but kept swimming even if he was struggling. ‘Brod, it’s gigantic! It’s the red knight! It’s Cthulhu!’
‘Talk later! Swim away!’ Suddenly, Alder felt something take a hold of his leg and the next thing he knew he was flying above the waters.
‘Toot!’ he screams.
‘Toot!’ he heard Oak scream right next to him.
Alder grabs his brother and shouted, ‘Hold on! Don’t let go!’
They landed pretty far from where they were swimming and when they landed, they sank quickly.
Oak and Alder didn’t waste any time and kicked with all their might. They need to survive. The creature was not letting them go no matter how far they swam. If they swim any further out, they may not be able to get back. The day is expiring and they have never spent time out too far away from the city, especially not without a boat. Alder still had his other axeknife and Oak still had a large axesaw with him. There is no way that they can get away without a fight. Alder stops swimming and Oak understood, not needing to be told anything.
They will have to kill the red knight.
(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)