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.)