The Untold End Inside You

Shh, I have been waiting long hours,
under an emerging sky full of stories,
waiting for you to close your eyes and crawl through this red room,

crawl through while feeling your bent body’s weird weight as a tingling pressure upon your weak wrists,

crawl through with a switchblade clenched
     between yellowed teeth,
          stained by tea and lemon crumpets,
          stained by the yellow blood of the Sun,
          stained by the stains
               of the yellow room
     you crawled through
in your yellow youth

Shh, Shh, I have been waiting such long hours,
          such long and winding hours,
          like a patient waiting for a diagnosis,

just like a patient
waiting for a death note,
          hyper-aware
of every living, pulsing thing.

The Untold End Inside You

The Waterwood Box, 64

Catch up!

“You’ve sold me,” blurted Spot. “LetsmoveletsmoveletsmoveIdontwannaminenoway.”

“Uh, me too,” Adam agreed. He wasn’t sure what magma mining was but he knew it was the opposite of finding a Turtle.

Ramata took their agreement as a cue to get back to swimming. Ramata swam even faster than before. Adam and Spot fought to keep up. Any doubts in Adam’s mind about his decision were erased after Ramata’s explanation of the situation. He was more intent than ever on finding a way to land, to home. Funny enough, he didn’t mind being in Ocean. As lonely and scared as he was, he was having a fantastic adventure.

He just couldn’t bring himself to stay with the Tiskaloons, perpetually confined to that prison of a city. Neither could he live in an Ocean overrun by the Urchin Army and their King. Admiral Pinch was creepy enough. Adam shuddered to think about Pinch’s boss.

Adam’s intent to find answers remained strong and this helped keep his legs kicking. He felt completely at ease in his suit and he’d gotten so used to breathing underwater that he’d forgotten that he didn’t really breathe underwater. But wait – he was breathing underwater…

“How much further?” he called ahead to Ramata.

“We have to go through the Big Ruins first. Then I can get my bearings. We’re on track though. Look down below.”

Adam looked down and saw lined out beneath him, here and there exposed through the silt, a layer of dark rock dotted with faded, yellow spots of rock. As they followed the line of rock below, a strange feeling of familiarity began to grow within Adam. They were swimming above what used to be a highway.

His eyes stayed focused downward for some time while he swam forward. Adam soon grew bored and confused by the highway. None of this felt real. Below him used to be a road upon which millions of cars traveled everyday. Now all that remained was a skeleton. Nothing but the highway. He didn’t see any cars, houses, or other signs of humans.

“Where are the houses, the city?” he called to Ramata.

“You mean the Big Ruins?” Ramata stopped swimming and waited for the other two to catch up.

“No, I mean the other stuff. I see a highway down there, or what used to be a highway. But there’s no houses, no gas stations – nothing.”

The Waterwood Box, 64

The Waterwood Box, 63

Catch up!

The three swam through warm water and they swam through cool water. They swam through waters deep and waters so shallow the sunlight warmed the sandy bottom. They swam through clear water, murky water, safe water, dangerous water, lively water, and desolate water, too. They swam for hours on end, resting only when Ramata gave the OK, which wasn’t too often.

“What are you so worried about?” Adam asked after one particularly long bout of non-stop swimming. “Can’t we please stop and rest a while?”

“I’m not worried about anything, Adam, except the Urchin Army coming along and grabbing us. Tiskaloons aren’t allowed to be this far from the city.”

“Not allowed by whom?”

“By Altern, of course.”

“I thought Tiskaloons didn’t answer to Altern.”

Ramata’s smile was tired and patient. Adam had stumbled upon the absurdity in the Tiskaloon attitude toward the monarchy. “Officially, we don’t answer to Altern. The problem is that Altern doesn’t recognize that we don’t recognize Altern’s rule.”

“Huh?” both Adam and Spot said.

Ramata stopped swimming and Adam was grateful that this conversation had led to a break. “Tiskaloo can talk until it’s green in the face that it doesn’t follow King Altern. It doesn’t. We do what we need to do as a city. And, so far, Altern’s been rather gracious about letting us manage Tiskaloo. No matter how we feel about the kingdom though,  to Altern we are subjects — disloyal subjects — but subjects nonetheless. We know that if and when Altern wants to, the Urchin Army could come to Tiskaloo and overrun us. Altern hasn’t sent that order yet but some of us believe it’s only a matter of time before Altern brings a reckoning to Tiskaloo. That’s what we were debating at Frear’s house.”

“What to do when the Urchin Army comes?”

Ramata shook her head. “Whether to admit there is even a threat.”

Spot said, “My school and others have dealt with Altern’s rule.”

“What you must understand is that our history paints us as the chosen of Ocean. Admitting that another has rule over us is tantamount to heresy. Altern’s history goes back thousands of years, to when Ocean first rose, but Tiskaloon history reaches back even further than that, to the Waterwood Tree itself. Altern doesn’t care about real history though and the Tiskaloon circle of influence grows smaller and smaller the further we get from the city itself.”

“Why?”

“Because Altern treats Tiskaloons like criminals if we’re caught outside the city. Most inhabitants of Ocean are leary to associate with us. We’ve got to keep on the move. If we’re caught, we’ll be sent to work the magma mines.”

The Waterwood Box, 63

THE WATERWOOD BOX, 62

Catch up!

Chapter 13
Goodbye, Tiskaloo!

Ramata led Adam and Spot through the twists and turns of Tiskabloo, past row after row of faded blue, coral housing complexes and corner-shop business selling food and supplies made from kelp, rock, bone, and coral. Adam and Spot had no trouble following Ramata’s lead, because they knew that without the water-folk they would be absolutely lost in the winding, disorienting city. The byways and side streets of Tiskaloo went not only forwards and backwards but also up and down. Once you got into the city, you really were into the city.

After some time the three stopped at a coral wall that was half-blue and half-pink. “To our left is Tiskabloo. To our right, Pinkaloo,” Ramata told them.

“Which way do we go?”

Ramata looked up, laughed, then kicked their great tail once to shoot up and over the side of the split-colored wall. Spot looked at Adam and grinned, too. “See you on the other side.” Then Spot swam over the wall.

Adam looked back the way they’d come. Even if he wanted to head back, he’d be without Ramata’s lead and would never make it anywhere. Likely some Tiskaloon would help him get to Frear but Frear already said he couldn’t help Adam find land or even get home. Adam had to find land or, if not land, some answers to what had happened. The only way get either was to swim over the wall and follow Ramata.

Adam’s legs delivered a powerful thrust and his body surged up the wall, u-turning just above it before racing down the outer side. Ramata and Spot waited.

“What took so you long?” Ramata asked.

“I had to think about whether I was making the right choice.”

Ramata nodded, then headed off, away from the city. “Doesn’t seem like much of a choice to me,” Adam heard Ramata say from up ahead.

Spot said, “My school says, ‘There is always a choice to act or not act; both a decision to make.’”

“I’m tired of choosing, Spot. I just want things to be the way they were, that’s all.”

“That’s everything, Adam. Everything. Once a thing changes, rarely does it return to the way it was before. Everything is headed towards a maybe, Adam. And you’re headed towards something that no longer exists.”

THE WATERWOOD BOX, 62