The Waterwood Box, 48

Catch up!

Pinch paused, awaiting a grand and awestruck audience response. When none came, he continued his rambling speech. “My crew and I have traveled many leagues to reach your city. King Altern sends regards.” Still no response. Pinch grew frustrated and insecure. Yet, he continued, “As you know, the good King is quite interested in welcoming Tiskaloo to the kingdom.”

“None wish for such welcome,” called one of the water-folk.

“Where is the child?” cried another.

This caught Pinch off-guard. He hesitated for a moment before leaning over to chirp orders to a waiting urchin. This urchin turned to chirp orders behind and so the urchins relayed Pinch’s message along the manta’s back until it got to Adam, who was calmly waiting for his cue to make an appearance. A tiny, bright-purple urchin rolled to his feet and piped, “Admiral Pinch needs you.”

Adam floated off and swam toward the urchins up front. Pinch saw Adam approaching and yelled loud enough for all to hear, “Hurry, hurry, dear child. Your people are anxious to see that we have safely delivered you home.” Adam paused for a moment then continued to swim forward and into view of countless Tiskaloons and their bubbly, eruptive hurrahs.

Chapter 10
The Underwater City

Adam examined the crowd of water-folk. Their faces were grim and determined, proud and ancient. They waited patiently for Adam to speak. Adam turned to Pinch. Pinch just looked at Adam and then back to the crowd.

“Hello,” Adam finally spoke and his voice was the call the Tiskaloons were waiting for. Immediately, a brigade of water-folk riding atop over-sized seahorses spurred their steeds to action. The water-folk hastily swam up to form a line in front of Adam, Admiral Pinch, and the Urchin Army.

“We will take the child,” spoke one of the water-folk, his long, blue hair flowing freely about his head.

The Waterwood Box, 48

If you never look up, you’ll never see the stars. If you always look up, you’ll one day walk right off a cliff.

Lying on the floor,
looking up,
I notice every tiny thing

A small family
of spiders
trying to eat each other

Brownish yellow
watermarks
from a leaky, bathroom pipe

I see the soles
of barefoot children
and Legos lost under their beds

I see the strands
of grey dust gathered
on the blades of ceiling fans

And all the while
through all the silence
your ghostly body hovers near me

And all the while
through all the silence
I wait for memories to fade

If you never look up, you’ll never see the stars. If you always look up, you’ll one day walk right off a cliff.

The Waterwood Box, 47

Catch up!

Pinch chittered a string of orders and the urchin rolled away, chittering orders of its own. Soon, the manta leveled out and stopped moving altogether.

“What’s going on?” asked Adam.

“I have dispatched an envoy to Tiskaloo. I don’t want my manta too close to whatever strangeness is going on down there.

Great, Adam thought. More waiting.

Once Admiral Pinch received word that the Tiskaloons were busy preparing for the manta’s arrival his nerves eased enough to order the manta to continue downward. “They’re preparing for me?” Pinch asked the urchin who brought the surprising news.

“That’s what they said when we asked what all the hubbub was about: ‘We’re making a party.’”

“But for me?” Pinch didn’t believe it.

“For ‘The manta’s guest’ is what they said.”

“In all my life, I have never known a Tiskaloon to celebrate the presence of any other, let alone an urchin. Surprises abound,” he said with glance toward Adam.

Adam listened to this conversation in silence. It worried him that Admiral Pinch and the other urchins had misunderstood the Tiskaloons and thought the welcome party for them. It was fairly obvious who was the manta’s guest. The welcome party was for Adam.

The manta slowed to a stop above the blue section of Tiskaloo’s inner-circle plaza. The streets and nearby buildings were neatly packed with water-folk, balanced on their tails, riding atop giant snails and seahorses, dangling out of coral-adorned windows. The water-folk weren’t talking or moving about much now that that they’d gathered for the manta’s arrival. “What a reception,” said Admiral Pinch.

Adam nodded. “It sure is something.”

Pinch rolled away, toward the front of the manta. A small herd of urchins followed behind him. Once he got to the foremost tip, Pinch addressed the Tiskaloons below, “Water-folk of Tiskaloo, thank you for this unprecedented reception. I am Admiral Pinch, of King Altern’s Urchin Army, and this is my vessel, Weaver.”

The Waterwood Box, 47

The Waterwood Box, 46

Catch up!

How’d they get light? Adam wondered. That thought passed though as he came to understand the massive scope of the valley city. The three, outer spires’ color inspired the rest of the city’s color scheme. From behind the blue spire sprawled out a thicket of blue buildings and roadways. The same thing occurred behind the pink and yellow spires. From this high up, Tiskaloo resembled a flower on the ocean floor; a flower moving and pulsating with light.

The manta took a sharp dip over and into the valley. A few urchins near the manta’s edge rolled away and sank down into the ocean that surrounded them. The sudden lurch surprised Adam but he held tight to the bench. Soon, rolling right up the middle of the manta’s back, Admiral Pinch appeared. He stopped at Adam’s tail fin.

“Look down there. Tell me what you see,” Pinch demanded.

Adam looked down the right wing of the manta as it banked in a spiral down, down, down towards the city. Lights hurried back and forth throughout most of the buildings. The only section immune to movement was the center-most ring around the white spire. No lights were on, nor did any move into, the center of the city.

“Looks busy,” Adam offered.

“Busy?” Pinch turned to a nearby urchin. “Busy, he says.” Then, back to Adam, “Boy, I’ve never seen your people move about so much. Busy? More like crazy. What are they doing down there? Tell me now!” Adam wished he had an answer for him.

“I don’t know. I’ve…I’ve been away.”

“—,” Pinch started to voice on objection but Adam cut him off with more of his imagined explanation.

“Besides, they don’t tell me much.”

Pinch accepted this and instead turned his attention away from Adam to a clinging urchin.

The Waterwood Box, 46

The Myrmidons Take On Google Maps For Navigational Bragging Rights

I sit on the ground
and I’m covered with ants
They become my new skin
and I don’t try to stop them
I’m red and I’m black
and I never stop moving
I stand up to walk home
and the ants help to guide me
They want me to get home
and they know what it’s like
To have somewhere to be
and a path clearly marked
They want me to be home
and they bite to remind me
They’re pushing me toward home
and they don’t think of death

The Myrmidons Take On Google Maps For Navigational Bragging Rights

The Waterwood Box, 45

Catch up!

The spire never seemed to grow in height, only in width.

The closer they got, the better Adam could see that the spire top wasn’t a skyscraper, not even close. It was something else entirely that almost breached the surface of the ocean. Strangely though, no matter how close the manta came, Adam remained unable to the see the spire’s base. All he knew from this distance was that the spire was chalk-white, wide, and incredibly tall.

The closer the manta swam to the spire, the more details Adam could make out. Around the bottom of the spire were three small, cone-shaped, points. The points were each a different color: blue, pink, and yellow. They must be coral. What a strange reef, Adam thought. The formation fascinated him and although the manta was still a fair distance away from the spire, he couldn’t keep his eyes from it.

When finally the manta was close enough for Adam to understand what he’d been seeing all along, he still didn’t believe it. The tall, white spire did come close to breaking the surface of the water. And, yes, there were three, different-colored, pointed formations situated around the white spire. What Adam could now see, as the manta swam next to the lip of a deep, ocean rift, was that those three points were the tops of three other, individual spires. And all four spires extended down to the rift valley floor. The white one, the largest, rose up from the ocean bottom taller than five radio towers stacked one on top of the other.

At the bottom of the rift, Adam could see the city of Tiskaloo teeming with light and movement.

The Waterwood Box, 45

The Waterwood Box, 44

Catch up!

Off in the distance, Adam heard a familiar sound – like a loud wind or a distant train – and looked up from the city to witness a great wave amble towards the skyline. Even from Adam’s vantage up above the city, the great wave towered impossibly high. One moment, the wave hung suspended over the city like a frozen waterfall, the next moment it crashed over and into and through the city. The wave hit Adam too, and knocked him under the water for a second time. This time, however, he didn’t drown. He only floated, suspended in liquid above the sunken city.

The wave passed overhead. Nothing moved below. After some time, fish began to inspect the flooded buildings and abandoned alleyways. Adam watched the slow decay of the city unfold before him like a video on fast forward. Dirt and mud built up along the streets and avenues while some of the buildings toppled and stirred up a murky mess. Eventually, there remained only a husk of human life and Adam woke up.

Around Adam, the water temperature rose. As the water warmed, diffuse light seeped through the ocean top, illuminating the water with a blue-green glow. The color reminded Adam of the sponges he and his mother used to wash dishes. Mom, mom…Adam didn’t want to think the worst but it was harder and harder to keep the worst away. He missed his family.

The manta swam on through ever clearer water. Off in the distance, Adam saw a pointy spire that looked like the top of a skyscraper but, recalling his dream, Adam didn’t want to get up his hopes only to find the ruins of a human city. The manta seemed drawn to the spire like a fish on a line. Ever onward, the manta carried its crew.

The Waterwood Box, 44

The Waterwood Box, 43

Catch up!

What am I going to do when I get to Tiskaloo? Am I going to have to trick the water-folk like I’ve tricked the Urchin Army? How am I going to get home? This last question pressed upon Adam more than any other. Adam hadn’t seen for himself or heard anyone talk of land since he’d arrived. Do I even have a home anymore? These thoughts spun out of control. As long as the manta swam through deep, dark waters nothing captured Adam’s attention like his own nervous thoughts. Finally, he fell asleep.

Chapter 9
A Second Dream For a Flooded World

Adam dreamed of a large city brimming with people. He dreamed of a a city loud and bright. He floated over this city, watched cars moving, people crowding sidewalks. Adam heard traffic horns and emergency sirens and he floated up above it all. He soaked up all the people and the way they moved, one leg in front of another, then behind, one arm swinging forward while the other swung back, and he tried his best to keep focused on everything at once. Then Adam heard somebody scream. Ah, but in a city this large there was bound to be someone or another being hurt or frightened at almost every given moment. But then Adam heard another scream, and another. Soon, an entire chorus of screaming people burst forth from the rest of the city’s soundscape.

Adam saw why: flood waters. The first people to notice the water probably thought a water main somewhere had burst or that some punk kids had wrenched open a fire hydrant to soak themselves under the hot, noonday sun. As Adam watched, however, he saw the people realize what Adam already knew – the water wasn’t going to stop.
Flood waters rose to trap people driving in their cars. Those without power windows could swim out if they were quick enough to act. Many people ran into buildings and climbed onto a rooftop, but the water climbed right along with them.

The Waterwood Box, 43