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.”
Spot objected. “If you can find a Turtle and if you can get a Turtle to talk a Turtle might be able to help, Adam — but all this is pure speculation.”
Throughout this banter, Adam said nothing. Spot and Ramata went back and forth arguing over the likelihood of finding a Turtle, getting a Turtle to talk, and the odds that a Turtle would know anything definite about land above Ocean. Finally, Adam had heard enough.
“Will you two be quiet please?
Ramata and Spot stopped mid-argument and looked at him.
“Ramata, do you really know where to find a Turtle?”
Spot answered in her stead, “Adam, a Turtle is about as hard to find as land. Don’t be–”
“This Turtle isn’t a myth and I do know where to go!”
“Adam, my school says, ‘Sometimes a myth of hope is better than the hurt of truth,’ but I think we’ll just be wasting time to go off on this mad hunt.”
“What will we be doing if we stay here, Spot?” Adam asked.
Spot was silent.
“Exactly – wasting time. Ramata, what do we need to do?”
“Well, there’s a long swim ahead of us so the sooner we leave the better.”
“Spot, you’ll come with us, won’t you?”
Spot hesitated, then shrugged his fins. “Of course, I will,” Spot said. “I’ve kept watch over you so far. I can’t stop now.”
“Then we must leave,” Ramata urged. “Frear will be back soon to check on you and unless you feel like explaining our plans to him–”
“He doesn’t seem to think there’s any chance of land,” Adam said.
“Well, he may be right, Adam,” said Ramata. “But that’s what we’re going to find out. C’mon!”
The blue winds blow the black moon past a newly dying sun
And the finer lights of daynight show the ruining’s begun
You’ve witnessed with your feeble eyes grand sights not meant to see
And you’ve conjured with your meager minds frights from which to flee
No, it ain’t too hard to read the signs that say our time is through
And it ain’t too sad to say goodbye to what was me ‘n you
For that blue wind blew a black moon over yonder dying sun
Oh those blue winds and those black moons, good Lord, what have we done?
Adam was close to pulling out his hair in frustration. Ramata just smiled and looked at Adam, Spot, and the door Frear swam behind. “They are discussing you staying here in Tiskaloo and you’ll never learn whether there is land or not.”
“Do you know?” Adam sarcastically asked.
“Haven’t any idea. But I’m not afraid to admit it either.”
“Oh, great,” said Adam. “That helps.”
“You didn’t let me finish. I don’t know, but I know someone who might. And this certain someone will at least give you an answer with some kind of evidence.” Ramata nodded toward Frear’s door. “Which is a lot more than I can say for the answers you’ll get here.” Ramata finished her sentence and the door opened up. Frear swam out with an armload of supplies, a kelp quilt, a brush to scrub the fins of Adam’s tail pants, and a key carved from coral.
“C’mon,” Frear said. “I’ve found you a place to stay.” Then Frear noticed Ramata. “Ah, good. You can escort our guest. Grey Hole, Never-Dry Burroughs. Do you know the one?”
“Of course,” she answered. “Follow me.” Ramata led the pair away from Frear and back towards the city center. Frear called out, “I’ll be by later to check in on you, Adam.”
In a quiet breath, Ramata said, “Clueless,” and continued on. Adam and Spot followed, Adam’s hands full of the gear Frear gave him.
“That was kind of him,” Spot said.
Abruptly, Ramata called back, “Do you want to find out if there’s any land left coming out of Ocean?” The water-folk paused to let them catch up.
Adam answered, “I thought you said that no Tiskaloon could give us a real answer.”
“No one in Tiskaloo can. We’ll have to find the answer elsewhere.”
“But Frear said they might be able to help.”
“Frear is distracted by all that’s going on with the Urchin Army. They may be able to help, but not for some time. Until then, all they can do is make you comfortable.”
“So what can you do?” Spot asked. “My school has also never heard of land.”
“And has your school talked with a Turtle?” snapped Ramata.
“No, I’m not leading you on a chase. I know where a Turtle lives and I can take you both there. If anyone knows anything about land above Ocean, that salty, old thing does.”
I expect it will soon become yours, too.
Mr. George Raymond is some kind of seraphic amalgamation of Jack Handey and Jesus.
“Those urchins who dropped you off will be back someday, someday soon.”
“What do you plan to do?” Adam asked, his personal troubles forgotten for the moment.
Frear smiled and again Adam thought that, when smiling, the water-folk wasn’t so bad. “Trying to do anything as a group is impossible in Tiskaloo. Now, mind you, I’m not questioning the wisdom of the zigga. But sometimes it is hard to manage with everyone so intent on honoring themselves first. So, I plan to put my opinion in the water with everyone else’s and hope that we all come to swim the same current. Presently, however, I plan to find a place for you and the fish to stay.”
“My name is Spot.”
“Spot fish,” Frear returned. Frear opened the door where the commotion continued, then squeezed in, leaving Adam and Spot alone.
“Adam, are you OK?”
“Why didn’t you tell me, Spot? You knew.”
“I didn’t know you didn’t know! How do I know what humans teach each other?”
Though angry, Adam recognized that Spot was right. How would the fish know?
“There’s got to be land, Spot. Frear hasn’t swam through all of Ocean.”
“Yes, that seems true. But, Adam, I’ve never heard of any actual land either, only in stories.”
“Well, somebody’s got to know something.”
“That somebody isn’t here,” chimed a voice from above Adam and Spot. Ramata sat on a rooftop, looking down on them. “You won’t get two shells of knowledge from a Tiskaloon.”
“What do you mean?”
“Knowledge is subjective here. That means that when the world presents a fact — this coral is hard — ,” the water-folk rapped knuckles on the roof top, “ — then each and every explanation that interprets that fact is OK by Tiskaloo. Then comes debate and talk and discussion and committee then, finally, after enough people have their say, we reach an agreement.”
“Well, that’s not too bad a place to be. Probably pleases a lot of people.”
Ramata floated off the roof-top and sunk to Adam’s level. “It is a bad place to be when you’re trying to decide how you should defend your people and need to act fast.”
“We have the same problem where I come from. We debate and vote and it all works out in the end.”
“And where did that get you?” Ramata wanted to know. “Look, you can’t ask, ‘Is there any land?’ of a Tiskaloon because no one ever bothers to check whether there is any land or not. They just talk about it and since enough have agreed that land doesn’t exist – land doesn’t exist!”
“I knew it!” Adam cried. “There could be land.”
“There could be. Could not be, too. That’s not the point.”
“What is the point?” piped Spot, who grew tired of these word games when he wasn’t with his school.
“The point is that any Tiskaloon will give you their opinion and expect you to consider that as some truth about Ocean beyond Tiskaloo even though most have never even been that far outside of Tiskaloo. But, you aren’t supposed to ask them how they know what they know. It isn’t considered proper to question their opinion. The point, Spot, is this: we don’t know for certain.”
The landholders didn't get what they were looking for.
Eyes burned by an apathetic hate.
Wounded skins their favorite shield.
Cold bodies made the best ground for falling snow to cover.
They have always relished winter.
Uprising against us against a good idea against us against a big deal against us against the cosmos against us
Warm bodies temper frosted glass.
Capital is not your fault.
Speaking silence is.