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.
“You mustn’t mind her too much. She has lots of ideas but no small inkling of how best to broach them among her own people. Now, you were about to tell me what I could do to help you.”
“I want to go home,” Adam said, for what seemed like the millionth time.
“If you mean home, to land, I told you – there is no more land. If you mean home, among the water-folk – I welcome you.”
“I mean home, my house, my room, my parents.”
“I cannot help.”
Spot chirped up then. “But, surely you must know something. What about Sesre’s beach?”
Frear was patient but firm. “Truly, I tell you, there is no land. There are countless ruins, but no land above the water.”
A Plan Swells Together
Adam choked up. “R-r-ruins?” remembering his dream of the ruined city.
“Yes,” Frear continued, “ruins of humanity. That’s why our city was so agitated to see you. The human world flooded many, many years ago and, so we assumed, all of Sesre’s descendants right along with it.”
“B-but – that’s impossible! It couldn’t have been that long ago.” Frear said nothing. “But I’m the one who did it! I flooded the world! I was there!”
“Child, I cannot explain the curse that’s brought you here and tricked your mind. Still, I assure you, these are human ruins I speak of.”
“What am I going to do?” Adam asked, grief-stricken.
“Don’t worry, Adam,” consoled Spot. “We’ll think of something.”
“Please, you’ll be more than comfortable here,” Frear offered. “Just let me go inside and see if there’s been any resolution. Then, I can work on getting you situated in Tiskaloo.”
“Resolution?” Spot asked.
“Yes, yes. All the hubbub you came in upon. We’re trying to decide what to do about Altern and the Urchin Army. Altern’s grip grows tighter every day.”