The Waterwood Box, 58

Catch up!

“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.”

Chapter 12
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.”

The Waterwood Box, 58

The Waterwood Box, 57

Catch up!

Adam turned to Spot. “So, that’s why you brought me here? To hear this?” Adam was upset. He’d hoped to find a way to get back to land, not listen to some dreamed up tale about the origins of humanity.

Spot swam up close. “No. I brought you here because you needed help and I knew the Tiskaloons would want to help. You share a common heritage.”

“Adam, what is it you need?” asked Frear. A ruckus sounded inside the dwelling. The rough door opened and a young water-folk popped out from the crowded doorway. “Frear, you deal with this,” came a voice from within.

The water-folk curled up in a ball. “Leave me alone. You’re on a fool’s mission armed with worthless weapons. Self-interest philosophy won’t prevent Altern from taking Tiskaloo. We need to unite!”

Frear went over and lifted the water-folk’s chin. “Ramata, you are young. The Crisis has yet to come upon you. Keep your dreams, yes, but not at the expense of what your heart and mind tell you to be true. Make yourself presentable. We shouldn’t talk politics in front of guests.”

Ramata set their jaw firm and turned their pale face towards Adam and Spot. “Is that the human?” Ramata’s bright green eyes went from Adam to Frear to Adam again. They ran a hand through their dark blue hair and straightened up their proud body. “Maybe you can talk some sense into Frear. Don’t you think a war is best fought as a unit rather than a loose gang of stubborn ego-maniacs?”

Adam hesitated so Frear jumped in.  “Excuse my sibling. They’re young and inexperienced. Adam, Spot, this is Ramata.”

“Hello,” said Adam, unsure about this new person. Their entire body quivered as though they were about to explode.

“How do?” asked Spot.

“I’m angry. Thank you. Goodbye.” Ramata’s powerful tail kicked out a strong gust of water and they swam off among the blue-tinted, coral alleyways of the city.

The Waterwood Box, 57

The Waterwood Box, 56

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“Sesre’s legs grew stronger the more they used them. Soon, they no longer needed hands and arms for support. Sesre could walk upright. Not very well, but Sesre could walk. And walk Sesre did. Every day they walked a little further inland than they had the day before. One day, they didn’t show for their usual visit with the water-folk and the water-folk began to worry. First one day, then many more went by with no visits from Sesre.”

“Eventually, Sesre returned to the water-folk full of fascinating stories about the inland. Sesre talked of seaweed that grew hard as a rock and of creatures with four legs and animals that swam through the air as though they were dartfish. Sesre told the water-folk, ‘I must return inland, for my heart and mind are no longer bound to Ocean. I shall not return again to meet you on this beach.'”

“This upset the water-folk and, after some debate, they decided to accompany Sesre. Ten of the water-folk attempted to rid themselves of scales and tails. Six succeeded. Two died while trying, and the other two couldn’t remove their scales and tails no matter what they tried. These two were charged with going back to Tiskaloo to tell the others Sesre’s story.”

“With Sesre’s help, the six that made it out of the water learned to move. The seven walked inland and never returned, as Sesre vowed, to that particular piece of beach.”

“But that doesn’t explain humans,” Adam protested. “Just because the water-folk got rid of their water-parts doesn’t mean that their babies wouldn’t have them.”

“Perhaps the parents removed the babies’ tails at birth? I don’t know either. But, that’s the story as we are told it. And now that I see you here before me, Adam, I believe the story so much more.”

The Waterwood Box, 56

The Waterwood Box, 55

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“Yes, well, legs of a sort. Sesre had indeed pulled off their own scales and tail and found something like legs underneath. Unfortunately, Sesre didn’t see this as an advantage in their new situation. Instead, they sat on the shore lamenting the loss of their gorgeous water-parts. Sesre wailed and begged for Erato to take mercy upon them. The other water-folk heard Sesre’s cries and offered small consolations. They moved the rock which still pinned Sesre’s scales and tail and brought them to Sesre upon the beach.”

“’Here, you can put them back on and rejoin us,’” the water-folk suggested. Sesre tried and failed. They felt their life was now over. They grew hungry and began to crawl along the shoreline in search of shellfish to eat. They came upon a crab and just before picking it up to eat it, paused. Sesre had seen countless crabs during their lifetime but had never before paid close attention to how they lived their lives. Now, however, they interested Sesre very much. The crab, you see, uses its legs to move in a scuttling motion over the sand. So Sesre imitated the crab and pushed herself up on hands and legs. At first, they couldn’t move like the crab, but with practice they became able to move easily and quickly through the shallow waters.”

“Like the crab, Sesre scuttled up and down the beach. They found shellfish among the pebbles and caught small fish to stay alive. By day, they combed the beach and at night they crawled completely out of the shallow water to curl up in a small cove uncovered by the receding tide. The water-folk kept Sesre company as best they could. For those that could remain out of the water for a small time, Sesre offered shellfish and they in turn brought seaweed to adorn Sesre’s hair and body.”

The Waterwood Box, 55

The Waterwood Box, 54

Catch up!

“The water-folk in charge of Ocean at landrise did their jobs as best they could. Then, one day, a most curious event occurred. A small group of water-folk decided to get as close to landrise as possible without drowning in air.”

“Day after day, they would come up out of the water, force themselves to struggle to breathe, then fall back to Ocean for a refresh. Over time, their experiment, in a way,  acclimated them to breathing air instead of water. One particularly curious day, a water-folk named Sesre was exploring near landrise and got their tail stuck under a large rock. They were halfway out of the water already while the tide kept getting further and further out. Sesre grew desperate, thinking that their end was near. They struggled frantically to get free when, in one curious instant, they pulled so hard that they slipped right out of their scales. Those scales stayed pinned under the rock while Sesre lay on a soft, sandy beach, barely able to breathe.”

“Sesre pulled their way up the beach, taking in labored breaths, trying not to panic. When they did this they found they could breathe, if only barely. Sesre clawed and crawled. They were exhausted. When finally they dared to look down at what had become of their bottom half, they cringed in fear. They saw a bloody, runny, mass of flesh. They splashed salty, sea water on their wounds. The water washed and helped to heal them. Sesre saw that where scales and tail once were, two, thin pieces of muscle-covered bone remained. Two, separate limbs, mind you.”

“Legs…” Adam whispered.

The Waterwood Box, 54

The Waterwood Box, 53

Catch up!

Uncertain of where Frear’s question was headed, Adam replied, “Well, to learn, we go to a building and sit in a room where our teachers, our elders, tell us what they know.”

“And what do they tell you of your origins? Do you know from whence you came?”

“Sure, sure I do. Humans evolved from monkeys.” At this, Frear erupted in bubbles of laughter. Even Spot chuckled a bit. “What? What is it?” Adam asked. “Don’t tell me that’s not true. It’s evolution.” Frear continued to laugh and Adam found that he liked Frear much more when the water-folk was laughing. He just wished Frear wasn’t laughing at him.

“Oh no, child. I can’t contest evolution. That’s a fool’s game. But humans…from monkeys? I know not what a monkey is but unless that’s your word for water-folk…” Simply talking about such things brought fresh bubbles of laughter from Frear and a guarded chuckle from Spot.

“No, no, monkeys are a small, furry animal. They’re our closest ancestors. What else would we evolve from?”

Pride inflated Frear’s chest, which the water-folk then pounded with a closed fist. “Jur-Tiska. That’s what else.”

Now it was Adam’s turn to laugh. That’s why Frear had asked if monkey meant water-folk. Adam laughed, but stopped when Frear put a hand on the boy’s shoulder and firmly squeezed. In a voice both soothing and dignified, Frear spoke:

“This is not a jest, Adam. Confused myths lead to confused minds. Long before humans, in the early days of life, water-folk populated Ocean in great numbers. In every trench and trough, in every rift and rise, we prospered, tended, and toiled. Deep water, shallow water, warm water or cold made no difference to us. We were caretakers chosen by the webbed hand of Erato itself, and we were obliged. That, however, was Ocean before today, before landrise.

 

The Waterwood Box, 53

The Waterwood Box, 52

Catch up!

Frear’s tone of voice frightened Adam. “What do you want with me?” he asked.

“I want nothing with you. Your kind broke many tides ago. I look at you here now in your water suit, mimicking water-folk, and almost believe in the possibility of humanity’s return. But I cannot say with truth that I want such a return. The truth is, I believe more that I want nothing to do with you. It is your friend here who thinks you may want something to do with us.”

“May I speak now?” Spot darted into both of their lines of sight.

“Please,” Adam said.

Frear added with disinterest, “If you’ve something to say…,”

“I do have something to say. I brought–”

“Followed,” interjected both Adam and Frear.

“Followed…Adam here because he needs to find dry land and a way to get home. I thought you might help.” Spot gasped and then swam to one side.

“There is no dry land–,” said Frear.

Adam yelled, “You’re lying! ”

“–and in a sense, you are already home.”

“No! I live on a street, in a house, with my mom and dad and I go to school and play soccer and climb trees and, and…” He couldn’t finish. There was just too much to try to fit in.

“This is where you’re from, child. Well, not you, but your kind. Before humans broke, this,” Frear swept his arms wide to indicate the entirety of Ocean, “this was your home.”

Chapter 11
The Myth of Sesre

Adam didn’t at all understand what Frear was talking about. The water-folk kept saying “broke” as though it should make sense to Adam. “What do you mean ‘this was my home’?”

“Don’t you know your history? Your own myths? Tell me now child, how do your elders teach you of your origins?”

The Waterwood Box, 52