Sunday, 2 November 2014

Halloween and All Souls' Day Post - ENGKANTO

L and I made this comic back in 2011 for Gurukitty's Ghost Tales Comic Anthology.
This was before :EPOCH Files too.

The story is about a local myth from the Philippines and is loosely based on a story in my family.
Messed up, I know.
Please click here for the complete comic. :)

I hope you guys enjoy it.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The Ark (Chapter 13)

Chapter 13

Months quickly passed. Piscine tried to communicate with her family but she did not hear from anyone and she has grown quite worried.
More creatures have appeared in the Warmer Waters and this caused Piscine great distress. She understands that the warmer waters are appealing to these creatures and they sometimes come in groups.
She decided to train Alder and Oak, who insisted on helping her dealing with the situation when they realize that there are different, more aggressive marine life showing up from the waters and she did plan to. She let them help her deal with the bigger creatures, depending on how much they trained. There are sometimes spoils and she lets them take it to the Labs to sell with their parents. The twins have asked her if they can introduce her to their parents but she insisted to remain anonymous. Piscine wished she could contain some of the creatures somewhere but there are no safe areas anywhere.
As much as she is worried about her family, Piscine has grown to love the area around Krakatoa more. She watched from the waters the flowers that bloom around the island. She’s sure that her mother and Mer would appreciate them as much as she does. Her brothers would probably too. She thought it was a shame that they will not see this but with all the changes that is happening now, who knows and the peaceful people of the island. She did not understand why the Freedom clans refuse to associate with the city dwellers. And her answer to her question came to her one night while she is having a quiet time, wondering about her family, she heard a ruckus from a few miles out. She has not actually seen smugglers but she knows what they are like from the stories of the clans. She watched the smugglers come and go around the area where her ship is, studying their much different ways than the Krakatoa city dwellers. Over the next few months, she has seen some ships go down because some of them tried to kill a creature or two, sometimes three at the same time. She knows that they don’t think about the consequences much and sometimes, it’s just really bad luck on their part. As much as she hated not being able to help, she valued being not known to be around. There is one smuggler ship that has been quite successful with harvesting the new marine life. She has seen the ship, Jupiter, several times over the course of a few months and she realized how efficient the crew is on this ship. She also felt that it was a big advantage to her and the twins that they are able to defeat some creatures that need more than three people to handle. She was in the waters one night, scavenging for parts that the creatures may have swallowed and are now scattered about when she saw a bunch of swimmers a few meters away from her. They were wearing something that looks quite tight that it looked like they were wrapped in something and they had tanks on their back that are connected to mouthpieces. They were not fast swimmers like her but they had some sort of machine to boost their speed on their legs. It was pure luck that she was behind some rocks and that her hair is much shorter than it was or they would have seen her for sure. She watched them prepare large nettings and swam opposite each other. She felt the waters current change and she heard something whine loudly, she can hear it attacking anything that got in its way, marine life or rocks alike. The suited men were preparing to attack the larger creature, and as it got closer, Piscine thought that it looks like a Narwhale and it was angry.
It didn’t care about the net before it and went straight at it, slamming itself against it but something happened and it crashed against it, stopping its seemingly destructive head on charge. It opened its mouth and just as quickly, the men threw something in its mouth and boosted themselves away from it. There was a gigantic boom and the Narwhale started to bleed from all sides. It started to float up the surface and the men quickly went to towards it. Piscine saw her chance to flee but she did not. She swam towards the ship which she is sure is Jupiter. The Jupiter is a stern trawler, a modern fishing boat by the old world standards. Piscine resurfaced slowly and cautiously. She can hear the crew cheering because of another successful hunt.
‘Good job men!’ A voice boomed from above. Piscine was wide eyed in surprise. She did not expect that and she almost screamed. She was never good at this stealth business. ‘Let’s bring her up, cut it up, have a feast, sell whatever we can at the Labs and you can go home again to your family!’ he roars in delighted laugh and the his crew cheered him on. ‘Our dear Krakatoa will be safe again. We’ll sail in a fortnight.’
Piscine was surprised that he mentioned Krakatoa. Who is this man, she thought as she slid back down slowly to the waters.
Suddenly, someone is looking down at her who is as surprised as she is. He’s got slick back black hair, grey eyes and a large trimmed beard. She estimated him to be the same age as Mer. By the time he saw Piscine, the only thing you can see is her green rimmed goggles.
‘What in the…’ he starts to say, his large eyebrows, furrowing.
‘Captain Nay! They’re here!’ he looks back at his crew and when he looked back down at where Piscine was, she was already gone. He shakes his head in disbelief. ‘I may have eaten too many of that damn mutated frog delights,’ he tells his crew and laughed out loud.
Piscine’s heart was going to come out of her chest. That was too close, too close. She was reckless and she almost got caught by a smuggler, by a very skilled captain of a smuggler’s group to be exact.
Her curiosity almost got her in so much trouble but she is still wondering what he meant about Krakatoa. Does he live there? Does he have family? Is that why they are there? What do they know about the creatures and how did they get so skilled in their hunting skills. Piscine swam to Krakatoa, the safest place for her right now. They are too close to her ship and she hopes that it is too far up to be seen even by the sharp eye of the Captain of the Jupiter.
The months turned into a year, and she watched how the Jupiter crew managed to take down as many as five larger creatures that she and the twins will not be able to take down on their own. She has not seen any of the crew sail to Krakatoa which puzzled her immensely. It took every bit of her being to control herself and not go near the Jupiter again ever since that incident. She continued to train Alder and Oak on swimming deeper in the deeps and in water combat. Soon another few months turned into another year. She continued watching the crew of the Jupiter and grew respect for the hard working efforts to keep Krakatoa safe. Many times, she felt compelled to go to Vesuvius to see the island for herself but she knows it’s too dangerous even if she blended in. She still has not come across Pelee or Vesuvius. She tried to study the weather changes outside the perimeter of Krakatoa. Weather changes is as constant as sneezing and when it starts, it won’t stop until it goes back to spring. It could snow, rain, suddenly clear with the sun out, then there will be hail and then rain and then snow again, it goes on and on. She realized after a few months that there is no way she can actually learn how it works unless she has more sophisticated machines or tools. Anything to read the weather, like they do in the old world, she thought. She remembers her mother talking about it once in a while with them after family dinner or family outings. As Piscine worked out that morning, she realized that she has not seen her family for almost three long years.
Piscine decided to just go back. She has not heard from them at all. She has not detected Huginn or Muginn. She will be gone for a few days, stay for a few days and then come back. Surely Alder and Oak can take care of themselves in the waters now. And Krakatoa is safe with Captain Nay’s efforts. There has been no radio contact not even messenger birds. She needs to make sure her family is safe and then she can come back to Krakatoa. Perhaps her findings in these waters will prove useful for them since they haven’t communicated since she got here. Perhaps they will be more to learn when she gets there.
Piscine set down her weights and went straight to the navigation deck. She pushed some buttons and checked the dials. Arya started to move towards the direction of the Other Waters. She will not say goodbye to the twins because she will be back in no time. She’s sure of it.
In a day, she was halfway to her destination. She was glad she decided to fly instead. Readings from the radars could detect various different creatures of sizes in her route. The waters are raging as if a storm is brewing. The Other Waters seemed suddenly even more enormous than she remembered. She felt uneasy and hoped that it did not get any worse. But we never get what we hope for.

A sudden beeping sound went off in the deck which took Piscine by surprise that she dropped her fish on the floor, which she always does. She looked out at the never ending Other Waters. She knows she is close. By the time she got to where her family’s ship was supposed to be, it was already nightfall and the beeping sound intensified, the light turned green and it stops. She turns it off and went straight to look around the surrounding areas but she couldn’t find any other ships. She found it strange since their ship is the only one that is bugged that way so she can find it easily. All she could see is water from as far as she can see. She pondered on the idea whether to go low to check or go down to the waters by herself instead to investigate. She watched the creature infested waters below. A quick dip should be sufficient. She went back to navigation deck and pushed up the lever half way and the ship floated down slowly. When it stopped going down, she looked for supplies she needed to bring and wondered whether she needs to be wary of bigger creatures. Just as she thought of it, she felt she is being watched. She can see large eyes blinking and watching her from her right side, outside the window. She does not move and pretended to be blissfully unaware of its presence. She started to whistle and its eyes went wide. She stepped on a button on the floor and held on to dear life. The ship shot up almost immediately which startled the large long necked creature. It kept snapping at the ship but it is too high up to reach. Piscine is on the floor with more or less everything else. She gets up and the thick manual of the ship that has been carefully written and drawn by Un fell on her head. She groaned with pain and stayed on the floor to recuperate. She was almost cool. Almost, she thought. She looked over the manual next to her and felt glad she’s learned how to read and re-read everything. She stood up and thought that was the stupidest idea she ever came up with. Swim with the creatures, more like swim with the fishes, she thought, shaking her head. She went out of the deck and she looked around the empty skies. Not one ship in sight. She looked down, using her binoculars, hoping to see what kind of creature it was earlier but all she saw was the stormy waters below. Where could her family be? The scan found them at this exact same spot where she is. She went back to the navigation deck and turned on the scan. It was still green and it was not beeping. She did not realize that she held on to the manual and tears started falling from her eyes. She doesn’t want to think it but there’s a possibility they are all gone. Where could they be? Why did she wait this long to come back, she asked herself wanting to kick herself for being so inconsiderate. She should have come back when she did not get any feedback from them for the first few months. Why oh why did she think that it was going to be alright?

There are two possibilities:

It’s that Ark. It’s all those monsters from that Ark. But there are so many of them, how could they be so easily defeated?


It’s Sebleng. They found out about her but if they did, they would have tried to find her.

How long were her family gone? Ever since she tried to contact them? Has it been that long?
She wiped her face and breathed in and out. She has to focus. They can’t just be gone. She’s talking about her family.
The Freedom Clans. They are good at what they do and one of the best things they excel at is hiding. They cannot just disappear and be defeated, she assured herself. She wondered where the other ships are. The Bons, The Rinks, the Onis, the Rells, the Kuats, the Aces, to name a few. There were more than thirty ships in total; surely they cannot just disappear into thin air.
She held on to that spark of hope that her family is out there, flying with the other Freedom clans even if she can hear the beep that seemed like the heartbeat of her family’s ship.
She checked her fuel and she calculated that she just has enough to fly back to the warmer climate of Krakatoa. There she will be able to think and plan.
As the ship Arya headed back to the warmer waters, Piscine did not notice a certain long necked creature following her from below, mesmerized by the faint light of her ship. It meeped and it followed.
After a day, she arrived at the Warmer Waters, she landed back to the water, almost immediately. She did not want to completely run out of fuel and crash into the water. That happened once with one of the people of the clans. He was nervous as derp when he got his own ship that he completely forgot about having to refill it and he crashed his first boat on his first day. She took a hose from the side of the deck and immediately refilled the tank with sea water. She has to be quick. It’s going to take a while and she did not want to be floating around at night nor did she want to encounter Jupiter. Piscine suddenly had a flashback. She remembered how her brothers used to tell her how machines, boats, ships, basic transportation needed diesel fuel. She smiled at the thought. She remembered never hearing the word before and when she asked her brothers what it was, they told her they weren’t actually sure either which made her mad because she thought that they were just teasing her, which they basically always did. It was their mother that explained that it was found deep in the earths when the waters were much, much lower and mankind consumed it without any thought for the eco system or themselves. It actually harmed them but even armed with this knowledge, that did not stop them from continuing to use it and it slowly killed them by using it in an almost abusive way. Every time she refilled their cargo or any ships of their ships, she wondered why they didn’t just use the water that is there – right in front of them. You use it as fuel and it evaporates and it goes back to the waters, all clean.
Right after she finished filling up her tank, she ran to the navigation deck quickly and pulled the lever down and the ship went up with a balloon once again. She felt a little nervous suddenly, she was unsure of that little panic attack. She shook it off. She thought that she probably needs to extend her morning preps, maybe making it more a little intense. It slowly ascended and she went outside and watched her surroundings carefully, then she started checking the boat’s exterior. She was afraid Arya might have sustained some injuries during that little incident back in the Other Waters. Just as she was checking her boat, a shadow loomed oh so quietly behind her and when she turned around to check the ropes behind her, it disappeared just as quickly. Piscine is completely unaware of the long neck creature that followed her to Krakatoa and is now watching her every move. If Piscine wasn’t distracted from her current circumstances, she would have noticed it. It took all her will to pay attention to every nook and cranny in her boat.
She checked the radio aerial, the radar unit that her three older brothers worked on, the radio, the radar screen, the compass, the barometer, the engines, the rudder, the engine exhaust pipe, the handrails, the storage, the upper deck, the pulleys, the kitchen, her room, the navigation deck; everything is in order.
So far, so good.
Finally, she checked her surroundings again. She knows no one would spot the boat because the exterior looks like a large cloud. One of the few neat tricks of the Freedom clan. They are tricky indeed. Piscine adjusted her goggles and jumps off her boat, going in smoothly into the water. As heavy as her heart is, she knows that seeing Alder and Oak will make her feel better. If the long neck creature moved, Piscine would have seen it. Piscine would detect even the slightest movement in the water, not because Piscine is that good; it’s because one move from the creature will make quite a movement in the water. But this creature is as tricky as any person from the Freedom clans. It did not move and it can’t be seen because it is in silhouette. But if it was day time, it would stick out like a sore thumb but let’s not forget, it really does believe that it’s tricky. Piscine, like the rest of the Freedom clans, can see in the dark, in colour but they’re not as good as you would think. But enough to see everything that is needed to see. It waited for Piscine to be as far from it as possible. Very tricky indeed. It finally moved its gigantic body and swam towards the direction of Piscine’s new found home.
Not far from where the creature swam, the Jupiter floated still with no Sigurs on, behind a large rock that went up years ago after a sea earthquake. Captain Nay was watching from his periscope.
‘What do we do, Captain?’ Brick asked Captain Nay as he finished looking at what just transpired before them.
‘Nothing,’ he smiled at his first mate and laughed. ‘It’s obvious that girl is the one of the Freedom clans but she is harmless. She’s probably a runaway – what spunk!’ he says as he clasps his hands together.
‘What about the creature?’ Brick asked worried. Brick is Captain Nay’s first mate, a giant of a man with a large white Mohawk and stern brown eyes.
‘Sebleng has not given any word about it, perhaps it’s harmless but ask some of the men to follow them, just in case,’ he ordered as he made his way to the radio room.
‘I do not like this man, Sebleng. I will keep saying it until it gets into your head,’ Brick says, disapproving of their association with the Freedom clan leader.
‘He told us about these creatures, surely he means no harm. Tales is doing well protecting Pelee with his aid on incoming creatures as well. There should not be any of this negativity,’ Captain Nay tells his disapproving first mate.
‘I don’t like his voice. It sounds like he inhaled something,’ Brick says, shaking his head.
Captain Nay laughs out loud at his first mate’s reasoning. ‘Surely you can’t be serious. Look old friend, if he did not tell us about the creatures, we would not be able to defend our home,’ he turns a button on and a faint radio frequency could be heard. He tapped on of the smaller bottle of Sigurs next to him and the light flooded the dark radio room.
‘He told us that he will tell us where they came from but until now, he has not offered an explanation. There are too many questions, Captain. We have been very lucky not to have lost any men – ,’
‘Thanks to you and Nickets and the crew,’ Captain Nay interrupts, ‘At best, we are safe. We are lowly smugglers to the eyes of many people and whatever we do; we do not need to be hailed anything more than that. We are here to protect the only lands left. And then, we can go on with our lives. At least, for once, we are doing something for everyone and not just ourselves. Now, let’s see what Tales is up to in Pelee besides killing creatures and womanizing!’
‘I still find it odd that Vesuvius is not being pestered by these creatures,’ Brick says as he looks outside the unusually calm waters.
‘That’s because Vesuvius is filthy and always drunk with people! It’s too loud! Nobody wants to live there, not even those creatures, there’s your proof!’ Captain Nay laughed wholeheartedly. Brick grinned as the Captain because he was right.
‘What about the girl?’ Brick asked, ‘We’ve been watching her for years now.’
‘Aye. She’s harmless. She just likes those twins from Krakatoa. Sons of Wilnoix,’ he says as he turns the knob to get the right radio frequency.
‘Everything doesn’t make sense,’ Brick says, shaking his head.
‘Nothing makes sense, especially when it comes to lurvveee,’ Captain Nay answered, one of his eyebrows up, listening intently to the radio frequency.
Piscine arrived at the rocks, humming to the tune of a hum that her brothers used to whistle or hum, whatever they feel like. In the beginning, it annoyed her but it finally grew on her and now, humming it makes her feel closer to her lost family. If she was to travel back to the old times, she’ll find out that this certain song that makes the family happy is called, ‘Mmbop’ by the Hansons. If you asked any of her brothers what is the name of the song that makes them happy, they will tell you that it’s called Bop by The Crash Test Dummies.
She heard footprints and she already knew it was Alder and Oak; they have a different way of walking. She’s sure there’s something about that, how you can tell who is coming from the stairs or through the door or wading by the waters by the sounds of their mannerisms. She looks behind her and when she sees the brothers and held up her triangle. She will sing something that Cinq usually sing, something that she has grown to like as well. It was one of the songs that she taught them years back.
‘Let’s dance…put on your red shoes and dance the blues…’ she sang, hitting the triangle.
‘Let‘s dance to the song they’re playing on the radio,’ Piscine knows that Oak seems more like who is shy but that all disappears when he starts to sing a tune. This thought actually makes her happy because she does believe that singing is a universal language.
‘Oak, Alder!’ she calls out happily.
‘Piscine! Where have you been?’ Alder asked her as they walk towards her, ‘We actually had a surprise for you this morning and we wanted to introduce you to Re & Mi.’ Oak is blushing right next to Alder but she doesn’t say anything because she’s afraid that if she teases him, he’d stop singing with her. She believes he has trouble breathing when he’s in land but he seems okay when he’s in the water so she’s not very worried. Just worried the air may not be good for him so that’s why he’s red in the face all the time.
‘You were?!’ she was genuinely surprised. ‘I have never thought about meeting them. You both keep mentioning them but honestly, I am afraid that I may smell like food to them,’ she says, feeling a little worried at the thought.
‘No! They like kowfish!’ Oak tells her, shaking his head, ‘they are the sweetest, very calm. A little hyperactive when they smell a certain kind of herb but they’re hot,’ Oak assures Piscine.
‘Why would they be hot?’ Piscine shakes her head, ‘I still don’t understand your language. It’s been three years…’ Piscine shakes her head in amusement.
Oak had always had a little daydream where he would ride Mi with Piscine and he will take her around the island and he will put flowers in her hair and she would giggle at the gesture. This thought made Oak giggle a little bit then he stops with a mortified look on his face.
‘What’s so funny?’ Piscine asks Oak, smiling. Alder is behind Piscine making funny faces at his younger brother.
‘Nothing,’ he says nodding nervously at her, ‘Chutahs are funny. So funny,’ he tells her.
‘Oh I see!’ she says, trying to understand him.
‘Are you alright, Piscine?’ Oak asked, feeling that Piscine seems a little distracted.
Piscine feels uneasy. She doesn’t understand it. She felt alarms buzzing in her mind. ‘Alder, Oak, would you both like to take a midnight swim?’ Piscine adjust her goggles and jumps in the water. ‘Hurry!’ she says, swimming away. The twins look at each other, confused and jump into the water without asking any questions. They swam after her as quickly as they possibly can.
As they dived in the waters to swim faster, that’s when Alder, Oak and Piscine spotted the creature. It was gigantic and it was swimming towards them. Piscine realized that it was the creature she saw that was watching her ship at the Other Waters and she was horrified. She swam faster along with the twins, getting on the nearest current to get away more quickly and get the creature away from Krakatoa as far as they can possibly can.
As the creature swam after them, it got swept up by the same current which made it go as fast as they were going. When Oak looked back, that’s when he realized it and kicked faster towards Alder and Piscine, pointing behind them frantically. Piscine and Alder didn’t need to look back to understand Oak’s frenzied body language, they swam faster than they have ever swam in their lives.
The boat carrying Captain Nay’s men stayed in one spot, witnessing all that just transpired.
‘Well that was weird,’ one of them said after a while.
‘Yep,’ one of the men who sat next to him replied. ‘I guess we row back, someone tell Brick that they might be on their way back to them. Better to hide, somewhere further maybe.’
‘Aye, got it,’ the third man answered. He took out a small box with buttons on it and when he switched it on, it buzzed back to life. ‘Brick, sir, they’re on their way back there.’
‘What? Anything happened?’ Brick says, his voice a little static.
‘They’re being chased by the creature. The gigantic harmless one that you told us of. I would like to respectfully suggest that we move the ship a little further away. There may be a possibility of a fight. I repeat. Suggesting to move the ship further away from original coordinates, possibility of a fight. Please inform us of new coordinates,’ he reports.
‘Thank you. South east, four miles from original coordinates, we’ll meet you there, Moe, Larry and Curly. Over and out,’ Brick transmission ends.
‘And we just got here,’ Moe complains as they start to row back to their ship.
‘Where’s south east again?’ Curly asks and Moe hits him on the head with the map.
‘To the right!’ Larry answered and Moe hits him on the head with the same map.
‘Use the compass!’ Moe tells them both.

‘What compass?’ Larry and Curly both asked.

(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)

The Ark (Chapter 12)

Chapter 12

Piscine did not plan on being away for so long.
But she had a feeling that it was going to be a long time before she saw the twins again. When she got back to warmer waters, it was becoming as dangerous as the other ocean. There were many consequences to decisions made during those years by the clan. There was no other way so she requested to be emancipated from the clan.
‘Unless you do not plan on seeing Alder and Oak, there is no way that you are going to be emancipated from the Freedom clans,’ her father tells her a matter-of-factly.
Her parents told her that she may be punished for it but they will try to explain her actions by telling the others that she is doing it for research for the Ark which Mer has been compiling together ever since they went to the Other Waters.
‘Are you worried about not being able to see Alder and Oak again?’ her mother asked her as she packed supplies with her.
‘Constantly, to be honest. Now that the creatures are coming out of the Ark, they will be everywhere and the people from the cities are never going to be prepared for it. At least, I will be able to save some of them,’ she tells her mother. If she was being completely honest with herself, she is actually not sure that she will be able to help the people of the cities but she knows what she’s doing is really for Alder and Oak. They are selfish reasons but its reason enough for her to go back for them; even it means punishment from the Freedom clan leader, Sebleng.
Sebleng has been the Freedom clan’s leader for a hundred years. He is not someone that you can call, kind but he is a great strategist and leader. He has managed to keep an eye out with his machines Huginn and Muninn for any danger. If any unsuspecting and unlucky smuggler boat does come across one of the clans by accident, I am willing to bet all my money that the unlucky smuggler boat and its crew will be sleeping with the fishes before word gets out anywhere. He manages to keep track of what his clans are up to, most of the time. Sometimes, you have lucky days but not all days are lucky so caution is your best friend. If Sebleng finds out that Piscine is associated with the city dwellers and the fact that her family knows of this association and interaction will not end well. It may also lead to swimming with the fishes.
Before Piscine left, she promised her family that she will be safe from harm, exercise caution, and that she will let them know if any kinds of changes are happening in the Warmer Waters. Piscine said her goodbyes to her family and left as quickly as she can before her tears fell. She did not want to leave them but she feels she has a duty to fulfil.
As she sailed away that night, with more weight in her heart, she looked back at the family ship that’s been the Vembers home all their life. She will be back, she told herself. It’s not as if I am never going to come back to see them again, she thought to herself, assuring herself is not the same as being assured by someone else. She knows what she must do. Piscine pulled the lever and sailed away into the night. Little did she know that it’s the last time she will ever see her family’s ship sail again.
She expected the journey to be long even with her ship’s more modern capabilities. It is smaller than her family’s ship but it still quite fast. Her ship’s name is Arya and is originally Un’s ship, coloured in white everywhere. This boat was so rundown when they found it years ago but Un fixed it up nicely, adding engines and other specific modifications that are necessary to run this kind of ship in this world. Piscine was actually shocked and grateful that Un gave her the ship. He explained to Piscine that he felt that she needed the Arya more than he did so he passed it on to her to use – Piscine thought it was a spur of the moment decision because Un often thinks over big or small decisions for a good amount of time. The siblings even have an inside joke that Un has to think about where to go to toilet beforehand even if he was as desperate as a child with loose motion. Piscine thought about renaming it before she left but went against her own idea when she remembered that Arya is the name of the girl that Un was going to marry. She died from the bends, which is a rare case for the clans since they are good swimmers by nature. Un remains unmarried to this day. Piscine hopes that Un giving Arya to her is a sign that he is finally going to be able to move on.
‘You need to give her the freedom I can’t have,’ he told her as he looks at the ship lovingly when he gave her the keys.
It took her three days to finally reach her destination and she found the peaceful warmer waters are not as welcoming as before. Back in the days, you would not normally encounter predators in broad daylight. This time, they were everywhere and it was only noon. But this did not deter Piscine from her mission to find Alder and Oak.
Piscine wasted no time. She packed supplies with her, spears and her knives. She checked engines, fuel, so far so good. She had to remind herself that she was alone this time. Her family is at the other side of the Other Waters. She chose this life and she will make them proud somehow. She went back to the navigation deck and pulled a lever. There was a growing noise from the bottom of the boat. From the middle of the boat, a gigantic hole opened to make way for an inflating balloon. In a few minutes, Arya was in the air, floating so calmly, blending in with the sky. Piscine punched a few buttons and made sure she will be able to find Arya when she gets back. This is after all, her new home.
After checking everything in her ship for the third time, she decided that it was time to head out. She looked at the sky to check for the time. It was approximately four in the afternoon. She went to check proper coordinates to reach Krakatoa fast and how to get back to where her ship is parked just as quickly from at least six different points in the map. Finally prepared, she stood at the edge of the ship adjusting goggles that her mother has given her to use. Then, she jumped into the waters, creating no splash or sound. Once she was in the water, she studied the new eco system of the Warm Waters and she still was not prepared for what she saw. There were more creatures around of various sizes but not one of them took any notice of her. She went past a gigantic fish that had small arms with a gigantic head and small tail, a school of piranenas which eats almost anything when hungry or even when not hungry and a group of jellishes to name a few. As she slowly took in to account how much different the Warm Waters are, she noticed half a boat sunk not too far from where she is. She wasted no time to think and swam towards the sunken boat to investigate and suddenly, she noticed the red ink surrounding the area. She felt mortified. It was the Redoctop. The last time she saw it was a few months ago. She thought the clans managed to catch it or made it go back to sleep, that’s why she did not see it. She shook her head in disbelief with herself. She was completely distracted with coming back that she didn’t even ask anyone from her family whether it was dead or asleep. She did not waste time and followed the red ink trail. It was one of the first larger creatures that escaped the Ark.
As Piscine went further to follow the trail, the more the ink faded. Perhaps finally diluted by the sea waters, she thought, but she still was not sure. She felt as if all the lessons and whatever she remembers about creatures went flying off her brain log. She was conflicted on whether to feel relieved or dread at this moment. Caution, she tells herself.  A few more metres ahead, she realized she lost the trail but she saw an array of different marine creatures swimming towards the same direction. Either they are running away from something, a bigger predator or they found something to eat. Piscine did not lose a beat and decided to check anyway. She swam swiftly through the current that can take her ahead of the creatures. The sea predators do not take notice of her at all. Soon, she realized that that the latter was the answer to her question.
The marine creatures found fish food.
Just as she was about to swim towards the new fish food, something caught her by the hair. Without thinking, she unsheathed her knives, cut the part of her hair which the tentacles grabbed, flipped around quickly and managed to cut off the part of the tentacles. The tentacle wiggled violently. She knew it was the Redoctop. She swam after it and slashed away its flesh at every opportunity she got. She noticed different marine creatures following them, following the red ink and following the free flow of food. When she managed to catch up to it, she cleanly cut its gigantic head to six different parts. Piscine did not wait for it to react. She already knows it is dead and she thought for a moment that it’s a shame that she couldn’t just return it to the Ark. But in any case, she will have to eventually kill it if she finds out that it brought any harm to anyone. She swam away quickly, leaving it to the marine creatures to feast on.
As she swam back towards the direction of the ‘fish food’ as quickly as she could. She could see two pairs of legs kicking not far from her. She will have to do another rescue, she thought, not hesitating but swam on. She will have to be swift and hopefully, they won’t see her. As she saw the crystal tooth barabara jump up; she threw a spear up with a confident precise throw. She threw another for a good measure. She also decided from there that the crystal tooth barabara will be her dinner that night. She deserved it and they were delicious.
Piscine resurfaced slowly. Only half of her head, until only her green rimmed goggles are above the water. She looked like part of periscope, looking out of the water, checking if any bigger predators like the Redoctop will come after she killed the barabara. Piscine turns around and she had the shock of her life when she saw Alder and Oak. There are no mistaking their faces.
‘My water babies!’ she screamed in excitement. They looked more mature but she knows it’s them. There can be only one, or more like two, who looks like themselves. The twins were so shocked that they thought she was some sort of mirage or they believed it was most probably a trap. They have not seen each other in six years, she can’t blame them. She probably looks more mature now than the last time they saw her.
What made her smile is when they insisted to sing one of the songs that she taught them six years ago. Her heart began to feel like it is filling up again.

 ‘Won’t you come see about me? I’ll be alone, dancing you know it baby...’ Oak started to sing. Piscine felt her heart strings tug, how beautiful his voice has become. Being such a stocky boy, you would not imagine a voice like that in him exists. Her siblings, especially Huit would have the best time singing with him, she was sure of this.
‘Tell me your troubles and doubts, giving me everything inside and out and…’ Piscine sings, imagining how the song would have been with musical instruments, imagining her family is singing along.
‘Love’s strange so real in the dark, think of the tender things that we were working on…’ Piscine can hear the emotions from Oak’s voice and she felt that they were not in dangerous waters anymore. They were singing this song at the rocks were they met and she is playing a ukelele as they sing together.
‘Slow change may pull us apart…’
‘when the light gets into your heart, baby…’

And when they swam towards each other, hugging and laughing together out of relief and happiness that she found them in such unexpected, almost impossible circumstances, she knew that she was home.

‘Don’t You forget about meeeee….don’t don’t don’t don’t!’ they continued singing in unison.

As she reassured them of the waters being safe, although her thoughts were on how to keep it safe went into overdrive. How she will do this on her own, she thought. She had a feeling that Alder and Oak were unfamiliar with the waters in the current line they are at, so she told them that the creatures are quite the norm around these waters. Although it is not as safe as it was before they meddled with the Ark. She felt pleased that she decided to bring the inflatable boat along. This was one of the these she found in her early days of scavenging and she can finally put it to good use since none of her clans felt that they needed such things. She also managed to find wooden oars floating about earlier that she found a little strange but she shook off the feeling and decided to use it anyway. She will have to investigate later. Right there and then is a good day. She will not have it any other way.

As she swam next to the inflatable boat carrying Alder and Oak. She took off her goggles for a good measure so she can see the twins more clearly. She noticed that many things did change, not just to her but to the boys as well. Their voices are deeper, their faces more angular and mature, they are much taller than she remembered too. She remembers being able to hug them and her hands will meet but this time, it doesn’t. Perhaps there are more changes that she does not know but there is time. She finally noticed that she cut off her hair during the fight. Her mother loves her hair and she would most probably get a lecture on it later on. She realized how much better they are at swimming, which makes sense since they managed to survive the attack of those predators. The thought of the boys getting better at singing warms her heart immensely. She will teach them more songs, making a mental note of it. When Alder asked her how long she’s going to stay this time, she wanted to tell him that she’s home but she felt that it would be inappropriate and she did not want to discuss what is going on with her family right now so she told them she would be around for quite a while. There is no need to elaborate. There will be time.

As she makes her way back to her ship, she told herself that she will tell the twins about what is happening eventually. Perhaps she may not have to if she found manages to contain the creatures’ migration which is most likely impossible but she will have to try. She wondered how her clan fares in the Other Waters. When she got back on board, she went to back to the navigation deck, checking the codes. No messages so far. They should be fine, she thought. She will not tell them about the red ink giant called the Redoctop. She did not think it was appropriate to worry her family over something she’s sure she can handle. But she will write an assessment report for Mer.

Time quickly passed as it always does, and after many moons, at the Other Waters, the family’s boat sinks slowly towards the deep end. The Vember clan never named their ship; her parents always thought it was a mere superstition that didn’t need attention despite many who spoke to them about their error.

The nameless ship disappears into the darkness at the bottomless waste of the Other Waters while Huginn and Muninn flies over the spot where it sank.

(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)

The Ark (Chapter 11)

Chapter 11

Piscine is ready to go out with permission granted by her parents to seek out the boys whom offered their friendship to her.

‘Anak, please be careful. They may be young but who knows whom they’ve told about you,’ her mother tells her as she does her warm ups. ‘It would benefit us to know how the city people fare now but it will be a great disadvantage if any of our clan members know about this. Be especially aware of the iron birds. There are no other but them.’

‘I will, Mom,’ she assures her, ‘If in doubt, swim back home,’ she repeated what her mother told her all these years, every day as she adjusted her industrial goggles.

‘Precisely. Seek them out, find out what you need to and get back here before dawn. Now go before I change my mind,’ her mother tells her and as quick as a fish, Piscine jumps off the boat, enters the water feet first and makes no sound or splash.

The waters in this area are definitely different from the other ocean. The ocean is not something you would call safe but this is the closest to safe that you can get here. As she swam closer to her destination, she checked water temperatures as instructed by her mother, she checked the marine life as instructed by her father and she snacked on some small fishes here and there and when she got closer to Krakatoa, she checked the perimeter of the island before getting any closer.

Piscine did not know where to start looking for them or how to look for them. Will they be on a boat out? Will they be still living in the island? She followed her intuition and went to the last place she saw them. As she swam towards her destination, she saw two figures by the rocks. They were sitting by the rocks where she left the boys the last time. She was not sure if it was them. What if there were other twins in the island? She swam towards them very slowly; she needs to exercise caution, just like what Quatre taught her. The figures finally see her as she gets closer to them. Only one way to find out if it is them, she thought.

‘My water babies! How much have you grown?!’ she calls out to them as she swam closer. The boys stood up quickly from where they were sitting and were looking around them cautiously. Piscine stopped swimming and looked around again. Caution, Piscine. Caution, she can hear Quatre saying it in her head.

‘Piscine!’ they call out to her. She gave them the widest smile she had and swam closer to them. How much have they changed since the last time she saw them?

After finding out what they have done all these years, catching up a little bit and finding out that they didn’t tell anyone about her, she felt even more relieved. The reunion was highlighted with the knowledge of their names. Alder and Oak but they will always be her water babies. She told them a little about their ways in the Clan, as Mer instructed her to do and hoped that they agree to a little secrecy when it comes to her.

As she swam back home for the night, she thought of how short of a time frame she will only spend here but it’s for the best and she will not waste a single moment.

Another highlight of the day is the marriage token. She did not plan it. She believes it was the fates that led her to find that pearl. There is a saying in their clan that if you find a pearl in the waters, and someone is very important to you, you are destined for that person. It just so happens that she found two of the same person and she thought it was magic. She will tell her family about this one day. For now, it is her own secret.

When she got back to the boat, the only question anybody asked her is that if she found the twins which she happily reported that she did. She told them how they did not tell anyone about her, how much they have grown, how much she told them about their customs and what they know as instructed by Mer, what they plan to do in the next few days before they sail out again. Her siblings were so happy to hear her stories. As she lay in bed that night, all she could think about is how happy she was, teaching them how to sing. Her heart felt full and she went to sleep with pleasant singing dreams of the twins.
When she got up the next morning, she thought of the things that she needed to teach them before she left again for the other ocean. Singing, swimming, fishing, stories from the other ocean and more singing. She must not forget to tell her family about every detail on what she taught them. Mer will keep a record.
Happy times always seems so short. Soon, it was the third sunset. Piscine helped prepare for the journey back to the other ocean and her heart, overflowing with happiness, feels mighty heavier.
As she made her way to their meeting place, she kept telling herself that she will not feel sad. She won’t show sadness to Alder and Oak. She must not. She is older. She will not be weak.
Piscine arrived at the rocks and even as hard as she tried to mask her sadness, she couldn’t help but feel the overwhelming feeling of separation. Suddenly, the twins did a salute – something she’s seen in books that they have at home but they were awkward but practiced salutes. They thanked her for saving their lives, that she will be their best friend forever, that they would always think of her and that they will wait for her.

Piscine felt her ears go hot and she squealed, feeling all the love she has burst in her chest. She cannot wait to go back. She will teach them more skills and she will teach them more songs to sing with her. She took them in her arms and it was the warmest feeling she ever felt.

(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

:EPOCH Files turns 3!

Before I go to bed, I would just like to express my gratitude and love to everyone who's always supported me with my dreams.
And to my creative partner in crime, Linds, I can't even begin to describe how grateful I am that she understands my over the top weirdness. You will go places and I am glad you let me drag you into this! *high five explosion*

You can find the webcomic here!
Or here!

Stay safe! *fistbumps, highfives and hugs*

Here's a crewfie!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Ark (Chapter 10)

Chapter 10

Piscine opened her eyes.
She blinked several times and she felt relieved. She finally saw the sun shine through her window for the first time in four years.

She looked outside and she has never seen friendlier waters or skies since. It felt good to be back.
They should be almost there. She gets off the bed quickly and goes into the exercise room where her sister and two of her brothers are working out.

‘Good morning,’ she says, greeting them, a small hint of excitement in her voice can be heard. She went straight to the sink to wash her face.  

She picked up two weights and started working out.

‘Excited?’ Un asked her, not stopping his push ups.

‘A little nervous, I suppose,’ she answers, smiling, not stopping her count.

‘I wish we could meet them. They sound wonderful, Piscine. We still haven’t seen anyone that look alike,’ said Neuf, the youngest of her brothers.

Mer sighed, ‘If only Pop will let us but I doubt it. It would have been nice.’

Piscine had so much going on in her head, even if she was focused on doing her weight lifting. The biggest question in Piscine’s mind is if they would remember her?

Piscine’s family knows about the twins.
It was not long after they arrived at the Other Ocean. When they arrived, they wasted no time to gather the older clan members. And as their usual routine, they started to reminisce about memories from the old world. There were crazy stories about how people idolized other people called ‘pop stars’. The people offer everything they have even if the ‘pop stars’ give very little in return. Old tree names, old animals, birds, religion, customs, cultures, the way of life is terribly different from what they know now. Some clans talk about how people were terrible then.

Piscine was filled with guilt. She didn’t want to be terrible! Everyone is so good with each other and here she was, lying to her family. She was carrying the burden of her rescue from her family for seven months now and she felt that the guilt she is carrying will not feel lighter any time soon.
Piscine thought and thought of whom she should speak to about it first.

Mer knew a little about it but Piscine knew that she wouldn’t tell her parents about it. So she went to work on hinting to her brothers – hopefully one of them would tell her parents. But subtle hints did not work for her brothers. She had to face up and be brave. She will tell her brothers directly.

She started with Un. She went up to the navigation bridge where she would usually find him.

‘Hey Cine! Did you bring me food?’

The question caught her off guard because she was so focused on how she should hint about the twins. ‘No! I won’t bring you anymore!’ she answered him. ‘Mom said you eat too much.’ Un laughed and slapped his stomach. ‘Welp. It can’t be helped. It’s so cold around here.’ Un, is the eldest of the brothers and is twenty-eight years old. He eats so much that he’s gained more muscle and is not as lean as his brothers anymore. They sometimes joke that he’s so stocky that he could live in one of the three cities with no problem. He’s got blond greenish hair, two toned, just like Mer, and with friendly smiling brown eyes. He’s a bit of an obsessive compulsive disorder because he likes to keep everything clean. Even his eating habits are completely different from all his siblings – he likes to use a knife, a fork and a spoon. He is also in charge of the cleaning roster which he rotates equally among himself and his siblings.

Piscine looked at the maps on the table absentmindedly, determined to say something about her guilty conscience. ‘What if I told you that I helped some people when they were drowning?’

‘That’s good, Cine. You should always help people when they need help,’ Un answered without missing a beat.

‘Yeah, Cine. Helping people is a good thing,’ a voice said behind her. It was Deux with Trois and Quatre following behind him, joining them in the navigation deck. Deux is twenty-six, a little taller than Un, bespectacled with gray eyes with two toned curly hair that dominates all over his head. He  likes instruments but is not much of a singer. He can play whatever instruments you put before him with no problem whatsoever. Trois is twenty-four, with two toned bed hair with the prettiest blue eyes you will ever see in the land, he has a hawk nose which makes him look a little scary sometimes especially when you disturb him when he is reading. He does not like being disturbed in his me time Quatre is twenty-two, lean with muscles, the usual two toned hair that are short and spiky and eyes that so small that it looks like there are no whites in his eyes, just black. He is the most skilled hunter among The Nines, being able to study creatures weaknesses and behaviour quickly.

Piscine wasn’t prepared to have four of her older brothers in the deck, at the same time, discussing this.

‘Hey Un, Pop decided to go to Brooks Range to check the area there.’ Quatre informs his older brother.

‘We’re not too far,’ Deux said as he checks one of the maps on the table.

‘I hope it’s not too cold for swimming or food, the last few areas was harsh,’ Un says as he checks the buttons and needles in front of him.

Piscine unconsciously chose the ‘flight’ option and was about to bolt for it when Trois asked her a question she dreaded to hear.

‘Cine, what’s the matter?’ Trois asked his sister who looked so troubled. ‘You can tell us – ‘

‘I saved two boys who looked alike and they live in the city! You can tell Pop. I am ready to be punished!’ Piscine said as quickly as she could, not stopping to even breathe. There, she finally said it. They can tell their father and she will just have to face whatever punishment that is going to be given to her.

Her brothers started to look like they’re struggling. She wasn’t sure about the expressions on their face. It was Trois who snorted and then there was laughter. They were laughing. Piscine is quite confused. Are they laughing because of the punishment or it’s because she’s doomed? Her brothers are quite tickled and they haven’t stopped laughing which just made Piscine a little mad.

‘What’s so funny?’ she asked them, hitting Quatre in the arm because she felt annoyed and mocked.

‘We believe you!’ Quatre said to her.

‘You don’t think I’m serious?’

‘No, we do!’ Deux said but he still won’t stop laughing.

‘Then, what’s so funny? I broke the rules and I should be punished!’ Piscine’s voice is demanding punishment for redemption. Trois wiped the tears in his eyes from laughing, went to her side and kneeled so he can look at her.

‘Piscine, if you did save two boys from drowning, isn’t that a good thing?’ Trois asked her, his blue eyes looking at her which made her relax a little bit.

‘Yes, that’s what Mer said too but we’re not allowed to have contact with anyone outside. And that was my first swim outside the perimeter and I feel like I did a bad thing when I saved them but I don’t regret it either because they looked so happy and they said they wanted to be friends and….and…’ and Piscine started crying.

The door opened with Neuf coming into the room and the rest of her brothers, Cinq, Six, Sept and Huit.

‘We brought food!’ Six said happily then saw his sister was crying. ‘What happened?’ Six is the tallest of the brothers. He always has to crouch everywhere he goes and he has not stopped growing. He’s got a shaved head and yellow eyes that mesmerize you in if you look too long. And his favourite past time is dancing. He studied all kinds of dances: ballroom dancing, the Macarena, the Cha cha, belly dancing, disco, flamenco, even Gangnam style which he does not like to admit to like. Once every full moon, The Nines would have a sort of dance that many of the clans think is quite unique but if you are in the old world, they would have a term for that dance and it’s called interpretive slash bboy dance. It is always different and unique.

‘She saved two boys from the city,’ Quatre tells his younger brothers who just came into the deck.

Cinq, Six, Sept, Huit and Neuf went quiet, looked at each other and shrugged at each other.

‘Anything bad happened after that? Or what?’ Cinq asked, concerned. Cinq’s distinct feature is his large mouth. He’s got huge blue green eyes and hair that seems to just flop down on his head. If he was in the old world, he would have been hair commercial perfect and when he walks into the room, time just slows down and you see every strand of his hair flip from side to side, perfectly. To this day, the brothers use this to their advantage to defeat creatures.

‘No. She just feels like she did something bad.’ Un answered, his attention back to the wheel.

‘Stop being a baby!’ Neuf teases his sister. Neuf is the youngest of The Nines. He’s got red tinted eyes, his two tone hair tied in a ponytail and he’s pretty tale for his age. Perhaps he’ll be taller than Six. He is quite quick on his heels and everything that he does is lightning quick. If he was in the old world, they would think he’s like a ninja.

‘I….am….not…’ Piscine said between sobs and started to cry again. Trois hugged his youngest sister to console her.

Sept went over to Neuf and hit him lightly on shoulder. ‘Don’t make her cry even more!’ Sept is the shortest among The Nines. His two toned hair is the straight and long, reaching his back. His eyes are the colour of the beautiful sunset and he could be quite serious. His hobby is mainly juggling which does not match with his personality. He juggles anything he can get his hands on. Wrenches, fishes, babies, anything he can carry, and he will juggle.

‘What??? She is!’ Neuf answered back.

‘Piscine, saving a life is not a bad thing,’ Huit tells her, his small colour purple eyes reassuring. His hair is parted in the middle. Huit is the sarcastic one among The Nines and he loves to sing. He will sing opera, pop, jazz, metal, he will know how to get it right.

‘She thinks she should be punished,’ Quatre tells his brothers amused.

And then, they all started laughing which made Piscine cry even louder.

‘Ahhh we’re making too much noise,’ Un tells his brothers, taking control of the situation.
‘Can anyone care to explain to Cine why she would not be punished?’

‘Can I sing it to her?’ Six asked.

‘No!’ the rest of the brothers say in unison and more laughter followed.

‘Cine, Mom or Pop will not punish you for saving lives. Why would they do that?’ Sept assures her.

‘Because…because…they’re…from the…city…wahhhh!’ Piscine continued to cry.

‘We would do the same thing if we saw that,’ Huit assures her, nodding in agreement with his brothers.

‘What…’ Piscine looked up to look up at her brothers.

‘It really doesn’t matter, Cine. As long as we’re not trading, I guess.’ Cinq said, shrugging.

Piscine stops crying and wiped her face with her shirt. ‘Did you ever have friends from the city?’ she asked.

The brothers looked at each other and shook their head. Sept spoke, ‘It just never happened to us. Not that we won’t do the same thing that you did. If we saw anyone drowning, we’d save the person if they need help. But there are other cases to think about but those are grown up things. Eventually, you will learn and experience this. We will not tell you what you need to learn but we will guide you. All of us will. Now, if Pop or Mom gets mad, which is likely to happen, but believe me, little sister, they will understand you.’

‘But…but I want to see them again.’ This surprised the Nines. They didn’t expect this.

‘Well, sister,’ Huit answered this time, ‘you just made it a little more complicated.’

In the course of a few months, Piscine managed to get up the courage to tell her parents about the brothers that looked the same. She made several attempts to tell her father about it. Sometimes, an accident will occur or a meeting with the clan elders were called. There was even a time when she thought she had finally told him about it, only to find out that he’s been asleep the entire time due to a long week.
But this day was different. It was after lunch and her whole family was there. They have been having their meals together with the other clans that were gathered here but this time, it was different. Her sister and her brothers have been giving her looks the entire meal. Meal times are quiet so the only way to communicate is to give out subtle facial expressions at each other and they do it quite well too.

‘Pop, Mom, can I tell you both something?’ Piscine starts off nervously.

‘Yes, what is it bunso?’ her mother asked.

‘I managed to deadlift today!’ she tells them excitedly but her expression tells another story.

‘That’s great! You should teach her more, Mer. She still has a long way to go,’ their father says proudly, taking a large bite on his raw fish. Their mother smiled at Piscine, nodding in approval.

‘Also,’ she starts, taking a deep breath, ‘I saved two boys,’ Piscine told them.

‘Oh, that’s very nice – ’ her mother said.

‘They’re from the city,’ Piscine continued, interrupting her mother. ‘They were drowning and I had to save them.’ Piscine felt so much weight from her shoulders disappear but she can feel her insides fall on the floor at the same time.

Piscine’s father did not say a word but he was looking around the table at her siblings. They were all watching their mother, not saying anything and looking particularly attentive. ‘Nines, secure the room.’ And with that, the brothers got up from their seats and checked outside the room they were in.

‘It’s clear, Pop,’ Neuf reports back to their father.

‘Trois, Quatre, Six and Sept, stay outside and let us know if anyone is coming.’ The boys shuffled out of the room and the rest of the brothers stayed watch inside. ‘Next time you want to tell me something, please let me know if it’s going to be like this,’ their father sighs, ‘Anyway, do go on, Anak.’

‘And I want to see them again,’ Piscine says finally. She looked as if another huge weight came off her shoulders but her expression is as worried and nervous as it was in the beginning.

There was a moment of silence before her mother said anything. ‘Is that all?’ she asked gently.

Piscine nodded and couldn’t look at her mother in her eyes, just staring at her half eaten raw fish.

‘It seems that your sister and brothers know about this already because they don’t seem surprised at your little adventure,’ her father finally began to talk. He got up from his chair and went to the water tanks. He poured himself another glass of water and drank it completely.

Mer looked unfazed by this observation but the younger of the Nines looked a little nervous.

‘When did this happen and why would you want to see them again?’ her father asked, his voice booming in the room.

‘This happened about ten months ago and I want to see them again because…because I’ve never seen anyone like them before. They look alike!’ Piscine bravely answered her father. She felt she might as well say everything before they disown her.

Her parents look at each other in surprise. ‘Twins?’ her father said and he started to laugh, ‘Count on the Vember clan to find rare things in the world indeed.’ He sits back on his seat and drank from his cup. ‘And you gave your friendship to these boys so freely?’

‘No, I did not. They asked me for my friendship. I didn’t have time to answer because I had to come back before the anchor went up.’

‘To be honest with you children, this is dangerous,’ their mother answered this time. ‘Cine are putting yourself at risk for this friendship,’ she concludes.

‘But that’s not fair,’ Piscine protested.

‘Nothing is ever fair in this world, anak,’ her mother concludes.

‘Me and your mother encourage friendships of all kinds but the city people is another thing. We know a great deal about them already.’

‘But they are still children, like me,’ she protests.

‘What if we teach them some of our ways through Cine?’ Mer suggested.

‘And what would we get from that?’ Un asked, finally speaking.

‘Human behaviour study subjects? It would be great to see if the city people can actually do what we do if they try,’ Mer said, shrugging. Piscine wants to hug Mer for being on her side on this but she does not understand why she would be so willing to get herself in trouble but it did not matter, she had an ally and it was Mer, the voice of reason.

Their parents looked at each other. Their father nodded at their mother who doesn’t look too satisfied. She sighed and looked at Piscine straight in the eyes. ‘Perhaps it can be done. They are children and there’s no harm if Cine becomes friends with them – as long as no one else knows,’ their mother concluded.

‘You told us before that it was quite dangerous. Won’t other city people take her if they see her?’ Deux asked, worried.

‘There’s a possibility. We are as extinct as the breeds of animals from the old world. Though she will blend in quite well since she does not have two tone hair like all of you,’ her mother reasoned, her thoughts overclocking.

‘Piscine, this is not an experiment nor is it a game. Your mother and I encourage you to have friends, even if they are from the city but since it is going to be dangerous, we are having second thoughts about this. We are breaking the rules as well,’ he added. Piscine knows very well that this will not go very well with the main Freedom clan leader. And the possibility of the Vember clan being cut off completely is also quite likely.

‘I understand…’ she tells them. She can feel her vision blurring and her face feeling hot. She felt better telling her parents about this but at the same time, she wished she did not.

‘Piscine,’ her father called out to her.  Piscine looked up and smiled her toothy smile even if she felt tears coming down her face. ‘Don’t cry, Anak. I will think about this situation throughly. If you improve by the time we come back to warmer waters, then I’ll consider this friendship that is important to you. Now, your mother & I are tired. We are going back to our rooms.’

Piscine looked at her sister and her brothers with wide, surprised eyes. Mer winked at her and her brothers gave her the V-sign, smiling with their toothy grins.

She will get better, faster, and stronger.
She will see them again.

After an hour of working out, she went back to her room and got ready for the day. Just as she was about to leave, she looked back at her reflection and saw that much has changed since she came back. Piscine is now fourteen, taller, hair thicker and much longer and looks more mature.

Will they remember her?

(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)