Friday, 21 February 2014

The Ark (Chapter 2)

Chapter 2

‘A map?!’ their mother exclaims excitedly. Alder and Oak’s mother loves those old maps. She loves them so much that it was part of bedtime story, every other night, since the twins can remember. She will tell them about lands that existed hundreds of years ago. Continents of land, low sea level lands and mountains that are thousands of feet high that explorers tried to climb but mostly failed. Rivers, large cliffs of land, lands with only sand that goes on and on. She told them stories of different cities – different cultures and many variations of people. She says the world used to be a total of seven billion people and counting. There were different languages and along with those languages, there were thousands of dialects that came along with it. She told them that some languages died along with time as well. That information used to send shivers down Alder’s spine – the romanticism of it all. Were there THAT many people back in the old days? How could they fit in such a small city and survive? She also told them about how man used to have techs to navigate through space, the sea and on land. They have ‘social networks’ which caused problems with real life communication. Apparently, families did not speak to each other but used these techs to communicate with each other instead. They thought this was rather amusing and sad at the same time. A box that shows what’s going on around the globe, all up to date not like their news now that is about, give or take, a week or so old. But one of the best tech stories that they heard from her was about ‘hover boards’. They said that people travelled around in hover boards and have flying techs which carried a number of people. These techs will take people to places that are too far and they will get there so quickly because they used the sky instead of the water to go to another city.  When they were younger, Alder and Oak had a favourite story. It was bout a certain man called Doctor who liked to take companions and time travel all over the time and space. Til’ today, they wonder if that ‘Doctor’ exists and if he would one day show up in Krakatoa and take them both as companions. How they hope he would show them these techs and speak different languages. Such adventure! Their mother tells them there is documentation but they have yet to find proof. It is probably one of those ‘myths’ but that doesn’t stop the brothers from dreaming. Oak loved the myths. He remembers all the stories from his father. Orange used to tell the boys about the old world myths. Their favourites would be about a struggle with the ‘One Ring’ and how a group of different people from different tribes would come together and destroy the evil ‘One Ring’, a certain forest god called ‘Totoro’ who lived in large forests along with other creatures that helps people who are in need and a woman called Carmen San Diego that no one can find. Their father tells them that if he ever was in that point in time, he will surely find this Carmen San Diego woman and marry her. Of course, he will not say this in front of their mother. She once caught him talking about it and she threw a jar at him. This also serves as a lesson to never talk about another woman in front of the woman you love. Jars will be broken and it’s expensive.
There are many other things that the boys learnt from their relatives, about different influences and ‘religions’. There were many gods and sometimes, it led to a lot of confusion and disagreement which the boys think is ridiculous.
Oak loved these myths so much that he used to draw them and to this day, his drawings are prominently displayed on the walls of their houses and some are at the Wilnoix artefacts gallery. Alder writes the fanfic – that is what it’s called when you write about it, his father says. Writing is a little bit different nowadays. It’s difficult to maintain if you don’t have a garden. Their father writes a lot of fanfic so the garden is always filled with different writings every week. Alder has a small space but he gets more space in the garden as he gets older. Remembering them is easy enough for the twins. Oak loves to tell them to the children in Krakatoa. He’s so popular with story time that they have it once every full moon at a bonfire. Alder will help tell the story as well, along with other groups and they will act it out. The last one they did was called Godrizza. It was about a creature from the waters, at the deep end, which crushed the old cities, looking for something that it lost but at the end, saves humanity from other creatures that want to completely destroy the world. Oak feels a connection with Godrizza, that when he plays the creature – he ‘becomes’ the creature and he accidently knocked down Lug’s hut. Oak explains to Alder that he was ‘feeling’ it. The crowds of people were pleased but Lug was too drunk to actually care at all. He always slept by the bridge all the time anyway. The twins rebuilt the hut for Lug right after the story time and Alder had to endure the whole night of Oak talking about his ‘connection’ with Godrizza. Of course, when the twins were younger, this caused a lot of talk and the world that we now know of thought the family was a little bizarre but who wasn’t. Everyone was different and that’s okay.
And the world we know now is so much different from the history and myths that they hear of.
People all looked different. Some are blonde, some have red hair, some have all sorts of hair colour and some have different coloured eyes, different shapes and sizes. But they are stockier than the people we are used to, a little taller and live a little longer. Orange used to tell them the average age for humans in the old world was sixty. Nowadays, it’s two hundred, minimum. Some pass away at three hundred at least. Back in the days, they aged so quickly and got sick easily. Their father tells them it is probably their lifestyle and they stop growing at eighteen when humans nowadays stop growing at least fifty. He talks about diseases that kill quickly, some slowly. It was an odd time to live. People rushed too quickly with things they do not understand. Perhaps, it’s the choices they made. It may be even the techs that they made. It was a chaotic world. According to some documentation, many were sad and felt alone even if they were surrounded by so many people, another bizarre trait. Even chutahs live until one hundred human years; their ancestors only lived until eighteen ‘cat years’ or one hundred and twenty six human years. 
There are only three main cities: Krakatoa, Vesuvius and Pelee. Pelee is the city that never sleeps. It never sleeps because the smugglers gather in the city to trade all the time. Even if it is the most guarded, it is certainly the liveliest. The Labs are located in Pelee. All large scale trading are done at the Labs. If you are lucky, you will get treasures that they consider rubbish. A large wall of figurines is lined up at the Wilnoix home. There’s a woman with long blonde hair with a rather small waist and big eyes; a bird like creature with a mask; a man with a white robe holding onto a ship mast and a man in all black, wearing a mask and his back that glows, to name a few. Their father assumes that this may be old gods that people pray to – and often, the boys will ask the figurines for a safe journey whenever they go out to the waters.
Vesuvius is a smaller island, just like Krakatoa. Smugglers don’t go to Krakatoa or Vesuvius because the people who live here don’t really have anything they can take and besides, both islands have different smugglers’ protection because it used to be their home. You would quickly assume that these kinds of people would be power hungry but there is a certain respect among smugglers. The twins’ mother would tell them that this time is probably the most peaceful timeline in the history of man. She tells them stories about war against countries. How the more powerful countries ‘colonise’ different areas of the world. This is a sad story, of course and rather preposterous. Their father tells them of weapons used during these wars; cannons, laser guns and glowing sticks, just like one of the figurines is holding, flying birds, large whales and large houses that has cannons. As a boy, Alder would sometimes dream of these wars and he’d wake up in the middle of the night, crying. He used to have nightmares of being in a flying bird, falling from the sky very fast and he did not know what to do. Oak would dream of the hover boards. How quickly he could get to the cities without having to wait for good winds.
Mango is inspecting the cylinder.
‘It’s a bottle,’ she concludes. She looks at her boys and her husband with a serious expression. Orange starts to smile and everyone in the room give each other a goofy grin.
‘Let’s open it?’ Orange suggests.
Mango looks at the stopper on the bottle and pulls it off. It makes a popping sound which surprised Orange and the twins. She puts a finger in the mouth of the bottle, trying to reach paper inside. Her expression changed from excited to dread all of a sudden. Oak looks at her with concern.
‘What’s wrong, Mamu?’
‘I’m…’ Mango looks pained and starts pulling the bottle from her finger, ‘I’m stuck,’ she says and makes a quick swipe, hitting the bottle on the table but it just creases and goes back to its original shape.

‘Oh no…’ her husband says, pointing at the bottle, ‘…it’s plastic.’

(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)

The Ark (Chapter 1)

Chapter 1

Oak is lying down inside the houseboat. He has to lie down sideways because he can’t actually fit because of his stocky size. He’s waiting for the fishing lines to take bait but it’s taking a while…perhaps, a nap of five minutes, he concludes, as he takes a peek up at the sky to estimate the time.
The sound of the calm waters of Krakatoa lulled Oak to an easy slumber. Five minutes became fifteen.
‘BROD!! BROD!!’ a voice starts yelling not too far from the houseboat.
Oak doesn’t flinch. He has a smile on his face and is probably already having a good dream.
Alder is walking towards the houseboat with stilts on. ‘BROD! It’s huge! It’s a kowfish! Hurry! Get the stilts! I need you to…’
A large shadow looms over Alder, he looks up and sees the gigantic kowfish with three horns, a rare kowfish – if I may add, with its gigantic mouth open and he opens his mouth to scream but nothing comes out. He’s going to be its dinner, Alder knows this. The kow is too fast and he can’t react on time, even if he could be as fast as it is. Suddenly, dual stilts went flying towards the kowfish’s mouth and it falls into the water as fast as it came up.
‘Porbida! Go after it, brod!’ Oak yells at Alder, half awake. Half of Oak’s body is out of the houseboat and it’s tilted horizontally.
Alder quickly loses the stilts and dives into the water. Oak slowly slides backwards into the houseboat.  After a few minutes, he hears a splash of water and a loud thud at the other end of the houseboat. Alder comes up from the side, looking exhausted but smiling.
‘Brod,’ Alder says, coming up slowly to the houseboat, ‘This is good. Look at this! We can sell this for a lot! Three horns!’ Alder sits next to the kowfish, pointing at each horn, as if he is counting them for Oak.
‘They might think it’s a mutation,’ Oak says, shrugging.
‘They always say it’s a mutation and then you see it in the Labs at a high price. We’ll take the meat, we can eat anything anyway.’
‘It’s up to you. I will do the talking since you always lose your cool,’ Oak tells him as he inspects the horns, feeling it on his finger.
‘Of course I will lose my cool, they’re always cheating us.’ Alder is standing over both Oak and the kowfish and wondering how they’re going to smuggle this into Krakatoa.
‘Maybe we should cut it up now?’ Oak suggests, already on the same train of thought as Alder.
‘This is going to take a while. I don’t want us to get stuck out here at the waters so late.’
‘Who’s in the post tonight?’
‘Probably Roxas but I can’t be sure. But if it is, I know how we can just go past without inspection,’ Alder says, grinning widely at his brother.

The winds carried them easily and soon enough, they found themselves home just as the sun sets at the horizon.
Krakatoa has been their home all their life. The twins, Alder and Oak Wilnoix. Twins are very rare at these times but it’s not unheard of. Very uncommon, just like a third nipple or a second pinkie finger. They were named after trees that are as rare as the three horned kowfish. People reports that they still exist but there is no proof.
Perhaps it’s only a myth.
Perhaps it isn’t.
The twins were born three minutes apart but they were born on different dates so you can imagine how different these two are. Alder Wilnoix is the older twin. He has a certain charm to him that many young men have too but he is more gregarious about it, so to say. He is very popular with the young ladies and he likes to lead them on playfully but he only has eyes for one – but he will not admit this to anyone but his younger brother, Oak – if he cared to ask. Oak Wilnoix is a little stockier and taller than Alder. Kids always ask him to carry them over his shoulders and he doesn’t mind it. You can always see him around town helping the townsfolk with chores. While Oak is indeed the stronger of the two, he is more calm and understanding of the morons around town. He does not get into fights because they don’t dare fight him. Alder on the other hand, does the physical fighting for both of them.
As they arrive at the port, Roxas waves to them from his post.
‘The Wilnoix brothers…’ he says a little loudly, looking back, checking the reed house nearby where two of his male senior officers are probably getting frisky with each other. ‘…hey guys! Why so late?’ he whispers.
‘We got something for you!’ Alder says in half whisper, winking at Roxas. Roxas blushes, smiling widely, as he anticipates what Alder is taking from the large sack.
Alder presents to him a bunch of chocolate crabs tied together. Chocolate crabs are a delicacy around in Krakatoa and this makes Roxas blush even more. ‘Tha…thank you, guys!’ looking at both twins in surprise. The truth is, Roxas always feels this way whenever he’s being given chocolate crabs by the twins. It’s not as if they are making fun of him, it amuses them that he’s always genuinely happy about the gifts, even if it means that they did it, just so they can go through the port gate with smuggled goods and late entries because of more smuggled goods.
‘Go now before they’re done with their er, break,’ he tells them protectively, whispering urgently. ‘Alright, Wilnoix brothers, you clean and you can go through. Quickly now!’ he commands them as he winks at them. This sends shivers down Oak’s spine but Alder winks back – just to make the guy happy and who wouldn’t be happy with a successful smuggling?
‘I don’t know how you do it,’ Oak tells Alder as he alights from the houseboat.
‘There’s nothing wrong. You think too much into it.’ Alder tells him.
‘You know, five hundred years ago, that would not be allowed.’
‘Who are we to judge these things, brod? Let’s not get into one of your history lessons. There’s a reason why it’s called history too, you know.’
‘I suppose.’ Oak shrugs and helps Alder unload the kowfish carefully. ‘How are we going to carry this home without being seen?’
Alder looks around and there are still a number of Sigur bottles turned on. ‘We should be able to carry it quickly across the bridge without being seen. Its dinner time and the only person out right now is Lug, who is – as usual – drunk. I still don’t get how he gets drunk on those parries.’
‘We’ve smuggled so many things back home that if Lug wasn’t always drunk, we’d probably be regulars at the Cocoon.’ Oak whispers to no one in particular.
‘Let’s go.’ Alder says and the twins carry the rare three horned kowfish past the drunkard Lug, into the cover of the night, back home.

Their mother, Mango and their father, Orange, stare at the rare three horned kowfish, that is now on top of the worktable.
Their parents were named after fruits that used to grow in the old world, according to history records. Unlike the norm, both their entire families were named after fruits and they both have rather unconventional childhood – both families like to collect artefacts. It’s very unusual for that time because the entire population felt the survival is always important. Their ancestors before them collected all sorts of ‘treasures’. A plastic stool from the island of ‘Ikea’, an entire CD collection of a man called Kenny G, to name a few. Mango and Orange had a mutual understanding that they can do what their families do and learn how to ‘survive’ and ‘adapt’. Most of their family ancestors and relatives have been in unfortunate circumstances – unable to survive a storm or getting eaten by a gorishark. Some can’t even swim. Mango’s ancestor recorded that once there were only four seasons in a year – whatever that means. Weather changes are like moods – how can they say such silly things? It rains, then it snows, then it’s sunny and then it’s summer again. That’s normal. The old world sounds so silly to them sometimes.  Orange’s ancestor talked about animals called cats – which is most probably an ancestor of their pet chutah, only much much smaller. Chutahs can be as large as a houseboat but they’re gentle and can be used as transportation. They like to live indoors so you need a big reed house if you want to obtain one. It’s also part of Krakatoa’s law. They have four chutahs and their name is Do, Re, Mi and So. It is quite a childhood for their parents. Also, their parents proudly call themselves ‘hipsters’. The brothers think it’s one of their quirks.
Orange has tears in his eyes. ‘I can’t believe this, boys! A three horned kowfish! We can’t cut it up…’ he says with such pain in his voice and his expression just magnifies the feeling because of his bottle butt thick glasses.
‘It is dead, Papi. You can’t keep it on my worktable.’ Mango says to her husband as she shakes her head in the dead kowfish’s direction. I can’t make harnesses for So if you don’t get rid of it.
‘But it’s a three horned kowfish!’ he says again, trying not to say it too loud, in case the neighbours hear it. ‘We can preserve it. Put it in the Wilnoix artefacts gallery!’
Alder moves the kowfish to its side and pokes it. Oak, with a knife in hand, is standing next to him. ‘It’s not pregnant and it’s certainly very dead. We can sell the horns, Papi. It should sell well.’
‘We can eat the meat. We’re all hungry, aren’t we? We can share it with Do, Re, Mi and So,’ Oak added, thoughtfully. ‘We can use the bones for fertilizers for the herbs.’
‘They’re going to give us such a low price for those horns at the Labs. We might as well keep it,’ Orange says sadly. Before he can protest, Oak slams the large knife on the kowfish’s head, decapitating it cleanly from its body. Oak hands the large kowfish head to Alder, ready to retrieve the horns for their collection.

‘Wait…’ Oak says suddenly. All four of them stare at the glinting light being reflected inside the kowfish. They all look at each other and look closer. It’s shiny and something is inside it. Oak pulls the cylinder out slowly and looks inside, his eyes squinted. Alder, Mango and Orange looks at Oak’s magnified eyes which are as big as the cylinder. ‘Is that a map?’

(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)