Thursday, 1 May 2014

Updates from the Ringmaster

Oh, it's been a while, hasn't it?
High fives, fistbumps and warm hugs from me!

I've been quite preoccupied with life.
And I have been keeping up with work and comic work at the same time - which is a good thing.

I believe I may have found a steady area to stand for a bit...for now.

I will be updating everyone with a project that I've been working on with Elleoser/Shenli in a few days.

For now, I must sleep. It's another early morning and another late night.

Til next time! :D

Much love,

The Ark (Chapter 9)

Chapter 9

Piscine woke up slowly. She did not open her eyes but she could hear the sounds of her family’s voices, above.

‘Morning has broken, like the first morning. Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird. Praise for the singing, praise for the morning…’

One of her brothers was singing. It was probably Huit. He has the best soothing voice for her. The one playing the guitar is probably Deux. He always likes to strum these kinds of songs. She finally opens her eyes and she takes in the morning light coming in from the large window of her room.

The first thought she had was the twins. She wished she could see their faces.

Her attention wandered back to reality. She wondered if her sister, Mer, was already awake. She listened carefully and she knows the exercise room is either empty or she’s still asleep or she’s done. Besides, Mer wakes up early every day, just to prep. Prepping takes her hours. She doesn’t mind it and Mer sometimes offers to help her but she doesn’t force anything on her. She is quite laid back and Piscine appreciates her.

Mer is an exercise freak. She loved working out with the equipment that they’ve salvaged way before they were all born. Mer could deadlift one hundred and twenty kilos of weight with no problem. That’s how she starts off and then she adds more plates every half hour, depending on her schedule. She does this every day since she was ten. If you see Mer in person, you would not think she has the strength of twenty large men. You will actually know that she likes a boy when she tackles him. It was her way to show affection, her family figured. She is lean, like the rest of the family. She’s got two toned hair, green with blonde streaks with green cat-like eyes. Actually, all but Piscine has two toned hair colour. Piscine’s got her father’s hair and her mother’s sharp features. Mer and the rest of her brothers are a good combination of her parents’ looks and personality.
But Piscine was quite different but this doesn’t mean she was loved any less. It was a strong unity of a unit.
Piscine pondered whether to stay in bed or get up now. She didn’t want to move. Maybe dreaming a little about swimming with the siblings will be nice.
So she closed her eyes again.
In her dreams, she swam towards a bright area, and she knew where she would find her water babies there. Suddenly, she stopped swimming. Not because she did but she was stuck on the spot. She kicked and she moved her arms but she stayed in one spot. She felt a sudden change in the waters. She looked around her suspiciously, her awareness on high alert. Then she saw it.

A body of a child, falling deeper into the deep waters.

She unconsciously kicked her legs to swim towards the child but she still stayed in the same spot. She started to panic and felt as if something is holding her in place. She looked back at the falling body and it was disappearing from her sight. She noticed another body of a child falling into the deep waters and she knew it was the second boy.
Her water babies are drowning.
She kicked and kicked and she stayed in one place.
No, she told herself, this is not what happened. It can’t be happening. She needs to save them.

She woke up with a start. She was covered in sweat and covered with blankets.
She shook off the worry and got off her bed. She shouldn’t have thought about the twins.

Piscine went straight to the exercise room and opened the door.

Mer was already in the room, she looked back at her when Piscine opened the door, went inside and closed the door behind her. Mer was tying her long braided hair up. She’s thirty years old but looks younger than her years.

‘Good morning,’ Piscine said to Mer, her troubled mind can be sensed from her voice.

Mer turns around to look at Piscine and a look of concern crossed her face. ‘What’s wrong, doll?’

‘Nightmare,’ Piscine says as she goes straight to the toilet sink to wash her face. She goes back out and looked for something she can use to shake off the nerves. She took the skipping rope because it seems like the only thing she can use right now. She started skipping and she kept thinking, ‘just a nightmare, just a nightmare’ in her head.

‘Do you want to talk about it?’ Mer asked as she sat on one of the benches right opposite her.

At first, Piscine was wary whether to do so or not but maybe it would make her feel better. ‘I dreamt that I couldn’t save two people drowning…actually, children younger than me,’ she told her, hoping not to show any kind of emotion.

‘That’s rough, doll,’ Mer said sympathetic, a look of concern on her face, ‘it’s just a nightmare,’ Mer assures her, shaking her head and smiling her toothy smile at Piscine.

‘Yeah, it’s okay,’ Piscine says as she continued to skip rope without stopping. Mer went over to the weights. She took one in each hand and started to work out again.

After a few minutes, Piscine can feel stress on her legs and she feels better. ‘See you later, Mer,’ she says as she goes towards the door.

‘Did you manage to save them, doll?’ Mer asked her suddenly. Piscine felt her stomach churn. ‘You don’t have to explain anything. As long as they are okay, then it’s fine. It’s a life, after all. It’s more important,’ she continued.

‘Yes. Yes I did, Mer.’ Piscine confessed without holding back. She turned to look back at her older sister.

‘Good,’ she said, nodding at Piscine. Mer lifted the weight over her with no problem. ‘Glad to hear it,’ she said, smiling her toothy smile. She put the weights down on the floor and breathed out. ‘Go shower, you’re filthy.’

‘Yes!’ Piscine says, smiling at her older sister. She closed the door behind her and went straight to the showers. Piscine felt better and she knew that the brothers will be okay.

(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)

The Ark (Chapter 8)

Chapter 8

And so, that is the story on how the boys got back Piscine in their life. But what they don’t know is, Piscine has a secret from them.

Piscine ran away from home.

But with the blessing of her immediate family so it’s not really running away from home but perhaps, you can say that she’s ran away from the Freedom clan.

This is not the first time this happened. Many who have tried have met different grim fates.

Will Piscine meet the same fate?

Piscine is twenty-three years old. Tall, lean with green hair and multi-coloured eyes. She has a very charming smile and a very tooth grin. Piscine is one of the many children in the small clan of Vember, one of the many groups that form the almost mythical Freedom Clans. If you look back to the very beginning, when the world started to change, you will find that the Freedom clans are made up of a diverse group of people, and with prominent occupations. Among the ancestors are pirates, scientists, navigators, ship builders, teachers – talented geniuses, they all sound very promising but the one thing that the people of the Freedom clans did not excel on is cooking.
Not one of their ancestors cooked. Or learnt how to.
It’s not that they did not try. They did.
They have tried very hard and once, they managed to burn an entire city – just for trying. They can make chemicals, mix them and be quite successful but cooking among the Freedom clans is unheard of.
Hence, they eat all their food raw.
Their diet consists of seaweed and seafood that is not cooked.
This would probably explain the toothy grin. Over time, evolution will play its part and their teeth change over the course of hundreds of years, stronger and able to bite even the toughest leather in whatever land that is left in this new world that they know.

Piscine has an ordinary Freedom clan family. Piscine has an older sister and nine brothers that followed and then, there was her. They are all two years apart in age. But it was not like she felt left out with them. The siblings were actually close, rare these days in this new world where sibling rivalry runs nigh. The clans even gave her brothers a group name. They call her brothers ‘The Nine’.
Her sister’s name is Mer. Her brothers are named, Un, Deux, Trois, Quatre, Cinq, Six, Sept, Huit and Neuf, in that order.  

Her parents have very ordinary names of Ariel and Eric. One of the best things about her parents is that you can see that her father clearly adores her mother, another rare display of affection among the almost indifferent ways of the clans. Once in a while, their father would sing her mother a song about kissing a girl ever since she can remember. Her mother loves to sing. She sang old songs from the old world which was passed on from her ancestor. There is never a time their household didn’t sing. The Nines like to sing a song about being men and Mer’s favourite song about being crazy in love.

Most of the Freedom clans love to sing. It was a way of life.

When Piscine saved the twins the first time, it was out of curiosity. Or perhaps, it was finding another person, at that age, not knowing how to swim - at that age - that got her curious in the first place. She just turned ten years old and she is finally allowed to swim out of the perimeter of the ship docks. She also got a new pair of safety goggles which was large enough to cover half her face. She swam faster than the fishes around her and even if this was the first time she is outside, she knew where everything is around them. It was the last hour of the swim and she knew that they will not go back to the calmer Warm waters for another few years. Just as she was heading back, she saw an odd boy falling down like dead weight and turning clumsily, swimming the other way, down to the deeps, instead of the surface. At first she thought that the boy might have just made an honest mistake and will double back and swim back upright.
But he didn’t.
He kept kicking and going deeper.
She thought that he’d be fine – he will eventually realize it.
She turns to swim back home but she felt compelled to look back and when she did, she saw bubbles around the boy.
He is drowning.
He was in so much trouble.

But she can’t save him.
It’s forbidden. She will get into so much trouble. The clan will disown her. Her parents may even disown her.
The clans have no contact with the cities whatsoever, not even trade.
But then he will die if she doesn’t do anything.

She can’t and she starts swimming back.
She can’t.
She won’t.
She shouldn’t.
He will die. He will die. He will die.
He is a baby.

She turns around again and she sees a second boy, swimming down, towards where the boy was falling.

Someone is going to save him, he will be okay.
She swims towards them, just a little bit. She noticed the ‘rescuer’ is slowing down. She saw the bubbles and she knew.
He’s going to drown too.

The next thing she knew, she was swimming towards them as fast as her legs can take her. She goes for the first boy she saw. When she reached him, he was unconscious. She grabbed him and shot straight towards the second struggling boy, grabbing his chin as gently as she could. She held them close. She will rescue them, there is no turning back.

When they resurfaced, the second boy gasped and gasped for air.

‘Slowly…Slowly…’ she tells him, surprising herself. She’s never talked to a person from the city before. She wonders if they speak the same language, if he didn’t, she could always try the ten other languages she’s learnt over the years.
The boy looked at her, still dazed and very confused. She smiles at him and she looked at the first boy to check to see if he’s alright. She blinked. She turned to look at the second boy again and turned to look at the first boy again. They look the same, she exclaimed. She’s never seen anyone like this before. Is this normal for the city people?
She swam towards some rocks by the island’s pier. She had to be careful – she knew she was very close to a city. No one should see her. She let the second boy climb up the surface and checked the first boy as he did. She told him that he need not worry about his brother and she gave him air.

Soon, the first boy started to cough. She felt relieved. He will be okay and she felt great. The first boy started crying and ran for his brother. They hug each other and that’s when she realized that she had to go back. If she was late, they might ask her too many questions. She started to swim back and she felt that it would not be nice if she did not say goodbye. So she turned back, watching the brothers with new affection. She told them to be careful and called them water babies because babies from her clans swim like them. She waved to them, because it is the nice thing to do.
The second boy asked her for her name which genuinely surprised her. She did not assume anything nor did she not think that they would ask her for anything, let alone her name. This made her feel good. She told them her name. Then, she heard the second boy asked for friendship as she dove into the water, swimming back home.
When she got back to the ship, her family was anchoring out and ready to sail out. She was glad she made it on time and that she did not have to explain herself in any way. Her sister, Mer, is showing her mother some items she’s salvaged earlier and the Nines are comparing things they’ve salvaged nearby. Her father mentioned about going to the other side of the ocean. The clans are meeting there and there’s something about some Ark. The details were not clear because all she could think about is how she has to pretend that nothing happened to her. She had to act natural. Nothing happened. Talk to your sister. Help with the ship checks. Talk to your brothers. Talk to your mother. Help your brothers. Help with the engine room checks. Talk to your brothers again. Help around. While she was doing this, she’s practicing on how she would tell them how her swim went. All she did was swim. And salvage. Snacked on some fishes then salvaged whatever she can and swim some more. She practised as she checked the barometer. She practiced as she sang with her family about a whole new world. She practiced as they ate the large fish they caught for dinner. She practiced as she got ready for bed. She can do this, she can do this, she kept repeating to herself and she felt as if her heart is going to escape from her chest.
It’s not that Piscine didn’t love her family. She loved them with all her heart.
She just did not like lying to them or keeping secrets. There were no secrets in the family. But no one asked her about the swim so there was no need for her to lie.
All was well.

As she lay in bed that night, their ship flying towards to the other side of the ocean, she could not hear the loud snores of her brothers nor the waves of the water nor the winds whistling or the creaks of the boat. She could hear echoes of the boys’ voices.

‘What is your name?’

‘Let’s be friends!’

It was all she could think about and she fell asleep to the memories of their voices, singing in her head, replaying the moment all over and over again. She hopes they will meet again one day and when or if they do, she will ask them for their names. And they will be friends.

(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.) 

The Ark (Chapter 7)

Chapter 7

‘Are you hurt, brod?’ Alder asks Oak as he looked around the waters. There are only waters around them.
‘I’m not hurt, just bruised maybe.’ Oak replies, concentrating on the waters and looking around them, ready if anything would attack them.
‘How did you manage to find that thing?’
‘It found the boat and it took me down with it. I’ve never seen anything like it, brod.’
‘I’ve never seen those other creatures before either.’
‘What other creatures?’
‘Just like this one! Incoming!’ Alder shouts out and a creature with a large rock on its back and large teeth jumps out of the waters, attacking the twins. ‘Ready!’
Oak takes Alder by the arm and waist and threw him up towards the creature. Alder shot up, made a clean cut and decapitated its head. The only noise it made is when it fell back into the waters. The twins swam back towards each other quickly, and continued to watch the waters attentively, listening for any different noise, feeling the waters for different currents.

‘We have to keep moving’ Alder says as he looks around him, ‘if we stay in one place, we might get surrounded.’
‘But where will we go?’ Oak says, also looking around him.
‘Can you see the reed boat anywhere? I’ll take guard.’
Oak wasted no time, looking around as far as he could see. ‘Nothing. We’re too far out,’ he says, shaking his head.
‘Toot!’ Alder swears, disbelieving their bad luck.
‘Brod, we have to keep swimming,’ Oak tells Alder, worried.
‘But where will we swim?’ Alder asked him.
‘We can’t stay here…look out!’ A large fin is swimming towards them very quickly.
Alder took hold of his younger brother’s shirt and held on to him. They both go under and Oak waited for the creature to get closer. The creature had long ears and large teeth. It’s got a long pointy nose and it’s not stopping. When it came closer, Oak punched the creature with all his might. The creature shot back and it didn’t move for a moment. A few seconds later, it regained consciousness, but it was a little disoriented. It recoiled back, swimming in the opposite direction in retreat.

They swim back up and just as they resurface, they notice a shadow of another creature, it looks like the fish is burnt to a crisp and its teeth are large, bared and sharp. Its gigantic mouth is wide open and are scattered inside like sharp broken glass and it’s landing on top of them. Even if they move, they will still be caught in its fangs.
There is nowhere to swim.
Alder unconsciously puts an arm in front of Oak, defending his younger brother.

Suddenly, a large spear shot up from the water and into the lower jaw and out of the upper jaw of the creature, which made its mouth snap shut. Another spear went through its body and the creature fell back into the water, and it sunk as quickly as it appeared.

Alder and Oak was too stunned to move. They did not know what just happened – all they knew is that they were saved but by whom? Or is it another creature? Another predator?

Suddenly, something appeared on the surface of the water, not too far from where they are. The boys got their weapons ready.

The figure became bigger and it was green in colour. Alder and Oak looked at the incoming creature intensely, watching its every move.

It moved sideways at first, it doesn’t seem like its sure where it was going or what it was looking for.

‘Maybe it’s a little…’ Oak says, whispering to Alder. Alder shushed him before he could finish and creature stopped pacing.
‘Toot! It heard us,’ Alder said, his teeth gritted.

The creature turned around, wearing what looks like green rimmed goggles and the twins gasped.

‘My water babies!!!!’

It was Piscine.

‘P – Piscine?’ Oak says, unbelieving his eyes. They said that if you are in the waters for too long, you start seeing things that you want to see. Once it takes you, you can never come back.
‘Is that really you?’ Alder shouted.
‘What if she’s not real?’ Oak asked Alder.
‘Toot! That’s a possibility.’ Alder was worried. ‘Wait!’ he tells Piscine, holding out his hand. How would we know you’re the real Piscine?’
‘Ahh…clever boys! I am glad you both remember,’ she tells them as she swims closer to them anyway. ‘I will start and you have to finish…or you want to start?’ she asked them.
‘I’ll start,’ Oak tells her, looking at Alder for any signs. ‘Okay, ready?’
‘Whenever you are,’ says a smiling Piscine.
‘Won’t you come see about me? I’ll be alone, dancing you know it baby...’ Oak sings, remember the lyrics by heart. These are one of the songs that Piscine taught them six years ago.
‘Tell me your troubles and doubts, giving me everything inside and out and…’ Piscine sings in perfect pitch.
‘Love’s strange so real in the dark, think of the tender things that we were working on…’ Oak continued, his eyes started to cloud, so is Alder’s.
‘Slow change may pull us apart…’
‘when the light gets into your heart, baby…’
They swam towards each other and they all hugged, laughing, screaming and crying.
‘Don’t You forget about meeeee….don’t don’t don’t don’t!’ they continued singing in unison.

‘There are no more creatures, my water babies. Don’t you worry!’ Piscine tells them when they finally pulled apart from each other.

‘What were those creatures? We’ve never seen them before.’ Alder tells her, amazed and shocked at what happened to them.
‘You’ve never been in this line, that’s why.’ Piscine tells them as if she already knew where they go.
‘But we should be in the same area; we don’t wander off so far because of our age. We are only allowed certain distances as we grow older.’ Alder informs her.
‘And that thing, the red knight, Cthulhu! He attacked our reed boat! Oh no! Wait! Isn’t he…?’ Oak suddenly felt a chill up his spine.
‘Don’t worry; I told you both, they are all gone already.’ Piscine reassures them. ‘Give me one moment,’ and she dives down quickly.
All the boys could do was wait and keep a look out for anything, just in case.

After a few minutes, Piscine came back with something on her hand. ‘Here Oak, blow air into this over here, in this tube,’ she tells him pointing at it. Oak did as he was told and the yellow material became more solid. Oak’s eyes went wide. ‘Don’t stop or you won’t be able to make the boat. Alder, help me get something quickly.’ Alder did not think twice and dove after Piscine. She was very quick. He also noticed how her hair is actually shorter and she’s gotten much leaner and taller. Before he could reach her, she was holding out two large sticks and she pointed up, handed him one of the them which was quite heavy and they both swam back to the surface. Oak is almost done with their makeshift boat and is just amazed at what he’s seeing, still wide eyed with fascination.

‘That should be sufficient. Oak, put the cover on the tube so the air won’t come out.’ Piscine instructed.

‘It’s a boat!’ Oak says happily.
‘Now get on it, both of you but slowly or it will topple over. I will hold the other end,’ she tells them. But it took the boys longer than they anticipated. They were not used to inflatable boats.
Oak tried it first but he toppled over with the boat. Alder thought he would be able to do it more easily coz he thinks he’s much more agile but the same thing happened to him. Piscine watched in amusement how they struggled to get onto an inflatable boat, even if she was already helping them.

When the boys finally managed to get onto the boat, Piscine taught them how to use the wooden oars since they have only used sails all their life.
‘Will you not get on?’ Oak asked.
‘No, there is no need. Besides I am fine here.’ Piscine says, swimming next to their inflatable boat.

‘Where have you been, Piscine? Again, you saved us!’ Alder says, finally. He’s wanted to ask her questions since she showed up.

‘Many things have happened since we last met. Too many to mention now but it doesn’t matter! Look at how you’ve both grown!’ she tells them happily as the boys blush beet red.
‘We’re better at swimming’ Alder boasts.
‘And singing!’ Oak tells her excitedly.
‘I’m very proud! I thought you may have both forgotten the songs I’ve taught you! It’s been years!’ Piscine tells them, her turn to be amazed.
‘How long are you going to be here this time?’ Alder asked, dreading the answer as much as Oak.
Piscine smiled widely. ‘I’m going to be here for a while!’
‘A while?’ the boys asked in unison.
‘Yes. A while. Weeks. Months. Years.’
‘That means you’re staying?!’ Oak asked excitedly.
‘I will still be going out but I won’t be gone so long anymore,’ she tells them happily.
‘You must have a lot of stories!’
‘Indeed I do!’
‘So, does that mean we get to meet your clan?’ Alder asked.
‘No,’ she answered flatly, ‘they’re too busy but you know, maybe one day you will!’ she smiles at them, swimming gracefully next to them like fabled mermaids you read about from fairy tales. The sun is setting soon and they paddle more quickly. ‘Oh, turn here so the current will be faster,’ she instructs them and they paddled towards Krakatoa.

And soon, before night fell, the boys made it back home to Krakatoa. They did not go through the main port, managing to sneak in at the other side of the island. Alder thought it was fascinating how a boat can be so compact.  They had to hide the inflatable boat by deflating the boat again. They would not know how to explain to anyone about the boat. Some people might even think they stole it at the Labs. Better to hide it, and use it only when necessary.
What a day.
Newfound creatures in the deep waters – something their parents might take an interest, a new emergency boat, Piscine back in Krakatoa, more stories, more singing, more adventures! 

They say goodbye to Piscine by the port and head back home happily.
As they stood at the front door, they realized that they have to still explain about their missing reed boat to their parents.

They both sighed. ‘It’s going to be a long night, brod,’ Alder tells Oak as they go into their house.

(Written for 2013 NaNoWriMo.)