Under the Storm Prose in Linebound | World Anvil

Under the Storm

The bow of a wooden skyship burst through the puffy white cloud and gazed upon the vast sky of unending light before it. A few skyfish trailed behind, pulled along by the wake the ship left in the air. The last few licks of the cloud formed a streak where the vessel had passed through.   “Alright Kaachi, hold our course,” said a man as he turned his uncanny gaze away from a glass sphere.   “Clear skies,” replied Kaachi, shaking the water from his hat. “Finally. I think I will be wet until winter.”   “Winter? Only one season? I think we’ve seen enough rain for a whole year thanks to you,” responds the first man, removing his coat, revealing his thin arms and knobbly elbows, giving it a shake.   “How was I supposed to know that it could rain inside a cloud?”   His brother simply began to laugh. Kaachi couldn’t help but join in the laughter at the absurdity of their situation.   “Hey Baat,” laughed Kaachi, barely able to get the words out, “Who thought we could fly a skyship?”   “You did!” Baat could also barely speak from the laughter.   “But you’re the fool who went along with it!”   Each brother couldn’t tell if the other was laughing so hard they were crying or if it was just the water running from their wet hair. It was a while before either could speak without bursting into a new round of laughter.   “We definitely have the wind before our sails here.” Kaachi said.   “Trying the sailor-talk.”   “We are on a skyship afterall.”   “For the second time. Haven’t flown since we left home.”   “That was a long time ago.” Kaachi said softly.   “Kaachi,” spoke Baat in an equally soft voice, “Do you remember what dad said just before…”   “Yeah…”  
  Baat ran, his boots splashing in the mud from the recent rain. His lungs burned as if there was a fire within his chest but he felt cold. Even so, he continued to run until he almost went headlong into the door of their home.   “Kaachi! The doctor just found me and told me what’s happened,” he yelled as he ran through the house.   He found Kaachi by their father’s bedside. Baat had stopped at the entrance to the room and walked slowly, barely lifting his feet off the ground, until he was beside his brother and put his hand on his shoulder.   “Kaachi…” Baat spoke quietly before he was cut off.   “Y- You’re both here. That makes me happy,” said a weak voice from the bed.   “My sons, I have always been proud of you,” he turned his head ever so slightly and opened his eyes, “And so was your mother.”   Baat wanted to say something, but couldn’t find the right words. His thoughts were interrupted when Kaachi spoke up first.   “She loved you very much and we have always been proud of you. You raised us well, especially Baat,” Kaachi turned to look at his brother. “It can’t have been easy, especially with the ta-”   “N- None of that now Kaachi. I know I was not always there when you needed me but you always stood up for each other,” their father’s voice grew weaker still. “I have but one more selfish request before the end.”   The brothers turned to each other before looking back at their father.   “Take this,” he said and opened his hand, revealing an unusual necklace. “Take this back to your mother.”   “She’s been scattered to the wind.” Kaachi said. They both knew this was the end; dad was forgetting important events.   “Not your mother, Kaachi. Yours, Baat,” he said as if it was obvious.   Immediately both brothers regretted their previous thoughts. This was the most lucid their father had been in a long time.   As a child, Baat had never questioned where he had come from. But as they had grown and he had learned how people came to be, he had begun to question why he simply appeared in a broken tree.  
  “Baat!” Kaachi yelled, pulling his brother out of the reverie, “I called you several times but you didn’t respond.”   “Sorry, what’s happening?”   “There is a cloud up ahead and I wanted to ask if we should fly around it.”   “We could, but can we really get any more wet than we already are?”   “I think my hair just finished drying.”   “Well, that’s too bad, isn’t it? We’re going through!”   “We’re going through!” screamed Kaachi as he straightened out the wheel and pointed toward the cloud for effect.   Moments later the skyship began to enter the cloud and the temperature began to drop.   “I know it is colder in clouds, but is it usually this cold?” inquired Baat from the main mast.   “Not usually, but what do we know?” Kaachi’s voice trailed off as he saw the frost begin to crawl across the deck.   “Kaachi? You alright?”   “Baat! Look out! It is freezing!”   Baat turned but his boot found itself on a newly formed patch of ice and he fell to the deck, hitting his head.  
  “Kaachi, look at this!”   “I can’t right now, Baat. Dad asked me to finish this.”   “But Kaachi, look at it!” Baat said, flailing around a long insect in his hand.   Kaachi just began to walk away.   “Hey, what is this?” a deep voice comes from the house.   “I was just finishing what you asked me to do, but Baat keeps distracting me.”   “The work does need to get done, but it shouldn’t get done at the expense of your brother.”   “But you told me to do this.”   “Did I tell you to ignore Baat?”   Kaachi didn’t respond.   “Did I tell you to ignore him?”   “No.”   “Now, I will take it from here. It looks like your brother has found a new friend to play with,” said his father, taking the basket away. “And remember, you are the older brother. He is your responsibility as much as you are mine. You have always imitated me, but he looks up to you. Think about how you felt when I had to leave you for my work.”  
  Baat woke when the ship suddenly jolted to one side. The first thing he saw was the sail frozen in place, unaffected by the winds.   “You’re OK,” Kaachi said thankfully. “Makes me want to sing. No time for that though – I am losing control of the ship. The steerer just froze and the sail won’t move.”   Baat finished standing up, holding one hand on his head.   “What should we do?”   “I don’t know. The sailors never told me about a situation like this.”   “The cloud can’t last forever right? What if we just wait it out?” asked Baat as he carefully tried to walk up the stairs to get to his brother.   “Well, we could just try to stay warm but who knows where we would end up without control of the ship.”   “We already don’t have control of the ship and anything we do…”   “Could make it worse,” interrupted Kaachi. “Into the cabin then.”   The pair carefully walked together down the frozen stairs and to the cabin door.   “At least we are protected from the wind in here.”   “Yeah. You should take the couch and let me have a look at your head.”   “I’m fine.”   “Get on that couch, I am going to have a look.”   “You’re not a doctor.”   “Neither are you, so stop diagnosing yourself.”   Kaachi messed around with Baat’s hair.   “Are you actually going to check or just ruffle my hair?”   “I don’t feel any blood, but your hair was still a bit wet so I can’t quite tell. A big bump here though. You should probably get some rest.”   “So should you.”   “I will, but you go first. I have some work to do.”   “You always have work to do.”   “What?”   “Nothing. Just something I remembered earlier.”   “Get some rest, maybe you’ll remember more.”  
  “Look at this kid, what’s wrong with him?” said a black-haired boy.   “What’s right with him?” said a girl grabbing Baat’s elbow.   “He looks like a skeleton.”   “It is like he wasn’t born with enough skin.”   “Hey! Get away from him, you two!”   Baat recognized Kaachi’s voice immediately, even though it was strained from screaming.   The two kids around Baat’s age ran from the older boy who knelt down next to his brother.   “Hey Baat, are you OK? Did they hurt you?”   “No, I’m fine,” Baat said through tears.   “You are clearly not fine. What are you thinking?” Kaachi said, taking his hands out of the dirt to help his brother up.   “Am I that strange? I don’t look like you or mom or dad. I don’t look like the other kids either.”   “Is there something wrong with being different?” Kaachi couldn’t bring himself to lie. He would never admit it – even though Baat could probably tell sometimes – that he sometimes found his brother’s appearance scary to this day.   “They said so.”   “Why should you care what they think?”   “I can’t help it.”   There was a long pause before Kaachi spoke.   “Baat, growing up isn’t easy, and it is especially hard for you. I see you and I see–”   “A monster,” Baat cut him off.   “No. I see my brother. A creative, curious brother. Someone who is as likely to find fun around every corner as he is to get lost in his own thoughts.”   Baat’s tears slowed and Kaachi gave him a hug.   “It’s you and me, Baat.”   “It’s you and me.”   “And never call yourself a monster again.”   “Alright. So, did you know you have dirt all over your face?” Baat chuckled.   “What?” Kaachi rubbed his hands all over his face in an attempt to get the dirt off. He finished and looked at his dirt-covered hands.   Baat burst out laughing and ran away.   “Hey you! Get back here!” Kaachi yelled after him as he watched him trip over a root.  
  Baat jolted up suddenly for the second time in recent memory, and the endless light streamed in through the windows. They must have gotten out of the frozen cloud. Something dark passed over the window. Baat ran over and opened it up to see what it was. The window hit something as he opened it and there was a loud twang.   “Hey, watch out,” came a voice from down below, “I’m trying to get the ice off the steerer.”   Baat stuck his head out of the open window and saw nothing, just the freezing cloud they had long since left behind. Then he looked down and saw Kaachi wearing a harness and dangling from the rope. Far below him a flash, lightning. The Floor, Baat thought, the unending storm. The thing that stole their home from them. A place which they must find a way through to get there.   “You should have waited for me. It is dangerous to do that alone.”   “The harness is perfectly safe, but if you wouldn’t mind pulling me back up when I’m done.”   “Well, it should be easy. You’ve been laying off the cakes lately.”   “Have you seen our rations? I am almost dreaming of cakes!” Kaachi screamed over the wind rushing past his ears.   “If we don’t hurry, we’ll be dreaming of tough bread and moldy cheese!”   “Just get to the deck so you can pull me up. I am just about done,” Kaachi loudly spoke as he chipped away at the ice.   “I’ll be but a moment.”   Baat left the cabin and found himself on the deck. The ice and frost had melted, and the deck shone in the light, except where the shadows fell straight down below the masts and sails. It is like back then, Baat thought.  
  “Hurry, everyone come aboard!” yelled a woman who was once well dressed, but the clothes were now worn and the woman covered in sweat and with messy hair, “This is the last ship. Time is short!”   Kaachi and Baat were led aboard by their mother. Their father had stopped at the bottom of the ramp and turned to look back at Outpost 4 one last time. It was home, even if the storms of the Floor were rising up over the sides and consuming it.   “Hurry up, honey,” said a soft, familiar voice.   Something white, red and green flashed in the distance.   “Kaachi, did you see that?” Baat whispered to his brother.   “See what?”   “Probably nothing, just the Floor playing tricks on me.”   “Something like that, Baat. Come on, you two. Let’s get aboard before they leave us here,” their father spoke.   “Can we ever come home again?” Kaachi tentatively asked.   Their father sighed, but their mother responded.   “Home is wherever we are, and whatever we make it. Right, Baat?”  
  “Right Baat?”   “Kaachi?” Baat said as he was pulled from his memory.   “I said I was done. Your ears do work, right Baat?”   “I am not sure, maybe they don’t. I didn’t hear please.”   “Pull me up, please brother,” Kaachi said heavily emphasizing the word please.   Baat grinned a little and pulled the rope until Kaachi had a solid grasp on the railing.   “Thanks. How’s your head?”   “I feel fine, thanks,” Baat replied. “What’s our next step?”   “We need to check our course. Where’s the compass?”   “I have it here,” Baat said as he pulled out the glass orb and passed it to Kaachi.   The spindle inside the orb pointed in the same direction - up and toward the rear of the ship - even as the orb was turned.   “We seem to have maintained our course fairly closely,” Kaachi decided.   “Just a little bit off. Still, we should be able to see some of the skymarks.”   “Yes, the Shining Rock. It should be nearby.”   “I remember that when we went to the port as kids, we could see the rock when the weather was clear.”   “Too bad we didn’t go to town that often. I know that the other kids didn’t treat you well and it was simpler to stay at home.”   “I liked the city, but I liked home too. Home was close to the forest, and mom was there,” Baat paused, “Your mom, anyway.”   “She was our mom, Baat. She loved you more than anyone.”   “Sorry, you’re right,” Baat walked off toward the cabin.   “Don’t be sorry, I shouldn’t have brought up the past. I know you are having a hard time.”   Baat shrugged but stopped walking and turned around.   “Kaachi, there it is!” Baat had spotted the Shining Rock when he turned.   “Where?” Kaachi turned and looked, “Oh, I see it. Now we have to find the right location before we begin our descent.”   “The Floor worries me. Can we really sail through it?”   “The people we got the ship from told us not to, but we know that a few people have. At least if the stories are to be believed.”   “And Darosi’s journal. I believe that.”   “We will find out if we can. We certainly aren’t Darosi and Ryza, and we don’t have the crew of the Harani,” Kaachi signed. “And even if we make it through, who knows what it will be like down there.”   “Dark and cold. Empty and yet filled with strange creatures which words cannot describe,” Baat said articulately.   “Quoting the journal again?”   “More like paraphrasing.”   “We need to find the place where our island sank into the Floor,” Kaachi said and returned to the wheel, gently shifting the course of the ship.   “I’ll keep my eyes peeled. I know it always looks like I’m staring, but I do blink,” Baat chuckled.   The brothers fell silent as they looked in every direction, trying to find the place where their home disappeared. It was a while before the silence broke.   “I think it was over there!” both of them shouted pointing in different directions before turning to look at each other.   “No, you’re right,” Kaachi admitted.   “No, no, you sir have the superior sense of direction,” Baat said in his best impression of an aristocrat.   “That can’t be, you’re the one with the compass.”   “And you would trust a device over your own instincts?” Baat continued to mimic an aristocrat.   “Any day of the week my liege. A commoner like me could never hope to defeat a device created by one such as yourself,” Kaachi joined in on the act.   “Why, this little thing? Merely the result of a daydream I once had while my servants fed me delicious little fruits,” Baat strutted around the wheel holding his chin high and wearing a pompous hat Kaachi had never seen before.   “I can only hope to one day be as eff-” Kaachi cut himself off and looked at Baat who still had his chin held high, “Baat.”   “What is it my se-” Baat turned to look where Kaachi was looking, “This is it.”   “This is it. This is the place,” the humor had left Kaachi’s voice.   “This is the place,” Baat said seriously, even though the pompous hat remained on his head.   Both brothers thought about making a joke or a little quip, but neither came up with anything. For the first time in a long time, both felt speechless.   “We need to raise the sail,” Kaachi eventually broke the silence, his voice a little dry.   “Yeah, raise the sail,” Baat replied. “Anything else?”   “We need to put everything we can into the hold and strap down the rest,” Kaachi replied dryly. “Watch your hat, a moderate gust of wind may send you flying with that thing on.”   “You just don’t want me to beat you there!” Baat yelled as he ran down the stairs to adjust the sail.   The brothers were back.   Baat hurried to protect all of the sails.   “Kaachi, why are some of these raised and others lowered? When we say raise the sails, is that even accurate?” Baat was nervous but humor helped him hide it.   “We raise the main one don’t we?” Kaachi was also nervous and was using humor to mask it.   “I raise the main one. You just hold the wheel.” Baat knew Kaachi was nervous and more than that, he knew Kaachi was using humor to hide it.   “I am the captain.” Kaachi said sarcastically.   “Who decided that?” Baat responded equally sarcastically.   “Dad did.” Kaachi said knowing that Baat was using the banter to help against the nervousness he felt.   “And we just do what he tells us to?” Baat knew that Kaachi knew he was nervous.   “We are out here.” Kaachi knew that Baat knew he was nervous.   “True. Are you done securing the hold?”   “Just about. I hope this rope holds.”   “It isn’t the strongest rope I’ve ever seen.”   “We’re not the strongest sailors I’ve ever seen.” Kaachi said, securing his harness to the ship.   Continuing the banter while knowing they both were hiding their nervousness was funnier to them than any other the banter itself.   “Everything’s ready,” Baat said after finishing with his harness. He walked up beside Kaachi and put his hands on his hips.   “Everything for naught but one,” Kaachi replied, staring off in the same direction as Baat. Without turning his gaze, Kaachi grabbed the hat off of Baat’s head and shoved it into his chest. “There. Now everything is ready. Hold on tight.”   “I have a bad feeling about this,” Baat’s voice was quiet as he checked how secure his rope was.   The ship tilted forward and began to drift down, slowly at first but with increasing speed until the brothers thought it was the unending storm racing up towards them. Each looked at the other and saw the tears in their eyes from the wind. They laughed but neither could hear over the air rushing past their ears.   The bowsprit entered the storm first and the brothers expected the dark clouds to obscure their view like a thick smoke - like the clouds that ate their home - but when they too were inside it wasn’t what they expected. They could see, even if not very far.   Suddenly a flash – lightning. Then another. And another. Thunder almost loud enough to knock someone over.   Water droplets - unusually large ones - seemed to float around in the storm, but as they barreled downward it felt like hail pelting their faces.   Suddenly thunder again. Kaachi stumbles. He loses his footing on the slippery wooden boards. Baat runs to help. Kaachi bounces and slides. He flips over the side of the ship. His rope goes taught. Baat steadies himself against the side and begins to pull. The wet rope slips. Over and over Baat pulls the rope. Over and over again it slips. Baat wins. Kaachi’s hands come up over the side. Baat tries to help, but his bloody hands are of little use.   Quiet.   Dark.   The ship emerges from the storm into the void below.   “Kaachi, are you-” Baat starts.   “Baat. Your hands! We need to get the bandages. Quickly. They’re in the cabin,” Kaachi has already forgotten about the bruises they will most certainly have from slamming into the side of the ship.   “Perhaps we should stop our current course first,” Baat pointed out but his voice was strained as the pain set in.   “You get going to the cabin. I will be there in a moment.”   The ship leveled out and came to a slow drift.   “You got blood all over the handle,” Kaachi said, entering the cabin.   Baat stared at Kaachi, “Just wait till you see the carpet.”   “And you did it for me,” Kaachi responded. “Thanks, Baat.”   “You’d do the same for me.”   “Every time. Now where are those bandages?”   They were silent, recovering mentally from the ordeal, until Kaachi was half-way done with the first bandage.   “It’s dark here. Do you think we will be able to find home? Will we be able to find … her?” Baat whispered.   “I won’t say it’s going to be easy but I am sure we can do it.”   “What if she’s not there?”   “I can’t deny that possibility. If we can’t return it to her, we can bury it by our old house,” Kaachi spoke after a long pause.   “I hope we find her. Just once I would like to meet my mother.”   “I hope we find her too. Put on the necklace and get some rest. We don’t want to lose it if it slips from our fingers.”   Baat didn’t want to sleep again. His mind was racing, but his body was exhausted. The pain in his hands made it difficult to get comfortable, but eventually his body won and he fell into a deep sleep.  
  It was dark. Darker than Baat thought possible. Every time he started running he would inevitably hit a tree. It was just too dark and Baat was exhausted. His legs were burning and heavy.   “Mom!” Baat screamed in a high-pitched voice, “Mom are you out there?!”   He grasped the flowerbud necklace he wore with a little boney hand and collapsed into a heap where he stood. Time seemed to crawl by around him and speed by in the distance. A twig snapped in the woods.   “Mom?”   Silence.   “Kaachi? Don’t joke around. This isn’t funny.”   Leaves rustled. Baat turned to look.   “You’ve been looking for me?” a figure spoke from the edge of the clearing.   “Mom?” Baat cries, “Mom!”   “Come here little one,” she says, “What is it you are holding?”   “A necklace, I brought it for you,” Baat holds out his hand and opens it.   The flowerbud had rotted away.   “No, no. We did so much to get here,” Baat says defeatedly.   “You were too late but-”   Baat hugs his mother and looks up at her face. She’s smiling.   “But it’s okay right? We’re together again.”   “This is goodbye Baat,” she says as she begins to rot away.   “No! Mom!” Baat can’t help it, he is trapped here, he keeps screaming, “Mom! Mom!”  
  “Baat! Baat!”   “Mom!”   “No, Baat. It is me.”   “Kaachi?” Baat calmed down.   “Yeah, just me. You were having a bad dream.”   Baat was silent.   “Do you want to talk about it?”   “I was alone,” Baat began. “I was looking for her but we were too late.”   “Sorry, I put that possibility into your head.”   “No. I always knew it could happen. Likely would happen even. Thought I had accepted it.”   “It is this place. It is hard to think straight down here. Can’t see, and it is so quiet it is like you can’t hear,” Kaachi said but Baat stayed silent, “Sorry. Your dream. What has you so bothered?”   “It was mom. I found her and…”   “And?”   “And when I looked at her, I saw Mom. Our mom,” Baat said. “It is the only face I can think of when I think of her. It is the only one I know.”   “Drink something. You look pale.”   Baat simply stared at Kaachi.   “Paler than usual.”   Baat grabbed the waterskin his brother was holding out to him and started to down the entire thing.   “It is the face of love,” Kaachi said while Baat finished off the water.   “The face of love? That sounds like the name of a play.”   “Are you saying I could be a writer?”   “I wouldn’t go that far,” Baat said, “But maybe. We just have to get out of here first.”   “We will get out of here,” Kaachi was resolute.   “We are here to deliver something to someone neither of us have ever met.”   “True.”   “Someone who may or may not still be here. Or even alive.”   “Also true,” Kaachi replied again.   “Why did you let us get this far?”   Kaachi wanted to respond sarcastically. Having second thoughts, are we? That would be the perfect response. Baat was expecting a response along those lines too.   “Because dad asked us to do this,” Kaachi said and took a pause. “Because you needed to do this.”   Baat had finished drinking and had walked toward the door to the deck. but stopped just short of the handle when Kaachi spoke. There was a pause.   “Thanks.”   Outside of the dim candlelight inside the cabin, it was almost impossible to see; but the brothers were persistent in their search for home, gathering whatever information they could when the Floor above flashed with lightning. Kaachi could swear he saw something in the distance – a creature made of string, maybe. He decided to keep this to himself. He was not in the mood to banter with Baat.   “Kaachi. I think I saw something over there. An island.”   Kaachi could only make out Baat by the candle he held. Darkness was all he could see in the direction his brother pointed, so he waited for another lightning strike. Almost as if to answer him, a bolt suddenly exited the Floor and struck a sky island. The brothers looked at each other, faces dim in the candlelight, and nodded in unison.   “We will bring her into the old skyport. If we fly over, we won’t have anywhere to land.”   “I thought skyships fall when you fly over islands or other ships. The sailors warned us not to do that.”   “And I thought you were the one that read all of Darosi’s journals. Here and in the Floor, you can,” Kaachi started excitedly. “If you believe him.”   “You read the journal. I knew you were into his works too.”   Kaachi sighed.   “All these years of you acting like I was the strange one.”   “Baat, you always tried to get me to read them. After dad asked us to do this, I decided it was time.”   “You read the books! What did you think?”   “They were…” Kaachi sighed again. “Good. Informative.”   “You’re a fan.”   “I’m a fan,” Kaachi finally admitted. “But the matter at hand.”   “Yes, the skyport. You steer and I will get the ropes and board ready.”   They could only drift slowly in the void so it was a while before their ship reached the island.   “Gently, Kaachi. Gently.”   “This isn’t a horse Baat.”   “Gently.”   The ship pushed up to the dock with enough force to almost knock the brothers over.   “I said gently!”   “You did. Now let’s tie in and get going. I don’t want to be here longer than we have to.”   “It is eerie with no one around.”   “Very.”   Both brother’s hearts pounded as they took their first steps onto the weather-worn dock. Their hearts pounded again when they stepped onto the land that used to be home. They both took a deep breath. It didn’t smell like home. It didn’t look like home. Above all else, it didn’t feel like home.   “Kaachi, where are you going? I can barely see.”   “Sorry. It seems that even after all this time my legs still remember the way home.”   Both brothers were whispering and the only reason they could think of as to why they were is that they were both very nervous – not that they would admit that out loud.   “Let’s get going.” Kaachi said quietly.   The brothers walked in silence through the streets of town. The wooden boards that once lined the main road had fallen into disrepair and creaked with every step. The buildings on either side looked like monsters with jagged broken doorways and eyes of broken wooden shutters.   Eventually the squeaking of the boards ceased and the brothers left town on the old road home.   “The trees look like winter.” Baat was the first to break the silence. “But something is different about them.”   “They are twisted and gnarled.” Kaachi got off the path and inspected a tree. “Strange. They always grew straight. Not even the trees of Zinato grew as true as these.”   “But these aren’t new trees. Somehow this happened to the old ones.”   “You sure?” Kaachi approached Baat.   “Yeah. Look here. The tree with Mom and Dad’s names on it.”   The names were upside down where the tree had tied itself into a knot.   “Unsettling.”   “Very. Let’s get home quickly. I am not feeling well.”   “Is it your head? Is it bothering you?”   “No. Something about this place.”   Kaachi thought Baat looked a little sickly. Though, he was pretty sure if he could see his own reflection, he would too.   Silence surrounded them again as they returned to the path and kept walking. They noticed that every tree was bare and every one was distorted into a shape that made them uncomfortable to view.   “Almost there.” Kaachi broke the silence again.   “Already?”   “Yeah. This bend in the road is familiar.”   “I guess our legs are a lot longer than they were the last time we walked this path.”   “And our hearts are a lot heavier.”   “And our wits a lot sharper.” Baat finished.   The brothers couldn’t bring themselves to laugh. They didn’t even think about it.   They glanced at each other and rounded the final bend. Their house came into view. It was damaged. Shutters hung from warped hinges and the colour of the wood and of the stone chimney were bleached. The roof had collapsed in places and the shed was a pile of rubble. The front door stood strong. Despite the mess, it was home.   “It is smaller than I remember.” Baat said flatly.   “Yeah. Being here makes me feel small again too.”   “Even though it is dark and quiet now I still remember the light and liveliness.”   “That was a long time ago.”   “I can still see the four of us running around.”   “All of us eating dinner together as a family.”   Baat looked at Kaachi as if to say Really food?   “The stomach doesn’t lie.” Kaachi shrugged.   “That it does not.”   Even in a place like the void, home warded off their fear.   They looked toward each other again and turned to the house. It was time. In unison the brothers approached the door and entered their old house.   “I am going to go look around upstairs.” Kaachi said.   “I am going to go look out back.”   Kaachi left Baat and went up the noisy stairs. Baat was eager to see the yard where he used to spend most of his time. Being near the woods always made him happy.   It was difficult to make out the treeline from the side of the house but Baat took a seat on his old bench – his feet touched the ground now. Just as he began to get comfortable he heard something. Could it be her? Baat thought to himself.   Suddenly he felt something on his hand. Something with a thousand tiny feet.   Baat screamed.   “Baat! What is wrong?” Kaachi came running down the stairs. At least one board snapped on his way down.   When Kaachi arrived Baat was laughing.   “Look Kaachi, I found the bug.”   “No way.”   “Not a bug. The bug.” Baat said as he turned his attention from the insect in his hand to his brother. “Kaachi! Look out!”   Their conversation had covered up the sound of an approaching creature. Something long and black with a jagged skull where the head should be.   Before Kaachi could get any words out one of the creature’s arms – unusually long for its body – smacked him to the side. His head hit the stones of the fireplace and he crumpled to a heap.   “Kaachi!” Baat screamed. He had never been this afraid. Maybe once, when they watched their home get swallowed up.   The creature turned its attention to Baat who instinctively threw his arms up to cover his face. Pain. He was expecting pain but it didn’t come. Instead he saw a dim light. When he had thrown up his arms, the necklace had come loose from his jacket and now the flowerbud was glowing. The creature was fascinated by the light and moved its head slowly from side to side, never breaking its gaze.   Baat moved his arms away from his face slowly and put them between himself and the creature which backed away staying out of his reach. Baat pulled the necklace off and hesitantly held it out before him before quickly pulling it back to his chest.   If I throw this, maybe I can get Kaachi back to the ship, Baat thought. And lose my chance to find my mother.   Baat stared at the creature and glanced over to Kaachi.   There was no choice.   He dangled the flowerbud necklace between the monster’s eyes and readied himself to throw it into the woods behind the house. A moment before he could throw it, the necklace began to glow brighter. The only light in this world of darkness. It bloomed into a brilliant white flower.   It was a real bud this entire time. Baat was stunned. Dad had that necklace for over fifteen years.   The creature shivered starting from its boney nose and ending at its dark tail. Then – as if to mirror the blooming of the flower – green leaves formed from the darkness at its neck, its long serpentine body shortened, and its skull became less menacing. Finally, red flowers bloomed on the leafy mane of the creature. When the transformation was complete, it looked more like a human than the monster it resembled before – but it would never be mistaken for a human, even the aura of the creature was unusual.   “Baat.” the voice was melodic. It clearly came from the creature but there was no visual indication that the creature was speaking, its jaw didn’t move.   “Mom?”   “Yes. You have changed since the last time I saw you.”   “Were you by the edge of the forest when we fled the island?”   “We don’t normally leave the forest but I knew your father would look back.”   Baat still hadn’t gotten used to the voice. It was beautiful on the surface but it seemed troubled below.   “He asked us to return this to you.” Baat held out the bright necklace.   The creature was silent for a while.   “He took this when he left. I wanted him to stay and sing and dance with us. He couldn’t resist the call of her voice.”   “I heard that he went missing shortly before I was born and that mom found him.”   “He found us and he was cold. It must have been winter. I cannot remember.”   “Remember.” Baat’s voice trailed off. “Kaachi!”   Baat ran over to his brother.   “I need to get him back to the ship. He’s hurt.” he spoke quickly.   “You must go too. You are hurt.”   Baat looked down at his bandaged hands.   “Not your hands. Beings like us, we can’t survive here. If you are here long enough, you will die.”   “You survived.”   “And you saw what I became.”   “But the flower.” Baat said as he heaved Kaachi off the ground and over one shoulder.   “Won’t last forever.”   “Then you can come back with us. Once we reach the light, you will be fine. You can come with us.”   Silence fell in the house.   “I would like that.”   Baat reached out with one arm and handed her the flower. She slowly lifted the white flower to her neck and it became a part of the wreath of leaves and red flowers. The flower turned a little pink.   Together they began to walk Kaachi down the old road and toward the town. It was a little awkward because she was so much taller than Baat but they managed.   “You said we earlier. Are there more like you here?”   “There were many of us.”   “And now?”   As if to answer Baat’s question they heard something behind them.   “We must go.” she said.   She started singing. Baat could not understand any of it but he was enchanted by the sounds. Vines appeared beneath their feet and swept them away quickly down the trail. The sounds were far behind them when the vines subsided and they reached the town streets.   “Come on, the ship is this way.”   After a moment of hesitation she turned and they began to move toward the ship. The town was less eerie on the trip back to the ship but Baat was focused only on getting Kaachi to safety so he wasn’t paying much attention to the surrounding roads.   “Dad left you. Why would he do that?”   “He loved her.”   “And he loved you.”   “We weren’t in love. We were enchanted by one another.”   “Isn’t that the same?”   The pair walked in silence. They reached the docks and the plank to the ship was too narrow for the three of them so Baat took Kaachi across alone.   “Come on, we’re on, you can come on now too.”   His mother took one step onto the plank and paused. She took a step back off.   “I can’t go.”   “We’re right here.”   “I could never go. I just wanted to spend more time with you.”   “All you have to do is get on. I can fly us back.”   “It won’t be safe.” She pointed to the flower on her neck.   It was almost as red as the rest.   “I will turn back into what I was when you found me.”   “No, mom.” Baat was in tears.   “Go.” she said as she put one hand to the flower. “And thank you for bringing this back to me.”   She began to sing and vines came out from the side of the island cutting the ropes and pushing the ship away. The dock was destroyed and she walked across the vines back onto the island. She continued on towards the woods.   Baat watched the light fade as it moved. He watched until it disappeared. Baat had never felt weaker in his life. He wanted nothing more than to remain in a ball on the deck. Nothing more than to do nothing and rest.   The past normally came easy to Baat, his thoughts affecting his ability to function in the present, but now nothing would come. No memories, no dreams, no nightmares. There was only one time.   Right now.   And right now his brother needs him. Right now the ship is drifting. Right now is the time for action.   Baat pulls himself up. One hand onto the deck. Then the other. One foot onto the deck. Then the other. He stands up and walks over to Kaachi, heaves him up, and pulls him into the cabin and onto the couch.   He raises the sail and grabs hold of the wheel. The ship tilts upward and begins its long climb back to the light. The trip through the Floor is as unpleasant as the last time – thunder and lightning and raindrops like hail on the skin.   The bow of a wooden ship bursts through the dark clouds and into the unending light of the sky above. The last few licks of the storm below finally let go of the ship as it levels out.   Baat collapses where he stands.  
  “Baat. Hey Baat.”   “Kaachi, what’s happening?”   “We’re drifting.” Kaachi said. “And I think you saved my life.”   Kaachi points at the bandages on his head before helping his brother stand up.   “Yeah. I guess I did.”   “I don’t think this look suits me though.”   “Here. Let me hide those bandages.” Baat pulled out his pompous hat and put it on Kaachi’s head. “There, all better.”   “So, did you find her?” Kaachi had noticed the necklace was gone from his neck.   “I did.”   “Good. Want to talk about it?”   “It was nice to meet her.”   “And painful to lose a second mother.” Kaachi also noticed that there was no one else with them.   Baat nodded.   “Is that all you’re going to tell me?” Kaachi said in a lighter mood. “Do you take after your mother?”   “She had eye sockets like this!” Baat gestured with his hands on his face. “And she was as tall as a tree.”   “You’re exaggerating.” Kaachi laughed.   “But only a little bit.” Baat replied with a chuckle. “So, which direction is home?”   “You’re the one with the compass.”   Baat pulled out the orb dramatically and quickly turned to look at Kaachi. Baat burst out laughing.   “What’s so funny?”   “That hat, it looks ridiculous on you.”   Kaachi stared at him as long as he could with a straight face before he burst out laughing. He put his arm around Baat’s shoulder and Baat one around his and they laughed until they couldn’t laugh anymore.

Stub Article

This article is just a stub for now and will be expanded upon later.

Old Article

This article was written in the past and does not meet my current standards for any number of article quality, layout, or content.

In-Progress Article

This article is being worked on, perhaps not at this very moment, but it is being worked on.

Cover image: Rope on Hole by Iswanto Arif


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