Note this is not the final version and may change when the book comes out
Duth_Olec: Whoosh, wheesh. Whoosh, wheesh.
Duth_Olec: Whoosh, wheesh. Whoosh, wheesh.
Duth_Olec: Whoosh, wheesh. Whoosh, wheesh.
Cherry opened her eyes. She was laying on her back in the Transpide. Behind her the dark ocean waves splashed to her but never reached. The waves hit the Transpide’s glass roof; the machine lay on its side. The sky looked red from the setting sun. Cherry figured they had been unconscious for a while, but at least they had washed up onto land. Zeth lay next to her, and Numer lay on top of her. “Numer! Zeth! Get up!” Cherry pushed Numer off her, and he gurgled. “Numer? Are you okay?”
Numer laughed, but it sounded as if he forced himself to without his knowing it; as if he knew the cause of his laughter but not why it had that effect. Cherry shook him. “Numer! Snap out of it.”
Numer screamed as his eyes finally seemed to focus on Cherry. “I wasn’t— That wasn’t— I mean— There wasn’t— I didn’t— I hadn’t—” This continued in the same vein for about ten more fragments.
Cherry shook him. “Numer. Calm down. We’re okay. We’re fine. We’re alive!”
“Oh! We are,” Numer said. “I know. We’re alive. I noticed that also.” Zeth opened the Transpide’s roof, and the waves splashed in. They crawled out of their ride, and they pushed it onto its wheels and out of the surf. They had washed up onto a beach that stretched into the horizon both ways; a dense forest grew to its edge, blocking any view further inland. The area appeared deserted; the splashing waves made the only sound.
Zeth pressed a button on the Transpide. The engine sputtered. “It’s shot.”
“Who shot it?” Numer asked.
“No, I mean, it’s not working,” Zeth said. “I may be able to fix it, but that’s not our only problem. Where are we?”
“We’re not outside Reptibia Rainforest, are we?” Numer asked.
“I don’t think we’re at East Hackney,” Cherry said. “I think this novel adventure has taken us further than that.”
“Wait, what?” Numer asked.
Zeth opened the lid to the Transpide’s engine. “I’ll take a look at the Transpide. You two can head along the beach and see if you can find someone or anything that may clue us to our present location.”
“Got it,” Cherry said. She wogged along the beach.
“No, seriously, what?” Numer asked. Cherry made no response; she knew he’d heard her. After a moment, Numer sleeged to catch up with her.
Cherry and Numer wogged until Zeth was a dot in the distance. The beach seemed to go on forever, as did the forest. For that matter, the ocean did, as well. They saw no creature, wild or intelligent. It looked like a deserted island. A big one. “Where do you think we are?” Numer asked.
“I don’t know,” Cherry said. “This place looks too big to not be on a map, though.”
“Cherry,” Numer said, looking down, “I need to say something. Things have been kind of tense lately, I know. Before we almost die again, I need to say this.”
Numer always seemed to have something to say, but he never got it out. How much had he really improved since that day long ago in Zeth’s lab when he could not even say a single word to her? “What is it?” Cherry asked.
Numer looked at Cherry and opened his mouth. He then opened it wider and screamed. Cherry heard a shout behind her and turned. A smarmel screamed and leapt at them from the forest. She held up a katana and wore shades; a tattered, blue cloak flapped around her back. The smarmel swung the katana at them. Cherry leapt to the side, and Numer fell backwards. “What the hex?” Cherry yelled. “What are you doing?”
“Give me back my boat!” the smarmel screamed. She swung her katana at Cherry, who ducked under it.
“What are you talking about?” Who did that smarmel think she was? For that matter, who did she think Cherry was?
“Do not play games with me! You had your Sea-Wyvern steed devour my boat. I am taking it back!” The smarmel ran at Numer and pulled his mouth open. The smarmel shoved her leg into his mouth. Numer screamed. Unable to fit down Numer’s esophagus, the smarmel lifted up her katana. “I will slice open your beast and free my boat from within!” Numer screamed louder.
Cherry jumped at the smarmel and slammed her down with her tail. Cherry pulled Numer up. “We’ve landed on an island of crazy cleeple,” she shouted. “Let’s get out of here.” She and Numer sleeged back to the Transpide.
Zeth, meanwhile, had lowered his head into the Transpide’s engine compartment. The engine was waterlogged, and several connections were broken. He hoped he had the tools that he needed to fix it. A few spots even looked cracked, and he would- He heard Numer and Cherry shouting his name and looked up. They were sleeging towards him along the beach, a smarmel running behind them. “What is it?” Zeth asked. “Oh! You found a local. And they’re… Look out!” The smarmel swung her katana at Numer and Cherry; they jumped away and fell into the sand. The smarmel turned her head to Zeth and halted.
The goggled slube inched back a bit. Why was she staring at him like that? At least, it looked like she was; he couldn’t see behind her shades. Plus, smarmels’ eyes were always closed. Zeth guessed that meant the shades were a fashion statement. He inched back further as the smarmel stood as still as a statue. Numer and Cherry sleeged behind the Transpide. Zeth whispered to them, “Is she okay?”
“I’m going to say no,” Cherry said.
“Grandmother,” the smarmel said.
Zeth opened his mouth, but he closed it again. Did she just say…? “Grandmother?” he shouted.
“Grandmother, it’s me, Smatilla,” the smarmel said. “What are you doing out here?”
“What… Who? You mean, out here?” Zeth said, looking around and slowly waving his hands in front of him. “Why am I- What, I don’t…”
“Oh! I see. You’ve prepared for me a boat,” Smatilla said. “Thank you, grandmother, but you should not be out here, not least of which with me.” Zeth cocked his head. “I’m wanted. They’re after me. I have to escape. I can’t be seen with anyone I once knew! They’ll lock you up to find me! You have to go home!”
Zeth stood still except for a twitch near his eye. This wasn’t a funny joke.
“You have to leave!” Smatilla screamed; tears flowed out from her nostrils. “Please, don’t you get it? They want to lock me up! They want to kill me! If they think you’re helping me…” Smatilla slowly stopped speaking. “Wait… You! Witch!” Smatilla pointed her katana at Cherry. “You brought her here! You brainwashed her so that you could capture me in that machine!”
“I really have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about,” Cherry said.
“I will cut off your head for this!” Smatilla charged at the three slubes.
Zeth shook his head and arms. “No, no, no, no, wait-” The slubes screamed and sleeged aside. Smatilla’s katana struck the Transpide. She leapt at Cherry and swung her sword. Numer blocked it with his mallet.
“Leave us alone!” Numer yelled.
“Leave your sea-beast out of this!” Smatilla shouted. She pushed against Numer with her foot and grabbed Cherry. Cherry pulled away and punched her in the mouth.
Zeth fidgeted and looked around. What could he do? He had to untangle their mess of a fight. Oh dear, he hoped this still worked. He sleeged to the Transpide and hit a button. A burst missile shot at the three fighters.
“Fight me with honor and either let me die nobly or save the Alamo!” Smatilla yelled. The missile exploded between them and pushed them away. Numer and Cherry rolled into the sea. Smatilla fell onto the sand near the forest, and her shades fell off. Zeth gasped and stumbled back. Smatilla stood up and stared at Zeth.
Her eyes were wide-open. They looked like white dinner plates with a black dot zipping around. Unblinking, ever-looking, yet unseeing. Many said that were a smarmel’s eyes to open, it would go insane, or that an insane smarmel would open its eyes (cause and effect being unclear in the saying). Smatilla’s pupils stopped moving long enough to look directly at Zeth. The goggled slube took off his glasses and stared at her. She was… insane, then. Verifiably insane. How? Why? Was she truly in trouble, or was it all imagined?
Smatilla leapt to her shades and put them back on. She grabbed her sword and ran back into the forest. Zeth started to call out for her to wait, but she was gone before he could find his voice. He sighed and put his glasses back on.
Cherry wogged out of the surf. “What the hex was that all about?”
“I’m afraid she was quite crazy,” Zeth said.
“No, I mean, the old saying is true,” Zeth said. “Her shades fell off. Her eyes are open.”
Numer shook his head. “Did you say her eyes are open?”
Zeth nodded and looked into the forest. “She doesn’t really know what she’s doing. She lives in an entirely different world. I wonder what could have caused such a thing…”
“I hope we don’t run into her again,” Numer said.
“I guess all that stuff she said was just nonsense,” Cherry said. “I mean, the stuff involving us was sure nonsense.”
The sun dipped below the horizon, and the beach darkened. Zeth sighed. “Yes, I suppose so. On the bright side, I know where we are now. That cloth she was wearing was a flag. The flag of Lanc’teal, I believe. Yes, we must have fallen into the ocean, and the waves brought us all the way to the nearest continent.”
“That’s… far,” Numer said. “Do you think we’ll be able to get back?”
“Yes, I should think so,” Zeth said, “but first I need to get the Transpide fixed. I’m afraid there’s no bed for us tonight.”
As Zeth worked to get the Transpide functioning properly, Numer and Cherry lay down on the beach to sleep. The sand felt harder than Numer had thought it would have, like an itchy rock. Add to it that Numer could hear creaks and whines and bangs from Zeth repairing the Transpide, and he would never get to sleep. Before the moon even rose over the forest he wogged to the Transpide. Zeth had his head down in the Transpide’s engine compartment. “Hey, Zeth,” Numer said. Zeth looked up—or tried to, but he banged his head against the Transpide. Numer cringed. “Oops. Uh, sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Zeth said, rubbing his head. “What is it?”
“I’ve seen you asleep in the Transpide before,” Numer said. “Could I sleep in it?”
“Only if you want the loud noise of me repairing it right next to you.”
“I could hear it over there anyway.”
“Ah. Right,” Zeth said. “Well, it’s not all that comfortable, to be honest. I only sleep in it when I’m working on it late into the night. Still, it might be more comfortable than-” Numer heard a scream and turned to the forest.
Cherry sat up and also looked at the forest. “What was that?” she asked. “It sounded like that smarmel.” She sleeged into the forest.
“Cherry!” Numer yelled. He sleeged after her.
“Oh dear. Um, yes, okay then,” Zeth said. He called to Numer, “I will just stay here and, um, continue working.” He stuck his head back into the Transpide but pulled it out. “Perhaps I will make sure the outer features are working properly.”
Cherry sleeged through the forest, shouting for the crazy smarmel. She slowed to a stop. “Why am I looking for her? She probably just screamed because she’s a headcase. Still…”
Numer skidded to a stop behind Cherry. “Oh! Cherry. Listen, we-”
“Numer, great. Okay, you look that way. I’ll look this way. If one of us finds her, call out.” Numer opened his mouth to speak. “Actually,” Cherry said, “she may attack you, so only call out if she’s incapacitated. If she’s liable to attack you, just mark your path. Actually, it’s too dark to do that. Just find a way to help her.” Cherry sleeged further into the forest.
“Wh… But…” Numer threw up his arms. “Why are we helping a headcase?” He sighed. “All right. Let’s see if I can find her.”
Numer wogged through the forest. It looked as dark as a cave. He tripped over roots and rocks and other things he couldn’t see or describe. A few times he thought he saw glowing eyes, but they were just cracks through the leafy branches to moonlight. Not a single animal seemed to be in that forest. Though thankful for that, it still put Numer ill at ease. There should have been something alive out there. Besides the trees, he supposed.
“I don’t know why I’m looking for that crazy smarmel,” Numer said, “I can’t see any better than she probably could. Of course, she had those shades on. Why am I talking to myself? Probably to keep myself from freaking out and sleeging back to the beach. Well, with all my talking, maybe she can find-” Numer heard a scraping sound and froze in place. “What was that?” It sounded like something sliding along the ground. “Cherry? Crazy smarmel girl?”
Numer sighed. “There’s no one out here. I really should head-” A long, thick object, smooth yet coarse like an old leaf, grabbed Numer’s mouth. He murmured muffled screams as the leafy object pulled him to the ground and dragged him back.