In Search of a Giant Gerbil

“No way?” Haf laughed. “Really?”

The Sheriff glared at her. “Yes, really. Not only do we care greatly for him. But Gnomenasher is also a magic finder. He can sniff out a drop of magic miles away. We’ll never be able to find the portal without him. The portal is invisible and over open water. There are no landmarks. Without Gnomenasher, we’ll be stuck here forever!”

“Well, no one wants that,” the merwoman said. She seemed to think this was a joke, but no one else was laughing. “But if he is a airbreather like you, then I don’t know what to tell you. It must be too late for him by now.”

“She does have a point,” I said. “We lost contact with him when we were on the island. The island’s gone now. I think we may have lost him for good.”

The trolls were quiet for a few moments, then the Sheriff said through gritted teeth, “Fine. If there’s nothing we can do about it, then there’s nothing we can do. But that still leaves the problem of getting home. Without Gnomenasher, how are we going to find the portal home?”

“We should be able to find your portal no problem,” Haf said.

“We can?” Pem asked.

“Sure. We just use our satellites to search for exotic matter.”

“Assuming that the portals are always open,” I said, “as I guess we hope they are, they should be expelling some form of matter at all times. Even if they’re just on the subatomic level, something should be coming out, like an accretion disc on a black hole.”

“Whatever that means,” the Sheriff said. “But will it work?”

“I don’t know,” Pem replied, “but it’s certainly worth a shot.”

We all swam off to their communications laboratory where dozens of other merpeople were working. As we made our way toward the lab, I took in the city around us. It was strange seeing all these mermen and merwomen and merchildren just living their lives. They were strange and exotic to me, but here I was the strange one. Though, to be honest, I think they found the trolls even stranger than they did me.

When we reached the lab, Pem swam right up to the machine and moved a few columns about. The crystal display bursted into life. “That should do it.”

“This is us,” Haf said, pointing at one of the dots on the display. “So presumably that is you. This one is near where we found you, so that must be the portal.”

“Wait,” I said. “That’s us. That’s the portal. Then what,” I said pointing to the third dot on the screen, “is this one?”

“That’s…” Haf started, but came up short. She looked closer at the screen. “I don’t know what that is.”

Pem moved closer so he could see. “Whatever it is, it’s on the move.”

“Where’s it going?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

“I can’t help with the where it’s going,” Tam said. “But it certainly looks like where it was coming from, is right around here.”

“Something else came through the portal?” Pem asked, sounding concerned. “What other creatures could you have unleashed on our unsuspecting world?”

“No one,” the Sheriff said. “We left people by the portal, but they would have never come through without my command.”

“That’s what you say.”

“It’s the truth.”

“If not some other weird creature from your world, then what could that thing be?”

“You misunderstand me,” the Sheriff said. “I think a weird creature from our world is exactly what this thing is.”

“Excuse me?” Pem said, confused.

“You see, I think this creature is Gnomenasher.”

“Your magicfinding giant gerbil?” Tam asked

“Exactly!”

“That’s incredibly unlikely,” Pem said. “It is highly improbable that your ‘gerbil’ could have survived in this environment. Judging by the rest of you, it’s most likely he’s also a land dweller and unable to breath water.”

The Sheriff countered simply with, “It’s him.”

“I think it’s worth a look,” I said.

“Oh, come on,” Tam countered. “We’re not going to waste time because a blip could be a gerbil, are we?”

“Tam, we need to the gerbil to find the portal.”

“Are you kidding me?” They pointed at the screen. “The portal’s right there!”

“Ok,” I relented, seeing that that wasn’t getting us anywhere. “How about we do it because Gnomenasher is important to them.”

“You know what should be important to them,” Tam replied. “Living to see another day. Having other days for them to live to see.”

“Fine. Fair enough. But what if that blip isn’t Gnomenasher? What if it’s Kink? Or Wu? Or G’fon? Shouldn’t we go looking for them?”

“It’s not G’fon or Kink or your friend, Lu Wu,” Tam replied, growing frustrated with me.

“How can you know that? You were sent here. Why not them?”

“Yes, I was sent here by those mysterious cloaked figures, but you were not. We weren’t all sent to the same world. Whatever those hooded figures were, they wanted us to be scattered across the omnibrane.”

“Maybe. But you have to admit there’s a possibility that that is a friend.”

Tam glared at me, then sighed. “Fine…there’s a possibility.”

“So we’re agreed. We’re going to go find out who that is and we’re going to save them.”

“Unless that someone turns out to be something horrible that wants to kill us,” Tam said. “And then we will all die.”

“We just escaped from something horrible that wanted to kill us. We want to go back to something horrible that wants to kill us. When isn’t there something horrible that wants to kill us? That’s the life we live. We might as well try to save someone while we’re at it.”

“You win, Frank. We’re going to go risk our lives and the future of the omnibrane for some stupid gerbil. Let’s just do it already.”

to be continued…

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That Girl was a Monster, That Monster was an Island

“Ok,” Pem said. “Who is she?”

“It’s the island,” I proclaimed, pointing at the madwoman on the other side of the glass. “It’s the tendril monster!”

“What?” Tam asked. “How does that make any sense?”

“The tendril monster’s main form of offense is to entangle its prey in its tendrils and to feed on their life-force, correct?”

“To oversimplify things,” the merwoman said, “Yes.”

“But because of my accident, long story, I’m filled with unstable quantum energy. So when the tendrils were feeding on me, they were really feeding on that. That’s why I’m awake when most of the others are not.”

“Your point?” the merwoman asked.

“My point is, you see, when the instability builds up to a certain degree I have to drain it.”

“And when I drain the instability it has an effect on my body.”

“What effect?”

“My body changes…into another body. So when we were in trouble and things looked bleak, I went on the assumption that it had absorbed enough of my instability. And I used my pocket stabilizer on the creature. Soon after the island collapsed, so I’m thinking now it must have worked.”

“I’m sorry,” Crag said. “What does whatever you just said have to do with the island collapsing?”

“The island was the tentacle monster,” I tried to explain. “The island wasn’t actually a real island, it was just a disguise to trap us.”

“It’s true,” the merwoman, whose name I really should have known by now, but she never introduced herself, said. “The Giant Leechvine is known for disguising itself with a lure like a tropical island to capture land animals to eat.”

“That monster was the entire island?” Crag asked.

“Yes,” I told him, “so when I used my stabilizer on the monster it changed. And when the monster changed, it must’ve changed into something smaller, meaning that there was nothing holding the island together.”

“Leaving a lot of empty space,” Tam said. “So the island collapsed.”

“Yes,” I said, happy that someone else got it. “The island collapsed. When the monster became a smaller creature, its disguise, all the island accoutrements that it was using to hide itself, fell in on themselves.”

“Fell right on top of us,” Tam added.

“Yes. Maybe it turned out that wasn’t the best strategy. But, hey, here we are. Still alive.”

“So, that thing in there…?” Crag asked, looking through the observation window.

“Is the monster, Yes.”

“The Giant Leechvine,” the merwoman corrected.

“So the monster was an entire island and is now that person in there?”

“That’s how I understand it, Crag.”

“Ok,” Tam said. “So now what are we going to do with it?”

“Leave it here,” I said.

“With us?” the merwoman asked. She clearly was not happy with that answer.

“You have a facility that it’s already locked up in. Leaving it here seems like the wisest move.”

“And you and your friends just wander off taking none of the responsibility?”

“What else do you want us to do?” I asked. “Take it with us?”

“No,” Pem said. “This creature is going to bear some observation. It needs to be studied before we can consider releasing it.”

“You would, wouldn’t you?” The merwoman glared at him.

“Yes, Haf. I would. Sometimes science is the best solution. Even you have to admit that.”

“Fine.” She did a complicated thing with her arms that might have been a shrug. “We’ll take your monster…for science.”

“Thank you,” Tam said. “Then we should be leaving.”

“We can’t leave without the others,” I told them, thinking of the Sheriff and his other deputies.

“We have responsibilities, Frank. We have a mission to complete. Enemies to vanquish. And since Lu, G’fon, and Kink aren’t here. I assume we have to go and save them, as well.”

“I know we have responsibilities, Tam,” I told them, “but I have a responsibility to these people, as well. They risked their lives to help me find you. They didn’t have to, but they volunteered. I owe it to them to get them back safely.”

“Fine,” Tam said. “We’ll return them to wherever you found them and then we will go off to find the others.”

We left the transformed Leechvine and were brought into a small room. The water was drained and food was brought. It was all raw fish and seaweed. Nothing was cooked. Everything was a little too slimy. Tam didn’t seem to mind. As we ate, the others were brought in. First Toleuk and then the Sheriff and then finally the other deputies.

“Now that you are all together,” Haf said. “you can head out.”

“But we’re not altogether,” the Sheriff said. “We’re missing Gnomenasher.”

“Gnomenasher?” Tam asked.

A giant gerbil,” I replied. “Don’t ask.”

“This is all of you that we found,” Pem said. “There’s no one else.”

“But we need him.”

“What’s so important about this creature?”

“Without Gnomenasher there’s no way we can find our way home!”

to be continued…

Drown Your Troubles?

“Drown your friend?” the other merperson repeated. “Why would we do that?”

“Because you’re crazy!” I yelled at her, frantic over having to watch Tam drown on the other side of this glass. “Because you said they were a problem!”

“We’re not drowning anyone. Relax. We’re just filling up the room so that we can safely open the door.”

I wasn’t buying her act. “You don’t need to fill the room all the way just to open the door! Look at them, Tam doesn’t even have a rebreather on!” The water had nearly reached neck height, soon Tam wouldn’t be able to stay above the waterline! However, there was still a couple feet of air left in the room, we could still save them. But for some reason instead of taking advantage of the last couple of breathes of air, Tam dropped down into the water. Did they not see us? Did they not know me and Crag were out here fighting for their life? “Hold on, Tam!” I yelled, banging on the glass, trying to make them see that we were here, that they weren’t alone. “We’ll save you!”

Crag moved to help me get past the merpeople. He wasn’t very agile in the water, but he was large.

“What are you doing?!?” Pem demanded, as Crag pushed him back..

“Trying to save my friend!” I yelled, moving toward the controls.

“Save them? But they’re fine! Look! Look inside!”

I turned to see that the entire room was now filled with water and Tam was floating in the center of it, motionless. They was dea…no, wait…They were moving now. They turned their head toward us and strangely seemed to be in no hurry. They was surrounded by water, no air anywhere, but they didn’t seem to be having any trouble. Was they…ok? Tam looked right at me and signaled for us to wait. The door opened and they then swam out to join us.

“You don’t have a rebreather on,” I said, uncomprehending.

“Why would I need a rebreather?” Tam asked. “This body was designed to survive in the vacuum of space. A little water’s not going to be a problem for it.”

“Oh,” I said. It was the best I could do. Crag seemed even more dumbfounded. I looked at the merpeople with a look of apology. Then I turned back to Tam. “It’s just when I saw you in there with the water rising, I thought you were in trouble. Pem told me that one of us was being a problem, so when I…”

Tam looked offended. “So you thought it was me?”

“It looked like they were trying to drown you! What was I supposed to think?”

“You would think we would drown someone?” Pem gasped.

I could see there wasn’t really an answer that could get me out of this. I knew the only recurse I had was to change the subject and change it quickly. “Ok, if not Tam, then who is causing you guys trouble?”

“That’s not a bad idea,” the merwoman said. “We should take them to her.”

“Her?” I asked, thinking of Toleuk, the only woman currently in our group. If something was wrong with Toleuk, we had to see her immediately. I was fairly sure that she could be drowned. “Yes, take us to her right away.”

“Come on,” Pem said, leading us down the hall. At the end of the hall was another room, but it was not Toleuk on the other side of that window.

“I have no idea who that is,” I said, honestly.

“You have no idea?” Pem asked me and then the others. “We found her with your people. When we tried to save her, she attacked us.”

“She’s not one of us,” Crag confirmed. “The rest of our team were Trolls like me. Frank was the only, uh, whatiscalled…human among us.”

“And Tam,” I added. “Who we came here to rescue. But that person…I mean, no offense, but she looks like one of you.”

“Like one of us?” the merwoman laughed. “Are you joking? Look at her dorsal fin, her coloring, her strange face.”

I didn’t know about the other things, but I had to admit that upon closer inspection the face did look a bit different than the other merpeople I’d seen, more human, less fishy. Still, as far as I was concerned that didn’t change anything. “She’s not one of us,” I told them.

“She was with you,” Pem reiterated, “attacked the people who tried to save her.”

“Ok, I still don’t know who she is.”

“If you don’t know her, then what was she doing with you then?”

I didn’t like his accusatory tone, even through the distortions of the water, as if I was to blame. “I don’t know what she was doing there with us. I didn’t see her there. I was too busy having rocks fall on my head and trying not to drown.”

“Well, you nearly failed at both of those things,” the merwoman retorted, sourly. “If we hadn’t saved you, you’d be dead, so sink the attitude.”

I tried to take a deep breath with the rebreather on and it mostly worked, creating some large air bubbles in the process. “Right. Sorry.” To hide my embarrassment, I turned to the woman again on the other side of the window. I watched her as she thrashed about frantically.

“She’s like a madwoman,” Crag said. “Are we sure she’s not possessed by a demon?”

The merpeople exchanged a glance. “Is he serious?”

Tam shrugged. “I think it’s highly unlikely that this is some kind of possession, but then again, I’ve seen much weirder things.”

The woman’s limbs moved as if they had minds of their own. Each finger moved wildly, as if the woman didn’t understand how they worked. But there was something else, the way her limbs moved, almost…almost…almost as if she were…trying…trying to eat through her fingers? Why would she be tr…And then it suddenly all made sense to me. “I know who she is! I know what she is!”

to be continued…

At the Mercy of the Fishmen

“Ow! What the hell was that? Your collar just attacked me.”

“One,” Pem replied, seemingly bored with my pain, “it’s a rebreather and, two, it didn’t attack you.”

“It did!” I yelled back at him. “I felt it!”

“No. That was just the rebreather injecting a tube into your blood stream.”

“It did what!?” I exclaimed, redoubling my efforts to remove it.

“How else do you expect it to be able to oxygenate your blood?” Pem asked like a man who didn’t have a collar injecting itself into his neck

“You could have warned me.” I wondered what else they might be pumping into my system without me knowing it.

“You know, you are very accusatory for a landbreather we just saved from suffocating at the bottom of the ocean.”

I didn’t like his tone or the subtext, but I was really at his mercy. If I wanted to get anywhere or see anyone I had to play nice. “So this means I should be able to get around your city, right?”

“Right. You can come with me and we can see your friends.”

So I slowly crawled down from the bed and into the water. I was now submerged to up a little over my waist. Pem slipped under the water and swam out of the room. I took a deep breath and tentatively went down into the water. I continued to hold my breath as I considered following after the fishman into the hall. If I went, I’d lose the only air bubble I knew existed anywhere nearby. If this rebreather didn’t work or if it suddenly stopped working I’d be in serious trouble. I waited for my lungs to start to burn, but it never came. It felt weird not breathing, but I seemed to be able to stay alive without it for the moment. I guess the rebreather really was doing its job. I was getting good at accepting weird things, I was in a city of mermaids at the bottom of the ocean in a different dimension after all.

I swam out the opening into the hall. “Just this way,” he said, it was a weird muted, echoey, high-pitched sound. I gave the ‘ok’ sign, but he didn’t seem to understand. “Is there a problem? Do you need to visit the restroom? Is that what that gesture was?”

I shook my head then made swimming gestures before pointed ahead of us. Pem snorted, bubbles coming out of his gills. “You know you can speak, right? The rebreather makes it so you communicate underwater like normal people.”

“It does?” I asked, tentatively, not trusting that it would actually work.

“Yes. It does,” Pem said. “Now, tell me, are you doing ok?”

“I’m…doing fine. Apparently. Everything seems to be working surprisingly well.”

“Surprising? What’s so ‘surprising’ about it?”

“Nothing,” I said, remembering that I was kind of at this guy’s mercy at the moment. “It was just…a figure of speech. My friends?”

Pem was quiet for several seconds then said, “Yes…right this way. Most of your…companions are still recovering, but I can take you to the one that is awake.”

“We were attacked by some kind of monster,” I explained as we swam. “It was all tendrils wrapping around us, feeding on our lifeforce.”

“Oh, you got tricked by a giant leechvine.” He said it all a little to matter-of-factly “That explains the symptoms. I hear those things can be quite deadly.”

Pem brought me to the cell where Crag was being held. I banged on the window to get his attention. He looked confused, seeing me swimming next to the fishman. I tried to signal for him to wait and not panic, as Pem started to let water into his room. When it was nearly a third full, Pem swam in and I followed.

“What’s going on here?” Crag asked as we came to the surface.

“Pem and his people saved us,” I said, hoping the rebreather wouldn’t have any issues now that I was back in the air. “If you want to come out here. You’re going to put on one of these rebreathers. They will have to inject themselves into your bloodstream.”

Crag looked worried. “Do I have a choice?”

“You could just stay in here and let me worry about finding everyone else.”

“I can’t let you do that. I’m a deputy. I swore an oath. It’s my duty to look after you and my fellow deputies, and my sheriff. I’ll wear the collar.”

Crag took the collar without complaint. His was, of course, much bigger than mine, but it fit around his neck easily. He snapped it home and joined us in the water. We all swam out into the water-filled hall. “All right, what about the others?” Crag asked, after I explained to him that he could now speak under water.

“Most of your kind are still recovering, but there is one of you that has been a problem since we brought you all in. I would like to take you to them in the hopes that you could calm them down.”

“Of course,” I said. “We’ll do what we can to help.”

We swam down the hall. Crag seemed to have some problems keeping up, which made me wonder if he even knew how to swim. He ended up making his way mostly by crawling along the floor. It wasn’t the fastest or easiest way to get around but it more or less did the job.

When Pem came to a stop, there was already another fishperson there waiting for us. I moved passed them toward the window looking into the next room. I was surprised by who I saw on the other side. It was Tam! They were in a room like the one Crag and I had been in. They were filling the room with water, but whereas with Crag and I they had stopped the water when it reached the height of the bed, here the water had already risen past it and it was showing no sign of slowing down. It became clear that they weren’t just partially filling the room so that they could move in and out easier. No, they were trying to fill the entire room with water! They were trying to drown them!

“Stop!” I yelled at the second fishperson. Pem quickly grabbed a hold of me. I tried to swim at her. I struggled against him, trying to get free. “Let go of me! I won’t let you drown my friend!”

to be continued…

My Doctor, the Fishman

The monster let out an answering scream and jumped back away from me. “What the hell?” it grumbled.

I paused. “…What did you say?”

“Geez, I was just coming to check on you,” the creature said, shaking out what must have been its ears. “You don’t have to scream at a guy. You nearly gave me a heart attack.”

It took my brain a couple seconds to process this. “…wait. What?”

“I said…” the creature began to reply before I interrupted with the most clever question anyone had ever heard, “You talk?”

“Of course I talk. How do you expect us to communicate?”

“I didn’t,” I admitted, looking away from embarrassment. “Until a few moments ago, I was expecting you to attack me.”

“And why would I do that? If we wanted you dead, we could’ve just let you drown. That’d been a lot easier for everyone.”

“Maybe you like your food to have some fight left in it,” I argued in my defense. “That’s not unheard of in predators.”

“Do I look like a predator to you?”

I gave him a serious once over. He had a more or less human upper half. Below his waist, however, was a fishtail, except it was smooth like a dolphin’s. Or maybe a shark. His hands were webbed and his fingers were long and curved. And his teeth were sharp and pointy. I figured ‘kind of’ was not the best answer, so I changed the subject. “Who are you?”

“My name is Pem and I’m the medical assistant here.”

I nodded, but his answer raised a very important question, one that I couldn’t hesitate to ask, “And just where exactly is ‘here’?”

“This is one of the medical facilities within our city.”

“And you city is…?”

“Merapolis.”

“And that is…where?”

The fish-man creature glared at me. “If you’re trying to ask if we’re still under the water, land-swimmer, yes, we are still underwater.”

That meant we were probably still close to where the island had collapsed. That was some good news. If we had to escape that meant it wouldn’t be that far to reach the portal and get out of this world. But to do that I needed to find the rest of my party. “And my friends, the others I was with? Where are they?”

“Those were your friends? They were very different from you. Much larger. Are you their child?”

“Child?” I didn’t know whether to laugh or be offended. But with this fishman watching me closely, I tried to stay calm. I still didn’t know who they were or what they wanted. And I didn’t know where I was, where my friends were, or how I could get out of here. All I knew, if Pem was telling the truth, is that I was underwater and that put me at a great disadvantage. Not only could he clearly get around a lot easier than I could, but judging by his gills, he could also breath in the water. And there was no reason for me to suspect he couldn’t just fill the rest of this room with water. It was already halfway filled. I was left without many choices. “No,” I told him. “We’re actually different species.”

“Ah,” he replied. “That makes more sense. Sort of. It doesn’t explain what you’re doing with them. Or why any of you are out here. You’re airbreathers, but I saw no, what’s it you call them? Those things that float at the upper edge of the water?”

“Boats?” I suggested.

“Yes. Boats. I saw none of those.”

“I hope you don’t mind, but I think I’d prefer to see my friends first before I start to share anything with you.”

Pem slowly nodded. “I can understand you feeling that way, but I don’t know how wise that would be.”

“And why’s that?”

“For one, the passage to where we’re holding your friends is all underwater and you and your friends don’t seem to handle water too well.”

“We can handle water just fine. We just can’t breathe it.”

“Well, you have to admit, that would be a problem in an underwater city.”

“You seemed to have been able to get us into these rooms, so it couldn’t have been that big of a problem.”

“We did. You want me to take you around in our holding pods?”

“If that’s the only way I’m going to be able to get around without drowning, yes. Then do that.”

“Ok,” Pem said. “Wait here. I’ll see what I can do.”

I chuckled. “Where else am I going to go?”

He stared at me suspiciously for several seconds before diving under the water and swimming away. I waited patiently – what else was I going to do – for about twenty minutes before he returned. “Here,” he said, as he emerged from the water. “Put this on.”

I looked at the collar in his hand. “What is this?” I steamed. “Are you trying to chain me up? Am I a prisoner?”

The merman gave me a curious look. “This is a rebreather,” he said. “Basically a set of artificial gills. It’ll help you breath underwater. I thought you would prefer this over the holding pod, but if you’d rather be confined to a small bubble instead of just putting this on…”

I wanted to argue with him. I still didn’t like the looks of his ‘rebreather’, but if he was telling the truth, this was definitely preferable. I’d rather not be constricted more than I had to. I’d rather not be constricted at all, really, and putting on a collar felt like I would be. But I was stuck in this room already, at his mercy, putting on this collar probably wouldn’t be making things much worse for myself.

I took the collar and snapped it on around my neck. There was a noise that sounded unnervingly like a lock slamming shut. I tried to take it off, but it wouldn’t go. It was stuck! I couldn’t take it off! Just when I was about to scream at my captor for betraying me, I felt two sharp pricks on burying into either side of my neck.

to be continued…

Out of the Ocean and Into the Small Room Filled with Water

I woke up with a suddenness that almost left me on the floor. I was sitting up before I even knew where I was. I was surprised to find I could see, that it wasn’t dark anymore. And I was alive! At least I didn’t think I was dead. I didn’t seem to be dead. This revelation took me by such surprise that it took me a little while to realize I could also breath.

I wasn’t under water anymore!

I was alive and I wasn’t underwater. I was in air that I could breath. How did that happen? Where was I? I looked around. I was in a room. I was in an empty room. Alone. How did I get here? And where was here? And where was everyone else? What happened to the others?

I took a deep breath. I had to think. I was alive. That was good. That meant whoever had me probably wanted to keep me that way. I hoped. I wasn’t restrained. That was probably a good sign, too.

I let myself relax. I was safe. I was alive. This was good. I let myself feel that and put away the worry for a second. There had been such ever-present danger for so long, always going from one thing to the next. It was good to have a second to be calm. I was truly happy to be alive. I had not been looking forward to drowning. I was glad I was alive and I could breath. I was happy to be dry and away from all that water.

And then just as I started to let my guard down, I heard a unexpected noise. It sounded like something opening. Like a…door? I looked around, but there was no door anywhere I could see. How had I gotten in here without a…and then I saw the opening, about the size of a vent. And there was water streaming out of it. Within seconds, water covered the floor and it wasn’t stopping.

Wherever I was, they clearly hadn’t taken me very far away from where they had found me. The water smelled of the ocean. I was still in it or near enough to it. Was I in a submarine? If I was, I think it sprung a leak. Maybe it had taken damage trying to save us. If it had, then I was sorry. By trying to save us, these poor people had doomed themselves. Now they got to drown along with us. I wanted to believe that was true because as bad as it was for them and me, it was better than the alternative.

As the water continued to rise, I slid back on my bed away from it, as if its touch could hurt me. I stood up and started looking for exits. The ceiling was a single solid piece. There were no vents to crawl out through. I sincerely doubted I was going to be able to bust my way through it or through the walls. But I had to keep looking for a way out. There had to be one.

The water kept rising and rising, but I couldn’t find anyway to escape. Soon the water level was nearly up to the bed. I thought this was it. Soon the whole room would fill with water and I’d drown. I tried to take deep breathes to oxygenate my blood so I could hold my breath longer. Maybe after the room filled with water I could escape through the opening, the water pressure would have equalized so it’d be pushing against me as I tried to swim through. And go where? The whole place had probably filled with water. I had to try. I wasn’t going to just give up. I was going to just stand here and let myself drown.

And then, just as suddenly as the water had started, it stopped. Why did it stop? Did someone plug the leak? Did that mean that we weren’t completely submerged? Maybe we were on a boat that had smacked into a sandbank. That would certainly make it easier to escape than being in the submarine at the bottom of the ocean.

But before I could get my hopes up, I saw something swim into my room. Something big. I looked around again for some way to escape. I didn’t find one this time either. I looked for something to defend myself with, but there wasn’t anything in the room, not even a pillow on the bed.

The creature swam into the room and came right toward me. I kept looking for a way to escape, but there really was nowhere to go. Everywhere but where I stood was covered with five feet of water. The water level seemed to have stopped rising, so at least I wouldn’t drown. No, all I had to worry about now was the massive creature swimming into my room, heading right for me. The large creature sprung out of the water barely a foot away from me and reached out toward me. I screamed for help.

to be continued…

The Island Becomes Quantumly Unstable

“What?” Tam shouted back as they tried to dodge tendrils. “You know how to beat them? Then what are you doing standing there like an idiot? Do it already!”

“Right,” I said before reaching into my back pocket for my travel instability extractor. I pulled it out and extended it. Then I slammed it hard into the closest tendril I could find. I pressed down on the bottom and instantly the tendril began to glow!

I watched as the glow spread down the tendril. Then the other ones began to glow. Soon the entire room was lit up by the glowing tendrils. “Frank,” Crag yelled. “What the hell is going on?”

“It’s ok,” I told him. “This is supposed to happen. I’m stabilizing the instability. This should give us a chance to escape.” But then, as if to defy my comment, then tendrils began to thrash wildly.

Oh, right. Here comes the painful part.

As the tendrils convulsed, we did our best to avoid them, but our best turned out not to be so good. The trolls especially took a beating. Tam and I who were a good deal smaller than them, managed slightly better. But then the brightness got too bright. Covering our eyes wasn’t enough, we had to squeeze them to keep from being blinded by the light. And that still wasn’t enough. Dodging became impossible. All that was left for us to do was curl into little balls trying to block all the light we could and hope for the best.

Then the shaking stopped and I realized that the light was gone. I started to open my eyes. I could hear the others start to make relieved sounds. As I blinked away the leftover spots in my eyes, I began to look around. There were no tendrils in sight. None. They had completely disappeared. We had won! It was over! The monster was g…

And then, just as we began to feel happy in our seeming victory, the island began to collapse underneath us.

The ground beneath our feet was caving in right under our feet. We had to run as fast as we could, but every one of was so worn down. We couldn’t escape the collapse. Even if we had had the energy it might have been impossible, but in this state we barely managed to put up much effort. Almost as one, we all fell down into the hole beneath us. I was expecting to hit rocks and be crushed from the avalanche coming down from above, but there was no floor. We fell for several feet and then hit water, smacking into it hard and with great surprise. It hurt when we hit it but at least it wasn’t rocks, I told myself.

Though there was no hard floor, that didn’t mean the ceiling still wasn’t falling on us. There was no way to go up and most of us were too tired to swim, so we sank. We sank further and further under the water. We did our best to stay away from the falling rocks, but we could only do so well in the slowness of the water.

I lost track of the others quickly. It became increasingly dark. And everywhere I looked there were rocks. I had no choice but to swim down away from them. And as I got deeper any source of light got further away. But then air started to become a problem, specifically my lack of it. I could feel the need for more start to grow in my chest.

Except going up wasn’t an option. Up were rocks and those rocks were coming down. So I was forced lower and lower, away from my next breath. I could feel my lungs starting to burn with the need for more oxygen. I tried to swim around them. I couldn’t worry about the others, wherever they were. I couldn’t save them and myself. And saving myself was looking to become my abilities. The only light that remained down where was Tam’s and it was growing dim.

I had no choice. I had to go. Me dying wouldn’t save anyone else. I tried to swim up, but there really was no way past the rocks. So around it would have to be. I swam down and out, but I couldn’t swim fast enough. I had gotten too close to the rocks. They were coming down too quickly and I couldn’t get away from them. Down I went again to try to get around them, but I was too slow. I couldn’t get past them.

This seemed to be the end for us. We escaped dying at the hands of a giant lifesucking tendril monster only to drown when it collapsed in on itself. The monster had pushed us to the limit and now here we were being pushed past that limit by water and falling rocks.

But I couldn’t give up. I knew I was going to lose, but I had to keep trying. I had to keep trying to get around these rocks. I had to keep trying to get back to the surface. I had to keep trying to help my friends and I had to keep trying to get back home. I couldn’t give up even as the entire island fell in on us, pushing us down into the bottom of the ocean.

But as I swam with all my remaining strength, my lungs continued to sear in my chest. I couldn’t keep from thinking that this was the end.

And then I saw a light.

At first, I thought it was Tam, but the light was not red and hadn’t they fallen in the other direction? The light was coming toward us and it was getting brighter. It distracted me enough to slow my swimming and get hit by a falling rock. The little air I had left in my lungs was knocked out of it. I watched with terror as bubbles escaped from my lips. I tried to push off of the rocks, but it was pushing me down too fast. I couldn’t escape it! This was going to be the end.

And then the bright light was upon me. I could feel something grab me. Something hard and unyielding wrapping around my waist. I could feel it pull on me into its bright light. And that was the last thing I saw before everything went black.

to be continued…