“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.”
“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.
“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…