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


“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…


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…

Water, Water Everywhere

I went through the psychedelic pipe and out the other end landing with a big splash. Before I knew it I was deep underwater and sinking ever deeper. And worse, on impact I had accidentally swallowed a big mouthful of water. My lungs were filled with water. My body instinctively tried to regurgitate it back up but there was no air to replace it. All there was were gallons and gallons of water everywhere I looked.

My lungs were instantly burning. I needed air and I needed it quick, otherwise I’d pass out and drown. But to make matters even worse, I found I was having serious trouble figuring out which way was up and the panic that was seeping in wasn’t helping any. There was darkness all around me, but in front of me, I began to realize, was a lighter darkness. As soon as I realized that I began to swim for it, hoping with all everything I had that it wasn’t undersea lava flow that had fooled my eyes. But I really had no time to think about it. I just swam.

Just as I thought I was about to pass out, I burst through the surface of the water. I opened my mouth to breath and water came pouring out. I began coughing violently, vomiting all the water I had swallowed, as waves continued to crash over me. I struggled to stay afloat and not swallow anymore water. I knew I needed to find out where I was, but I needed to catch my breath first. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like I was going to have the chance. The waves were going to take me under before I had chance to recover.

There was water everywhere I looked, splashing over me, pulling at me, trying to take me back under, but then…there! I saw something! Something green! I think…the water splashed over…it was gone…where was…there! There it was! A tree? An island? A giant sea monster? It didn’t matter. I had to swim for it!

But before I could more than a few strokes out something large fell from the sky! I tried to get out of its way, but I couldn’t move fast enough away. The currents were to strong. It was coming down too fast! It splashed down nearly on top of me and took me under! It pulled me down under the waves with it, turning me all around, end over end. I was disoriented at first but at least this time I remembered to take a breath first.

I held my breath and immediately started looking for the surface. As soon as I found it, I began swimming straight up. I burst out of the water and took a deep breath just in time to see another object come hurtling out of the sky. As it splashed down, I went down again with it. I recovered as quickly as I could and immediately started swimming toward the surface, but as I got close I felt something large grab my leg. It wrapped around my ankle and began pulling me back down. I would’ve screamed if I hadn’t been underwater.

Whatever had me, pulled me down toward it. I fought as best I could, stomping at it with the heel of my foot, but it grabbed my other foot and held firm so I couldn’t shake it off. It was too strong. It pulled me down toward it until I was staring it dead in the eye. The eyes were angry and large. The face they were attached to were horryfing and ghoulish. The creature was truly monstrous. But, surprisingly, it wasn’t totally unfamiliar. Perhaps it was a slow realization on my part, but it eventually dawned on me that I knew who this was.

It was the Sherrif! What was he doing h…? I looked up in time to see another object splash into the water. And like that two and two made four. It was the trolls, coming in after me, dropping from the portal down into the water, just as I had done before them. They were coming in a little quicker than I would’ve liked, but they were coming in.

I signaled the Sheriff to return to the surface. He nodded and we both began to swim up, taking big gulps of air as we broke the surface. Just in time for another troll to come falling from out of the sky. The water had pushed us a bit off so at least they weren’t falling directly on us anymore.

“What’s going on?” the sheriff gasped. “Where are we?”

“I don’t know,” I replied trying to keep water out of my mouth. “I think I saw something over that…” I looked around. It was pretty hard to tell which way I had seen anything. “Somewhere.”

“Something somewhere,” the sheriff repeated, as he treaded water. “That’s not particularly helpful.”

I would’ve shrugged if I could have. “Sorry, that’s the best…”

I was then interrupted by Toleuk emerging from beneath the waves with a gigantic gasp. “Sheriff!”

He reached out and grabbed ahold of her. “I’m right here, deputy.”

“Oh, thank Giolsnda! I thought I’d lost you! Where are we, sir?”

“We’re still working on that, deputy. But first we’ve got to get…heads up!” he yelled as another troll came splashing down.

“How many more of you are coming through?” I yelled, tired of having giant bodies fall down on me.

“That should be it,” the Sheriff said, though I doubted he had been able to keep an accurate count. “But now we’ve got to go collect them all before any of those idiots drown.”

It was fortunately not hard to round them up. There were seven of us in all. Me, the Sheriff, three deputies, and Rosef the heavily pierced. Unfortunately from there, we didn’t have many choices. “Go back to the portal?” Toleuk suggested.

“No. One of my friends was sent here. That’s why there’s a portal. We have to find them. That’s why we’re here.”

“Then what are we supposed to do?”

“What about that?” Rosef asked. We all turned to see something green heading our way.

to be continued