Originally published July 27, 2009 by Timm Holmes

Addison Dark had always been afraid of the dark. Nothing terrible had ever happened to him in the absence of light and even as a young boy he had never believed in monsters under the bed or bogey men in the closet.

There was just something unnerving about it. Something that dragged it’s fingernails across his bones and told him to stay away.

But he would soon learn that there were creatures, although not under his bed, that lurked in shadows and dark corners, peering out with yellow eyes. Hungry.

Addison Dark was 19 days from being 19 years old on the night he disappeared. His parents were both writers who travelled to writing
conferences often, which is where they happened to be that weekend.

His mother had written a series of successful children’s books that she was going to be speaking about. His father had written a series of unsuccessful manuscripts that he was going to be trying to get publishers to care about.

Addison had always been mature for his age and proven himself to be responsible. They had left him on his own many times since he’d
turned 16. He would miss them when they went but truth be told he enjoyed his time alone. Besides, they always called around ten and wished him goodnight.

Outside rain began to fall and Addison could hear the distant rumble of thunder.

Addison undressed, pulled on his pajama shorts and yanked the white t-shirt he always wore to bed over his head. He made his way to the
washroom and began to brush his teeth.

Maybe tonight will be the night. He thought.

I’m going on nineteen and I’m still afraid of the dark. It’s just so stupid. So childish. He scolded himself silently. He stared at his baby face
in the mirror. The tussled blonde hair and blue eyes that all the girls at school went loopy over. Too bad they were all shallow twits. They didn’t
interest him.

He spat out the toothpaste and leaned under the tap to rinse out his mouth. He brought his face closer to the mirror and tried to look
through his own eyes.

Maybe tonight will be the night.

When he finally met a girl that interested him however, he didn’t want to have to explain what the night light was for. He wanted to
retire it so badly.

You can do this. He told himself.

He returned to his bedroom and climbed under the bed sheets. They were cool and smooth against his skin. He reached for the switch
on his bedside lamp but paused and looked to the outlet next to his dresser. The nightlight was plugged in there. The bulb burned dimly under the translucent white plastic shade. He reached out to unplug it, but his hand froze just an inch away from the nightlight. He pulled his hand back frustrated with himself.

Maybe tomorrow night will be the night.

Thunder rumbled. Louder this time. The storm was getting closer.

He turned off the bedside lamp.

On the sixteenth minute after Addison had turned off his bedside lamp, the house was shaken violently by a crack of thunder. Addison’s
eyes sprung open just in time to see another white flash reach its peak of brilliance outside his bedroom window on his right, the blue spark of
electricity flash out of the outlet to his right, and the nightlight’s bulb explode from the surge of power. Another thunderous shake and then it was pitch black. The rain sprayed against the window like a thousand tiny pieces of glass.

Fear swept across Addison’s body as the darkness engulfed him. His breath caught in his chest as his heart took up residence in his
throat. He could not move. Frozen and afraid. Addison’s reasonable adult mind told him to stop being such a wimp-chicken-baby-girl. It was night, it was dark, all was right with the world. Addison’s unreasonable adult mind told him that the tingling sensation that he had just begun to feel everywhere from his hair follicles on his head to his baby toe nail was part of what he had blindly
feared for all his years. It felt as if his skin were dissolving into the air.
His skin fine sand , the darkness a gentle wind.

Another flash of lightning pushed enough light passed the curtains to reveal an empty bed. Several seconds later came the thunder. The
storm was moving away. The damage however was already done.

Addison had disappeared.

Addison knew he was not in his bed anymore. Not because he could no longer hear the thunder or lightning, and not because he could no
longer feel the cool soft sheets against his skin. Addison knew he was no longer in his bed because of the hard cobble stone street that dug into his
bare back as the panther’s yellow eyes stared into his own from three inches
above his face.

The smell of burning charcoal crawled out of the creature’s
mouth, across its blackened tongue, and passed its sharp yellowed teeth.

“Where’d you come from?” the panther’s deep voice sounded
as if it was bubbling up from a puddle of mud.

“Doesn’t matter,” it answered itself, “Dinner’s served.”

The panther’s neck arched back and it’s jaws opened
widely to make it’s first strike.

From above his head Addison heard footsteps. Shoes
clacking against the cobblestones.

A man’s voice hollered , “Just like we practiced!”

The panther looked up. It’s jaw was still open and a glob
of it’s saliva dropped onto the corner of Addison’s mouth and then dribbled
down across his cheek.

He was too scared to even think about wiping it off. He
just stayed completely still and listened as he heard now not one but three
voices. The panther frantically looked about and Addison knew that they were
being surrounded.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw a young boy of about
thirteen. He had something in his hands. The boy raised the object in his hands
above his head and the panther glared directly at him and let loose a deep
mud-bubbling roar. The boy didn’t even seem to flinch. His hands came down
suddenly and glass shattered at his feet. Addison heard glass break twice more
where he could not see.

The panther removed himself from Addison’s chest and
began to walk in a tight circle. Addison remained perfectly still.

Addison saw the boy kneel down and wave his hand over the
broken glass and then stand back quickly as a fire sprung up from the ground.

The night became brighter and the light from three fires
that now surrounded Addison and the panther, reflected off the creature’s hide.

This was no ordinary panther. Besides the fact that it
could talk, it’s body seemed to be made of black tar, not fur and skin. It’s
hide glistening as if moist with perspiration.

Addison sat up now and the panther took notice. It began
to growl, it’s neck dipped down and it stared at Addison the fire reflecting in
it’s eyes. Addison pushed backwards with his hands and feet, dragging his rear
along the cobblestone. The panther followed him slowly, stalking a prey he knew
was trapped inside the flames with it.

Addison felt the heat of the flames at his back and
stopped. He risked a glance backward and saw a large bearded man kneeling just
passed the edge of the fire.

The panther came closer and Addison saw that it’s body
was losing it’s shape. The tar had become warm and was sagging in places. The
creature’s eye sockets had expanded and the yellow eyes drooped unevenly above
a mangled snout that still held the sharp yellowed teeth.

“A little bite before I go then.” The panther declared,
his words slurred. It smiled then, its lips peeling back awkwardly.

The panther’s expression changed quickly then to surprise
and then anger.

“No!” it roared and launched itself at Addison.

Addison felt the large hand fall onto his shoulder then
and pull him backward through the fire.

He was thrown under a blanket and hit repeatedly. He
blindly defended himself, all the while shouting out for it to stop.

The hitting stopped shortly after it had begun. The
blanket was removed. He glanced around quickly. There was no sign of the
panther creature. In front of him were three people that looked like they had
just stepped from the shadows of Sherwood Forest.

All three were dressed in brown and beige material that
looked to have been hand-sewn and not necessarily for the wearer. Thick rope
tied at the waist held their pants up

“Now that was one heck of a training lesson, no?” Little
John, the large bushy bearded man, remarked trading glances with his two
companions. His voice was smaller and softer than Addison had expected.

Little John knelt in front of Addison. His cleanly shaven
head reflected some of the fire’s glow. He looked to be about the same age as
Addison’s father but with the circle of fire casting shadows in the night and
the big bushel of hair on the lower half of his face, it was hard to tell.

Over Little John’s right shoulder he saw the boy that had
raised fire from the ground. The boy was thin, his hair dark and matted. Large
ears peeled out from either side of his head, puberty not having yet had it’s
effect in evening proportions out yet. His eyes were old though. A strong,
confident and thoughtful stare met Addison’s gaze. No sign of fear or youthful insecurity.

Over Little John’s left shoulder was a young girl, older
than the boy but still young enough to be called a girl. She was identifiable
as a girl only because of the combination of her long hair that she had pulled
back in a ponytail and the small mounds that pushed against the inside of her
shirt. She watched Addison with less curiosity than the others, and more
suspicion.

Little John extended his hand to Addison, with a smirk on
his face and a smile in his eyes.

“You’re lucky we were out training tonight there, son.
Granted, that one was a little bigger than I’d hoped for. Just got me some
quick studies I guess.” The big man said nodding back at the boy and girl.

Addison accepted the big man’s hand and was pulled to his
feet so he was standing nose to chest with the large man. Addison took a step
back.

“Can never be too careful with those Shadows always
creeping about.” The big man said while obviously assessing Addison’s limited
wardrobe.

“I’m Waldern,” he said, “Most just call me Wall though. For
obvious reasons.”

“Addison. Addison Dark.”

Waldern motioned to the boy, “This here’s Brekin.” To
which the boy excitedly waved and smiled, “and this is –“

“Nova,” the girl tersely interrupted. Then stepping
forward slightly, “Where you from? You’re not a neighbour.”

Waldern gave her an unapproving look, but turned and
listened just the same as Addison tried to answer her.

“I … uh … was in my bed. There was a storm. The – the
light went out. Then I was here with that, that thing

On my chest and it – it talked to me. It spoke.”

The three of them looked at Addison like they were
expecting him to continue. When he didn’t Waldern put his arm around Addison’s
shoulder,” You really aren’t a neighbour are you?”

“What does that even mean?”

“Come on with us. We’ll talk about it at the pub.”

The four began to walk, Brekin on the left, Nova on the
right and Waldern and Addison in the middle huddled together like a couple of
drunk old pals.

“You hungry?” Waldern asked Addison.

“Not really,” he answered yawning.

“Well I am!” Waldern said patting his large midsection.

Brekin chuckled, “Dark skies light!” he said
sarcastically, “You? Hungry? I don’t believe it!”

Waldern gave Brekin a friendly shove and Addison couldn’t
help but smile along with them. He made the mistake however of looking at Nova.
His smile and improving mood evaporated immediately under the pressure of
Nova’s judgemental glare.

Looking away from her, Addison asked none of them in
particular, “So what happened to the panther thing?”

“We sent it back,” Brekin answered.

“Back where?”

“To wherever they all come from. Some think they live in
a place made of fire, since that’s what takes them away.”

“How does it do that?”

“Should we be telling him any of this?” Nova asked, “We
don’t even know where it is he’s from.”

“Novamendalin, that’s enough,” Waldern demanded. The girl
cringed at her full name being used, but she turned her eyes to the ground and
let the conversation continue.

Waldern removed his arm from around Addison’s shoulders
as he spoke animatedly with his hands.

“The fire drags them away like a strong river current. It
tugs at them until it’s grasp is strong enough to take them against their
will.”

“It doesn’t kill them. It just carries them away,” Brekin
added, “They come back. They always do. No one’s sure how they get here
though.”

“Similar to how we don’t know how you got here,” Nova
said not quite under her breath.

If Waldern had heard her, he made no sign of it.

“Where is Here
anyway?”

“Well, we call this place Black Water. And that,” Waldern
said as he motioned up ahead, “Is Black Water Pub. The happiest place on
Hound’s Tooth.”

Brekin saw the slightly confused look on Addison’s face.
As Waldern moved ahead of the group to make his way to the main entrance of the
pub, Brekin leaned over and whispered, “Hound’s Tooth. The island we’re on.
Black Water’s the main port city.”

Addison nodded in understanding even though he understood
very little at the moment. He had never heard of these places and a little
voice inside him was quoting The Wizard of Oz.

The pub was a square brick building, two darkened windows
set like eyes over a thick wooden door. Either side of the door was adorned
with a lit torch. Addison could see a series of other buildings just beyond the
pub. They seemed to be on the edge of the town.

Waldern opened the heavy wooden door and the firelight
within danced out into the night, the sounds of a large merry crowd in it’s
arms.

Addison followed Brekin and Nova into the pub. Wooden
tables and chairs were packed tightly across the large floor space. Nearly
every table was full of people. Some friends, some families, both old and
young. There were lit torches lining the walls and several chandeliers with
candles burning in them. They were the only sources of light as far as Addison
could see.

To their left, Waldern had already made it to the bar and
was cheerfully talking, his hands moving wildly, with a thin man with a scruffy
mop of dark hair behind the counter. As he watched, Waldern motioned in Addison’s
direction and the bartender nodded at Addison with a polite smile. Addison gave
a quick smile and wave in return. Then he noticed he had lost Brekin and Nova. His
eyes darted around the pub and he saw they had found a table with four seats
free.

He walked only a few steps in that direction, before an
old man grabbed his arm.

“Lose your stone?” his words were slurred likely by the
drink sloshing around inside the metal mug in his other hand.

The man’s skin was covered in dark spots the size of a
small green pea, his hair thin and gray. As he spoke Addison could not help but
notice the man’s Mick Jagger-esque lips. The others at his table were paying
him and Addison no attention.

“Sorry. What?”

“I said your stone. Lose it?” the old man let go of
Addison’s arm and reached to the thin strap of leather around his own neck.
Secured in a metal fitting at one point was a stone. A golden glow seemed to
light the stone from within.

Addison was staring at it, wondering if perhaps the
torchlight was actually reflecting in the stone when the old man suddenly
sprung to his feet.

“Wait a minute!” the old man suddenly hollered. A couple
men at the table were now paying attention.

Addison took a step back looking for Waldern or Brekin’s
help. Waldern wasn’t at the bar anymore and Brekin was watching curiously from
the table sitting next to Nova who seemed to be enjoying Addison’s
discomfort.

“No, no! Come here a sec! Ain’t gonna hurt you. Just need
to be seeing something.” The old man assured Addison.

He reached out with his spotted hands and gently turned
Addison’s head to the left.

“What’s this? What’s this?”

“What’s what?” Addison asked.

“Hold still would ya?”

The old man brought his face so close to Addison’s neck
that for half a second he thought the old man was going to suck his blood. Then
the old man let go and looked Addison straight in the eye.

“That spot new?” he asked.

Addison didn’t know what he was talking about.

“What spot?”

“The one just under your earlobe, on your neck.“

Addison reached up and touched the area gently with his
fingers.

“Looks kinda like these.” The old man said pointing to
his own skin.

“It’s just a birthmark, guess I never noticed.” Addison
wasn’t sure whether to believe himself or not.

All eight people at the table were now listening in and a
few from the surrounding tables had begun to listen as well.

“Got any other birthmarks?”

“Uh, not sure if that’s any of your –“

“Look boy, I’m just trying to help you out here. You
feeling a little lost, am I right? Not sure what’s going on? Where you’re at?
How you got here?”

Addison looked away at nothing in particular and then
back at the old man.

“Maybe.”

The old man gave him a look that said, Well then…

“On my lower back there’s sort of a half moon shape with
some other smaller shapes below it.”

“May I see it?”

Addison figured he’d gone this far he might as well see
where this was going. He turned around and lifted the back of his t-shirt. A
moment later the old man’s hand fell on his shoulder and Addison turned around.

Using Addison for leverage the old man pulled himself up
to stand first on his chair and then onto the table.

He looked at Addison and said in a whisper, “I’ll tell
you where you are young man. You’re home!”

Then at the top of his voice the old man demanded
attention from the pub goers. As conversations petered off the old man grabbed hold
of Addison’s wrist and held his arm in the air.

“Another Vanished has returned!”

The pub erupted in cheers. Glasses were raised, people
stood and applauded. The old man shouted over the ruckus, “Someone get our new
neighbour a drink!”

More cheers erupted and someone handed Addison a mug full
of a brown liquid.

Another man from the old man’s table knocked his mug
against Addison’s liquid from both splashing out onto the wooden floor boards.

“Welcome back!” the man hollered, then tossed his head
back with his mug to his lips and finished off his drink.

Addison couldn’t help but smile, and in his chest a very
confused giggle tried to work it’s way out but couldn’t quite make it.

Something that looked like a cross between a white rabbit
and a hairy black dog nuzzled it’s head against Addison’s leg. He looked down
at it, half expecting it to speak to him. It simply tilted it’s head to the
side and let out a sound like a seagull might sound in slow motion.

Addison laughed. This was all so ridiculous. He decided
right then that he needed to drink himself awake. He took a large gulp of what
was in his mug and stopped abruptly. He pulled it away from his lips slowly and
looked at the dark brown liquid slosh around slowly inside. It was delicious. It
was the flavour he never knew he’d always missed.

Waldern was suddenly at his side and dragging him to the
table that Brekin and Nova were still sitting at.

That night they drank and they ate. Addison asked
questions that Waldern and Brekin did their best to answer. After a couple of
drinks Nova excused herself. She still didn’t seem to like the idea of
revealing everything to Addison. Answers were interrupted routinely by
passersby welcoming their new neighbour Addison back to Hound’s Tooth. As more
drink was consumed the answers became harder to follow, or perhaps they weren’t
being explained as well, or maybe it was a little of both. It occurred only
later to Addison that the legal drinking age must be much lower here than where
he came from. By the time they called it quits Brekin was a giddy mess. Addison
found he really liked the kid.

Waldern and Addison saw Brekin home. Brekin promised to
help Addison get a stone the next day. It had been decided earlier in the night
that Addison would stay at Waldern’s.

Addison woke up to the sound of water dripping. Lying on
his back in the hammock, he listened to the soothing tapping as the water
droplets hit the wooden floor.

So much had been explained over drinks Addison was unsure
he had taken it all in. He lied there listening to the rhythmically dripping
water, staring at the lit latern on the table in the corner of the small room
and went over things again in his mind.

Waldern was adept at dealing with the creatures like the
panther. These creatures that they called Shadows. They took on many forms, but
usually that of an animal. He had become somewhat of a defensive arts teacher.
Hired by the parents of local kids to make sure they could defend themselves
against the Shadows. Waldern had explained that he always carried a few bottles
of Fire Brew. Nearly pure alcohol that was easy to light on fire. Brekin had proudly
showed off the mini torch lighter his father had fashioned for him.

The distillery that was located on Hound’s Tooth was
known world wide as one of the best. It was a major export item for them, but
they always made sure to keep enough around for themselves.

It was explained that the birthmark on Addison’s back was
not a birthmark at all, but a tattoo. Every baby born in this world was
tattooed with the mark of their family as a precaution. These people all had
the ability to travel between worlds, even as infants. They could only step
between worlds in complete darkness, which is why each person carried a stone
with them at all times, some on necklaces, some on bracelets, and some on
rings. The vibrant glow kept them rooted where they wanted to be.

The stones came from Stone Groves. There were only three
Stone Groves in the world and one of them was located on the underside of
Hound’s Tooth island. It was a resource that had to be carefully and slowly
mined. As a result it was Hound’s Tooth’s most precious trading commodity.

Regardless of how cautious a parent was, once and a while
a child would vanish. They would inevitably return and when they did their
family mark would show them to be truly of this world and would identify them
to their parents and siblings. Each time they travelled between worlds a
circular mark would appear on the traveller’s body. A thin ring with a solid
dot in it’s center, the size of a small green pea. That old man, Addison
remembered thinking must have been very well travelled.

Addison’s mark, Waldern told him, was unmistakably a
family mark from Hound’s Tooth. He had been born on the island somewhere. However,
no one at the pub last night recognized the family mark.

Addison wasn’t sure he bought into all of it. After all
he’d had parents in the world he came from. But he couldn’t deny the fact that
he was somewhere that was seemingly not of his world. He’d arrived here after
his room went dark. The thought occurred to him that one or both of his parents
might have vanished from Hound’s Tooth and never returned, passing the
abilities down to him genetically. Maybe that’s why he was afraid of the dark.
He’d known all along what he was capable of. But then if that was the case why
tattoo him with a Hound’s Tooth mark?

The smell of something delicious floated softly passed
his nose and distracted his thoughts. He stretched, then brought himself to his
feet nearly flipping himself off the hammock in the process.

It still looked dark outside. Waldern couldn’t possibly want
to eat again already. The big man had eaten at least a couple of roasted birds
last night. Addison had partaken as well, assuming it was chicken he was eating
and not wanting to know different. Whatever it was had certainly tasted like
chicken.

Addison stood up and stretched. He noticed something next
to the lantern that hadn’t been there last night. There was a shirt, pants and
a length of leather. He put on the shirt and pants. Then he used the half-inch
wide length of leather as a belt.

Addison left his room, and followed his nose to where
Waldern was preparing the food.

“Food again? Already?”

Waldern chuckled, “You sound like Brekin.”

“The sun’s not even up yet,” Addison replied smiling.

“Who’s son? What?” Waldern seemed confused.

“The sun. Big bright thing in the sky? Gives life? Keeps
you warm?”

“Oh! Yes!” Waldern exclaimed as if he’d suddenly
remembered what a sun was, “No. We don’t get that here.”

Addison shook his head, “What?”

“Well we don’t call it ‘sun’ either, but that’s not
really the point. This side of the world doesn’t see light from the sky. We
make our own,” Waldern explained gesturing to the candles and lanterns
scattered about.

“Without light from the sky how do you tell what time of
day it is, or grow all this food?”

“Oh, well firstly not many of us care what time of day it
is. But for those who do there are clocks. We do have to be careful about timing
the Brews. Secondly, we don’t grow our food. We trade for it. Our main export if
you recall is Brew. Brew of all sorts. Flavoured on demand. We make the best
Brews in this world and everyone knows it. So everyone’s anxious to trade with
us. It’s a busy port, Black Water is.”

There was a quick knock at the door and then it opened
enough for a head to poke through.

Brekin smiled. “Too early?”, he asked.

“Perfect timing! The Laffa’s ready,” Waldern said
removing a large flat piece of metal from atop the fire he had going. The metal
platter was loaded with what looked like scrambled eggs with chunks of meat and
other colourful edibles mixed in. Waldern slid the egg-looking meal onto three
plates and brought them to the table. They all took a seat and Addison tentatively
tried his meal. A small bite at first and then another. It was pretty good he
thought. He wasn’t brave enough yet though to ask what it actually was.

The three quietly enjoyed their first few mouthfuls, and
Addison’s mind began to wander. He realized he had no idea what time it was
back in his world. If he’d missed a call from his folks they’d be worried sick.
He had to get back home.

“What’s wrong
neighbour?” Brekin asked.

“Just thinking about home.”

“But you are home,” Waldern suggested.

“The home I know, I mean. My parents, they’ll be freaking
out.”

“That sounds bad.” Brekin said.

Addison couldn’t help but laugh, “Yeah. It is. It means
they’ll be very worried not knowing where I am.”

They finished their meal and Waldern asked if Brekin
could pilot the ship on his own.

“I’m just as good as Nova.” He responded defensively.

“Nova’s not coming?” Addison asked.

“I don’t think she likes you,” Brekin said, “But I do!”
he quickly continued smiling widely.

The walk to the docks from Waldern’s house was only about
ten minutes long. The sky still looked black as night, stars peeked out from
behind a mild cloud cover and lamp posts with lit wicks burning inside provided
enough light to walk by.

There were three ships docked at the simple yet expansive
pier. A simple wooden platform and concrete *tie off poles* ran the two
football fields long area. Two looked like small fishing boats but the third
looked like a bright yellow motorcycle helmet with a *ship wheel* attached to
the right side. The visor of the motorcycle helmet was the front window of the
ship and wrapped the front of the ship in a full horseshoe shape.

Nova stood in front of this one.

As the three men approached, Brekin was the first to
speak.

“Thought you weren’t coming,” he said to Nova.

Nova ignored Brekin, not even glancing at him. Her eyes
were locked on Addison.

“Welcome to Hound’s Tooth neighbour. You ready to get
yourself a stone?”

All three men were caught off guard by her change in
attitude. She saw this and explained.

“I have trust issues. But I’m pretty sure I can take you.
So mess with any of us and I’ll dust you,” she smiled a big toothy grin that
wasn’t all sarcasm, but mostly.

Nova turned toward the ship. She put her arm into a hole
on the rear of the ship. She seemed to be looking for something.

“Didn’t you say this was a busy port?” Addison asked
Waldern.

“It’s mid-week,” Waldern replied as if that answered the
question.

Nova found what she was looking for and then pulled and
twisted. A loud metal click sound followed and then shortly after that the
heavy-duty garage door rolled up to let them in. They stepped off the dock and
directly into the ship through that back door.

CONTINUE HERE

Once the four were aboard, Nova pulled a lever just
inside the entrance and the garage door began to roll back down. A couple feet
later, she pulled another lever and a second garage door rolled out of the roof
of the ship and closed behind them.

The four were now in a space about ten feet square. The
front two corners were rounded off to accommodate the front window wrapping
around the three sides of the room.

Two large chairs complete with what looked like racing
harnesses were secured to the floor just a couple feet from the front window.
Between the window and the chairs were numerous levers and switches. The levers
came out of the floor and were nearly three feet high. Face height once you
were sitting in one of the chairs. The switches were on the top of a
rectangular pedestal

That rose from the floor to about the same height as the
knobs on the levers.

Behind the front two chairs was a large trunk, secured to
the floor and locked closed by large brass latches.

Just off the left and right of the trunk were two other
chairs with racing harnesses. These seemed to be the passenger chairs, since
there were no levers or switches anywhere near them, only a great view out the
side window.

Waldern took a seat in one of the passenger chairs and
Addison followed suit. Brekin and Nova secured themselves into the front seat
and with not but a few words between them began pulling levers and pulling
switches.

A slow rumbling began and Addison could feel the movement
of the gears just below the floor boards. Then the *boat wheel* began to turn
slowly. It’s slow click-clack-slap sound getting louder as it clawed at the
calm surface of the water and picked up speed.

Nova told Brekin to release. Brekin pulled a lever and
the ship lurched forward away from the shore.

Waldern had to raise his voice to be heard over the sound
of the ships gears, “You can swim, can’t you?”

No sooner had Addison answered yes, then the ship
suddenly dipped below the surface of the water.

“We’re going UNDER water?”

“That’s where the stones are. You need to choose yours.”

Addison gripped both arms of his chair with his clamy
hands.

There was no light inside the ship except the orange glow
that emanated from his new companions’ stones. Looking at Waldern, Addison
could see only the upper half of his torso and a heavily shadowed version of
his face. He kept darting his eyes toward the dark corners of the room, unable
to determine exactly what he thought might be lurking there, but afraid as
always of the dark.

Addison looked out the side window behind Waldern and saw
a piece of the ship illuminated by the stones embedded in the hull of the ship
that he hadn’t seen when he boarded. It must have been just below the surface
of the water. On the left side of the ship was a metal wing about four feet
wide and ten feet long, helped them cut through the pitch black water.

As Addison stared into the water and their descent
continued he saw little specks of light flitter by the ship. Then a long, thin
snake-like thing swam by, it’s yellow glow pulsing like a heart beat. It
returned shortly and swam along side the ship, it’s large eye seemingly glaring
at the inhabitants of this mechanical intruder. It swam away suddenly
disappearing into the deep black.

The ship turned slightly and their descent slowed. Nova
was levelling out the ship.

“Almost there,” Brekin proclaimed.

“Still have to get passed the Ladies,” Nova replied
matter of factly.

“The Ladies?” Addison asked Waldern.

“Sea Sirens. Part woman, part fish, part snake. They
guard the stones.”

“Guard? From who?”

“Anyone they deem unworthy, anyone who doen’t offer them
fair trade,” Waldern’s eyes widened slightly as he looked over Addison’s
shoulder, “Well dark skies to light, there she be.”

Swimming along the side of the ship where the glowing
snake had been minutes before, was a naked woman whose clear translucent skin
let through a bright blue light.

Addison had first saw as her skin he quickly realized was
actually scales. Her upper body resembled a human female from her small breats
to her flowing white hair. She seemed to be breathing through three large gills
on the side of her neck though and there was apparently no white to her eyes.
The lower half of her body was the snake part Waldern had mentioned. It whipped
back and forth propelling her through the water.

She looked angry Addison thought, but wondered if that
was just normal.

The Sea Siren opened her mouth and let loose a terrible
screeching noise. Addison thought of an angry hawk he’d seen on Discovery
Channel.

The ship shook slightly and Addison turned to Waldern to
ask if this was normal. Before he had a chance to speak he saw two other Sirens
swim up beside the ship on their left side, both of them in turn screeching at
the ship.

“Something’s got the Ladies all riled up.” Waldern said,
“Better slow down –“

“Already bringing her to a stop Wall,” Nova cut him off.

“Let’s just hope those are warning screams. They could
break that glass if they wanted to,” Brekin said.

Addison wondered how well he could swim afterall.

The ship came to a stop and it was very quiet. The three
Sirens gathered at the front of the ship swaying with the soft current. Behind
them a soft orange glow in the distance.

Brekin asked, “Do you hear that?”

Addison could. Faintly. More wailing.

“Is that more Sirens?” Nova asked.

“Aye,” Waldern said unbuckling himself from his chair,
“Something’s wrong.”

“You’re up then,” Nova said.

Waldern slowly approached the front window. The sirens
blue glow bled into the front most part of the ship. When he was fully bathed
in blue, Waldern began moving his hands in a flowing manner. Some form of sign
language Addison assumed.

“He’s talking with them?” Addison asked quietly.

“Yes. Keep quiet. No sudden moves. This is always very
sensitive on the best of days.” Nova replied.

A moment of silence passed and then Waldern spoke without
moving, “They think we’re pirates.”

“Why would they think that?” Addison asked, “You said
you’d been down here a bunch of times. They don’t recognize you?”

“Short term memory,” Brekin answered,”They don’t remember
anything day to day. Just like any other fish.”

“They think we’re with the other ship,” Waldern said his
hands began to dance in the blue light again.

“What other ship?” Brekin asked.

“Exactly,” Waldern said, “I’m trying to find out.”

“If someone’s down here that shouldn’t be, we have to
stop them from stealing the stones!”

“Ain’t that what the Sirens are for? If they can’t stop
these pirates, how are we supposed to?”

“Sound proofing,” Waldern said, “The other ship has
somehow found a way to prevent the Sirens’ wailing from harming it or it’s
crew.”

Addison could see streaks of blue darting around the
orange glow in the distance. The far off wailing was getting louder. Two of the
Sirens looked over their shoulder and then back at the ship. The Siren who did
not break her gaze with Waldern moved her hands and seemed to motion to the
rest of the ship’s crew.

“Get up. All of you. To the front now.”

They all unbuckled and lined up next to Waldern.

“Show her your stones. Addison, your Hound’s Tooth mark.
Show her.” Waldern demanded.

Waldern, Nova, and Brekin held their chains away from
their necks, and Addison turned lifting his shirt enough to show his lower
back.

Addison looked over his shoulder and saw more hand
gestures exchanged between Waldern and the Siren.

The Siren then turned to the other two and they
immediately took off toward the orange glow.

“She says we can stay here or go back to the docks,”
Waldern proclaimed.

“But we can help!” Nova exclaimed, “We can’t let the
pirates get away!”

“They don’t trust us fully, Nova. We wait.” Waldern’s
tone was strict.

One last hand motion and a parting glance and the last of
the three Sirens took off to the orange glow.

“Is that orange glow the stones?” Addison asked.

“One of only three Stone Groves in the world.” Brekin
replied.

“And the major trade resource we have. We lose it, we
lose our ability to get enough food and supplies.” Nova grumbled looking
directly at Waldern.

“They’ll wail us to the bottom. What would you have us
do?” Waldern asked.

“More than just sit here and watch.”

“What if we got on the pirate ship and disabled it and
it’s crew?” Brekin offered.

“We can’t even see the ship from here. We can’t *wander?*
to a place we don’t know.”

“I did,” Addison said realising how surreal this all was.

“That’s different,” Waldern explained, “You travelled
between worlds. We’re talking about wandering. Travelling within a world. We
can appear in their ship, if we could see it.”

“So let’s get close enough to see it then!” Nova
exclaimed.

“They’ll hear the ship.” Waldern said.

“Not if we glide her in.” She rebutted.

Brekin caught on first, “So we turn around.”

“Then put her full speed ahead until we get back to about
here,” Nova continued.

“And then stop the *wheel* and glide the rest of the way.
We’ll be in view of any pirate ship before the Sirens notice we’re there,” Brekin
finished.

Nova nodded excitedly.

“Let’s just hope they believe we’re there to help,”
Waldern said as he took his seat again and began to buckle himself in. The rest
of them followed suit.

“If we get in trouble we can just wander back to the
docks.” Nova said as she began pulling levers and flicking switches, getting
the ship running again.

Brekin said what Addison was thinking, “Addison can’t.”

“I’ll take care of our new neighbour,” Waldern offered.
Then leaning toward Addison he spoke in a soft voice, “Just hold on tight to me
and you’ll wander where I do.”

Nova brought the ship around, pointing them out to sea
nothing but a black expanse, a few flickers of light from the luminescent
waterbound inhabitants, and the warm glow of the stones around the necks of
Addison’s new friends. He tried to close his eyes against the fear creeping
into his mind, scratching at the lower insides of the back of his neck. It only
made it worse.

Addison opened his eyes and watched Nova control the
ship. Distracting himself from the darkness, watching the levers move in the
orange glow of Brekin and Nova’s stones. One lever was pulled back and another
pushed forward. The ship began to turn to the left. Nova watched a compass
embedded on the top of a pedestal next to the levers. When they were pointing
back in the direction of the Stone Grove, Addison watched Nova bring those
levers back to an upright position. Another lever was pushed forward and the
ship lurched forward.

“Addison and I will wander to the pirate ship and try to
disable it,” Waldern spoke as the orange glow of the Stone Grove began to
appear in the distance. “If the Sirens give you any real trouble, don’t
hesitate. Wander back to the docks. We’ll meet you there.”

They returned to the spot the Sirens had stopped them at
and Nova was still pushing the ship ahead at full speed.

“Stop the wheel, Nova. We’re getting too close.”

“Just a little closer. Don’t want to come up short.”

“Stop the ship, Nova.”

“We get one chance at this. Trust me. A little bit more.”

“Nova!”

The ships wheel ground to a halt and they continued
forward quickly and silently.

They were all holding their breath as the Stone Grove
became clearer.

Addison thought it looked like a giant upside down
version of the Christmas tree in Rockafeller Centre. Each glowing stone a
light, and the massive rock *stalagtite* the tree. It was beautiful.

Swirling around it were at least a dozen Sirens, and near
the tip the pirate ship.

The pirate ship looked like a coffin with three giant
paddles sticking out from each side. A mechanical arm protruded from the lid of
the coffin. The shovel-looking implement at the end of the arm was chipping
away at the rock. A stone fell loose and an unseen force kept it from falling
to the dark depths below. It was pulled into the arm through a hole at the
joint between shovel and arm.

The ship was beginning to lose momentum but not quickly
enough.

“Nova we’re getting too close. We need to stop,” Waldern
could not hide the tension in his voice.

“I can’t do anything. We’re at full stop.”

“Reverse the engines!”

“I can’t they’ll hear us for sure!”

“We’re close enough,” Brekin offered, “Just go now Wall.”

Waldern began to unbuckle and nodded at Addison that he
should do the same.

“Hold my hand, son.”

Addison’s hand was swallowed up by Waldern’s and they
walked toward the back of the ship. Waldern pushed up on a lever and the door
rolled up into the top of the ship.

“Once I reclose this interior door we’ll be in pitch
black between the two doors, except for the glow of my stone. You hold on
tight. I’ll cover up my stone to give us full black and wander us over to the
pirate ship. Got it?”

Addison nodded.

“Waldern!” Nova hollered.

Walldern and Addison turned to look and saw four Sirens
slithering madly through the water directly at them.

“Might need you to explain what we’re doing here, Wall!”
Brekin said nervously.

They were given no chance to explain. They stood frozen
for a moment as the Sirens pulled up just short of the ship and all four began
to wail. The ship moving slowly now, continued toward the Sirens and they
wriggled backward keeping themselves between the Stone Grove and the ship.

Their wailing vibrated the ship and rattled the window.
Then the worst possible sound. The cracking of glass.

Nova came to life, her arms flying from lever to switch
and back again. The wheel came to life, attracting two more Sirens.

“What are you doing?” yelled Brekin.

“Getting us out of here!”

The ship did it’s lurching forward sending Waldern
falling against the far back door of the ship and Addison stumbling backward.

More cracking and Addison could see the branches of
broken glass stretching out from the edges of the window. They weren’t going to
make it.

With the Grove so close now just in front on their left,
they didn’t have the room to turn around in that direction. Nova began to
manuever the ship up and to the right. The Sirens followed and their wailing
continued unabated(?).

Addison bolted forward clipping his knee on the trunk in
the center of the ship’s deck. He barely noticed the pain though as he reached
in front of Nova and reversed her levers.

“What are you doing?” Nova screamed at Addison slapping
at his hands.

The ship was already turning back down and to the left.

“We’re not going to make the surface before the glass
cracks. You need to wander to the docks. Now! We’ll ram the pirates and hope
they go down too!”

Addison could hear Brekin unbuckling behind him.

“New neighbour. Good plan.” Brekin said and went to join
Waldern at the rear of the ship.

Nova hesitated for only a moment, looked Addison directly
in the eye and nodded.

“So be it,” she said to herself. “Sorry sweetie,” she
said to the ship unbuckling herself.

She straightened the ship out from the turn Addison had
put it in and aimed it directly at the pirate ship.

Addison and Nova clambered up the inclined deck toward
the back doors. Both Waldern and Brekin were reaching out with one hand while
their other held them in the area between the two doors.

Nearly simultaneously, Waldern grasped Nova’s hand and
Brekin got a hold of Addison.

Addison looked back and saw they were closing in on the
pirate ship, but he also saw that the branches from each side of the wondow had
begun to meet in the middle.

A loud crackling erupted and then the roar of water as it
flooded into the ship. The water filled the cabin quickly pushing both Addison
and Nova toward the rear doors.

Waldern reeled Nova in with his one arm. Addison
struggled to find something to grasp to pull himself forward.

Waldern moved over carefully to help Brekin bring Addison
all the way in. A blue glow filled the area suddenly.

Waldern looked over Addison’s shoulder, his eyes went
wider than Addison thought they could have and he was hollering, “No!” As
Addison felt the cold grip wrap around his ankles. He had time for half a breath.

The Siren pulled Addison down into the water with both
hands. She swam backward out of the ship. He could feel her snake-like body
slap against his chest every few strokes.

He knew he was going to die, and so he should have been
figuring a way to try and escape. For some reason however, the main thought in
his mind was did we get them? He struggled not to free himself from the Siren
but to orient himself so he could watch the ships collide.

When the impact happened it was far less glorious than he
could have hoped for. There was no explosion, no thunderous noise of impact.
Simply splintered wood and BENT metal. Then just when he thought they may have
failed, finally one large bubble of air bloomed from the coffin ship, followed
by a thousand tiny others. Crumpled together he saw the ships begin to sink.

Then his own bubbles of air began to leak from his mouth.
He watched them rise up in front of his face. While he watched this he missed
seeing the black shape swim from the wreckage. A black fish with yellow eyes,
making sure it hadn’t been seen, and then swimming out to sea.

Addison felt the Siren release his ankles and then she
was face to face. She looked confused.

The pressure inside his head grew to blindingly painful
levels and he exhaled. The Sirens face lost behind a curtain of bubbles.

There was a blue glow and the color slowly faded away
from the edges of his eyes inward, the darkness closing in. It had finally got
him.

His eyes burst open. They were sore and the sudden burst
of light was not helping. He squinted. A blue face presed against his. It
pulled back and smiled. It was not the same Siren that had pulled him from the
ship.

Addison felt his lungs were full of air. Addison stared
at the Siren unsure of what to do next.

The Siren held him in place next to the Stone Grove. If
he reached out he could touch the rock and the stones embedded in it.

The Siren wrapped her tail around his waist and pulled
back enough to move her hands as Waldern had moved his. She was trying to talk
to him.

She made her hands flat, fingers pressed together. Then
she brought them together to form a letter T. Her fingers spread widely, and
then she flipped her hands palms up, dropping them to her waist. Then with one
hand she pointed at Addison with a questioning look on her face.

-The ships crashing. You did that.-

Addison thought he understood. He nodded.

She smiled again.

The air in his lungs was running out and some bubbles of
air, began to escape his lips.

The Siren leaned in and pressed her lips to his again.
His lungs filled once more.

She pulled back and motioned to the Stone Grove and then
held her hand in a loose fist bobbing it up and down in front of her chest,
like Nova had done while showing her necklace.

The Siren wanted him to choose a stone. From all he could
tell the stone was his way home. He wanted to be home so very badly.

They swam together around the Grove, the Siren filling
his lungs when necessary, but it didn’t long for Addison’s eyes to settle on
one particular stone. It’s curved shape like that of the mark on his lower
back. A half moon.

The Siren’s finger nails effortlessly dug through the
surrounding rock and released the stone into Addison’s hands. It was warm to
the touch, almost hot and Addison gripped it tightly between his fingers.

Without warning the Siren swam away from the grove her
tail wrapped around Addison’s waist. He managed to hold onto his stone closing
his right hand over it in a fist as the Siren released him and took him by his
other hand. They swam downward. They swam to where it was darker and then
stopped.

After filling his lungs once again, the Siren moved her
hands again. She held her hand palm up and pointed at Addison’s hand that was
clamped tightly around his stone.

He opened his hand palm up exposing the orange glow.

She pointed at her head and squeezed her eyes shut tight.
Then she pointed upward.

-Concentrate. Think of the dock.-

Then she closed her hand that was palm up, and pointed in
one fluid motion at Addison and then up to the surface.

She brought her lips to his one last time, smiled and
swam away. With her blue glow gone, it was only Addison’s stone keeping the
darkness at bay.

He could not panic he tried to convince himself.

Think of the dock, think of the dock, close your hand
around the stone. Like Waldern had said, bring total blackness.

He closed his eyes and his heart pounded, driven by the
fear that some creature lurked nearby, just beyond the light of the stone. It
would swoop in and swallow the stone, leaving him here to drown in the black
water.

He opened his eyes. The stone was still there. He could
feel he was running out of air again. He had to get this right.

He closed his eyes. He pictured the dock. The sprawling
wooden planks, the concrete posts. He gripped the stone tightly in his closed
fist and he thought he felt a tingling sensation in his toes. Or was it
something brushing against him in the dark? Perhaps his body was just going
numb from the cold water.

He didn’t know how much longer he could hold his breath.

“Dark skies light! I can’t believe it!”

Was that Brekin?

Addison opened his eyes and saw he was sitting on the
dock. Right where the ship had been tied up.

Waldern and Brekin came running down to meet him, Nova
walked slowly behind them still not quite believeing what she was seeing.

Before he knew it Waldern had buried him in a hug that
threatened to suffocate him. He had to wriggle his way out of that, only to be
over-enthusiastically patted on the back by Brekin. It hurt. But pain wasn’t
such a bad thing right now since it was proof he was alive.

“How? How did you?” Waldern seemed beside himself.

“I got my stone.” Was all Addison could say.

Nova stepped forward and looked at Addison wordlessly.

“We sunk ‘em. We got the pirates.” Addison informed her.

Waldern and Brekin began to cheer and holler. Nova simply
leaned in and kissed Addison on the cheek.

Addison’s face flushed bright red.

That night they ate well and stayed close to the hearth
at the Black Water Pub.

Several brews into the evening, Waldern wondered aloud if
Addison would stay to find his family. Addison told him he had to get back
home. He had a family. They’d be missing him.

In the morning, not that you could tell since it was just
as dark as night Addison said his goodbyes.

They stood in the central room in Waldern’s home.

Addison hugged Nova and Brekin.

“You’re coming back to visit right?” Brekin asked for the
fiftieth time since last night.

Addison simply smiled and nodded.

Waldern embraced him tightly.

“Thought I’d – we’d lost you there. Now it feels like
we’re losing you again.”

“I’ll be back, but I just can’t leave my parents
wondering where I’ve gone. It’s going to be hard enough coming up with a story
for this anyway.”

Waldern took a deep breath, exhaled and nodded.

“Well then. Off you go. Just head in to your room there,
have your stone out, put out the lantern, and think of home. Best to think of
an object something to land on.”

“Got it.” Addison moved toward the room, opened the door
and then stopped.

“Thank you. For everything.”

His three new friends smiled. Brekin the only one to
speak, “Bye!”

Addison walked into the room and closed the door. Moments
later he went back home.

Waldern saw Nova and Brekin out, promising to meet them
later for another training session.

Once alone, he poured himself a tall mug of milk.

He sat down and stared at the closed bedroom door.

Taking a sip of milk, he reached behind to his lower back
and scratched an itch his fingers running across the black ink of his half-moon
shaped tattoo.

THE END.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s