Chapter 1, The Upside-down Waterfall
It was in the afternoon after school and I was walking home with my best Eglantina who I usually call Tina or “The Damn Cat”. She, in turn, calls me Ema or “Ms Normal”. We bare each other’s cutting remarks well, maybe that is why we get along so well.
As I was saying we were walking home after school when we saw it. There was a fish swimming through the air. Now that soft of unusual even for people who see strange things every day, however normally the strange things we see are in the form of people. I flying fish is something you only hear about in the New World.
It flipped and flopped in the breeze it’s scales shinning in the sun. Of course this was just enough to cause Tina to lose control and give into her feral cat instincts. She jumped and pawed at the fish which flitted away into the air. It swam off into the bushed and Tina jumped after it. All I could do was follow her after the fish and into the bushes. It was all I could do to keep up with Tina and the fish as they dashed too backyards and down alleyways. My teachers say I’m in prime physical condition, despite my skinny build, but nobody in my class is faster then Tina. It didn’t help that she could easily jump over fences or squeeze through small holes. I’m usually quite proud of myself when I manage to keep up with her.
You can probably tell but this sort of thing happen quite often and if I let Tina go alone she undoubtable gets lost and isn’t able to find her way home until I come and find her. And so the chase continued until we arrived at a small park. The fish dived into a pool and Tina jumped right in after it. I stopped for a moment and took off my shoes before going in after Tina. She really didn’t think very much before she did things, if she did then she would remember that she hates water and swims like a brick.
Only as I dived in to save her did I realize that the pool looked strange. It was a strange green color and you couldn’t see the bottom. After I entered the water swirled around me dragging me deeper and deeper into the pool like an undertow.
When I finally came to the surface I was in what looked to be a cave. Light seemed to come up from the water refracting on the cave walls and casting a strange green tint on everything. Tina sat in the water with the fish flapping vainly in her mouth. She had a half contented look on her face though you could tell that she wasn’t pleased to be up to her waist in water.
“Ema! Look! I caught the fish!” She shouted excitedly at me. I really hoped that she wasn’t planning on eating that thing raw, though it wouldn’t be the first time she had tried something like that.
“Tina, what have you gotten us into this time and where the hell are we?” I responded, though the questions were more directed at the world and not Tina. I didn’t expect her to actually be able to answer that. “And don’t eat that fish, you don’t know what it has been.” I grabbed the fish out of her mouth an threw it back into the water. Tina looked a bit disappointed but reluctantly let the fish go.
We pulled ourselves out of the water and onto the slightly dryer cave floor. The ground was slightly slimy with some kind of moss. As I tried to wring out my shirt I asked Tina, “I don’t suppose you have any idea about where we are?”
Tina shook her head as she scratched at her wet ears, “Nope, no idea. But I do know that there are other people nearby. I can hear things off in the distance.” She turned her head slightly and twitched her nose. “And I smell food, I think someone is cooking something.”
Tina’s amazing sense of hearing and smell always amazed me. I guess having cat ears is beneficial. After we had finished trying to dry ourselves be scrambled up and went deeper into the cave following Tina’s keen sense of smell. It wasn’t very long until the tunnel opened up into a larger cavern. My mouth hung open a little as I stared. “Tina, Is that a church mostly surrounded by waterfalls that are flowing from the ground into the ceiling?”
Tina paused a second before responding, “That is what it looks like to me Ema, however that is where the smell is coming from so why not check it out.” I could only nod mutely and stare in amazement.
Tina took the initiative, like she usually does, and marched up building that looked like a church through the a small gap in the upside down waterfalls. I followed her and waited as she knocked at the door. There was a clatter from inside and some shuffling before a voice answered, “I’ll be there in a minute.” It was a man’s voice, he sounded younger maybe in his twenties.
A few minutes later show that my suspicions were correct. A tall man wearing glasses opened the door and indeed it looked like he was in his twenties. He also had faint lines running across parts of his face and hands (The only parts of him visible) that almost looked like scars. This was made more noticeable because his skin looked like it was different colors on different sides of his scars. His hair was short cropped but the color changed at different points like his skill color. He wore a simple well-kept green long-sleeve shirt with purple pants which made his clothing look as mismatched at his skin and hair.
He paused puzzled for a minute, though I’m not surprised, finding two wet high-school girls on his doorstep was probably the last thing he expected... well probably not the last thing. There are plenty of things that would be much stranger to find on your doorstep.
I smiled the best that I could given the situation. “Excuse me, but could you please tell me where I am?” I asked in my politest voice.
“How should I know where you are?” He responded in a voice that made it feel like he genially didn’t know how to answer my question. I stood there for a second almost waiting for him to say it was a joke or to reveal in his manner that he was being bothered by us and wanted us to leave.
After a few seconds I began to realize that it wasn’t going to happen. I really wasn’t sure how to respond, even given how everything changed I still expect people to act normally, maybe because most people still do.
As I was pondering what to say Tina broke the awkward silence by blurting out “That smell, is it chicken you are cooking?” She began smiling her giddy smile which I knew would invariably result in her doing something stupid, Tina likes bird almost as much as she likes fish.
The patchwork man had barely started to respond when Tina pushed her way through the door and bounded off to where I only assumed the kitchen was. The man stared blankly after her with a confused look on his face. I began to wonder if he was a free pieces of furniture short of a dollhouse.
“I’m sorry about my friend, she gets a little excited at times and then she doesn’t control herself. I suggest that if you don’t want all your chicken eaten then you should go after her and stop her, though it might not do much good.” I tried sounding apologetic though what Tina does isn’t really my fault.
The man shrugged slowly, “I don’t really mind. I rarely get any visitors out here and it looks like there wouldn’t be anything I could do to stop her. If you want to you can come in, you’ll catch a cold if you stay out there with your wet clothes.” He motioned me in and I was amount to wipe my shoes on the mat when I realized I had taken them off before I had jumped into the pool. I sighed and instead took off my socks so that at least I wouldn’t tramp water across the floor like Tina had.
The patchwork man closed the door after man and began walking toward the kitchen which I was hearing several sounds that I could only assume was Tina eating the chicken. While the outside of the building had looked like a church the inside looked more like a library. Books were hazardously piled all over the floor. The books were in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Their titles seemed to mostly be in languages I didn’t recognize which isn’t surprising because I never cared much about learning other languages.
I was wondering why the patchwork man, who seemed kind of slow, would have so many foreign books. Then a though occurred to me, maybe this man was foreign and he only sounded slow because English was a second language. I absently listened to the commotion that was coming from the kitchen will picking through several of the books. Most of the books seemed fairly new if ill-cared for. Was he the only person he lived here, it looked like it but I couldn’t tell for sure. Either way the entire place was a wreck with things scattered everywhere.
As I picked my way across the floor Tina came out of the kitchen carrying a drumstick. “Hey Ema, that guy said we could eat here tonight and if we want stay the night too.” She took a bite of the chicken and chewed for a second. The man followed her out of the kitchen carrying a couple of plates filled with chicken.
“Why are you doing this for us? I mean, we don’t even know each others names.” I was understandably suspicious that a strange guy would offer to let us eat and stay over. “Also we need to get home, my mom can be a demon when I stay out too late.”
Tina burst out laughing, “Ema, your mom is always a demon, you coming home late has nothing to do with it.”
I shot Tina a level stare, “That isn’t what I meant and you know it.”
The patchwork man laughed softly, “If it is names you are worried about then don’t worry. You cat friend told me your names and my name is Bix. However if your problem is your demonic mother then I don’t think I can help.”
“Well it would be better if me and Tina headed home, however I would really need to know where we are before I can do that. I mean the current in the pool is way to strong to swim back.”
Bix looked confused, “Didn’t I already say that I don’t know where you are. You’ll have to figure out how to get home by yourself. However I recommend that stay inside tonight, the caverns will start flooding in only a couple of hours. When you came knocking on my door I assumed that you would know that.”
I was stunned, the cavern was going to flood? “You mean we are going to have to stay here until the water lowers? Are we going to be safe in here? Isn’t there any way for us to get out of here before then?” I blathered out a constant stream of questions confused by the sudden turn of events.
“Would I be so calm if it wasn’t safe here?” Began Bix before Tina interrupted with a “Would you?” Bix looked over at her and responded, “Yes, the waterfalls outside will protect us. In a couple of hours I’ll be able to show you. “However I doubt you will be able to escape before the cavern floods, however that really depends on where you are. I know I wouldn’t be able to escape in time and I know where I am.”
I blinked slowly trying to digest his statement. All in a moment the truth struck me, there was only one place where location was subjective. “Wait... this is the New World?” I stood shocked at the realization, that suddenly explain how we reach a strange place and why there was something like an upside-down waterfall.
Bix nodded, “You didn’t know? Most people don’t accidentally wonder into the New World so I assumed you knew. Though I am rather surprised you found your way into the New World, most people don’t find their way here accidentally, well at least the first time.”
“Well we did follow a flying fish,” Tina grinned as I spoke, “ into a far too deep pool of water.”
“Since it wasn’t a well known portal it must have been a random gate, in a way you are lucky. Those types of portals don’t stay open very long, it could have easily closed after Tina win though and the she would have been stuck here without her.
And now I’m stuck here with her, not that I dislike her company after all I am her best friend. It’s just that, well, life is never boring when Tina is around and sometimes I just like to lean back and rest.
What should I say now, the two of us had to stay there with Bix until after the flooding. First we got to eat what was left of the chicken Bix had cooked, even after Tina had eaten her share there was still enough for me and Bix. It turned out Bix was a pretty good chief and the chicken was better then I thought it would be. It wasn’t until later that I wondered why Bix just happened to cook enough for the three of us, especially given how much Tina ate. Maybe he had been expecting visitors all along and when I later learned more about Bix the more I thought that was correct.
However at the time I had more important matters on my mind, like what sorts of hellish punishment my mom was thinking up for me. I wouldn’t say that she is cruel or mean, just that she likes taking certain things to an extreme much like Tina. It seems to be a fairly common personality trait.
Many of those who changed fall into a category I like to call Zoomorphism. These are the people who take on the appearance and characteristics of animals. This isn’t limited solely to animals, it applies equally to mythological monsters such as demons. Zoomorphs are the most common type of changed numbering more then fifty percent of the population. Granted, Zoomorphs are a very broad group and it might be a little unfair to lump them all into one group yet they all have certain features in common.
Like my mother and Tina they tend to act much in the nature of what they became, it should be noted that all those who changed already were very similar to the Zoomorphs that they became. Tina tends to be catlike, my Mother acts like a demon, and my father likes howling at the moon. I don’t usually understand their reasons for doing so but it must be part of their nature.
That aside I questioned Bix more about the New World, mainly to find a way home and found out some interesting things. First, after finding the right question to ask, I found that the area in the New World that we were in was called Buried Sea and that for him the closest city was Atlantis. I’m sure you have heard about Atlantis, ancient myths say it was a city that sunk beneath the ways. Well some settler thought it would be a bright idea to name the underwater city he founded after the sunken mythical city of Atlantis. And that is the story about where the name of the Atlantis I’m sure everyone knows about came from.
While I was prying his for information there was a large whooshing sound from outside. “Ah, its time!” Exclaimed Bix. He stood up and motioned us toward the door. We followed him hesitantly, would it be a good idea to open the door if the cavern was starting to flood.
When he opened the door I understood his belief. There was a wall of water surrounding the building where the upside-down waterfall used to be. The small break in the waterfall that I had passed through was no longer there. The cavern must have flooded almost instantly because I couldn’t see anything through wall of water. I slight shiver ran down my spine, what would have happened if we had been out there during that. I didn’t want to imagine.
The lights coming from the building refracted strangely off the wall of water and everything was cast in an emerald green color. I thought I could see fish swimming through the water, their scales shimmered in many colors and it looked like a rainbow was swimming past us. It was a very beautiful sight, like nothing I had ever seen before.
I looked over at Bix and asked, “Is this why you live here?” Bix didn’t respond, he only grinned in a way that made him look like a child.
Tina stared up at the wall of water with a look of amazement on her face, “Look Ema, look! There are rainbow fish swimming inside the water!”
Despite everything I couldn’t stop myself from smiling at everything.
How many times has my life been changed. I have lost track of the times. The first was the Great Change, but everyone was changed then. However I think the second time was when I stood before that emerald green wall of water and watched a rainbow swim by. I think it was then that I fell in love with the New World. Something had happened to me that I thought never would. It was something I had only heard about in television but something I wasn’t sure I even believed in until that moment.
It wasn’t until much later that I learned that the flooding of the Buried Sea was something that only happened every four years. While I try not to believe in Fate or Destiny I now think it might be more then simple coincidence that lead me and Tina there that day.
We watched the wall of water for what I think was hours, the three of us with silly grins slapped upon our faces. We eventually decided to return to the church turned library where to talked about what we saw for a long time. Bix made us some hot chocolate and he told us more about the New World.
While Atlantis was the closest for him he didn’t know if we would be able to find it, he spoke some about the subjective direction in the New World and that since the Buried Sea wasn’t Atlantis it was possible that we would arrive somewhere else when we left. However he did tell us the best way to leave the Buried Sea for when the water level dropped back down.
Eventually me and Tina fell asleep, I had thought I would be able to stay up all night talking about what I had seen and about the New World but before I knew it I had fallen asleep. The last thing I remember was Bix draping a blanket over Tina who had fallen asleep on one of the couches.
It was warm when I woke up. It seemed Bix had put a blanket on me too. I leaned up and wiped my eyes, I still felt a little groggy. When my mind finally cleared I stopped in shock. The church, which had been filled to the brim with books and mess, was now almost empty. Other then the couches me and Tina were sleeping on everything was gone. The books, Bix, all gone. I shook my head and pinched myself to check if I was dreaming but instead it just hurt.
I stood up and looked around. Tina still slept soundly, but that wasn’t surprising she usually slept longer then me. I doubt Tina would be able to get up for school in the morning if her mother didn’t wake her up... School! We were missing school, how was I going to explain this to my mother?