Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: The Waterlord Prequel part 11

               Nathan stood on the deck, completely absorbed in whatever he was doing, which didn’t appear to be anything but looking at the sky. Tom felt a strange kinship for a second. Hadn’t that been what he was doing only a moment before?

 He shook it off quickly, though. Nathan didn’t seem interested in the rain as much as the horizon itself. Tom didn’t have any idea how Nathan could see anything, but his gaze still remained fixed far ahead.

              Tom was trying to decide if he should call out to him when heard a shriek in his ear, and he yelped in high-pitched fear.

             Tom whirled around as an albatross flew into the sky, and soon out of sight. He gasped, catching his breath and trying to slow his heartbeat. He soon realized that Nathan was smirking at him.

               “Nice, Tom. Real mature, to be scared of a bird.” Nathan laughed.

               “N-not my fault! Where did it even come from?” Birds didn’t fly at night!

              Nathan sauntered over and patted Tom condescendingly on the shoulder, much to his further embarrassment. “It’s alright, Tom. I don’t think the bird will hurt you.” Sarcasm laced his words, and Tom pulled away.

              “I know that!” Unfortunately, Tom couldn’t think of any further comebacks.

              Nathan rolled his eyes, holding out his hand. Then he frowned. “Damn, what the hell?” Tom looked at him strangely. It had begun to rain harder, but Tom didn’t think it anything to be concerned about. It suited his mood well.

   Nathan frowned, looking down at him. “C’mon then, let’s go inside. The rain is awful anyway.” Tom didn’t agree at all, but he headed inside, stepping down the stairs. He wasn’t even sure why he had gone out in the first place. The rain was pretty, he supposed.

             Nathan jumped down the rest of the stairs, appearing next to Tom’s shoulder. Tom’s annoyance grew when he realized how much taller the blond boy was, Nathan looming over him…which reminded Tom of what he wanted to ask. Nathan turned to him, probably to make some sort of scathing remark, but Tom spoke before the older boy could.

              “Hey, today I talked to some old guy and he said he knew you…” Tom trailed off, trying to figure out how to ask Nathan about what Archibald had said. Something about clash, and orientation? And he had seen him again at dinner, too. He wanted an explanation, but it suddenly seemed awkward to ask. Nathan smirked at him, but it wasn’t the playful smirk Tom was used to. It was stiff, and almost menacing.

              “What did he say to you?” He talked as if he already knew something, and Tom grew nervous. Was Nathan mad at him for something so strange?

               “Um…he said that there’s no clash, and that”-Tom didn’t finish before Nathan put his hands on his shoulders and roughly shoved him against the wall of the ship, grinning from ear to ear.

              “No clash, huh?” Tom tried to get away, but Nathan’s fingers dug into Tom’s shoulder blades. Tom tried to wrench away once more. Nathan let him go suddenly, and Tom nearly fell on his face.

              “What was that for!?” Tom screamed at him, jumping away from Nathan in case he tried it again. Nathan backed up, his hands out in front of him in a peacemaking gesture.

              “Hey, just testing something. No harm done.” He smiled.

              Tom shrugged his shoulders, his skin crawling as he tried to shake off the sensation of Nathan’s fingers on them. This day had been so strange it was ridiculous, and Nathan had just made it worse. He hadn’t even gotten an explanation of what the old man had meant! He sighed, suddenly tired. He hoped tomorrow would turn out better, and then the following day the celebrations would start.

               “What’s on your mind now?” Nathan spoke up, and he sounded actually interested. “You look thoughtful.”

 “I’m tired!” Tom shouted at him, hoping he would go away. His shout came out more of a squeak, much to his mortification. For once, though, Nathan didn’t laugh at him, simply regarding him thoughtfully, though with an expression that made Tom mildly uncomfortable.

              “You want me to help you back to your room?”

               “What?” Tom looked up at the older boy, who actually avoided eye contact. Was Nathan nervous? That was unheard of. Did he think he was getting sick again? “No, I’m fine, just tired.”

               “Fair enough. You’re going to bed now?” He sounded concerned, and Tom couldn’t tell if it was due to worry or because Nathan would be bored without someone younger to torture.

               “Well, that’s what you do when you’re tired.” The sarcasm came to him easily. Tom realized he spoke nastily, but he chalked it up to his being tired, and he felt very sick of trying to understand Nathan’s motives. He turned away and started down the hall, disappearing around the corners. His body dragged with his exhaustion, and he wanted to get some rest before the festivities started. He also felt like avoiding Nathan for a while.

               He had nearly arrived at his door when Nathan showed up behind him. “Hey, Tom, listen.” It was not a question, more of a command. Tom turned. He would give him 30 seconds. 

             Apparently reading from Tom’s expression that he wouldn’t have much time, Nathan made it quick. “Hey, I’m sorry for manhandling you…I was just testing something.” Tom blinked. Was Nathan actually apologizing for something?

              “Um, okay.” Tom opened the door to go into his room, and Nathan left, vanishing down the hall so quickly Tom didn’t even see him. Nathan had no parents either as far as Tom knew, so his room wasn't far. Tom decided not to bother finding him, though, opting to sleep, and as he got ready for bed, he thought over the day’s events. If it was always this weird after getting sick, then he made a vow to never get that sick again. He hoped the holidays coming up would still be enjoyable, at least, and he focused on that as he fell asleep.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: The Waterlord Prequel part 10

Just a note--I had gotten the part numbering wrong. This is the real part 10!

Tom stared at the sky, his heart beating hard. He could suddenly sense…something. He felt like he could drown in the air, even though it also made him feel somewhat in control. He hoped he wasn’t getting ill again. He walked over to the side of the ship and looked down into the water. It was calming, somehow.

    He wondered if the water felt like the air did now. It was so damp, and yet he wasn’t wet. There must be water in the air…it dawned on him then. It was going to rain. He looked up, and as if on cue, a downpour started. His classmates on the deck groaned, and started heading under, their break for fresh air interrupted.

             Tom didn’t mind the rain, though. He had before, when Nathan had cruelly left him out as a prank, but now it was different. It was peaceful, and it made him feel strong, for some reason. He wondered briefly if he could catch the raindrops and throw them like a bucket of water.

             “Tom, what are you standing there for? It’s pouring, let’s go!” One of his classmates pulled him away from the edge of the ship, and he broke out of his daydream.

               He followed the others below deck, and he watched while those who had gotten caught in the rain attempted to dry off. They had taken some of the dampness in the air with them, and Tom noted how the wooden planks of the ship absorbed the excess water. That was probably bad for the wood, Tom figured.

               “Don’t you want to dry off?” someone asked. Tom didn’t really want to, but agreed anyway, running his hands through his hair to shake off some of the water. He had never noticed before how nice rain was.
              “Cruddy weather,” someone said. Tom frowned.

“I hope it lets up before the holiday,” someone else said next to him.

               “Holiday? As in, days off?” Tom perked up when the speaker nodded. He hadn’t realized it was near the Ship Lord’s holiday again. He couldn’t wait for the festivities. There would undoubtedly be food, and often they met up with other of Ruthen’s ships to exchange goods. He could meet new people, maybe explore another ship, and best of all, not have to worry about class for three days. Once he got through this one, he could eat and then have time to himself, and hopefully plan with Nathan what to do to celebrate. Nathan had been strange lately, but surely he would have time over the break to spend with Tom. Tom spent most of the lesson that afternoon pondering what he could do over the break from classes.

              Once classes were over that evening, Tom’s stomach growling with hunger, the navigator pulled Tom aside. Tom jumped in surprise. Was he being punished for something?

              It turned out that was far from the case. “Tom, I heard you were ill from a friend of the captain.”

              Tom tilted his head. He didn’t know anyone that was at all close to the captain, and he had no parents on the ship that would have such connections. It was true, though, so he simply nodded.

              “Well, if you ever need to take time off, that’s fine.” The navigator looked as if she was sharing some secret with him. Was she telling him that he could cut class…whenever he wanted? He tried to suppress a grin.

               “Uh, sure.” He replied, and quickly ran out after the rest of the class. That had been odd, but he figured the teacher was just worried about his health. How sick had he been, anyway? He didn’t know, but he was happy with all the benefits it had given him.

 Tom headed to the mess hall next, sitting alone at a table and enjoying his meal. He started when he saw the same strange man he had run into earlier that morning in the hall, sitting at one of the head tables. As if sensing Tom’s attention, the stranger put his head up and stared back at him, his eyes glittering. Tom’s heart jumped. He remembered his conversation with the man, suddenly. The guy’s name was Archibald, and he wanted Tom to tell Nathan about clash, or something. Tom figured he would, just to get an explanation of some sort for all the odd events of the day. Assuming, of course, that Nathan knew anything. Tom frowned. He couldn’t decide yet if today had been good or bad.  

            He should probably go find Nathan. Where he would be, Tom had no idea.

            As he headed down the hall, he could hear the drumming of the rain against the ship. He stopped, cocking his head. Had he always been able to hear that when it rained?

            He headed down the hallway, his skin buzzing with a strange sensation, like the feeling he got before a storm but…deeper. More obvious. He stopped by the door to the deck, staring at the wood. He could hear the rain pounding outside.

            This was stupid, he knew. But he pushed open the door anyway.

             The rain hit him with force, soaking him in seconds, but Tom didn’t. He felt invigorated by it, and dashed to the edge of the deck, looking over the water. The spray of the ocean mixed with the rain from the sky, and he realized that they were different. He grinned into the storm, his face and hair already soaked. He felt powerful, out in the heavy rain like this. He wondered if anyone else felt the same way.

            He jumped when the door to the inside of the ship banged open. Tom peered through the rain as a figure walked to the edge of the ship, looking out over the water into the rain. Tom almost called out, but then closed his mouth. It was Nathan.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: The Waterlord Prequel Part 9

  The navigator raised an eyebrow at Tom’s interruption. “Oh? Well, what creates water currents, then?”
  Tom bit his lip. He had never actually attempted to answer anything on his own in class before. “Um…things. Like, when you drop something in the water, it creates little waves.”

                 The navigator smiled. “Yes, that’s true, but aren’t there tides and such that large currents follow?”

                For some reason Tom thought that was wrong, but couldn’t place why. He was very aware of the entire class staring at him. “Uh…there are large underwater currents, but if they followed tides…tides change, and that would mean that the currents would too, but they don’t. Do they?” He looked up at the navigator, unsure.

               She sighed. “Well, Tom, little is known of underwater currents. Wave studies have been carried out for years. It is thought that they follow the tides, and change with the weather.”

             “Oh.” Tom was confused. If waves followed tides, then how did the ships get anywhere? And in the tank, the waves created had disappeared after reflecting off the tank walls. Did the same thing happen with real ones?

The navigator moved on, though, to discussions of air currents, which Tom did not find half as intriguing. Weather did not shape all water currents, he was convinced. There must be something static that determined their motion. Tom opted to daydream again rather than listen to the teacher. Every time they began to discuss something interesting, it never seemed to last, and this lesson on air currents seemed to drag on forever. Apparently much more was known about it than tides and water currents, and Tom found that mildly annoying.

               “Ah, apparently someone has seen fit to join us for once.” Tom looked up in surprise at the change in the teacher’s tone. In the doorway, Nathan strode in, probably his first time actually attending class in a while. He didn’t respond to the teacher’s jibe; he simply sat down in an empty chair next to Tom. His assigned seat had been taken by someone else in response to the fact that no one actually expected him to ever show up. He smiled at Tom happily before turning to the teacher, as if he were actually going to try and learn something. Tom wasn’t fooled.

               “What are you doing here?” Tom hissed, trying to keep his voice low enough so that the teacher wouldn’t hear him.

                Nathan didn’t even turn to face him. “What does it look like? Schooling.” Tom could barely hear him; apparently Nathan had mastered the art of whispering during class.

               Tom wasn’t willing to let it go. “Why now?”

               Nathan looked at him this time. “Maybe I’m just looking out for you.” He grinned.

               Tom felt his face grow hot, and his own reaction irritated him even more. “What?!” He yelled the last, too loudly.

               The whole class looked at him for the second time that day, and this time the teacher was not amused. “Do I need to separate you two?” She looked tired already.

              “No…I’ll be quiet.” Tom attempted to whisper this time. The teacher just rolled her eyes and turned back to the board. Nathan snickered, and Tom tried to kick him under the desk. His legs were too short to reach and he ended up hitting the leg of the desk, making it jump. The teacher looked up, but Tom stayed motionless. Nathan laughed quietly the entire time, and Tom vowed to get him back for it.

               The teacher returned to the subject of air currents, and though Tom found it boring, he couldn’t help noticing that Nathan, of all people, had begun to take notes, the chalk grating on the board. He longed to ask the older boy why he had suddenly returned to class and actually shown an interest, but didn’t want to risk embarrassing himself further. He wished the teacher would talk more about water.

               Tom rested his head in his hands as the teacher droned on. He actually felt rather tired. Watching Nathan scribbling down notes made him feel like an even worse student. He couldn’t wait until it was time for lunch.

              “The nature of wind is akin to osmosis--high to low pressure areas. One can predict storms with a barometer, which measures pressure.” Tom thought he had seen a barometer in the infirmary. He hadn’t bothered to see how it worked, though. He sighed and looked over at Nathan again, who appeared to be grinning as he was taking notes. Tom wanted to smack him.

              Tom rested his head on his desk. Maybe he could take a nap without anyone noticing. He closed his eyes and let the teacher’s droning lull him. It sounded like water burbling…

              Someone punched him in the arm, hard. “Ow!” Tom stood up indignantly, glaring at Nathan. The rest of the class was getting up, and Nathan was folding up the board he had taken notes on. Apparently class was over. He followed the rest of the students out of the room, and stopped in the hall.

             “Way to sleep during class.” Nathan smirked at him.

             “It’s not my fault the teacher is so boring!” Tom growled back.

            “Right, right.” Nathan laughed, and gave Tom a shove. “Why not explore on deck for a while? See, all the little kids are going.”

            Tom scowled. “I’m not a little kid!” He was thirteen and living on his own! Granted, he had to because he had no family, but that independence had to count for something.

            Nathan ignored him, though, and Tom frowned and headed up to the deck. He wished he understood the other boy.
            When he looked up at the sky, and noticed it was cloudy, and the air felt oddly heavy with humidity that he could not feel, yet somehow sense. He was very aware of the dampness in the air, and wondered if anyone else noticed. His heart began to pound.