|More from Typhoonmaster||Adventure||PG-13||See Comments||Weekly|
"Wow, so you strangled him with a banana? I wish I could've seen that!"
Wake unraveled the main rope, which was coiled into a loop and tied to the floor cleat.
"No joke, he looked like he was going to faint like an old lady."
Grace pondered for a moment.
"Now that I think of it, I think he did faint like an old lady! Of course! The huge guy had to carry him and the roly-poly off like ragdolls."
The more she though about it, the more she couldn't help but laugh.
Wake raised an eyebrow.
"Are you okay?"
She held her stomach and wiped a tear from her eye as she laughed like a hyena-monkey. It was one of those moments when a hilarious memory comes to mind, a memory that prompts endless laughter at the expense of the counterpart who has no clue what's going on. Sometimes these phenomenons occur in context, but most of the time they come out of nowhere and especially at the worst times. No matter how hard she tried to retain her composure, she simply couldn't. Deep breaths worked for a few brief seconds until the thought jumped back in her head, and then it was back to square one.
She covered her mouth and held up a hand. "Just give me a second."
"Do you need water? Oh no...I knew it was only a matter of time until you caught ocean delirium!"
His eyes went wide in shock, and he pulled his hair.
"I've seen this before, first it's laughter, then it's disorientation, then hallucinations, then when worst comes to worst you'll go full-out insane! I've seen sailors who thought they were giant mushrooms. It's a terrible fate, really."
At this comment, Grace laughed even harder to the point where she started wheezing, trying to catch her breath. She was at the point in laughter when the joke wasn't even funny anymore, but she was fully caught in the inescapable state of hilarity. It started to hurt like a snake constricting her lungs, and she thought she was going to pass out from suffocation.
"I can't breathe."
She gasped in between chokes of laughter.
Wake couldn't bear to watch.
"It's even worse than I thought. Her lungs are already failing. I can't believe I didn't notice the symptoms earlier!"
Gradually the coughs faded to giggles until she regained her sanity, wiped a tear from her eye, and caught her breath. She sighed deeply four or five times until she was mentally prepared to speak. All the while, Wake just stood there like a dumbfounded twig.
"I'm fine, really. I just had the funniest thought," said Grace.
"After I took care of the two shrimps, I confronted the huge guy. Naturally, I expected a tough fight. I mean, the guy was freaking gigantic, at least six feet tall. Plus, that was a couple years ago when I wasn't as good of a fighter."
She spoke seriously now.
"Though I was still pretty good, don't get me wrong. Anyways, I took my battle stance, ready to deflect a punch, kick, or whatever, but then he just gave the basket back to Nini and said he was a pacifist."
Upon saying the word "pacifist," Grace almost broke into laughter again, but she focused on telling the remainder of the story.
"While I was making fun of them, I called him a used napkin. Wait, no...I said he had the mental capacity of a used napkin! So it was hilarious when he said the name calling lowered his already pathetic self-esteem. He mutually agreed to scrape up his friends and let us go on our way."
She shook her head.
"It was just such a random, odd, strange experience."
"So, which part is supposed to be funny?" Wake asked bluntly.
"Huh?" Grace turned to him. She had been reveling in the memory, replaying it in her head, trying to remember the look on Nini's face afterwards. "Dude, the funny part was that the guy was like an imposing gorilla but was also a full-blown pacifist with low self-esteem. It's super unexpected."
"I honestly don't think it's that funny. I can see why you think it is though."
"I guess you had to be there," Grace scoffed.
Wake finished unraveling the rope and wordlessly began raising the large white sail.
Grace paid no attention, and instead she spoke out into the open air with a distant look in her eye.
"Now that I think about it, I never did see that ocean kumquat again."
She sat in the back of the boat on the wooden ledge, her eyebrows furrowed in deep rumination when she realized the truth.
"It was you!"
She pointed directly at Hunter.
"You stole my ocean kumquat!"
"You're the white bird who flew off never to be seen again!"
Hunter's eyes darted to the side, and he smiled his avian smile.
"All this time it was you! You snatched it out of my hand like it was nobody's business: talk about impolite!"
"Don't you have any idea how long I looked for that darned sphere of fruit?"
Her eyes narrowed and burned fierce.
"I bet you enjoyed its taste, didn't you? I bet you ate it up in one bite like it was no big deal. It probably never even crossed your feeble little mind that it belonged to someone, someone who genuinely cared for it!"
"It's no use," Wake explained.
"He is immune to guilt."
"I've known him ever since he was a chick. It's not like he doesn't have emotions. It's not like that at all. He has feelings, hopes, dreams, and desires just like people, but to be quite frank, he's what we humans refer to as a jerk."
Hunter nodded in consent.
"Well at least he knows it," Grace said sourly.
"I'd rather him acknowledge his being a jerk than be completely oblivious."
Hunter glided down from atop his perch and sat next to Grace, and then he nuzzled his feathered head against her shoulder and cooed.
"Hey! Would you look at that! He isn't such a jerk after all" Grace smiled.
"I accept your apology you sweet bird of prey," she said as she gently ran a hand along his head feathers.
Wake used a ragged piece of fabric to test the direction of the wind.
He spoke with his back turned.
"Also, he always tries to cuddle for forgiveness. He used to do it to me, too, until I realized he was only trying to get on my good side so I'd reward him with treats."
"It worked for a decent amount of time, but then I gradually caught on, and he stopped altogether. Now that there's a new crewmate, he's trying to pull his moves again."
Hunter disregarded Wake and continued to snuggle against Grace. The boy with black hair rolled his eyes and shook his head.
"You know what? I think you're just jealous that he likes me better than you," said Grace as she continued to pet Hunter.
Wake's voice cracked.
"Let's face it: he laughs when you get splashed, he mooches food off of you, and he only listens to you when he feels like it. On the other hand, he shows me nothing but love," said Grace, trying and succeeding in getting under his skin.
Wake threw down the rope and put his hands on his hips.
"Fine! Then I'll just have to prove you wrong."
He addressed Hunter.
"Come on bud, you know the first rule of the bro-code. Show me some loyalty!"
Hunter ignored him.
"Dude! You're killing me! Just think about all we've been through!" Wake desperately pleaded.
A moment of silence passed, and Hunter still didn't do anything.
"I see how it is. The little respect I had for you is lost."
He pointed his index finger at his former best friend.
"Just remember, you brought this upon yourself, so don't come crying back to me."
"I told you," said Grace smugly.
Wake brushed her comment aside.
"Let's just go; we're wasting time anyways."
The morning fog had yet to lift from the flat water, and the early light had just begun to break the mist. Streaky clouds stretched across the grey sky that had yet to feel the warmth of color. Still, the ever-present slap of the waves against the boat reminded the survivors they were still in the middle of the ocean, still far from the destination. The initial optimism of finding land had long faded from their minds. Now, traveling was routine; they didn't focus on out-of-reach dreams or aspirations. Instead, they approached every day the same way, keeping their heads down, tempering expectations, and putting their trust in their own sweat and hard work.
They set small goals for themselves like "let's sail for a solid three hours then take a little break" or "let's just make it through this day." In theory, if they kept completing these small tasks, they would eventually add up, and that's how they'd reach their destination. It was a scary thought though, that maybe if the journey took too long they'd lose the drive to continue on. What if they slowly lost the will to survive?
Behind every joke and smile, Wake couldn't help but feel a tinge of discomfort. To him, and to Grace as well, each moment spent laughing and conversing masked the fact that they still spent every day floating aimlessly in the open ocean. Because of this, neither of them could truly enjoy anything while on the boat. They walked a dangerous line between humanity and savagery; too much joking around would cause them to lose focus on the main goal, but then again the simplest of conversations reminded them they weren't animals biting and clawing to survive. In this way, the ocean truly was cold and indifferent, constantly beckoning them to succumb to two polar opposites of madness.
Wake and Grace coped with this in two different ways.
Wake refused to let go of the promise he made to himself and Inasahan. In his mind, there was no way a bit of water was going to stop him from reaching his destination. Even if he ended up weathered and wrinkled like the Old Man, he was determined to experience the world he had yet to see at all. For Wake, the excitement to discover propelled him forward more powerfully than the uncertainty that held him back.
Grace, on the other hand, refused to let go of everything her parents wanted for her. They spent their lives giving up, sacrificing, and doing everything in their power to ensure a future for her. Even though fate didn't turn out the way they had intended, Grace wasn't about to abandon their dream for her.
She refused to let everything they embodied fade away in vain. All the times Fay took her out into the night air, all the times Ren made her face light up, were they for nothing? Somewhere way above the clouds, they were still watching her, looking out for her. Grace new they wanted her to be a warrior, they always had.
They wanted her to be unbreakable and resilient, so that's exactly what she resolved to be.
"You're right," said Grace as she stood up.
"We're burning daylight."
The food on the table gradually vanished into the bottomless void that was Sikhi's stomach.
The late afternoon light that beamed through the window softened into quiet yellow. As the sun set, the yellow aged into burnt orange, crimson red, and deep violet until the color cooled to darkness. As time passed, the words ceased to fill the air.
The monk sat across from the young boy in silence.
He was very young, small for his age, too. Even so, Sidd couldn't help but notice the boy's spirit. He had an insatiable hunger to explore, to interact with other people. And although he was lively and rambunctious like all boys are, he carried himself, at the same time, with a certain level of reverence, a trait so uncommon for someone so young. Even now, he fidgeted in his seat, obviously ready to leave the dinner table at the first moment's notice.
Even so, the boy didn't leave. He showed proper respect to his elder by patiently waiting to be dismissed. The ability to wait and listen: the monk noticed the boy's talents very early on. While other children would roll their eyes and yawn at the ancient meditation chants, Sikhi sat wide-eyed, transfixed by the rolling cadence of the vibrations resonating in the air. He excelled at the teachings more so than any of the monks other pupils. By age ten he had mastered all tiers of Insight. By age eleven he had perfected the art of Right Mindlessness.
The boy was particularly drawn to meditation because it allowed him to explore the inner workings of his mind. He spent many long hours within the grove of banyan trees that hugged the side of the temple. It was there, in the silence, that he attempted to learn more about his Self. Often, he returned to the stone halls of the monastery with blank eyes and an expression of contentment and dissatisfaction. With each meditation, he progressed further down his spiritual Path but, at the same time, discovered more questions in need of answering.
It was this quality that the boy possessed, his willingness to explore his Self, his weathered discipline, and his desire to find the answers that reminded Sidd so strikingly of himself.
"Thank you for sharing this meal with me, Sikhi."
The monk smiled.
"I release you from imprisonment."
The boy's eyes lit up, and he grinned.
"Goodnight Monk Sidd."
With a slight nod of his head, the boy thanked his elder for the food and conversation and promptly scurried down the hall.
The monk sat alone at the table.
Gently, he cleared the woven mats and empty rice baskets from the circular table. He enjoyed clearing the table. He appreciated the simplicity of the pattern, the way one thing could not happen without the other. The table must be cleared before the mats can be cleaned. The mats must be cleaned before the next meal. He cleared the table the same way every time. He began at the edge and worked his way around in a circle, a spiral, until every last remnant of the meal lead him to the center.
He smiled as he worked, and by the time he finished, night had settled in. Brushing the last bits of crumbs from his orange robe, he gazed at the result of his labor. The room returned to the way it had been before the meal. Everything was in place.
He retired into his quarters.
Even in the dim light, it was not difficult for the monk to find his way throughout the room. There were four walls, and the space itself was limited. He renounced owning worldly possessions years ago, so the only things on his shelf were six white candles, a string of rattan seeds that served as prayer beads, and a solid stick of incense. Instead of a bed, a woven straw mat rested on the far side of the room. He slept on this thin mat every night. Sleeping without a pillow or blanket forced his body to the natural way, face up, palms up, back flat on the ground. Resting in this way enabled the chi to flow freely through his body.
He placed the six white candles in a small arc in the center of the room. Ever so delicately, he broke off a piece of the incense. It crumbled between his fingers like burnt charcoal. He discarded the dust of the incense into the wicks of the candles. The smoke coiled and rose into the air, filling the room with the relaxing fragrance.
Crossing his legs, one over the other, he sat in a simple lotus asana. He faced his palms up towards the ceiling and kept his posture straight. Behind closed eyelids, he could vaguely feel the soft glow of the candles. Taking in deep breaths through his nose, he immersed himself in the aroma of the incense. The images in his mind melted into the ocean of his subconscious.
He began to meditate.
Images transformed into colors, colors transformed into sound, sound into words, words into letters, letters into symbols, symbols into cloudy shapes, cloudy shapes into murky red and darkness. Then there was simply blackness and solitude.
He didn't think or contemplate.
He simply was.
In the quiet of his mind, he existed without the dregs of the physical world weighing him down. There was no more stone floor, no more room, no more prayer beads, and no more noise, just tranquility. In the blackness of his subconscious, his true Self was its clearest, unblemished by dirt stains or cracks in the mirror.
A noise broke the silence.
He wrinkled his nose and resumed his meditation.
The tiny sound prevented him from delving deeper into his subconscious.
Darkness solidified into colors, colors into shapes, shapes into objects, objects into the familiar stone walls of his quarters. When he opened his eyes, the dim orange glow of the six candles softened his vision.
He let out a long sigh.
Unraveling from his cross-legged lotus asana, the monk listened closely for the source of the chirping noise. He checked the four corners of the room, and only in the final corner did he discover the interrupter of his meditation.
The tiny black cricket hid in the shadow of the corner. When the monk neared, it stopped chirping and sat motionless.
The monk gazed upon the little bug with soft eyes.
"It's okay young cricket. I'm not going to hurt you."
Gently, he scooped the cricket into his hands.
"This seems to be the first time we've met, young cricket."
The candles cast warm glows on the walls of the room.
"I haven't seen you before, and this causes me to wonder why you are here now?"
"Is it cold outside and you needed some place warm to stay? If that's the case you are welcome to stay here for as long as you'd like."
"Were you attracted to the light of my candles?"
"Or perhaps you're lost?"
The little cricket folded its wings back against its black body, and, in doing this, made the delicate chiming noise that awoke the monk from his rumination.
"Ah so that's why."
"You're lost, aren't you?"
The monk smiled.
"Now I understand why you play your song. You want your brothers and sisters to hear you, so they can find you in the night."
He set the cricket back on the ground.
"Let me tell you something, young cricket. Being lost isn't always so bad."
"Being lost forces one to search."
The young cricket listened.
"There was a time in my life when I was lost, just like you. I didn't know where I was going. I didn't know why I was living the life I was living. The worst part of all, I didn't truly know who I was."
"I was about as lost as a hopeless man could be," he admitted.
The monk closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.
"I searched and searched, made wrong decisions and right decisions, jumped forward and fell back, met all kinds of people and forgot about countless more. I listened to different teachings, accepted some and ignored others. I was happy then sad, patient then arrogant, and, above all, naïve."
"After years of searching, I hopelessly walked in circles and got myself even more lost than when I began."
"Only then did I have the opportunity to find."
"I always tried to solve my problems by frantically moving from place to place in hope that my next destination would be the answer. Tired of moving, tired of failure, I stood still."
"When I was more lost than you could possibly imagine, I stopped looking forward and backward and all around me for a possible path to lead me out."
"Being lost gave me no choice but to look within myself."
"That, my young cricket, is when I found."
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