“Don’t worry,” Eaglehead said. “You’re not going to die.” He paused and looked at the floor. “At least, I don’t think we will.”
Dad had also begun to doze. This was probably a good thing. Undoubtedly, he would be freaking out if he wasn’t asleep. Sleep is a cure for many things. Anxiety is definitely one of them. Don’t want to think about something, just fall asleep and let your subconscious take over. Usually, you’ll find your subconscious is thinking about something else entirely.
“So,” I said. “Do any of you have names?”
“Mutants and rejects are not given names on the island,” Eaglehead said sadly.
The cabin was beginning to fill with pressure. My ears felt stopped up. There was an overall heavy feeling to everything. As though we might just keep going down and down until the pressure of the ocean crushed this ship that seemed so mighty above water and so flimsy beneath the surface.
“That’s one of the things I’m hoping for when we make it back to the island,” Eaglehead said. “Maybe I will even be allowed a new head. But a name would do. Just to see the island, the place of my origin, will really be sufficient.”
“Look,” I said. “For what it’s worth, I’m really sorry my grandpa stole the flame.”
“And I’m sorry we stole your grandpa and mother. Hopefully they will be all right.”
“You said you were sure.”
“Well, that was all a lie. But don’t hold it against me. Since I haven’t been on the island since birth, I couldn’t possibly have a clue how things are there. Rumors and hearsay—that’s what I’ve based most of my knowledge on.”
At that point I wanted to hit him just for lying to me but, I rationalized, he was a much more pleasant companion than the imposter and he couldn’t really be faulted. He was an outcast, thrown away from the place of his birth. His must have been a painful life.
“You should look out the window. We’ve now crossed from your Pacific Ocean or, at least, a close approximation of your Pacific Ocean, into the Malefic Ocean. I think you’ll find the aquatic life rather... intriguing.”
I turned around in my seat, raising up and putting my knees on the cushion so I could peer out the porthole. Truly, the aquatic life was very fascinating. There were mermaids and giant seahorses. Some of the giant seahorses had batrachian creatures that looked like something from H.P. Lovecraft sitting astride them. There were giant trees with eyes for leaves and all the colors were amazing. This deep, I would have thought everything would be eyeless and gray, like something from a nightmare. But all colors were represented here and the darkness of the depths only lent to their brilliance. The sun could only bleach them out.
“Oh no,” Eaglehead said. He sounded alarmed.
“What is it?” I asked.
He pointed out the window on his side. I crossed the cabin, still clutching the flame very close to my chest. I didn’t trust him that much yet and thought maybe his alarm was just some elaborately concocted ruse to get me distracted and closer to him so he could bludgeon or peck me or something.
When I looked out the window, it didn’t take long to find what he was pointing at.
The creature was the size of a whale but pale and fleshy, covered with the skin of a human. And the face was kind of human also. Giant human eyes. A giant human mouth. But the body of a whale... Except for the fat fleshy human like arms protruding from it.
“And that’s not good?” I asked.
“Definitely not. He’s kind of far away right now...”
I knew what that meant. If he looked that large from far away, he was, in actuality, at least the size of our ship.
“Isn’t there a way we can steer away from it or something?”
“This boat doesn’t have any way to steer it. No wheel. No rudders. No oars. It goes where it wants to when it wants to. It’s a loose cannon.”
“And, right now, it seems to be headed...”
“Straight for Big Karl.”
“That sounds ominous.”
Then he turned and pecked at my shoulder. It tore away a hunk of my shirt and some of my flesh. I held onto Brilliance. I screamed like a girl. Dad, dazed, woke up and, always suspicious, didn’t take long to realize what was going on. Luckily, the two other Nefarions continued to sleep. It was a crazy thought but maybe he had intended to drug our coffee (why did we ever drink anything Eaglehead offered us?) and accidentally switched the cups. Two drugged cups of coffee. Two sound asleep Nefarions. Seemed a little suspicious to me.
Dad smacked him in the side of the head with the board.
“Will you stop doing that?!” Eaglehead squawked, trying to enclose his giant beak around Dad’s head. Luckily, Dad had a fat head and he only took a nip from the top of it. But Dad managed to jab his plank arm into Eaglehead’s beak like a large and brutal tongue depressor. Eaglehead gagged and covered Dad with coffee vomit. I was torn between trying to protect us and not really wanting to hurt Eaglehead too badly. So I smote him with the urn.
“Two against one!” he squawked. “That’s real fair!”
“You’ve been fucking with us this entire time!” Dad shouted, prodding him in the ribs with the plank.
“You deserve it! Rapists!”
“Rapists?!” Dad scoffed. “You’ve been raping our reality for years!”
“And deservedly so!”
“Kidnappers!” Dad shouted.
“Assholes!” Eaglehead shouted.
“Fucking pus sac!”
I stood there, my head moving back and forth at this increasingly degenerative insult battle as though watching the world’s most boring tennis match.
They continued to trade insults and I happened to look out the small round portal at the maliciously grinning face of Big Karl. His face filled my vision, followed by the inside of his mouth, equipped with a dangling uvula and everything. He crunched down on the ship and we were suddenly surrounded by cold water. Remembering the flame didn’t seem to generate any heat, I shoved it in my pants, grabbed Dad’s plank arm, and paddled desperately for the surface that seemed so far away. From that deep, the pressure was tremendous. It was like trying to swim against a tide. Maybe I should have tried to help the Nefarions, they could be devoured by Big Karl for all I knew, but I could only think about getting me and Dad to the surface. The shimmer of light was very far away. I kept my eyes opened, trained on it. Breathing became very difficult, the pressure bearing down on my chest. My head grew as heavy as the rest of my body and I went unconscious, lungs filling up with water.