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Fables' Island Chapter 1
Chapter 1 The Face in the Water
Helen stared miserably at the rolling waves and the gulls that soared above, wheeling and cawing. Then with some regret she looked at the little girl staring blankly out at the waves, the bodies had been claimed by the sea, not one had been pushed up on the beach. Helen knew the little girl waited, as if she half expected her parents, by some miracle, to swim up to the beach to comfort her and tell her everything was going to be all right. The poor girl had been sitting there, unmoving, for so long that a young gull was standing a few feet from her, curious. When it waddled up, awkward on its webbed feet and pecked her knee, Ara gave a cry and swatted at it. The bird flapped up with a screech of alarm, and the gulls left her alone after that.
Helen rose slowly, quietly groaning, trying to ignore the pain of her cuts and bruises, she’d live, despite the pain she wasn’t doing very badly, and she wouldn’t starve to death, she knew what was edible to be found in most forests, one of the many skills she’d learned in her childhood. She headed into the forest, a little ways off from the beach to find food. Brightly colored birds twittered cheerfully, their music merged with the soft laughter of a stream running between the trees. Helen kneeled and gulped up some of the cool sweet fresh water, then filled a grimy jar that had been washed up on the beach to take to the little girl.
She strolled deeper into the forest, examining a bush here and there for edible berries. The plants rustled as animals moved through them, silently watching this odd creature that had come to their island, but not approaching it. Helen, though she was not yet admitting it to herself sensed these silent watchers, their eyes drilling into her back, as she walked by, trying to deny they were there by not looking at them. The black eyes of a large mouse watched her walk away, then scurried away, to report to its master.
Helen finally found some wild blackberries growing at the edge of a cliff, growing in a small cache of dirt gathered in a crevice of rock, catching water from the tiny trickles that ran down the rock face and fed the stream, its scraggly branches reaching towards the sky like grasping fingers. She ate from the bush’s treasure, the juice running down her chin, until she was satisfied then took a few handfuls for the little girl.
Stooping, she washed the juice from her face, then she glanced at the water as she got up to go back to the beach, and did a double take, almost losing her balance as she swiveled back around to do so, blinking in surprise, she regained her balance and gazed into the water. Nothing was in the water, but for a moment she could’ve sworn she’d seen a girl with green hair and a huge grin looking up at her from the stream.
“You’re seeing things,” she told herself sternly. That stream is too small for even fish, let alone some sort of mermaid. Still, she couldn’t help but think she was being watched as she walked back to the beach. She saw figures stealing through the shadows between the trees, and eyes watching her in the sun dappled spots, she shook herself and hurried out of the forest. She was not superstitious.
The little girl, Ara, gobbled down the food and threw a thankful glance at Helen before returning to gaze out at the waves, waiting for her parents, but she didn’t say a word. With a pang of sorrow, Helen remembered sitting by the pool on the cruise ship watching how happy the little girl was with her family, and she wished ruefully that she had had a family growing up and enjoyed the same happiness that this girl had for a time, rather then a childhood spent in foster homes or the orphanage.
“Well, that little girl and I have only each other. I guess that’s the next best thing,” she thought hazily. She was getting tired. Despite that she sat up for a few hours trembling slightly, listening to the howls of wolves split the darkness in a midnight chorus. After a while their calls went in another direction and diminished and Helen could sleep without fear.
The next morning Helen woke up to find that Ara still hadn’t moved, she looked as if she had been in the same position the entire night, and Helen wondered if she’d slept at all.
She sighed, coaxing the four year old away from the waves she carried her to the stream, where she splashed her face and ate some of the berries that remained, leaving the rest for Ara. The little girl seemed a little better this morning if still a little blank faced from the shock of the death of her parents.
The sixteen year old girl then tied back her orange hair with a hair tie she had kept around her wrist, and wet it so that it would curl up. She was musingly examining Ara’s straight blond hair when the younger girl muttered something.
“What?” Helen asked, the little girl looked up, surprised, as if she’d forgotten she wasn’t there alone.
“Ariel,” she repeated herself, “The Little Mermaid.” pointing to the shallow stream.
Helen remembered the children’s movie that had been mentioned, so had her vision actually been real if the little girl was seeing it too? But the girl in The Little Mermaid had red hair, the one she’d seen had green, so was the little girl seeing a different one or just making the connection to seeing a face in water and the movie?
Putting these thoughts out of her head she patted the little girl on the head, comfortingly, and sat leaning against a dry section of the rock, closing her eyes and enjoying the warm midmorning sunlight streaming through the trees. She thought she’d only been sitting that way for a few minutes, she drowsily half opened her eyes when a pebble struck her nose, bouncing off, but the sun was glaring directly above her. Another pebble bounced off the cliff close to her head and she looked up.
Ara was clinging to the rock about half way up, climbing steadily upward. With a cry Helen attempted to follow her, but the rock was slippery and wet, and the places that Ara could fit her small hands and feet were too small for Helen’s larger ones, so though she attempted to climb up it several times, she never got more then a few feet up before sliding back down, and by this time Ara was out of sight.
As she slid down one last time her head banged against a jut of rock and she reached the bottom unconscious. As her unconscious form landed at the bottom of the cliff a figure appeared with a mouse on his shoulder, he pointed to her and spoke quietly to the mouse, it squeaked a reply and he picked up the unconscious human and walked away.
Ara sat at a pond she’d found, surrounded by three mermaids, one with red hair, one with green, one with blue. They couldn’t talk with their voices but they could communicate with her. They expressed their words through their eyes, Ara had seen what Helen could not.
We are glad that one of the humans could understand us, we feared that the fire lizards would find the humans again before we could get a message through, thought the red haired one.
We have no time to sit around and talk, the blue haired one thought urgently, Listen little one, you and the older one must find a place on this island before the next full moon. If you have not, when the fire lizards come to the forest for the meeting, they will kill you.
Yes, the forest folk have already taken your friend so she will have to find her own way, but you must hurry. You have many creatures to placate so they will stand up for you against the fire lizards, the one with green hair declared.
First, go to the horned ones, they speak as we do so you should have no trouble talking to them. The star gazers will also probably think kindly of you. If you wish, you may try your luck with the howlers, but they are fearsome when angered and are easily made so. Now go, may God be with you. We admire, our cousins, the humans, they are almost like us, except they are not restricted to water. Did you know that we, the forest folk, and the stargazers descended from Adam besides the humans?
The two others hissed angrily at the one who’d said this, discouraging her from starting a conversation so the young human would go on her way. Then all three dived out of sight and Ara was left alone.