Chapter 8: Alleyway
Beside the shipment tunnel is a cavern that holds garbage and grease bins. Arnold moves over to it in case Jozef comes looking for him. He stands at the edge of the cavern and waits. There’s a tug on the back of his shirt and he turns around and sees a young woman standing there. Her clothes are worn and her dirty blond hair surrounds a grease smudged face with almond-shaped eyes. ‘Are you waiting for the boat?’ She asks.
‘Yeah,’ Arnold says in a friendly tone.
‘Can you take me?’ Her eyes widen.
‘I don’t know where I’m going.’ He tries to divert the question.
‘It doesn’t matter,’ she says, ‘anywhere’s better than this place!
‘Are you from here?’ He asks.
‘I think so,’ she says, ‘all I remember is waking up in lower town and climbing to middle-town. After that, I snuck onto a hover-car to upper-town and here I am! Now I’m just waiting to get out of here!’
‘That’s quite the story,’ Arnold says, ‘Is this where you live?’ He looks at the dumpster and grease bin.
‘Not really. I have to keep moving or they’ll find me and send me back to lower-town. But I like this spot because of all of the charcoal. Would you like to see the mural I made?’
‘Sure!’ Arnold says.
She lights a candle with a match and her eyes glow a stunning grey. She brings the candle light onto the wall. ‘It’s a portrait of a woman that’s been in my dreams this past week. She writes me messages in the sand.’
On the wall is a beautifully carved face of a woman that perfectly resembles the woman named Tina that Arnold met on the train.
‘It can’t be a coincidence,’ he says out loud to himself.
‘What can’t be?’ She asks.
‘I’ve met this woman on a train that I was on earlier today.’
‘That’s impossible,’ she says. ‘She’s in a cage in a place called Circus City.’
‘Well she’s out of the cage. I think she just got out yesterday.’
‘That’s great news! I haven’t slept in a few days, so I guess that would make sense.’
A loud horn blasts from the dock.
‘That’s the two minute warning,’ the girl says, ‘you’d better get going.’ Lowering her eyes, she blows out the candle.
Arnold reaches into his satchel, pulls two t-shirts out, and hands them to her.
‘If you want to come with me, you’d better get into something clear so they’ll let you on.’
The girl stifles out a scream, hugs Arnold, and goes deep into the cavern to change.
‘What’s your name?’ She says from the dark alley.
She emerges moments later with her face cleaned up. Her new appearance makes Arnold blush. She holds a duffel bag and smiles at him, catching his glance. Arnold’s stomach flutters.
‘You won’t regret this,’ she says. ‘My name’s Lucidia by the way.’ She takes his hand as they jog towards the boat. Arnold feels exhilarated by her gesture, but hides his surprise.
Chapter 9: Dreamscape
On the boat, a bridged walkway leads Arnold and Lucidia to a group of vendors providing food on the deck. Arnold grabs a Tupelo chicken sandwich and Lucidia gets a spring roll salad to go.
‘Is it okay if I catch up on some sleep?’ Arnold asks. ‘I feel like I’ve been up for days.’
‘Are you kidding me,’ Lucidia laughs, ‘you have no idea how long it’s been since I slept in a real bed!’ They find their room and go in. It’s painted light grey with two beds on each side and a dining table in between. The ceiling is made of glass and they see the evening sky darkening in shades. Smooth jazz begins to drown out the mechanical thud of Tironodo as they sit at the table to eat.
‘Can you tell me more about the woman?’ Lucidia asks. She smiles every time he looks at her. He isn’t used to the attention and shies away.
‘Sure,’ he says, ‘her name’s Tina and she’s from another planet. She was in a freak show as a slave making money for evil witches with her healing powers, before a man named Sgt. Pepper came to rescue her. He told Tina to stop healing people because it was draining her life source. That upset the freak show owners and an evil witch captured Tina’s voice into a sand bag and threw it somewhere.’
‘That’s terrible!’ Lucidia says.
‘It is! I was going to help them but I had to escape the train I was on.’
‘And now, here we are!’ Lucidia’s face glows with excitement.
‘Yeah, I just hope you’re not in danger because you’re with me.’
‘If I am, it would be worth it.’ She touches his arm slightly and Arnold feels a warmth rush through him. His anxiety rises slightly, but her smile calms him.
After they finish up their food, they get into their beds.
A voice comes out from a speaker on the wall:
‘Welcome aboard the Sea Star Sight Adventure! Thank-you for choosing us for your North County travels. I am your captain, Ronnie. We’ll be making our way overnight for a quick stop in Light City in the morning, and then we’ll head East to Two-way town, come back around to Tironodo and end in Circus City. There will be no stops in Sysmiosis City, as it has been deemed as a danger zone by the Sea Star Sheriff. Please remember that the Sea Star is not responsible for you or your belongings from this point on in the trip. I hope your traveling is enjoyable. It looks like smooth sailing for the rest of the evening.’
Arnold sits up and notices Lucidia has fallen asleep. He switches off the light and the room is illuminated by clusters of stars in the sky that pour down on them. The rhythm of the boat puts him to sleep instantly.
Arnold dreams of the half-wizards chasing him, but the dream scenery vanishes and he’s underwater with creatures around him. He finds himself surprisingly calm and floats upwards and out of the water, noticing the Sea Star rushing towards him. The boat rushes through him as though he’s a ghost and he soars through different rooms past all the sleeping passengers. He then arrives at his room and sees himself and Lucida asleep. He hovers for a moment before being sucked into Lucidia’s head and rushes through a tunnel with vivid colors and images that pass too quickly to name. He flies out of the tunnel and lands on a beach.
He follows footprints. The sea crashes to his left and the forest hums and chirps from his right side. Down along the shore ahead of him is a tree stump. The footprints lead there and as he gets closer to the stump, it morphs into the image of Tina. She looks distressed and points to the sand, revealing a message: You’re in trouble!
She points to the sky, which turns into an overhead view of the Sea Star. It narrows in on two men talking. One is the Sea Star ticket man and the other wears a black suit and a strange hat. His face can’t be seen.
‘I’m sorry sir,’ the ticket man says, ‘but due to the respected privacy of our guests, I can’t tell you what room those two are in.’
The mysterious man pulls something out of his pocket and holds it in the palm of his hand. As the staff member bends down to see what it is, the man in black blows a powder into his face. The man takes a step back and sneezes.
‘You will find them in cabin 10.’ The ticket man says.
Arnold turns back to the sand and Tina has written a new message:
Wake up! Run!
Arnold and Lucidia both wake up startled. Arnold grabs his bag and the two of them run out of the room. They hear footsteps in the hallway to the right so they run to the left down a narrow walk-way and into a ball room. They close the door behind them, run back to the kitchen area, and lock that door behind them.
In the kitchen, Lucidia searches the cabinets. She collects an assortment of ingredients and puts them in a bowl. ‘Hopefully this’ll work,’ she whispers to Arnold. ‘See if you can find some fish oil.’
Arnold searches around the kitchen as Lucida starts up the fire stove, adding some basil leaves, poppy seeds, lemon seeds, and bay leaves into a pot. She crushes it all together. The pot begins to smoke. She squeezes some juice out of a strange looking fruit and tosses in some cinnamon bark.
‘Found it!’ Arnold rushes over and hands her the bottle of fish oil. Lucidia pulls a piece of her hair out and places it into the pot, motioning for Arnold to do the same. He does. The solution is poured into two cups and she adds a splash of fish oil to it both cups.
‘Drink up,’ she says as she opens the window.
Bangs erupt from outside of the kitchen door and worry overcomes them.
‘We have to hurry,’ Lucidia whispers. ‘Drink this and follow me.’
They drink the sour liquid in one gulp and leap out the window. A tingling sensation rushes through them and they morph into fish when they touch the surface of the cool ocean.
They swim through the night, focusing on the bright underwater light resonating from Light City. When they reach the shore, they turn back into their human forms. After getting out of the water, Arnold is struck by Lucidia’s transformation. Her hair now shines a bright white. They look at each other and laugh with relief.