Read The Deep Online

Authors: Jen Minkman

The Deep

The Deep

 

Jen Minkman

© 2014 by Jen Minkman Smashwords Edition

Cover design by Jen Minkman

This book is copyright. Apart from fair
dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or
review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be
reproduced by any process without the prior permission of the
author.

 

 

 

World Across The Waters
1 – Leia

The world is never-ending.

I never realized just how much space there is
– how far and wide the water around our island stretches out.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I may have believed that a second
Wall ran around Tresco, containing the infinite waters so we
wouldn’t all wash over the edge and plummet down into the deep.

But that Wall isn’t there. We sail on, and
on, day and night, and there are no boundaries keeping us in, no
border to stop us from going on. Nor is there a deep abyss to
swallow us up. There is just the horizon, ever coming closer and
yet remaining unchanged. And at night, there are bright, twinkling
stars that never seem to move despite the
Explorer
’s ongoing
journey.

“Walt,” I whisper, on the third night we are
on deck together. “You think we’ll ever get somewhere? It’s like
we’re standing still.”

Walt shakes his head, smiling down on me.
“No,” he replies. “For the first time in years we are actually
moving. On our way somewhere. The endless wait is over.”

I smile back at him. “You sound so
poetic.”

“Yeah, I can be romantic.” Walt pulls me in
for a hug. “Or am I bragging too much if I say that?”

“No, you’re not.” It’s strange, but the
further we sail away from the island, the more relaxed Walt is
getting. It’s as if he no longer needs to prove anything – and he
doesn’t, in fact. To put it bluntly, his people were right, and
mine weren’t. Still, people on both sides of the Wall have lost
their faith, though it may have struck us harder. In Newexter, the
tension was mounting when I left. Youngsters who’d left their
parental houses years ago were suddenly forced to move back in, and
the change wasn’t a success in all cases. At least Colin didn’t
have to deal with that problem because he was going to get a house
with Ami anyway. Besides, he wouldn’t have minded living with our
mother for a while longer. He was so happy to see her. Now that our
old rules no longer apply, he can visit her every day.

As for me – I don’t know where I will live
once I come back. East and west are both viable options. Maybe I
can build a house near the passageway where the Scilly Way cuts
through the Wall, and become a gatekeeper. Traffic between Hope
Harbor and Newexter is unrestricted, but it can’t hurt to keep an
eye on things, I suppose.

“What are you thinking of?” Walt whispers
above my head.

“About my future on Tresco,” I reply.

“You want to return?”

“Yes, of course.” I give him a sideways
glance. “Don’t you?”

“Yeah, I do. I want to rebuild our city.
After all, I’ll be old enough to become the next Bookkeeper soon.”
He sighs. “But I have to admit, it’s kind of nice to be a nobody
for a while.”

Both Fools and Unbelievers are traveling on
the
Explorer
, and they get along quite well. It’s not
surprising, because these are our adventurers. The people who
usually stand back and see which way the wind blows have decided to
stay at home. “Well, people on board still look up at you,” I say.
“You just don’t find it that important anymore.”

Walt slowly nods. “I guess. The only thing
I’m worried about these days is whether
you
like me
enough.”

I smile at him cheekily. “Of course I like
you enough.”

Walt laughs a little. “Then show me,” he says
softly.

“Then come over here,” I challenge him.

He dips his head and kisses me gently on the
mouth while his hands slide down from my back to my waist, roaming
a little bit lower, even. Slowly, my cheeks heat up as he gingerly
opens my lips with his tongue to caress mine. In a flash I think
back to that first kiss we shared – in the graveyard, of all
places. My entire body thrums with need under his touch. Everything
about this situation is new, and yet, my body knows exactly what
it’s supposed to do, and what it wants.

I slip my hands around his neck and tangle my
fingers into his curly hair. Walt moans almost inaudibly when I
crush my upper body against his to get even closer. “Leia,” he says
hoarsely. “You want to stay over?”

Walt has his own cabin. Well, not entirely –
he shares it with his dad, but William is usually busy well into
the night, helping Captain Tom and Tony to keep the ship on
course.

“I don’t know,” I say, suddenly shy.

In the ensuing silence, my breathing is just
as fast as his. “Sorry,” he murmurs, stepping back and dropping his
hands to his sides. He lets out a nervous chuckle. “I, uhm, got
carried away.”

“No worries.” I run a hand through my hair.
“Me too.” Actually, I’m scared of not being able to stop at all
once it’s just the two of us. Now that I got rid of the dictator in
his manor, exposed the lies about our island and safeguarded the
well-being of my family, I feel the irresistible urge to enjoy
life. And Walt certainly adds to my enjoyment of life – that much
is clear.

“Why don’t I stay with you until you fall
asleep?” he suggests. I’m in one of the female dorms below deck for
the girls from ‘my’ side of the island. The girls from the manor
are so used to being separated from the boys until they make a
choice and get married that they’d have a hard time sleeping in one
room with male members of our group. Most of them are happy about
the all-female sleeping room. Not Padma, though, who has her
sleeping mat next to mine. She would have loved to get in touch
with boys from the western part of the island, because she’s about
as curious as my friend Mara.

“Yes, I’d love that.” I take his hand and
kiss his cheek. I’m so glad Walt is with me. Even though I haven’t
known him for very long, we’ve been through so much that it feels
like we’ve been friends for more than just a few days.

We descend the stairs to the lower deck. The
soft rocking movement of the ship on the waves made me jolt awake
continuously during my first night on board, but the second night
was better. And now I’m even enjoying the feeling of being rocked
to sleep as Walt lies next to me and tells me stories from his
childhood.

“Why don’t you tell me that story about the
Unbelievers again?” I say, stretching out on my mat. Padma is
already asleep, so I have to keep my voice down. “Just how long
were our talons exactly?”

Walt chuckles, embarrassment crossing his
face. “Hey, I didn’t believe those stories anymore by the time I
climbed over the Wall, okay?” he replies defensively, taking my
hand and rubbing the back of my hand before continuing. “The
priests said it was all true, of course. They even had a book full
of fables about a man who could walk on water and claimed he was
sent by the gods. According to Praed the First, he was an
Unbeliever in disguise whose goal it was to tempt us to follow him,
into the water, so we’d drown before Annabel came for us.” Walt’s
mouth pulls up in a bitter smile. “His name was Jesse, and the
legend told us he had chopped off his talons and swapped his black
cloak for a white one so we wouldn’t recognize him for what he was.
Crazy, right?”

“Pretty crazy, yeah,” I reply with a teasing
smile. “Just the kind of tale I’d expect from a Fool.”

“Ha-ha.” He tickles me in the side, and I
bite my lip to stop myself from laughing out loud. “Stop,” I giggle
anxiously. “We’ll wake Padma.”

Slowly, Walt releases me and gives me a
contemplative look. “I still can’t believe you managed to survive
without parents from the age of ten,” he mumbles. “That must have
been tough.”

“It was okay,” I whisper. “I had Colin, and
Mara.”

We’d supported each other, lending each other
a little bit of Force whenever the other hadn’t been able to go on.
In fact, we three had figured out years ago that collaboration made
us stronger than anything else. We knew it wasn’t just about
seeking out the Force within yourself.

Colin had always known that the best. He had
always been there for me, despite the fact he’d never entirely
forgiven me for prepping him for life in the manor house so
brutally. After we’d left Newexter, I hadn’t allowed myself to get
emotional. I had scolded him during those lonely nights full of
tears he shed for our missing father and mother. I knew we’d never
be able to go back, and the sooner my half-hour younger brother
would get used to the idea, the better.

It wasn’t until later that our roles were
reversed. When Colin seemed to have grown inches overnight, turning
into a young man with broad shoulders and muscular arms, almost as
strong as Saul, Cal, and Max. He’d been
my
protector then.
And Mara had known all my secrets, except for my biggest fear –
expecting too much of life and being disappointed.

All of a sudden, I miss my brother and my
best friend terribly. I understand very well why they didn’t come
along – they wanted to build a life at home before venturing out.
Colin and Ami had started to build a small house by the time I left
Newexter, and Mara had moved in with Andy and his parents to get
used to living together. “You can tell me everything about
Cornwall,” she’d said. “And once we have weekly ships sailing
there, I want to take Andy and have a look around.”

“Once the coast is clear, Colin and Mara can
sail to Penzance as well,” Walt says quietly, apparently guessing
my thoughts.

“Why wouldn’t it be safe?” I mumble. “Tony
told us that the people in his town live together in peace. And the
leader of that other place, Dartmoor, works with them to maintain
that peace.”

“I don’t know.” Walt stretches out next to me
and pulls me into a warm embrace. “I’ll have to see it before I
believe it. People on the mainland may have learned from their
ancestors’ mistakes, but I don’t intend to jump into the deep end
without keeping my eyes open.”

I kiss his cheek. “I’m happy you’re not such
a risk-taker,” I admit softly. “You make me feel safe.”

The rolling movement of the vessel and Walt’s
breath against my cheek slowly rock me to sleep.

2 – Leia

The next morning, the entire dorm is in
turmoil. Padma kneels down next to my mattress and grabs my
shoulder. “We’re here!” she says, a quiver in her voice. “We can
see land!”

Holy Luke. Is she serious? I sit up and
stumble to my feet while looking around. The other girls and women
are huddled together near the stairwell. They all want to head up
and catch a first glimpse of the Other Side.

When I get on deck, Walt and his father have
joined Tony at the railing near the bow.

“We did it,” Walt says breathlessly, turning
toward me. “We’re here. You can see the old buildings of Penzance
in the distance.” He pulls me into an enthusiastic embrace and
kisses me on the cheek. I stare at the Other Side – a coastline I
didn’t dare believe in before. A land I’ve never seen. And the
buildings Walt mentioned look so different from what I’m used to.
The structures in the harbor are square, gray, and made of stone.
But further inland, I also spot beautifully-ornamented houses with
swirls along the cornices and walls made of a reddish-brown
material. And further still, I see piles of rubble and oddly-shaped
ruins. Not much is left of this town. The people who once decided
to drop bombs here didn’t care about the beauty of Penzance.
Everything had to be destroyed.

And yet, I can’t stop tears of joy from
welling up in my eyes when I take in the view. We’ve made it. This
is the town where our ancestors sent off their children to offer
them a new life.

Tony smiles enthusiastically, a glimmer in
his brown eyes. “I’m happy I managed to find my way back,” he
remarks. “The old sea map we found in Penzance was destroyed along
with our ship. I really had to trust my memory in this case. Henry
would have done a better job, I guess. He was a gifted navigator.”
For a moment, his face clouds over as he thinks of his friend, dead
and buried back on our island.

I put my hand on Tony’s arm. “Thanks for
coming to find us,” I say solemnly. “Without you, we never would
have had the chance to go on this adventure.”

If Tony and Henry hadn’t washed up on our
beach, Walt might not have crossed the Wall and he never would have
met me. Without him, I’d still be suffering under Saul’s iron rule
– or possibly be married to another ‘left-over’ like me.

The coastline is getting nearer and nearer. I
stare at everything with wide, eager eyes, and Walt is equally
impressed with our new surroundings. “Mary and Agnes,” he stammers
once we are close enough to see the intact buildings of the
Penzance harbor from up close. The buildings are so
tall
.
It’s as if the builders put ten regular houses on top of each other
to construct these gigantic, towering buildings.

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