Read The Deep Online

Authors: Jen Minkman

The Deep (4 page)

“What a strange thought,” I
say numbly. I’m not so sure I want to read those books full of
made-up stories at all. Will it do me any good? I feel at a
loss.

Walt gently strokes my
hair, noticing my apprehension. “Let’s just flip through them
together. I’m quite curious, actually. So, shall we follow Harry to
his hotel?”

“Are you going to share a
room with your father?”

He starts to chuckle.
“Afraid so. I carefully dropped a hint that I might want to get a
room with you, and that set him off on a full-fledged rant about
the birds and the bees and such.”

I’m sure I’m flushing
crimson. “Well, he’s right, you know. Besides, you hadn’t even
asked
me
if I wanted to share a room.”

Walt shrugs. “That’s why I
said I
might
,” he says defensively.

Now it is my turn to
chuckle. “Well, how about in Moretonhampstead?” I tease him,
lowering my voice before I continue: “After a long day of study in
the library, we should do something fun, too, don’t you
think?”

“Hmm.” His eyes sparkle.
“Good point.”

Hand in hand, we trot
outside and follow the hotel owner. The other islanders trail
behind us. I’m curious to see where Harry will take us.

A huge crowd turns out to
have gathered on the square in front of the palace. Strangely
enough, they’re all quiet, save for a single man who’s yelling in
an agitated voice. I don’t know what’s going on here, but the hairs
on the back of my neck prickle with anxiety. Something’s not right
here.

Walt pushes to the front,
pulling me along. “What are all these people standing around for?”
he mutters irritably. “Is that a townscrier or…”

His voice suddenly lodges
in his throat. It’s only after I push my way past a chubby man and
join Walt at the front of the circle of spectators that I can see
what he’s seeing.

This crowd has gathered to
look at a man, standing in the center of the circle. He’s about
thirty years old. His face is red from shouting at three other men
who approach him cautiously. And his shouts sound a bit angry, but
mostly terrified. The three guys trying to get to him are dressed
similar to the border guards – they are wearing blue uniforms and
caps.

“You can’t do this to me,”
the man screams at the guards. “I didn’t mean to! Why am I the only
one who’s being blamed?”

The three soldiers have now
surrounded him. They all look at him with patient, friendly smiles.
“Stick out your arm, Sam,” one of them says. “You know the
rules.”

And then, Sam breaks down
in tears. “No, please, no,” he begs. “I have a wife. I have
children.”

Two of the men grab him
from behind, wrestling his arms behind his back while the third
gets a sharp object from his pocket. It looks like there’s some
kind of needle at the tip. The man plunges it into Sam’s arm. After
a few beats, Sam’s head lolls forward, his chin falling to his
chest. He is completely silent, hanging limply in the soldiers’
arms.

My mouth turns dry when the
people in the square all bow their heads and fold their hands, just
like the president did when he said grace, as he called it. “No
crying, no pain,” they murmur in unison. The three guards are still
holding up the man they’ve managed to shut up with that strange
needle, eerie smiles on their faces. A violent shiver runs down my
spine as they wordlessly lift Sam’s limp body and carry him out of
the circle in complete silence.

“What
is
this?” Walt
hisses next to me. “Why was that guy arrested? What are they going
to do to him?”

“Lock him up, maybe?” I
whisper back.

And then, I remember Tony’s
comment about prisons. They don’t have those here. People don’t
break the law, because it never gets to that.

“Arrested?” a gray-haired
man standing next to us repeats, looking baffled. He turns toward
us with a gentle smile on his face. “Have you never seen a Purge
before?”

“No, we haven’t,” Walt
replies in a shaky voice. “We’re not from around here.”

“Oh, you’re part of that
island group,” the man concludes. “Well, Sam had to be Purged from
our community. He was too violent.”

“Will he be banished?” I
whisper in shock.

The man blinks. “No, of
course not,” he replies in surprise.

“But – but where are they
taking him?”

“Nowhere,” Tony’s voice
pipes up next to me. He puts a hand on my shoulder and gives me a
solemn look. “Sam is dead.”

 

 

 

Tresco
5 – Alisa

I feel weird once the ship has disappeared
into the distance. A bit lost. Our world is missing a crucial bit
of its old familiarity.

Walt is gone. The only real connection with
Yorrick I still had.

“May the Goddess guide them on their way,”
Nathan, the Bookkeeper, mumbles next to me. “It’s a hazardous
journey.”

I smile faintly. “I believe that. If there
really is a Goddess, she must have sent that ship to us.”

From the corner of my eye, I see the sullen
Unbeliever boy, still standing next to a mooring post. I promised
Walt I’d take him under my wing, so that’s what I’ll do. Leia said
he was old enough to have made the wrong decisions. I wonder how
much of a bad record this guy can really have.

Resolutely, I walk up to him. “Hey, I’m
Alisa,” I introduce myself. “What’s your name?”

“Ben,” he says. His voice is even younger
than his face. He can’t be a day over sixteen.

When Ben remains silent after that, I
awkwardly clear my throat. “So. You’re from Newexter.”

“Yes.”

“And now you want to live here?”

“Yes.” He suddenly sounds a bit insecure.

“Well, you can,” I hasten to say, shooting
him a wide smile. I may be studying to become a Peacekeeper, but
that doesn’t mean I should subject this guy named Ben to a cross
examination. Maybe I sounded a tad too critical. “Why don’t you
follow me to meet the Bookkeeper? He can assign housing to you. If
I’m not mistaken, there are a few cottages vacant near the
harbor.”

“Thanks,” Ben mumbles. The ghost of a smile
crosses his face.

“What kind of work did you do in Newexter?” I
ask as we stroll down the quay.

“All kinds of things. Hunting, mostly. I’m
really good at that. And building and repairing huts.”

“Hmm.” I look at him sideways. We have enough
hunters at the moment, and we haven’t needed to build any new
houses for a while, but if this guy can wield a hammer, he might be
useful in our shipbuilding industry. “Let’s drop by the harbor
master after that.”

“And what kind of work do you do?” he asks
unexpectedly.

“I’m an intern for the Peacekeepers’ office,”
I reply with a smile. “In short, I make sure good behavior gets
rewarded and I dole out punishment for bad deeds.”

“Are there a lot of people who behave
badly?”

“Nah,” I mumble.

In my mind, I can still replay the scene of
the frenzied crowd of Hope Harborers killing Praed. Times have
changed since Tony landed on our shores. No wonder Daryl, the head
of the Peacekeepers’ office, offered me this internship at the same
time I started my studies. They’re lacking manpower – we need more
eyes at the temple, where progressive people have gathered to
insist the entire building must be taken down so they can
distribute all the valuables among the people. Along the road
leading to the Wall, where people from the suburbs are patrolling
anxiously to make sure the Unbelievers can’t all pour into ‘our’
part of the island at once, to take resources we need. And near the
watchtowers, because the progressives say they should be destroyed
too. A few hours ago, a small group of men left for the caves where
we found the sacrificial boats, in order to take what Walt and I
couldn’t carry. Since the two of us had our hands full getting Tony
to Hope Harbor safely, they can plunder to their hearts’
delight.

Just for a second, a dark cloud obscures my
heart when a thought pops up in my head – Walt just up and left,
leaving us to sort out all the mess in Hope Harbor. Mess he caused
in the first place.

But of course that isn’t fair. It’s not even
true. Walt and I both played our part in shaking the foundations of
our community. Walt isn’t Bookkeeper yet – his uncle is. Plus, Walt
has spent years of his life to build the ship that he’s now sailing
to get to the World across the Waters. I shouldn’t complain. I
decided to stay here and contribute to Hope Harbor’s
modernization.

“I’ll behave, I promise,” Ben interrupts my
train of thought. He sounds rather timid.

“Excuse me?” I stare at him in surprise.

“Yeah. You were looking so angry.” His gaze
drifts to the ground. “I don’t want to be a burden to anyone
here.”

“Well, I’m sure you’ll be anything but a
burden to the shipbuilders. If you’re good with a hammer and saw,
that is. They want to build more ships, so we can sail out with an
entire fleet next time, and take a lot more people along for the
trip.” I pause for a moment. “They want to call it Annabelle’s
Fleet. To honor the Goddess. So the prophecy will come true in some
small way.”

Ben nods slowly. “That’s a nice thought. The
idea of someone taking care of you, I mean. Walt told us about the
force your people feel in nature, you know.”

“Us?” I echo.

“Yes. My brother and me.”

So he has a brother. Somehow, I couldn’t
picture Ben as having family. That’s just how he strikes me, I
guess. “And this brother still lives in Newexter?”

“Yes.”

“Didn’t he want to come along?”

“No.”

We’re back where we started – with Ben giving
monosyllabic replies. I scared him off with my barrage of
questions. “Well, why don’t we visit him some time?” I suggest
spontaneously. “I have to join my boss and talk to the Eldest
pretty soon anyway. To discuss security measures along the Scilly
Way.”

Ben stays quiet for a very long time. “Why
are you being so nice to me?” he finally asks.

I smile. “Looks like you could use some new
friends. And Walt asked me to help you to build a new life
here.”

“I bet you don’t know what I’ve done,” he
mumbles, hardly audible over the roar of the waves breaking against
the harbor wall.

“No,” I admit. “You want to talk about
it?”

“I’d rather not.” He kicks at a pebble. “Now
now.”

“Sure. We’ll save it for later.”

“Hmm.” He grunts noncommittally.

At the end of that day, I’ve taken care of
getting a job and arranging lodging for Ben. He used the dried
beans I lent him to buy himself some clothes and food. Tomorrow, he
will start his new job at the shipyard, working with the same
shipbuilders who also secretly designed and constructed the
Explorer
. They’ve got plans to make more three-masters, so
they were over the moon when I brought in a new helper.

When I get home that evening, Daryl is
waiting for me on the bench outside our house. He’s smoking a pipe
and talking to my dad. “Alisa,” he rumbles in his deep voice. “I
wanted to ask you to do a few night shifts this week.”

“Sure,” I immediately reply. “Where will you
be needing extra surveillance?”

“Near the harbor.” He lowers his voice.
“There have been some serious disagreements between the two parties
holed up at the temple. Samuel Senior’s group wants to tear it all
down, but the group headed by Phileas wants to reinstate the old
religion.”

My jaw drops. “What? The old religion? Why
the deep do they want that?”

My father pats the space next to him on the
bench, and I plunk down there. “Phileas thinks we have been
deceived,” he explains tiredly. “I mean, he understands that
Praed’s been lying to us all by stealing the votive offerings, but
he still believes we should wait for Annabelle. He says Tony has
lied to us to lead us astray. And I’m sorry to say there are many
people who agree with him.”

“Those blind, stupid…” I fume. “How can they
possibly think that? They’ve
seen
the documents Tony brought
along! And what about that book from the temple with the child’s
drawings? Phileas is even more deluded than the Unbeliever leader
who killed Henry out of sheer stupidity. How many more people is he
willing to hurt over this?”

Daryl puts his hand on my shoulder. “I’m
happy you’re not going along with all the madness,” he says
gravely, “but please don’t forget that the people here have
suffered quite a few blows to their safe, familiar world in the
past couple of days. And they all deal with it differently. It’s
our job to keep the peace and make sure no public property is
destroyed or people are hurt. Calling people names isn’t going to
help anyone.”

“You’re right,” I admit reluctantly. Even
though I still feel the urge to call Phileas names for sticking his
head in the sand and hoping all problems will just go away. “You
want me to start tonight?”

“That won’t be necessary. Besides, you’ve
been working all day. I expect you to report for duty at the docks
tomorrow night at ten.”

“So why at the harbor?”

“Some of Phileas’s followers have taken it
upon themselves to gather there with banners, chanting we should
put a stop to our shipbuilding activities. That it’s blasphemy to
build our own fleet to sail away. I want to keep an eye on
them.”

I nod briefly. “You can count on me.”

6 – Alisa

Slowly but steadily, we are building our own
fleet. Now that an angry mob regularly gathers on the quay in the
morning and stays put all day to shout abuse at the laborers, the
supervisors have started to schedule night shifts. At least that
allows them enough peace and quiet to focus on the work.

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