Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chapter 17: Tricks

The light shone down on the sunny afternoon, illuminating the park and adding a cheery tone to everything. However, a little black rain cloud seemed to be following after Tristan and Nora. While they were being a bit more cordial with each other after their conversation in the locker room, there was still a good deal of tension between them, and it was visible.

Nora was walking a good three feet ahead of Tristan, who was kicking rocks as he slouched behind her. When they reached an empty table to eat their lunch at, they practically sat on opposite ends of the table. Neither one of them spoke as they opened their lunchboxes and began eating.

“Hey, Nora!” Nora glanced over her shoulder and saw someone waving at her. It was a man about her age with dark blond hair that reached down to his chin. Nora recognized him as one of her co-workers and waved back.

“Hi, Nathaniel!” Nora called with a smile, instantly seeming happier. Tristan felt something burn inside his chest and he turned to look at the approaching man. Nathaniel walked over and sat down next to Nora, a wide grin on his face. He hardly glanced at Tristan.

“Nora! It seems like I haven’t seen you in ages!” Nathaniel exclaimed. Nora nodded.

“I know! I’ve missed talking with you.” she said with a smile. Tristan glared at the two of them as he picked up his sandwich and tore off a bite of it.

“Same here. But I guess that’s what we get for working on opposite ends of the park, huh?” Nathaniel said with a small laugh. Nora giggled and Tristan thought he might gag. He forced himself to swallow before he put his sandwich down. Just then, Nathaniel glanced up.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there. Who’s your friend, Nora?” Nathaniel asked politely.

“This is Tristan. And he’s not my friend.” Nora muttered, sending Tristan a glare. Tristan faked a smile and waved a little in greeting. Nathaniel looked at him, a little confused, then smiled in return. He then turned to Nora, the same confused expression on his face. “Long story. Don’t ask.” Nora mumbled, still glaring at Tristan. Tristan sighed and rolled his eyes, looking away from the two of them.

“So, how have you been? I heard about your daring robbery rescue, or whatever you wanna call it.” Nathaniel said, making small talk with Nora. Tristan tuned the two of them out, trying to focus on something else. Nora was probably the most aggravating and confusing person Tristan had ever met, and yet…seeing her with this guy made him feel all…weird inside… He couldn’t quite explain it, but it made him angry to think about this guy being friends with Nora, to think about her liking Nathaniel more than she liked him.

Just then, a light bulb lit up inside Tristan’s head. He realized that he was jealous.

This is so stupid… Tristan thought, shaking his head. I don’t even like her. Why in the world would I be jealous? Tristan put his head in his hands, resting his elbows on the table. He closed his eyes and repeated over and over to himself that he didn’t like Nora. He listed everything about her that made him angry or annoyed, and he tried to convince himself that she was the ugliest girl he had ever seen. However, he realized that his list of aggravating things about Nora wasn’t very long, and she most certainly was not the ugliest girl he had ever seen. But I don’t like her! he exclaimed inside his head.

“No, no, no, no, no…” he muttered to himself.

“Um…Tristan?” Tristan glanced up when he heard Nora’s voice. Nora and Nathaniel were both staring at him with puzzled expressions on their faces. “Are you okay?” Nora asked slowly. Tristan swallowed hard, not sure how to respond.

“Uh, yeah… Yeah, I’m fine. Just…a stomach ache, that’s all…” he lied, hoping they would believe him.

“Okay…do you need to go home?” Nora continued, looking a little concerned.

“No, no… I’ll be fine…” Tristan replied, looking away.

“Okay, if you say so…” Nora said with a shrug. She turned back to her conversation with Nathaniel and Tristan sighed heavily.

Why was his heart playing tricks on his head?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chapter 16: Distractions

Time seemed to be moving slower for Tristan today than it had any other day of his life. He had gotten to work on time (a little early, actually), but Nora had not been impressed. She had hardly even noticed him, so it seemed. She told him to get everything ready then meet her out in front of the zoo. From there, they had given their tours as usual, but Nora hadn’t let Tristan say a word. In fact, she had ignored Tristan for most of the tour. Each time he had tried to open his mouth, Nora had cut him off or sent him a sharp glare. Needless to say, Tristan had not liked that one bit.

“Is there any particular reason you’re being so rude to me today?” Tristan asked as he and Nora grabbed their lunchboxes out of their lockers.

“What do you think?” Nora asked icily. She slammed the locker door closed and turned towards the door of the employee’s lounge.

“Wait! Don’t just walk away from me! Communication is key to a relationship!” Tristan blurted out, not realizing what he was saying. Nora glanced back at him, a confused expression on her face.

“We’re not in a relationship.” Nora said quickly, a glare on her face. Tristan stared at her for a moment, a little puzzled by what he had said as well.

“Um…I didn’t mean, like…a relationship in that sense… More like a friendship…” Tristan said slowly. Nora sighed, her shoulders dropping.

“We can’t be friends if you keep bashing something I’m passionate about.” she said softly. Her eyes had suddenly changed. She didn’t look furious anymore; she just looked hurt. Tristan swallowed hard. He wasn’t sure what to say next.

“Well, it’s just that… I think that sea-life belongs in the sea…” he said, trying to choose his words carefully.

“But sometimes these animals are taken out of the sea for a reason.” Nora replied gently. Tristan looked at her with a questioning expression on his face. Nora sighed and began explaining.

“A lot of the animals here have actually been saved because of this park. We have a program that rescues animals whose habitats have been endangered by oil spills or pollution, and most of the animals are kept here instead of put back into those dangerous habitats. We also take in animals that have been injured in fishing accidents. Sometimes, when fishermen put down nets, they catch swordfish, turtles, dolphins, and we actually have a whale that was trapped in a net as a baby. Instead of the fishermen putting the injured animals back into the water or just killing them outright, we’ll send a team out to pick up the animal and bring it back here until it heals. We’ve had scuba divers bring in animals from the reefs nearby, and most of the animals that have been brought to us would have died without our help. The blanket octopus is a great example of that.” Nora finished softly, but her eyes were alight with a fire Tristan hadn’t seen before. It wasn’t anger, but it wasn’t some sort of happiness, either… It was more like passion. Nora really was passionate about her job.

“Really? The blanket octopus was brought in by someone?” Tristan asked, walking towards Nora. Nora nodded.

“Yep. A few years ago someone brought in this tiny little octopus that was missing a leg. We kept the octopus in a tank, discovered what it needed to live happily, and took care of it here. It’s been thriving ever since.” A small smile came to Nora’s lips as she spoke. Tristan couldn’t help but smile a little as well.

“So, you don’t just take animals out of their natural habitats without good reason?” he asked, just for clarification.

“Nope. If the animals aren’t brought in because they’re injured, then they’ve been born and raised here.” Nora replied quickly.

“Oh…so, they’re not all animals that have been injured…” Tristan said softly.

“No, but would you really want them to be?” Nora asked, giving Tristan a pointed look.

“Well, no, but I just thought, after that speech, that all of the animals had been brought in because they were injured.”

“You’d be surprised as to the number of eggs one fish can lay. Usually there are too many baby fish to keep here, so we release some of them back into the wild once they’re old enough.” Nora said quickly.

“But the ones that were brought in because they were injured stay here for the rest of their lives?” Tristan asked. Nora nodded.

“Yes, but sometimes they have to stay here, or else they’ll die.” Nora replied. Tristan thought for a moment.

“What about the blanket octopus? Does it need to stay here to survive?” Tristan asked quickly.

“The blanket octopus is healthy enough to, in theory, survive in the wild. However, because it’s been raised here since it was a baby, just dropping it into the sea would be quite a shock to it. It would have to be introduced to life in the sea very slowly to make a good transition.” Nora explained. Tristan was silent for a minute, thinking about everything Nora had said.

“Hm… Interesting…” he murmured.

“Do you understand a little more where I’m coming from now?” Nora asked hesitantly. Tristan glanced down at her.

“Yeah, a little bit.” he replied softly. Nora smiled slightly.

“Good. Now, let’s go have lunch.” she said, turning and walking away. Tristan followed after her, everything she had said playing through his mind.

After hearing all of that, it was going to be incredibly difficult to protest the park…

Chapter 15: Heatstroke

I leaned my chin on the palm of my hand and watched out of the giant window. The light of the full moon shone down on the water, which was shallower at this time of night. I inhaled deeply and frowned. The sea was unusually quiet tonight…

I spun around in my wheely-chair and stood up. I began wandering around my lair, slowly making my way towards my new pets. The angelfish were all in a large tank that protruded from the wall. The tank was filled with sea water and had bits of real coral in it, as well as some sand and seaweed. I was trying to get the fish accustomed with what the sea was really like before they swam off into the real thing.

I bent over in order to peer into the tank better. The angelfish were swimming around slowly, looking a little sleepy. I glanced down at the coral and noticed a shrimp peek out once before he hid again. “Hm…” I murmured to myself. “He must have come in with the coral…” I contemplated pulling the shrimp out, but decided he would be fine in there until tomorrow. That’s when I planned on releasing the fish.

I turned around and walked back over to the window, fanning myself with my hand as I walked. It seemed to be a bit warm in this large cavern… I decided it was time for a swim. I opened a drawer on the long desk beneath the window and pulled out my wetsuit, mask and flippers. My oxygen tank was sitting right below the desk, making it very convenient to collect everything. I quickly squirmed into my diving gear and walked over to the door to my lair. I opened the door and entered into a long tunnel. The tunnel was rounded along the walls and ceiling, giving the illusion of a circle. The walls were metal, as was the door behind me and the door in front of me. All in all, the tunnel was no more than twelve feet long.

I closed the door behind me and pushed a button on the tunnel wall. I heard the door behind me seal and a green light came on above the button I had pushed. I walked forward quickly and came to the other door. I pushed another button and the door in front of me opened slowly, letting water in. I hastily put on my flippers and adjusted my goggles before placing the mouthpiece of the oxygen tank in my mouth. By the time I had my mouthpiece in, the water was up to my waist. Within moments the door was completely open and the tunnel was filled with the water that rushed in. I flinched as the water poured over my head, but I quickly opened my eyes and swam out of the tunnel. Once I was out, I pushed a button on the outside of the tunnel, closing the door. The water would remain in the tunnel until I decided to go back inside.

I turned around to look at the dark, watery world around me. I unclipped a small waterproof flashlight from my oxygen tank and turned it on. The light was distorted by the movement of the water, but it still allowed me to see a bit more.

The water felt cold through my wetsuit, and it was very refreshing. I had no idea why, but my lair was a little too hot this evening… I began swimming around the coral reef, trying to see if there were any changes that would affect my cavern. I swung my flashlight here and there, hoping I didn’t wake up any fish. None popped out at me, though, so I assumed that they were nestled far enough into the reef that they didn’t notice the light.

Just then, as I was nearing the center of the reef, a large green fish swam out directly in front of me. Only, as it continued to pass me, I realized that it was not a green fish; it was much too large to be a fish. In fact, I guessed that it was about my size.

The green object darted up until it was floating above me, looking down with large, round eyes. It looked like something out of an old scary movie… It had no fins except for a dorsal fin on its back. It had arms and legs, but its fingers had webs in between them like a frog, and its feet were nothing more than large flippers. The body of the creature was scaly, but it appeared to have very thick armor on around its abdomen and legs. This appearance of armor led me to believe that the whole thing was nothing more than a costume. An incredibly detailed and intricate costume, but a costume nonetheless.

We swam around in circles, with the creature above me, eyeing me carefully. It looked like it had a helmet on that made its head appear a bit too large. It had large lips, no nose, and enormous eyes. The face really did resemble a fish, except for the fact that it was shaped more like a helmet.

What are you? I wondered to myself as I stopped circling. I wondered if I could get close to it by simply letting it come to me. The creature stopped and stared at me, making sure it was a few feet away. I wondered if there was a human underneath the helmet and armor, or if it actually was some strange new species… If it was human, then there was no indication of its gender. Its armor was too thick around its torso and legs, making it nearly impossible to guess whether it was male or female.

I slowly held out my hand, wondering if I could coax it towards me. It glanced down at my hand then looked back up at my face. There was no expression in its large eyes, so I couldn’t tell if it was angry, confused, or amused by my show of friendship. It seemed to study me for a moment. I could have sworn that its eyes narrowed. However, just when I thought it might attack me, it turned and swam off, going faster than I’ve ever seen anything travel in my life. I stared after it, stunned. I had no idea what that thing was, but I wanted to find out. Perhaps when I let the angelfish out tomorrow it would come back…

I swam back to the entrance of my lair and pushed the button to open the door. The door opened slowly and I swam into the tunnel, which was still full of water. I closed the door to the tunnel and the siphons turned on automatically, sucking the water out of the tunnel. I waited for a moment as the water drained out around me before I took the mouthpiece out of my mouth. Once all of the water was out of the tunnel, I took off my flippers and goggles and opened up the inner door, making sure I released the seal before I opened it. I entered into my cavern and changed out of my wetsuit quickly.

I noticed again how hot it was in my lair. I quickly checked the water in the angelfish’s tank to make sure it wasn’t getting too warm. I wiped my brow and sighed, walking over to the large window. I decided to close it for the night, even though it wasn’t that late… I had a feeling that the heat had something to do with that creature, and I wasn’t about to leave the window open so that it could come and spy on me in the middle of the night…

Something about that creature just seemed off, and I was going to find out what it was.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Chapter 14: Seeds

After lunch and before their next tour, Nora decided to take Tristan on her own little tour. “Have you ever been to the park as a guest before?” Nora asked Tristan as they were exiting the employee’s lounge.

“Um…no.” he said sheepishly. Nora glanced over at him and Tristan couldn’t tell if she was glaring of if she was just squinting because of the sunlight that was suddenly in their eyes.

“And yet you had the audacity to come here and protest…” Nora muttered. Tristan inferred from that statement that she was glaring at him, not squinting.

The two of them walked in silence for a moment, Nora clenching and unclenching her fists as she walked. Tristan glanced down at her hesitantly and saw that she no longer looked angry, just slightly annoyed. Tristan caught himself feeling relieved that she wasn’t angry. Anger was what he had originally hoped for with this job, wasn’t it? Didn’t he want to make her miserable? Didn’t he want to make her lash out in anger? Tristan squeezed his eyes shut, wishing he knew why his emotions were playing tricks with his mind.

“How are you going to see anything on the tour if your eyes are closed?” Tristan heard Nora ask from a short ways behind him. He stopped abruptly and turned around. Nora was standing a few feet behind him with her arms folded over her chest. She was raising an eyebrow and tapping her foot impatiently. Tristan smiled sheepishly then dashed back over to her. Once Tristan had reached her side, Nora turned to the large structure beside her.

“This side of the park houses our largest and most popular attractions, not our rides. We’ll get to the rides another day. Also, because we’re short on time,” Nora paused to glance down at her watch, “we won’t actually be going into any of the attractions. I’ll just tell you what they’re about.”

“This--” Nora paused dramatically. Tristan motioned for her to get on with what she was saying. “Is the Dolphin House. Although there are some dolphins in the zoo, this is where all of the trained dolphins are kept and where they do their tricks.” Nora explained.

“Oh, so this is where the inhumane stuff happens…” Tristan said, taking a step towards the building. “I should have gotten a job in there…” Nora suddenly grabbed Tristan’s arm and began pulling him down the paved pathway towards another building.

“Moving on!” Nora said as she tugged Tristan along behind her. Tristan quickly straightened up and turned around, pulling at his shirt indignantly. “This is the Orca Dome. It was named the Orca Dome because the building is enclosed by a dome-like roof and it houses the orcas.” Nora explained, sounding exactly like her tour-guide self.

“Orcas are killer whales, right?” Tristan asked, looking up at the enormous building.

“Yes, ‘orca’ is the scientific name for killer whales.” Nora replied with a sigh.

“So, all of the park’s killer whales--”


“Live in there?” Tristan asked, glancing over at Nora. Nora nodded. “And that’s also where they do all of their tricks and stuff?” Tristan continued. Nora shot him a glare.

“Yes. Yes, it is.” she replied shortly.

“Huh…I bet that’s worse than the Dolphin House…” Tristan muttered. Nora stormed past him, stomping on his foot as she went. Tristan sucked in a breath and his eyes went wide from the pain in his foot.

“Are you coming?” Nora called over her shoulder.

“Yeah, just as soon as I find the toes on my right foot again!” Tristan said, inhaling deeply after he spoke. He finally turned and hobbled after Nora as quickly as he could.

“Up here are a few of the shows we do that involve more people that aren’t just trainers. We have actual actors and actresses who don’t do anything more with the animals than what’s called for in the script. Most of the people that are on the stage are trainers or other employees who have some acting experience, though.” Nora explained as they walked past two buildings on opposite sides of the path. Tristan glanced up at them both as they passed. He heard laughter coming from one and screaming coming from the other. “Sounds like the audience just got wet.” Nora said, glancing back at Tristan with a smile on her face.

“Do you have any acting experience, Nora?” Tristan asked, jogging to catch up with her.

“Not really…” Nora said slowly. “I’ve really only ever acted in front of the mirror…”

“I did a little acting in school… I wonder how well the animals are treated in there…” Tristan murmured more to himself than to Nora. Nora sighed and rolled her eyes.

“The animals are treated well here, Tristan. In ever area of the park.” she said, sounding exasperated.

“How do you know? Have you worked in every area of the park?” Tristan asked, snapping his head over to look at Nora.

“No, but I’m sure that I would have heard of some mistreatment by now if there was any.” Nora said, walking faster. Tristan noticed that she was clenching and unclenching her fists again.

“Well, they might have--” Tristan began, but Nora cut him off by holding up her hand.

“Save it. We have to go back to work now.” she said shortly. Nora turned around and walked off briskly, not waiting for Tristan. Tristan watched as her ponytail bobbed away from him. He had certainly done a very good job of upsetting her. She certainly looked angry...

But the problem was, Tristan wasn’t happy anymore, either…

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chapter 13: Luck

Nora was up bright and early, making sure that she got to work on time. She was especially speedy today, because she was certain that she had spied a few news vans the night before. So, she left her apartment and got out on the road as sneakily as she could then drove herself to work.

Nora entered the employee’s lounge and began putting her lunchbox and purse into her locker. She looked at the mirror hanging on the locker door and put her hair up into a ponytail. She quickly pulled blush and a small brush out of her bag and puffed a little onto her face. She then applied a little lipstick before putting her purse away.

Just then, the door to the employee’s lounge burst open. Nora spun around, panic gripping her. Running through the door was none other than Tristan, looking very frazzled and frantic. He rushed over to his locker and threw the door open, shoving his lunchbox into it as fast as he could. Nora watched him with a puzzled, yet slightly amused, expression on her face. Tristan slammed the locker closed and leaned against it, panting heavily.

“Are you okay?” Nora asked slowly. Tristan glanced over at her and waited for a minute before answering.

“Yeah…just…late.” he said between pants. He cracked a grin and Nora raised an eyebrow. She glanced up at the clock to see that he was, indeed, late.

“This is your third day working here, Tristan.” Nora said, turning away from her locker and walking towards the door. “Why in the world were you late?”

“Well,” Tristan began, straightening up. “I slept through my alarm this morning, but I did everything extra fast to make up for it. But then I got into my car and it decided not to start, so I had to chase a bus for a block before it stopped for me, and then I had to run two blocks because the bus stop is two blocks away from here!” Tristan said quickly, but still panting. Nora smiled at him and laughed a little. Tristan stared at her quizzically.

“What’s so funny?” Tristan asked, walking over to Nora.

“I don’t know. I just think it’s funny that you had a hard time getting to work.” she replied with a shrug and another smile. Nora walked out the door and Tristan stood there for a moment, wondering if he should feel insulted or happy that she had laughed at his story…

That morning was a fairly normal morning. Nora and Tristan gave three tours before lunch, and Tristan was even allowed to do some of the talking. However, in the middle of the third tour, Nora stopped abruptly. The guests were looking at some of the fish, so they didn’t notice the confused expression on Nora’s face. Tristan, however, took notice of it immediately.

“What’s wrong?” Tristan asked, standing next to Nora with a look of concern on his face. Nora waited a moment before answering, studying the scene in front of her.

“Some of the angelfish are missing…” she murmured. Tristan gave her a puzzled look.

“What?” he asked, turning to look at the aquarium. Nora stood next to him, counting the fish in the tank.

“I’m sure there aren’t as many in there as there were yesterday…” Nora mumbled to herself. Tristan glanced down at her, wondering how she could notice something so insignificant as the number of fish in a tank.

“Maybe they were moved…?” Tristan suggested. He wasn’t sure how likely that idea was, but it didn’t hurt to put it out there. Nora shook her head.

“I don’t think they would just randomly move fish around…” she said slowly. The two of them stared at the aquarium for a moment longer before Nora shook her head and put on a smile, continuing on with the tour.

After their three morning tours, Nora and Tristan took a break for lunch. They took their lunchboxes to a round table that was sitting underneath a large shade tree. Nora sat one chair away from Tristan once they reached the table. Tristan wondered why she didn’t just sit next to him, but he shrugged the matter off and opened his lunch box.

The two of them ate in silence for a few moments, neither one focused on anything besides their lunches. Tristan chomped on his sandwich happily while Nora picked at a salad. Nora was the first to look up and speak.

“Do you know what I think would be a really fun job?” Nora asked, not expecting an answer. Tristan glanced up at her, a large bite of sandwich in his mouth.

“What?” he asked, even though his mouth was full.

“Being a diver.” Nora replied simply. She stared off past Tristan wistfully, leaning her chin on one hand while still poking her fork into her salad with the other.

“A diver?” Tristan repeated, his mouth still full of sandwich. Nora nodded.

“I think it would be fun to be able to go into the tanks with the animals and swim around with them in their natural habitat.” Nora continued, still not looking at Tristan.

“Natural? There’s nothing natural about their habitat here.” Tristan said, finally swallowing his food. Nora flicked her eyes towards Tristan as he spoke. “The plants are fake, the water isn’t salt water from the ocean, and the fish are all enclosed in tiny little boxes by glass and cement, both man-made materials.” Tristan finished and gave Nora a pointed look. She sighed and rolled her eyes.

“Okay, so it’s not their ‘natural habitat.’ I still think it would be cool to swim with them, though.” Nora said, slightly exasperated. Tristan thought for a moment then nodded.

“So, how does one become a diver?” he asked, taking another bite of his sandwich.

“Well, you have to have experience and apply for a job as one, instead of having no experience at all and applying for a job as a tour guide…” Nora mumbled the last part more to herself than to Tristan.

“Wait--you’ve never gone diving before?” Tristan asked, shocked. Nora shook her head slowly. Tristan stared at her, his eyes wide with surprise. There was just something about Nora that made it impossible for him to believe that she had never gone diving before.

“I’ve always wanted to, but I can never find the time…” Nora said with a shrug.

“I think we’re going to have to make time for that.” Tristan said, nodding his head.

“We?” Nora asked, glancing up at him. Tristan stopped chewing his sandwich and looked up at Nora, realizing what he had said.

“Well, I mean, you and I could go diving together, or just you could go and I could help you pencil it in, or just I could go and you could help me pencil it in, or…” Nora giggled and Tristan stopped talking. She was looking at him with a teasing, but understanding, smile on her face.

“Do you always talk like this around girls?” she asked, a sparkle in her eyes. Tristan laughed nervously then looked down at his food, trying not to blush.

“Well, if you pencil it in, maybe we will go diving sometime.” Nora said softly. She began eating her salad again and Tristan felt his heart beat a little harder.

He suddenly felt like the luckiest man in the world.


Just so you all know, I am writing chapter thirty-two tonight.
I have finished the thirty day challenge.
And I am no where near being finished with the book. Which means...
I get to keep going! Whoo!
My deepest apologies to all of you who have (not) been reading this story. I wanted to post one chapter each day, but then life got complicated and my access to a computer was cut short. I have been writing chapters in the late hours of the night (and, I will admit, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning), and by the time I finish a chapter I've been too tired to post it. However, I will make my best effort to get back in the habit of posting these chapters. I really, really like how this story is coming along, and I really want to share it with everyone.
So, that being said, I am off to post another chapter. Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen! This is when the fun begins! (And by "fun" I really mean fighting, hatred, little boys who know a lot about life, and much more! Stay tuned! The best is yet to come!)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chapter 12: Schemes

It was a dark and stormy night. I crept along the large wall that surrounded the park. I glanced around at my surroundings to make sure that the coast was clear before I pulled a grappling hook out of my backpack. I took a step away from the wall and looked around once more before I swung the hook around my head and threw it upwards towards the top of the wall. The rope attached to the hook fluttered in the wind as the hook sailed upwards. The grappling hook caught the wall and stuck, giving me a way to get into the park, like it had so many times before.

I climbed up the wall quickly, having become accustomed to the act years ago. Once I was at the top of the wall, I held my arms out to balance myself. I slowly brought up the rope from my grappling hook then put the hook back into my backpack. Very carefully, I walked along the high wall, forcing myself not to look down. I had made this trip many a time, but I was still very aware that the smallest misstep could cost me my life.

I finally came to the tree branch that reached up to and over the wall. I climbed up on it and began crawling out of the tree. I was much more comfortable when I was surrounded by branches than when I was out in the open on top of a wall.

Before I hopped down to the ground, I looked around again to make sure that none of the night guards were around. Seeing that the coast was clear, I got down from the tree and began heading towards the zoo.

I ran across the ground, and my padded soles hardly made any sound at all. The zoo was on the other side of the park, so I had quite a ways to run before I reached my destination. I stopped suddenly and listened closely. I heard slow footsteps making their way towards me. I looked around frantically and saw a bench nearby. I ran and dove under the bench, making myself as small as possible. I was dressed completely in black, so the guard would have to be looking for me to actually see me. But the guards were usually equipped with flashlights, and under the glare of one of those, I was completely visible.

I held my breath as the guard entered the area I was in. I recognized this guard as being one of the more lazy ones, so my worry eased a bit. The guard walked towards the bench and sighed heavily. I closed my eyes, hoping he wouldn’t point his flashlight at the bench. Fortunately, the guard turned his flashlight off. Unfortunately, he turned around and sat down on the bench. I flinched as the bench moved under his weight.

The guard yawned then decided it was a good time for a nap. He lifted his legs up and tipped to the side, laying down on the bench. I refrained from cursing as I waited for a moment to make sure he wouldn’t get up. I very slowly rolled out from under the bench and got up on my hands and knees. I crawled a few feet away from the bench, watching the guard carefully as I went. After establishing that he wouldn’t be getting up for a while, I got to my feet and dashed away as silently as I could.

I made it to the zoo without any further complications. I sneaked around to the back of the zoo and found an employee’s only entrance. I glanced down at the keypad on the door handle and quickly pushed the correct numbers. The light on the keypad turned green and I heard the click of the door unlocking. I turned the handle and quickly slipped inside.

The inside of the zoo was dimly lit by small lights along the walls. I had entered into a part of the zoo that was nothing more than a small hallway without any windows. I followed it down to a set of stairs that went up. I climbed the stairs and found myself in a room full of diving gear. I began gathering the equipment I would need, and the process went very quickly. I had memorized where everything was kept, so the few times the equipment had been rearranged, it had certainly confused me.

I found a wetsuit in my size and quickly slipped it on over my own clothes. I grabbed a mask and an oxygen tank and put both of them on as well. I then picked up a pair of flippers and began walking out of the room. I stopped, having the feeling that I was forgetting something. I quickly rushed back over to my backpack, which I had left tucked in a corner of the room. I unzipped the backpack and pulled out a handful of small plastic bags before I stood up and walked out of the room.

I walked down a narrow corridor that was lit by overhead florescent lights. There were two walls on either side of me, but the floor was not as wide as the walls were apart. In between the floor and the wall to my left was a long opening that led down into the aquariums below me. There were signs along the left wall that told me what fish were in which aquariums. I carefully watched my step while still glancing up at the signs every once and a while to make sure I did not pass the tank I was looking for.

After a few minutes of walking, I came to a sign that had “Angelfish” written on it in large letters. I quickly slipped on my flippers and adjusted the mask over my eyes and nose. I placed the mouthpiece to the oxygen tank in my mouth then got down on my hands and knees in the tight space. I peeked out under the wall to make sure none of the guards were in this area of the zoo before I got into the water. I knew that once I got in, I had to be fast. I couldn’t get caught, not now…

I dove into the water and shivered a bit, not expecting it to be this chilly. I quickly glanced around and noticed that all of the fish were swimming around sleepily, which would make catching them a whole lot easier. I slowly swam over to the nearest angelfish. It glanced over at me lazily but made no motion to move away from me. I reached towards the fish with one of my plastic bags and very slowly placed the bag around the fish. I tied the open end of the bag into a small knot then moved onto the next fish. I repeated this process with three other fish, and none of them fought back. I made my way towards one final fish and was by now feeling very confident in my fish catching capabilities. However, something about the look in that fish’s eyes made my feelings of confidence wither.

As I swam towards the fish, it darted to the right, towards the glass wall of the tank. I followed after it, making sure I didn’t loose my grip on the fish I had already caught. I got closer to the fish and it began swimming downwards, towards the fake plants in the water below. I sped after it, determined not to let it get away. The fish wove through the artificial seaweed and around plastic rocks and logs. I scowled at it and swam faster, rising up over the seaweed and other debris. The fish rose up out of the seaweed and darted to the left. I followed it, making sure I didn’t smash into the brick wall. The fish swam down the length of the aquarium then made a sharp right turn. I smiled around the mouthpiece to my oxygen tank as I got closer to the fish. Suddenly, the fish rocketed upwards. I glanced up but did not follow it fast enough. I smashed into the glass of the tank with a loud thud, and the sound reverberated off of the glass. I moaned and rubbed my head, no longer wanting to help the fish. At this point I was ready to kill the fish. I spun around and saw the fish swimming around playfully, a smile in its eyes.

I was trying to help you! I yelled, glaring at it.

I don’t want your help, human. it replied, turning away haughtily.

Then you can stay here and rot, fish. I snarled, swimming up to the walkway above the tank. I heard the fish huff, but I was too angry to feel even a little pleased that my remark had angered him. I crawled out of the tank with the other fish secured tightly in their bags. I pulled my flippers off and carried them, along with the fish, back to the room with the diving gear. As I took off my wetsuit and grabbed my backpack, I hoped that pesky fish remembered one thing:

No other human had ever communicated with him before.

Chapter 11: Normality

After a few days off, Nora was more than ready to go back to work. In fact, her days off had been even more stressful than her job because of all of the reporters that followed her around. Nora decided that the most annoying of the bunch were the local newspaper reporters. They didn’t have video cameras, so they were constantly snapping pictures with one hand while managing to write with the other. At least, that’s how it seemed to her.

Tristan had had a very similar experience, but to a greater extent. Because of the attempted robbery on his apartment, he got even more publicity than Nora. He was hailed as a hero twice, which meant that he had twice as many reporters following him. At least, that’s how it seemed to him.

When Nora and Tristan finally returned to work, they found the park to be as busy as ever. The police had done a very good job reassuring people that the park was completely safe, so families had resumed their vacations. Nora and Tristan went right back to their jobs as tour guides.

“Whoa! What happened to you?” Nora asked Tristan when she met him in the employee’s lounge. She squinted at his face and he grimaced, trying to cover up his black eye.

“You didn’t watch the news?” he asked sheepishly.

“No, I turned it off after a day of hearing my own name. It was really annoying.” Nora said with a sigh. She walked over to her locker to put away her lunch bag.

“Well, I ran some errands one morning then went back to my apartment and got beat up.” Tristan said with a shrug. Nora spun around to face him.

“Seriously? Someone beat you up in your apartment?” she said, stunned.

“Well, I was totally exhausted, and someone knocked at my door, so I opened it…” Tristan recounted the entire experience to Nora and she stared at him, her mouth hanging open. When he reached the end of his story, she scowled and shook her head.

“Of all the dumb things to do, that’s probably the dumbest.” she muttered. “Trying to kill a guy who just saved the lives of a whole bunch of people…morons…” Nora continued to mumble angrily as Tristan stared at her quizzically.

“I don’t think I really saved anyone’s life…” he said softly, glancing down at his shoes. Nora remained silent for a moment before she turned around to look at Tristan again. Her eyes were suddenly very soft, and she looked very fragile. For a moment, Tristan thought she might cry.

“You…you saved my life…” she said in a voice that was barely louder than a whisper. Tristan and Nora stared at each other for a minute before they both looked away awkwardly. Tristan cleared his throat and rubbed he back of his neck. Nora tried to ignore the fact that she was blushing.

Once they had both composed themselves, the pair walked out to greet their first tour group. Much to Nora’s surprise, the group was twice as large as it usually was.

“Whoa! We have a lot of people on the tour today!” Nora said with a wide grin.

“You two are the ones who stopped the robbery, right?” someone called out from the group. Nora tried to find the person who had spoke, but she had no luck.

“Um, yes…” she said slowly.

“Well, no wonder there are a lot of us here! You two are practically famous!” the voice cried out. Nora felt a bit of panic rise up inside of her heart.

“Not really. We were just doing our jobs.” Nora said quickly. She really didn’t want to talk about or answer any questions about that day. She just wanted to put it behind her and move on with her life.

“If you say so…” the voice said, sounding a little disappointed. Nora let out a relieved sigh before she smiled and began the tour.

Tristan walked along quietly, wondering how long he would have to tag along with Nora before he began his own tours. Suddenly, he remembered why he took this job in the first place. It wasn’t to make money or give people tours; it was to learn more about the park so that he could find something bad to protest about it. Tristan glanced over at Nora as she told people about the angelfish in the aquarium next to her.

He decided that after all they had been through, it was going to be a little bit more difficult to protest the park…

Monday, July 18, 2011

Chapter 10: Predicaments

Tristan rubbed his eyes sleepily. His bed was cool and inviting, but he couldn’t bring himself to actually crawl into it. After all, it was still light outside. Today, however, had been completely exhausting, and he was almost ready to fall asleep right there.

He had been called to go to the police station very early that morning, and he hadn’t been able to fall asleep until late last night; the combination of a late night and an early morning made for a very tired Tristan. He had stayed at the police station for several hours, just answering questions. The experience had been surprisingly draining.

After he finally left the police station, Tristan had decided to go for a short walk to relax. However, on his way to the nature trail he usually walked on, a group of reporters pounced on him with a sneak attack of cameras and questions. Tristan tried to escape from the bombardment, but the reporters were not easy to shake off. He eventually resorted to running along the nature trail (and even going off of the trail and wading through a river) in order to loose the reporters. By the time the reporters had given up, Tristan was in no mood to enjoy the natural beauty around him. He was just in the mood for a nap.

Unfortunately, he had other matters he had to attend to, small errands he had to run. He went to the bank and made a deposit, he went to the grocery store to buy some cereal and a gallon of milk, and he stopped by the coffee shop on his way home to see if some caffeine would wake him up. Much to his dismay, it didn’t.

So, here he was, lying on his bed, wishing he could go to sleep. His mind was racing, though, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to fall asleep knowing that it was still the middle of the day. He sighed and placed his hands over his face, hoping that if he wished hard enough, the sun would magically go down right now.

Just then, there was a knock at his apartment door. Tristan let out a heavy sigh. “Just a minute,” he muttered loudly, forcing himself to sit up. He trudged over to the door sleepily. He didn’t even bother to look into the peephole before he swung the door open. He was so tired that he really didn’t care who was out there.

Standing just outside the door in the hallway were two men, both of them rather stocky, and neither one of them looking very pleased. Tristan was too tired to take in all of their details, and he was also too tired to notice the gun hanging off of one man’s belt.

“You Tristan Motgomery?” the man closer to Tristan asked.

“Yeah, but I’m not answering any more questions or signing anything, so just go away and talk to me tomorrow, okay?” Tristan mumbled. He began closing the door but stopped suddenly when the man put his hand out.

“Oh, don’t worry. We’re not here to ask questions…” the man said. He pulled his jacket back with his other hand, revealing his gun. Tristan glanced down and his eyes grew wide.

“What do you want?” Tristan asked quickly, not taking his eyes off of the gun.

“What do you have?” the man with the gun asked.

“Do you want things that are of value? Because in that department I have a laptop and a microwave, and that’s about it. Anything else of value is bolted to the floor.” Tristan said, trying to sound nonchalant. The men pushed past him and Tristan did nothing but watch as they began tearing his apartment to pieces. He swallowed hard as he saw one of the men scoop up his laptop. Tristan decided that this was probably the most painful thing he had ever witnessed.

Soon, the men had gone from one end of the apartment to the other, destroying practically everything in their path. They walked towards Tristan and he opened the door a little wider for them so that they could leave. The man with the gun walked forward and leaned right over Tristan.

“Oh, we’re not done just yet…” he growled, reaching over Tristan’s head and closing the door, pushing Tristan into a corner in the process. Tristan gulped and stared up at the man, his eyes wide with fear.

“There might be some pop in the fridge if you want that…” Tristan said, trying to keep his voice from shaking. The man towering over Tristan just glared down at him, but the other man cracked grin.

“We’re not here for that kind of pop…” the man snarled, making Tristan flinch. Tristan could feel his heart pounding in his chest. Adrenaline pumped through his veins, telling him to run, but he knew he couldn’t go anywhere. He also knew that he didn’t have a chance in a fight with either of these men. Both of them were bigger than he was, and one of them was armed. Tristan racked his brain for a plan, but he knew he was doomed.

“Any last words?” the man with the gun asked, pulling out his weapon. Just then, Tristan got an idea. He tried not to look too excited as he tightened his grip on the door handle.
“Not any good ones.” Tristan replied. The man narrowed his eyes and held up the gun. At that moment, Tristan swung the door open as hard as he could, hitting the man with the door. The man lost his balance and fell to the floor. Tristan took this opportunity to dash out the door and down the hallway. He began running down the stairs, hoping that he would get to the front desk before these two men. He heard shouts coming from above him and he glanced up, but he didn’t see either of the men. Tristan continued to run, going in circles on the stairs as he made his way downward. Soon, he heard other footsteps clanking on the stairs above him. He heard the bang of a gun, but he had no idea where the bullet went. Tristan kept running, knowing that it was his only chance of survival.
Within a few minutes, Tristan made it down to the front desk. “Call 911!” he yelled as soon as he came into the room. The woman behind the desk did as she was told and quickly dialed the number. Tristan jumped over the desk and hid behind it, hoping the men wouldn’t find him. “I was never here…” he whispered to the woman above him. She nodded.
“What’s the problem?” she asked after the 911 operator answered her call.
“A robbery. Just tell them it’s a robbery.” Tristan replied softly. Just as the woman began to pass this message on, the door to the stairwell burst open and the two men charged through. The looked around wildly and Tristan shut his eyes, hoping they wouldn’t find him.
“You!” the man with the gun yelled, pointing his weapon at the woman behind the desk. “Did a guy run through here just now?” the woman shook her head quickly, her eyes wide with fear. The man with the gun growled. “I know he went through here!” he yelled angrily. “Where’d he go?” the man stormed forward and grabbed the collar of the woman’s shirt, lifting her feet off of the ground. “You tell me where he went right now!” the man yelled into the woman’s face. The phone slipped from the woman’s hands and Tristan gasped. He grabbed the phone and quickly spoke the apartment building’s address into it. However, he knew he had to do something to help this woman, so he put the phone down and stood up.
“I’m right here, moron.” Tristan yelled, glaring at the two men. The woman was quickly dropped to the floor as both men turned their attention to Tristan.
“I’m glad you stood up.” the man with the gun said, taking a step towards Tristan. “But it’s not gonna save your life or hers. She’s seen too much already.” the woman gasped, tears forming in her eyes. Tristan glanced over at her, horror showing on his face. He turned back to the men with a look of anger in his eyes. “Then, once we’re done with the two of you, we’ll move on to that other girl. What was her name?” the man with the gun glanced over his shoulder at the other man.
“Nora Bauregard.” the other man replied quickly.
“Yeah, we’ll be going for her next.” the man with the gun said.
“Why?” Tristan asked, genuine confusion in his voice.
“Because, one of the guys you two put in jail was our boss. And we’re very loyal to our boss.” the other man replied once more.
“I would just like to point out that your boss wouldn’t be in jail if he hadn’t tried to rob our boss.” Tristan said. Both men narrowed their eyes at him.
“Shut up. The point is that he’s in jail and you two are the ones who got him caught.” the man with the gun growled. Tristan shrugged.
“I was just doing my job and acting on my instincts. He was the one messing with my usually peaceful nature. Just like you two are doing now.” Tristan said. His fear was no longer showing in his voice, but that didn’t mean it was no longer there.
“I said shut up!” the man with the gun yelled, pointing his gun at Tristan. Tristan quickly ducked and did a somersault out of the way just as the man fired at him. Once Tristan was in an upright position again, he jumped at the man with the gun, knocking him over. Tristan and the man wrestled for a moment before the other man decided to get in on the fun. He was just about to pull Tristan up with something suddenly hit him in the back of the head. He cried out in pain then rubbed the back of his head. He turned around to see what had hit him.
There, laying on the floor, was the telephone. The man glanced up and saw the woman standing behind the desk, a few other things in her hands that she could throw at him. The man snarled then stormed towards her as she began throwing other small objects at him.
Meanwhile, Tristan was trying very hard to hold his own against a man that probably weighed a hundred pounds more than he did. Tristan was doing surprisingly well, but he obviously wasn’t winning the fight. The man had him pinned to the ground and had already given him a bloody nose. Tristan had managed to make the man’s lip bleed a little, but Tristan was definitely more worse for the wear than the man was.
“You know, I was gonna make it pretty quick, but you asked for it!” the man growled, pushing down on Tristan’s shoulders. Tristan moaned, trying to move out from underneath the man’s weight, but he had no success. The man then put one of his large hands on Tristan’s chest while bringing back his other hand. He balled his free hand into a fist and punched Tristan in the face, making his head snap to one side. Tristan closed his eyes in pain and noticed a lot of dark spots when he opened them again.
“How did that feel?” the man yelled. Tristan moaned. The man pulled his fist back again and was about to hit Tristan once more when the door suddenly burst open.
“Freeze!” a police officer yelled, pointing his weapon at the man on top of Tristan. Two other police officers quickly came in behind him, their guns drawn. The man on top of Tristan gave a low growl. Tristan managed to make a bloody smile.

Chapter 9: Problems

Nora and Tristan both got a few days off after the incident with the gunmen. Their boss said it was because of their bravery and valiant acts, but they both thought it was so that they would be free to answer the police’s questions at any time during the day.

Nora and Tristan also learned that the entire park had been closed for a day so that the police could make proper examinations of the area. Nora watched the news for a while during her break and was surprised to see how much coverage the attempted robbery got. It seemed to her as if the news stations had nothing better to talk about, even on the national level. Nora was even more surprised, however, when she walked to the grocery store and was suddenly surrounded by reporters and cameras.

“What was it like to stare down the barrel of a gun?”

“Did you ever feel like you were really going to die?”

“How is your relationship with Tristan Motgomery?”

Nora stopped dead in her tracks when she heard a question about Tristan. What were they thinking when they said “relationship”?

“Tristan and I are…just acquaintances.” Nora said quickly, trying to shield her eyes from the flashing cameras.

“How did you two meet?”

“Did you really get his job for him?”

“What was your first date like?”

“First date?” Nora said, trying to figure out which reporter had asked her that question. “We never went on a date!” she exclaimed.

“Do you have plans to further a relationship with Tristan?”

“Do you think a relationship with him would last?”

“What would your first child’s name be?”

Nora broke out into a sprint, freeing herself from the crowd. She ran towards the electronic doors of the grocery store and only stopped long enough for them to open. She glanced over her shoulder and noticed that the mob of reporters was following her. She wasn’t sure which was scarier: a gunman holding his weapon to her face or a mob of reporters pressing in on her and asking her about a relationship that never was.

Once Nora had entered the store, she decided it was safe to walk at a normal pace again. However, she kept her eyes flashing in all directions, just in case the reporters happened to follow her into the store.

Nora was pleased to find that her shopping experience was paparazzi free. She pushed her cart through the entire store and not a single person asked her a question or took her picture. A few people cast her curious expressions, wondering why they recognized her, but other than that, her shopping experience was perfectly normal. Until she got to the check out line, that is.

Nora was putting a gallon of milk onto the conveyor belt when she heard someone call out her name. She made the mistake of glancing over her shoulder, just to see a man with a microphone walking towards her, a cameraman on his heels. Soon, a whole flock of reporters was heading towards her. Nora turned away from them all and began putting her items on the conveyor belt as quickly as she could, but before she knew it, the mob was on top of her.

Nora closed her eyes as the shouted questions of at least twelve people met her ears. She could still see the flashes from the cameras, even with her eyes closed. She couldn’t stop herself from covering her ears with her hands, trying to block out the noise.

“All right, that’s enough!” Nora heard a man’s voice boom over the voices of all of the reporters. Nora opened her eyes a crack and noticed that the reporters were all looking in another direction. Nora turned to look and saw an older man, about her height but much wider, walking towards them. He was waving his arms as if to shoo the reporters away.

“I will not tolerate my customers being harassed!” the man exclaimed. “What you are doing is completely disrespectful to this young lady and to everyone else around! You’re causing a ruckus and I won’t put up with it! Now, if you’ll all be so kind as to leave, I’d gladly appreciate it.” the man finished, putting his hands on his hips. He gave all of the reporters a pointed look and they exchanged confused glances with one another.

“Or, if you’d prefer, I could call the police on you all with charges of public disturbance or suspicious activity…” the man threatened, tapping his foot. The reporters all began to scurry away, none of them wanting to be the last one in the store. They mumbled their apologies as they left.

Once the reporters were gone, Nora turned to the man who had defended her. “Thank you so much.” Nora said, breathing a sigh of relief.

“It was my pleasure, miss. I know how they can be. They’re all just bloodhounds looking for the next dead body they can drag around for a while. Soon enough something else will catch they’re attention and they’ll chase after that, but for now, you’re the catch of the day.” the man said with a sigh.

“I hope something else comes along soon…” Nora muttered. “I didn’t realize I was going to be mobbed the moment I stepped out in public…” she said as she turned back to putting items on the conveyor belt. The man shrugged.

“For your sake, I hope something else comes along soon, too.” he said with a nod. Nora finished checking out then turned to the man again.

“Thanks again for your help.” she said, smiling softly.

“No problem, dear. Just remember one thing…” the man took a step closer to her. “Once you get out that door, I can’t help you any more.” he smiled a little and Nora laughed.

“I guess I’ll just have to run for it.” she said with a shrug. The man chuckled as Nora began walking away.

“Have a good day, miss!” he called, waving after her.

“Thanks! You too!” Nora said over her shoulder. As Nora walked out the electronic doors and dashed to her car, she thought of Tristan. She wondered if he was encountering the same problems she was…

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Chapter 8: Plans

I paced around the large room, thinking to myself. A frown caused my eyebrows to crease inwards as I hummed a bit. I stopped abruptly, not because I had an idea, but just because I didn’t want to pace anymore. I looked around the cavern suspiciously. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched.

“That’s preposterous…” I muttered to myself. No one would be able to find my lair, and even if they did, they wouldn’t be able to enter. At least, not without some diving gear. Besides, it was the dead of night. At least, it was the dead of night when I had entered…

I glanced up at the clock on the wall and saw that it was one o’clock in the morning. I clasped my gloved hands behind my back as I looked around again. My lair was roughly hewn from a coral reef by nature itself. I had made slight modifications to improve living space, but it was almost exactly how nature had left it. Well…it was mostly the same as how nature had left it…

I had added lights and a few computers, all of which were powered by the water outside my lair. The current was not always moving very quickly, hence the dim lighting. I didn’t mind it, though. It added an air of mystery to my hideout.

There was also a large window along one of the walls that looked out to the sea. I could easily cover it with a push of a button, concealing the window to look like the coral around it. However, at this time of night, the window remained open so that I could see the night life that happened along the ocean floor.

I walked towards the window and my boots clicked against the smooth rock floor. I sat down in the chair in front of the window and watched the water move for a few minutes. My gaze slowly drifted to the passage to my right. It was almost completely dark down that corridor, because none of the lights led that way. It was the only entrance to my lair, but there was an emergency exit, just in case…

Just then, I heard something fall to the floor behind me. I gasped and spun around in the chair, clutching the armrests while peering around me carefully. I looked up at the high ceiling and saw nothing but the jagged coral that made up the roof. I stayed in this tense position for a good three minutes without hearing another sound. Finally, I turned around again.

I looked back up at the window and let out a frightened yelp at the sight that met me. A large shark was swimming sleepily by the window. I sat perfectly still, petrified by it. Normally, I wasn’t this jumpy, but something about today had left me on edge. I watched the shark swim past the window, but it didn’t watch me. It wasn’t out hunting tonight…

Once the shark was gone, I let out a heavy sigh. I ran my hand through my hair and closed my eyes. I thought about going to bed, but I really wasn’t tired. I was just feeling…scared.

I decided to think about something else, so I turned my mind to my little sister in the zoo. I looked up at the window again and saw nothing but the dark water. Soon, however, I would look out that window and see her swimming by, free and happy. She might be scared of the idea now, but once she was here--once she tasted the natural, salty water!--she would know that this is where she was meant to be. She would realize that the people at the zoo were just keeping her there to make a profit; that they no longer wanted to help her; that they just wanted to use her.

I had decided long ago, though, that I wouldn’t let them decide when she was well enough to leave the zoo. I had brought her in, so I could take her out.

A few years ago, I had been diving a short distance from this reef. As I was swimming, I noticed a miniscule dot making its way slowly through the water. I swam closer to observe it and saw that it was a tiny little octopus. However, it had been injured and was missing a tentacle. I took pity on the baby octopus and knew it would not survive in the wild, so I scooped it up and gave it to one of the park’s employees.

I checked up on the octopus regularly and was pleased to see that it was growing well and appeared to be healthy. I learned a great deal about that octopus, but not all of it was from the employees.

I made a habit of sneaking into the zoo after hours to check up on the octopus. Somehow, through all of our time together, we learned to speak the same language, and we have many conversations today. Whether the language we speak is an octopus language or English, I don’t think either of us will ever know. However, we both know one thing:

She’s my little sister, and everything I do is to protect her.

Chapter 7: Surprises

Tristan stared at the gun and gasped. Nora stood there, frozen. Tristan saw her gulp as her eyes traveled up to look at the man holding the gun. He was a large man dressed completely in black, including the ski mask he wore over his face.

The man walked forward, shoving his gun ahead of him. Nora fell backwards. “Everybody on the floor!” the man yelled, looking around the room. The customers slowly began to get down on the ground, exchanging confused glances. The man stepped over Nora, who was laying on her back, and two other men followed after him. The two other men also had guns, and they were much larger than any gun Tristan had seen before.

Tristan stared at the scene in shock. He looked at the customers on the floor and saw little children hiding with their parents. He glanced up at the cash register and noticed that the employee behind the counter was already handing the gunman money. He looked down at Nora and saw fear in her eyes.

“Hey!” Tristan’s head snapped to the side and he saw another one of the gunman pointing his gun at him. “He said everybody on the floor! That includes you, buster!” the man yelled. Tristan stared at him for a minute then looked down at his gun. Slowly, Tristan lowered himself to the floor next to Nora.

“Nora…” Tristan whispered in a voice that he hoped the gunmen wouldn’t hear. “How often does this happen?” he asked. Nora swallowed hard before answering.

“I don’t know. This is the first time it’s happened while I’ve been here.” Nora replied softly.

“You two, on the floor! I don’t wanna hear any chatter!” the third gunman yelled at them. Nora and Tristan flinched, both of them expecting the worst. Tristan was the first to find the courage to look up. He made sure none of the gunmen were looking at him, then he slowly reached towards his pocket. Two of the gunmen were near the door, their backs facing the crowd. The last gunman was still by the cash register. Tristan pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and quickly placed it directly under his face. He tipped his head over it, trying to shield it with his hair as much as he could. He quickly dialed 911.

“We’re being robbed.” Tristan whispered into the phone after the operator answered.

“Can you tell me your location, sir?” the operator asked. Tristan shushed her.
“Yeah, it’s--”

“HEY! He’s got a phone out!” Before Tristan knew what was happening, one of the gunmen had grabbed his shirt collar and hoisted him into the air. Nora grabbed his cell phone and screamed the park’s name into the phone before another one of the gunmen wrestled it away from her. The phone fell to the floor and smashed into a multitude of pieces.

“No, no, no!” Nora yelled, fighting against the gunman. He had her arms pinned tightly behind her back. The other gunman dragged Tristan over to Nora as the third one approached them. He had a sack of money in one hand and his gun in the other. He eyed the two of them maliciously before he let out a cruel laugh.

“You know, we were gonna come in and try to get out without hurting anyone, but it looks like that’s not going to be an option now.” he said, wagging his gun around. Nora glared at him with a hatred that Tristan thought she had reserved for him.

“We’re not gonna…ya know…kill ‘em, are we?” the gunman holding Tristan asked hesitantly.

“Not yet. But since they called the police, we’re gonna need a little…leverage…” the man with the money replied.

“Are we gonna grab a kid?” the man holding Nora asked. There was a collective gasp from all of the parents in the room.

“No, kids are a pain.” the man with the money answered. There was a pause. “We’ll take her.” he finally said, pointing to Nora with his gun. Tristan’s jaw dropped open, but Nora didn’t look surprised. She just looked like she was going to kill someone.

Tristan’s mind spun. Even though he didn’t really like Nora, he couldn’t let these guys take her. He didn’t know if the police would get here in time, though, and even if they did, that might put Nora in even more danger. These guys had weapons that could wipe out small neighborhoods; what could Tristan do to fight against that?

Just then, Tristan heard an “oof” come from his right. He looked over and noticed that the man who had been holding Nora was now on the ground, holding his stomach. Without even thinking, Tristan shot his elbow backwards and made a direct impact with the chest of the man holding him. The man’s grip loosened and Tristan spun around. He grabbed the man’s gun and hit him over the head with it. The man fell to the floor, unconscious.

Tristan turned around to see Nora give the third gunman a punch to the face. The man’s head snapped to the right and he stumbled to the side. He regained his balance and dropped the bag of money, clutching his gun with both hands. He aimed the gun at Nora and Tristan ran at him, raising the other gun over his head. He hit the gunman over the head and the gunman fell to the floor, moaning. The three gunmen lay on the floor in varying stages of consciousness.

Nora and Tristan stood in the middle of the three men, panting hard. Slowly, the tourists began to stand up. Nora looked up at Tristan, a look of fear still lingering in her eyes. Tristan smiled at her, pleased with what they had just done.

“You just saved my life.” Nora said softly. Tristan shrugged, a large grin still on his face.

“Well, you started the whole process.” he replied.

“Yeah…I’m really not sure what came over me…” Nora whispered. Just then, someone started clapping. Nora and Tristan looked up and saw that there was more than one person clapping. Soon, the entire store was applauding their bravery.

Nora laughed a little and Tristan looked down at her, bubbling with joy. The two of them exchanged delighted smiles. They heard police sirens nearby and their smiles widened. The applause died down as police officers rushed into the store. The officers almost tripped over the bodies of the men on the floor.

“I think we’re going to have some explaining to do…” Tristan whispered, leaning over to Nora. Nora laughed.

“Yeah, I think so.” she replied with a smile. Then, she did something that Tristan didn’t think would ever happen.

Nora leaned over and gave him a hug.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I really need to go to bed, but I feel like I need to explain a little bit now or else I'll forget to explain later.
I have been writing a chapter a day, I just haven't been posting them because of the Fourth of July (yay for fireworks!) and a lot of other busy-ness that has led me to write my chapters really late at night. Because it's been so late, I have not posted any of the chapters on this blog. But I have not stopped writing them! In fact, I finished chapter eleven just a few minutes ago.
I don't know when I'll be able to post another chapter on here, because my life is really busy right now. Who knows? Maybe you'll be left on a cliff hanger for another week. (Mwahahaha...) But I will post another chapter eventually... Well, I'm planning on posting another chapter eventually...
Augh, I need to go get some sleep now. >.<
Oh, just so you all know, I am aware of the fact that I come up with horrible chapter titles. (If you think they're bad now, they'll only get worse.)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Spoiler Alert! Read chapter 6 before this post!

DUN DUN DUN!! I bet you didn't see that coming, did you?
To tell you the truth...neither did I...
I honestly have no idea where these things are going. They're just going. On one hand, this whole "Go wherever your characters lead you" thing is kind of fun. I don't know what's coming and even I'm surprised by what my characters do and say. On the other hand, it's kind of a weird and slightly scary feeling...not knowing what's going to happen next...not knowing if you're going to accidentally write yourself into a corner...not knowing who's going to die when... O.O
Just kidding, I don't think anyone will die.
At least...not any time soon...
See? Slightly scary stuff going on with this story. I mean, especially with that ending for chapter six... I hope Nora doesn't die in the next chapter. I like her. I'd like to keep her around for a while. She and Tristan have some interesting dialogue. I don't want to have to replace her.
Oh, well. I guess that tomorrow we'll figure out if she lives or dies.
On that note, I'll wish you all an enjoyable night. =) Sweet dreams! (Mwahahaha...)
...I need to go to bed... >.<

Chapter 6: Aggravation

Nora marched ahead of Tristan, clenching her fists at her sides. She was mentally counting to one-hundred and reminding herself to breathe deeply. She tried not to make eye contact with any of the customers, because she knew that her anger would somehow propel itself onto them.

When Nora reached the entrance to the zoo, she turned around to face Tristan. To her surprise, he was about ten feet away from her, jogging to keep up. She crossed her arms over her chest and raised an eyebrow. “Our of shape?” she asked sardonically as Tristan reached her. The young man bent over and placed his hands on his knees, panting hard.

“You’re…a really…fast walker…” Tristan said between breaths. Nora smirked.
“You have to be a fast walker around here.” she said, trying not to sound too pleased with herself. She waited for Tristan to catch his breath before she spoke again.

“Okay, the boss must think you’ve got a really good personality,” Nora paused and sighed, “so he’s made you a tour guide. Which, if you actually liked the park, would be a good thing for me. However, since you’re trying to get me laid-off, it’s not really a plus.” Nora finished, turning around to look at the entrance of the zoo.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Tristan said, holding up his hands. “I’m not trying to get you laid-off, I’m just--”

“Trying to get people to not come, therefore making the park loose money, therefore leading to lay-offs, therefore putting my position in jeopardy.” Nora finished, turning around to face Tristan again. Tristan stared at her for a moment, a little surprised, while she stared at him with an eyebrow raised accusingly. Finally, he spoke.

“Well…if that’s what you think.” he said with a shrug. Nora sighed heavily and rolled her eyes.

“Come on. You have to come on a few tours with me to see how it’s done before you can do your own, so for the next week or so you’re just going to be my shadow. You will be seen but not heard, understood?” Nora said, leading Tristan towards the entrance.

“Yes, ma’am!” Tristan said, saluting Nora. Nora replied by rolling her eyes again.

When the pair got to the entrance, they found a tour group already waiting for them. Nora smiled and clapped her hands once and everyone turned to her.

“I’m so sorry for the wait, everyone!” Nora said, managing to sound truly sorry. She stepped to the side and motioned towards Tristan. “This is our new trainee, Tristan. He’s going to be following as part of the tour to see how it goes before he begins giving his own tours.” Nora explained. Tristan stared at the group, looking very grumpy. Nora sent him a glare before she turned to the crowd.

“I also regret to inform you that my headset is on the fritz, so I’m just going to have to talk louder so you all can hear me. If at any time you can’t hear me or don’t know what I said, just let me know and I’ll try to talk louder. That being said, anyone hard of hearing needs to come to the front.” Nora finished with a smile as she eyed an elderly couple towards the back of the group. The tourists laughed as the older couple made their way towards the front, large smiles on their faces. Nora waited for everyone to get together before she turned and led the group into the zoo.

“Would it kill you to smile?” Nora hissed to Tristan as they began walking.

“Yes, I think it would. I think that if I use the muscles in my mouth to form my lips into an upward facing shape, I just might die.” Tristan replied dryly. Nora glared at him before she began smiling again, ready to begin introducing the fish in the large aquariums.

The tour went much better than Nora had thought it would. Tristan remained quiet and observant throughout the entire tour, and all of the customers seemed to enjoy the animals. Once again, the highlight of the tour was the blanket octopus. Tristan even seemed surprised by it.

“There’s nothing in that tank.” Tristan whispered to Nora when they reached the blanket octopus.

“Really? Are you sure?” Nora asked.

“Yes, I’m sure. There is no octopus in that tank.” Tristan hissed, sounding annoyed. Nora tried to hide a smile.

“Well, why don’t you go and get a closer look?” she asked, motioning towards the glass wall. Tristan sighed and took a few steps forward. Suddenly, the blanket octopus shot upward. The group watching gasped, including Tristan. Nora tried hard not to laugh. Tristan turned around to look at her and his mouth was wide open in shock. Nora also noticed that there was something different in his eyes, something she hadn’t seen before. It wasn’t hate or anger or annoyance… But she couldn’t quite tell what it was…

Once the group entered the gift shop, Tristan turned to Nora. “Okay, the octopus was pretty cool.” he said quickly. Nora smiled.

“I had a feeling that you would like it.” she said softly.

“Yeah…but I still don’t like this park. An animal like that deserves to be out in the wild.” Tristan said, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…” Nora muttered, sighing. She glanced down at her watch for a moment then looked up at Tristan.

“Okay, we have to head back towards the front of the zoo now.” she said, stepping forward.

“Why? We have, like, twenty minutes until the next tour starts.” Tristan said, looking at the clock above the cash register.

“Yeah, but guests begin assembling before then. Tour guides are always early. Punctuality is something that customers count on.” Nora explained as she and Tristan walked towards the door.

“So, you really let the customers down this morning, huh?” he said. Nora thought about rolling her eyes again, but there was something different about his voice this time… His voice was less hateful and more…teasing… Instead of glaring, Nora actually smiled a little.

“Yes, and you’ll notice that I promptly apologized for it.” she said, glancing up at Tristan. Tristan nodded and stuck his hands in his pockets.

“How many things do you have to apologize for in a day?” he asked absentmindedly. Nora watched Tristan as she replied.

“Usually not a lot, but some days--” Nora stopped abruptly as the electronic doors to the gift shop opened. She swallowed hard as she found herself staring down the barrel of a gun.