The sun crests the horizon and shines brightly off the surface of the distant ocean in front of us. The voice of the water roars in my ears like the sound of gulls dancing on the wind. With each white-capped wave, a new voice takes over, telling its tale across the ocean that day. My head rings with voices, and I groan with the cacophony of sound. I wish I knew how to turn this off.
The desert extends around us like a giant white blanket beneath the lightening sky. The sunrise looks pink on the horizon and there’s not a cloud in sight. How in the world am I going to find the voice of a single tear against the roar of the ocean?
Ahead of us, Gwen twists in her seat, a wide smile on her beautiful chocolate face. “We will arrive shortly. We must turn North and find the mouth of the river,” she says. To me, it sounds like she’s speaking against the backdrop of the ocean. I imagine to everyone else, the surroundings are silent and peaceful.
Gwen steers her camel Northward so we are walking parallel to the distant shore. It takes another hour until we reach the river. I spot it a little to our right, up ahead. A shimmering blue line dancing in the growing heat of the morning sun. I almost think it could be a mirage, the way the heat shimmers above the ground. Its voice is much different than that of the oceans. It’s like a melody, a burbling tune that drones as it approaches the waters of the ocean.
This, this sound I wish the others could hear.
Kaede shifts his position behind me. He’s fallen asleep and his head lays heavy on my shoulder. He clears his throat before mumbling in my ear. “Are we there yet?” he sounds like he needs a coffee.
“Almost. I think it’s somewhere up ahead,” I say, pointing towards the river on my right. There’s not a tree around. How are we supposed to find it in the heart of a dead Avi. “What is an Avi anyway?” I ask, hoping Gwen knows.
“It’s a sturdy tree that grows in the desert, but only near a clean source of water. There are not many of them left,” she answers.
I scan the horizon but I still see no sign of an Avi.
The river grows in size as we get closer and Gwen adjusts the direction again a little to the East as we pull up along the bank of the River.
“This is the Bay of Alexandria. My people have a different name for it, though. It is near to here. I have sensed the life of the ocean in the past. It is weak though, and difficult to pinpoint,” Gwen informs us as she slows her camel to ride alongside us.
“But you’ve seen it before, so what does that matter?” Selene looks annoyed at her riding partner. “You don’t need to be all mysterious. It’s a waste of time.”
“The land changes frequently here. Storms, floods, and wind can shift the sand and the river’s mouth. It has been almost twenty years since I’ve been this way. It could be very different. It could be gone, for all I know,” she says back, maintaining a calm tone to her voice.
“It’s been there for how many centuries? I doubt a little storm would blow it away,” Selene scoffs.
“It’s a dead tree. I am surprised it hasn’t been blown away already,” she says with a hint of curtness.
“Exactly my point,” Selene gives her a fake smile.
“Why are you so anxious to be on with it? We’ve only just arrived. Do you not enjoy this time with your friends?” Gwen asks.
“Not even a little bit,” Selene replies bluntly. “I should never have come in the first place.”
“That’s not true! I glower at Selene. “I know you got hurt and we had that unexpected fight with Samantha, but would you not say we worked well as a team? Besides these setbacks, I have enjoyed getting to know you and traveling with you.”
Why is it so hard for her to get along with us? Are we that bothersome to her? I suddenly feel conscious of how I act in front of others. I wish I could get along better with Selene. She is an interesting person, but she always seems so distant.
We come to a stop at the edge of the mouth of the river and Gwen slips off the camel gracefully. She walks along the bank of the river, eyes keen on the distant path of the river. She turns to me, her colourful attire a stark contrast to the white background of the endless sand around us.
“Do you think you could find the tears from here? It is along this bank, but perhaps, you being attuned to the water and all, would make this a little faster,” she suggests.
“I can try,” I say nervously. The discordant tune of the ocean and the river’s voice is still forefront in my ears. I focus my attention on the river first, pealing the voices out of the depth of the chattery hum of the waves. I am lulled by its droning babble. I find myself entranced for a short while until I hear something that doesn’t quite belong. The river sounds happy to me, like little children laughing and playing, but among these voices, I hear a faint and distant sobbing.
A minor tone amongst a symphony of major notes. I strain my ears to pinpoint its direction. I’m sure my face must look quite laughable, but I can’t let myself be distracted. I continue to strain and suddenly, all the other voices fall away, silent, except for the incessant crying.
My eyes snap open, ears attuned to its voice. I swivel my head slightly West from the direction we are currently facing. I lift my hand, pointing out towards the mouth of the river as it meets the bay. “It’s out there,” I say.
Gwen follows my finger and nods in affirmation. “Hmm, I see,” she rummages in her sack and finally pulls out a bronze spyglass. She brings it to her eye and adjusts the tube until she finds what she’s looking for.
“There has been much rain this winter, in the mountains, so the river’s mouth has widened greatly. In the distance, there is a small island of sand where the Avi tree stands. That is where the oceans tears are,” she says.
How horrible! The tears of the ocean have been so close yet so far from its source for so long. It’s no wonder why it cries as it does.
“How do we get there?” Kaitlyn asks nervously.
“Do you think they’d have boats for rent?” Andrei asks.
“The current’s too strong for a boat here,” I cross my arms in thought.
“What about swimming?” Kaede adds.
“She just said the current’s too strong for a boat, what makes you think swimming would be easier?” Andrei points out.
“I can swim that easily,” I blurt out. Everyone’s head snaps in my direction and I shrink against the sudden attention. “It’s true, really. I mean, if I turned into water, would I not be able to cross the distance?”
“Perhaps, but water can’t flow against itself. If we moved further up the river, maybe then you could direct your flow towards the island and the tree,” Gwen says, turning her spyglass up the river.
I nod, that makes sense. I need to think more like the river. “I’ll start up there,” I point Eastward up the river. “That should give me enough time to drift to the island before I reach the mouth and enter the bay.”
Gwen nods and everyone else looks at me with a blank expression. Then, Kaede speaks up. “How will you get back?” I gulp as he finishes his question. I was afraid he’d ask.
“I’m not…” I trail off as my thoughts are interrupted.
Ahh! It’s here! It’s HERE! I feel you! The water shouts gleefully. I feel a sudden tug as I’m tugged forward toward the bank. Kaede and Andrei both grab onto my shirt as my feet are dragged through the sand, but they are no match for whatever magic this is. The tug grows stronger and stronger and soon they are being dragged along with me, towards the river.
Nik and Kat join the tug of war, grabbing onto their waists and yanking us backward but as they pull against the waters summoning, I feel the fabric of my white knit sweater stretch and tear as I hurtle towards the water.
Suddenly Andrei appears before me, with his lightning speed and spreads his arms wide to catch me before I reach the edge. My body flies into his, stopping momentarily, but the momentum of my speed is too strong and suddenly we’re both flying into the water.
He hugs my waist as we’re dragged beneath the surface. Holding whatever breath we have left in our lungs. I squeeze my eyes shut against the sandy water, feeling it’s current as Naum taught me so many months ago. The pull of the water is towards the ocean, but unlike what Gwendalyn had said would happen, Andrei and I are being dragged sideways, against the current, towards the island and the tear.
I open my mouth and begin to breathe the water, deep breaths clear the fog in my mind. I quickly realize that Andrei cannot do the same. I look down and see his face, scrunched tightly against the current, holding the last of his breath for dear life. His chest begins to heave against the pressure. His lungs want air, I look up, to what I think is the surface, but I cannot make it out. My best choice is to try swimming up while being pulled.
I grab his arms as his hold weakens, pulling him close as I kick hard against the water. It feels all wrong in my shoes and pants, but I manage to pull us upwards just as Andrei’s mouth gasps open, filling with river water.
I must hurry! I kick harder, and harder as his next breath fills his lungs with water. I scream into the water in fear. “Stop! Don’t drown him! He’s my friend! Please!” my eyes grow wide as I suddenly feel the water reverse from around him. Maybe I can help, a bit. I quickly focus on the bubbles of air around me. I gather them with the water and direct them to his open mouth. Soon I have a large bubble. I pull the water away from his mouth as the bubble enters and his body does the rest. He seems to cough into the water, and I quickly repeat the action, gathering air and force it into his mouth. It takes a lot of fine movements, but I manage to gather enough air to suffice until I kick us to the surface.
We break water and Andrei coughs violently as we’re still dragged through the current. I can no longer see the others as my face is covered in the spray we create in the currents wake.
“Andrei!” I breathe. “Are you ok?” I ask, looking away from the water while still holding him.
He looks at me, still coughing. “I thought I was going to drown! How did you do that with the water?” he wheezes.
“I’m not so sure. I had to think in a hurry. I gathered water bubbles,” I say through the spray. He nods, still catching his breath.
“Thank you,” he grips me tightly. The water suddenly becomes shallow and I feel sand along my feet. I pull my legs up as we’re launched from the water and up onto a sandy beach, rolling through the wet sand and coming to a heaping rest at the foot of a dead tree. The tug is gone.
Andrei crouches in the sand, hacking up water still. I look up at the tree in wonder, hearing still the crying of the tear. The sound is louder, much louder than before. I peel my eyes away and see a very distant shore where the others must be freaking out by now.
“Oh, Andrei!” I spin, grabbing his shoulders violently and pulling him into a hug. “I’m so sorry! You could’ve drowned! You shouldn’t have tried to stop me!” I cry.
“Nonsense. That’s what friends are for,” he stops to cough again and I loosen my grip. We’re both dripping wet and covered in sand now. Suddenly, the desert doesn’t seem so hot. “What kind of person would I be if I didn’t try to save you, in case that was a harmful spell?” he asks with a lazy wink. How does he still manage to have humor after he nearly drowned? I don’t get it.
I look past Andrei’s back at the beach, wondering about the others when I notice a large orangey spout in the distance. I squint to try and make it out. “Is that… Kaitlyn doing that?” I ask him.
Andrei looks around, jutting his bottom jaw out. “Looks like it.”
“Any idea what she’s trying to do?” I ask.
“No, but if you think like fire does, maybe she’ll try drying up the river. This is way too big a bay though. That’s not going to work no matter how powerful she is,” he frowns
We share a glance and spontaneously burst into laughter. The idea of drying up this river is insane. We stand up, brushing off our wet hands and turn to look at the island we’ve landed on. It’s fairly large, but hardly any vegetation on it except for the tree in front of us.
The tree is twisted and grey. It certainly looks dead. I walk up to it, inspecting its smooth bark and leafless limbs. It looks something out of Lord of the Rings. As I walk around it, I notice a hole in its trunk, exposed to the salty air of the ocean. The opening is coated in built-up salt residue and damp green algae. It’s amazing how life can still flourish where it appears all is dead.
The crying is loudest here so I peer into the hole and notice a faint glowing light. I can’t fit my head into it, so I reach in, feeling my hand around until I grasp something hard and weighted. The surface is smooth and it has sharp edges, not sharp enough to cut me, but clearly an edge.
I pull my hand out and gasp at the crystal I find in my hand. “How… is this the tear of the ocean?” I wonder aloud.
I feel Andrei hovering over my shoulder, looking at the crystal. That’s when I notice the small little pocket of water inside. The water is no larger than a pearl but it is completely sealed off from the world, within the crystal, I am holding.
“No… it’s… Inside,” I realise aloud.
“That thing? That’s the artifact?” Andrei asks.
I nod. “That’s where the crying is coming from,” he looks at me with a confused expression and I remember he can’t hear it. “Sorry, the water is crying inside. It wants to be reconnected,” I feel bad for it, but I don’t think I can stop it from crying yet. We need this artifact for our mission.
“Well great! You got the artifact, but now we’re stuck here. Think you can part the water or something, like Moses?” he asks me, hands on his waist.
“No, that’s too difficult. The water here is too strong and there’s too much of it. I wouldn’t be able to hold it back for that long of a distance,” I glance over my shoulder at the length of the island going back up the river, away from the ocean. “It seems the river is narrower up there. Perhaps we could jump across to that other sandbar island and get closer to our shore,” I point.
Andrei nods and we head off up the coast. Although it’s narrower here, the water seems to move much more quickly. I start to doubt if we could make it across here too when I notice a stone bridge forming across on the other bank.
Andrei and I wait until we see Nik and the others crossing towards us.
“Guess Nik’s our way off,” Andrei smiles.
As the bridge completes itself, seemingly out of thin air, our friends walk onto the island. Kat is the first to break into a run, colliding with Andrei, her hands raised, pounding on his chest. Andrei tries to push her off but she won’t budge and I watch as his face shows discomfort.
“Kat, please! I’m ok! Look! I’m alive right? I had to try!” he whines.
I get it, I expected them all to be worried we’d drowned. As she continues to pound him without response I notice a flash of red. When did she put that on?
“Woah! What d’you got there?” Kaede asks, his moppy black hair tousled by the ocean breeze catches me off guard and I don’t answer right away.
“Oh… uhh, this? It’s the tears of the Ocean!” I say, holding it up for the others to see. Everyone seems to stare at it with wonder. Even Gwendalyn steps closer for a look.
“You know I’ve never seen it up close. It’s a wondrous creation,” she muses aloud.
Kat seems to slow too, turning around to look. That’s when I notice her necklace again, shaking against her chest even though she is not moving anymore. She stops harassing Andrei and stares down at it with surprise.
“When did…” she mumbles, brow creasing.
I gasp lightly as the never-ending crying suddenly sniffles to a stop. I look at the crystal, perplexed as I feel it pull my hand like I was pulled across the river, towards Kat.
Kat’s necklace suddenly lunges toward me, pulling her by the neck. She stumbles through the sand until the tip of her pendant makes contact with the crystal. A bright light suddenly shines, glowing red and blue for a brief moment before winking out. The two objects fall still, settling back against us respectively.
“What the…. heck was that?” I ask, looking around at anyone for an answer.
They all just shrug, just as confused as I am. Kat picks up the necklace, turning it between her fingers.
“It feels… happy,” she mumbles, baffled.
I turn the crystal over in my hands, listening to the water within. It seems to be bubbly now, a little giddy. “So is the water,” I say. “It’s stopped crying,” I think there are some mysteries better left unexplained.
“So, why don’t we head back to the mainland and find us a door to get home?” Andrei mentions takes a subtly step backward from Kat while she’s distracted. I give him a rye smile and agree.
“Let’s do that,” we’re both still dripping wet, which does help combat the growing heat of the desert sun, but I’d like to get dry too.
By Kayla West