Beneath the Waves by Alexandra A. Cheshire by Alexandra A. Cheshire - Read Online

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Beneath the Waves - Alexandra A. Cheshire

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yourself

A Note on the Language of Pamu

Pronunciation: All single vowels (a, e, i, o, u) are short. All double vowels (aa, ee, ii, oo, uu) are long. All vowels are pronounced regardless of placement or combination.

False Cognate: The word 'reel' in Pamu is the plural form of 'ree' which means 'child'.

Glossary

Baree - air child

Baase - sun stone

Bediel - storm bringer

Boaw - greatest

Doliel - truthseers

Kanu - gate guard

Koliel - prophet

Lamu - peaceful planet

Mimo - leader

Minu - guard leader

Pamu - water planet

Paree - water child

Ree - child

Reel - children

Te - father

Vehoaw - whale shark

The Village

Meredith allows her feet to dangle in the water, half listening for someone to yell at her to stay on the floats. But no one does because everyone else is busy preparing for the oncoming storm. She tilts her head up to the rapidly darkening sky and watches the clouds swirl and thicken. The water below is grey and growing choppier by the minute. It's cold as well, although that doesn't bother her. Like all third generation colonists, Meredith isn't bothered by cold. Or wet.

Meri! Get yourself inside! Else you'll be swept away and drown.

Meredith ignores the elderly woman who is shouting at her over the rising wind. Or at least until someone jerks her up by the arm.

Meredith! Her father scowls as he hauls her to a standing position, You WILL stay out of the water and you WILL come inside out of the storm. We cannot afford to lose anyone more.

Meredith reluctantly submits to being pulled away from the water. Her father and grandmother escort her inside the ring of small, snug shelters which make up the floating village. Their own home is on the opposite side of the open court yard and the rain begins to pour down as they hurry across. All three are soaked before they reach the door where Meredith's older sister, Seren, is waiting with towels. Meredith's father and grandmother accept them gratefully.

Hurry and get dry, Seren returns to the wood stove, Stew's ready.

More fish stew? Meredith's younger brother, Cian, wrinkles his nose.

What else is there? Seren takes the white ceramic bowls from an upper cupboard, You know as well as anyone we've long ago lost all other food animals. She starts to set the table for the evening meal.

Wash up so we can eat, Their father cuts short any argument, And be grateful for the food in your bowls. Tonight's a bad blow. There'll be no end of damage to repair tomorrow.

Cian rolls his eyes as Meredith, her father, and her grandmother go to change into dry clothes.

Once Meredith is changed, she tackles her wet, wind blown hair. About halfway through working out the snarls, the girl pauses to study her reflection for a moment. Like all third generation colonists, Meredith is very fair. Her pale skin is freckled from the sun, her eyes are light blue and her long hair is blonde. Her siblings are also fair, despite their father being very brown and their grandmother dark. It seems each successive generation since colonization possesses lighter and lighter colouring. Meredith returns to combing out her hair.

As soon as everyone is ready, all five members of the family gather around the table and ladle the thick, hot fish stew into their bowls. There is a loaf of heavy, dark bread and a pitcher of watered down wine to go with it. As they eat, the storm outside intensifies to a point where they couldn't hear each other even if anyone cared to speak.

After the meal, Meredith and Cian clean up the kitchen, bickering a little as to who will do what, while Seren helps their father and grandmother seal the doors and windows against the storm. Once the work is done, the family gathers around the faltering heater to listen to their grandmother spin grand tales of the majestic floating city where she had been born. Meredith's head is still lost in the old stories as she and Seren head for their room to prepare for bed.

Sweet dreams. Seren shivers as the whole village rocks with the waves. As soon as they are ready, both girls curl up in their beds, pulling their brightly patterned quilts tightly around themselves.

Sometime in the middle of the night, Meredith wakes to a small change in the constant rocking of the stormy water. As she huddles in her bed in the dark, all the sounds of the storm are magnified and she is certain she can hear a high, mournful, crooning song. The heavy rain hasn't stopped pounding on the roof of the house. Nor has the howling wind died down at all. Still, something about the hauntingly beautiful music soothes Meredith and makes it easier to drift back to sleep.

Come dawn, when Meredith wakes again, the storm is gone and the sky is as clear and sunny as ever. Seren makes breakfast while Meredith and Cian help their father unseal the doors and windows. Everywhere they look outside the windows is complete chaos. The villagers had long ago learned to fasten down anything of value, but this storm was so severe the ropes and other fastenings were damaged along with everything else which was exposed.

Cian makes a face at the last window he unseals. It's gonna take days to clean up this time.

It will take as long as it takes, His father gives him a stern look, And you'll do your share, just like everyone else. Pray no one was lost this time.

Cian groans, but goes to wash up before taking his seat at the table.

After the morning meal, Meredith helps her grandmother with the housework and laundry. Bored, the girl loses herself in daydreams. Sometimes these visions take her into the past, to the city her grandmother describes in her nightly tales. Other times they take her into the depths of the fresh water ocean which covers the entire planet. She can't help wondering what it is which lives beneath the waves.

Meri! Keep your mind on your work, Her grandmother's voice recalls the girl to reality, You'll ruin those clothes if you don't pay attention.

Yes, Grandmother. Meredith tries her best to concentrate on the task at hand, but is soon lost in her daydreams again. By the time they set to work preparing the midday meal, Meredith's grandmother is thoroughly frustrated with the girl's lack of presence of mind and sends her out to get more of the watered wine.

Outside the house, Meredith moves herself and her small cart carefully through those working to clean up the village. At the winemaker's, she takes a minute to taste a new offering the elderly man has been preparing.

They won't let me make it any stronger, He gripes as he secures a keg onto the small cart, Still, I think it's a better taste to it.

It's odd, Meredith sniffs the contents of the glass before taking another sip, I'm not sure it's better.

The elderly man shrugs. Always wine, always watered... for the children, they say. Well, give your grandmother my best and take care on the walkways.

I will. Meredith hauls the keg across the village to her home, still careful to avoid those working. Inside, she finds the rest of the family washing up for the meal. As soon as she has given her grandmother both the keg and the winemaker's well wishes, Meredith washes up as well.

By sunset, most of the work is done and Meredith is able to slip away to her favourite spot on the edge of the floats. No one is around to stop her dangling her bare feet in the water as she watches the sun disappear into the vast ocean. The water turns crimson for several minutes before becoming the deep blue of night. Once the sun is down completely, Meredith gets up and returns home to prepare for another session of her grandmother's tales of the past.

As usual, Meredith goes to bed with her head full of the luxurious floating city and the crowds of people who lived there. Without wind or rain to lull her to sleep, Meredith lays awake for a long time, her mind drifting from one vision to the next. Across the room, Seren is fast asleep before Meredith begins to drift.

Meredith is just on the edge of sleep when she becomes aware of soft music. It's the same haunting melody she had heard during the storm. But before much else about it can register, she falls asleep completely.

A quarter of a month passes and life goes on as usual. Meredith still hears the music every night, just on the edge of sleep, but is never alert enough to attach any meaning to it. Then another severe storm blows up, seemingly from nowhere. Even the third generation, who possess the strongest affinity for the weather, are nearly caught unaware. It's all the villagers can do to get everything tethered and sealed before the howling wind and driving rain overpower them.

It's still afternoon, well before the evening meal, so Meredith and her family occupy themselves with small tasks which can be done anywhere. Seren helps their grandmother with mending clothes for the whole family. Cian and their father make lures for fishing. Meredith sets stitches in a quilt intended as a gift for a couple who are to be married in a few days time.

As she works, Meredith's mind wanders back and forth between the past and the ocean. Then, just at the edge of a daydream, she can hear the music again. It's mingled with the heavy wind and rain, but there is very distinctly someone singing out in the storm. Meredith shivers at the thought and returns her attention to stitching the quilt.

The evening meal is a quiet one and, once things are clean, the family gathers around the heater to listen to their grandmother's tales again. Except this evening, the elderly woman surveys the faces around her and hesitates.

My generation lives too much in the past, She slowly shakes her head, We spend too much time glorifying that which really deserves no glory at all. So tonight's tale will be different, perhaps something closer to the truth of things.

Seren and Cian frown at this. Meredith just looks curious as their grandmother speaks.

"You know we came to this world from that place beyond memory. We came in great space going ships with everything we needed to build the floating city and live there in comfort. Perhaps we didn't know there was another race here... perhaps whoever sent us here without our memories didn't care. Still, there was trouble with that race beneath the waves right from the beginning.

"Thinking back now, I doubt either side took any time to understand the point of view of the other. We built our city in the location of our choosing and they harassed us no end because of it. We set out defences against them and they destroyed those defences time and time again. Then the storms started.

I don't hold with those who believe that race beneath the waves causes the storms. I don't see how any creature could have so much control over the weather. Still, the winds, rain, and waves have damaged and destroyed the floats and shrunk the city down, bit by bit, to this little village. People were pulled from the edges of the floats and found drown, then not found at all, The elderly woman shakes her head sadly, It is truly a losing battle we're fighting, yet we've nowhere to go. Those who sent us here from that place beyond memory seem to care nothing of our fate.

We're still here, Seren frowns, None have been lost in the last three storms.

True, Her grandmother concedes, And you all know we'll keep pressing forward 'til the last float. But there is no sign of the storms relenting and it's getting hard to get any food, as you well know. I cannot help but wonder what might have been different for us had we started our lives in this world more peaceably, She takes a deep breath, I'm depressing all of you in the midst of this storm. Let me see if I can think of a more cheerful tale to send you to sleep.

Could you tell us one of the stories your mother taught you? Seren requests.

That I can do, Her grandmother agrees readily, Let's see... Oh, I know a good one, She shifts positions in her seat.

One dark rainy night a young girl was sent out by her mother to fetch a bucket of water. The girl's brother was ill and their mother wished to make broth for him. But when the girl arrived at the nearest well, the cover was tightly closed and locked. Knowing her mother truly needed the water, the girl trudged through the dark and wet to the next well, which was farther away, only to find it also sealed and locked. The girl despaired, not knowing where there was another well which she might use to fill up her bucket. She dropped the bucket and slumped down on the ground beside it. Tears came and she buried her head in her arms as the rain fell even harder around her.

After a time a voice came from above her, Child, why are you crying?

The girl looked up to see an older woman standing in front of her. My brother is ill and my mother needs water to make a broth for him, but the wells are closed up tight and I cannot fill my bucket.

"But your bucket is full, The woman directed her attention to where the nearly overflowing bucket sat on the ground, You have all the good water you need."

"But how?" The girl frowned in confusion.

"These wells may be sealed, The woman told her, But the sky is overflowing with water tonight. Take it home to your mother and I'm sure your brother will be well in no time at all."

"Thank you." The girl stood and picked up the full bucket. She hauled it home and her mother made a hot, tasty broth for her brother to drink. The girl, cold and wet from her walk, drank a little of the broth and went to bed early because she did not want to become ill herself.

Come morning, the girl's brother was completely well. When her mother, puzzled by his miraculous recovery, asked where the water for the broth had come from, the girl explained that it was rain water because the wells had been closed and locked. This only puzzled her mother more because rain water was no different than well water. Then the girl told her mother about the woman who had pointed out the overflowing bucket.

Knowing there was no such woman living anywhere near, the mother decided her family had been blessed by a miracle indeed and asked no more questions.

There, Meredith's grandmother eases