Featured Art by Kirsten on PenUP/SnapSeed
Miss Vivi Rich tapped her foot to invisible music in the comfort of her cloud-like bubble bath. After boiling in the tub, she imagined herself taking the form of a lobster when finished, or maybe a mermaid, if she was lucky. If such a thing exists, Vivi thought.
Settled in the corner of her enormous soaking tub for four, she stared at a gold egg in her palm, wondering when she’d be worthy of its power. Without taking her eyes from its glowing hue, Vivi roamed around the tub and sat in the middle, over the drain. Floods of random thoughts plagued her. If I fell through, where would I go, the garage? The kitchen? What if I went to another world?
She opened the drain. Nothing happened.
What happened to the portal? My ability to breathe underwater. Where are my fins to venture the deep seas? My treasures… She was told the egg would give her these things by the Amethyst, an eccentric yet well-respected haven of mystics, oracles and any other magical oddities. Miss Rich paid fifty million to take the egg off their hands. With it, Vivi saw her dream of creating an ocean world that much closer to becoming a reality.
Hoping to prove she was worthy, she closed the drain and submerged herself with the egg. Seconds later, she whips her head upward. “AHH!” Vivi screamed murder, running a hand through her wet hair to see what she hoped she didn’t see. “AAAHH!”
Trembling, she stared at the female intruder in the tub. Her hair was kissed by a rainbow, molded to her head from the water. There’s a smile on her bare, pleasant face, and her strange fins fluttered. Vivi didn’t want to know what was beneath.
“Pardon me. I am not here to harm you,” she said. “I seek one thing. Once I have it, I’ll be on my way.”
She slithered out the tub. Her fins mop the tile floor to a high sheen sliding across it. Vivi clutched the edge of the tub, peering over. There was no way to call for help since she left her phone beside the bed, leagues away. She reached for her towel to get out, but the strange woman slithered back in…
“I’m here for the egg,” she whispered. She’s so close, Vivi can feel the heat off her bare body. The egg was still in her hand, hidden beneath the cloudy bubbles.
“Get away!” Vivi shouted, splashing water at the intruder. The woman paid Vivi no mind as she kissed her on the cheek and went under, taking the egg from her grasp.
“NO!” Vivi shouts.
The drain gurgles when opened, sending the cozy bath water away, with the strange woman, and the gold egg.
Later, the local police station buzzed with activity. Who stole Vivi Rich’s gold egg? Who was the strange female culprit? Investigators narrowed the search down to one person in particular: a poet by the name of Autumn Ocean. Her social media was filled with images of the gold egg in question, strange tall tales about its history, and the eggs’ special purpose.
When the authorities had no luck finding Autumn, they scanned her social media for clues. They got a hit from her friends’ list with a man named Andrew Waters, a lower-level employee of Miss Rich’s company. He was brought in by two seasoned investigators, anxious to crack the case.
“Why am I here?” Andrew asked.
He’d been here before, beneath the all-seeing fluorescent light, in the same dank gray claustrophobic room. Inside, his conscience screamed for a lawyer, but his lips didn’t agree. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything, Andrew reminded himself.
“You tell us,” Investigator Diaz said. “Where’s the stolen egg?”
“Stolen what? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I haven’t stolen anything.”
“You got an agenda against Miss Rich?” Investigator Jones asked. He leans against the door, guarding it like a bouncer outside a club. He took a long sip of his coffee, watching Andrew closely.
“What? N-No,” Andrew said.
“What’s your relationship with Autumn Ocean?” Investigator Diaz asked.
“Don’t play stupid. The poet you’re in love with,” Investigator Jones said, laughing behind the tiny coffee cup hovering at his lips. He took another sip.
Andrew sat back in his chair, bewildered and lost for words. Knowing they cracked him just a tiny bit, the investigators press on.
“We analyzed your social media. You’ve liked every single one of Autumn’s posts. Including some strange, recent poems about an egg, the same one stolen from Miss Rich. But you want to go on the record that you don’t know Autumn Ocean?” Diaz asked.
“I don’t! She’s just a person that writes—”
“A criminal that writes,” Jones said, interrupting Andrew.
“Well, I don’t know anything about that.”
“Where were you at 7 p.m. this evening?” Diaz buzzes around Andrew, circling him.
“Jones? Have one of the girls verify that,” Diaz said, smiling. Andrew watched his cold, gray-colored ceiling eyes. He watched Jones too, typing on his phone, blocking the only way out.
Diaz continued, “analysis of your social media shows you liked Autumn’s posts she made about the egg, minutes after the robbery took place.”
“Is that a crime to look at her social media?”
“I thought you didn’t know her,” Jones said.
“And you said you didn’t know anything about the egg,” Diaz said, grinning.
Andrew sighed. He closed his eyes and took deep breaths. “I didn’t know it was stolen,” he said.
“Nervous, huh? We noticed your posts seem like hers. Then after, hers seem like yours,” Diaz said, swiping through the social media evidence on his tablet.
“I don’t know her! I just read her stuff and I like it, from time to time! It’s inspiring.”
“You liked the same amount of each other’s posts on the same day,” Jones said, looking over Diaz’s shoulder at the tablet.
“Oh my God, man… so what?”
“Are you involved with Autumn Ocean?” Diaz asked.
“You were a part of this crime, weren’t you? That’s why you were reading her posts for updates around the same time the egg was taken.”
“That’s not true!”
“You’re lying! It’s here.” Diaz slams the tablet down, pointing a hard finger on the screen. “Don’t lie to us, Andrew. You liked her posts about the egg!”
“What do you know about that woman’s magic shenanigans?” Jones asks.
“Magic? Eggs? You guys are nuts. This is crazy.”
“You don’t like your pay, so you worked with Autumn to steal this egg from the CEO of the company you work for so you can, what, take your share and fund your other criminal activities? We saw your record, you’re a felon.” Diaz slams a manila folder on the table. Andrew doesn’t touch it; he already knew what was inside.
“Wrongfully charged, that should be in my file too.”
“Doesn’t matter. You did time, that’s what people remember. Not the happy ending. Who helped you get outta that? You pay someone off?” Diaz chuckled.
Posted by the door again, Jones points his thick finger in Andrew’s direction. “That’s why you took the egg, to settle old debts to overturn your record.”
“I don’t know anything about a stolen egg, I just liked two posts… about an egg.” Andrew sighs, hearing the harsh melody of batons tapping against cold, metal prison bars during every bunk check. “Listen, like I said, I was at work. I’m not involved in this.”
“Yup. Sure you weren’t. Working at Miss Rich’s company, on her time, reading posts from the criminal who robbed her. Yeah, we know all about you,” Diaz said, pointing in Andrew’s face. “We pulled your employee records and saw your performance issues. You don’t attend any company gatherings; you have an attendance issue and four H.R. complaints against you.”
“No, no, no… That’s because of this girl I was involved in. We used to work together. She made false complaints, got me arrested. When the truth came out, I got my job back but had to deal with her friends making bogus complaints about me. Listen, I don’t have time for this—” Andrew rises from his seat. Jones sees this, puffing his chest, ready to fight.
“Can’t leave yet, bud,” Jones said, smirking. He blocks the door with his intimidating lumberjack body.
“What’s your agenda against Miss Rich? What are your plans with Autumn and the egg?” Diaz sat opposite Andrew now, set on ripping the truth out of him.
“Pfft, man…” Andrew sighed.
“What do you know about the egg?” Diaz continued.
“What are you hiding?” Jones adds.
“You’re gonna get locked up again.” Diaz smiles, “forever this time.”
“I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING!”
Andrew screamed, his open palm slams down on the table, almost knocking it over. The investigators shoot grins at one another. Behind Jones, the door swings open. A woman comes in whispering to him and leaves. Jones goes over to Diaz, whispering in his ear.
Diaz kept his eyes on Andrew as he nods, listening to Jones.
“Looks like you’re free to go, Mr. Waters. Footage from your work confirms you were in the office when the robbery took place.”
“Finally,” Andrew said, rising from his seat.
“We’ll be back with more questions. Don’t leave town, Mr. Waters,” Diaz said.
Andrew ignored that and brushed past Jones as he exited.
Back at home, Andrew read Autumn’s last post five times since she posted it — three minutes ago. It was clear he had a crush on the poet. Even though she had a name, and seemed real, Andrew figured she, as well as everyone on the web, was fake. You could be anyone, every day, anytime, like a forever Halloween. So, he didn’t focus too much on the person behind the words, but on the words itself. That proved difficult with Autumn. Her words drew him into her character, but after dealing with the authorities because of her, she only scared him as that rush of fear he felt at the station returned. I can’t get locked up again. What am I doing? He thought, staring at his laptop screen.
He pressed the like button of Autumn’s post and slammed the laptop shut, the slimy investigators still on his mind. Andrew looked around his room, wondering if they were watching him now. No, stop it, you’re just overthinking things. He closed his eyes, trying to focus. He only saw Autumn, his muse…
“I need some air.”
Reflecting on the crazy day he had, Andrew went in his yard to stare at the stars, drinking a cold brew he felt he earned as a bright, horizontal streak of pink lightning ripped through the pitch-black sky. The can hovered at his lips, shocked at the sight as a pale horse plunged from inside the rips’ center. The majestic creature’s monofin turns into legs running towards him, stopping inches from his lawn chair, surrounded by an exotic glow of lime green, electric fuchsia, shocking yellow and majestic cerulean watery colors.
“Andrew Waters, come with me,” the horse exclaimed with the voice of a sweet young woman.
Before he could reply, a strange power lifted Andrew from his lawn chair, seating him on top of the horse’s back. He fumbled about and tried to jump off, but the horse rears its forelegs off the ground, making him hold on for dear life. They take off, crashing through his backyard fence and down the neighborhood to the beach. Alarms and sirens sound as her mighty gallop shakes the earth.
“No—stop!” Andrew yelled. “I’ll drown! I can’t swim,” he said, feeling ashamed as they approached the ocean.
“You won’t! Take my bag, I have something for you inside.”
Andrew scans the horse and finds a small, lime green fanny pack buckled around her neck. He unzips, retrieving the only thing inside: the gold egg.
“Is this the—” he rubbed his eyes, shocked, careful not to touch the egg. “Who are you?”
“I’m Autumn. Autumn Ocean… I’m sorry for the trouble the authorities involved you in because of me.”
“Autumn? What the hell—?”
“I am a creature of the sea, Andrew. Sometimes I can be human, too. I know this is rather peculiar. I promise once I explain everything will be clear…”
Andrew heard the bars slam shut in his head again. Two years of wrongful imprisonment. Another twenty if he went with the horse fish girl. God, help me… What do I do?
“I can’t get in trouble again,” he pleads.
“You did nothing wrong. Come with me.”
“Where?” Andrew held up the strange egg, “and what do I do with this?”
“Just hold it,” she said, “only the worthy can use its power where we’re going.”
“Into the depths of my world.”
“Am… I worthy? I mean, how do you know? I feel like I’ve died, and this is some weird afterlife test,” he chuckled. “Just tell me the truth. Are we going to heaven, or hell?”
“Neither! There’s no such thing where I’m from. And of course you’re worthy. Please, let’s continue. May I?”
Andrew held onto Autumn. She dives into the ocean all the way down, faster than the speed of light. To him, it felt like seconds as he clutched his arms tight around her neck with the egg in his grasp. Water splashed hard against his face, forcing his eyes shut. He feels air, and a strange heat blankets his face. When Andrew opened his eyes, he was lying in a massive hammock, attached to two large oak trees beneath a starless, violet-black sky and two gray-blue moons. One sat atop the other, like a double one domino. Frantically, he searched his surroundings through wet hair plastered to his face. The ocean was nowhere to be found, replaced with endless emerald grass. Where am I?
He spun around into the cotton candy pink eyes of Autumn, staring back at him. Andrew gasped as her tail, the last of her horse form, vanished into a trail of sparkling gold dust.
“You are real,” Andrew said, wiping the hair off his face. The egg was still in his hand. Autumn smiled, standing before him in her human form. Her long, dark brown hair covered her nakedness. He recognized her from her profile photo, Autumn’s face, that was; he didn’t mind getting to know the rest…
“Why me?” he asked, climbing down from the hammock.
“You’re my muse, as I am yours… and I need your help with a poem.”
Andrew’s eyes widened, Autumn smiled.
“Now you can reach me anytime if you carry your gold egg with you into the ocean. We’ll always find each other.”
Andrew had trouble making eye contact, so he spoke to the ground. “How long does the egg’s powers last?”
“Forever. It’s a gift from my kind to humankind. A gift meant for you until that greedy Amethyst plundered our treasures weeks ago. I meant to surprise you with it, in a different way, of course, nothing like what you’ve been through. I’m sorry again, for the trouble.”
It was crazy. Absolutely nonsensical. Andrew didn’t care. He looked up, matching her kind smile. For the first time, he felt lucky.
“I’m in no rush to return,” he said.
They sat in their hammock talking and writing poetry from the two moons’ haunting glow, to the blue-amber radiance of the two rising suns.