Eating Clouds

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Chapter 14: The Shiny Lake

Ozzy felt his cheeks burning up with both shame and fear. “W-what?”

Dawn sighed and turned her back on him. “I won’t look. Just take of your clothes and get in.”

Ozzy looked at the water and back to the blonde girl, who had her arms crossed. He’d rather ask her to leave right now, but for some reason he suspected she wouldn’t until he had entered the water.

Ozzy walked further towards the edge of the bank. He glanced over his shoulder every ten seconds to make sure she wasn’t peeking as he pulled the robe over his head. He put it down gently on the stone floor and kicked his shoes off. His sneakers seemed so out of place next to the old fashioned garment.

He glanced over his shoulder once more, but Dawn did as she promised. With one foot first, the boy touched the surface of the lake. It was cold and created goosebumps all over his body. He heard Dawn sigh, and knew he should hurry.

He took one step first, the water came up to his knees. With the next step, it reached his navel. He held his arms up and his shoulders were frozen in a shrug. His teeth chattered as he went in deeper and deeper.

Suddenly, the bottom disappeared under his feet. He sunk down, the water reaching over his head. He saw nothing but light surrounding him, as if he’d fallen into the sun. He waved his arms and feet around, touching nothing but light. He struggled underwater till he found the higher spot again. He saw Dawn standing at the river bank, her face caught in a frown. When Ozzy appeared above the surface again, it changed to a smirk.

“There. Was that so hard?”

Ozzy coughed the water from his mouth and shivered. Dawn’s smirk disappeared.

“Well, I’m just over there. I have more important stuff to do.” With that said, she turned around to walk towards the tunnel, back to the underground castle.

“Wait!” Ozzy called out, as he found the breath to speak. “What am I supposed to do?”

Dawn turned around on one foot and shrugged her shoulders. “Just fool around a bit. I’ll come get you in one hour, that should be enough to heal everything.” She turned around again, but halted again. “Just…shout, if you need anything. I’ll hear it.”

Then she disappeared. Ozzy stared at the dark tunnel, feeling a bit lost. He was alone, in this giant shiny cave.

Dawn had left the lantern behind. He stared at it, thinking he should probably tell her. But she’d probably get mad at him again. If she didn’t come back herself to get it, she was probably able to find the castle in the dark on her own.

Ozzy couldn’t swim. Even if he could, the water was too cold for anyone to move around in for a long time. Ozzy decided to sit down at the higher spots, leaning against the stone walls. He let the water reach his chin, but not any further. That split second under was enough for one day.

He held one of his hands in front of his face to see if the scratches from the day before had already healed. They didn’t seem to have changed at all. Maybe Dawn had lied to him.

He let the hand sink back and sighed. This wasn’t how he imagined the magical forest to be. He imagined peaceful little houses full of elves and gnomes and even the kind little trolls, who lived around these parts as well. He was interested in meeting them as well. And the gnomes.

Ozzy felt betrayed by Eddy. He hadn’t told him anything about what was going on in Gilmore. All the beautiful lies he’d told all matched what the book had showed him of the magical world. And there was no word about a bird. It just wasn’t fair.

The boy splattered his hand in the water, as if wrinkling the surface would somehow help him with his anger. When Eddy came back, he would question him about everything. Nothing would get past him anymore.

The water didn’t seem as cold as it was at first, and Ozzy actually felt quite comfortable. It was almost like a blanket surrounding him, or a hug from big arms. After a while, the boy stood up. He had enough of sitting around. After all, Dawn told him to ‘fool around’. So that was exactly what he was going to do.

He didn’t go to the deeper parts, but stayed close to the banks. He splattered his feet around, causing shiny waves to appear. He chuckled to himself. He could pretend to control the water, like a real wizard would.

He made a cup of his hands, filled it with and threw it around. This was his ‘water grenade’. A very powerful attack, he said so himself. He also added ‘wave kick’ and ‘water turner’ to the list, and soon he was the most powerful wizard in the cave.

After a while, he started to make sounds with every attack he used. “Oah! Hah! Hyaaa!”

They got louder and louder, and even became sentences. “You will not defeat me…for I am the most powerful wizard on this planet!”

He used ‘Wave Kick’ on his invisible enemy, who died instantly. Ozzy was victorious.

After a while, the boy got tired. He sat down at the side again, feeling satisfied. Playing in the water was fun. It was almost like reading a book; he got lost in a world only known to him.

Books. That reminded him of someone.

The boy suddenly felt sad. He missed the old book seller. The joy of pranking him, or seeing how long it would take till he got actually mad at him.

Ozzy leaned his head back against the stones. He remembered the time Gerald first caught him reading at the special table in the special place. It was the first and only time the boy had felt guilty towards the old man as he seemed really hurt by what he had done. Most of the times, Gerald just seemed annoyed, but he was emotionally damaged. Ozzy would never forget that time.

He sat on the big chair by the reading table. The desk lamp shone a bright light on the pages of a new book he’d just found this afternoon. It was called ‘Tales of the Unfamiliar’. It contained all kinds of mystical stories about strange creatures and far off lands. Ozzy didn’t hear the old man entering the special room, he only snapped out of his reading when he heard a shocked gasp.

He glanced over to see Gerald standing in the doorway, his jaw dropped and his eyes widened.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing here?”

He almost ran over to the table, grabbed the boy by his arm and pulled him from the chair.

“Gerald! What are YOU doing?” the boy had responded. The old man grabbed the book Ozzy was reading with both his hands and threw it as far away as possible. The book hit a wall and a few pages got loose. They danced around and lay still on the floor.

The old mad started to stroke the table gently, mumbling softly. “Oh no, oh dear, oh no.”

Ozzy opened his mouth to sneer at the book seller, but his voice got stuck in his throat.

The old man was crying.

The boy blinked in utter shock. Snot dripped from the old man’s nose into his moustache as he laid his cheek on the table. It almost as if he’d lost something.

Ozzy slowly stepped backwards, towards the door. He didn’t care the book was damaged. He’d damaged something way more valuable.

He ran out of the store. He ran as fast as he could, feeling tears stinging behind his eyes. He didn’t know the old man could cry.

The bell above the door sounded as the boy left. He ran down the street, his head bowed. He bumped into other people on the streets and apologized many times.

But not to those people.

The following days, the boy didn’t dare to come close to the book store. He felt like he was banned from that place from now on. He’d done something unforgivable.

What his evil deed was he didn’t know. But he imagined it had to be evil for Gerald to cry like that.

But it seemed the love the boy carried for books was greater than his determination. After four days, he dared to peek through the front windows. He spotted the old man, sitting at the service desk, resting his head on top of it and snoring loudly.

It looked normal like always.

Ozzy bit his lip. He wanted to enter so bad. But if he’d open the door, the bell would ring and the old man would wake up. Normally, the old man would greet him with ‘Oh, it’s you. Don’t cause any trouble, will yah?’

In his fantasy scenario of this situation, Ozzy predicted the old man wouldn’t greet him at all, but scare him away with a pitchfork or something.

So he left.

A day later, he entered the store. Gerald was snoring again, and opened his eyes slightly as the boy came in.

Ozzy didn’t look at him, but kept his head bowed, his dark hair hiding his shameful eyes.

The old man just yawned, leaned back in his chair and said: “Oh, it’s you. Don’t cause any trouble, will yah?”

The boy slowly lifted his head, his eyes widened. Gerald just rubbed in his eyes with his knuckles and stretched his shoulders. When his eyes caught the boy looking he frowned. ’Oh, also; there’s a place in the back. There’s a table and everything. You can go there if you want.”

Ozzy blinked. He didn’t understand it. He’d done something horrible, yet the old man acted as if nothing ever happened. He opened his mouth to say something intelligent, but he couldn’t. He was just happy Gerald wasn’t mad at him anymore.

“Don’t get any weird ideas, Ozzy” the man added as Ozzy sprinted to the secret door. “Just this once. If I find you there on any other time...!”

There was a shadow. It hung above him. A cold breeze surrounded him, pushing him forward and pulling him back like a ship at sea. A loud scream travelled through the air, hurting his ears.

Ozzy couldn’t run. Every step he took he lost double. The distance between him and the shadow got smaller and smaller by the second. He couldn’t escape the shadow’s wrath.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

His own voice pierced through the flashy images and called Ozzy back to the underground lake he lay in. He panted as the blurry world got sharper and sharper. The shadow disappeared, there was no coldness, no screaming.

He sat there, leaning against the wall. There was a lot of light surrounding him, but only parts of the landscape reached his eye sight. He blinked and blinked.

Then his ears were turned on. First, there was a long high pitched tone. At the background he could hear voices which became clearer and clearer.

“Ozzy! Come back here!”

“Osman, it’s alright….just….ah, crack-a-doo.”

“I knew this was a bad idea…”

“I shouldn’t have left!”

“No, Dawn, I’ll be alright. Just…tend to him first.”

“But…Buck, this is….”

“Just do it!”

Then the curtain was lifted off his eyesight. Ozzy could see clearly. He expected to see the big cave and the beautiful shiny lake and crystal pillars, but none of it was left. The cave was in ruins.

Ozzy felt panic in his stomach. The cave lay around him in ruins, the bright sky of the afternoon shining directly into the crater in the ground.

“What….” he whispered. He was surrounded by giant rocks, all barely crushing him. He managed to crawl up and look over the remains. He caught sight of three figures standing not far away from him.

Buck leaned heavily onto Dawn, his face covered in blood and his leg twisted in a weird turn. Dawn’s eyes were watery as she didn’t look away from the man once. Eddy flew around the rocks, calling out Ozzy’s name several times over.

The boy stood between the ruins, and gulped. “What’s going on?”

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