Chapter 1: Audrey
“Ninety-two bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-two bottles of beer...” I sang.
I squelched through the mud and water, picking out bits of broken bottle and clumps of seaweed and putting them in the bucket I carried on my arm. I lifted my candle to light up the damp, dark area. As I did, it reflected off something a few feet away in the shin-deep water. I sloshed over as I felt something brush against my leg and I jumped. I looked and saw a dead trout float past. I shuddered.
I really hated cleaning out my aunt’s basement.
I walked over to the shiny object and picked it up and sighed. It was just another piece of bottle. My bonnet fell over my eyes, and I stopped just short of adjusting it with my wet and muddy hand. I did not want to have wet hair as well. I jumped and yelped as someone behind me said quietly “Boo.” I jerked around to find a boy with long brown-blond hair slicked over his head, laughing like crazy. My twin brother, Robin, the sneakiest and most annoying human being on the face of the earth. I scowled and splashed him. That’s when I noticed something in his bucket.
“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to the blue thing.
He looked confused and looked at his bucket, then pulled out a blue orb. Maybe it was just my imagination, but it seemed to be glowing slightly. “I’m not sure,” he said, “I just found it next to some yarn. The yarn was completely soaked by the way.”
I rolled my eyes. “Thank you, Captain Obvious.”
He shrugged. “Just saying. But seriously, remind me why we’re down here again. There’s nothing down here but rubbish.”
I sighed. “For the last time, we’re looking for anything that wasn’t damaged. Maybe there are some jars of jam that are still sealed or something.”
He snorted. “Yeah...or something.”
I sloshed back to the ladder. “Well, it’s getting late anyways. I think we’ve looked enough.”
The two of us climbed out of the basement. As Robin closed the trapdoor behind us, I took a towel and dried off my feet and hands. Then, I took the clothespins off my dress that had kept it pinned around my knees. Both of us walked back into the sitting room, where our aunt, sitting on the couch, looked up from her embroidery. Her eyes were hopeful. “Did you find anything?”
I emptied my bucket onto the coffee table in front of her. I rooted through the objects. True, most of it was rubbish, but there was no telling when you might find something valuable that had been forgotten for years. But what Robin and I emptied out of our buckets were bits of broken glass, driftwood, seaweed, seaweed, and more seaweed.
Aunt Katherine sighed resignedly and scraped the seaweed back into my bucket. “More soup tonight I suppose.”
Robin groaned and I elbowed him. True, seaweed soup had gotten old after the first week (and especially after the first year), but what could we do? Ever since the lake had flooded, it had been difficult to get out of the village, which had had to be moved to the hills, where there was little to no land for farming.
Aunt Kathy sighed and stood up. “I’d better get your father up. You two run along and see if Professor Cambridge has anything. Perhaps he has a chicken or two we can mix in.”
Robert snorted and I elbowed him again. But I couldn’t help but agree with him. Professor Albert was a vegetarian. Everyone in the village knew Aunt Kathy fancied him. It was one of those “secrets” that isn’t a secret at all except to those involved.
But, just to have something to do, my brother and I walked out of the house. I wrinkled my nose. The day was warm, so the smell of the dead fish floating in the lake was worse than usual. That’s when I remembered: “Hey Robert, why didn’t you show Auntie that orb you found?”
Robert blinked, then his eyes widened in realization. “Oh! I completely forgot about it!” he gasped and dug the sphere out of his pocket. Now that it was daylight, I could see it more clearly. It was perfectly round, and made out of what looked like some kind of polished stone. It was a strange color, or colors really, blue and green with specks of white. Was it just me, or had the waves behind us gotten louder? I looked behind us and saw that water seemed to be higher. I shook my head. It was probably just nerves.
“Come on,” I said motioning, “You can show it to the professor when we get to his house.” We walked along the side of the hill, keeping as far away from the water, and the smell of dead fish, as possible while still keeping on our course. After a few minutes of walking, we came to a small yellow house on a cliff that jutted out over the water. A windchime hanging from the porch tinkled softly in the breeze. I walked up and knocked on the door. It was opened by a slightly pudgy, frizzy-haired man with wire-framed spectacles. Professor Albert grinned.
“Oh, hello Audrey!” he practically yelled. “What brings you here?”
I jumped. “Why are you yelling?” I asked.
“What?” he yelled.
I sighed. “I. Said.” I said raising my voice. “Why. Are. You. Yelling?”
“Wait, wait,” he said in a normal tone. He reached into his ears and took out two wax cylinders. “There. Now, what were you saying?”
I shook my head. Sometimes I felt like I was the only sane person in the entire province of Vesi. “My aunt wanted to know if you had any chicken we could trade for to mix into our soup.”
The professor’s brow crinkled in confusion. “Your aunt... does know I’m a vegetarian, right?”
“She has short term memory problems,” Robin said.
I facepalmed. “Why did you have wax in your ears?”
He shrugged. “I was trying to make a pump out of spare parts to see if I could stop your aunt’s basement...” he blinked and backtracked hurriedly, “I mean, the basements of everyone from flooding. Yes, that’s what I mean. Anyways, it was very loud, and it kind of exploded.” Like I said, a secret to all but those involved. The professor leaned forward. “What’s that?” he asked. I was confused for a second until Robin pulled out the blue orb he had found. The professor took the orb and studied it, turning it over in his hands before giving it back. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said, “Where did you find it?”
“My aunt’s basement” said Robin. “We figured you might know what-” Suddenly there was a loud roaring sound. I turned and choked back a gasp. The water was rising. And not in the traditional sense. A waterspout seemed to grow out of the water like a beanstalk, hovering over us. We backed up nervously. Then the water came crashing down.
For a few seconds I couldn’t breathe. I struggled in the water. Then it was over. I lay on the water ground, soaking wet and gasping for air. I sat up. Something was wrong. The professor was there. His house had somehow not been damaged. But Robin and the orb were gone.