Chapter 27: Changing Tydes
Matt looked around at the lapping waves and sighed.
So, a man and his son are stranded on a desert island. Sounds like the start of a bad joke, doesn’t it?
It was true. It was only his dad, him, the stereotypical palm tree, and even a little message in a bottle that he hadn’t opened yet. He sat in the sand and leaned back against the tree. With all his vivid imagination, why couldn’t Tyson have dreamed up was a dessert island instead? What a difference a single S made.
There was nothing but ocean in every direction except for one, and in that direction there stood a little island with a huge building on it. Not an inch of beach showed around the building, as though it just stuck up from the seafloor.
It had been constructed of creepy black stones with every kind of gargoyle sticking out of the sides, part cathedral, part Dracula’s castle. As he stared at the fortress, he had a sinking feeling that was where Tyson was being held.
The island wasn’t that far away, but the water was pretty choppy, and who knew what sorts of things could be hiding beneath the waves? To make matters worse, the dark clouds circled like vultures above them, forecasting stormy weather.
This was no time to let his dad have his beauty sleep. He chewed on his lip, deciding whether to splash seawater on his dad’s face, or to try dropping a coconut on his head. In the end, the better angels of his nature won out.
His dad spluttered and flailed his arms as the briny water hit his face. He opened his mouth to protest when a second wave filled it. Now spitting and wide awake, he swiveled around, and rolled away just in time to avoid a third stream of salty water.
“Matt, cut it out! I’m awake already. That stuff isn’t exactly bathwater.”
Matt stopped his splashing and stood, brushing the sand off his knees. “This is it, dad. I think we’re at the top of the Tower.”
He pointed towards the dark building only a short distance away. For the first time, he noticed the sign over the door: “PUBLIC LIBRARY-CARDMEMBERS ONLY”
“A library, huh? That must be where he’s getting all of his crazy books. Let’s get over there. How’s your swimming?”
His dad started towards the edge of the beach and Matt sloshed through the wet sand to bar his way. “Dad,” Matt said. “Wait a second. It’s not going to be a normal library behind those doors where the worst thing you could find is a cranky librarian who tells you to keep it down. There’s a crazy, evil magician who probably wants us dead. We should think this through.”
His dad shrugged. “We’ve come this far, haven’t we? I think we can figure it out.”
His dad tried to move forward, but Matt caught his shoulder. “Dad, your knowledge of the Dewey Decimal System is not going to help you with this one. Face it. Before, we had Bahati, but she’s not here anymore. For all we know she’s dinner for those bone creatures. We can’t let all that go to waste.”
Neil glanced up at the library and then at his son’s face. “Okay, then. What do you propose we do?”
Matt moved his head from side to side, scanning the entire island in seconds. “In all of the other floors, there was some sort of guide to help us. I think we should look around for him.”
His dad chuckled and pointed upwards. “Oh? You think he might be hiding in the coconut tree? Because if you do, I wouldn’t climb up there myself. I’m starving.”
Then Matt’s eyes fell on the message in the green bottle that had washed up soon after their arrival. Without explaining himself to his dad, he walked over and bent down to retrieve it. A cork plugged the mouth of the bottle which contained a single piece of paper. With a yank, he unstopped the bottle and turned it upside down to dislodge the paper. He caught it with his other hand and unrolled it, anxious to read it.
As he unrolled the parchment, he noticed that it had been separated into two sections by a thick black line. The top section read:
Say the Magic Words to enter the Magic World
The bottom section looked quite different:
Tyde’s Ferry Service
Good for one free ferry trip to any destination.
Offer good for one person-no weight limit.
Redeem by standing near the water and tearing coupon in half.
Matt squinted and read the strange paper several times then motioned for his dad to come. “What do you think?” he asked.
“I guess we’ll need the top half to get into the library, and the second half could get one of us across to the island. But I don’t know if we’ll need it. It’s really not a long swim. You can use it if you want—I don’t mind swimming.”
Matt nodded, but knew that it would not be as simple as that. Though he wished he could deny it, this was the place he had seen in the mirror, and things were about to get a lot worse.
A thunderclap startled them both and they ended up clutching each other tightly. When Matt realized what he was doing, he jumped back, falling back into the sand.
At nearly the same instant, a light rain fell, growing stronger by the minute. His dad turned to the small patch of sea separating them from the library. “We had better get going before the weather gets any worse. Are you ready?”
Matt got up and brushed himself off. “I guess. We can always plan more when we get to the other side.”
His dad nodded and made his way through the damp sand towards the narrow strip of sea. Matt followed, putting his feet in his dad’s footprints in the sand. When his dad reached the edge, he hesitated for a moment. The waves were getting bigger every minute. This would not be like swimming a lap at the local swimming pool.
“Here goes nothing,” he called back as he stepped forward a few paces in the water. “Phew, that’s pretty chilly. Give me a second to get used to it.”
His dad had waded up to his knees when Matt caught a glimpse of something unnatural moving in the water.
“It’s probably just a fish,” he muttered. “Tyson loves Dr. Seuss, right? One fish, two fish, red fish…”
Suddenly, a boney snout poked out of the waves. Matt was certain that nothing in Dr. Seuss’s worlds had quite so many sharp teeth. “Dad, look out!”
His dad struggled to turn around on the slushy surface. The creature reared up and then shot forward through the water—a skeletlich in the form of a massive crocodile. From the bank Matt ran forward, brandishing a coconut.
As his dad raced towards the shore, Matt wished that Bahati were there to bail them out. He took aim and let the coconut fly. His aim was pretty good, though his target was pretty big as well. He probably didn’t hurt the thing, but it turned toward him, distracting it long enough for his dad to gain some ground. “Dad, use your armor!”
His dad withdrew the miniature suit of armor from his pocket and pulled on the feather on the helmet to activate it.
The skeletal croc leapt from the water, its jaws wide and snapped them closed around Neil. Instead of closing around soft flesh, however, the crocs teeth met only solid metal. The croc’s injured jaws snapped back, now desperately in need of an undead dentist to repair the massive damage the bite had caused.
Now not far from the shore, Neil’s every step sunk in farther into the wet sand. The croc disappeared beneath the waves, apparently not keen on getting another mouthful of metal.
His dad pressed the top of the helmet to return it to its normal size. His armor creaking, he bounded out of the shallows and collapsed on the shore. Matt rushed over to him and dragged him farther away from the rising waves.
Coughing up a mouthful of water, his dad met Matt’s worried gaze. “I think I’m ready to take the ferry now.”
Matt turned away and crossed his arms. “I know. I’ve seen this already.”
“You mean, you saw this time in the mirror as well?”
Matt nodded. “Yes, and I know what’s going to happen. Make it quick, and get it over with. I know you are going to leave me here alone while you go in that door. I saw it all.”
His dad clapped a hand on her shoulder. “Matt, that’s just something we saw in a fun house mirror. How do you know it has to be that way? We still have a choice.”
He turned her head to look at his dad, his brow wrinkled. “It’s the best choice, dad. The ferryman will only take one person over. I hate to say it, but you’re the bravest one. If he won’t let Tyson wake up, you can throw a javelin at him or something.”
His dad shook his head, his damp hair flinging wildly in the wind. “But what will you do? The storm is getting worse every minute. There’s no shelter but this wimpy tree. You’ll be swept into to sea, eaten by alligators! I can’t leave you behind. There has to be another way.”
Matt shook his head harder, raising his voice. “No, there isn’t. Maybe if Bahati were here there would be, but we don’t have that much time. If we both stay here, we’ll both drown and then nobody will be helped. Remember what Ty-Sun said? Once the dreamer wakes up, then the dream will fade. If you hurry, then I’ll be fine.”
Neil gazed at the sand and started drawing with his finger, drawing first a sun and then a necktie.
He looked up momentarily and the rain washed away his pictures. “I can’t do this. It’s one of the classic lose-lose situations. Either you drown out here and I lose you or if you somehow survive you’ll hate me.”
Matt chuckled darkly. “Dad, you drive me nuts sometimes, but I’ll never hate you. Just go. I’m a smart guy. I’ll figure something out.”
Before Matt could react, his dad wrapped him in a bear hug. A second later, Matt got over the shock and hugged him back. “Come on, Dad. Go get Tyson back.”
Neil nodded and sniffed hard. “Just think of me as an alarm clock.”
Neil stepped away and made his way into the water. With a deep breath, he ripped the bottom half of the ticket. Suddenly, the already choppy waters swirled, whipped up with a gale-force wind. In the midst of the whirlwind appeared a tall figure, with Tyson’s torso with the rest of his body resembling a huge seal. His skin was tinged a light blue color that blended into the black of the seal’s body.
“I am Tyde, the ferryman. What is your destination?”
Neil craned his neck back, not liking the feeling of having to look up to his son. “I want to get to the library on that island, but I want to bring my son with me.”
Tyde crossed his arms. “No, I can only ferry one person at a time and you only have one ticket. I will gladly ferry you over to the library.”
“Can I purchase additional crocodile insurance? I’d like to arrive in one piece.”
Tyde chuckled and shook the water out of his hair. “I am more than capable of defending you from any aggressive sea creatures. Now come, get on my back.”
“You’re the ferry?”
Tyde leaned in close to Neil’s face, and Neil noticed his breath smelled like fish sticks.
“Is that a problem?”
Giving one last glance at Matt, Neil slid onto the seal portion of the ferry. Without warning, Tyde dove into the waves, and shot towards the library, reaching it in a matter of seconds. With a flick of his tail, Tyde deposited Neil onto the steps leading up to the front door.
“Thank you,” said Tyde in his deep voice. “That was easy. Last time the passengers wanted to see what was in the Bermuda Triangle. That was not a smooth trip.”
Without another word, Tyde dove and disappeared beneath the churning waves.
Neil took a second to regain his composure and then dashed up the slick steps, nearly losing his footing several times. He reached the landing and studied the front door of the library: a carved stone door with a single message etched into its surface. “Please insert library card.”
Neil withdrew the now soggy piece of paper and inserted it into a thin slot right below the words. Something from within the door clicked and a panel slid back from the upper part of the door only to be replaced by another panel bearing the carving of an ear.
The panel with the words on it flipped around as well, revealing a new set of instructions. “Speak the magic words.”
Neil had been in the Tower long enough to figure out how things worked here. Without hesitation, he leaned forward and whispered into the ear the words he had told his son every night before turning off the lights.
“Sweet dreams, Ty Guy.”
A loud series of clicks sounded and the door swung open with a burst of light.