Chapter 28: The Living Seas
Matt stared at the door long after his dad had gone through it. There were no sounds or lights or anything to give him any indication of what was going on inside. Meanwhile, the storm had gotten much worse, the howling winds whipping water until it stung his skin. He thought briefly about climbing the tree, but soon saw how much it swayed and thought that he was better off anchored to the ground.
Waves intruded farther and farther up onto the beach; they seemed to reach for him like the claws of a hungry predator. He found himself clutching the lone tree for support, closing his eyes and praying that his dad would hurry.
Lightning flashed around him, growing ever more frequent and he realized that he clutched the tallest structure on his island. He jumped away just in time as a bolt struck the tree, igniting it. The smell of burning foliage joined the tang of the salty air.
Matt sniffed hard. Usually, he liked the smell of toasted coconut, but now, it signaled the downfall of his last refuge.
Thinking quickly, he rummaged through his pockets, desperate to find anything that might help him hold out against the eager waves a little longer. His hands closed around the flask given to him by Mad Meraj, still about half full of the pungent potion.
Completely soaked and sure he was about to die, Matt did the only thing he knew might give him a slight chance: he uncorked the bottle and downed the rest of the contents. Instantly, he felt his form dissolving and in a few seconds, he was one with the waves.
Once Neil’s eyes had adjusted to the sudden brightness, he found himself standing in a circular room, no larger than a few square feet. On the wall hung a number of pegs, a few of which were occupied by hats, coats and even a swimming suit. Below the hooks sat a row of shoes, boots, and sandals of every description. It looked like someone was throwing a costume party, but then had insisted that everyone remove their coats and shoes in the entryway.
A message stood carved into the stone above the rack of coats: Please remove your coat and shoes…and do make yourself at home.
Neil smiled gently. Home. The thought of it brought pangs of longing to the forefront of his thoughts. How nice it would be to spend a quiet evening with his family, eating dinner and watching a movie together. His heart sank as he realized that he might never do any of those things again.
His resolve faltering, Neil removed his shoes and placed them next to a pair of snowshoes at the end of the row. It gave him what he thought might be his final smile to imagine someone sloshing around on the beach wearing snowshoes. For all he knew, he would step through the next door and be blown to atoms within seconds.
He shook his head at his own defeatist attitude. Tyson was in the next room, and he was not going to let him down. Even now, Matt battled for his life outside. Rallying the remains of his courage, Neil stood and gripped the metal door handle that lead into the next room. He drew in a deep breath.
“Okay, son. Time to wake up.”