Daniel was cold, shivering, vomiting seawater, but alive on the beach at the sea’s edge. It was still raining, but he was past being bothered by the continual wetness. Slowly, the retching ceased and he was able to catch his breath. Why was he alive?
“Glad to see you’re doing better, kiddo.”
The ten year old looked in the direction of the voice.
“Name’s Achilles. No heal jokes please. I don’t have any.”
It was a whale. He was blue with a white underbelly but not like any whale Daniel had ever seen or studied.
“Glad I found you down there. Didn’t think someone as famous as you would end up in my neighborhood.”
“I was drowning. You saved me?”
“That’s right, old son. One look at you and I knew exactly who I had on my hands, uh, well…fins. Look, I was able to push you onto shore, but there’s no room for me to come any closer. I’m on the smaller size for a whale, but unless I evolve really, really fast, I’m not going to be crawling on land anytime soon.”
“I’m sorry. Thanks. You saved my life.”
“No, I meant what I still have to do to save your life. The big bird’s going to be coming out of the sky again pretty soon. I’ve got to get you out of here.”
Daniel looked up. There were a few breaks in the clouds. If Gerald were up there still looking for him and found him like this…
“Huh?” The boy looked back at Achilles and saw he had his mouth open and was pointing at it with one of his fins.
Daniel had been in a kangaroo’s pouch and been sheltered on the back of a great owl, but what…climbing into a whale’s mouth?
“Who am I? Jonah?”
“Oh c’mon, Daniel. Jonah didn’t spend three days in a whale. More like a great, and in your world probably extinct sea beast, depending on what you believe. Think of me more as the transport vessel in Finding Nemo.
“How do you know about…?”
“No time to discuss that. If you want to live, come out here and hop in.”
The child looked up again, expecting to see Gerald diving toward him out of the sky. Only clouds and rain greeted him, but the whale was right. It was only a matter of time.
Daniel stood. Checked the condition of his stomach, and then walked toward the water. He waded in and found it surprisingly warm.
“That’s right. Swim on out. That’s the ticket.”
As the boy got closer to Achilles, he found the whale to look friendly, but the prospect of blithely climbing into his mouth was daunting.
“It’s okay, Daniel. I hardly ever eat boys anymore.”
Then, seeing the expression on the child’s face, he added, “Sorry, boyo. It was a joke. Really, I’m not going to hurt you.”
His breath smelled strongly of krill, which was hardly a surprise, but it still wasn’t pleasant. Daniel crawled over Achilles’ lip and onto his tongue, which made it impossible for the whale to talk.
Instead, he closed his mouth. Daniel felt the sensation of the whale diving. At this point, if the roc appeared in the sky, all he would see was a whale in the water. No reason to suspect it had anything to do with Daniel. How much more bizarre was this adventure going to get, and would Daniel make it back home alive?
It wasn’t three days, but it seemed almost as long. Finally, Daniel felt the whale going upward and when Achilles opened his mouth, even the grey skies seemed bright compared to the darkness of the sea mammal’s innards.
The whale was positioned next to a pier. A ladder was within the child’s reach so he grasped it, climbed off of the tongue, and exited Achilles’ mouth.
“I mean, last stop.”
“End of the line?” the boy asked.
“I don’t know what that means, Daniel. You’re at Wichita Township. It’s where you were going, right?”
Daniel didn’t know unless it was the last stop at the end of the train tracks, but a whale probably wouldn’t know about such things.
“Thanks. I hope so. I appreciate the lift, Achilles.”
“Don’t mention it, Daniel. Just find someplace to hold up, get dry, and then do what we all need you to do.”
A haunting tune suddenly started playing in his head, something he couldn’t hear clearly, but found impossible to ignore.
“Thanks again, Achilles.”
“Got to go now. Good luck.”
The whale smiled and winked, and then submerged beneath the waves.
Daniel climbed the ladder and then stood upon the pier. He was facing an unknown community. He was soaking wet, tired, hungry, terrified, and alone. He knew there was one ally here, but how was he supposed to find him or her?
The boy walked forward, off of the pier and into the street. Finding a needle in a haystack would be child’s play compared to what he was facing, but after all, he was a child. Maybe child’s play was exactly what was required.
This concept is loosely based on Iain Kelly’s recent A to Z Challenge 2017 story series. Every day, Iain crafted another puzzle piece to his murder mystery that had me and his other readers spellbound. I doubt I can create the suspense he conjured up, but when my wife got a giant A to Z jigsaw puzzle for our two-year-old granddaughter, I thought I’d give it a whirl.
I don’t have a lot of time, so I think each “letter” will be shorter and I’m not sure I can write one every day, but I’ll do my best. This one was particularly short because in a few seconds, from Daniel’s point of view, he’s about to find out what “W” stands for.
The previous story is V is for Violin.
The next story and the climax of this series is X is for Xylophone.
I’m back home now, and I have a little more time to write. I took photos of each of the remaining puzzle pieces, so I should be able to continue writing regularly. My schedule will be interrupted again next Thursday, but hopefully, I’ll have several other chapters published by then. Enjoy.