Monday, March 29, 2010

Chapter Eighty-Five

Under the sea.

Beneath the waves, beneath all light, Pinocchio trudges through the silt and the slime. And once again, he finds himself alone.

No, not alone, he thinks, because somewhere in this dark abyss swims Monstro.

The Mermaid was torn by the decision, but she left Pinocchio some days ago. As desperate as she was to find any survivors, it was just too dangerous, they both decided, for her to swim anywhere near the great beast.

“He might swallow you whole,” she said, “but I don’t think he’d do the same to me.”

The thought of other Merfolk in Monstro's stomach is tantalizing but horrible, and Pinocchio swore to tell them about the safe waters of Neverland.

And so he completes his journey on foot, step by heavy step. He doesn’t mind the chains draping from his body - they keep him from floating away. He hopes that Monstro can hear him clanking and clinking, and even now the great beast might be swimming toward him with an open, hungry mouth.

It's impossible to tell how long he's been traveling, now that the moon and the sun and the Clock are gone. Perhaps the Mermaid could tell by the ebb and flow of the waters, but Pinocchio had never thought to ask, and now it's too late.

At least there is some comfort in her words - that whenever someone is lost, they seem to wind up in Neverland - because right now he is most certainly lost, so far from his home.

Even his words - for Pinocchio constantly calls out Monstro’s name - have nowhere to go. Immediately, they are swallowed up by the heavy, black water. Can Monstro hear him? Is he even nearby?

The Mermaid, though she tried to hide it, was doubtful. “He travels the world,” she said. “Always moving, always eating. He could be anywhere. My people, they know… they knew of his patterns, but even then, it involved a lot of guesswork.”

“I think he’s nearby,” she after many days of traveling along a fast-moving current. The fresh wreckage, the ravaged bodies, the scales and bits of bone were too much to suggest otherwise. “But it’s an entire sea to search.”

Yet Pinocchio is nothing if not persistent. In a world devoid of day and night, he has nothing but time. There’s no need for him to sleep or eat, no more tears to shed. There is nothing left - not even the Lion - except for the darkness and the water and, somewhere, his father.

“Monstro?” There is still hope in Pinocchio’s voice, but if his calls have been heard, they go unanswered.

He takes the Enchanted Mirror from underneath his shirt and holds it tightly.

“Show me my father,” he says, and it illuminates the murky water with its magical light.

Gepetto - how old and worried he looks - is once more asleep. Scattered about him are various bits of flotsam and jetsam - bottles, metal pipes, pieces of wood leaning precariously against each other - and the whole area is crisscrossed with rope.

The undead, unused to stealth and subtlety, will not be able to reach him without falling or making noise. Pinocchio smiles at his father’s resourcefulness, when suddenly the room, the cavern, the stomach - whatever it is that Gepetto considers his world - turns and shudders and rumbles.

The old woodcarver falls from his perch and awakes with a jump. The bottles tilt to the side, shattering silently in the Mirror’s reflection, and the driftwood collapses.

Gepetto looks around wildly. He stumbles against a wall and reaches for his staff as it begins to roll away.

Around Pinocchio, the waters swirl and churn, almost as if they are trying to escape the ocean itself. There is nothing to see in the darkness, though this doesn’t stop the puppet from trying.

He can feel it rather than hear it, the harsh rush of a typhoon, the change in the water and the disruption of the tide itself.

Something bellows at him from the right, and Pinocchio is swept away, hit with the full force of a tidal wave. The chains do him no good. Pinocchio flies - who knows how high or how far - still clutching the glowing Mirror.

And Monstro is suddenly upon him - almost as big as the sea - and he swallows Pinocchio up, hungry for something, anything, and only knowing that where there is light, there is life.

Pinocchio is falling, falling, the water crushes him with a roar, and suddenly he realizes there is air, a foul reek of death and decay and salt, but it is air, and the walls press against him, soft yet strong and flapping, and Pinocchio hits the ground, deep inside Monstro.