There are ants in my Lucky Green Boots Circulation: 176,283,131 Issue: 350 | 3rd day of Swimming, Y10
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Message In A Bottle


by reveirie

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Wind tickled the back of Chello’s neck, making the Red Gelert giggle with delight. The gentle sea breeze carried a sweet salty scent and Chello inhaled deeply, enjoying the tangy taste that was carried with the gale. All was pleasantly silent, the only sound being the rhythmic crashing of the waves against the shoreline. The sea was sparkling underneath a slowly rising sun, so both the water and the sky were dyed soft shades of orange and violet. The sand was golden, shining, and caressed Chello’s feet as she walked along the beach.

     She sighed happily. This was the life. It was so peaceful here, so serene...

     The Gelert shifted her shoulder and her old green backpack slid into a more comfortable position. She was wearing simple clothes: a faded grey T-shirt and dull khaki shorts. They were boring and plain, but casual, easy for her to move in. They were perfect for what she was planning to do.

     Chello started to grin. Adventure...

     Ever since her mother had first started telling her those bedtime stories of heroic battles and epic journeys, Chello had wanted it. Adventure. It was her dream, the only thing she wished for on stars.

     Looking back, she realized she had always been kind of reckless, determined to have her adventure no matter what. Always getting into trouble or falling out of trees and such. She had certainly gotten scolded much more than her siblings, but it had been worth it. It was all worth it. The little journeys, the little travels, the little battles won... They had prepared her, but they were not enough. They were nice, but not enough to quench her thirst. It was like she was lost in a desert, trapped beneath a blazing sun, and there was only one thing that would revitalize her. You guessed it, adventure. Sooner or later, Chello knew she would have to leave the comfort of her home if she wanted to have a real adventure. And boy, had she wanted it. She had waited, tolerated the ordinary as long as she possibly could, and then... she had left.

     She could still picture the moment clearly in her mind; it was hard to erase such a thing. It had been a calm night; the sky was dark, stars veiled by clouds. She knew she wouldn’t be able to say goodbye in person, so she had left a note. Even then, when she had not yet left the house, she had missed them. But the feelings of regret were easily drowned by a much larger desire, her dreams of adventure.

     Chello closed her eyes. The memory was so vivid, it was almost as if she were reliving it... She remembered sneaking around the sleeping house so quietly it was almost as if she wasn’t there. She had a backpack full of food that she had sniped from the pantry earlier that week, making sure to take only the things she knew wouldn’t be missed. The knapsack also contained some spare clothes, a blanket as well as all the neopoints she had ever earned, saving them all up for this very moment. She remembered how nervous she had been; the anticipation seemed to crush her. She recalled running as fast as she possibly could as soon as she had closed the door behind her, as if some sort of horrible monster were chasing her, but then slowing down to a walk once she got farther and farther away from home, as if she were afraid of leaving, like she didn’t want to leave after all...

     The last bittersweet memory of home was the most vivid, the clearest, and the most beautiful. She remembered reaching the end of the street and stopping, pausing, to take one last look at her home. It stood still and silent, almost invisible in the shadows. But just then, in that one final moment, moonlight had broken through the curtain of heavy clouds and shone directly over her house, like a spotlight, bathing it in sparkling silver light. It had looked so lovely then, so peaceful, so serene... It had looked so much more desirable than the dream she had craved for all her life that Chello had been tempted to turn back, run home and forgot she had even thought of leaving.

     But she didn’t. She couldn’t. Adventure... She wanted it too much. She had turned her back on the glorious silver image of her home and had walked away, never looking back.

     That had been over three hundred and fifty days ago.

     She had counted. Counted every sunrise and moonset. But it was only when she faced the number that it seemed so real.

     Has it really been that long? Chello breathed another happy sigh, inhaling another mouthful of the salty air. It seemed so much shorter than that, she lazily mused to herself. Every day seemed the same, each one merged into a single glorious moment. She woke up to the deep blue sky; her alarm clock was the dawn chorus of birdsong. The soft evening breeze lullabied her, her blanket was the stars, the moon her nightlight. The peaceful beauty of it all reoccurred every day. She had become accustomed to it, comforted by it. Every day brought different things, yet there was a comfortable sameness to each one. It was her sanctuary, her haven. Out here, in the nature, it was as if she had lost all track of time. She was lost in eternal peace and glory...

     And yet...

     She had escaped from her home and was as liberated as the sky itself; she was getting closer and closer to her dream, her adventure, but she had still not reached that goal. It was still too far away, still to far to reach out and touch... yet.

     Chello smiled. It would come soon. Her dream, her adventure, her chance to shine, her chance to be a hero... It had too... It had...

     She raised her eyes and looked out to the sea once more, squinting a bit as the blinding golden sunlight reflected off the water and shone into her eyes. She stood there and admired the sea for a while. It was so lovely, the sea, so vast. It looked so gentle, but Chello knew that in an instant the calm turquoise water could darken to shadows and become dangerous, deadly. The sea was beautiful, yes, but it was unpredictable as well.

     Her heart fluttered for a moment. She hoped her adventure would be something like that. Once she found it, that is...

     It was then that she saw it, a speck of emerald in an ocean of sapphire. It was so small compared to the water; Chello wondered how she managed to spot it in the first place. Despite the fact it was hardly more than a faint glimmer, as it bobbed closer to her, she was able to recognize it immediately.

     It was a bottle. A bottle floating among the waves.

     And it was coming this way, to the shore, to her...

     Chello’s heart leapt. Maybe there was a message in the bottle! Her mind raced with excited thoughts. Maybe people were stranded on a deserted island somewhere or it was a secret message between criminals or something like that!

     Whatever it was, she wanted that bottle. Chello dashed into the ocean, ignoring the icy feeling of the water. She wanted to see what was in that bottle, and the sooner she got it, the better.

     Water seeped into her clothing, her shoes. Chello knew that getting wet out in the middle of nowhere could have dire consequences, but she didn’t care.

     The bottle was sparkling, shining, illuminated by daylight. Green as grass, as leaves, as limes and peas. The contrast between the bottle and the color of the water made it stand out even more, it was almost as if it were calling out to her, crying out her name...

     The water was up to her waist now and Chello’s breathing came out in rapid gasps as the frigid water danced around her. The viridescent bottle was within her reach. She lifted her hand and spread her fingers out. Her fingertips gently brushed the neck of the bottle. Chello narrowed her eyes with determination. Just a bit farther... Clouds of sand rose up and billowed around her, making the water murkier and murkier with every step she took. She inched closer, not wanting to get too deep. And then... Her fingers delicately curved around the neck of the bottle and she lifted it up, holding it tightly in her hand as if it were some kind of precious treasure, a valuable trophy.

     And in Chello’s eyes, at that moment, it was.

     The Gelert shook the water of her crimson fur as she trudged back through the waves to the beach. Sand clung to her fur as she sat down.

     Her heart pounded loudly as she struggled with the cork that sealed the contents of the bottle inside. She could see a blurry form of paper embedded in the flask. There was a message in it!

     The cork fell to the sand with a soft thud. Chello turned the bottle upside down and shook it, urging the paper out. She saw imprints of words on one side. She wondered what was written. Maybe it was her key to adventure – the real kind, the ones stories were made of – her chance to become a hero...

     The message slipped out and Chello unrolled the curved piece of paper greedily.

     It was a letter.

     Dear Dakota,

     How long has it been since I last saw you? How many weeks have gone by? How many months have passed? Or is it years now? Decades?

     I feel foolish doing this. Writing a note, enclosing it in a bottle and then throwing it out to sea. It’s such a childish action, something out of daydreams. But I guess I don’t really have a choice. This crude unpredictable method of communication is all I have now. It’s all I can do...

     How are you? How have you been? Did you find it? What you were looking for? Your adventure? I hope you have. That was always your dream, wasn’t it? To be a hero. To be remembered, recognized. I hope you’re happy, wherever you are. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating well? Are you okay out there, all on your own? I hope you don’t get too lonely...

     Sorry for the questions, but I can’t help myself. I still can’t help worrying over you. Even if you are grown up, gone away, you will always be my little sister. How many nights have I stayed up late, unable to sleep, wondering how you were doing? How many sleepless nights... I miss you. Yes, I guess that’s it. I miss you.

     Things are fine here. Milo (you remember him, right? Your little brother?) is starting neoschool now. He’s grown a lot since you last saw him, He’s starting to speak in full sentences now, rather than just “yes” and “no” answers. Of course, he still says “no” a lot. He loves the power it brings him.

     Rex is doing pretty well too. Of course, he’s still a shrimp. But he’s grown in other ways. His birthday passed not too long ago. We got him a Puppyblew. Her name is Kota. Guess whom we named her after? He loves that sky colored mutt. I can’t remember a time when those two were apart. He takes good care of her. No, excellent care of her. Their walks last for hours and he feeds her and is even brave enough to give her a bath... He’s getting to be pretty responsible. In a way, he reminds me of you before you...

     Me? I’m doing well. Still got my hands full with taking care of the family. My cooking skills have certainly improved. Your brothers sure are happy about that last part. Haha. You should drop by and try it for yourself sometime... I bet you’d be surprised...

     We’re going to Mystery Island this summer. Both Milo and Rex are ecstatic. I would be nice if you could come along with us. Who knows? We might even meet you there... Yes, that would be nice...

     All in all, I think we’re doing pretty well. But not as good as we could be... We’re missing something. We’re like that big jigsaw puzzle it took forever to finish that one rainy night because we couldn’t find the single crucial piece that was needed to complete the picture...

     To us, you’re that puzzle piece. The one that’s missing. We need you.

     I hope you’re doing well, and I know this is what you want, but please, oh please, won’t you come home? Just for a little while, just a little visit... Or send a letter, something to let us know you’re okay. We would really love to see you again.

     We miss you.

     Love you forever,

     Your sister,

     Sal

     Chello rolled the letter back up in silence, not quite knowing what to think.

     She didn’t know the ones the letter spoke of. She didn’t even know anyone with those names. But still... She had felt a connection...

     The waves crashed against the rocks, singing in the early morning sun.

     This Dakota... The one Sal called out to in the letter... She reminded Chello of someone...

     Chello.

     She too had left her family behind to pursue crazy dreams of adventure. She too had never looked back, never even thought of visiting, of sending a letter to say “Hey, here I am. I’m doing fine. Don’t worry about me.” Aim for the sunrise, leave the starlight behind.

     Chello closed her eyes. The wind tickled her face.

     She wondered... Did Dakota ever return to her family? Did she ever look back? How long had she been gone? Did she miss her family? Chello sure did... Her heart cried every cold, lonely night, longing for the comfort of her family, for even her dreams of adventure could not warm her one nights like those...

     Did her family miss her? Was she the missing piece in their puzzle?

     The waves sang. The wind blew. Chello opened her eyes.

     If she missed them... Chances were, they missed her too.

     Her fist tightened around the paper. She knew what she had to do...

     She had to go back. Visit them. Return home. Smile and say, “Here I am. You don’t need to worry about me anymore.” To show them she still cared, to show them that she still loved them...

     Chello looked out to the shimmering, sparkling sea and stood up.

     She still craved adventure, still needed it, still wanted it more than anything. But now there was something she wanted more. Something that was more important. Family.

     Chello turned around, the letter still clenched tightly in her hand. She saw footprints in the sand, heading off into the distance, showing her where she had come from, showing her where she had to go. It was her path now, the only one she wanted to follow, the only one she would take, the one that led home.

     Chello took a step forward and hesitated. There was one more thing she had to do...

     She rolled the letter into a thin cylinder and carefully placed it into the bottle. The picked the cork up from the sand, brushed the grit of and sealed the bottle. She then took a deep breath and pulled her arm back as far as possible.

     She threw the bottle.

     It sailed through the air of the pale morning sky. It caught the light and glittered, shined. It hit the water, sending a cascade of droplets into the air. They too caught the sunlight and gleamed like stars. The jade bottle bobbed up and down in the cerulean sea. It was moving away from her now, floating off into the ocean, headed for adventures of its own in the wild land of the sea.

     It had been three hundred and fifty days since Chello had last seen her family. That was three hundred and fifty days too many.

     Chello watched the bottle until it winked out of sight before turning and walking down a trail marked by footprints in the sand, twisting off into the distance. She headed home.

     * * * * *

     Dar whistled a cheery tune as he walked along the shoreline. A faded backpack was lazily slung over one shoulder. The sound of the waves crashing made him smile. It felt so good to be free.

     The Lupe loved being out in the wild, where every day was an adventure. Waking up to early morning birdsong, sung to sleep by the trills of insects... It was the life.

     He shielded his eyes as he gazed out to see. How long had he been out here? In this wonderful paradise? He couldn’t remember the exact length. Close to a year, probably. Was it three hundred days? Three hundred and thirty days? Three hundred and fifty, perhaps? Yeah, had to be something like that... It was a long time, yes, but he didn’t plan on going home any time soon. He loved it out here; he wasn’t ready to leave yet. And besides, the family would be fine without him, they couldn’t miss him too much...

     Something caught his eyes and he blinked. There was something out there, floating among the waves...

     A bottle, glass the color of emeralds, and in it he could see the blurry outline of a note, a letter...

The End

 
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