A Fishy Foothold

A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Help

At the end of our inconceivable, nasal-challenging little cruise, an enormous door suddenly formed right before our eyes near the quay where we place the Fisher’s Ship. Not only were we stunned by the fact that we witness unbelievable things like this one in less than 24 hours, Jamie and I were amazed by the details of the wood carvings on the sides and head of the door. Honestly, I was expecting another toilet-themed encounter, and this certainly proved me wrong. The Drain Domain–a little nickname I came up with to call this realm–seemed to hold many other surprises, and I hope they stay as benign.

Mr. Nomura, the fishmonger, who probably has seen the door quite a number of times, casually opened the door and gestured for us to step inside. We were welcomed by another darkness, yet as the door closes behind us, torches across the room magically lit up almost in sync. We were encircled by bookshelves full of old books, figurines and weird collectibles I am unable to describe. As if the absurd curse Jamie was under and the wooden-carved door popping out of nowhere are not bizarre enough already, this dimension hit us hard in the face again by placing a seemingly professional bronze telescope in the middle of the circular room, with the other end of the telescope extending to a dome-like glass roof. It’s an observatory. Under the ground. Inside the sewers.

“Welcome to the Guild,” Mr. Nomura said, “please sit down and make yourself comfortable. I would need to check on the other side of this room so I can find an old friend of mine, the one in charge to help us operate the telescope.”

Jamie nodded silently, and we watched Mr. Nomura disappeared from one part of the bookshelves. Curiosity consumes us more than the need for comfort as we started to roam the room, each heading towards opposite ways.

Mr. Nomura explained on our way here that he was part of this Guild, which basically is, to my understanding, an association for merchants selling marine products, mainly seafood. The Guild supplied him the freshest fish at a very reasonable price, which would naturally attract people who do business in the field. He had been very careful to keep up with the rules of the Guild, one of them is to dispose remains of the fish in this one specific gutter, which was a portal to the Guild. My friend Jamie just so happened to fall in the wrong place and the wrong time. To get Jamie out of the stench and filth permanently, Mr. Nomura told us we need to find one of the Twin Sisters of the Sea. I assume our chance to locate them is up to this guy who runs the observatory and use this telescope.

We have waited for a while, but then we haven’t finished exploring the shelves in the room. A good number of the books are sea-related, most are tattered or dog-eared; Jamie would occasionally flinch for such “savagery”. My eyes are more attracted to the odd objects spread on one of the shelves. There was this eccentric magnifying glass shaped like a fish, jars of colourful dried fish scales, a gun shaped like a seahorse, and many more. I am trying my best not to trace my fingers in any of them as I kept browsing them casually. I stopped at my tracks when I saw wooden hourglass, its bottom half wrapped in a net. I was startled as I realized there was a figure crouching instead of sand flowing inside it.

Instinctively, I called on Jamie, and he immediately joined me at my side. I pointed at the hourglass and I saw his eyes widened.

“I-is that a small translucent woman I saw in there?” he asked.

“I can’t be sure what it is exactly, but at least we saw the same thing,” I replied, “do you think it’s… trapped?”

As I finished my inquiry, it seemed that the grey, smoke-like figure opened her eyes from a very deep slumber. She then looked pointedly at us, which makes us spring a step back out, alarmed. She then frosted the glass and wrote, “Help.”

She pointed to the net and gestured for us to remove it from the hourglass. She put her arms together as if she was pleading for us to release her from captive.

I’m glad Jamie and I were both on the same page. As we have read too many folktales and other stories about magical beings, we have been very careful not to touch any of the antiques in the room, also very hesitant to help this trapped spirit. For all I know, she might be held inside the hourglass for good reasons, and I am never the sort who offers favors hastily. Jamie muttered under his breath, something along the lines of if he had known better he would have stayed put in the other side of the room and pretend he didn’t hear me, to which I immediately reprimand him to shut the hell up.

We were frozen in our position, the three of us just locking each other’s stares. I quickly regret my decision to keep my gaze as I felt a rush of thoughts running in my head. I seem to see parallels of the spirit and myself. I felt like I was transported into a hall of memories inside my brain; enslaved to a daily ritual, birthdays after birthdays passed closer to the grave, which I would most welcome to release me from the nothingness I would eventually end up with. A soft voice rings in my ear, saying that the spirit knows what I was suffering from, she knows how it feels to be imprisoned by time itself. It figures I would understand how one would jump at the very chance to be relieved from such accumulation of mortal pain, to the world where there are tears no more; and for her, it begins with disentangling the net from the hourglass.

You, poor soul, I heard myself sympathizing with her. But then another voice tried to hold me back from reaching out to the hourglass, repeatedly telling me this was not a good idea, that it might just make matters worse for Jamie and myself, that it would cost us our lives. But isn’t that what I also want? To leave the routine forever, argued the softer voice. But do I? Life is mostly a chore, but do I want to be rid off it now?

At that, I felt someone tapped my shoulder and I was alerted from my trance. I look to my right to see the person who did, and found a guy with tousled brown hair, wearing a pair of round glasses and navy blue hoodie. He then directed his hand to the hourglass, and bind the net all over it, which seemed to put the spirit inside to another deep slumber. I glanced to my left to seek for Jamie, who was sprawled on the ground. Next to him was Mr. Nomura, again, sprinkling the fish-scale to Jamie’s face, and seconds later he gained his consciousness. I knelt beside him to help him up.

“Wh-what was that?” I asked Mr. Nomura who was holding a cup of water for Jamie to drink.

“That was a water nymph trying to escape by putting you or your friend inside the hourglass instead,” the other guy answered, “I should’ve mended the net earlier. I wasn’t expecting guests, to be honest.”

“Then again if I told you we’re coming, you probably still won’t clean the place up,” Mr. Nomura commented, “you should really consider talking to someone professionally about your procrastination problem.”

“Come on, I’m just very positive about what I can accomplish in the future, Nomura-san,” the guy brushed his comment of, “and we actually did arrive just in time. Both our guest can handle it pretty well, especially considering the guy was still jinxed.”

Mr. Nomura shook his head in disbelief, but then took the confusion in my eyes and Jamie’s as cue to introduce the guy, “Oh, right. Ms. Chandra, Mr. Newton, this is Goh, our alchemist, and he’s going to help us find one of the Twin Sisters.”

“Pleased to meet you,” he smiled at us, “and I assure you it’s true because I have not seen anyone but mid-aged merchants visiting the Guild for the past fifty years. A change of air is quite nice.”

Goh didn’t catch the annoyed look Mr. Nomura threw at him as he made his way to the telescope. Still sitting on the floor, Jamie took the opportunity to find more information about the certainty of his cure, “Do they usually travel far?”

“No, no. Even if they do, we can still go to the nearest spot with another portal available,” Mr. Nomura assured him.

“Good, because I really can’t wait to get back home,” Jamie remarked, which I completely agree with. This bloody place smells nothing but doom. And a faint hint of fish guts, too.

“Actually, you’re in luck,” Goh looked up to us from the telescope, “one of the Sisters is here in the Guild for tonight.”

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