The Society that Stole our Father: Parts 3 and 4 by Natasha Minchin
Misty and I decided that we would pursue our original plans and go to the market. I definitely hadn’t forgotten about the series of events that had just happened, but returning home didn’t sit right with me…
As we trotted through the crisp snow, I held onto Misty and hid the coin under the lining of material inside of my boot. Although the both of us knew nothing about Brom’s small contribution, I had the feeling it was purposefully given to us, with that, came spiralling thoughts.
‘What are you going to do with the coin?’ Misty murmured quietly.
Sometimes Misty asked me questions I didn’t have answers for. This was one of those times.
‘I’m honestly not sure. But, I do know something. Don’t mention this to anyone. Not even Valerie or the nice man who sells us mandarins and makes us feel warm inside. We will slip into the market and buy as much as we can, given the money we have, excluding the special coin’.
‘Alright’. Misty gave a cooperative nod and looked satisfied with my response.
The last fir and pine trees parted to reveal the bustling hourglass square. I took a controlled breath in as my social anxiety appeared as a problem on the forefront of my mind. I couldn’t make it an issue though, as who was there to help me? Dad had disappeared, and quite frankly, I was too shy to ask for help regardless.
Before I had the courage to take a step forward and walk with Misty to the stalls, I looked around. As if someone, somewhere, knew something about this coin or could give me advice on what to do. But no, all I saw were tourists wearing beaming smiles, posing in front of the famous landmark and taking photos. I saw a fairy whizz around the hourglass holding hands with another, and a toddler wobbling as it skipped to the next stone. Dragons were blowing fire in competition to see which puff of smoke was bigger, while goblins danced around in circles. Everyone here, no matter who they were, seemed content and peaceful. ‘Ahoy is an unsafe place’, my father repeatedly instilled in our heads. However, they were relaxed, and no one seemed to care. I wondered if anyone knows about this coin…
Finally, Misty and I passed the overflowing hourglass square and made it to the stalls. Separate smells were flowing from each one to our noses, sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. For the first time this morning, I grinned at the thought of all the delicious food I was surrounded by. Having gone to the stalls before, and usually buying the same food, I came to a conclusion I needed to go east to find the man who sells us beans for a discount.
I took the coins from my bag and counted them up in my hand. When it came to being poor, buying produce without seeing if it is the best deal possible is quite unlikely. I totalled that we could buy one can of kidney beans, and one can of chickpeas, since they are Misty’s favourite. With some spare coins left over, and bargaining, I figured we will in fact be able to get that chocolate pudding.
‘To buy beans we have to go east,’ I declared, while biting my lip in thought. ‘That is why I think it is better if you stay here, considering Beatrice’s Custards and Puddings is around the corner. I can go while you shop over there. We can meet again in the same spot, probs in 15?’ I said, pointing towards the souvenir shop we happened to be in front of.
‘Good idea, we did have a hold up after all,’ laughed Misty. It definitely didn’t want to make me laugh, rather faint.
I gave Misty an affectionate kiss on the head, before handing him some money for the pudding, and headed east for the beans.
Running rather than walking, I went east until the small, portable shop that sells practically any food sat in front of me. I entered confidently, knowing nearly everyone inside. The man that sat behind the counter gave me a toothless smile, before he proceeded to work on a crossword from the magazines he sells. At the back were the selection of beans, at a low price I was grateful for. Just as I reached for the two cans, and turning around, I gracefully bumped into someone.
‘Oh Sorr-’ Apparently, that is the best apology I can provide.
It couldn’t be. What do those spiritual, hippie people believe in, something like deja vu, right? That is exactly what I was experiencing in that moment, as Rick Shaw Hues was standing in front of me!
‘No, it couldn’t be…’ I said flabbergasted.
Poor man. He didn’t know I had a nightmare involving him practically saving my life, so seeing a young girl with wide eyes and a look of astonishment, on an early Sunday morning, must be baffling.
‘Don’t worry about it,’ he said gruffly, eyes not even meeting mine.
At this point, I wasn’t wearing an apologetic outfit, for how he reacted didn’t make me feel sorry. The character of Rick Shaw Hues was nowhere near how I had created him in my head, quite a disappointment really.
It was awkward. I tried my best apologising, however the way he was standing and not looking at me made me feel very uncomfortable. With that, I said a quick sorry once again, checked I had my beans, before he pulled on my sleeve.
I faced him slightly scared. Did he know I had a mysterious coin in my shoe? No, everyone is unaware of the fact that I was hiding a piece of currency, or at least that is what I continued to tell myself.
His green eyes finally faced me. I must have looked intimidated, so before long, he handed me a note and said, ‘take this’.
He then dodged a couple people in his way, and disappeared into the flurry of the market.
A witch who was prodding at some starfruit, in order to decide which one was best for her potions, let out a bellowing cackle as she watched me drop to my knees. I hadn’t feared anything more. The unthinkable, turning to a moment I had to see, feel, hear, smell and touch.
The note read:
‘Misty is in danger’.
Salted water ran from my eyes as each droplet raced down my face to dampen my coat. The tears collected in the little crevice between my chin and lower lip. My scarf was spotted with darker spots from the wicked liquid, like a cow’s print. While all this was happening, my mouth trembled uncontrollably, and my heart felt shattered.
The toothless man, who goes by Mr Nguyen, hobbled over on his wooden walking stick looking rather distressed, possibly because this was the most drama he had witnessed in the last 20 years. The usually quiet store, where citizens come and go to pick up some essentials, had suddenly got a weeping girl in the legumes aisle.
‘What’s the matter my dear?’ he said, holding a shaking hand in front of me.
Making a wise decision, I decided to decline his offer of help, as I might bring him down with me.
‘Nothing, just this note’ I said pathetically, scrunching it up with the anger bubbling inside of me.
‘It’s those weirdos, isn’t it? The one bad thing about managing a supermarket in this part of Ahoy, is all these strange people or creatures upsetting children!’ Mr Nguyen was worrying so much for me, I thought I would give him a stroke any second.
‘I’m fine now, thank you Mr Nguyen,’ I responded, feeling my reply was mature. ‘I must go now, but if you could please scan these two cans for me, that would be great’.
‘Sure, just this way,’ he said kindly, extending his arm towards the counter.
I briskly paid for my groceries, and thanked Mr Nguyen for his kind-heartedness.
Similarly to Rickshaw Hues, I fled into the market with no doubt, dodging anyone and everything that happened to be in my way.
Finding myself exactly where I left Misty, he wasn’t there nor was he anywhere that I looked around; this didn’t come as a surprise, more like what I expected.
Feeling panic, anxiousness, and catastrophizing the situation, I realised the note was only telling the truth.
Misty was in danger, and I felt responsible for every action I took prior that resulted in all of this.
‘MISTY, MISTY!’ I screamed, turning rapidly, as if I was doing some pirouette, and scanning my surroundings.
People and creatures turned their head, to look, or to gossip to others nearby. They stared, gave me disgusted looks, before shrugging and moving on with their day.
‘MISTY, WHERE ARE YOU, CAN YOU HEAR ME?’ I was even more distraught and as each second passed with him missing, I started to think about the worst that could have happened to him.
‘KIARAAAAAA!’ I heard a familiar voice scream at the top of their lungs.
‘MISTY, I’M COMING!’ I shouted back.
I was out of breath. My cheeks were flushed crimson red, and my eyes fluttered to keep up with the precise scanning I was enduring as I looked for Misty. All the negative emotions I was feeling had got the best of me and I couldn’t think straight. The only loved one I had had suddenly slipped out of my hands, and the pit of regret sitting inside my empty stomach grew like an apple, as I criticized myself for letting this happen.
Telling myself to pull it together, and using my ears, I followed Misty’s heart-wrenching screams, until…
I saw Octavius in the distance.
Octavius has been close friends with Misty since enrolling in the same kindergarten, and being placed in the same class this year has only brought them closer. I remember the times they would do school projects together, and play in the summer when the cantaloupe orange sun would start setting. Misty to this day doesn’t stop talking about him, which Octavius does seem like a kind, gentle boy. To see what was in front of me, had me feel like I was blind – sided this whole time…
‘KIE, HELP ME!’ spluttered Misty.
The ferocious waterfall flashed in front of my eyes while Misty was held over it. He was grabbed by the collar of his coat, and as each millisecond passed, I felt the threads of polyester were getting weaker and weaker. Octavius was wearing an evil grin as he overpowered Misty, and the fact that we had both been manipulated this entire time, resulted in me sprinting towards them with an ear damaging screech.
‘LET HIM GO YOU SICK BASTARD!’ I screamed angrily, shaking my fist at him.
I could see Octavius’s grip weakening, as he may be bigger and stronger than Misty, but that didn’t mean he could hold him forever. Crying hysterically, and shaking violently, I thought of anything I would do for my other half to be put down.
‘WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM US?’ I yelled in a tone that was slowly fading out from screaming so much.
‘WHERE’S THE RING?’ he yelled back aggressively.
I searched for answers in my mind. Should I have told him I have it? If I lied, would he have dropped the only being that matters in my life, into the waterfall?
‘I DON’T HAVE IT, OCTAVIUS’ I lied.
‘ALSO, I’M NOT GIVING YOU OR TELLING YOU ANYTHING UNTIL YOU PUT MISTY DOWN!’
Relief. That was all I felt. Octavius’s true colours were revealed in a short period of time and as I looked at his face, my demeanour changed for him.
Misty ran towards me, and I ran towards him. Although I felt regret and hated myself for leaving him on his own, I was so glad I was holding him, and that we had won this life or death moment.
Once we finished hugging, reality hit once again and I realised I had to deal with the two faced monster, also known as Octavius.
‘Your arrival is being awaited downstairs,’ said Octavius calmly, as if nothing had occurred. ‘We know you have the coin. It was deliberately given to you.’ It seemed he had finished. ‘Oh, and..’ said Octavius, pointing his finger to the sky, ‘I haven’t forgotten about the ring, I still need it’. He gave a psychotic giggle.
Leading an arm towards an underground flap door that happened to be hidden amongst some grass near the waterfall, Misty and I felt we had no choice but to follow…
We were terrified to the bone. Trailing behind Octavius, I had the constant urge to knock him out straight so Misty and I could run home and figure out what to do. However I didn’t end up doing so, and before long, Octavius opened up the flap door by entering a four numbered code. We wobbled down the ladder that led us downwards, and as my feet passed each bar, it got darker and darker…
I gasped. Who was that? Where did that voice come from?
My eyeballs sooner or later adjusted to the gloomy lighting, in which I traced some motionless silhouettes. More dramatic than needed, I figured some differently shaped and sized arms turn on kerosene lamps at the same time.
Now it was Misty’s turn to gasp in disbelief.
I looked around. It was still quite murky, so only certain objects that got a shred of light from the kerosene lamps, I could make out. There were bookshelves lining some walls, and some occasional lopsided, poorly screwed wooden planks acting as a display shelf. The books I spotted were dissimilar in a way when it came to the colours they endured, the number of pages inside, and the wear and tear telling how useful it had been. Seeing some disturbing, weird objects, such as pickled eyeballs and gloopy liquid, made me question what sort of place this was. I smelt body odour and poor hygiene, which even Misty and I can avoid even though we don’t have much money. The floor, same being for the walls and ceiling, were just plain soil. If someone stomped, or made slight movement, granules from up above would fall, and collect in my hair.
Suddenly, more kerosene lamps turned on and I could finally see clearer.
‘We have been awaiting your arrival for quite a while now,’ said a yeti, by far the largest in the room.
I was confused. What did they want from us?
‘Octavius, Misty’s old friend I believe…’ began a troll who was sitting at the side of the table, smoking a pipe. ‘Has been purposefully set up to ensure the two of you come down here. After all, the chances are thin that you would come if my old prune bum asked you to,’ he gave a dry, wispy cackle, the sort you hear from smokers.
‘First of all,’ I started with a frustrated tone, although I was actually scared on the inside, but I couldn’t show them that. ‘Misty and I didn’t come down here because we know him, it’s because Octavius held my god damn brother over a waterfall,’ I shouted with crossed eyebrows.
‘Oh calm down will you!’ huffed the yeti. I noticed his decaying teeth, seemed to be a trend around this part of Ahoy (Mr Nguyen). His fur was surprisingly still milky white. He was wearing brown outlined glasses that illusioned his eyes to look bigger, and woollen slippers on his big feet. You would think he was a gentle giant until his voice was heard.
‘If you want to hear what happened to your father…’ the yeti’s voice quietened in a way that had us indulged into his trick. ‘Then I would advise you to take a seat at the table and to follow my orders’.
Misty had been behind me for quite a while. I turned around and cupped his hands into mine. ‘Just listen to their orders,’ I whispered tenderly. He looked up at me with tears gathering in his eyes. ‘It’ll be okay,’ I whispered once again.
We uncertainly walked over to the table and as we got closer, the distinctive stench got stronger. An ogre and phoenix, who had been sitting in the darker corners of the room, smiled creepily at me once I made eye contact with them. There was no way I could escape out of here, not with all these creatures watching me.
‘Before I begin explaining,’ said the yeti, ‘I might as well introduce everyone here.’ He cleared the disruption in his throat. ‘This is Berkowitz the troll. A good lad he is. He helped us figure out the times you would be walking down the trail, and the time you would be at the market. This resulted in Octavius bumping into you so smoothly.’ I really didn’t care who was who, and what part they played in the operation, yet the passionate yeti carried on. ‘And this,’ he smiled proudly, ‘is Bodhi the ogre. My assistant and personal guard.’ I could see why. He looked extremely bulky and strongly built, I’m sure he would survive any disaster, and remain in one piece. ‘The last two members of the crew are Daphne the phoenix, and…’ he paused. I felt the tension. ‘And Brom the bear’.
I was disgusted. How could someone who has worked with my dad for years, and created a trust and friendship with the entire family, betray us like that?
‘And I, go by Enid,’ the yeti said conclusively. ‘I am the manager and boss of this business, and trust me, if you listen closely, your family will remain unharmed and can go back to whatever peasant life you were living’.
At least I can afford to wash and smell clean I thought.
‘Now sit, so I can inform you of your father and we can get this over with.’
‘We have established a pact called the Secret Society. Specially chosen, we decided your father would be the best fit for a… a mission’. Enid reached over for his glass of whiskey, and swirled it around in his mouth.
Berkowitz crushed his pipe using his grotty fingers, before taking over.
‘William has been sent to find a flower. It only grows during the coldest month of June, which happens to be now. Other organisations and cults are looking for it. The soil needn’t be too damp or arid, and the sun needn’t be too harsh nor too weak. Your dad has been chosen for a purpose, for we believe he has the ability to find it.’
I had many questions. Suddenly, the jigsaw pieces which had rough, resistant edges came together as one and formed an understandable picture.
‘If you have my dad searching for the flower,’ I began, penetrating my intense looking pupils into theirs, ‘then why do you need us!?’ I held my hands in front of myself and awaited their answer.
Daphne shifted to the dim light, and took a spare seat next to Octavius.
‘Well, um..’ she began. I could tell she was nervous, and I was afraid to hear her next words. ‘Everything was going perfectly with your father; he even found the location of the flower. But he um, hasn’t been able to get back.
‘What do you mean?!’ I shouted furiously, standing up from my seat.
‘Communication has been difficult. We haven’t been able to contact him, and since I don’t know where he and the flower are, I can’t fly everyone over there to get him’. For some unknown reason, I felt like Daphne didn’t belong here. She seemed more sympathetic and kinder than the others, but maybe it was just to gain our trust.
‘So the reason the both of you are down here: we believe that the incredible navigational and solving genes your dad has, has been passed down to you. Our idea is to send the both of you to find him and come back with the flower.’
As peculiar and somewhat fishy this situation was, hearing the creatures talk and knowing that my father was alive had me feel rested, although we had absolutely no clue where he was in the whole of Ahoy.
‘This doesn’t sound too bad. After all, I do want to find my father and bring him back home. However, I have some conditions…’ I said wisely, feeling proud that I wasn’t being completely controlled.
Enid crushed some ice from his whiskey in between his teeth, which broke the silence, and looked around to the others. They nodded cooperatively.
‘We are listening,’ he said, crossing his arms on the table.
‘First of all, I want to know everything about this flower. Why the Secret Society wants it, how it is special, and its abilities. Second, I want to be equipped with a map, food, water, and other essentials. There is no chance Misty and I are getting stuck while on a mission to rescue our father.’
Berkowitz nodded at me and the others.
‘Now, Kiara and Misty. Per requested, we are going to give you a book explaining the flower. Such as, the appearance, the abilities, where it is found, and how to bring it back to us.’ Stated Enid. He got up from the table, while doing so, banging his knee and saying some naughty words. He went over to the bookshelf, ran his fingers over the covers before stopping at the right one.
‘Here,’ he said. The book was placed in front of me.
I gazed down. The worn, emerald green cover stared back at me. There were patches of lighter colour, perhaps where a hand has been to hold it. Gold swirls and patterns danced around, while the title sat most prominently.
‘The Gloriosa Superba,’ I whispered underneath my heavy breath.
‘Also known as the flame lily,’ added Octavius, who had been acting like a spider in the corner of a room; unseen and quiet.
Enid checked his watch. It had felt we had been only discussing for seconds, before he said, ‘it has been 47 minutes. You must start the search now. We will provide you with a map and other equipment that will help you find William.’
‘Right, we will get to it,’ I said, plastering a smile onto my face.
With that, I grabbed the book, picnic basket, and other bags full of essentials and equipment handed to me by the others. Bodhi entered the same four numbered code, and the two fatherless children exited, determined to have a successful mission.