The Story Thus Far: Jonah met the salmon Stuart in a puddle in his back yard after a massive storm rampaged through it, tearing through his world into other dimensions. He then made the mistake of telling his parents. His mother and father, fearing for his sanity, told him not to talk to Stuart any more, and to go play with other kids like a normal boy instead.
After consulting with his friend, Humphrey (the massive troll who lived in his basement,) Jonah decided he would honor his parents’ wishes. Unfortunately, the boys he befriended just happened to be ghosts who let it slip that Jonah’s parents had recently been captured by a demon. In a panic Jonah raced home to find his parents missing and Stuart flopping on the grass as he slowly suffocated to death. Picking up the salmon, Jonah raced into the house to save his new friend, who also happened to be the only one who had seen his parents’ final moments on earth. (You can read the first few chapters in the book’s archive right here.)
THE MISSING PARENTS
Stuart gasped for oxygen as Jonah plopped him head-first into the toilet. Turning to the bathtub, Jonah closed the drain and filled the basin with water. Then, grabbing Stuart up out of the toilet, he set him in his new makeshift aquarium. “Oh, thank you, Jonah!” Stuart said. “I am forever indebted to you.”
“What happened, Stuart?” Jonah said.
“Your parents were coming out into the backyard, why I don’t know. Perhaps to assess damage from the storm. Unfortunately for them, they were not as careful as you in avoiding puddles. After stepping in several of the puddles that were just puddles, your father stepped in one of the deep puddles and grabbed your mother’s hand as he fell.”
“Where did they fall to, Stuart? Did they. . . did they just disappear?”
“The deep puddles, as you have guessed, are far from normal puddles. The storm that created them was not just in this realm, but many. And it was so violent that it tore through the fabric of several dimensions, including yours. In so doing, it linked them together through little pinhole portals, really micro-scale inter-dimensional rips, like your puddles. That is what the deep puddles are, and where they go. And that is where your parents have disappeared to.”
“So if I swim down the same puddle, can I get them back?”
“I wouldn’t advise it, Jonah. The puddle your parents fell into reeked of dark and decay. And after they fell, the creature in the puddle with me grew in power exponentially. That was when it tried to rip me in pieces, and forced me to evacuate my puddle. The two had to have been linked somehow. And so I fear that following your mother and father would only deposit you into that beast’s power as well.”
“They said the demon had my parents,” Jonah whispered. “Did it — did it eat them?” His voice was small. Little more than a squeak.
Stuart gave Jonah a considering look. “Who told you it was a demon, Jonah?” he said.
“Some ghosts I played baseball with.”
Stuart nodded. “I see.” Then he cleared his fishy throat. “In a sense, perhaps it did. But I don’t think hope is lost yet. Digestion takes a while, after all. We may still be able to save them.”
“What do we do, Stuart?”
“Do you trust me, Jonah?”
“Then find an aquarium, a goldfish bowl, and a small wagon if you can. We will go a-courting.”
. . .
Jonah set the bulky twenty-gallon aquarium in the red metal wagon he’d found and used an old milk jug to fill it.
“Good,” Stuart said when the aquarium was full. “Now, put me into the aquarium and put the goldfish bowl on your head.”
“Put the goldfish bowl on my head?” Jonah said. “But I could suffocate!”
“Oh,” Stuart said. “Hmm. Yes, I suppose that is a possibility. Very well, put it on right before we jump in. Trust me, if we emerge into a water world by accident, you’ll be happy you did.”
Jonah grimaced. Lifting Stuart out of the bathtub, he placed him carefully in the aquarium. Then, with the rickety wagon’s handle in one hand and the goldfish bowl in the other, he set out for the backyard. Water sloshed dangerously over the sides of the aquarium as Jonah carefully maneuvered it down the deck stair, wincing each time a wheel came down with a thud. Once it was finally down the stairs, though, he retreated to the house, grabbed the garden hose, and topped the aquarium off.
“Okay,” Jonah said when he was finished. “Wait here for a second, Stuart. I’ll be right back.”
“Where are you going, Jonah?” he asked.
“I’m going to get us some more help,” Jonah said. Then, turning, he headed back into the house. He ran to the basement door, swung it open, and flicked on the light. “Humphrey?” he called. “Are you down there?”
The darkness clinging to the depths of the basement rumbled. Slowly, meticulously, Humphrey pulled himself out of them. “Why of course, Jonah,” he said. “Where else would I be?”
Jonah ran down the stairs and flung his arms around his friend. He found that his body was trembling, and that tears were collecting in his eyes. “My parents are gone, Humphrey,” he said.
“Whatever do you mean, Jonah?” Humphrey said, tenderly wrapping his own gargantuan arms around the boy. “Where did they go?”
“They stepped in the wrong puddle,” Jonah said.
“Oh, Jonah,” Humphrey said. “I am so sorry.”
“I have to get them back, Humphrey. I have to save them.” Jonah looked up into his friend’s virulent orange eyes. “Will you help me?”
Humphrey cleared his throat, and his hand strayed absentmindedly to his bowtie. “I am, first a foremost, a troll of peace, Jonah. You know that. But I also cannot stand idly by and let others suffer. Especially when one of those is you. Of course I will help you.”
“Thank you, Humphrey,” Jonah said. “Thank you.” Then he dashed back up the stairs. When he realized Humphrey wasn’t following, he turned with a frown. “Are you coming?”
“Don’t worry about me, young master Hutchins,” Humphrey said. “I have my own ways of travel: I will fetch my coat and then meet you in the yard.”
“Okay. I’m going to get Calisto.”
Humphrey humphed. “Are you sure that’s the wisest course, Jonah?” he said. “She is. . . impulsive. And petulant.”
Jonah shrugged. “She’s my friend, too. And we need all the help we can get.”
“Very well then,” Humphrey said. “Go get her, and I will meet you out back.”
“Thank you, Humphrey,” he said. Then he raced up the stairs, down the hall and through the still-open front doorframe.
“Calisto!” he cried as he burst into the front yard. “Calisto, where are you?”
There was no answer but the wind whistling through the trees.
Jonah growled. “I’m sorry about earlier! I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”
“Well, you did in any case,” Calisto said, landing in the lawn behind Jonah.
“I’m sorry, Calisto,” Jonah said. “You’re my friend, and I shouldn’t have.”
Calisto preened ever so slightly. “So what do you want?” she asked.
“I want to make it up to you,” Jonah said.
“What if I told you we have to take down a demon?”
Calisto’s eyebrows perked with her ears. “I’m listening.”
. . .
Calisto landed next to the red wagon in the backyard and Jonah slid off her back. Calisto cocked her head at the aquarium’s occupant.
“Dinner?” she said.
“Stuart,” the fish replied.
The shadows shifted alongside the house and Humphrey pulled himself free of them. He was now wearing an old suede coat that was much too small for him and a brown bowler hat. Ponderously he approached the aquarium and knelt beside it.
“Good day,” he said, doffing his hat. “My name is Humphrey.”
“A pleasure, Humphrey,” Stuart said. “I am Stuart.”
Humphrey narrowed his eyes. “Pardon my forwardness, but do I have the honor of addressing a Messenger?”
Stuart inclined his head.
“Then it is indeed a privilege,” Humphrey said.
“Enough of this,” Calisto said. “My claws ache for demon flesh.”
“So, which puddle are we heading to, Stuart?” Jonah asked.
“Yes, we must be off,” Stuart said. “Very well, Jonah. Go forward three puddles, then turn left. I’ll direct you further once there.”
Jonah nodded and stepped into the grove of puddles, his entourage following close behind. After walking three in, he turned left.
“I suppose it goes without saying that everyone should watch their footing,” Humphrey said.
“Forward two, then right two,” Stuart said. Jonah strode past two puddles, then turned right and started past another deep one. If only he had heeded Humphrey’s advice.
The ground slid out from underneath Jonah as effortlessly as a skateboard would escape a one-legged wino. Jonah’s arms pistoned out to either side, looking for something to grab. And his left one found the red wagon.
“Jonah, no!” Stuart said. Too late.
As Humphrey and Calisto watched in horror, the boy and the fish dropped down the puddle and vanished from sight.
There’s more to come! Let me know what you think of it so far, and, if you like it, be sure to share it!