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Project Seachild

Project Seachild

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Project Seachild

172 pagine
2 ore
Feb 16, 2021


One year after his marine biologist father drowned while searching for Atlantean ruins, a ten-year-old boy journeys to a mythical land and discovers his destiny and hope as the Ambassador of the legendary Sea People.

Feb 16, 2021

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Project Seachild - Judie Gerber


Copyright © 2021 by Seachild

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States of America.

ISBN 978-0-9787881-4-8


To Egerton Sykes & All Brave Seekers of Truth.

Chapter One

A Second Heartbreak

The sprawling ranch -style home on a two-acre lot boasts a clear view of Shoe Tree Hill’s forested slope and the magnificent oak towering at the top. An aquatic-themed mosaic tile walkway winds around the well-kept house of wood and stone. Two weathervanes on the roof—a whale on the south peak and a mermaid on the north—point east. Dolphin wind chimes on the front porch serenade the so-far unpromising morning.

A mud-splattered bike and newspaper lie on the ground at the bottom of the seven porch steps. Ten-year-old Colt, an earnest boy with tired eyes and worry lines beyond his years, stands behind a sable and white collie-St. Bernard-cross the size of a small pony. The skinny boy, clad in muddy shorts, T-shirt, and sandals, gently nudges the geriatric dog’s bony hind end with his cupped hands. You still have it in ya, he coaches. I’m counting on you to live another twenty years so you’ll—

Pauline’s spindly legs stumble on the first step and collapse beneath her at impossible angles. Howling in pain, she knocks over a clay pot as she rolls backward and lands at Colt’s feet. The boy helplessly watches her legs and body spasm. The pitiful dog’s terrified eyes stare straight ahead. Drooling blood-tinged froth, she whimpers.

Pauline? Colt gasps, kneeling down beside her. His trembling hand strokes her grey muzzle. You’re okay, girl. Okay? You’re okay, Pauline. You’ve gotta be.

Grandpa, a big-bellied man in a leisure suit, bursts out the screen door and instantly hones in on the situation at the base of the stairs. He grabs a life vest hanging on one of the deck chairs, rushes down the steps faster than most seventy-five-year-olds could, and stoops beside whimpering Pauline. He tenderly places the vest under her head. Drat, he murmurs, then looks up at anxious Colt and shakes his head.

She’ll be fine in a minute, Colt insists, desperate to believe his own words.

Says the boy who drives through the one and only puddle in the driveway to fetch the morning paper, Grandpa barks gruffly. Just more work for your mother.

Pauline will get back to her old job soon enough. Colt kicks some pottery shards aside, spies a dime in the soil, and pockets it. He knows he needs all the good luck he can get right now. He glares angrily at Grandpa. You can’t give up on her too soon.

Ignoring the boy, Grandpa scoops up the dog in his arms and turns toward the driveway.

Pauline’s got to be at the library this afternoon to read with the kids, Colt pesters.

I guess someone else will have to listen to fairy-tales today, Grandpa mutters.

Colt tags behind his stubborn grandfather to the old woody station wagon. Grandpa juts his chin at the back door. Colt opens it.

What are you doing? Colt asks worriedly.

Grandpa gingerly sets Pauline on the blanket on the back seat. She’s suffering. She’s beyond the quality-of-life scale. Muster your courage, Colt, and say good-bye.

Colt looks away as urine soaks the far end of the dog’s blanket.

You heard what Dr. Jack told us to do when the painkillers and steroids didn’t work anymore, Grandpa reminds the boy.

Colt watches Pauline’s chest heave and her open-mouth breathing.

Grandpa stares stone-faced at Colt. I’m going alone.

Colt scrambles into the backseat, slides under Pauline’s upper torso, and sits with her slobbering head in his lap. I’ll miss her just as much as you, the determined boy asserts, hugging the dog around her neck.

Lord knows it’d be a pain in the ass to pry you away, Grandpa growls huffily, then climbs into the driver’s seat, slams the door, and they’re off.

IN THE VETERINARY CLINIC exam room, Grandpa sits in the only chair. Sedated Pauline lies on the stainless steel exam table. Colt stands beside her, fondling her ears. Across from him, Dr. Jack, a weathered veterinarian in his sixties with numerous scars on his arms and hands, checks Pauline’s gum color and pulse.

Hanging on the wall above the exam table, a Norman Rockwell painting poster called "AT THE VET’S, and a framed veterinarian’s prayer: AS A VETERINARIAN, I ASK OF THEE/ THE WISDOM TO UNDERSTAND/ THE POWER TO BRING ABOUT HEALING/ AND THE LOVE TO LEND A HAND."

It’s time, isn’t it, doc? Grandpa questions for the third time.

Dr. Jack nods solemnly as he looks from Colt to Grandpa with a creased brow.

Colt will stay, Grandpa informs the veterinarian confidently. He’s okay to be here.

Dr. Jack’s raised eyebrows beg to differ, but he holds his tongue because that’s what professionals do in these iffy situations.

There’s a delicate knock on the door and a redheaded technician enters with a large syringe filled with pink liquid. She sets it on the table near Dr. Jack, nods compassionately to Colt and Grandpa, and leaves quietly.

Dr. Jack rubs a patch of Pauline’s forearm with alcohol as Colt eyeballs the skull and crossbones "POISON" sticker on the syringe. Fascinated, the boy reaches over Pauline’s body, touches the syringe, and quickly withdraws his hand as if electrocuted. Grandpa watches the giddy boy with profound sadness.

Dr. Jack whispers in Pauline’s ear, Farewell, Old Friend. He looks to Grandpa and Colt, and they both nod. She’s already heavily sedated, so things should go smoothly, the old softie veterinarian assures them.

Grandpa pulls his chair in closer. He rubs Pauline’s cheek and kisses her. Her tail thumps weakly on the table.

Don’t worry, Girl, Colt says softly to the beloved dog. Heaven’s not far.

Dr. Jack poises the needle above Pauline’s forearm, two inches below the tourniquet, and inserts it into the bulging vein. A fleck of blood appears in the syringe’s hub. The vet releases the tourniquet and injects the pink-bloody fluid into the dog’s bloodstream. Grandpa sobs into his hanky. Colt stands motionless as Pauline’s body quivers, then stops, then her breath stops too, and there’s a faint final tail wag. Dark urine dribbles onto the floor. Spluttering diarrhea soils the dog’s hind end. Stillness. Dr. Jack listens to Pauline’s chest with his stethoscope.

Colt gawks as a glowing sphere of white light rises out of Pauline’s chest and hovers above it near Dr. Jack’s oblivious forehead. Grandpa doesn’t appear to see the curious light either. The entranced boy steps back as the light sparkles into a dazzling white fireball that takes flight toward the ceiling and disappears through it.

Colt looks from dead Pauline to the ceiling several times. He giggles. Dr. Jack and Grandpa pay the boy no mind as he blows into Pauline’s face, pokes her lips and eyes, and then looks up at the ceiling again. Colt turns to Dr. Jack. What was that cool light? the perplexed boy queries innocently. 

Dr. Jack’s pinched eyebrows and Grandpa’s uncomprehending expression betray their confusion.

The ball of white light that just flew out of Pauline’s chest? Colt prompts.

Grandpa and Dr. Jack exchange a knowing glance.

Colt lifts one of the dog’s front paws, lets go, and it drops to the table. The boy’s eyes widen in panic.

She’s gone now, Colt, Dr. Jack offers calmly.

Grandpa sniffles. She’s dead.

Isn’t there an antidote to that pink stuff? Colt starts to come apart.

Dr. Jack shakes his head and defers to Grandpa.

Colt bursts into tears. I really loved her, and now she’s gone, and I don’t know where she is or what I should do.

Grandpa rises from his seat and embraces the boy. You’re so young to understand—

I hate this! Colt yells with everything in his lungs and storms from the room.

Grandpa turns to Dr. Jack apologetically. The veterinarian smiles kindly. Your family’s had their share of heartbreak this past year, Dr. Jack remarks.

Heartbreaks toughen us up, Grandpa concurs. But Colt is a bit of a magical thinker. Like his father.

Like you, Dr. Jack offers with a sympathetic grin.

Grandpa chuckles. His red-rimmed eyes well up and tears flow. I guess I let Colt come because I wanted him to see the finality of it. You know? So he could move on.

Dr. Jack nods somberly. Grandpa pets Pauline’s muzzle one last time, then gently removes her red leather collar and holds it tightly in his hands.

Outside in the hall, Colt shouts, I know the angels will take good care of Pauline, but she should still be here with me! He races past other exam rooms to the packed waiting room, where the crowd of dogs and cats and their people look up with empathy at the muddy, bawling boy. Colt flees past them and disappears out the front door.

Chapter Two

Trouble on Shoe Tree Hill

Atop Shoe Tree Hill , a colossal ancient oak with assorted shoes, slippers, and boots nailed around its trunk and slung high in its branches, watches over the modest neighborhood below in the outskirts of quaint Ogtown.

At the foot of the Hill, the trailhead begins with a crude wooden "SHOE TREE HILL" sign adorned with a shrine of animal bones, feathers, and painted stones. Two six-foot-tall stone cairns stand sentry, one on each side of the trail’s worn path. 

With a small backpack on his back, Colt sprints past the sign and up the trail, well ahead of his fourteen-year-old, jock brother, Finn, zoned out with his iPod, half of his face hidden behind his long bangs, and weary Grandpa taking his sweet, sweaty time.

Atop the Hill in twenty minutes, Colt eyes the approaching dark clouds on the horizon. He frowns at his home below, where workers set up a massive white tent in the backyard. The unsmiling boy turns to the Shoe Tree and kneels before its hollow. He reaches in and extracts a metal lunch box with an infinity sign engraved on its lid.

Inside the box, there’s an underwater photo of a young man in scuba gear, Colt’s father, Duncan Morgan, posing on a hexagonal stone road, and a second photograph shows the same happy chap in Piccadilly Square enjoying a few pints with friends on the patio outside the Laughing Dolphin Pub.

Colt retrieves a photo from his pack of puppy Pauline enjoying a vanilla ice cream cone on the front porch. He didn’t get to meet her as a pup. She was five years old by the time Colt was born. This is Grandpa’s favorite photo of his Special Girl. Colt presses the photograph to his lips, places it in the box, and returns it to the hollow. He rises to his feet, shakes his fists

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