Thirteen Tales From Another World
The Tale of Endless Ocean
Meanwhile on an Island Paradise in another dimension
“MROWL!” Dr. Callyco tossed a glass bottle into the ocean. The orange kitten in a lab coat then put his hands on his hips as he watched it drift away into the ocean.
“We’re littering now?” Dr. Cutie Pup asked.
“What no!” Dr. Callyco huffed. “It’s a message in a bottle. “You always see messages in a bottle on TV about people being in trouble or other stuff. So, I thought, you know what, wouldn’t it be fun if someone got a message in a bottle and that said ‘Everything is fine. Here are some cookies. Have a great day.’
“You included cookies?” Dr. Cutie Pup tilted his head. “A generous gesture but aren’t you worried they’ll be stale by the time they get there.”
“Nah! Messages in a bottle are magic. They’ll still be like fresh out of the oven when someone finds it.” Dr. Callyco puffed out his chest proudly.
“And where did you learn that scientific fact?” Dr. Cutie Pup rolled his eyes.
“I’m glad you asked!” Dr. Callyco grinned. “Cause that takes us into tonight’s tale. A human girl, Aria, comes across her own message in a bottle. And of course, answering the message is going to take her to another world.”
“You never actually answer-“ Dr. Cutie Pup started.
“And so!” Dr. Callyco shouted louder. “I present you are fourth tale!”
Thirteen Tales From Another World
The Tale of Endless Ocean
Aria was sitting out on the pier overlooking the ocean. She was dressed in business casual, wearing a pair of dress pants, a nice shirt and her work shoes. Not exactly perfect attire for the beach. But the brown-haired girl had come here after work and hadn’t planned on staying long. The sun was starting to set. Sometimes, on a stressful day you just needed to find a way to relax. Listening to the waves, watching the sunset it was a way to calm down after what had been a very long day.
But of course, she couldn’t stay forever. When there wasn’t much light left, she decided that it was probably time to head back to her car and go home. She turned back and gave one final look at the beach only to pause as she saw something. The setting light of the sun had reflected off of something on the beach shore, glistening as if it was trying to be noticed. It was probably nothing. But what was five more minutes to check it out?
Aria worked her way down from the boardwalk and across the sand. The object in question was right at the edge of where the waves were coming in. It must have been carried in by the tide then deposited on the beach. As Sinopa got closer though curiosity turned to disappointment. It was just a bottle. Someone’s litter. Someone must have been drinking and just tossed the bottle aside rather than actually clean up after themselves. It was honestly frustrating the lack of consideration some people had.
And who knew how gross it was now. But now that Aria had seen it, she supposed if she just left it there, she was just as guilty as whoever threw it out in the first place. Not wanting to touch it directly with her hand, she untucked her shirt and proceeded to ready to use that as a barrier to touch the object. But, when she got close enough to pick it up she immediately forgot about the possibility germs and gross gunk that might be on the bottle.
The bottle itself was made of clear glass. It was long, but with a crystal-like texture over the bottom half of the bottle. There was no sign of a label. This didn’t look like a wine bottle. Part of its crystal-like surface made it hard to see through it clearly, but there was definitely something inside the bottle. Staring directly down from the top a cork blocked most of it from view, but it looked like an aged piece of parchment.
“No way.” Aria picked up the bottle all former hesitation lost. It was an actual message in a bottle! What were the odds of encountering something like that? What was the message? A treasure map? A call for help? Some random teenager playing a prank and messing with people? All equally likely scenarios! Well, actually, the third one was probably the most likely. But that didn’t change the excitement she felt having come across it.
Aria uncorked the bottle and slipped out the parchment. She unraveled it read the message over.
Calling All Adventurers,
The Grand Pirate Games have begun again! The rules are the same as they are every year. Find the prize and its yours to keep! But, remember we are pirates! And just because you found the treasure doesn’t mean someone else won’t try to take it. The game will last one year. Whoever holds the prize when the year ends gets to keep it forever.
But, we can’t maintain the status quo from last year’s game. After all it’d be boring if the same crew won again and again for having the strongest members. So, this message is being sent out to our world and others! Those who wish to become pirates and sail the endless need only to speak the incantation.
‘I choose the pirate life and will explore the endless ocean. I will play the game like a true pirate would! With cunning, ferocity, and ambition.’
New players will be evenly distributed among all the crews other than last year’s victory. The game has already begun! So don’t waste time joining a team.
The Ocean Queen
“Huh…” Aria ready over the message a second time. This was definitely some kind of prank. But whoever it did, they must have put a lot of effort into it. She wondered how they managed to make the paper look so aged. Maybe she’d take this into work tomorrow, it’d make a good story if nothing else. But… What was with the incantation? It didn’t sound very magical. A shame. A pirate game might be fun.
Aria paused as she looked up and down the beach, verifying that she was alone. A pirate game would be fun. It was fake. Of course, it was fake. Just a prank. But… On the small impossible chance…
“I choose the pirate life and will explore the endless ocean. I will play the game like a true pirate would! With cunning, ferocity, and ambition.” Aria quietly repeated the words on the parchment. She waited, nothing seemed to happen. That was to be expected. If the world really had magical pirate adventures no one would be working boring jobs like hers. She turned to walk up from the beach and promptly walked into a wooden wall.
“OW!” Aria’s voice was higher pitched as she fell backwards onto a wooden floor. Her clothing no longer fit. She was sitting in them like there were a pile of blankets on her. The beach was gone. She was in a small room. And it seemed to be swaying left and right beneath her. A lantern hung from the ceiling swung back and forth as the room swayed. Looking around, she saw the room full of shelves that seemed to have different food items on them. A pantry of some kind? But why was it rocking back and forth?
Aria stood up. It took a moment to get her bearings and get used to the floor moving. Her clothes fell to the floor, yet despite that she didn’t feel chilly. She looked down at herself. She was covered in brown fur, had a long tail, and her hands and feet were like animalstic paws. She was still human shaped, mostly just a sort of animal human… But based on her size, proportions and the fact her voice was higher, she had to be a kid. She lowly reached up a hand to feel around her head for her ears to confirm something. A set of rounded ears for at the top. She went cross-eyed to look down her nose. She had a short muzzle.
She was an otter. Well otter person. Otter person kid. Though two marks from her human identity had carried over. She had two tattoos, one on each arm. One was blue, the other green. The tattoos themselves were gone, but there were blue and green patches of fur in the exact shape and spot where they had been.
“Huh.” Aria paused for a very long moment to consider what had happened. In this time, she realized the bottle and the message were gone. Her clothing was still here, not that it fit anymore. And the room wouldn’t stop moving. Given she was an aquatic animal after reading a scroll about pirates she could only assume she was on some kind of ship now. Spontaneously teleporting to a ship out in the middle of an ocean wasn’t any more farfetched than turning into an otter kid. “Well… Sometimes you just have to be an otter kid and have a pirate adventure.” Aria took this quite well. She had been hoping something like this would actually happen when she read the scroll. True, she didn’t expect her desire to actually be granted, and the otter and kid part came as a surprise. But, she wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Apparently, there was some kind of pirate game, so it was time to see what that was about.
There was one door. Aria opened it, stepped out into the hallway, ready for adventure. She was suddenly met with a shout.
“We’re under attack!” Another otter kid was in the hall. He wore only a belt and a durag over his head.
“Wait attack? No I’m not-“ But Aria didn’t get the chance to say much more before several more otters appeared. Through sheer numbers they managed to grab her, hoist her up above their heads and march up to the ship’s deck.
“Captain! Captain!” One otter shouted to another female one who was standing behind the helm. She wore a fancy hat and an open coat that. “We’re being attacked by a rival crew.”
“We are?” The otter that was apparently the captain. “Then please pray tell where is the enemy ship?”
“Uh…” The other otter went silent.
“She’s not an enemy she’s a stowaway.” The captain grinned. “And… You know what we do to stowaways don’t you?”
“Make them walk the plank?” Aria asked nervously. At least since she was an otter she should be a good swimmer.
“What? No! Why would you think-“ The captain shook her head. “That’s barbaric! No! We give you a time out!” She pointed to a corner of the ship deck where there was a stool. “Go sit over there for fifteen minutes and think about what you did.” As she spoke the other otters put Aria down.
“Seriously?” Aria asked.
“Want to make it thirty?” The captain asked.
“Uhhh, fifteen is fine.” Aria walked over to the chair and sat down. The last couple of minutes were far more confusing to her than the entire transformation and popping up on a pirate ship. At least fifteen minuntes gave her time to think about things. The scroll definitely had been magic. Or something hit her upside the head and she was in a coma. She felt like that was something she’d remember. So, this was real. Probably.
Which meant… Well, she supposed it meant she was supposed to be a pirate now! But… Hadn’t the note said something about new players being assigned to crews. Was this supposed to be her crew? Everyone appeared to be an otter like her. But for all she knew EVERYONE in the game could be an otter. But if she was part of their crew now why would they think she was a stowaway? Were the existing pirates not informed of new players?
And was the game real? That was something she hadn’t thought to consider. With everything else that happened she hadn’t thought to doubt any part of the note’s truthfulness. But there was no guarantee every sentence written on it was true. The game could just be something made up to lure people into a trap.
“Hey! Your fifteen minutes is up!” The captain shouted. “Now… Come on over here.”
“Uh… Right…” Aria approached the captain.
“So… You, what’s your name?” The captain demanded.
“Aria.” For a very brief moment she had considered giving a false name.
“Alright Aria, you can call me Izzy, Captain Izzy, or Captain. Whichever you prefer.” Izzy grinned. “So… You’re the new player assigned to our crew then?”
“Wait… You already knew that!?” Aria had been right about why she was dumped on the ship.
“Well yeah I mean it’s not like there was any place you could have snuck onto the ship to stowaway.” Izzy grinned mischievously. “This entire world is nothing but ocean. Closest thing we have to ports are groups of floating barges.”
“Then why the heck did you put me in time out?” Aria asked.
“Two reasons!” Izzy help up one finger. “First, a lot of people don’t come here on purpose and apparently are just dumb enough to read magic scrolls out loud and assume nothing will happen. A little time out gives them some time to think to themselves and process what’s going on.” She held up a second finger. “And the other part… I found it funny.”
“Seriously?” Aria glared at Izzy, then her look softened. “Okay, I suppose it was a little funny.”
“Anyway, you joined at a good time.” Izzy approached the helm. “Today is our day of conquest. The prize is as good as our’s.”
“I remember that being mentioned in the letter.” Aria nodded. “So, does that mean we’re the first one’s to fine it?”
“Oh heaven’s no.” Izzy shook her head. “Not a single one of us has any sense of direction. We’ve never found the treasure first in any of the games. The Rat Crew found it first. Then it was stolen from them by the Raccoon Crew. Who had it stolen from them by the Dog Crew. Who had it stolen from them by the Fox Crew.” Izzy grinned. “And by dumb luck we’re coming up on their ship. We’ll try to board them and steal the prize! You came at a fine time.”
“So… Every crew consist of one animal?” Aria asked.
“Apparently.” Izzy shrugged. “I’ve never seen any otters that weren’t assigned to our crew. Whatever entity arranges these games and makes the rules, I guess they use animals as a way to tell teams apart.”
“That explains a little bit… But… Why am I a kid?” Aria asked. Then she realized she should clarify. “I was an adult before I came in.”
“Again, that would be something set up by the Ocean Queen or whatever the entity behind this calls themselves.” Izzy explained. “I can only assume kids adapt to the game better and are more fun to watch than adults.”
“I guess that tracks.” Aria didn’t see any reason to argue. It wasn’t like whoever made these decisions was here to question them. And it wasn’t like she actually hated this. She wasn’t sure how she had lived her entire life without a tail before now.
“They’re going to come into view soon.” Captain Izzy addressed Aria. “Just follow the rest of the crew’s lead and try not to get bopped on the head.”
“Who is going to-“ Aria started to ask but didn’t get the chance.
“Battle stations!” Captain Izzy shouted. “Prepare the cannons! Open fire the second we have visibility through the mist! Let’s catch them off guard.”
Many of the otters ran to the side of the deck where there was a strange fixture that almost looked like a crossbow set up instead of a cannon. There was a trigger to pull, but instead of an arrow there was a bottle rocket loaded.
“Uh… These are bottle rockets.” Aria spoke up.
“Yes and?” Izzy asked.
“I guess and nothing.” Aria shrugged. There was no reason not to play along. She looked out over the ship. A thick mist covered part of the ocean. But as they moved, the outline of another ship appeared
“FIRE!” Izzy shouted.
The other otters all pulled the trigger on their ‘cannons.’ It caused a piece of flint to quickly slide against another creating a spark that lit the fuse of the bottle rocket. Aria copied them, and then all of the bottle rockets were launched aiming for the other ship. They all went down, and best Aria could see landed on the ship. But it wasn’t as if a bottle rocket was going to do any damage or sink the ship.
“A direct hit!” Izzy shouted.
“Captain!” One otter shouted. “They’re returning fire!” The other ship was launching its own bottle rocks in retaliation.
“Then fire back at them firing back!” Izzy shouted. “And take evasive maneuvers!” She paused. “Oh, right I’m at the helm.” She quickly grabbed the wheel and turned it.
Both ships continued to fire rockets that rained down on each other. Most of them landed harmlessly on the deck of the ship, though a couple of times Aria almost got hit on the head by one. So that’s what she was supposed to avoid being bonked by.
As the ships continued to fire they circled each other getting closer and closer. Soon, they were close enough to make out the foxes on the other ship.
“Captain Izzy is that you?” A fox wearing a fancy hat on the ship asked. “I never expected you’d to come after us. I figured you’d be chasing a rock or something with your sense of direction.”
“Maybe I’m just chasing someone with rocks for brains!” Izzy stuck out her tongue.
“Oh yes, very clever. But I’m rubber and you’re glue, bounces off me and sticks to you.” The fox captain replied.
“So… You two just insult people like children, even if you’re mentally adults? Or am I the only one here who was an adult?” Aria asked.
“Oh, most of us were adults once. But, shouting childish insults is fun! You should try it.” Izzy flashed a wicked grin.
“Uh…” Aria looked at the ship of foxes. “You dumb mutts aren’t nearly clever as you think!”
“You’re crazy if you think you can take us!” A fox shouted back. “But we’re crazy too. Crazy like a fox.”
“That joke was bad and should feel bad!” Aria shouted back. “Did you stay up all night writing that one!”
“At least I know how to write!” The fox shouted back.
“Cool, I think I have my own rival now.” Aria grinned.
“Prepare to board!” Izzy shouted as she slammed their ship into the side of the fox’s. The otters began to jump to the other ship. Not sure what else to do Aria followed.
“Foxes! Defend our pride! And also the prize! Mostly the prize!” The fox captain shouted. As he did, several of the foxes drew swords made out of foam.
“Uh was I supposed to bring a weapon?” Aria asked.
“I got you covered.” Captain Izzy leaped onto the ship. She was holding three foam swords, one in each hand and a third in her mouth. She quickly handed Aria one of the swords before grabbing the other from her mouth. “They’re not going to sit by and let us search the ship. Since we’re gonna have to beat them into submission anyway we might as well beat some information out of them! An extra plate of cookies to whoever gets someone to spill the location of the prize first!” This was met with a chorus of cheers. Then Izzy charged the fox captain as every other otter picked their own fox to square off with.
It seemed Aria was fighting the one she had been insulting earlier.
“Alright!” Aria held her sword out getting into the act. “Just tell me where this prize is now, and you can save yourself a lot of embarrassment!”
“Ha! In your dreams!” The fox was on her in a minute swinging his foam sword around. She brought hers up to parry. It wasn’t as if either was capable of actually hurting the other with the swords. The only thing to lose by getting hit was pride. “You’ve light years away from being able to take me.”
“Light years measures distance you dodo!” Aria leaped back to avoid a slash while jabbing forward with hers.
“I knew that!” The fox didn’t sound confident. “I mean you’re gonna have to travel a long time… And uh, experience the world and-“
“You wanna just stop trying to save that one and move on?” Aria asked.
“Probably for the best.” He swung at her again. “You fight like a cow!”
“How appropriate.” Aria grinned. “You fight like a wad of grass!”
“Uh…” The fox froze up. “Pretty sure that’s not the punchline. Like, I set you up there for it and everything. People were expecting a certain response.”
“I gave one fitting.” Aria beamed. “Cows eat grass. Just like I’m gonna chew you up and spit you out.”
“But that’s not how the line goes!” The fox thrashed his tail.
“It isn’t?” Aria asked feigning confusion.
“Noe you’re supposed to say-“ The fox started.
“You fight like a puppy!” Aria launched herself forward, swung her sword as hard as she could and knocked the fox’s sword from his hand. “Cause, you’re easily distracted and stuff.”
“That’s not it either! And if you have to explain it then it’s not funny!” The fox complained.
“Maybe… But I’m not the one without a sword right now.” Aria grinned. “Now, tell me where the prize is, or I’ll whack you good.”
“Ha! You’ll never break me you pea-brained numbskull!” The fox shouted defiantly.
“Oh really?” Aria flashed a mischievous grin. She had a fun idea of how to get under this guy’s skin. “Well, I’m rubber and you’re blue! Cause I bounce back and hit you!”
“That’s… That’s not how that one goes either!” The fox shouted angrily.
“Okay, okay, okay. I’ll try again.” Aria’s grin widened. Who needed a sword when you had a sharp wit? “You’re just a sad circle.”
“I think you mean square.” The fox narrowed his eyes.
“No circle.” Aria was having a hard time not laughing. “You don’t have a sharp edge on you.”
“Oh, that one is such a stretch!” The fox yelled.
“You ready to tell me where the prize is?” Aria asked.
“Not in your lifetime!” The fox yelled.
“Then you leave me no choice.” Aria couldn’t help but let out a small menacing chuckle. “You’re a monkey’’s newphew.”
“The saying is a monkey’s uncle and even that doesn’t make sense in this context!” The fox tugged on his ears.
“I can do this all day. Tell me where the prize is.” Aria gave him a predatory look.
“You’re being bad at this on purpose!?” The fox had not caught on. “Why you…”
“Okay you asked for it.” Aria took a deep breath. “You have-“
“That’s enough! I give! I give!” The fox didn’t let her finish. “It’s under a loose floorboard next to the helm!” With that the fox took off running and disappeared below deck.
“Thank you.” Aria looked around. The crew seemed to be equal in size. Meaning all the other foxes were still engaged in their own duels and not focused on Aria. So, she decided to go ahead and approach the helm and look for the floorboard. It didn’t take long to find. She pulled it aside and revealed the prize underneath.
It was teddy bear with a little eye patch and pirate hat.
“This is the prize?” Aria lifted it up.
“We got what we came for!” Izzy shouted to the crew. “Everyone back to the ship!” The otters headed back to their own ships.
“Uh sure…” Aria followed.
“Don’t let them get away!” The fox captain shouted. “Prepare the cannons!”
“Sir! We’re out of bottle rockets!” Another fox shouted.
“Someone do something!” The fox captain shouted, but by this point everyone was back on the ship. Izzy was at the helm, and they were already leaving the other ship behind. Soon, they were no longer visible in the fog.
“It’ll be hard for them to follow us.” Izzy smiled. “And I have a plan to hang on to the thing. I’ll just get lost on purpose. So lost no one can figure out where we are before the game ends.”
“Uh right…” Aria looked at the bear in her hand. “This is the prize?”
“Yup!” Izzy nodded. “It’s something different each game! But whoever has it when the game ends gets to keep it! Now we need to find a good hiding place… But that can wait till after dinner. I believe you earned yourself an extra plate of cookies for dessert.”
“I guess I did.” Aria grinned and looked down at the bear. This entire pirate game was goofy and nonsensical. But sometimes, you had to engage in a little nonsense.