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Chapter 5

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    Maria Catalina Higuera

The store’s bell rang announcing my presence as I pushed the glass door open, the smell of leather and gunpowder hitting me as I entered the small Outdoor supply store.

Boutuche had been as small and quiet as I had expected, which wasn’t exactly good since I called a lot of attention as I walked down the street, with bloodied clothes and still dripping water, the few people that were out and about gave me a huge berth, mothers calling their children in to come inside and people started suspiciously at me from their cars as the drove by.

There had been extra clothes along with food and other supplies on the green rugh sacks dad had brought with us but we hadn't had the chance to grab them when we ran, not that they would have survived the scufe that followed on the river trip I took.

All I had left was the things stored inside the jacket's pockets, which included some fake passports and IDs that I hoped were still alive after that soaking and a almos a thousand U.S and Canadian dollars.

My greatest loss had been by phone, somewhere along the river I had slipped out of my jeans, something that could have been avoided if I had just had the presence of mind enough to put it inside one of the many jaket pockets, unfortunately at the moment I had been running for my life.

In the corner of the store and old box tv broadcasted a canadain news network, noise I mostly ignore as I rummage through the store's meaguer clothing section until the reporter mentions my name, loud and clear making me stop cold as I slowly turn my head to look at the tv.

“A story that has made national headlines the search continues for a missing father and son”, she said, her hand resting on her desk in a professional manner “It had been more than 24 four hours since a teen age girl woke up in a strange house having forgotten where she was or how she got there, Melissa Santory is reporting from the scene, Melissa you are up”.

The screen changes to a drone image of our house, and the police tape around it, patrol cars and other government looking vehicles surrounding it.

“Thank you Charlotte”, another reporter said, appearing on the screen, standing only a few feet away from the police tape.

“Yesterday afternoon on the twenty one of october young Daneries Monterri, a sixteen year old high school sophomore, woke up on this house on the Naperville sector not able to remember how she go there or anything from the last hour, thinking she had been kidnap she immediately contacted the authorities who, upon coming to her rescue, found a horrifying scene, viewer discretion is advised, since the images that are about to be shown can be perturbing to certain audiences”.

The screen once again changed, this time to show images of the inside of our house, the blood had been blurred but it was still easy enough to tell that the entire place was practically painted in the stuff, people in white protection suits were one the scene collection samples, taking notes.

“The police chief of the chicago police has declared this an all hands on deck situation and an investigation is underway,” the reporter said, coming back on screen, “So far it had been uncovered that the house belong to a man by the name of Mark Harrison who lived with his fifteen year old son Kail John Harrison, however, investigation have found that both were using false identities and the the boys true name is Asher Hexun, his father identity is yet to be discovered leading the autoried to believe both were involved in illegal activities”.

I made an effort to swallow as the report went on, pretending to be looking through a stage of camouflage shorts, trying to not draw any more attention to myself, hoping our picture hadn’t been shown on tv, otherwise I wouldn't even be safe among humans, which significantly worsened my already precarious situation.

“Adding to the mystery of their sudden disappearance, the morning of the event all the electronic in the block were damage in a mysterious freak accident”, the reporter continued, “Even movil, cell phone digital camera and security ones making it impossible to find any footage of the event or moments leading to it ,however, some of the neighbors have provided information to the police and one of them is right here ready to give us her first had account of what exactly she witness”.

The camera angle changes to show a well dressed lady, probably in her late fifties to early sixties and who I recognize as one of our neighbors who had nothing better to do than stare at everybody from out her window.

“Mrs. Johnson”, the reporter said, extending her microphone to the woman, “What can you tell us about the case?”.

If Mrs. Jhonson was self conscious about being on live tv she didn’t show it immediately launching into her tale, “Around one 2: 30 p.m, I do recall I heard a scuffle on the Harrisons house, even heard someone screaming, sounded like a male voice but I could be wrong, I looked out the window, tried to see what was going on but everything looked fine from outside, I thought of calling the police but my phone wasn’t working so I let it go”.

She shook her head as if reproaching herself,“Around twenty mintus later I saw a strange car park down the block, I thought nothing of it at first thinking it was a visitor for one of the neighbors but then I saw the Harrison boy getting out of it and running down the street like the devil was chasing him, I didn’t see the moment the girl went inside after them but I did see when two people left the house, it was hard to see their faces, both were wearing hoods but by the general build I'm sure it was Mark and his son, they walked down the street, took the girls car and that was the last I saw of them”.

The camera panned back to the reporter, “Thank you Mrs. Jhonson, And that is all for my part, I am Messlis Santory for C.W.N”. .

The image once again change and back to the first reporter who was in the studio, “Thank you Melissa”, she said, “As of right now images we just receive images of the two suspects”, she said as two picture appear on screen, one look like and I.D photo of my father, probably from his driver's license in which he had short crop hair, which was way different than his usual hairstyle something he probably did intentional, and the second one...it was a picture of me, very recent, it was from my student I.D card in which I looked like I was being held at gunpoint, probably because of how nerves I had been when the picture was taken.

“These two-man are believed to be involved in human trafficking or similar illegal activities”, the reporters continued, “The experts theorized both use their good looks to draw young woman in to later traffic them. Although there is no confirmation of this the investigation is taking a heavy route towards the possibility. When asked about the entire situation and about Asher Hexun and whether she believed the allegations against him Daneries Monterris refused to comment ”.

“Are you going to be buying anything?”, a male voice asked, making me almost jump out of my shoes.

Behind me stood an older teen wearing a brown polo shirt with the store's logo embroidered on one side, he had greasy blond hair and a bad case of acne and tired expression.

If he thought there was something strange about my getup he didn’t show it, only staring at me impatiently.

“I...um…”, I looked down at a stack of navy blue cargo pants, “I...need a smaller size in those...I venture, hoping to drag his attention away from my face.

He seemed even more annoyed that I had asked for help but still rummaged through the pile of pants and handed me ones that looked like they would feet me.

“Anything more?”. He asked like he very much wished there was nothing else. “I...uh ...no...I'll just...look for some other stuff on my own...thanks”. I answered, saving us both the trouble of having to interact with each other.

He only shrugged, walking away and back to behind the counter where the only other person was a middle aged woman also wearing a store's uniform and busy doing some knitting. None of them seemed to be paying attention to me but I was still too nervous to even move around so I just grabbed the stuff within arm's distance of me and shuffled over to the counter.

The moment the stuff hit the counter the woman put her knitting down and didn’t even glance at me as she started scanning my stuff, “Good afternoon”, she said with not true cheerfulness in her tone.

“Um...hi”, I said, rubbing my arm nervously as she quickly went through the pile of clothes and placed them on a paper bag.

“That’ll be 195 with 55”, she said looking at me for the first time expectantly.

Trying to ignore her dubious gaze I dug around my pocket and brought out two hundred dollar in Canadian bills I had prepared beforehand and deposited them on the counter between us.

She raised an eyebrow at me, grabbing the still soaked money and not hiding at all as she stretched in and held it to the light, scratching the material as she checked to make sure it was real.

I stood still, feeling embarrassed as she checked the money, the other employee, the teen that had helped me before also joining her in checking the bills both muttering to each other.

Finally, after I was about to tell her to just let it go and walked out the store, she opened the cash register and put the bills away.

“Your change sir”, she said, sounding a little more genuine this time as she handed me the money.

I fumble for a second, throwing the loose coins in my pocket, so nervous to get going I almost forgot to grab the paper bag with my stuff before making a b-line for the door, not bothering to answer as she called after me to have a good day and to visit again soon.

The sink faucet sputtered and protested as I opened it, water splashing everywhere as I put my old, torn shirt under it, rinsing out all the dirt and mud and then using the soaked material to clean myself as best as I could.

I wished I could have had a proper shower with with soap and everything, instead I had to do with what I had.

It had taken me a while but I had found a public bathroom and locked myself inside, taking off all my dirty clothes and cleaning the grime out of myself, or at least as much as I could do with a damp t-shirt.

The image of my face on the news was still fresh in my mind, as well as the allegation against my father and me. It made me sick to think that we were both being suspected of such awful crimes, but considering in what state we left the house I could hardly blame the authorities.

I sighed, looking at myself in the mirror, I had dark circles under my eyes, and my face looked paler than usual. I was tired, all I wanted to do was to crawl into the closed hole and fall asleep, to forget all my troubles, all my worries.

I resisted the urge to cry, to break down in the green tile public bathroom, nothing was going well, I had no idea how to reach Greenland, I was hungry, tire and now my picture was circulating on the tv, our disappearance was the story of the moment and sooner or later somebody would recognize me, or even worse, the buggy would be found and the search would move to this area.

The coordinates dad had written on my arm were still there, just slightly faded from the water, something I found comforting and at the same time saddening. Even when he wasn’t here he was still watching out for me, a favor I hadn’t been able to return.

Slowly I made an effort to suppress all the emotions inside of me, I had to keep it together, to find a way out, that is what my father would have done.

The paper bag crinkled as I brought out the clothes I had bought, the blue pants that the teen had helped me find, a white t-shirt I had piket out of a stack without even checking the size, a new dark brown cargo jacket and a red beanie hat.

There was nothing salvageable from my old clothes, which meant I would be left with my markings partially exposed in my hands and neck, I just hoped people would think they were tattoos, despite me looking a little young to have them.

The pants were a little loose but they fit me okay, the shirt was definitely too big and it read, “Fish fear me, woman want me”, in green bold letters, sufficient to say I quickly decided I wouldn’t be unzipping my jaket.

With my picture circulating the media it would have been a good idea to alter my appearance somehow, cut my hair, maybe even shave it, but I had no scissors or a razor and I was too nervous to find another store to buy them so I settle for puttin on the beanie hat and stuffing all of my hair inside of it.

I hadn’t bought shoes which left me with my old ones, the black snickers were a little worse for wear but apart from still being wet and making squishy sounds when I walked they were functional.

Searching all of the old jackets pockets to make sure I didn’t miss anything, I moved the money and documents to my new jacket, graped my old clothes, and stuffed them inside the paper bag.

Gripping the edge of the bathroom sink I took several deep breaths, swallowing the knot in my throat as I attempted to calm myself down, looking fixedly at the coordinates on my arm to reassure myself. I needed to get there, that was the one thing dad had asked of me.

Still shaking inside but with a more composed expresion I unlock the white bathroom door and step outside.

First I had to find a dumpster to throw my old clothes away, after that I would begin figuring out how to get to Greenland, the faster I was out of the country the better.

I took another bite of the sandwich barely tasting whatever was in it. I had spent my afternoon asking around, trying to find a way to get to Greenland from here but I was quickly beginning to realize there were next to no options.

Most people told me the only way to get there was by plane, others told me cruise ships would occasionally stop there but not here. I asked if somebody could take me by boat there but nobody was too inclined on doing it, not even by offering them all the money I had. Crossing the Labrador sea was no small task and people just weren’t willing to make the four day trip for a thousand and something dollars.

Discouraged, hunger finally pushed me to stop the search and get some food. I had walked into the first food establishment I had seen, which was a subway, and only half paid attention to what the person behind the counter asked me what I wanted on my sandwich.

Now I sat on the ground, leaning against a tree in a small park I had found. The sky above me was grey and quickly turning darker, despite it only being 6 p.m night was falling fast.

Never, since me and my father parted ways, had I felt so alone as I felt in that moment, I felt hopeless, lost, the blue buggy would probably soon be found, if it hadn't already and then I would be on the run, not only from the hellish beasts and their riders, but from the police.

Earlier that day I had bought a burner phone and dialed the strange number I knew by memory, the one that had been on the phone I had lost, but the call didn’t even ring, it was like the number I was calling didn’t exist, wich made no sense since I knew that number had been on my phone for a reason, the entire thing just serve to make me more frustrated

I took a sip of the soda that had come with the sandwich, wondering if I should just risk taking a plane, my father hadn’t been clear on why we never used them, now I wish he had because it was quickly becoming the only option I had left.

“Hey you”, somebody called, walking across the park and toward me.

It took me a second but I quickly recognized the brown polo shirt, visibly as he had his jacket open, and blonde hair of the kid from the outdoor supply store.

What the hell did he want? I thought, annoyed, I wasn’t exactly in the mood for this.

“Can I help you?”, I asked as he came to stand in front of me.

He shrugged, “Maybe...let's start by the fact I know who you are”.

I felt my stomach drop, my muscles tense, “I have no idea what youre talking about”. Isaid, meeting his stare head on, hoping he wouldn't see the fear in my eyes.

“Sure you dont”, he said sarcastically, “Asher Hexun... you are a wanted person you know?”.

I gritted my teeth, cursing under my breath, this wasn’t good, I had been found sooner than expected.

“What do you want?”, I asked after a while, defeated.

“Hm…”, he said, rubbing his chin dramatically, “What do I want?...well they aren’t paying anything for tips about your whereabouts...yet, but...you know, it's still my duty as a good citizen looking out for the community to report you”, he rubbed his pointer finger and thumb together. “Unless you can provide some...compensations for my silence”.

I could hardly believe what I was hearing, for a second I considered just beating the daylights out of him, but that would only fueled the fire, give the police some concrete evidence to arrest and incriminate me.

I sighed, it looked like I wasn’t getting out of this one, “Fine, how much do you want?”.

He smirked, “What about... five hundred?”.

I almost choked, “Five hundred… are you crazy?”.

His smirk only widened, “Hey...you seem to be carrying a lot of money on you, surely you have enough to meet my price? or…”, he brought his phone out, “Maybe I should just call the police”.

There was no way in hell I was giving him five hundred dollars, I needed every penny out of my stash. Somehow I had to lower the price.

Before he realized what had happened I had jumped to my feet and had his phone in my hand, “I'll give you two hundred and your phone back...in one piece”.

His face became red with anger, “You dared…”, he shouted, making a move to grab his phone but I simply moved out of the way, tripping him in the process and he landed face first on the flozen earth.

“Aght”, he exclaimed in surprise and pain, “You little...I'll have the whole town on you just wait!”.

It was my turn to shrug, “I'm actually already leaving…”, I lied, “You will never see me again...but-”, and now I crouched in front of him, “You can just take the money I offer, I give you your phone back and you keep your mouth shut about me”.

He frowned, I could practically see the wheels turning in his head, “Fine”, he spat after a while, clearly not happy with our deal.

I was reluctant to give him the phone or the money, not sure if he would keep his word but I would rather take my chances with paying him.

He practically tore the phone and the money away from my hands, quikly poketing it. “By the way…”, he said, getting to his feet, brushing dry grass out of his jeans, “I heard somebody had been asking around about getting to Greenland...I take it was you”. He mentioned, all anguer gone from his face, he was all business again and I got the impression that this was why he had tracked me down in the first place.

Not sure where he was going with the conversation I crossed my arms over my chest, appearing uninterested, “Maybe…”.

“Hm..”, he said, mirroring me, “I think I can get you there...it's illegal, unsafe and I can't guarantee it will work but...I bet I'm the only person you will meet willing to try”.

Now he had my interest, but I tried to hide it, “Really?...and how would this plan of yours work?”.

He smirked, “I'm glad you ask”.

I looked down at the various red marker circles on the map, “You know this is insane right?”, I asked him, looking up from the table.

Logan, as he had introduced himself, simply sipped from a mug of black coffee that was missing the handle, the small portable heater in the corner of his messy room cracking and sputtering as it struggled to even make a dent in the chilly atmosphere.

“Well I did warn you it was dangerous…and with a large probability to fail”.

I looked back at the map, “More like it's absolutely going to fail”.

After our little “desgrament”, in the park, Logan had led me to his house in a more shabby part of town. It was at the end of the block with peeling white paint and a roof that looked like it would collapse if somebody so much as sneezed too close to it.

The small front yard gave out the impression that a transformer had been murdered in it with part of cars and other machines thrown every which way, stuff we had to walk over and doge around to reach the house.

The front door wasn’t even locked and nobody came out to greet us as we entered the house that was about as cold as the outside, our breath making white puffs. He led me down the creaky wooden floor and to his room, so small that it only barely had room for a desk and a bed.

I had been reluctant at first to follow complete strangers somewhere, especially to such a shady area but oddly enough, I didn’t feel any fear as I walked behind him, somehow I knew that there wasn’t anything I couldn't deal with here.

Once we were both seated in his room, me on his desk and him on the bed, he had explained the most absurd plan I had ever heard in my life and I had gone kayaking without a kayak just hours before so that was saying something.

As the locals had told me, the trip to Greenland was roughly four to five days in a fast boat, and even longer on a normal fishing one, which was what most of the townspeople own, it would take a lot of logistics and way more money than what I had to make the trip. Logan, however, was proposing a different strategy.

A cruise ship had passed recently on its way to Greenland. I had missed it by a day but Logan planned to fix that.

His idea was simple enough in theory, we would “borrow” his uncle's fishing boat and use it to catch up to the cruise ship. Once there I would, somehow, climb aboard and hide until it docked in Greenland.

The entire thing sounded like the kind of stuff that only worked in action movies because they weren’t the real world, not to mention the plan was full of “Ifs’”.

It would work “If”, we manage to catch up to the cruise, or even find it, “If” we could approach it without getting detected, “if” I manage to climb on…

“I say we have about a 20% chance of success”, he said, taking another sip of the coffee, “And around 80% chance of either getting stopped by coast guard, getting loss, or reenacting titanic except we both probably end up in the bottom of the ocean in this one”.

Great, that really boosted my confidence, it thought. The only thing salvageable about the entire thing was that I couldn't freeze to death and could probably swim myself to land if we sank. Logan's survival rate, on the other hand, was drastically lower but he didn’t seem to mind.

“All right”, I said after a while, looking again at the map, one circle marked our current position, another Logan's rough estimate of the cruise's location and a third was the port town of Sisimiut, Greenland, where we had figured the coordinates my father had given me lead.

“Let's do it I guess…”, I said, pushing the chair back and getting up, “When are we leaving?”.

He's face brightened as I came to the decision to accept his crazy offert, no doubt happy at the prospect of poketing all my money .

He sat up beginning to pace around his room, appearing to be making some mental calculations, “Hm...from here? I say in about half an hour, let me go get some supplies, we should head to the port soon, we have some work to do”.

“Work to do?”, I repeated, not sure if that meant getting the boat ready or something completely different.

He drained the last of the mug, putting it down on the desk beside me, “We have to get all the gas for the boat of course”.

“Get it?”, I said, not sure I liked where this was going.

He smirked, an expression I had begun to understand was not a good sight, “We are stealing all the gas of course”, he said, sounding almost proud of himself, “Why do you think I'm charging so cheaply for the trip?”.

I only stared at him for a few seconds a very stupid expresion on my face no doubt, “Of course we are”, I finaly mutter, honestly what elses had I spected?

“I hope you are keeping watch like I told you Ashy boy”, Logan hissed, holding a transparent hose that was connected to a boat's fuel tank, the potent smelling liquid flowing into the red container that sat beside his feet.

“I told you not to call me that”, I hissed back, standing a few feet away from him, “And yea I'm keeping watch”.

“Good, good”, he called, both of us lapsing into silence again.

Despite his previous bravado I could tell he was nervous, hardly daring to use the small led lantern he carried and constantly reminding me to keep watch. Luckily for him I could hear stuff for more than a mile around so I would say we were pretty safe for now.

“This is the last one”, he called, making some effort to lift the heavy fuel canister.

I took it from his hand as he passed me, easily carrying it toward our own boat that was already filled with similar containers.

The boat itself wasn't anything to grant, it was small, the typical boat used by somebody who only fished for sport, but it looked like it wasn’t too likely to leave us in the bottom of the ocean and that was good enough for me.

Besides the gas there were two sleeping bags, some non perishable food, which we had both equally paid for, a pack of red bulls for Logan who was doing the driving and a small canoe that barely fit in along with its oars, something I would use to get close to the cruise ship without the sounds of the motor giving us away.

He jumped on the boat, the entire thing moving side to side with his weight and I jumped after him.

“So...tell me, how much experience do you have driving boats?”, I asked, something I should have probably done hours ago.

He didn’t answer till he had started the motor and we were cruising away from the port, “I know enough”, he assured me, sounding like he was also assuring himself as he bit his lip in an unsure expression, one I could only see because I could...well see in the dark.

Great, I thought, settling down on top of our sleeping bags since there was almost no room on the floor of the boat, crazy plan, inexperienced captain, huge creature that could appear at any moment and kill me, how could this possibly go wrong?.

“I love you”, I whisper in her ear as we both lay on the velvety settee, my arms around her shoulders as she cuddles against my chest.

Before us a massive window showed a spectacular view of a mountain range with sharp peaks and crystal waterfalls, our palace was carved out of the tallest mountain. A magnificent creation that had also been a gift of peace offered by the emerald clan once the war came to an end.

Sara only cuddled farther into my arm, “I love you too”, she whispered back.

Lovingly I leaned down to plant a kiss on the top of her head, but stopped short suddenly confused, her hair wasn’t brown but cya blue and the low cut dress the whore allowed me to see markings similar to mine running from her neck and around her left arm and right leg.

“Sara?”I called, confused, pushing her off allowing me to see her face for the first time, which made me realize this wasn’t Sara at all, her face was that of a complete stranger, her skin was too tan, her eyes were too dark of a blue, and slitted like a reptile's, small blue scales that seemed to change color like the ocean adorning the corners of them.

“Who are you?”, I shouted , jumping to my feet and away from her.

That's when I realized I was taller than usual, way taller, my arms more muscular, my skin sun tan, and the hair that fell over my face was crimson red, this wasn’t my body.

“What...where...where am I? What did you do to me?”, I shouted at her, suddenly so confused on how I knew how this castle was built, but not who the woman I had been sitting with was.

“Cyrus?”, she called, taking a few slow steps towards me, “What's going on?”.

“I'm not Cyrus”, I exploded and around me the air seemed to crack with red energy, my marking flashing red.

“Okay, okay Cy- ...whomever you are, just calm down, let's talk this through”, she said like she was talking to a trapped animal.

“No...no”, I said, shaking my head, “Explain now!, what did you do to me?” I demanded, the red energy around beginning to condensate into orbs.

Her eyes widened slightly, “I'll try”, she promised, in a soft, gentle tone, taking a few steps away from me, “Let's start with...what is your name?”.

I wasn't sure why my temper was going wild, why I couldn't seem to be able to control the anger that burned in my chest only fueled by the confusion around me, this wasn't me, I never act like this.

“Im Asher '', I said, making an effort to make my tone softer but with little results.

“Asher”, she repeated, “So you are from the future...you must be very young for this to happen, don't worry, just calm down, think of something that links you to your time”.

“What?”, I asked confused, “I have no idea what you are saying”.

“Just try”, she insisted.

I wanted to grab her, shake her to make her explain this to me but something inside of me stopped me, like my head wasn’t completely mine, the same presence almost forcing me to obey and reluctantly I closed my eyes, thinking hard of my father, of my friends, of anything I could think off that I had a strong bond with, but no matter how hard I tried my heart rate wouldn't go down, the glow from my making only getting slightly dimmer.

“It's not working”, I said, desperation now blossoming inside of me so intense I felt like somebody else was living the experience with me shoving all of their emotions down my throat.

She considered me for a second before sighing and walking toward me, her own marking beginning to shine blue, “If you can't go back”, she whispered, putting her arms around my neck, her face inches from mine, “I'll guess I'll just have to help Cyrus push you out”.

Before I could fully process what she had said she had kissed me straight on the lips, her hand caressing my face passionately.

A shiver went down my spine and my vision began to blur and then turn white, a numbing feeling spreading down my body till I couldn’t feel or see anything anymore.

On the white nothingness I saw a very tall man, with crimson hair tied back in a ponytail and ruby red slitted eyes staring back at me, standing only a few feet away.

Much like the woman, red scales adorned the corner of his eyes and he was wearing strange clothing and gold accessories, his chest bare letting in full display the marking that spread all across his body in the same way mine did.

“Sorry child”, he murmured in a deep powerful voice, “But you have to go back”.

His hand reached out and pushed me and ,like we had actually been standing on something, I felt like I was falling, the feeling so realistic I almost screamed as the world turned dark around me and ,suddenly, I was being shaken awake.

“Ashy rise and shine”, Logan said, leaning over me, making me remember where I was, what we were in the middle of doing, despite my best efforts I must have fallen asleep somewhere along the trip.

Slowly I sat up, my head still fussy, my body feeling strange all of a sudden, like it wasn’t quite my own.

The sky above us was still dark but beginning to show tints of dawn and in the distance I could see the light of a much bigger ship than ours, the cruise. We had, somehow, managed to actually find it.

Logan pointed to the canoe that he had already thrown overboard, “I've done my part”, he said, “From here on, it's all you”.

I shook my head grogely.

“What time is it?”, I asked Logan, rubbing my forehead, trying to clear out the fog of the strange sensation that dream had left me with.

He gave me a stranger look, “Man, whatever language you are speaking I don't know it”.

“You are hilarious”, I said sarcastically, stuffing my share of the food into my pockets.

He only shook his head, no longer amuse, “For real man, I can understand a word of what you are saying”.

“Are you serious?”, I asked, standing up in front of him, the boat softly moving below our feet, “I'm speaking English ofcour-”, I stopped mid way, realizing that the words I was saying were, in fact, no English....it was a lot more gutural, the same language I had heard my father and the masked man using.

For a panicked second it was like I had forgotten how to speak in any other language that wasn’t the stranger tongue, and I stood dumbfounded, trying to remember how to say anything, even the simplest things.

“Oh...um, sorry about that”, I finally manage to mutter, the words sounding strange in my mouth, like a non nativve speaker trying to grasp a languages' accents.

What was wrong with me? Was I going crazy? First I had that strange dream that had felt so...real, I had seen things in it that were both familiar and foreight and then woke up speaking a language I didn’t even remember learning.

“Well…”, Logan said after the awkward pause, “You should get going...this isn’t exactly the kind of thing you can pull in broad daylight”.

I looked back at the distant silhouette of the cruise ship, “Yea...I'll do that”.

Before I could even take another step toward the canoe he put one arm across my chest to stop me, “Forgetting something?”.

I sighed, digging around one of my bokets and bringing more than a thousand dollars between canadian and U.S bills, all the money I had left, “Here...can't say you didn’t earn it”.

He brought out his flashlight, and holding it between his teeth, quickly counted the money twice before putting it in a ziploc bag and inside his own jacket pocket..

“Good luck out there”, he called, as I carefully lowered myself onto the aluminum canoe and grabbed the oars, “Just keep in mind I'm not going to stick here for long, you either manage to get on or not if it begins to get too light I’ll pulled the canoe back and leave”.

“Don’t worry”, I said, beginning to row away from the small boat “I'm getting on that thing no matter what”.

The cruise ship was even more massive up close, it's dark steel walls appearing to go on forever

I had made good time rowing here despite the sea not being at its calmest, now the hard part was somehow escalating this.

On the canoe floor there was a long rope atack to a grappling hook, the idea had been for me to throw and hook it to some part of the shipt and use it to climb but I was now realizing that it was way too short for that.

Above me the sky was getting lighter, my chance slipping away and I knew that soon Logan would begin pulling the canoes back to the boat by the rope that was attached to it and he wouldn't much care about me being on it or not.

I placed one hand against the steel wall, a new resolve in me. Logan had fulfilled, arguably, the hardest part of the deal, which was finding the cruise ship, now it had to do my part, my father was counting on me.

I dug my fingers into the metal, creating a hand hold, lifting myself out of the canoe as I began climbing up the wall, creating my own way up, bending the steel under my fingers.

The workers who would later have to check and repair this ship would probably be very confused as to how there were finger shaped dents on the hull going all the way up, a mystery they would, hopefully, never solve.

The lights were off in most of the ship as I finally dragged myself over the railing and into the balcony of one of the cabins in the lower deck, a white curtain close over the glass sliding door that lead into one of the room, but I didn’t need to see to be able to tell it was occupied.

Silently I began moving from balcony to balcony, searching for a cabin that was empty and would give me the chance to slip inside the ship.

In the distance I could hear Logan begin pulling the canoe back and eventually start the motor of the boat again. I wouldn't call ourselves friends, more like fozefull allies, but I still wished him well, it was hard no to at least develop a small conception with somebody you had spent eight hour with in a small space with nothing better to do but talk.

At some point he had mentioned my marking, asking if they were some sort of “Gang identification Tattoo”. I had rolled my eyes at him, despite him not being able to see it in the dark and told him they were Tattoos but not the permanent kind and made it very clear that my father and me were not involve in any sort of criminal activities...well maybe “borrowing” Dan’s car but I didn't mention that.

As we spoke I came to learn a little bit more about him, and why he was so desperate for money, coming as far as joining me on this crazy plan.

Logan lived with his uncle, he didn’t mention his parents so I assume they weren’t in the picture. As he put it, his uncle was about as nice as a snake and, sufficient to say, they didn’t get along. From the moment he could work he had been saving money to leave Boutuche and move alone to another place where he could start a new life.

With the money I was giving him, he would have just the right amount to finally do it. He had asked about my own life and I had mostly made up stuff. He had been especially curious about what exactly had happened in the house. If we had murdered people there as the rumors were claiming, I refused to answer anything related to that swiftly changing the conversation topic.

I would probably never see Logan again, but I was still glad I had been able to help him, even if he left me penniless.

Several balconies later I finally found something that could work. It wasn’t exactly empty, more like it was full...of drunk and passed out college students, I assumed, the stench of alcohol strong in the air.

It wasn’t exactly the safest route I could take, but considering how light it was getting, it was the lesser of two evils. Either I went inside now, or I risked somebody spotting me.

Carefully I slid the glass door open, luckily they had forgotten to close it, or probably didn’t occur to them somebody may be jumping from balcony to balcony at four something a.m.

Inside the smell of alcohol was pungent, there must have been around ten people passed out all over the room despite there only being two beds. most just thrown on the carpeted floor.

Much like I had imagined they were all college age and luckily for me, fast asleep and probably too drunk to even react if they saw me, not to mention the room was completely dark.

Silently, I started making my way around them and towards the door, making sure not to bump into any of their sleeping forms.

I was only a few feet away from the door when a hand reached out and grabbed my ankle.

“Is that you James?”, a male voice asked drunkenly.

For a second I had been scared that he would raise the alarm but luckily he hadn’t even noticed I was a complete stranger, “Yea it's me”, I replied in my best drunken impression.

His grip tightened, “Remember...you own me 20 bucks man, I haven’t...forgotten”.

“Oh”, I replied, resisting the urge to free myself of his grip, “Don't worry man...I'm going to go look for them...right now”.

“Really?”, he asked hopefully, “You better...not be lying”.

Mentally I apologized to the real James as I answered, “Yea...be back in sec with the money”.

He frowned at me despite not being able to see anything in the darkness, “All right”, he finally said, letting go of me, “But make it quick”.

“Dont worry about it”, I called, quickly walking to the door and out of his reach, not that I should have worried too much, he had already fallen asleep again.

The handle was sticky, something I tried no to dwell on too much, as I unlocked and opened the wooden cabin door, light from the hallways poured into the otherwise dark room making a few people groan in their sleep.

“Sorry”, I whispered, closing the door as fast as I dared without slamming it, not wanting to risk waking anybody else up.

The hallway looked like any other hotel out there, with carpeted floors, yellow lighting, ice machines and doors on each side.

Now that I was on the ship I wasn’t exactly sure what my action plan was, I needed to hide until it got to Greenland, wish I wasn’t sure how long it would take. I could try to pass as one of the staff but that would be harder to accomplish leaving me with one option.

I had to pretend to be a passenger, and not get detected either as a stowaway or as Asher Hexun who was being searched for nationwide.

I looked down at my hands, and at the visible markings on them. First I needed to find more clothes to cover them completely, it wouldn't do for me to call more attention to myself and then...well this was a vacation ship, might as well try and fit in.

The breakfast area was as noisy and stuffed as I had expected, screaming children running around everywhere while their parent tried to keep up, teen agers looking like they had been dragued here against their will at such early hours for breakfast, young couples pretending the nobody else's in the word exited but them and old ones talking and smiling pleasantly.

The good thing is that everybody, more or less, was dressed for colder weather despite the ship's internal heating system; it would have been harder to blend in in a tropical environment.

It had taken some sneaking around and breaking the locks to the laundry rooms but I had managed to find what I needed.

A beige turtleneck sweater that made me look like someone's grandma but that at least covered my mark and was an improvement from the “Fish fear me, woman want me shirt”, I wore underneath and for my hand mismatched fingerless gloves. One was black and the other grey but hopefully nobody would look too hard.

I had found another hat to cover my head, one less colorful than the bright red one and I had tied my jaked around my waist.

Breakfast was buffet style with rows and rows of food and people moving from one place to another, filling their plates up and coming dangerously close to crashing into each other, or spilling the food.

I got into line to eat, doing my best to act normal, puttin on a sleepy, tired face like the other people my age, something that wasn’t hard to do, apart from the short nap I took on the boat. I hadn’t properly slept since Monday and today was Wednesday.

Nobody paid me any attention, too busy in their own matters, the only people I kept my eyes on was the security guards, standing around the corners of the large glass sealing area, keeping and eye of stuff, but even they appeared bored, which was good, it looked like my entrance into the ship had gone by untected.

Once I had grab as much food as I could, stuffing a lot of package stuff in my pockets, I took a seat on a table alone, close to a family with kids that at least partly resemble me.If anybody looked they would probably think I was part of the family, I just haven't wanted to sit with my screaming little siblings.

Halfway through eating the intercoms around the room suddenly stop the soft generic music they had been playing.

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen”, a male voice said, “This is your captain speaking to wish you all dear passengers a very good morning. We anticipated some snow today with cold temperatures so keep yourself and your loved ones warm when going outside”

”We should be reaching Greenland first thing tomorrow, so please remember all the necessary precautions and the ships departure time if you are planning to go on land, to check on our daily activities head over to our attention centers that are spread out all across the ship, and, as always, on behalf of all the crew of the Winter Star, we wished all of you a great rest of the day”.