“Come on, Mira,” Nerin yanked her. “This is what you wanted.”
“Right.” She tightened her grip on the knapsack and turned to look at Nerin, “Still dark. We got here quicker than I thought.”
“All this time, everyone’s been scared of Limbo for nothing.”
“I guess Kai is right, we fear what we don’t know,” Mira agreed and began walking, Nerin’s fingers clung to one of her belt loops. Long, tangled grass tugged at her sneakers as she made her way downhill. The further they drew away from what they knew, the brighter, bigger, and more boisterous the life ahead became.
On the border where Limbo ended and the human world began, Nerin and Mira stopped and stared ahead. Radiant yellow and sky-blue eyes met with the world they would soon know very well. Maybe too well. They had never seen such grandeur and opulence.
Pearly white buildings stood high, reaching toward the clouds. Even shorter buildings were made of hard, dark bricks, something rare on Liberty Shore. Mers made the most out of the natural environment and spent little time building with man-made materials.
“Do you see that!?” Nerin asked incredulously. The light from the stars in the sky glowed over the town and made it that much more luminescent.
“I see it! I see it. I don’t believe it, but I see it.” Mira’s eyes were glued to the unforgettable scene like when her eyes met with the horizon line off the shore back home; she had finally found the place to give her her answers.
Gripping her hand, Nerin walked with Mira into the great unknown, both excited and scared. As his thumb caressed her inner palm, she felt comforted and was glad she was not alone.
“I can’t believe how elegant this place looks,” Mira spoke, looking like a wide-eyed doe.
“They’ve taken everything and left us with nothing...for years.” Nerin raked his fingers through his dark hair, shaking his head. The glitter of pearls highlighted his hair and accentuated the frown and lines of anger expressed in his face.
“What do you think they call this place?” Mira asked as they stepped onto the cobblestone road and skirted around the corner of a factory; smoke swirled out from the chimney, and a pounding noise emanated from inside the walls.
Nerin pointed at a white sign with painted black letters, “Remnantville.”
Mira paused at the sign and slowly took in the world around her; she heard a faint footstep from behind and swiveled around, only to lock eyes with a shadow several yards away. Seconds felt like hours between Mira and the unknown guest. Then, stark, canary-yellow pupils peered forward. Mira jumped back, startled as though she had spied a wild tiger. However, Nerin recognized the silhouette, the golden-brown locks and minuscule shape.
“Nerin?”At the sound of the little girl’s subtle tone, Mira relaxed but threw her hands into the air.
“What are you doing here!?” Mira chided, stomping toward the girl, her hands flailing about her.
“I...I followed my brother. I wanted to see where he went,” Nerissa defended.
“Are you happy now?” She eyed Nerissa before turning her glare to Nerin. “Now we’ve endangered your little sis.”
“I...” Nerin didn’t know what to say. He didn’t intend for that to happen.
“You’re going back now! NOW!” Mira demanded, stomping close to Nerissa. Face-to-face, Mira’s words hit the little girl, but Narissa didn’t budge. Instead, she planted her feet firmer into the ground.
“I’m not leaving! I’m staying with you! With Nerin!” Nerissa almost had a fit and balled her hands against her hips. She looked like an angry super-hero.
“Ah, she’ll be all right, “Nerin encouraged, wrapping his arm around Nerissa’s neck. “I’ll keep an eye on her.” Though Nerin sounded sure, he worried. But he knew Nerissa, and she could be more stubborn than even Mira. Still, this world proved violent to his ancestors, and he wondered if his supervision would be enough, but he wouldn’t let that show.
“What do you say? I come with?” Nerissa beamed.
“Not much I can say in the matter now, is there?” Mira placed her hands on her hips, one of her favorite postures. After a thoughtful gaze, she answered, “Come on!” Waving for Nerissa to join her; Nerissa darted like an arrow to Mira’s side, leaving her brother behind her.
“Not without me!” Nerin stopped straggling and caught up to the two girls.
“Why’d you two come here?‘ Nerissa asked.
“I’m looking for my parents,” Mira said; Nerissa gave her an incredulous look. “I mean my REAL parents,” Mira clarified.
“You think you’re going to find them here?” Nerissa commented with doubt.
“Where else? They obviously aren’t on Liberty Shore.” Mira squinted her eyes, like she would burn them through the obtruding girl.
“But...what are we going to do?” Nerissa pestered.
“SHH! Stop asking so many questions, we have to find a place to sleep.” Mira drew close to Nerissa’s face, and the girl quieted with a pout. “Who knows what kind of dangers live in the darkness of the city!”
“We have to find safety before the Pirates find us,” Nerin warned, Nerissa’s expression dropping from curiosity to fear.
“Pirates?” Nerissa swallowed hard. Nerin put his arm around her shoulder.
“If we stick together, we will be fine.” He said those words like he meant them, because he wanted to be brave and needed his little sister calm. But even he worried if they would find shelter in time. Rumors of the human world kept him on edge.
With a sigh from the little girl they hunted for a bed, a cot, anything. Nerin stayed near the city walls because he didn’t want to meander too far into the inner workings of a strange place in the middle of the night. Pushing his way to the front, unnoticed by Mira and Nerissa while they bickered, he became the lead.
Instinctively, the other two followed, giving dirty looks to one another. Though Mira would never admit it, she was elated that Nerissa had joined them. After all, the three had shared many adventures back home. What would this one be without the two of them?
The walls followed the outline of Remnantville and swerved along the shoreline of what was once known as Jersey. Like Ellis Island, the city had a large fishery, which situated comfortably near the ocean. Seagulls squawked as they flew over Mira and the other two sneaking along the cobblestone towards the ocean. Noticing the fish industry, Mira stayed against the wall, her nose, eyes, and ears caught wind of all the familiar smells, sights, and sounds.
The docks sat silent, saturated with baskets reeking of fish and a few fishing poles lying against the wooden bars. Grey-black wisps of fog painted the dark sky as waves crashed against the rocky banks. An untidy, rectangular store room with only one door stood several yards high on the right. The smell of sea life was a sure sign of what the town folk kept behind the locked doors.
“Not so different from home,” Mira commented, and Nerin shrugged.
“I’m sure once the sun comes up we will see how different this place really is.”
“You’re right, but still...it’s nice to see something familiar.” Mira tilted her head in his direction, her lashes fluttering.
“Look! What is that?!” Nerissa interrupted, her forefinger pointing at a strobe light in the distance.
“I don’t know...,” Nerin’s forehead wrinkled and brows pulled together tight, “...But we ought to be careful.”
Intense yellow light beamed, fading in and out in a circular motion up into the sky. Appearing out of a long structure, the lights fascinated Mira. The lights reminded her of the Mers’ eyes. As the three trudged toward the strobes, the mystery came into full view.
A tall, dirty lighthouse sat on the banks, two lights flashing out to sea to help travelers return safely to Remnantville. Though common in Remnantville, Mers had never seen such a formation. Rubbing her fingers over the rough texture of the lighthouse, Nerissa turned to Nerin.
“What is it?”
“We’ve read about these in school,” Mira interjected with a proud expression. “Humans call them lighthouses because the light helps sailors find their way from the sea back to land.”
“And... usually they are unoccupied,” Nerin added with a smirk and glint of mischievousness in his eyes.
“You think we could?” Mira raised a brow, waiting for his answer.
“Could what?” Nerissa questioned with a square of her brows.
“I do,” Nerin said without hesitation. Mira griped Nerissa’s arm, and the three of them headed to the arched opening. Sneaking inside, Mira kept Nerissa close with Nerin watching behind them.
“All clear!” Mira sounded as she took her first step onto the white marble steps.
“All clear from behind too.” Nerin answered.
They followed the narrow, steep stairwell around and up until they reached the top. A cramped room with low ceilings, a cobweb in the corner, and little ventilation, but with a spectacular view, awaited them. Windows replaced concrete walls, and the strobe lights, in combination with the reflections of the moon, elicited an angelic appearance over the panoramic perspective of the town.
“What are we doing here?” Nerissa whined, placing her hands on the windows. The light underneath her continued to shine, in a circular form, upon the sea.
“This, my dear little sis, is where we will be sleeping for the night.” Nerin chuckled at his sister’s disgruntled expression. She looked like a chipmunk with nut-filled cheeks, her face puffed so much.
“But...it’s so small,” Nerissa winced, her eyes searched for a place to nap.
“Only a tad smaller than your own room,” Nerin corrected.
“But with two extra bodies,” Mira added with a wink, hoping to keep Nerin in on the gag meant for Nerissa. The poor girl almost lost her breath when she heard that. If Nerissa just had to join them, she would have to toughen up to survive.
“ARGH!” Nerissa stomped away from the window and curled up on the floor. At least the sounds of sea gulls kept her at ease. Her frame was so tiny that from a birds-eye-view, it looked like a bead on a necklace. Nerin laid on his back with his hands behind his head, gazing out the window while Mira laid with her arms around Nerissa.
“Do you think you’ll find them?” Nerissa whispered into Mira’s ear. Face-to-face, Mira held onto Nerissa, protecting her. “I hope so...I won’t give up till I do.”
“Then, I hope so, too,” Nerissa nestled her head under Mira’s chin and closed her eyes.
In the morning, Mira had been the first to wake. A loud thud startled her,but both Nerin and Nerissa remained asleep. Stretching her body, she stood and tip-toed to the stairwell. Clearly, she heard the padding of feet against the marble floor thirty feet below.
Shaking Nerin awake, his intense yellow eyes met with hers, and immediately, he sensed her nervousness. Springing up onto bare feet, his head swung around as if in search of the danger, “What is it?”
Pointing to the stairwell, she replied. “Someone is down there.”
“Are you sure? I don’t hear anything,” Nerin strained to listen.
“I hear his footsteps. He will come up at any minute!” Mira insisted, and Nerin nodded. Pulling Nerissa to her feet and shaking her, the girl opened her eyes, like the dead come to life.
“Yes, Nerissa and we have to get going. Now!” Nerin said emphatically.
The young girl’s eyes examined Mira’s tensed expression, and in a quick second, she darted to the wall closest to the stairs and hide. Her back straightened against the cold concrete, hands trembling.
“What are we going to do?” Mira panicked, eyes locked on the stairwell. Each step from the intruder below pounded in her perfect ears, and no one heard but her. “He is coming.” The footsteps grew louder and closer, echoing through the staircase.
Nerin grabbed Mira’s arm, “I hear him now.” Chills ran down their spines; goosebumps climbed up their limbs.
“Stay still, Nerissa.” Mira whispered, her dry breath caught in her throat.
The girl froze.
The steps fell silent.
Then the footsteps grew softer and farther until a creak and clang of the lighthouse door sounded, and the steps disappeared altogether.
Mira let out a deep breath, “He is gone.”
“We have to get out of here before we’re caught!” Nerin ran to his sister and yanked her arm, pulling her down the marble staircase with him. Mira took one last look at the city through the panoramic wall-to-wall window and then followed.
Outside, the three heaved a sigh of relief after the rush downstairs. “That was too close,” Nerin said seriously, eyes piercing Mira. The morning sun blazed the banks and caressed their skin.
“Next time we will have to leave before daylight,” Mira commented, her eyes gazing at the lively morning city that had looked so different last evening.
“Next time?” Nerissa questioned, mouth open.
“We will be fine,” Mira encouraged. “Now we know when the humans come into the lighthouse, and we won’t be there next time when they do, but we still need a place to rest at night.”
“It is a nice spot for sleep,” Nerin agreed hesitantly, his mind still pondering over the pros and cons. Nerissa cringed at the thought of sleeping there again, and Nerin scratched his head, “But I still don’t understand how you heard him...when I could not?”
“Maybe she’s a better listener,” Nerissa said firmly, hinting to her brother.
“I’m not sure...but it looks like the humans are out and about. We will have to find some coverings for your hands and feet if you’re to blend in here,” Mira pointed out.
The two looked over their webbed fingers and toes and sighed. They knew they wouldn’t last long without a disguise.
“What do you suggest?” Nerin cocked a brow.
“Look there.” Mira pointed away from the fishery, away from the fishing nets bundled up on the wet docks. “Looks like a pharmacy. We could wrap both your appendages in bandages. Right?”
“Worth a try, but how do you propose we get into the pharmacy?” Nerin questioned.
“WE are not. I am,” Mira corrected and gripped her friends by the arm. “But first things first.” Walking behind the lighthouse, she left them, “Stay hidden, I’ll right back.”