Emily Windsnap and the Falls of Forgotten Island, p.1Liz Kessler
The first sign of trouble was the rain.
Rain that fell like a river. Like a torrent. Like an avalanche crashing down with such ferocity some thought it would split the earth in two. Others argued the earth could not break — but that it might perhaps be drowned.
Most didn’t argue at all. They ran. They hid. They protected themselves and their families as well as they could, waiting out a storm the likes of which no one had ever seen before. The likes of which no one would have thought possible.
The likes of which, surely, could have been created only by magic. Nothing of this earth could produce such ferocity.
The rain continued on and on as hours spilled into days. It fell into the ocean with such relentless force that the sea levels rose. It swirled across swells, rising into mountainous peaks, drilled down into whirlpools, and darkened the sky so that it seemed the rain had even drowned the sun.
And then, like a hungry shark closing in on its prey, like a wizard finding the perfect ingredient for his spell, the rain homed in on what it was looking for: the island in the center of the ocean. An island with no more than a hundred inhabitants.
But the rain wanted only one of them.
Elsewhere, the sky lightened. But not above this island. Above the island, it seemed all the darkness of the world, the darkness of a thousand nights, the darkness of the most tortured soul, was gathered together into one cloud.
The cloud was now so large, it was as if the very fabric of space had opened up to swallow the island whole.
For a moment, the world held its breath.
And then the cloud erupted. Like a giant dragon breathing fire, the darkness unleashed its demons upon the island. Down they rained, sparks flying across the sky like fireworks as the spell was cast.
Then the rain and the lightning focused on the center of the island, boring a hole all the way through it.
Enormous arrows of rain continued to pour down all around, so hard that the island’s edges were beaten and hewn into rough, ragged cliffs, gigantic, jagged teeth that refused to let anyone in or out of the land beyond them.
Tides rose: huge, angry swells that seemed would never again become calm.
Eventually, the cloud reached the final side of the island. The longest, straightest edge.
The first cannonball of rain crashed against the foot of the cliffs so hard that it dented the cliff itself.
The second punched a hole above the first. Three more times the cloud fired explosions of water at the cliff, higher and higher, as if it were chasing its prey to the top.
Who was the prey though?
The people retreated as the balls of water crashed into their land. Each explosion sent them deeper and deeper into the island’s hidden forest, forced them into shelters, and contained them in clearings and caves.
There were those who saw a large figure rising out of the water — a figure of giant, contorted proportions.
There were those who heard words streaking through the air.
“Betrayed me . . .”
“We had a deal . . .”
“Never forgive . . .”
The words grew softer as the rain climbed higher and higher up the mountain beyond the cliffs.
As the rain slowed, the cloud took moisture from the fierce swells, growing and growing so that soon the entire island was hidden inside the cloud.
Eventually, the sky beyond the island cleared. It was over.
All that was left was a fierce swell, an island cut to shreds, and a thick blanket of fog surrounding it. An angry, raging waterfall screamed down the cliffside, forming a deadly barrier to the bay behind it.
Those who had survived crept out of their hiding places to find they were now trapped on the island by the cliffs and the falls. Closed off from the world. Forgotten. Abandoned.
And for more than five hundred years, that was how it stayed.
Emily, are you listening to me?”
My best friend’s voice jolted me so hard I jumped and splashed myself in the face. “What? What?” I spluttered. “Sorry, I must have dozed off.”
“Ha!” Shona said with a laugh. “I’m clearly not very interesting!”
“No!” I protested. “You are! Of course you are. I’m just . . .”
“You’re exhausted.” Shona finished my sentence for me.
“I guess I am,” I admitted. “Sorry.”
“It’s OK,” Shona said. “Your life has been crazy lately. I’m surprised you’re still in one piece.”
Shona was right. We’d recently come home from a geography field trip that had been the latest in a long line of adventures.
“I barely am,” I said. “I mean, can you actually think of more than a week at a time when I wasn’t being almost squeezed to death by a sea monster or getting trapped with sirens in a forgotten underwater cave or dodging hammerhead sharks to get my dad out of Neptune’s underwater prison?”
Shona flicked her tail as she swam up to the water’s edge. Shona’s a mermaid. Kind of like I am, except she’s a full-time one. I’m a mermaid only when I go in water. I’m an ordinary girl the rest of the time.
“Well, yes,” Shona replied. “There was the time when you escaped from Neptune’s evil brother in the frozen Arctic. You weren’t doing any of those things then.”
I laughed. “Exactly. And to top it off, we go on a school trip where the most exciting activity is supposed to be studying local rock formations, and what happens? I discover a spooky underwater ship and have to rescue a boat full of people who are trapped in Atlantis!”
Shona smiled as she swished her tail, spreading droplets of water in a sparkly arc above the sea. “You need a break,” she said.
“I probably do,” I admitted. “Just a little one. What are the chances that will happen?”
Shona frowned. “Hmm. Slim. It is you we’re talking about here.”
I splashed water at her, and she laughed and ducked under the surface.
“It’s true though,” Shona went on. “You’re addicted to adventures — you just can’t resist them.”
“I don’t do it on purpose,” I protested. “They come to me!”
“Yeah,” Shona agreed. “You’re like an adventure magnet.” She swam around me toward a large, smooth rock and pulled herself onto it. Her tail flicking in the water, she perched on the edge of the rock and ran a hand through her hair, squeezing seawater out of it and patting it down into neat strands.
Shona’s one of those mermaids who cares about things like her hair. Before she met me, she wanted to be a siren — you know, the whole sitting on a rock, singing beautiful songs, and luring fishermen to watery graves thing. She feels differently now that humans and merfolk are a bit more aware of each other, but she still likes to look good. Me, I don’t care so much. I just like to have fun. Trouble is, my fun usually ends up as . . . well, trouble.
“Now that I think about it,” Shona went on, “what do all these
I thought for a moment. “I guess you’ve been by my side in most of them.”
“Exactly.” Shona smoothed her hair and slid back into the sea. “And so I think I am qualified to tell you that I am officially declaring both of us in need of some downtime, before we collapse in a heap of jellyfish goo. I am completely adventured out, and so are you. Let’s swill out for a while.”
Shona shrugged. “Like chill out. But in water. Come on. Let’s make a deal. Let’s try to be boring for a while. Time out. No more adventures.”
I thought for a moment. “OK. Let’s do it. No more adventures.”
Shona flicked her tail to push herself upright in the water and indicated for me to face her and do the same. She held a hand up. “You too,” she said.
I swished my tail and held my right hand up, palm facing hers.
“OK, repeat after me,” she said. “I, Emily Windsnap.”
I cleared my throat. “I, Emily Windsnap,” I repeated, trying not to laugh.
“Do solemnly declare.”
“Do solemnly declare.”
“That I shall not be tempted by adventures, risks, or mysteries for at least one month.”
“That I shall not be tempted by adventures, risks, or mysteries for at least one month.”
Shona raised an eyebrow. “Think you can do it?”
“I am desperate to do it,” I replied.
“Swishy!” she replied. “Bring on the boring.”
I grinned as we slapped hands in a watery high five. “Bring on the boring!”
Shona had gone back to her family in Shiprock. That’s the merfolk town under the sea near us. I was swimming home for dinner.
I live on a boat in Brightport with my mom and dad. Mom lives on the upper deck of the boat since she’s a human. I do, too, when I’m being a human and spending time with Mom. I also like to hang out in the lower deck with Dad. That part is under the water because Dad’s a merman, so it’s how we manage to all live together.
I pulled myself out of the sea and perched on the edge of the boat. As I sat there, I watched my tail flick and shimmer. Droplets of water sprinkled off the end of it, glinting in the late afternoon sun. Then, gradually, my tail stiffened up, straightened out, and began to tingle. Finally, it disappeared altogether as my legs came back.
You’d think I’d be used to it by now. I first discovered that I become a mermaid when I go in water just over a year ago, when I was twelve, but it still amazes me every time it happens.
I leaned over the side of the boat to squeeze the water out of my hair. Then I went inside.
Mom and her best friend, Millie, were huddled together on the sofa, flipping through magazines.
“Hi, sweet pea,” Mom said as I came in. “Nice time?”
“Yep. Swishy,” I said. Swishy is Shona’s favorite word — but I like using it, too. It makes me feel like a real mermaid.
“That’s nice, darling,” Mom replied.
“What’re you doing?” I called over my shoulder to them as I went into the kitchen and poured myself a drink of orange juice.
“Looking through travel brochures,” Millie replied airily.
“Really?” I took my drink and went to join them. “I didn’t know we were going on a trip.”
“We’re not,” Mom said.
“Yes, you are,” Millie countered.
I stared at Millie. She glanced up and stared back. “Your mom has SAD,” she said with a meaningful look in her eyes. Millie does most things with a meaningful look of some sort. You learn to ignore it after a while.
“What are you sad about, Mom?” I asked. “Did something happened to Dad? Are you OK?”
Mum waved an arm at me. “I’m fine!” she said. “I’m not sad at all.”
“But Millie said —”
“I said she has SAD, not she is sad,” Millie interrupted.
“Oh,” I said. “I see.” I didn’t actually see at all. I squeezed onto the sofa next to Mom. “Actually, what exactly is the difference?”
Millie sighed. “S-A-D,” she spelled out. “Seasonal affective disorder. I’ve been reading about it. It’s been dreary out, and your mom is exhausted and drained.”
“Is she?” I asked. “Are you, Mom?”
Mom shrugged. “I suppose I am a little,” she conceded.
They sounded like me and Shona. Didn’t we just say pretty much the same thing? Maybe I had this SAD thing, too.
“Can it be treated?” I asked. “What can we do about it?”
Millie held up one of the brochures they were looking at. “WINTER SUN” it said in big letters on the front page.
“Sunshine,” she said. “That’s what your mom needs.” Then she squinted and pushed her reading glasses up her nose. “In fact, you’re looking a bit on the pasty side, too, Emily. A little winter sun wouldn’t do you any harm, either.”
Just then, I heard a swooshing noise underneath us. “Dad!” I yelled. Dad had been working on building new caves with some of the merfolk in Shiprock. The swooshing meant he was home from work.
A moment later, he popped his head through the trapdoor that links the boat’s two floors.
Mom got up and went over to him. “Hi, darling,” she said, bending down to kiss him. “How was your day?”
“It was swishy!” Dad said, glancing across to wink at me. “And you know the best news of all?”
“What’s that?” Mom asked.
“They’re giving us all the week after next off !”
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” Mom said. “You can spend the week at home with us.” She moved to stand up again and snagged her pants on a broken floorboard. Then she glanced around the boat and nodded toward the table in the middle of the saloon, propped up by a pile of books in place of its missing leg. “Maybe we can use the week to get a few things done around the place.”
“Sounds like a barrel of fun,” Dad said with a grimace.
“Wait. The week after next? That’s my school break, isn’t it?” I asked.
“Sure is, little ’un,” Dad replied.
Millie slammed her brochure shut and pursed her lips. “Well, that settles it,” she said firmly. “Forget about geting things done around this place. I’ll move in and get to work on them for you while you go enjoy yourselves.”
Mom’s face fell. Millie might be her best friend, but she’s not exactly the most practical person in the world. If you left your to-do list in her hands, there’d be a fairly strong chance that she’d turn the list into a floaty scarf and try to hypnotize the jobs into doing themselves. “Honestly, Millie,” Mom said carefully, “you really don’t have to do —”
Millie held up a hand to stop her. “I’m insisting on it. And it’s not just me insisting.”
I looked around. “Um. There’s no one else saying anything,” I pointed out.
Millie gave me one of those knowing looks, and lowering her voice, she said, “Serendipity herself has intervened.”
“Seren — what?” I asked.
Millie impatiently shook her head. “Serendipity. Synchronicity. Coincidence. Call it what you will. It’s all coming together. Your break, your mother’s needs, and your father’s time off.” She held up her brochure and waved it in the air. “You’re going on vacation, all of you. Fate has decreed it.”
Dad looked at Mom. “Millie’s right,” he said. “We could all use some time off.” With a wink, he added, “And if fate has decreed it, who are we to argue?” He held a hand out to Millie. “Come on then,” he said. “Pass me one of those. Let’s book ourselves a trip!”
It was later that day, and Mom, Dad, Millie, Aaron, and I were flipping through brochures.
Aaron’s my boyfriend. He’s a semi-mer like me — the only one I know, of my age anyway.
Mom and Millie were on the sofa, pointing at pictures and mumbling, “Oooh, look at that,” and “What about t
Dad was leafing through his with increasing impatience.
Aaron and I were sitting on a beanbag looking at one together, but mostly using it as an excuse to huddle up close. I leaned into him as I turned the pages.
“Look at the color of the water!” Aaron exclaimed as I turned a page.
“Check out the size of the pool,” I added, pointing at the hotel as Aaron pulled me closer to look at the picture.
A couple of minutes later, Dad closed the last of his brochures and sighed loudly. “This is crazy,” he said. We’d been looking through these for the last hour. “There’s nothing in here that we can do together.”
Dad was right. We couldn’t exactly go to some high-rise hotel together. Dad would have to spend the whole week in the swimming pool. It would be like us going on vacation and him being kept in an aquarium!
“Wait!” Millie suddenly rose from the sofa.
Dad stopped moving. I put my brochure down, Aaron froze, and Mom looked up. We all stared at Millie as she waved her brochure in the air.
“I’ve got it!” she announced. “I’ve found the perfect place.” Millie held the brochure out to me. “Show your dad.”
I dragged myself out of the beanbag and got up to take the brochure from Millie. Studying the pictures, I made my way across the boat.
“The Tiptoe Hotel at Majesty Island,” the page read.
I didn’t read any more of the words. I was too busy looking at the pictures — the bluest, clearest water I’d ever seen, the most golden sand you could imagine, and a line of little huts stretching out from the beach into the bay.
I passed the brochure to Dad. Mom got up from the sofa and came to join us.
“Majesty Island,” Dad murmured. “Sounds great.”
“Listen to this,” Mom said, reading aloud over Dad’s shoulder. “‘Majesty Island is a small island oozing with natural riches and wonders. With the softest golden sand and the bluest, clearest sea, it is a jewel in the middle of the ocean. A place where you will definitely feel like royalty.’”
Aaron joined us and read aloud from the rest of the page: “‘Wake up to the sound of the sea, and within seconds, you can slip directly from your bed straight into the sparkling waters of Bluefin Bay.’”
Emily Windsnap and the Falls of Forgotten Island by Liz Kessler / Fantasy / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes