Looking out my bedroom window, the morning rain had finally stopped, but it’s not like it was clear and sunny out or anything. It was never clear weather in Kelpi Harbor. Since I got here three months ago there hasn’t been a single day that there wasn’t fog, or mist, or drizzle, or whatever other stupid name the locals like to give the depressing weather around here. On an average day you couldn’t see to the end of your own street. On a bad day, you couldn’t see to the end of your nose. Today wasn’t so bad, the rain had cleared out most of the fog so you could see to the front gate from the house, better than yesterday at least.
Maybe that’s why no one noticed anything around here. Everyone was used to living in a perpetual fog so they didn’t bother opening their eyes or looking around.
When I first came to stay with my old aunt, she barely even noticed. It took her weeks just to remember my name. It was the same thing at school here. There was no new girl hazing, or some psycho helpful person coming up to me trying to cram the entire life story of the school into one fifteen minute intro and tour. In fact, my name didn’t show up on the attendance list for three days, and when I asked about it, it ends up that Auntie hadn’t registered me for classes correctly. And not a single teacher noticed! I mean, yeah it was just a clerical error but still, a random kid wanders into their classroom and no one notices?
Turning away from my bedroom window, I checked my Toxic Pink glitter lipstick in the mirror on the door. The color went well with my skeleton mini poodle skirt that I was sporting today. Two steps away, I scooped up my fuzzy bat shaped backpack and started plowing books and random make-up/accessories from the floor into the bag. For such a cute little thing, my bag was super tough for carrying lots of heavy junk.
So how much stuff did I really need? I wondered, hefting my outrageously heavy bag. Well better safe than sorry, I thought.
Daintily I plucked an extra baby cthulhu hair clip off of my desk/dressing table/city dump and popped them onto the heap in my bag.
The little tentacles are so cute!
I bounced the bag on the floor and jiggled it a few times, the mountain inside the bag subsided to a large hill. So, with just a little bit of squishing and pounding and sitting on the bag, it actually got zipped closed today. Yippy!
Now was I forgetting anything?
Without getting up, I reached an arm out and rifled through my closet for a suitable coat. Hmm, something warm, yet fashionable. And water proof. I shot a quick glance out the window again, the clouds outside were dark and low, yeah definitely water proof would be best. After much digging, I finally found a neon green rain coat with black cats and leering moons on it. The spiky black pleather fake fur trim matched my black platform MaryJanes perfectly.
Another check in the mirror…
I was adorable!
“Okay, I’m totally ready for school!”
I threw my bloated backpack over one shoulder (staggered a little) and in one step, bound out of my teeny room. The hallway was extra narrow, so I had to crab walk down it, thankfully it was pretty short so I didn’t get stuck this time. The stairs were old and steep, and were fairly treacherous in the platform shoes, but the footwear was so comfy and cute, it was worth the risk.
Getting to the bottom of the stairs basically unharmed, and somewhat silently, I was really hoping to avoid my aunt completely this morning. Well, she wasn’t really my aunt, she was my mom’s aunt, but I called her Auntie anyway.
Too bad the old lady was waiting in the living room, hidden amongst the dusty antiques and dingy doilies, ready and waiting to pounce on me.
“Oh my, and where are you off to, Alley Dear?” she asked in her sweetly dazed voice. Her densely wrinkled face was bright eyed and open with surprise (she always seemed to be surprised when she first sees me in the morning, like she forgot that I was even living with her). Her head, topped with a wispy bun of white hair, was tilted to one side in curiosity. Once again, she was decked out in one of her extra poofy formal dresses from the 80’s.
Yarg, that dress died in the 80’s and should have stayed dead.
The great big cabbage rose pattern of her dress almost perfectly matched the fabric of her favorite Victorian chair that she was sitting on again.
Was she going for the camouflaged look?
“I’m running away to France!” I declared in response to her question, striking a dramatic pose.
“Oh? Well you have fun, Dear.”
“Fun is the last thing I’ll do. Once I get there I will be beheaded, just like Marie Antoinette,” I said, bringing my hand to my forehead as if I was going to faint.
“That’s nice, Dear, you tell them hello for me.”
“Sure Auntie,” I said, turning and walking out the front door.
That’s what it was like talking to Auntie, every single day. A little on the creepy side with a dose of depressing, right? After months I still hadn’t figured out if she was just completely deaf, or if she really was so out of it that it didn’t matter what I said to her.
I stomped down the slick wooden steps, slipped a little on the moss covered stone walkway that lead to the rusty old gate listing drunkenly out of the stacked stone wall surrounding Auntie’s teeny yard and little seaside cottage. A short walk and a sharp turn and I was heading up the hill to the one and only high school.
As I walked through the tiny coastal town, I was struck once again by the complete grayness of the place. The wooden shingles plastering the sides of every home that I passed had been bleached by the sun (what there was of it around here) the salty air and the constant mist into a dirty, uneven gray color. The little stone walls that bordered each yard had also been bleached to a dull gray. The grubby old cement sidewalks, the sky, even the air seemed to have a gray tint to it. It was like every last drop of color had been drained out of this place.
Even the people here looked wrung out, dingy, and gray.
Now that I was on the main road heading up the hill to the high school, here and there I saw other teens walking to class. They were all wearing basically the exact same thing: gray sweat shirt, washed out jeans, and off white sneakers. They even were all carrying the same super lame gray and blue backpack. (How could they even tell the bags a part?)
My new classmates slowly shuffled along the sidewalks of town oblivious of everyone and everything around them. They looked like a bunch of zombies, and not the cool kind that you see in the movies.
They weren’t staring at their phones or listening to music like normal, healthy, purposefully spaced out teens. Instead, they just kind of ambled along towards school, looking at nothing and talking to no one. Everyone’s eyes seemed to be locked on some invisible thing in the distance. I’m not sure if it was the school or not. Personally, I couldn’t see the school from here, it was too freaking misty.
Every few days I would do something weird just to see if anyone would notice, or at least have some kind of facial expression. Sometimes I made farm animal sounds at my classmates, sometimes I would act out my favorite scenes from movies I’ve watched a million times. Today. . .
I think I’ll do a little dance.
I started with a little twirl down the slick, algae coated sidewalk. My little pink skirt fluttering with my spin. My platform MaryJanes squeaked on the wet cement. I arched my arms into a graceful First position. Pointed my chin up, to the sky. And finally, squeeeeeeeeeeeeeaked, to a stop.
No one noticed.
Next I tried some flamenco moves. Daintily, grabbing the edge of my skirt and flipping it around, I tried as many flourishes as my mini skirt could handle.
Oh, if only I had remembered to wear a petticoat today!
And then, completing my fancy footwork, I stomped one MaryJane onto the sidewalk and flung a hand into the air.
Next I tried a dance all my own. It’s a little something I called “Shake your booty like a crazy girl”.
Think limbo, and club dancing mixed with polka.
There were high kicks, there were twirls, there was a whole lot of bouncing. I ended the dance with an energetic flurry of bunny hops and an Olympian landing. Still holding my arms in the air above my head, I looked around to my audience.
No one stopped to stare, no one asked any questions, no one even glanced in my direction.
Yeah, same as always.
I sighed, shrugged, straightened my nubby pigtailed hair, and ambled on to school like everyone else.
Walking up to the high school, it was just as old, plain, and depressing as it ever looked. The two story brick building was something out of the 70’s, if it wasn’t brick than it was vomit orange colored. Or sometimes they liked to change things up and paint the brick vomit orange colored. The linoleum inside the building was day old oatmeal tan colored. The furniture was the exact same color. Well, at least it wasn’t vomit orange.
Looking at this tiny little school out in the middle of nowhere, I suddenly started pining for my old school.
Oh, Tacoma High!
I got almost misty eyed thinking of that big, dark, looming building. When you walked into my old school you could really feel the oppression deep into your bones. Here, it’s like no one even cared enough to look your way, much less oppress you.
Where was the scowling security guard at the door? Where were the surly teachers with the perpetual look of disappointment? Where was the cold hearted administration?
Sigh. I miss them so!
I wandered over to my uber decorated locker and disgorged half of the contents of my bag into it. My locker sported stickers of my favorite celebrities in chibi form, random anime characters I liked, and some pictures of my favorite movie vampires that I had cut out of a magazine. That, along with a black feather boa to frame it all in, and it was perfect. Okay so there were some perks to having no one notice me or my activities, but this was my own little way of beautifying the school.
I didn’t bother locking my locker any more. What was the point, the other students didn’t notice each other enough to mess with someone else’s stuff. So, after a few days of going to this school I realized that the only person I was locking my locker up against was myself.
Next stop was my homeroom, where I did my best work of the day. Finding a desk away from the drafty windows, I carefully folded my coat into a pillow, plopped it on the desk in front of me, and rested my head on top, settling in for a nice little morning nap. Why not, it’s not like anyone would wake me up or get mad at me. Besides, I always feel a little sleepy about this time of the morning.
Next class was science lab aka Snack Time. I know what you’re thinking, but at first I really did try to listen to the zombie like droning of the teacher. That is, until I realized that every lesson was exactly the same. Day after day after day, every science lesson was about the stupid bacteria in the local Harbor. We always looked at the nasty stuff through the microscopes, the science teacher, Mr. Gray, always gave the same lecture of the viscosity that the bacteria created in the water. Seriously, there is only so long I can listen about green slime and still be interested.
Unfortunately, the rest of my classes were basically just like my science class, not that they were all about green slime, but they were all just the same lesson over and over and over again.
And not a single student noticed.
So I pretty much just spent my days hanging out in the school (there’s nothing else to do in this tiny town) eating snacks, taking naps, reading manga, and listening to music. Mostly just waiting, waiting, waiting.
Funny, I was sent here because I was the victim (for my safety they said) and yet I’m the one that’s stuck in prison.
See, how I got stuck here kind of went like this. At my old school I stood out a lot. With my black tutus and purple flame boots, I stood out so much that last year a group of girls just wouldn’t leave me alone. They’d dump trash on me in the stairwell, stuffed weird things into my locker, during gym class they would flush my regular clothes down the toilet, you know, standard mean girl things to do. I tried to hide it from my parents, who are complete worry warts and safety freaks, but when the girls followed me home and put graffiti all over the house. . . well it was kind of hard to pretend everything was fine after that.
And so my parents totally freaked out, like I knew they would, and immediately yanked me out of my old school, packed up all my stuff, and then whisked me all the away out to Kelpi Harbor. All so I would have the joy of living with my nice safe old aunt, staying in a nice safe tiny little town out in the middle of nowhere, going to a nice safe little school where no one noticed anything, and to spend my time being nice and safe and bored out of my mind.
And that’s how someone like me got stuck in a place like this.
My last class (local history) the teacher was droning on about the founding of the first wagon wheel repair shop in the town (again) and I was very busy doodling in my notebook. I looked up for a second to think of what to draw next when I noticed a map hanging behind the teacher. Okay this wasn’t the first time I noticed that map, but it was the first time I noticed the tiny island just off of the coast of the town.
Huh, so there was something out there.
Just a few weeks ago I had seen a ferry leaving the old abandoned dock at the edge of town, but when I asked Auntie about it she insisted that there was no ferry at Kelpi Harbor. I thought maybe the boat had taken a wrong turn and was just turning around at the old docks (after all, why would it bother stopping at a place like this?) but I saw it again the very next day. In fact now that I’ve noticed it, I’ve seen the ferry most days, yet everyone I asked about it said that there were no ferries that came to the town.
The strangest part is the way the said it, like it’s some kind of instant, compulsive reaction. It’s like they couldn’t help it, once they heard someone asking about the ferry, “There’s no ferries at Kelpi Harbor” instantly came popping out of their mouths.
And now sitting right here in my classroom was evidence that not only was there a ferry, but it actually went someplace. Squinting my eyes and leaning waaaaaaaay over my desk to get a better look, the blobby little shape on the map seemed to be a teeny little island just a few miles from the shore of the town. I still couldn’t quite read the name though.
Hmm, I guess the island wasn’t visible from the town because of all the mist and fog and stuff around here.
Raising my hand and waving it frantically, I tried to get the teacher’s attention, “Hey, Mr. Wheeler, Mr. Wheeler!”
The teacher blinked a few times, then tortoise slowly turned his head towards me.
“That’s Mr. Wheller, actually,” he droned.
“Whatever, I have a question.”
“And. . . what. . . .is . . .the. . . .question?” he slowly asked.
Jeez, I wonder if this is what it’s like to talk to a snail?
“That island on the map, just off shore, what’s it called.”
Without even turning to glance at the map, the teacher immediately replied, “There is no island near Kelpi Harbor.”
“Yes there is. That’s where the ferry goes, isn’t it?”
“There’s no ferries at Kelpi Harbor,” instantly popped out of his mouth.
Wow, that was the fastest reply I’ve ever gotten out of him.
“But the island’s right there on the map, just turn around and look at it,”
“No, there’s no island there,” Mr. Wheller slowly insisted, wagging his head side to side like a metronome.
“Yes there is, and I think it matches up perfectly with the ferry docks on the mainland.”
That’s about when the teacher’s left eyelid started to twitch and half of his face morphed into an ugly scowl.
“I. . . think. . . you’re. . . being . . . disruptive. . .in . . .class. Please. . . report. . .to. . .the. . . principle’s office,” he angrily droned at me.
Wow, he actually got angry. I didn’t think it was possible for any of the teachers around here to have emotions.
“Really,” Mr. Wheller said, slowly raising one arm and pointing out the door.
Still a little stunned, I packed up my stuff and wandered out of the classroom. Of course, I stopped by the map to read the name of the island that ‘wasn’t there‘ before I left.
Driftwood island, catchy huh?
Like a good little drone, I went to the principle’s office and spent the rest of my school day doodling some more in my notebook. I wandered home from school, ate a super bland dinner of creamed macaroni (it was a thing here) and ambled to bed early. All the time, I couldn’t help but think of that mysterious island lost in the fog.
Why did everyone insist that there was no ferry to it? Why did Mr. Wheller get so mad when I wanted to know more about the island? What’s really going on around here?
I didn’t sleep much that night, I kept having dreams about getting lost in the fog and not being able to find my way out again. There were shadows drifting around in that fog. I never got a good look at what those shadows really were, but they totally creeped me out.
For the rest of the morning, all through getting dressed, doing my hair, eating breakfast, those dreams haunted me. I kept checking the windows to make sure the fog outside wasn’t getting to bad.
Really, it was more drizzly than foggy out there.
And maybe that’s why (at least that’s what I’m hoping) I dressed in the outfit I was currently wearing.
I was distracted.
I was just really, really distracted this morning, I silently thought, looking down at the gray on gray tee-shirt I was wearing, matched up with a gray wool pleated skirt, gray knee socks, and silver (gray) flats shoes.
Okay, I still had my pink streak in my inky black hair, so I wasn’t completely gray today. But still, this outfit was about the scariest thing I had seen in a long time.
It wasn’t until I was walking down the hallway in between classes that I even noticed my clothing choices for today. Meaning I had been wondering around like this for hours and had no clue until now.
That wasn’t a reassuring thought.
As I stood there like a dope, trying to figure out some way to fix my fashion disaster, someone shuffling off to their next class, bumped my shoulder from behind. They mumbled a “sorry” and kept shuffling on, I mumbled a “whatever” and went back to staring at my shirt.
It took me a few seconds to realize what just happened.
I had just spoken Kelpi zombie!
I stood frozen in terror, my mind spinning with the horror of it all.
I was turning into a gray clad zombie, just like everyone else here.
Some time soon, would I be shuffling around in a daze, oblivious to everything and everyone around me? Would everything that made me, me just fade away? Would I one day actually start liking creamed macaroni?
A chill ran down my spine.
I needed to do something about this town and fast.
It all had something to do with that lost island, I was sure of it. Maybe the fog had something to do with it too. And the ferries, they were tied into it some how.
But at this point, none of it made any sense. I needed more information.
I stood there for a long moment, in the middle of the now abandoned hallway between classrooms, my brain struggling to think of what I should do next.
Darn zombie brain, why couldn’t you work faster.
I needed? I needed?
I needed to go down to the ferry docks to investigate. I needed to go to that island!
I didn’t bother waiting until the end of the school day, I didn’t go to my next class or ask for a leave of absence at the admin office, I didn’t even stop by my locker to grab my stuff first, I just bolted for the front door.
Wait, my Count Chocula chap-stick, it was still back in my locker, I remembered, freezing in mid frenzied motion.
No, no, I had to leave it, I told myself, though my body was already leaning in the direction of my locker. With sure will, I force my feet to take a step farther away from my locker and my beloved chocolate flavored chap-stick.
That was painful.
I took a breath. Two breaths.
And then I immediately bolted for the door again. Running at top speed. My flats slapping the linoleum flooring of the school hallway. After all, this was an emergency. I needed answers and I needed them now.
The town flew by me in a blur as I sprinted down the sidewalk towards Auntie’s house. The steepness of the hill that the high school was on, adding to my mad dash downward. My shoes skidded and squeaked and I nearly tumbled into the street as I attempted to make a sharp turn down the lane that Auntie lived on.
A few bounding strides and I was vaulting over the broken gate, sliding down the stone walkway, leaping up the front steps without touching them, jumping through the door, pounding up more stairs, and racing down the narrow hall. At least I tried the last part, unfortunately I forgot how narrow the hallway was and that I needed to turn sideways to get down it, so instead my shoulders got stuck halfway to my room. My momentum was jarred to a stop with the creaking thud of my shoulders being wedged between the opposite walls that were too close together.
It took some wiggling and holding my breath, and I eventually got myself unstuck. But not without waking the sleeping lion from it’s lair. With the last twist of the shoulders to free me from my entrapment, I could hear my aunt stirring down stairs.
Darn it, this was going to take a special kind of sneakiness to get in and out of here. The only reason I stopped by here in the first place, instead of going directly to the ferry docks, was because I knew I was completely under dressed for hiking or whatever else I might need to do while over on the island, and I didn’t bring a lunch with me to school today, so if I was going over to the island, I would at least need snacks. I was already starving. This meant that I needed to get to my room and to the kitchen without being stopped by my aunt.
Thank goodness I wore flats today, tiptoeing around in my platform shoes would have been almost impossible.
Fifteen minutes later I was dressed and stuffing things into my over-sized neon orange camo backpack.
Right, I have spare clothes, music, phone, wallet, and make-up; I thought, counting off the list on my fingers.
It was only supposed to be a day trip. Just an exploratory mission, and then I would be back this evening.
Now for a coat. What went with electric pink camo pants and platform combat boots with skull and cross bone laces? I wondered, turning towards my closet. Maybe I should just try to match my shirt. It was a simple black mini-tee with “Death Sucks” writing in oozing red letters and fang marks on it. After some careful deliberation, I finally picked out the fluffy red coat with the fake fur fringe.
Adventure clothing? Check.
Bag ‘o loot? Check.
Now all I needed was something to eat along the way.
Needless to say, tiptoeing down to the kitchen, hiding behind the center island counter while trying to grab some snacks and dodging my aunt was not easy. For an old lady that usually seemed so out of it, it was amazing how much she wandered around the house yet still seemed to be doing nothing.
Skittering out the back door just as she was rounding a corner into view, I barely made it out of there unseen. Though being out of the house made things easier, I didn’t breath a sigh of relief until I had managed to get around the narrow house, out the front gate, and was walking down the sidewalk.
Tired relief lasted for about two seconds, and then I was filled with glee.
I was now on a real adventure. Finding answers, saving myself from impending zombi-ism, and I was feeling more like myself than I had felt in months.
For once happy for the invisibility, I skipped down the little hill that made up the down town area (if you could call three stores, a post office, and a town hall/community center/church/ courthouse, a town). Following the meandering sidewalk, I skirted the little gravel covered shore and headed to the ferry docks.
The closer I got to the building by the shore the worse the sidewalk seemed to get, like someone had not bothered to maintain it for some reason. Grass sprouted out of every nook and cranny, the cement was extra slippery from the tiny mounds of moss growing over it, there were even potholes in the pavement.
How the heck could there be potholes in the sidewalk?
The dock wasn’t rotting or falling apart, but it had certainly seen better days. The old plank boards were slightly slimy from the misty air. The little booth on the dock that sold tickets had a cracked service window and its white and blue paint was pealing off in odd little strips. The whole place smelled vaguely like seaweed and rotting fish.
There was no ferry at the dock, but I had seen one coming and going before, so I knew it was only a matter of time before one showed up. Hopefully I hadn’t already missed it for the day.
I walked up to the ticket booth window, but the window had a board covering it from the inside and written on it was, “Be back at noon”.
I checked the time on my phone’s screen, It was already 12:35.
To one side of the service window was the ferry sailing schedule. It seemed to be fairly straight forward, the ferry left every hour (really? There were that many ferries? Boy, I missed a lot. Stupid zombie brain.) which would mean that where ever it went, it only took a half hour to get there and another half hour to get back. That also meant that I didn’t have that long to get tickets before the ferry was going to leave again.
Getting nervous, I knocked on the window, “Hey, hey, are you in there? I need to buy a ticket.”
“No!” came the reply from inside.
“What! What do you mean, No? I have to buy a ticket.”
The board over the window rattled and finally moved out of the way. Inside the booth was a scraggly old woman with limp white hair that clung to her skull, and saggy cheeks that hung down below her chin. Her eyes were all but lost between bags of wrinkles.
“I need to buy a ferry ticket, are you going to sell one to me or what?”
“There’s no ferry in Kelpi Harbor,” she said as if out of habit alone.
“Well, you sell tickets to something don’t you?”
(sign) “Whatever the ticket is for, I want one.”
“No you don’t.”
“Yeah, I really do,” I said, slapping some dollars onto the little counter in front of the glass and sliding them under the service window towards her.
She glared at me for a moment with her dark beady eyes, and then reluctantly started ringing up my ticket.
“There’s no returns, no refunds, no exchanges, and no credit,” she said, sliding the ticket back under the window toward me.
“After the purchase of a ticket, it is not required that you get on, or travel by ferry,” she continued her recited lines.
Finding a hole in her logic, I just had to poke it.
“Hey, I thought there were no ferries in Kelpi Harbor?”
Giving me a fierce glare, she barked “There’s no ferries in Kelpi Harbor!” and slammed the board back over the window.
The board now had “noon”crossed out, but no other time written in it’s place.
Huh, I wonder when she had time to do that?
Not wanting to miss the ferry now that I finally got a ticket, I scurried over to a little slightly slimy bench at the top of the loading dock for the ferry and waited for my real adventure begin.