Sky Islands – Chapter 9

Belinda and Elisha turned to walk back to the group of people who had been staring at where Varnell had been, but had now migrated to where they should have been able to see Deadwood, having realized that a second neighboring island was missing. As soon as he left The Screaming Eagle, Kyden made a bee line for his and Belinda’s home. Belinda veered off course when they were about halfway to the new group and attached her zipper to a basket rope and headed off to one of the few remaining neighbors. As she zoomed away, Belinda turned her head to see Elisha reach the group of people and start talking to one of them.

Investigating the island bombings was frustrating. They had no leads, and no idea where to start. Why would someone even want to destroy the islands? Belinda thought as she sighed and sailed through the air. Belinda landed on the next island and spent the next few hours meandering from island to island, glancing at the doors of each building she passed, but really too distracted to even notice if there was a patch up or not.

Why would Lia get so worked up about all this now? Belinda didn’t think she had any family on Varnell, but did she have any friends there. She really didn’t know. Maybe Lia and Rook were right. Maybe I don’t care enough about my friends. I certainly don’t think I’m that oblivious that I would miss them being together.

Belinda stopped in her tracks as another thought hit her. Is there some reason Fax doesn’t want to have anything to do with this either? She hadn’t seen him in a couple of days, since the night of the storm. Maybe I should try and talk to him, Belinda thought as she turned and headed back toward Hailey.

She got there and walked over to Faxon’s house, which was on the other side of Hailey from her and Kyden’s. When she got there, she took a deep breath before knocking on the door. A minute later, it opened, and Zeo, one of Faxon’s roommates was standing in the opening.

“Hey, Bell. I was wondering when you were going to come by,” he said.

Belinda tilted her head before saying, “What do you mean?”

“Man, Fax hasn’t been right the past couple of days. He wouldn’t tell us anything about it. Can you fill in some blanks?”

“Is he here so I can talk to him?” Belinda asked, ignoring Zeo’s question.

Zeo shook his head when he said, “Sorry. He let hours ago. Wouldn’t say where he was going. Hey,” he continued, perking up a bit, “did you hear about Varnell?”

“More than you know,” Belinda grumbled. “Deadwood too.” She turned to start walking away.

“No way! Deadwood’s gone too? Didn’t Fax’s brother live over there?”

“Brother?” Belinda spun back around. “What brother? He never mentioned a brother to me.”

“Yeah, Declan. They were twins. He didn’t mention him to you? That’s super weird.”

“Thanks,” Belinda said over her shoulder as she hurried away from the house. Declan? Why didn’t he tell me he had a brother, she thought as she headed to some of the places on Hailey that Faxon normally went.

Faxon definitely wasn’t at The Screaming Eagle. No one was at his neighbor’s house. All of the stores on Hailey were closed. Where could he possibly be? she wondered. Could he have been on Deadwood when it went down? Belinda knew that Zeo wasn’t the most reliable source of information in the world. One time, while they were in school, Zeo had asked the teacher why he had never seen any wild fish on the islands. The teacher, Mr. Allen, had just looked at Zeo, blinking his eyes a few times as if his brain was refusing to process the question it had just heard.

“Zeo,” Mr. Allen finally said very quietly and slowly, “where do fish live?”

“In water. Lakes and stuff.”

“When was the last time you saw a body of water larger than a puddle?” Mr. Allen continued.

“Well, I was on Pelorum last week and they had this huge tank filled with fish. But those aren’t wild. I want to see some wild fish.”

Mr. Allen sat down crossed one leg over the other and folded his hands in his lap before responding. “You will never see wild fish on one of the islands because it is simply impossible. There are no naturally occurring bodies of water on man-made structures, such as the islands with live on.” With that, he spread his arms out to the side. “Therefore, you will never see any wild fish.”

“But…” Zeo had begun.

“Zeo, just shut up, man,” Faxon interrupted him, looking at his desk in shame that they were friends.

The entire rest of the class, including the administrator who had been watching part of the lesson had sat in stunned amazement at the question and the ensuing conversation.

Having not found Faxon at any place Belinda could think to look, she went to see if he was in the group of people who had been staring off at the absence of Varnell or Deadwood. Searching every face assembled, it took her almost a half hour to determine he wasn’t there. By the time she was done, the crowd had gradually thinned down to only fifteen to twenty people who really had nothing better to do with their time.

Making her way back home, Belinda decided to swing by Faxon’s home one more time to see if he had come back in the time she had been away. As she rounded the corner of a store and his front door came into view, she saw it open and Faxon stepped outside, gently closing the door behind him.

“Fax!” Belinda yelled at him. Faxon jumped, startled and looked at her. When he realized who had yelled his name, he looked back at his front door, as if he were considering dashing back inside to hide, but there’s no way he would actually do that, or even consider it. “Where have you been? I’ve been looking all over for you this morning.”

“What do you mean?” he asked as she got closer, his voice sounded a little more rough than it normally did, and his hair was cut really short to match the stubble on his cheeks, instead of long enough to almost hang in his eyes. ? “I’ve been here all morning. Since last night.”

“But Zeo said you weren’t here.” Just then, the door opened again and Zeo stuck his head out.

“Hey, Deck, you almost forgot this.” The guy in front of Belinda turned and took something from his hand, grumbling a thanks. “Oh, hey Bell,” Zeo said when he noticed she was there. “Look, now you get to meet Fax’s brother. Deck, this is Bell, Fax’s girlfriend.”

“Yeah, I’ve kind of heard of her,” Declan mumbled before offering his hand for Belinda to shake. “Nice to meet you.”

“So, wait,” Belinda began, ignoring the offered hand. “You mean to tell me that all of this twin garbage is true? How come I’ve never met you before?”

“Yeah. You mean Fax never told you about me?”

“Not a word. How come you didn’t go to school with us, or ever hang out around any of us when we were growing up?”

“Our parents split when we were really young. Instead of one of them trying to support both of us, they decided to each support one of us. Our dad took me and moved up North, to an island called Aberdeen, while mom kept Fax down here.”

Belinda nodded slowly in understanding before saying, “I guess that makes sense. It’s just odd that he didn’t mention you to any of us.”

“Well, to be fair, most of my friends growing up didn’t know about him either. When I say they split when we were young, I mean, like, four years old. I barely even remembered him. Dad had a picture of the two of us together, but it was really like growing up without a brother.”

“Then how long ago did you move back south?”

“Few years ago. I really can’t say why he still never mentioned me to you, or your other friends. I’ve been really busy with work, so it’s not like I ever had time to come here myself and meet you guys.”

“But you’re here right now.” Belinda crossed her arms over her chest. “Why no work yesterday or today?”

Declan chuckled. “I did have work. I do have work. That’s where I’m going now. I just need to stop by my place to check on Fax before I go. We’re working out of my boss’s house for now ‘cause his shop was on Gautier.”

Belinda’s heart felt like it had stopped and was racing all at the same time as she ate a giant ball of lead. “You mean your house on Deadwood?” she stammered.

“Yeah, how did you know that?” Declan asked.

“I told her,” Zeo chimed in with a huge goofy grin on his face. “Oh, hey, Deck. I totally forgot to tell you, man,” he slapped his forehead. “Deadwood’s totally gone, man. Hope you didn’t have too much important stuff over there.”

“Come on, Zeo,” Declan laughed. “What do you mean ‘gone?’ The only island that’s gone is Gautier.”

“And Shadow. And Parth. And Ezra, Varnell, and Deadwood now. Hailey should be gone too.” The smile slowly vanished from Declan’s face.

“No,” he said. “No. It can’t be gone. It has to still be there.” Declan dropped the stuff he’d been holding and sprinted off between the buildings toward where Deadwood should have been. Belinda ran after him, only a few seconds behind.

She finally caught up to right at the precipice of Hailey, Declan’s toes were basically hanging over the abyss below. Belinda slowed down and walk the last few feet up to him. Declan was just staring off into the nothing in front of him. Where there used to be an island, there was now just sky and clouds. Nothing all the way to the horizon.

“It’s gone,” he said, barely above a whisper. “How could it be gone? How could he be gone?”

“Declan. I’m so sorry,” Belinda said, taking another step closer to him. She gently touched just more than her fingertips to the back of his arm.

“How is it possible that he’s just gone? Here last night, gone this morning. Why would someone destroy an entire island and kill everyone on it?”

“I don’t know,” Belinda said, moving to gently lay her entire hand on his arm. “But you can help us. We’re trying to find this bastard and stop them.”

Declan turned to face Belinda. His eyes were already turning red and puffy as tears streamed down his face. “I don’t think so. Not now, anyway. I lived almost my entire life without a brother, and I got him back just in time to get to know him, and now he’s gone again.” Declan wiped tears from his face with his hands, but they were quickly replaced by fresh ones.

Declan reached out and softly rubbed part of Belinda’s cheek and she noticed that his thumb came away slightly damp. She reached up and rubbed her own cheeks to feel more moisture, not having realized that she had begun to cry as well. The two hugged each other for a minute before they parted and Declan held her by her shoulders at arm’s length.

They didn’t say anything because they didn’t need to. They nodded solemnly at each other before parting. Declan heading back toward Fax’s house while Belinda turned and made her way to her own. She made it back and, luckily, Kyden was so engrossed in his work at the bench that he didn’t notice her. She walked zombie-like to her room where she slipped off her shoes and crawled into bed, still fully clothed. It was just barely past noon, but she felt like she’d been punched in the gut by a wrecking ball at least twice already that morning. She lay between the sheets, soft pillow cradling her head, staring at the mark on the wall where she had thrown the picture frame.

Kyden had cleaned it up and place it and all its pieces on the top of a small desk on the other side of the room for her. Just as she drifted off to sleep, Belinda noticed that there was a thin sliver of glass glinting at her from where it had been embedded in the wall.

*****

The man looked at a large sheet of paper with a diagram and schematics drawn on it. The paper was labeled “Fairchance Supports.” Years ago, there had been the need to install some electronic hardware to the supports beneath the capital island. The man had been asked to help with the installation, so he had gotten a good look at the structure built beneath the island.

He had the same red marker in his hand that he had used to mark which islands had been destroyed, and which had explosives planted on them. The map was hanging on the wall behind where he was sitting to study the blueprints.

There were some pieces of the support structure that had already been filled in with the red marker, and the man continued to fill more in, marking all of the crucial areas that needed to be destroyed in order to do what he had planned.

Pushed off to the side of the table was a scale model of Fairchance. One in which some of the supports below the island’s deck had been removed so the island fell straight down, impaling itself on the main support below, demolishing the capital building as the metal pierced the island before it continued to plummet to the clouds below.

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