A/n: I would like to thank Project 0506 for some great editing help with this story. Domo arigato!


The sentence had been made. Toby knew better than to ask if he had to. He had to. It was a rite of passage that every boy in an Athorian household had to endure to maintain his dignity, or become a man', as the fishwives called it. Funny. To become a man, one had to be live through teenagerdom. And to do that, you needed to do this. The antithesis gave him a headache. He wasn't the literary type.

The task was straightforward. You were put out in the middle of the single, and therefore most polluted lake in Athora. You were given a map, a compass, and a pat on the back, and were told to return the boat. Oh, and your mother was to be your sole passenger on the journey, a bonus thrown in a few years back. The ditz who suggested it said it would heighten the Need to Protect and Defend. The task signified the boy's readiness to be humble, and through this humility to make a suitable husband. There was no test of morale or anything like that. The theory was that by the time (or if, rather) the boy came out of it, he was too tired and too thankful for precious life to be proud. If one did not succeed, then one was lucky if all one did was die. Facing the somewhat backward tribes of Athora as a coward was less, well, pleasant. Yes. It goes without saying that Athoraians thought about things. They thought hard.

All this talk of mental sickness did not do much for his already queasy stomach. Then again, according to Newton's first law, it could be said that it was doing a great deal by way of motion. But our dear Toby wasn't the Physics type either. He was sitting in and waiting to be called out from the cellar of a massive ship. (To the less British among us is a place not so much unlike our own homes. It had an assortment of hidden, unappreciated invertebrates, and, logically therefore, was also the place where food was stored, and where countless stowaways had passed their time). Said massive ship was playing see-saw with the big, green, and well, big waves. Sadly, as is often true in the unentertaining and menial game, one mass was heavier than the other. So the ship stayed in the air, most of the time. But, aside from the slightly unnerving (literally) jolts sent up his spine by the slapping waves, poor Toby would not have had the means to survey this principle. One. He was not the Physics type. Two. The door opened. Or snapped open, rather. A strapping, soaked male was at the door, smiling.

"They're ready," he said.

There was just one problem. Toby wasn't the strong type, either.

The air on deck was salty. And moist. So moist, in fact, that most of the time, it was more water than air. So the ceremony was short. The four tribes of Athora had their cluster of delegates huddled like penguins in front of their rowboats. After a few hurried attempts, the delegate of each tribe decided to call off the ceremonial lighting of four candles. Instead they pantomimed a shortened version of the 14-time circulation of the main mast (a circuit for each year of Toby's seemingly dissolving life) and symbolically lit a Candle of Assurance' hanging a few feet above the deck on the mast. Darkness is not exactly the most reassuring of all the other pleasing motifs arisen from the Sea's fury. Neither is loneliness. Upon seeing them return to their ship, Toby was filled with the sensation that he was totally alone. Yes, his mother was with him. But she was not permitted to help. Even if she was, she could not. She was pregnant. The way she had looked at him before going down the stairs into the ship… No pressure, right?

Shivering in the cold, he zipped his turtleneck raincoat up to the top and pulled the hood over his head, the pointlessness of which was staggering. This was the kind of wet whose sole purpose in life was to wet things.

Toby gulped, and turned to face the direction where a gush of strangely dry air was coming at him. It was the wrong choice. The wind was warm, yes, and above all, dry. But that was because it was being propelled towards him by the force of the currents leading to and surrounding something else. Something huge. A storm. The storm. Or, more accurately, a rather feisty argument between the Sea and his Whirlpool toilet. Gift-wrapped perfectly for Toby behind a neat, straight boundary line.

"Join the party," it gurgled, politely. Toby was filled with the sense of curious doom cultivated when one realizes that one just had to oblige. Maybe it was because he had been ordered to. Maybe it was because the current: the screeching, salmonella-infested conveyor belt of water that was now sliding him into it's scene of domestic violence. It is understandable that Toby could not decide which. His interest was now avidly occupied by the wood of the ship disintegrating underneath him…


The storm hit like a wall. A wet wall. A mobile, gurgling wall from hell. Slamming into walls is not usually a good pastime. Sadly, though, ships think otherwise. If one were to consider with the strength of thought that Athoraians possess, one would soon realize the seeming silliness of the above statement. How much brains can a few ropes and pieces of overly-swabbed wood have? However, it just so happens that the wood was severely intelligent by Athoraian standards when it was in a more alive state. The whole idea of lumbering was coined, in fact, by Athoraians, who figured that the concentration of intelligence within the bark of a sinister oak could pose a serious threat to national security. So great was the intelligence of these trees that, even after being felled, killed and hammered, they still were able to have muted signals traveling through their somewhat scattered brains. Therefore, it is no surprise that the ship, made up of these abused woods, should take great delight in punishing one of the feeble species that congratulated themselves for building an axe. So the force of the wall of water that so paradoxically kept behind a boundary affected only the little sac of 70 water that was now dangling from the mast, which the woods had conveniently decided to break. A passing dish sponge eyed the spectacle with interest.

Rain fell. Literally. The rain' meaning a thick, wet mass of water that had no sense of pity'. Fell' meaning stumbling over itself with eagerness to outdo the sole-purposed wetness of the sea'. It was all the same to Toby. What did it matter if he was drowned in salty or fresh water?

Apparently also devoid of a sense of humour, the rain fell better'. Better' is a word that is not easily defined, because its meaning hinges on different points of view. Toby's idea of better' was, by little stretch of the imagination, to not have the constant urge at the present moment to go to the bathroom. (He was sailing on it). The rain, however, not limited by such paltry human necessities, was far more imaginative with its perception of the word. Better' to the rain meant metamorphosing from a wall of descending wetness into a wall of stinging descending needles. Cold stinging needles. Cold stinging needles descending from every direction. The needles then began to swirl and contort with the seawater into a throbbing, live tornado…

This, to Toby, was much worse'. He sat against the remains of the mast, hugging his knees and thinking.

Literature is stupid,' Toby thought.

Soaked to the skin,' a phrase used in literature to suggest absolute wetness, was a crass understatement. He was wet to the bone marrow, and the rain still hadn't had enough. But then a small voice in the depths of his umbrella-wielding mind spoke up.

You are not dead yet. Remember, your mother is on board. Get through this for her, if not for yourself. Get up. Yes, I do mean it. Get up. Oh, and stop trying to pee yourself. There's nothing in here.'

I do not like sailing. I never have. Despite the thrill of the wide, open horizon , the idea of chasing Destiny around on a hollow log while being thrashed about by Death's saliva has never fully appealed to me. Why? Apart form obvious reasons, Death's breath stinks. A lot. Anyway, the point of this drabble was originally to bring across the fact that, since I have never been sailing, I know very little about it, and am exceedingly uninterested in learning more. So the absence of any details regarding Toby's activity aboard his ship is thus explained.

Movies have a funny habit of coating dull Reality with more varnish that he can breathe under. So it is entirely understandable that, in doing so, the movies often distort Reality a bit, as is characteristic of most inhalation-restricting devices. For example, I have read many a book (the naming of which would result in a Series of Unfortunate Events, and so will conveniently remain anonymous) that have been so sacrilegiously distorted by movies that I have considered spending the rest of my life chopping onions on the cover of a Bop magazine, just to give pop culture a kick. So when Toby was staring into the remains of Death's tuna salad, his face distorted almost to the extent of poor Reality's when he realized, in the very irritating way that realizations have to be done in person, that the movies were wrong. He realized that there would be no blinding lightning or ear-splitting thunder to herald the mightiness of his failure. He realized that no memories of his suddenly much-to-be-desired life would flash before his eyes. Toby realized that the moronic oxymoron deafening Silence' actually made sense. Because, in that moment, as the vertebrae of that spine of black water sputtered under the weight of its desire to complete the utter pitiful mess that was Toby's vita, there was silence. And silence was loud.

Several accounts have been made (never mind how they were acquired) of people right before dying seeing some great revelation. Either that or they do something passionate and life-threatening, like telling the girl who dumped you in high school that you still love her. (After all, doing something life-threatening at that time does not seem to make any particular difference). In fact, a large amount of the world's potential intelligence is spent at this time. So it was in that moment when Toby was staring death in the face that the whole conundrums of literature and science that had made the mistake of happening upon Reality and becoming enemies finally made sense to him. If it weren't so darn wet, the keen eye could have seen the bright sparks of cogitation (the one thing the movies did not lie about) kicking neurons into activity about his head. Among the other Einstein-worthy blueprints going through his mind, like a big, passenger-carrying bird to take people above water instead of through it, or, a large, inter-connected network on which over-priced things could be sold, Toby realized, in the miraculous way in which boys realize things, that his life's calling would be to build something that would bypass this backward farce he was currently engaged in. And Toby thought. Toby thought hard.

In his mind, he did the math. All that was missing now was the literature; a name for his machine. He laughed, and brought himself to his feet feeling strangely light, in the, enlightening way in which seeing something much heavier than you tends to do. He gave his invention a name, and screamed it out into the poisonous liquid that was now making little intrusive movements about his lungs. And the water swirled and swirled furiously, thinking that force would loosen the grip that Destiny possesses. It failed. It cringed. It drained away.


Mother smiled, as her one-son plopped down on the sofa after his first time. Apart from the rather vigourous mopping that would be needed, son had done a really fine job. He seemed rather disturbed, though. He had a distant look on his face, the way he always used to look after the literature classes she knew he had enjoyed so much. She spoke.

"Oh, thank you, son. How kind of you. Since you finished the dishes so quickly, I don't suppose you could make the bed for me please?"

From that day on, Toby was a literary chap indeed.


Writer's Note: I do not know what became of the water. I have, however heard rumours that, years later, it was summoned by some big-shot relative down south. Someone by the name of Katherine? Katarina? (citation needed) , who wanted it to try some Jambalaya.