He waited for an hour.
Skulking in the bushes outside my own house, I watched my Uncle Jarlath through a window. We were both waiting; I was waiting for him to leave. I don’t know what he was waiting for. Behind him, several stacks of differently colored journals towered above a squat writing desk. Beside him sat an aquarium. A ball the size of a punch bowl floated in murky, green water. Several tubes chaotically swirled their way up and off to parts of the room I couldn’t see. What I could see of Jarlath’s profile was oddly lit. It reminded me of the frightening scene in the park the other night.
“Magic,” he had said, after I asked him how he’d formed my breath into a chair. “I just woke up one morning and discovered that I could make water turn red simply by imagining Rhodophyta in my mind. Then I found if I pictured an algal bloom in the water, I could make the mixture solid and strong. Strong enough, say, to carry a boy around a park. And if I pictured each individual alga releasing its oxygen—as it’s wont to do— I found I could make water float in mid-air.”
He had paused with a smirk on his face, allowing me to absorb what he’d said. I remember studying him in that moment. Curiously sober and wearing a new suit. His eyes returned to mine as he’d said, “Smile, my boy, you are the esteemed nephew of a Necessary. I register with the Commission in a week’s time.”
I hadn’t believed a word of it. Still don’t. That’s why I’m kneeling in my hedgerow like a common thief. When my uncle finally left his laboratory exactly at 10, he detached the tubes and shoved the aquarium ball under his arm. Now it is 10:04. I had to wait a little longer to make sure he didn’t return. I believe my uncle has hatched a plan to restore himself as Chief Engineer of the Kingdom, so I’m sneaking into his lab tonight to prove my theory. I’ll know what I’m looking for as soon as I see it.
Jarlath’s laboratory was once my mother’s art studio, a room into which I could freely enter. The irony that I now have to trespass into it makes me long for the time when my parents were here. Navlin and Bradan were their names. Years ago, before they were taken, my mother, Navlin, had put the deed of this house in my name as a precaution. The only caveat in the deed was that her brother— Jarlath— would act as caretaker and guardian if something should happen to them before I turned 18. That is why I am stuck with my moody, insecure uncle. I dream every night of the day three years from now when he will no longer be in charge of me.
It wasn’t always this way. I remember when my uncle dressed all in bronzine, the caramelized-orange silk created especially for the Emperor’s chief engineer. As a man with status, Jarlath seemed kind and gracious. A single miscalculation with the aperture size of a pump resulted in his catastrophic loss in status. The fickle Emperor refused to listen to my uncle’s pleas. Unemployed and shocked, Jarlath sought refuge in our house and not long after, the Raiders— the Kingdom’s army— came for my parents. When Bradan dared to ask a stoic soldier the reason for their apprehension, the kelp-eyed man replied, “For threatening the security of the Kingdom.” I haven’t seen or heard from them since.
The quick succession of those two events seem not to be a coincidence. I believe my uncle, in a desperate attempt to regain his prestige, told the Emperor of Mother’s plans to rally the crews of the hydrofactories. The factories filtered the algae out of the bogwater. They are crucial to the welfare of the Kingdom. Since pollution tainted all the other bodies of water, hydrofactories are our only source of freshwater. They are also the Boglands only source of income. It was Jarlath’s aqueduct design that transported the water throughout the Kingdom.
Enough time has passed since my uncle left with the aquarium ball under his arm. If I’m going to do this, it has to be now. Hopefully, I am not seen.
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This one was tricky with all the flashbacks and explication. How’d I do with my verb tenses? Could you follow me? As always, respectful constructive criticism is welcome.
In case you missed it, the opening chapter of this story can be read here.