"Willy, is Dad home yet?" he asked the moment he stepped through the door. It gave a smart little tone as some kind of salute and closed behind him. He hefted his bag on his shoulder, took a look at the stairs to his room, shrugged and put it down again.
Willy turned away from his cooking and looked at his young charge. "I'm afraid not, Ryan, and he won't be for some time. He sent a message with a courier down here a few hours ago. The deal did not go as he expected, and negotiations are going to take quite longer than previously stated. I'm sorry," he added when he saw Ryan's face sadden considerably.
"Don't be," said Ryan and sat down at the long table, "that's how it always goes, isn't it? Dad goes away on business saying he will be home in a few days, a deal is botched and he has to stay for several weeks or months." He brushed his hair out of his eyes. He really needed to get it cut soon. He sometimes envied Willy his carefully shaved head. He sighed. "Sometimes I get the feeling that he had us move here just so he could leave me alone…with you."
Willy had heard this a million times, and he felt sad every time Ryan said this. "Am I really that bad to be with?"
"Not always," said Ryan and smiled. "You're great at cooking, at least."
Willy did a mock bow. "Why thank you, I always appreciate praise for my culinary skills."
They shared a laugh before Willy turned back to his cooking while Ryan picked up a book he had left on the table that morning. Ryan looked around. For some reason, his father had insisted to decorate the spacious apartment like they were in the 50s. Turquoise, gold and shades of red were the dominant colours and strange sculptures stood everywhere. The windows showed the usual high-rise buildings and glowing neon-lights, and the ever grinning face of Bozo the Clown, his eyes staring unblinkingly into the distance.
The kitchen was his least favourite place, not only because there was a hideous bust of someone he didn't know placed right next to the door, but because of the table. It was too large, especially if he was alone with just Willy, but even with three eating at the same time, it always felt like someone was missing. He knew who that was, but steered clear of the thought. He buried his head in his arms.
Willy noticed his silence and realised that Ryan was slipping into his depression again. He shook his head before making sure that the meal would be fine on its own for a while and sat down at the table, as close to Ryan as possible. He reached over and rubbed the teen's back. "I know how you feel, Ryan, my father was never really around either, and—"
"Your father wasn't separated from you by miles upon miles of water," interrupted Ryan, tears shining in his eyes.
Willy ignored the flapping arms and drew Ryan into a hug. Ryan struggled for a few seconds before relaxing, his body shaking with sobs and sniffles. Willy could feel his shirt being soaked, but held on to him a little tighter. "Shh, everything's going to be alright. Your father will be home soon," he cooed. The teen calmed down somewhat. "You know, your father told me that when this deal was over, he would take a loooong vacation so he could spend some time with you."
Fifteen years old and he has seen his father five days in a row at the most…this is no life, thought Willy.
Ryan had calmed down now, and Willy let go of him slowly. "You okay?" asked Willy. Ryan nodded.
"Thanks," he said and wiped his eyes with his sleeves. "I needed that."
"That's what I'm here for, kiddo." Willy got up and walked back to the stove and checked on the chilli casserole he was making. He adjusted his sunglasses. He could hear pages being turned, which meant Ryan had picked up the book again. "Tell you what," he began, "why don't you and I go and see a show or something tonight? I hear the cinema's got a new shipment of films in."
Ryan's face lit up like fireworks. "Can we?" he asked over and over again.
Willy grinned. "Sure thing, but let's eat first. Dinner's done." He loved Ryan's smile, and he would do anything to keep the kid happy. It's not like his father would. But maybe this once...
The streets were packed with people. New arrivals taking in the sights of Puloso City for the first time, the usual pick-pockets, the couples on their latest romantic journey… It surprised Willy again and again how alluring a city underwater can be to so many people. Personally, he was sceptical about moving into a city many leagues under the Atlantic Ocean, but even he had been won over by the sheer beauty of it.
Avenues containing every shop imaginable to man, theatres and cinemas, restaurants and bars, all available down here…if you could pay. Puloso City was not a cheap place to live; only the richest of the rich could afford to, which was one of the reasons it was so tempting to Ryan's father, and visiting was on invite-only. Puloso City was secret, and most thought it best to remain so.
He grabbed on to Ryan's shoulder so he wouldn't get lost in the crowd. Their target was directly in front of them: The Coliseum Cinematograph, or CC for short. Willy knew the owner personally, mostly as a result of a night of heavy drinking while his charge's father had been home for four days straight, and he could usually get tickets pretty cheaply, or even free sometimes.
He had to tighten his hold as they passed a group of kids about Ryan's age, which made the brown-haired teen frown and make a complaining noise. Willy sighed, something he did often nowadays. Ryan's father had been very clear on that subject: no mingling with local and less privileged children. Willy hated the rule, but he was paid for doing it, and he needed something to live on, just like everyone else.
As a result of Ryan's family's frequent moving, Ryan never really had any opportunities to make friends with kids his age, and this was even more difficult down in Puloso, since Ryan's father considered pretty much everyone else as less privileged, even Willy. If it wasn't Ryan, but some other rich kid, Willy would probably have quit the job years ago, but the fact that Ryan didn't seem to let his family's vast fortune change him at all made him stay, in the hope that he could prevent him from turning into one of the snobs. School was done at home by a hired teacher or, in some rare cases, Willy.
They finally reached the entrance to the dome that served as a movie theatre and got in line for tickets so they could get in. The owner had a tendency to keep an eye on his employees in the booths, and soon spotted Willy and winked. A whale passed over the large skylights above them, casting a shadow over the entire plaza district. The new-arrivals and visitors let out impressed and excited noises while those who had seen it done many times before moved on without even looking up. The whale started singing as it disappeared into the murky water, the sound reverberating in the great hall until it drowned out the hubbub of the people. Willy loved that sound.
The owner patted the woman in the booth on the shoulder and gave her a dismissing gesture before sitting down to interact with Ryan and Willy. "Hey Willy, hello Mr. Kane," he said with a nod to Willy and a bright smile to Ryan. "What can I help you with?" He was fat and short, with a grin that could rival an Englishman's, but an aura around him caused everyone to just like they guy immediately.
"Hey, Manny," said Willy. "Mr. Kane and I would like to see a movie tonight." He winked.
Manny winked back and pointed to glowing letters on the dome's surface. "Those are the films we are showing."
Willy looked at the movie titles and realised most of them were of the thriller or action genre, both of which interested Ryan very much. He looked down at the charge and smiled at the concentrated expression on his face as he studied the titles closely.
"Reaper's Gale," he said finally and looked at Willy, who nodded to Manny.
"Reaper's Gale it is," he said.
Manny took the much lesser-than-usual amount of money from Willy and gave them two tickets. "Theatre One, the biggest," he said and disappeared.
Ryan and Willy made their way into the theatre, not noticing the large amount of shadows that seemed to be approaching the city from above.
Ryan was talking excitedly as he and Willy exited the theatre. "Did you see when he pulled out the gun and just started shooting everyone? It was awesome, and, and—"
Willy put his hand on Ryan's shoulder to calm him down. "Yeah, yeah, I saw, Ryan. It was cool." Willy looked at his watch. "We'd better hurry or we're going to be late," he said and started pulling Ryan with him to a bulkhead.
"Where are we going?" asked Ryan, not resisting as Willy pulled.
"We're going to greet a friend of mine who's arriving in ten minutes. He's going to move here soon, and I wanted to show him around."
"Do you want me to go?" asked Ryan, wondering if Willy wanted private time with his friend.
Willy shook his head. "No, we're not going to be long. We're just going to show him where the hotels are. I'll be taking him sight-seeing tomorrow while you're at school. Now come on," he said and pulled Ryan into the small passage that would act as flood-protectors if the seawater decided to reclaim what had once belonged to the ocean.
A friend of mine, yeah, right, thought Willy. When Ryan sees who it is, he's going to be so surprised, and, hopefully, there'll be one less sad child in the world.
It was an ingenious plan, really. Willy would tell Ryan that his father would be gone for longer than usual, which was, regrettably, a normal occurrence. He would then take Ryan to pick up a friend who was arriving that night, but in reality, Ryan's father would be on the sub, bringing with him Ryan's birthday gift. The lad's birthday was tomorrow, which Willy suspected he had forgotten himself. It was perfect.
The station was completely packed with people. Arriving, leaving, waiting and just generally being there. The submarine pens were empty, all of the subs either approaching with passengers and cargo or leaving with the same.
He and Ryan had found themselves a bench on a small elevated area which allowed them to get a view of the entire station along with the view from the gigantic windows, the tiny lights and shadows moving about in the darkness. The station had the appearance of an old, Victorian train station, only with submarines and pens instead of trains and tracks. Willy loved the place. He looked at his watch again. Four minutes to go…he thought and looked at the arrivals chart. He could see the sub approaching, a small speck of light gradually growing larger and larger.
They sat and stared at the people milling around for a few minutes before a flapping sound drew their – and everyone else's – gaze to the charts again. Everyone's jaws dropped. Each and every arrival and departure said the same thing with bold, neat letters: CANCELLED.
A booming sound above them was heard. Orange light lit up the station. A submarine had exploded. Another boom followed by more flames was heard and seen, and then another and another. One by one, the submarines were exploding, bubbles escaping toward the surface. Bodies tumbled out of the wreckages as the people in the station could only stare at the sinking hulks. Except Willy. He was staring intently at the sub he knew contained Ryan's father. It had not exploded yet.
Please God, he thought, please, be okay, be okay, be okay…
But it was all for naught. The submarine seemed to wobble for a minute before it too, expanded for a brief second before contracting and releasing large air bubbles and flames and sinking to the bottom, beyond the view of the windows. Willy and Ryan could only stare, Ryan, in fear and shock, and Willy with a feeling that the whole world had gone to hell. Willy looked around. He counted the pens and then the wreckages sinking fast. His eyes widened.
They're all gone…gone…
To be continued…
Right, so I haven't been able to update Kane's Field all week because I haven't adjusted very well to school yet, but I'm getting there. I had this on my chest, and I just had to let it out. It was too tempting not to write. Anyway, please read and review!