Read the First Chapter

A Tale of Tides: CHAPTER 1

Slight fingertips brushed the rubbery surface of a bubble. Ollie spread her hands flat and wrapped her arms around the pocket of air, catching it in a wide hug.
Take me up, she willed silently to her ride back to the surface.
Ollie, taller than most ten year old Seelie girls, could just barely reach around the tiny squirming bubble. She gripped the slippery ball of air with aching arms, exhausted from the fight to stay afloat.
The bubble raced upwards through the dark ocean, carrying Ollie with it.
The rising motion stopped with a jolt. Ollie breached the water’s surface and filled her burning lungs. Indifferent to her needs, the sea lurched sideways, causing her stomach to curl into a knot. Perched on the crest of a monster wave, Ollie held her breath and clung to her bubble riding the surface.
Howling gusts drove a biting ocean spray. Ollie craned her neck, turning away from the wind to scan the horizon of moving water for land. She couldn’t see anything. Storm clouds choked the night sky and pummeled the water with rain.
Light tore across the clouds, searing Ollie's eyes and revealing whitecaps of jagged waves breaking onto the shore.
Shore! Escape from her freezing nightmare was so close.
The sky roared as lightning was swallowed by darkness, the air shaking with echoes of deafening thunder.
In the pitch black, Ollie’s bubble propelled her toward the sandstone beach, she braced for the coming impact.
The world snapped back into silhouettes as another bolt of lightning hammered down. The flash lasted only an instant, just long enough for Ollie to catch her distorted reflection in the bubble's surface. She barely recognized herself. Eyes, wide with panic, stared back at her; her face was framed by wild pigtails of braided hair behind long, pointy ears.
The towering wave crashed down, rupturing the bubble and scraping Ollie across the stoney shore.
“Ahh!” Ollie screamed.
Ollie was a tiny speck, lost in the foam between land and crashing tide. She twisted around and raked her fingers across the smooth rock, desperate to cling to the beach.
Ollie’s landfall was on a nearly flat section of the sandstone shelf. The wave dragged her up the shallow pitch, and then reversed direction, scraping her back across the gritty surface towards deep water.
These storm waves were the biggest she’d ever seen. Her new hope from finding land was being ground down as the sandstone scraped against her skin.
The shore she loved so much was going to kill her. In calmer moments, she spent hours exploring the beach, only ending up in the water by misjudging the arrival of the high-tide. She pushed away the thoughts of calm exploration, her focus on not losing the shore was the only thing that mattered. If she didn't get free of the water the ocean would drag her back into its depths to drown her.
The waves of the rising tide jetted across the sinking shoreline, pulling her under.
Ollie disappeared back into the surf, struggling to keep her head above water. Her hands grasped and slipped on the eroded rock surface, sculpted by endless water and time into a smooth, swirled moonscape.
Searching underwater for anything to grip, her left hand closed around the familiar shape of a small metallic cube. An electric tingle caused her hand to jump.
Cinderblocks! Ollie batted away the loose block.
Mixed in the foamy sea-water were hundreds of the tiny glittering cubes, each one half the size of her fist, or about as large as a grain of sand. Most of the metallic-blue blocks, their sides etched with geometric patterns, washed back into the ocean. Only a few remained tangled in the barnacles and seaweed.
Ollie dodged the blocks as best she could. For once, the trouble she was in had nothing to do with the little puzzle cubes. She'd often been caught staying out too long collecting the mysterious blocks or secretly breaking the rules by trying to figure them out.
No time for the cinderblocks. Ollie fought her way over the metal cubes, crawling up the beach and avoiding any that caused her skin to tingle.
A solid hand-hold forced a wave to withdraw. The water returned to the sea, abandoning Ollie on the stone beach. She fell as soon as she tried to stand, wasting precious seconds as her sandals slipped out from under her. She tumbled back to the sandstone, feet tangled in something. Swimming was hard with trapped feet, but standing was impossible. She clawed her skirt and found loops of fine thread binding her legs and knees together. Wet fingers tore at the wrapped mess of tangled line.

Ollie pulled and kicked but was unable to free her legs before the next wave engulfed her. Terrified, she groped underwater for a handhold in the pitch black sea.
An explosion of electric pain ripped through her right hand.
No! She screamed silently, keeping her lips sealed against the water. Ollie felt the sharp zap shoot up into her arm and shoulder. She recognized the sting, even without seeing what had caused it. Mistakes with the blocks taught a painful lesson.
A cinderblock had become attached to the skin on the back of her hand, like a magnet to metal.
If being grated over the beach, tangled in thread and almost drowning weren’t bad enough, now her right hand would be useless for holding on to the shore. The pain was agonizing and she knew you couldn’t just rip off a cinderblock once it was attached. Getting the block latched to her was the worst thing that could have happened.
She gasped as her head broke the ocean’s surface again.
“Help! Help me!” Ollie screamed into the deaf wind.
Ollie was surrounded, the ocean surface carpeted in floating Soranthera seaweed sacs many times her size. Her vision was blocked, the drag of the current was the only sense of direction remaining. Where was the shoreline? The lumpy green shapes grew in bunches and bashed into Ollie as they were swept back and forth with the tide. Her hands slipped off the slick surface of the giant round shapes, unable to find a handhold. The pain from the attached block was causing her hand to go numb.
The wave retreated, sucking foam and seaweed into the depths and taking Ollie as its captive. Her panicked fingers clawed at the stone as she was dragged across the shallow beach, the pull of the ocean was too strong. Her head went beneath the turbulent water and under her skinned knees she felt the slope of the sandstone ledge angling downwards. She was exhausted; the current carried her into the deep.
She fought the need to take in a gulp of air, knowing her lungs would instantly fill with the drowning sea. This really was it, her last high-tide, the one that would wash her from the beach.
Something sharp snapped down on her left hand.
Ollie yanked her hand back, protectively. Submerged under the dark water she couldn’t tell what new horror pursued her. With renewed desperation Ollie scratched at the stone to keep from being pulled back into the ocean. The sharp thing attacked her hands and arms again and again. Ollie pushed back at the threat, but was too weak. She was beaten. She needed to breathe and she couldn’t fight it anymore.
A sharp pincer caught hold, and clamped down on her hand.
The small claw held. Ollie's descent slowed just long enough for her to snag a handhold of stone. The water continued to recede without her, allowing her head to break the surface.
Ollie spat out a mouthful of salt water and gulped air.
“Snarz... It’s you!” Ollie shouted between gasps.
“Tuk tuk tuk!” The orange crab chittered in reply.
“I can’t believe you found me!”
Ollie sucked in a huge breath. “After we got split up I thought I’d never see you again!”
Despite Ollie’s scraped skin and her burning lungs, she couldn’t contain her wide grin.
Snarz buzzed around her, hopping with excitement, small pincers snipping what was left of the thread entangling her legs.
Ollie stood up next to her shelled friend. Snarz was much shorter than her, his flat round carapace standing only as high as her shins.
Ollie sucked in a deep breath, getting ready for what was next. She hiked her backpack higher on her shoulders and adjusted her bandolier, made from a long loop of the zapping, metal cinderblocks. The loop rested securely, slung over her pack's right shoulder strap.
“Let’s go!” Ollie shouted.

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