The Wondering Holm was one of the larger islands in the world but it oddly contained one of the smaller villages. It was practically a kingdom, they were one of the few islands that boasted a castle, a wall (not to just keep people and livestock from falling into the clouds) and a proper monarch. The duke of the Wondering Holm was not the sadistic pervert like the governor of Hopewell. Also protecting the Wondering Holm from pirate attack was a small guard. The Wondering Holm, was not a wealthy island but it was also a sort of think tank for the rest of the world. The duke took pride in knowledge, the quest for knowledge and that in order to survive better as a society, as a race, education was the only way. Many islands contained schools where students learned to read and write and do simple math, but the Wondering Holm was the only one that contained a university, a place where one could achieve a higher learning than just the basics.
Louella Huckabee, not yet known as ‘Honesty,’ she would get that name as a pirate, lived near the university. It was a sprawling building made of stone and partially covered in untamed ivy. Men walked back and forth around the campus, going to class, coming from class. She passed the university on her way to the small school room attached to the church. Her husband, not exactly a blacksmith, more like a horseless carriage specialist. He repaired broken carriages, and Paul’s younger brother, David, was a professor at the university, his specialty was geography, lived with them. David had that absent minded professor and if it weren’t for Paul and Louella would probably attend lecture every day without his pants.
The church was a simple white washed wooden building with a steeple, a lightning bolt upon the top. She pulled open one of the double doors at the top of the stairs leading up to it. Behind the church was a small building that housed the cleric of the church. The church was simple inside, brown wooden pews, smoothed by hands and bottoms that came into contact with it every Wednesday. An altar was in front of the pews, and a podium was off to the left of the altar. Behind the altar on the wall was a large wooden carving of a man being struck by lightning.
There were some art paintings on the walls depicting the lightning struck man banishing a tentacled beast below the clouds. Other paintings showed the lightning struck man helping humanity to be above the clouds, leading them away from the tentacled beast. The lightning struck man was Eric, their savior, and the chosen of God. Louella walked into a doorway to the right of the altar, it was the door that led to the small room where she taught class.
The room was small, white walls, with a row of windows along one side and more religious paintings opposite the windows. They were more or less Erik giving out the laws to live by. Simple things: No murdering. No Stealing. Be loyal to the duke. Obey the guard. Join the Guard. Opposite of where Louella stood in front of a large chalkboard were the tiered bench seats and tables. The rows were assigned by age and grade. The youngest, those just learning to write or do simple math were in the front row. Those who had nearly mastered their subjects sat in the rear. To Louella’s right was her desk, one which sat a stack of books.
Louella touched her hair to make sure it was still contained in its pins as her students began to filter through the door, carrying books and slates. She smoothed the front of her dress. Her salary did not allow for fancy dresses, but she had tried to keep in the latest fashion from Vrukhan. She had never been, but imported into the stores were the latest styles from the kingdom. Louella had bought modest colored, inexpensive material and made her dresses in the latest cuts. Currently she was wearing a grey dress, almost ash colored, trimmed in white lace, tight waisted, but flared in the hips, making her already wide hips look even wider. Louella, though slender, but built like a much larger woman. She had naturally wide shoulders and hips, small hands, and a large breasts. Her waistline was currently shrunk down even further by the corset she wore. The children, mostly boys took their seats, some even placing an apple on her desk. Not everyone believed that women should have an education, what did they want with an educated woman? Her jobs were to cook, clean and give birth… Louella was an educated woman, and though she had no university training, she read nearly every book that David brought home from the university for his own advancement of knowledge.
“Get out of the way!” Came a shout from the doorway as Louella turned to see David practically burst into her classroom. He was dressed like normal, brown suit crumpled, hair in that just gotten out of bed uncombed look. David, like his brother Paul, was a large man, broad shouldered, large armed, barrel chested. However where Paul had distinguished masculine appearance when the grease and soot was cleaned off him, David had been cursed with a face that if he shaved it, he looked like a twelve year old attached to a man’s body. So to give him the appearance of being older, or more or less his age and to look more respectful, David wore a goatee that needed trimming.
“David,” Louella scolded. David smiled sheepishly at the children he’d practically barreled over in the doorway to get into the classroom. He was winded, breathing hard, his face red with exertion. “Are you alright?” She asked seeing his condition. “Did you just run here from the university?” He nodded vigorously as he tried to catch his breath.
“I’ve got such wonderful news! I had to come straight away to tell you!” David was practically bursting out of his skin in excitement. Louella smiled sweetly and waited for him to continue. “The board has approved my request to seek out of the existence of Draco Island!” Louella gave a half smile, and her mouth twitched to keep at least that much of a smile on her face.
“That is wonderful news,” she stated, and held back in her mouth: Are you sure they didn’t approve it to keep you from your continuous begging?
“I thought you’d be more excited for me,” David said looking at her. Louella turned to her students, they were all seated and for once, very quiet, all the eyes were on her and David as they happily eaves dropped on their conversation. Louella took David by the arm pulled him back through the doorway, closing the door between her and her classroom. This had to be quick, too much time unsupervised and the children would quickly run amok.
“I am happy for you, have you told this news to Paul?” She asked. Paul and David had a special bond that Louella often envied. It wasn’t that she felt that Paul regarded his brother higher than his wife, Paul held Louella on a pedestal, but David was Paul’s best friend. Louella had no family, and really no close friends. She had devoted herself to her husband. She wasn’t sure she was prepared to deal with Paul and his pining for David’s absence. They didn’t have many friends, they were simple folk to who kept to themselves. The neighbors were kind and the Huckabee’s were helpful when needed they did not get invited nor attend any social events.
“No, I thought you might tell him with me,” David said eagerly. Louella gave him an incredulous gaze.
“You mean right now?” Louella asked. She could hear giggling from her classroom. David nodded vigorously again. She sighed and nodded in resolved agreement. She opened the door to the classroom and saw one of the young bows suddenly dash from where he’d been drawing or writing something on the chalkboard back to his seat and tried to pretend he was completely innocent.
“I have good news for you, there will be no class today,” Louella announced to her students who suddenly cheered, then began to stampede out of their seats towards the door. “I expect you all to read an extra chapter tonight!” She tried to call to them as they streamed past her. A few of the smaller ones gave her hugs as they left. She hugged them back and patted their heads. Once the room was empty she turned to look at what had been written on the chalkboard. She gave a sigh. Someone had been drawing a penis on it. Louella took the eraser and wiped it away. Next to the penis, written very tiny were the words: LOUELLA HUCKABEE DOESN’T EXIST. Louella frowned. The penis drawing she found amusing, buried in her school mistress and devoted wife psyche was a true pervert. It was the words that bothered her. Was it meant to be insulting? She had wiped away many an insult, many a lewd drawing, but the usual ones were simple: so and so was a whore, slut, ugly, fat, goat faced, Sky Kraken Worshipper had been on the board once. Louella reached down to pick up the eraser again and realized she was holding the chalk in her hand. She hadn’t remembered picking it up. She set the chalk down and picked up the eraser to wipe away the insult and she gasped. The entire chalk board was covered in LOUELLA HUCKABEE DOESN’T EXIST or LOUELLA HUCKABEE ISN’T REAL it was written over and over again, the words on top of each other, jumbled together. Louella dropped the eraser from her hand. It plopped softly on the floor.
“Louella? You ready?” David’s voice spoke behind her. Louella jumped and spun around, her face pale and scared. His eyes traveled from her to the chalkboard on the wall behind her. His eyes roved over it. “That is unusual, you must a real imaginative student, and mine usually draw lewd pictures when I’m out of the room.” Louella turned back to the board, she frowned. The repeated sentences were gone. The board had been wiped clean but now on it was a surprisingly detailed drawing of what looked like a squid. Titled above it was: LOUELLA HUCKABEE.
“I, uh, I’m confused,” Louella said.
“It’s a squid,” David explained, “Damn fine representation of one too, made from chalk, that’s talent, but the artist seemed to have taken some artistic liberties with the squid, giving it mechanical parts. Gonna be a shame to erase it. Here I’ll help you.” David picked up the eraser from where it had fallen from Louella’s hand. He slowly and methodically began to remove the drawing of the squid from the chalkboard. Louella’s hands were shaking. This had never happened to her before. She took several deep breaths as David erased the board and she walked towards the door.
Paul Huckabee was in his workshop. It was open on two sides. During the summer it was as hot as the fiery pits of Hell, during the winter it was only mildly cooler. Dominating the center of his workshop was a massive furnace where he heated metals and then would hammer them back into shape or mold metal back together. Paul stood pulling on a chain that moved the massive bellows that would raise the temperature of the furnance. He wore a leather apron over his breeches and sleeveless undershirt. He was covered from head to boot in soot and sweat. Around him were tables and racks with the tools of his trade, hammers, pliers, and a massive anvil was in front of the forge where he could shape metal.
David was a large man, but whereas David was more of a well fed plump around the middle sort from days of either sitting in a chair or just standing in front of a lecture hall explaining theories about the way the world worked, Paul was solid muscle. Arms strong from pulling the bellows chain, and swinging a hammer. Both men were in their thirties, Paul being only slightly older, gray hair was beginning to show in his short brunette curls. Like David, Paul also wore facial hair, but his goatee was neatly trimmed.
“PAUL!” Louella shouted her husband’s name over the sound of the fire in the forge. Paul stopped with the bellows chain and turned to see his wife. He smiled instantly, widely, but still looked confused. He approached her where she stood next to David. Even though they were barely inside the workshop, both had begun to break out in sweat.
“Are you alright? Something happen at the church?” Paul asked and Louella shook her head.
“I canceled class today, David has some wonderful news he wants to tell you,” Louella explained after her husband leaned down and hugged her. He was sweaty and dirty, but she enjoyed being in his strong arms.
“You’re getting married?” Paul asked and David who had been like a toddler who was nearly dancing foot to foot to give his mother a wild flower he’d found, suddenly stilled and frowned. David pushed the small rimmed glasses higher up on his nose and smirked.
“No,” he stated. Then gave a dramatic pause, Louella and Paul waited for David to realized the effect wasn’t working on them. “I’ve gotten the grant to go on an expedition to find Draco Island!” There he finally had it out. Paul tilted his head and gave David a long stare.
“That’s wonderful news,” Paul began. He was soft spoken and often very quiet.
“Why aren’t you happy for me?” David asked Paul the same question he had asked Louella.
“I’m just surprised is all,” Paul stated, “Uh, when do you leave?”
“I hope to be on the next charter to Hopewell!” David exclaimed and though David and Paul and Louella had lived on the Wondering Holm their entire lives they knew about the other islands. They had newspapers and heard stories from their neighbors. Hopewell was a seedy pirate place, but it was actually the best place to charter a ship to go chase down an island that doesn’t exist.
Later that night…
Paul and Louella’s house was small, but cozy. It was a two story little home of yellow with a garden of flowers and a small fence around the front yard. Louella had been wanting a dog, and Paul had planned to buy her a puppy as soon as the neighbor’s dog had another litter. The downstairs was a kitchen and a dining room and a parlor, the upstairs was the master bedroom, David’s bedroom and at the moment a guest bedroom that Paul and Louella had hoped to turn into a nursery.
Louella sat at her vanity, she was removing the pins from her hair and Paul loved to watch her. Sometimes she’d offer him her brush and he’d run his fingers and the bristles through her long brunette locks. They came down to her waist, and other than everything else about Louella, her hair was the sexist thing on her. He brushed her hair until she finally took the brush from him and began to braid her hair. It was easier to sleep with it in a braid than loose around her to get laid on, or tangled.
“I think I encouraged his obsession with Draco Island because I honestly didn’t think that the board would actually approve his requests,” Louella began. She finished braiding her hair and stood, wearing a thin gown of white. Paul, had mostly cleaned up, baths were not often as it wasn’t always worth the trouble to heat up kettle after kettle of water on the wood stove in the basement, when usually just making sure the hands, armpits and crotch were washed. He wore only a pair of white undershorts that came to his knees. “I mean the island doesn’t exist, dragons don’t exist, I swear this is something a child came up with.” Paul didn’t say anything. His wife did most of the talking in their marriage anyway.
Louella pulled back the covers on the bed and as Paul blew out the candle, both settled in to sleep. She would worry about David in the morning, but it wasn’t just David that was bothering her. There was a chance he might actually find the island but there was a bigger chance that he would never come back at all. Louella was almost to the point of trying to convince him not to leave. However what preyed on her mind were the images on the chalkboard after she’d released the children from class.
She decided she needed a drink of water. Paul was already snoring next to her, his arm draped over her. She carefully moved his arm and walked to his side of the bed. She struck a match and lit the candle. Louella screamed in fright, dropping the candle. Paul was out of the bed like a rocket, and had Louella by the shoulders.
“What is it?” He asked and slowly followed her gaze. He picked up the candle, struck another match to relight it, and held it aloft. Painted on the walls were LOUELLA DOESN’T EXIST, LOUELLA ISN’T REAL over and over. The room was full of the smell of wet paint. By the doorway was a small can of paint, tipped over and a dropped brush. Paul brought the candle back towards his wife. “Louella?” He asked questioningly. His wife was splattered in the same paint that had painted the walls. She was looking at her hands, they were trembling and paint splattered.