Crimson Dawn: Chapter 1: Okinawa

One month had passed since Pudgy and his friends sailed away from Mr. Apo in the Philippines.  As the Determined navigated a dark blue ocean, its waves tossed the ship to and fro along its surface waters.  The waves were tall, and the typhoon storms were strong as it progresses to the north by north east.  In all directions was water, with nary a sight of land anywhere to be seen.  They were travelling over waters deeper than the humans ever explored, which made the air breathing animals of the crew nervous.  Nervous eyes were kept on the horizon, as well as into the water to verify if they were safe.  Despite the deafening presence of the King of the Ocean before, he so far remained silent.  The waters retained their normal coloration, thus signaling his presence was not anywhere close at this time. 

The ship was quieter, now that the two river otters were missing from the forward storage hold of the ship.  The younger and wilder Private Pawl complained the entire trip, and could not settle in for a long voyage.  He talked the most, and ate the most, of the two aquatic animals.  Sargent Miller was militarily trained by the humans, and was able to tolerate the deployment much better.  Though his words were becoming short, as he was losing patient with his subordinate.  There was a betting pool when the two otters would fight, but that was cancelled when they teleported back via the ley line.  The crew pondered as they went about their daily tasks, as to what happened upon their return to the forest?  Their General was most likely not pleased, but it was a moot point, since it would be a long time before any spoke to them again.      

With the absence of the two long river animals, this meant that Argente actually had room to stretch a bit within the forward hold.  The silver fox was making sure to take every advantage of the extra space.  She would stretch out, stand, and attempt to keep her muscles as limber as she could manage.  This leg of the journey was much easier on her, which made the female fox happier.  Her actions were also being replicated by the crew of animals on board the ship, as none wanted to be struck by the terrible illness when they disembarked from the ship when they reached their destination.  Unlike the first leg of their prior sea voyage, there was a much shorter window to become reacclimated to the movements of the water.  The crew fell back into their original roles and shifts, which meant the ship was working at peak efficiency.  The new rations of locally acquired exotic foods were proving to be quite popular amongst the animals.  The plantains were a big hit, which meant their numbers were being exhausted quicker than the remainder of the foodstuffs.   

Pudgy was actually getting more rest this go around, and was not being hounded by Shima in his dreams.  This meant that there was a bit of silliness on the deck, as well as a more energetic hedgehog Captain helping out.  That is not to say that there were no vision-based communications from the former ghost fox.  Every couple of days, there would be a vague dream where the hedgehog would float on the surface of the water, and see locations on the water as well as the stars in the sky.  Argente was also communicating with her mother via dreams and visions, which added additional context to the navigation instructions.    Between hedgehog and silver fox, the crew was being kept well apprised of any new information relayed.  Shima had travelled via a method she did not disclose, and had reached the south western most part of the Japanese mainland.  The was left to ponder just how she managed to do such a thing?  If there was a way to replicate her methods, that would greatly cut down on travel time between destinations. 

Japan, much like the Philippines, was a former human occupied country that was made up of a series of islands. There were a series of islands that varied in size that once existed dotting the surface of the ocean that stretched all the way mainland to the land known as Taiwan.  When the humans once held dominion upon this world, there were grand arguments about who owned Taiwan, but that argument was rendered moot once they disappeared.  The animals reclaimed all of the islands, and the silly former rulers of their island, settled the matter: no one did.   As with the lands surrounding Pudgy’s home, the vegetation spread forth quickly to reclaim the land as the human made structures deteriorated.  As the wicked typhoons pounded the islands relentlessly, the human made buildings were destroyed far quicker than what occurred in the lands once known as the United States.  The wreckage was cast out into the surrounding ocean waters, floating far away, before sinking into the watery depths of the surrounding ocean. 

What no animal expected was the ocean level to raise 320 meters, or close to a thousand feet.  Most of the islands were only slightly higher than sea level, and were quickly swallowed by the sea.  Just like in the Philippines, the animals were scattered.  Eventually, only the highest peaks of the mountains could be seen, dense with both animal and plant life.  Around this time, as with other areas of the world, good humans were being returned to the world as animals.  The former rulers of the world were helping as best as they could: building homes for their new animal friends safe from the water, rafts to evacuate to safer areas, gathering and cultivating food, as well as many other actions.  They had much to atone for, given their role in the destruction of the world.  In the areas that remained above the ocean, many former skyscrapers and tall resort/ hotel buildings were converted into new homes for the animals.  These fortresses of concrete, steel, and glass were sometimes the only thing that stood against the dangers of an unforgiving ocean.

As time continued to pass, eventually the look outs at the top of the masts called out that an island had been spotted to the port side of the ship.  As the animals looked to the left side of the ship, the Determined started to pass by an island that was once called Miyako-jima.  They could see the top floors of a battered white hotel building sticking up out of the ocean.  To the crew’s amazement, there were all manner of animals working on their home.  The top floor even had light coming out of the windows, as the sun began to set.  There were discussions that began, whether or not they should visit the towers that protruded from out of the ocean waters.  Also, a sense of wonder was filling their minds, and mouths, how such a structure could remain?  Expectant eyes turned towards their hedgehog captain, who was standing at the ship’s wheel, guiding the ship’s north eastern course. 

Pudgy explained to the crew in a calm voice tone, that he had seen this before when he travelled to Kodiak Island in Alaska.  As long as the animals were using a human made building, the structure seemed to resist the deterioration that befell most of the human works.  This was also clarified by the Mother of All Bears, as well as the Great Spirit to be the truth.  With the explanation acknowledged by the crew, they wanted as the building faded away into the distance.  The night sky once more reclaimed the world, and the ship continued to sail on towards the first destination for their voyage.  It was an island that was once called Okinawa by the humans who inhabited the island.  Pudgy recognized the name, as he remembered Cobalt talking about it.  There was a terrible war many years prior, and humans on both sides of that war passed on in numbers too large to count.  The little hedgehog wiggled his nose, and kept that detail to himself, as it did not pertain to their voyage.  The sins of the humans were theirs to contend with, and not of animal concern.      

Their ethereal fox guide had recommended the Determined stop there, as it would be the halfway point between the Philippines and Kyoto.  There was a source of fresh water, as well as plentiful food to resupply the ship.  It did lead many to wonder why Shima did not mention the island sighted a couple days prior with the hotel structure?  But those thoughts quickly disappeared when the night crew watched as strange bioluminescent lights seemed to swim around the ship in the water.  There was a faint white, or sometimes a yellowish color that seemed to be very interested in the ship.   Long tendrils would reach out to touch the hull of the ship, before they slid back to propel the body of the creature in the water.   At first, the creature would only arrive once a night, and stay for less than a minute.  In many cases the crew missed the arrival and departure, but those instances quickly disappeared when the creature lingered for much longer durations.  The frequency of visits was increasing, which now more than one arriving to observe the ship’s movement in the water. 

Mr. Field Mouse sighed, and decided it was time to notify their hedgehog captain.  He scurried down below the deck, and Pudgy was awoken.  The sleepy critter nodded and headed to the deck, while rubbing his eyes with the back of his paws.  Once both animals had reached the deck, they walked over to the edge of the ship and peered over the railing towards the ocean water on the starboard side of the ship.  As the star light faintly reflected on the water, there was a strange milky white creature swimming around below the surface of the water.  The body of the creature resembled a box shaped gelatinous bag, with a myriad of long tendrils behind it.  All watched as the tendrils moved in a unique fashion for propulsion, allowing movement in many directions.  While the hedgehog did have an intense wonder as to what this creature was, he gave the order to remain on the ship.  It was much safer to continue their observation, as they had scant knowledge of what actually was below the surface of the water.  The gelatinous animal watching it circle around the ship several times, and lingered for a moment almost as if it were looking at the air breathing animals of the ship.  Without warning, it suddenly moved to dive deep below into the darkness of the deep water under keel. 

At this point, there was no sleep to be had, so the hedgehog remained awake and worked with the night screw.  As the hours passed, the visitor in the water did not return, and soon the light of dawn could be seen filling the eastern skies.  In the pale blue light of the morning, the small animals of the ship beheld a new sight.  What prompted their observation, was the sound of water crashing much louder than the sounds of the ocean waves.  Argente looked up from her area of the ship, and pointed with her paw as she spotted gigantic creatures jumping out of the water.  They had huge fins, which caused tremendous waves as they hit the water.  Their number seemed to be close to a dozen, with several being almost as long as the ship.  Their actions were unknown, but something was causing them to leap up out of the water, roll over and land hard on their backs.  What no animals on board the Determined knew at the time, but it was a pod of humpback whales.

Pudgy decided to steer the ship a tad bit more northernly, to allow a wider berth to the leaping water-based animals.  Granted they were already safely at distance away from the ship, a little bit of extra wiggle room was in order.  No one realized the hedgehog had done this, since not only was the night crew sleepily watching, but the morning crew as well arrived to a new sight to behold.  They stood unmoving, with eyes wide and mouths open.  Once the sun had fully rose above the horizon, the need for sleep won out, and the night shift ventured below the deck to sleep.  The morning shift bounced excitedly, and wondered what they would find today?  Mrs. Field Mouse was the first to spot that swimming at a terrific speed to the port side of the ship, were a school of fish.  As the other crew members turned towards the water, they too spotted the silver fish.  They bodies were covered in silver scales, that seemed to reflect the sunlight, making them flash in the water occasionally.  They also had vibrant blue stripes that ran parallel along their spines, most likely the cause of the apparent flash, as the blue coloration broke up the reflective silver. 

It seemed that the wooden sailing ship was attracting a lot of attention.  This made Pudgy start to worry as he yawned and climbed back below the deck.  Pudgy fully intended to get a nap in, before heading back on duty later in the afternoon.  The tired hedgehog laid down, closed his eyes, and immediately fell asleep.  If the critter had expected a restful sleep, he was in for a rude awakening.  Almost as soon as he closed his eyes, the critter found himself floating underneath the water directly underneath the ship as it moved.  Once more he was very slowly sinking deeper into the water, and watched as the light began to fade.  He saw silver fish with blue stripes swimming around, hundreds together in a gigantic school.  The fish all began to approach him, and swim around fast.  Some where so fast that it almost looked like a silver blur was surrounding him, and as the water pressure built, it felt like the hedgehog’s head was being squeezed by Mr. Bear.  Some unknown force was pulling him down, but Pudgy did not know how long he could last? 

The hedgehog started to swim frantically upwards as best as he could.  Keeping his mouth shut, allowed him to not drown, though he wondered just how he was able to hold his breath for so long?  As the water seemed only to keep drifting farther and farther away from view, the light faded and was replaced by darkness.  He could feel his lungs burning, and the hedgehog so badly needed to take a breath.  Struggling to keep his mouth shut, he placed a paw over his mouth, and grabbed his nose with his other paw.  For the first time though, he started to hear a sound.  It was not words, nor music, but the sound of air forming bubbles.  There was no sign of where it was coming from, only the void of darkness surrounding him in all directions.  Not able to last any longer, he opened his mouth and started to breath involuntarily.  The burning salt water filled his mouth, and he could feel his body reacting violently. 

Without warning, the light of the day blinded his eyes, and Mrs. Field Mouse appeared with a mischievous look in her eyes.  “Pudgy … wake up …. you over slept again.  First voyage you wouldn’t sleep, and now you sleep too much.  We need to get you back on a normal schedule.”  The rodent giggled and watched as the hedgehog rolled up to sit and look at her.  Nodding as he yawned, “Pudgy had dream about water.  Pudgy was under ship, and floated downwards, and these silver fish were swimming around Pudgy so fast.”  The female mouse nodded as concern started to form on her face, “with blue stripes that run along their spines?  Yes, we have been observing them for hours now.  They seem to be circling and following the ship.  Do you have any idea why?”  Pudgy shook his head as he looked at her, “no …Pudgy was sinking below the ship and deeper into the water.  Pudgy head was hurting, which means was water pressure.  Was trying to swim back up, and had just started to drown, when you appeared.  Thank you for waking up Pudgy,” The critter said as he watched the rodent nod and sit across from him twitching her nose.    

After a long period of silence, Pudgy spoke once again,” something was different.  Pudgy could hear … bubbles.  Pudgy wonder why …” he trailed off, as a thoughtful look formed on his face.  It was widely thought amongst the air breathing land-based animals, that the aquatic animals did not speak.  There were exceptions to the rule, such as water-based animals that could live either below the water surface or above it.  Was the sound of bubbles coming from the fish, or was it a naturally occurring occurrence within the water?  If it indeed was a language, this meant that they would not be able to communicate with assistance of some sort?  Standing up, he wiggled his nose, and turned to head towards the ladder which allowed exit from the sleeping compartment.  Mrs. Field Mouse stood up as well, and scurried behind him to wait her turn to climb the ladder.  As she watched the hedgehog climb up, the words from her friend were filling her mind with worry.  Once Pudgy had disappeared, and could be heard walking around on the deck above, the mouse climbed the ladder to reach the deck as well. 

The rest of the day was uneventful, though much to the chagrin of Mrs. Field Mouse, the hedgehog was now off schedule again.  So, he worked late into the night, before heading to sleep.  Two days passed, with only the occasional burst of heavy rain to contend with.  The animals were getting a bit restless, as it had been almost forty days by this point, and their first stop was still nowhere apparently closer.  Pudgy would check the stars at night, and they matched the descriptions provided by Shima.  The ship’s compass continued to read a north east heading, and the ship’s sails remained full of wind.  They very rarely had to tack the breeze, so the main sail configuration remained sufficient.  It was as the light of dawn started to appear once again, when a squirrel at the top of the mast called out as he wiggled his fluffy tail.  “Land off the port side, I think we are here?!?!” 

The hedgehog turned his gaze to the left, and confirmed what the squirrel said was correct.  In the distance, the faintest green line could be seen starting to emerge out of the endless sea of blue.  Turning the wheel to port, the ship began to turn towards the island.  Calling out, “everyone … keep your eyes on the water!  We do not know where the rocks are, or if any human buildings are under the water.”  The crew of animals nodded, and started to take positions around the ship, and looked over the deck railings.  As the hours passed, the clear indication of land could be seen, with thick foliage covering the mountains sticking out of the ocean water.  The coloration of the water was also changing from a deep blue, to a gradually moderating color.  It was not long until the water was a vibrant blue, and it sparkled as if it were made of crystals.  The waves also started to lessen, and became more rolling. 

Unlike the Philippines, white sand was covering the bottom of the ocean floor.  Green plants were growing up from the bottom, and all manner of colored fish were swimming about.  Argente giggled as she looked over the starboard edge of the ship, at these orange fish swimming to and fro.  They were passing over what looked like jagged rocks, but it was in mounds with a myriad of holes protruding from within the structure.  Was it volcanic rock?  What the critters on board did not know, was that material was called coral.  It was a living organism, that can only grow within the salty waters of the ocean.  This was also a reason for the white bottom of the ocean, though long ago the coral had colors too numerous to count.  While the humans argued what caused the colors to disappear, the bleached white coral still served its purpose within the ecosystem of the ocean. 

It was not long, until the fish began to swim upwards to investigate the wooden sailing ship passing over them.  The ship was still able to pass safely through the waters above the reef.  Pudgy eased the wheel a bit more starboard, so the ship would run parallel with the ever-approaching shoreline.  The sails were adjusted accordingly, continuing the forward momentum.  Angeliki chirped happily, “it is a good thing our otter friends are not here.  I don’t think they would have come back from hunting.”  The raven giggled, as she walked slowly from port to starboard, and looking down on each side of the ship.  Pastor Blue Jaw was also doing the same, but in reverse.  He chirped and nodded, “the wonders of God are on full display under keel.  I can see why Shima sent us here.  Wait … is that a warehouse?”  The ship was starting to cross over what was once beachfront property. 

The ship was passing over what used to be an industrial district, located at the south western end of the island.  The animals could see gigantic metal buildings with collapsed roofs underneath the water.  The fish had reclaimed the structures, and could be seen swimming in and out of the buildings.  But that was not all that was swimming down there, as a much larger fish could be seen.  It was long, gray, with a white belly.  The gray seemed to be striped in a unique manner with a triangular fin on its spine.  Pastor Blue Jay chirped, “looks like tiger sharks.  I remember going fishing with my brother-in-law a long time ago.  They should leave us alone, as long as the fish stay away from us.”  The words of the former human resulted in several animals to take a few steps back from the railing, before they returned to their posts and continued observation. 

The crew watched as the shark indiscriminately began to feed.  It did not seem to care, and lunged at its prey far quicker than anyone could imagine.  A blink of the eye was all it took to lose sight of the predator, and its prey.  Pudgy wiggled his nose, remembering the shark movie he used to watch with Cobalt back home.  The Determined was big enough, at least that is what Pudgy hoped.  Calling out to the look outs, “start looking for a place to make landfall!  Shima did not give us a specific landing spot here.”  The animals nodded, and watched as the ruins of the humans spread out below the ship in all directions.  The south western end of the island was once heavily developed, with much of the population living and working there.  The island which once was almost 66 human miles long from one end to another, had lost almost two thirds of its land mass.  What land they could see was once the mountains that were in the central and northern sections of the land mass. 

Angeliki chirped as she pointed, “Pudgy that looks like a soccer field with a running track around it.  My goodness, the water really did rise up far, didn’t it?  All these works destroyed …”  Pastor Blue Jay nodded, “Noah … never in my life did I ever expect that parable to hold so much meaning to current day events.”  Argente shouted, “PUDGY, I SEE SOMETHING STICKING UP OUT OF THE WATER AHEAD OF US!”  The animals turned to see the very top of a radio antenna sticking out of the ocean water.  The hedgehog nodded, and steered closer towards the land, and to avoid the jagged metal sticking up out of the water.  Round metal circles could be seen covering the tower on all sides, as well as white rectangular boxes at equidistant positions around the metal support structure.  The strangest markings any had ever seen could be seen painted in black on the round tubular steel. 

As the tower passed by on the starboard side of the ship, a myriad of white sea birds started to chirp out in unison.  Angeliki called out, “Pudgy, I am going to go have a chat with those birds.  I’ll be right back.”  The raven immediately started to flap her wings, and leapt off from the deck of the ship to start flying over the ocean water.  The crew watched as within a couple minutes the black bird had landed and was chirping with a series of white and gray birds.  Pudgy kept his paws on the wheel, and was calling out for status updates.  The various crew members called out that it was safe around the ship, or to steer a bit to starboard to avoid a house.  The bottom of the ocean was quickly rising, with even greater level of detail able to be seen in the crystal blue waters.  Cars were strewn about, some laying on top of the houses.  The violent typhoons had pulled the vehicles out to sea, or swept out by the torrential flood waters that fell from the sky. 

Almost half an hour passed, before two sets of chirps started to be heard, approaching from the stern of the ship.  The hedgehog turned to see a sea bird following behind Angeliki.  The two birds quickly landed on the deck, and flapped their wings a bit before folding them back.  The new bird was about the same size as the raven, or a tad bit taller perhaps.  “Everyone, this is Akimitsu!  He agreed to help us, since we are visitors to his home.”  The various animals all started to wave, and greeted the newcomer warmly.  The sea bird chirped happily, “nice to meet you as well.  My word, you were not kidding Angeliki, this ship is amazing!  And all these animals built it … wow.” 

The hedgehog waved from the ship’s wheel on the pilot’s platform.  “Hello Akimitsu, my name is Pudgy.  Can you tell us where there would be a good place to make port?  We need to resupply, when we head to Japan.”  The former human chirped happily, “welcome to Japan … but I think you mean the mainland?”  Argente waved her paw from her forward storage hold, “we are heading to a place called Kyoto.”  The sea bird nodded, and rubbed his needle like yellow beak, “oh my … that is a good distance away.  Where did you sail from?”  The hedgehog nodded, “the Philippines, but before that … we sailed all the way from Pennsylvania.”  The gull’s eyes went wide, “you sailed the whole way here?!?!?!?!”  As the various crew members nodded, and returned to their posts, the once human man had to process this information.  His eyes twitched, and his feathers started to stick out in various places. 

Angeliki chirped, and as patted his head with her long black feathered wing tip.  “I know, this is a lot to be hit with all at once.  But night is approaching, and I do not think it is safe to sail these waters at night.”  Akimitsu nodded, “ok, but I want to hear the full story!  Pudgy, head in that direction, there used to be a fresh water lake that I would go to visit with my friend.”  With a local assisting with navigation, and the ship’s sails full of wind, they started to navigate between fingers of land that was emerging out of the ocean water.  The land rose higher and higher, until it started to form a gentle fjord.  The hills continued to rise on each side of the ship.  Trees full of leaves swayed in the warm breeze that blew all around them.  As with the Philippines, the plants seemed familiar, but yet were completely different.   

A road could be seen twisting and turning beneath the ship’s keel.  The roadway paint markings could even be seen, with more of the strange symbols.  As the sun began to set in the western skies, the animals were shouting orders, as the bottom was becoming very close to uncomfortable.  Pudgy ordered the sails to start being furled, and the night crew was roused early to assist.  Akimitsu was in disbelief as even more animals came up from below decks, and started to scamper about preparing the ship to make port.  The hedgehog captain was steering, and then spun the wheel hard to port, causing a quicker than expected turn of the ship.  As the ship started to lose forward momentum from the lack of sails, it slowed down, and drifted gently towards the shoreline. 

“This was once a good spot to fish, before the car dealer started dumping their oil and coolants in the lake.  The prefecture caught them, and issued the fines, but the fish never really came back.  I used to come here with … well that doesn’t matter.”  The sea bird said, while watching the anchor being lowered and catching the bottom.  The ship slowed further, and then stopped its movement.  The sails were furled just in time for night to arrive.  The animals bounced happily on the ship, and the gull started getting hugged by various squirrels and chipmunks.  There was much laughter, and light hearted conversation over ship rations.  The little hedgehog started to tell the grand tale of how the ship was constructed, and the voyage all the way to the Philippines.  The terrible tale of the King of the Ocean made the gull grow very quiet, and then listen intently as the ship made its way to Okinawa.  Clapping his wings together, Akimitsu chirped happily as he yawned.  “That was a wonderful story Pudgy!  Tomorrow, you will need to tell me what a Great Spirit is, and who is Blood Fang?” 

The hedgehog nodded, and all animals settled in to rest for the night.  The night sky was clear, and the stars twinkled overhead.  As the little hedgehog slept on the deck, he looked up and watched the majesty of nature on full display slowly turn overhead.  They had made it safely to Okinawa, and would have many busy days ahead to gather supplies.  But planning and logistics could wait, because it was time to rest.  As the critter closed his eyes, the call to sleep was heeded, and he settled in for a rest filled slumber.  The various animals on board started to do the same, with the exception of a couple of the night crew, who remained on watch just in case.  In the distance, peeking out from the tree line at the northern edge of the lake, eyes were watching. No actions were taken, only silent observation of the newcomers to the island.  The crew of the Determined would soon learn that Japan was a far different place than any could ever imagine.    

By Cobalt

Cobalt is a normal guy that goes to work. Pudgy is his hedgehog friend who lives in a hobbit style home nearby, and goes on epic adventures. All Pudgy stories are copyrighted to Cobalt. Doomcock, Harvey Cthulhu, and Xanadoom is copyrighted to Overlord DVD.

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