It was a long ride to wherever they were going. The sneeuwscooter moved at a great speed, a speed that Tom had never experienced before. It would have been invigorating if he hadn’t had the attack on his mind.
The fact that his vrienden and family were all dead hit him the hardest the farther away they moved from the village. He had no family. They were all dead.
He even found himself missing his parents. Despite the fact that they’d lied to him about his hatching and tried to keep him away from his best friend. He felt horrible about the way he spoke to them before they died. He would’ve gegeven anything to just let them know that he loved them one meer time.
And Kari. She had always been his one true friend. No matter what anyone zei about him, she always saw him for who he really was. She took up for him and was always there when he needed someone to talk to.
Rico, Manfredi, and Johnson. He’d just met them, yet they still entered his thoughts. Manfredi hadn’t even healed yet. They all just wanted somewhere to fit in and they never got the chance. Tom thought they were going to become great friends, and they probably would have if they hadn’t been killed first.
Doctor Mavis. He’d done everything he could possibly do to try to heal him. He would have stopped at nothing to break him free from Death’s grasp. If only he hadn’t been killed first.
Everyone he’d ever known was dead.
He started to wonder who was responsible for the attack. He vowed then and there that he’d find whoever did this and force them to beg for mercy. No matter how long it took, he would have vengeance.
Finally, he felt the sneeuwscooter slow down and finally come to a stop. The papegaaiduiker climbed off and started walking forward. Tom peered over the top, boven of her vest and saw that she was heading toward the ocean, where something large was floating in it.
“What’s that?” Tom asked.
“That is called a boat. We’re heading overseas, darling,” the papegaaiduiker answered.
“Overseas? Where are we going? I thought Antarctica was supposed to be the only place on earth,” Tom said.
The papegaaiduiker chuckled. “Well, that’s certainly not true, my dear. There are all kinds of places around the world. We’re going to a place called Denmark,” the papegaaiduiker told him. Tom recalled Kari mentioning somewhere called Denmark when she told him about warm places.
“Denmark? Is it warm there?” Tom asked with a touch of hope.
“Why, yes. Very. Well, when it’s not winter, of course. The climate may take some getting used to for you, but you’ll manage,” the papegaaiduiker explained.
So, it’s true! Tom thought. There really are warm places!
“So…Are there really things called flowers? And the sun helps them grow?” Tom asked.
The papegaaiduiker chuckled again. “Of course. Where did u hear about flowers?”
“A friend told me about them…” Tom answered. “She zei that they’re only in warm places. She also zei that pinguïn military intelligence resides in warm places. Is that true, too?
“Mm-hm. That’s absolutely right. Where did she get all of this classified information?”
“Her grandfather was part of it. Her grandma told her about it after his passing,” Tom answered.
“Ah, I see,” the papegaaiduiker zei as she boarded the boat.
So, there really were such things as warm places. Tom wished he could tell his parents. And Kari. Kari would be thrilled. The thought made his hart-, hart wrench.
“Are u a military intelligence?” Tom asked.
“Well, meer of less,” the papegaaiduiker answered dusting snow off of Tom’s head. That’s when she realized how warm he was. “Darling, you’re running a fever! Are u sick?”
Tom looked down. “Yeah. I was a late hatcher. The doctor in our village developed an untested therapy to try to cure me, but he died in the attack. My fever had broken, but I guess being in that snow for all that time and not having that medicine made me worse again. I guess that means I’m going to die, now,” he explained sadly.
“No, u most certainly will not. Let’s take u down and get your fever down. door the time we reach Denmark, we’ll work on getting u better. No worries, darling. u are going to be fine,” the papegaaiduiker assured him.
“But I’m so young. I haven’t even gotten my adult feathers, yet,” Tom pointed out.
“That doesn’t mean anything,” the papegaaiduiker zei as she entered a door that led down into the boat. “You know, when I was your age, I came down with pneumonia. Want to know where I was? Alaska. That place is just about as cold as Antarctica. But I pushed through and survived.”
“But this isn’t just a bad cold. I hatched three days late. I wasn’t even supposed to last as long as I have,” Tom told her.
“Which is a very good sign. Life expectancy for late hatchlings is around a jaar at most. Some don’t even make it that far. You’ve made it…How old are you?” the papegaaiduiker asked.
“Four,” Tom answered.
“You’ve made it four years. u are one lucky penguin, my dear,” the papegaaiduiker told him. “You’re going to be just fine.”
She opened a door that led into a small room with a bed and a small tafel, tabel with two drawers. She set him down in the bed and pulled the covers up to his chin.
“Get some rest. It’s going to be a long sail,” the papegaaiduiker instructed. Tom nodded and she turned to leave.
“Wait,” Tom called softly, catching her attention. She turned back to face him.
“What’s your name?” Tom asked.
The papegaaiduiker smiled. “Danica. I’ll be back in a couple of hours. Get some sleep,” Danica told him before she turned and left the room, shutting the door behind her.
But the afbeeldingen were still there, etched into the back of his mind. The blood-stained snow. The lifeless faces of the townspeople. The deathly silence leaving nothing but the howl of the wind in its tracks.
Sleep? He was afraid that he no longer knew the meaning of the word.
♦ ♦ ♦
As promised, Danica returned an uur and a half later to find Tom wide awake without a wink of sleep. At the sight of his blank, depressed expression, she sighed and sat volgende to him in the bed, holding the bowl of small vis she’d brought him in her lap.
“I know it’s hard to lose someone u love. Especially everyone u love. It’s as if your hart-, hart dies with them. u feel empty. u feel as if there’s nothing left for u in the world. That’s how I felt when I lost my parents and little sister in a house fire,” Danica told him. Tom finally looked her way when she admitted that she knew how he felt.
After a brief moment of silence, Tom asked, “How did u get through the pain? What made u strong again?”
Danica took a deep breath. “Well, I never really got over it. I still grieve when I think about it. What made me stronger was knowing that they’d always be with me. In here,” she zei tapping the left side of her chest over her heart. “I knew that they loved me, and I them. And I knew that they would want me to verplaats on. So, I did. I left my hometown and walked. I walked for so long before I was found door the men and women I work with today. They became my new family. They took me in and trained me to be there own. They’re my family, now.”
Tom looked down. “Wow…I wish it was that easy for me.”
Danica looked at him and smiled sympathetically. “It can be. How would u like to kom bij my family, too?”
Tom met her eye again. “Me? kom bij your family?”
Danica smiled and nudged him. “Sure. What do u say? Before u know it, you’ll forget all about the pain from losing your old family. Just like I did.”
Tom thought for a few minutes. He loved his old family. He didn’t even like using the word ‘old’ in the context. They were still his family, even though they were dead. Then again, the promise of no longer hurting was calling to him like the morning to the sun. He could have a new family. He could be someone completely new. Someone everyone would accept. He could start over and forget the past four years ever happened.
Everything would be right again.
He looked back up at her. “What do I have to do?”
Danica smiled. “Well, first we’ll have to get u better again. We’ll start when we reach Denmark. Here, eat this. u need to keep your strength up.” She handed him the bowl of vis and Tom accepted. Danica left him as he ate.
Thomas thought long and hard on the decision he’d just made. He’d just agreed to replace his family with a bunch of people that he didn’t know. Did he? Was he really replacing his family? Maybe he could think of it meer as…Adding to his family. Just because he agreed to kom bij a new family, doesn’t mean his old family wouldn’t still hold a place in his empty heart. Right?
What would his real family say about this if he could ask them? Surely, they’d understand, right? They’d understand that he needs to verplaats on and that he needs to be with someone who will help him forget about the pain. The emptiness. The loneliness. He needed to be kept on his feet. And he needed to be kept strong.
After debating back and forth with himself for about an hour, he finally came to the conclusion that he’d made the right decision. It wasn’t like he had anywhere he could go anyway. He was too young to be on his own. And these people might be able to heal him. He can’t heal himself. He took a deep breath and thought about his home pagina one last time before he shoved it from his mind.
He was home, now.
♦ ♦ ♦
Tom’s fever broke once again about three hours before they docked in Denmark. Danica came to his room once they arrived at the coast.
“Tom? We’re here. Are u ready?” Danica asked at the door.
Tom hopped down from the bed and drug himself to her side.
“As I’ll ever be,” he answered. Danica smiled and picked him up to keep him from using up his energy. For what she had in mind, he was going to need it.
“Then let’s go,” Danica zei as she made her way topside.
When they hit the naturally warm climate of Denmark, Tom was overwhelmed. The sun beat down on them and he had to shield his eyes from the blinding light. When his eyes adjusted, he looked past the coast into the woods that lay beyond.
“It’ll take about a half uur to reach our base,” Danica told him.
“Base?” Tom inquired. He started to breathe heavily as the severe heat started to catch up with him.
“That’s what we call our village. I think you’ll like it. I can wait for u to meet my son. I think u and him will make great friends,” Danica told him with a smile.
Interrupting them, a pinguïn approached her and said, “Er du sikker på, at han kommer til at acceptere dette? Du kan ikke lyve for ham for evigt.”
“Tro mig. Han er ung og naiv. Han vil tro noget vi fortælle ham og spise lige ud af vores hænder. Desuden, hvis han ikke gør det, kan vi altid dræbe ham,” Danica replied. The pinguïn glanced at Tom, then turned and headed for the jungle.
Tom looked up at Danica. “What was that?”
“That is our native language, Danish. You’ll learn it soon enough. As well as many other languages. It will come in handy when u start joining in on our kind of fun,” Danica explained.
As she started moving through the jungle, Tom looked curiously at the world around him.
“What are those tall brown things?” he asked.
“Those are trees, darling. And the green stuff growing on them are leaves. Well, except for the fuzzy stuff at the bottom. That’s moss. It always grows on the north side of the trees,” Danica told him.
Tom watched as they passed other plants, and something small and silky caught his eye. It was the color of the sun.
“Is that a flower?” Tom asked slowly reaching out and feeling its soft petals as they passed.
“Mm-hm. It’s called a Primrose Willow,” Danica told him.
Tom couldn’t help but think of Kari. What he wouldn’t give to give her on of those beautiful flowers. He reached out to touch a group of leaves as they passed, but Danica jerked him back.
“Now, Thomas, be careful! Those were poison ivy leaves. If u touch them, you’ll get a terrible rash,” she warned.
“Oh…It sounds like I have a lot to learn,” Tom said.
Danica chuckled. “Yes u do. But don’t worry too much about it. You’ll pick it up in no time.”
About ten minuten later, they arrived at the base. It was huge. The majority of the population was penguins. Judging mentally, one could guess that the ratio of penguins to puffins was about seven to one. There were tents scattered throughout the base, some small, some relatively large.
Danica moved through the village, returning salutes to other MP’s as she went. Finally, she turned into a tent where a smaller papegaaiduiker about Tom’s age was practicing a mes trick.
“Darling, u need to put your toys away. I want u to meet someone,” Danica told him. The boy papegaaiduiker set his mes into a case and came to their side as Danica set him on the ground.
“This is Tom,” Danica introduced him. “Tom, this is my son, Hans.”