What Lies Beyond: Chapter 41

“It's too late. This is a waste of time.”
Pack turned around and paced up the length of his deck.
“We're almost at the end of the known waters and there's no sign of him. He's not here.”
He looked at the star charts again, but there was no mistaking it.
“It's going to be hard on her,” he thought, sadly. “But we have to turn around and go back.”

He gave the order to turn the ship about to his crew and started to bring it around.
“I wonder if there was some way we could have prevented all of this. Where did we start to go wrong?”
He knew he was far from blameless in all this. He had been the one to drive Lapse away, and perhaps that had planted the first seeds of madness in Corsair's mind. Beyond that, perhaps he should have set a better example. After all, it was he who had sought more than his lot in this world, he who had relished the excitement she brought to his ordinary existence. If he had worked hard and contented himself perhaps they would all still be here.

He sighed. So often the most important lessons are learned too late. From the helm of his ship, he observed his crew as they scurried about, adjusting the sails and pulling on the ropes. The cruelest part of all was that not only had Corsair gone missing, but his entire crew as well. He wondered if any of his own had lost friends aboard Corsair's ship. He took a deep breath as he contemplated his responsibility to them: Each night, he worked not only for his own sake, but for theirs as well.

“Captain!” one of his crew rushed up the stairs to alert him, “there's another ship headed towards us.”
He pulled out his telescope, sure enough, there was another ship heading towards them off the starboard side.
“Silly girl”, he shook his head, closing the telescope, “has she gotten lost? Or does she hope I've found him? Either way, I suppose it's as good a time as any to set her straight.”


“Wait”, Lapse asked nervously, sensing something amiss, “where are we going? Why did we leave your ship with the others?”
“It'll be fine”, Sister reassured her. “Sometimes it's just easier to travel with one ship, rather than two. They'll catch up with us soon enough.”
Lapse stood up on the railing and leaned out, peering off into the distance. “There's another ship out there. We're getting too close.”
“We're going to greet them.”
She nearly topped over the railing. “What? Why?” She asked, a bit panicked.
“Because it's what we do. We're not alone out here. We have to get along with each other.”
“I'm scared”, she said, backing away from the edge of the ship. I don't think I'm ready.”
“You're ready, I know you are. You'll be fine.”

Lapse was not so convinced. She backed all the way to the opposite side of the ship, putting as much distance between her and the ship as possible. Her stomach felt like it was full of rocks, and she wanted to go away somewhere and hide until the other ship left. “I won't.” she told herself. “I won't.” She huddled down with her back against the railing, shaking as she watched the figure on the horizon grow larger.


Before long the other ship drew close to his own. He finished preening his whiskers and went out to greet her, as was proper.
“I'm sorry.” he said, extending his paw towards her, “but I'm afraid I've had no luck in my search, and we've run out of places to go. I really am sorry.”
She didn't seem to pay him much heed. “I've brought someone to see you”, she said, gesturing to her side. There was no one there.
After a short silence, another figure quietly stepped out from behind her. A tall, skinny figure with messy brown fur and an absurdly fluffy tail, trying to look as small as possible. It was her. It was really her.
Now he understood. He had thought the ship looked a little different, but he couldn't place it. It was Lapse's ship. How long had it been since he had last seen it...?
She looked at him intently, anxiousness showing clearly in her mismatched eyes, but said nothing. The cheerful expression he had remembered had become a nervous straight face, and she was trembling a little. How many nights had he wished for their reunion? He never pictured it anything like this. “Lapse...” he said, finally.
She didn't respond at all, she just continued staring right at him. Or was she staring through him? If she heard him at all, she made no sign of it. Sister cleared her throat awkwardly.
“I'm glad you're all right”, he said, finally.
“I'm glad you are too”, she replied, in a faint, squeaky voice that wasn't at all like how he remembered it.
There was another pause where they just stared at each other. Why was it like this? He always thought she would just dive into his arms. Was she waiting for him to go to her? Why couldn't he bring himself to do it?
“You were gone a long time. Do you remember where you went, or how you got back?”
“No. I don't remember much about anything.” She looked off to the side, across the ocean. Sister fidgeted with her paws.
“...Do you remember me?” he asked, then quickly regretted it.
“Yes”, she said, flatly. He had almost hoped she would say no, it would make things easier, but he could see it in her face, he could tell she remembered enough.
He swallowed audibly. “I'm sorry”, he apologized sincerely. “I'm sorry that I hurt you.”
She said nothing, she just looked out across the sea. It wasn't supposed to be like this at all. Silence fell over the ship once again. Pack realized that his entire crew had fallen silent as well. No one dared to speak or even move.

Sister broke the silence. “That can't be all you have to say to each other after all this time.”
“We've greeted him”, Lapse quietly urged her, though he heard her clearly enough. “I want to go back.”
“But why?” Sister demanded of them.
“There are some things that can't be taken back”, Pack said, shaking his head. They turned away from each other and started to leave. “...And we're not the same as we used to be”, he thought. “Not anymore.”
Sister chased after Lapse. “Wait!”, she pleaded, “it can't end like this!”
“It ended a long time ago”, she said. “Just like this.”

Pack went down the stairs to his cabin and closed the door. Sister continued after Lapse.
“I would like to be alone.” she said, turning to her. “Your ship has arrived for you.” Lapse stepped ahead along the plank to her ship.
“But... no...” Sister said, dumbfounded, as Lapse reeled the board back in. Memory waved to her from her ship, unaware of what had transpired here. Hanging her head, she returned to her ship and they all went their separate ways.


No matter how long she thought on it, she just couldn't understand it. “Why?” she asked the stars as she lay alone in the crow's nest. “Why did this happen?”
Up until so recently, Pack rarely talked about anything other than finding Lapse, and she knew that Lapse remembered him fondly as well. So why didn't they want to see each other anymore?
She thought of Corsair, and how things had been before he left. She remembered the time she had spent in his cabin, so distraught over things that seemed trivial now, and she remembered how upset he had been, because of her. She had come to terms with the fact that he was gone, but she had always held out hope that he would return. If he did, would he not want to see her anymore? Was this what was waiting for her, too? A tear rolled down her face and landed on the wooden floor below.
“Have I ever done anything right?” she demanded of the heavens, but they gave no reply. She closed her eyes and buried her face in her paws, and wept for the loss of friendship and love.


A warm feeling came over her and dried her tears. She rubbed her eyes and opened them, and a soft yellow glow greeted her. At first, she thought it was the sun, but as her vision became clearer she saw that it was a light instead, suspended at the top of a tall room, but somehow its warmth was much the same.
“So you want a story, then?” a gentle, somehow familiar voice asked her. Several other high-pitched voices chimed out in agreement.
She cast her vision downward to the source of the sound, where she saw a dark-skinned man with a kind face and mere traces of a grey hairline, surrounded by a handful of tiny men and women of varying sizes and colours. She sat down near the back, and they didn't even seem to notice her.
“A long time ago, there lived a young man and a woman. The young man was very outgoing, and the woman was very shy, but they were both very lonely and wished for companionship. One day, the two of them met by chance and they fell in love. Unfortunately, they were both young, and love isn't always as easy as they say in a fairy tale. As time went on, their lives changed and they had to be apart from each other for a while, and it was hard for both of them. They even started to forget how much they loved each other and started arguing instead. They said mean things that hurt each other's feelings and they decided that they would never talk to each other again.”

One of the other strangers sniffled. Sister merely sat there, listening intently.
“For most other people, that would be the end of the story, but these two truly loved one another and neither could forget about the other. Someday, they would have made up, but something terrible happened: The woman fell very ill, but because of their argument the man didn't find out. She got sicker and sicker and it seemed that she would surely die and he would never get to apologize to her. But then, just when all hope seemed lost, an angel appeared to the man in a dream, and told him of her plight. He called himself 'Corsair', and begged the man to find his love.”

Sister froze. It couldn't possibly be true, but how else could he know?
“The man spoke to her friends and found her gravely ill, just as the angel had said. He knelt down beside her bed and poured out his heart to her, making his peace with her before she passed away. But some things are just meant to be, and the woman didn't pass away, she woke up several days later and they were reunited. They forgave each other, and they went on to get married and have two wonderful children. And then those children eventually had six wonderful children of their own, and they all lived happily ever after, or at least they will if those little grandchildren get to bed on time for once.”

“Grampa, you always tell that story” one of the male children complained.
“That's because it's true”, he replied. “I'll never forget his furry face. He looked just like a cat!” He scrunched up his mouth and nose and the children laughed.
“Grampa,” said one of the women, “Can I ever meet Corsair?”
“Of course you can, sweetheart”, he said, patting her head. “When we lost our way, he showed us the light. I'm sure he'll be there for you too if you should ever need him. But now you kids really have to be off to bed.”
“Awww” they whined, collectively, standing up and leaving the room so only she and the stranger were left.

“Steven”, she said, placing her hand on his arm. “I understand now. Thank you so much for everything.”
“My story's already finished”, he said, putting his hand on top of hers and turning to look at her. “Now, go and find yours.” She could see clearly into his eyes now, and she realized he understood what she was.

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