Life in the Underground is the fifty-sixth chapter of Zak Saturday's Immortal Love Life. It was first published on February 25, 2016.
Playing a game using something electrical is awesome. The only down side about it was that Sarah keeps cheating. But it was still fun.
Fiskerton was unsure about this though.
“Fisk, Dad’s back at the airship monitoring cryptid activity, and Mom’s off on a supply run,” I told him. “For the first time in months, no one’s looking over our shoulder. It’d be wrong not to play with every dangerous experimental weapon we can find.”
Komodo charged at me and I dodged him.
We jumped into a bush and came out of it rolling on the ground laughing, but I lot the remote I had to use some of the electrical stuff.
“Ok, nice. I surrender,” I said. “Now give back the remote guys.”
“I don’t have it,” Sarah said.
Fiskerton and Komodo shook their heads.
“Come on, this isn’t funny,” I said. “If we don’t put everything back the way we found it—”
Suddenly a yo-yo appeared out of no where and took the claw.
It went into a bush. We looked in it, but didn’t find anything or anyone.
The yo-yo came back out from another bush and took my belt away from me, causing my pants to fall down.
Sarah diverted her eyes from me. “Why do you like to do that?”
I didn’t know who she was talking to, but I knew that it wasn’t me. I also knew that there was only one person on the planet that likes to take my belt.
“Wait,” I said. “Wadi?”
She walked out of the bush holding a yo-yo and the claw.
“Was the belt too much to take?” she asked. “I feared it might give me away.”
“And it did,” Sarah said.
I was confused.
“How are you here?” I asked Wadi.
“I was told we were supposed to surprise you,” she replied.
Then I got tackled and pinned to the ground.
“Ulraj?” I asked.
“This grip is called the lobster claw,” he said. “I invented it.”
Then my parents appeared.
“Happy birthday, kiddo,” Mom said.
“Happy birthday,” the others said.
“Surprise!” Fisk and Sarah said.
“You knew about this?” I asked them.
“Of course,” Sarah replied.
“Wow. That’s, uh, thanks everybody. Umm, can I get up now?”
Ulraj got off of me and I stood up.
“Supply run, huh?” I asked Mom.
“Party guests are supplies,” she said. “We just figured with all the running and hiding and, you know, being the embodiment of an all powerful ancient cryptid . . .”
“We thought you might like to be a normal kid for a while,” Dad finished. “At least for one day.”
“So a fish boy and a thief girl are normal party guests?” I said.
“And a normal mortal girl too,” another voice added.
“Selena, there you are,” Sarah said.
She ran up to her and gave her a hug.
“Uh, yeah,” Selena said. “You brought me here. Hello, Zak. It’s nice to see you again, and happy birthday. How old are you turning?”
“Twelve, and thanks. And, uh, where’s Zack?”
The girls looked at each other with sad expressions on their faces.
“You still haven’t told him yet?” Selena asked Sarah.
“No,” she replied.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing, Zak. Let’s just get this party started.”
“No, not until you tell me.”
She sighed, a tear tracing down her face. “Zack’s missing.”
“What happened to him?”
She told me everything: him being kidnapped and having no idea where he could be.
When she finished, she was crying. “I really miss my brother. My twin brother. I just want him home.”
I’ve never seen her cry this much before.
“Come here,” I said, and pulled her close to me.
She cried into my shirt.
“Is he the one you’ve been writing that song about?”
She nodded. She summoned a handkerchief to her hand and wiped her eyes. “Sorry for ruining your birthday before it actually began.”
“Well, I don’t want to ruin your birthday more than it already is. Let’s start the party.”
Mom set up chairs around a table and Dad got a grill. He began barbequing hamburgers and hot dogs. We also put on party hats.
Wadi was telling me about her yo-yo.
“I call it a thief’s yo-yo,” she said. “With it, I can defend myself, grab things from far away, even use it to pull myself up a steep surface.”
“So, basically, you made your own claw,” I said.
“Yes, but, I mean, I was not trying to copy you.”
“Zak, honey,” Mom called. “Can I talk to you? Just be a sec.”
I walked over to her.
“Hey, birthday boy, can I give you some motherly advice?”
“Sure,” I said.
She smacked me on the back of the head.
“You don’t have to flirt back, but you do have to be nice,” Mom said.
“Huh? Flirt? With who?” Then it dawned on me. “Wait. Wadi’s flirting with me? How do you know?”
“Zak, sweetie, under all this kick-butt-momness, I am a girl. We pay attention to these things. Of course, sometimes, it’s a little more obvious.”
I thought about it for a moment, then remembered what happened the last time we saw Wadi.
“Uh, yeah,” I said. “Thanks for the heads-up, Mom.”
I walked back to the others and sat down next to Sarah. She and Selena were staring at me.
“You were listening, weren’t you?” I said.
“You don’t have to worry. I’m not going to let that happen again.”
“I know you won’t,” Sarah said and gave me a kiss.
Then Mom and Dad wanted us all to check something out inside the airship.
They turned on a national news station and the news caster was talking about grotesque animals invading a town. They showed a video of it, but it was full of static, so we couldn’t see it clearly.
“I saw at least four different cryptids in that photoage,” Dad said. “Couldn’t make out a species, but . . . wow.”
“And why would they all swarm the same neighborhood?” Mom asked. Then she noticed me. “Is a question we can ask tomorrow, you know, when it’s not Zak’s nice, normal birthday.”
“What? Uh, good point that is.”
Sarah and Selena laughed.
“Guys, it’s ok,” I said. “For one of my birthdays, this is pretty normal. Let’s go.”
“I can take the griffin and drop off Wadi and Ulraj before—”
“No!” Wadi interrupted, then blushed. “I mean, I would rather go with you. Uh, all—all of you.”
I blushed too, but I tried to do whatever I could not to.
“Also coming,” Ulraj said.
“What about you, Selena?” Sarah asked. “You wanna be on a cryptid adventure with the Saturdays?”
“Hell yeah,” she replied. “You and Zack like to talk about how fun they are and I wanna experience it for myself.”
So off we went.
The town was barren.
“For a city overrun with grotesque animals, things are suspiciously quiet,” Dad said.
I had my powers active.
“There are definitely cryptids here,” I said. “It feels like we’re being watched.”
“We are,” Sarah said.
“And followed,” Ulraj added. “Shark senses. I detect electrical fields around me when something’s coming. Like the creature’s about to pounce on Zak.”
“What?” I asked.
Then I noticed them.
Then I noticed them, two red dog-like creatures with horns like impalas. One ran into me and knocked me away.
“Zak!” Sarah called.
I activated my powers.
They pushed toward me and I pushed back with the claw. My family and friends pulled them back.
“This is a calopus,” Dad said.
“What?” Mom asked. “How is it here?”
The calopus got out of their hold and charged back at me. My powers weren’t holding them back.
“Boy, they sure don’t like you,” Sarah said.
I managed to blast them away with a burst of energy, but it took all of my strength from me and I began to feel drowsy. I collapsed on the ground.
A calopus charged at me and I couldn’t stop it.
“Stop!” Sarah called to it, but her aura, I guess, couldn’t stop it either.
Wadi threw her yo-yo at it. It wrapped around its legs and trapped it.
“Nice, uh, yo-yo combat technique,” I said.
Sarah looked jealous.
I stood up. We continued to fight the calopuses, but eventually they ran off.
“You guys sounded surprised those cryptids were here,” I said to my parents. “Calopuses aren’t South African?”
“Not even African,” Mom said. “They’re native to the Euphrates River banks.”
“We should take some first samples, measure footprints,” Dad said. “It’s possible we’ve identified the wrong species.”
“We’ll scatter around,” I said. “See if we can spot some of those other cryptids from the news footage. Come on, guys.”
We ran off and left my parents with the cryptid DNA.
We walked around for a while, but didn’t find anything.
“Shark sense isn’t picking up anything nearby,” Ulraj said. “But my range is limited. You should probably stand closer to me, Wadi.”
“I am fine with the Kur distance,” she replied.
Fiskerton poked my shoulder, then he pointed up. I noticed Argost standing on top of a building from the other side of the street. Sarah and Selena noticed too.
“So that’s the guy you were telling me about?” Selena asked Sarah.
“You told her?” I asked.
“We’re best friends,” Sarah said defensively. “We tell each other everything. But, I promise, she’s the only other person I told besides my mom.”
I sighed. “Fine.” I ran up to Wadi and Ulraj. “Uh, hey guys. Fisk and I have to, uh, check something out. Alone.”
“What?” Wadi asked. “Why would you—”
“It’s nothing. I mean, it’s, you know, we just have to do this. I promise we’ll be right back.”
“Zak, if there is danger, you should let your friends help you.”
“Look, Wadi, whatever boy-girl stuff is going on with you and me, this is pretty much the worst time ever, ok? I’ll be right back.”
“If that is how you feel.”
She ran off, looking a little hurt. Ulraj ran after her.
Sarah crossed her arms. “Ok, Zak. I know you were saying that for our sake, but that was unnecessary for you to tell her. Especially in front of all of us.”
“She left me no choice,” I said. “But I’ll apologize later. Can me and Fisk just hurry? You two go with them.”
“Ok. Be careful.”
They ran off.
Me and Fisk went to see Argost inside the clock tower.
“Do forgive me for interrupting, young lemur,” he told me. “Lovely girl. Does she know you have dealings with a major television celebrity?”
“Our dealings are supposed to happen through your show,” I reminded him. “Why do you keep sneaking around and following me?”
“You’re a fine one to speak of sneaking around, or is your dear Uncle Doyle nosing about in my past all on his own?”
“Really bugs you, huh? Doyle must be getting close to something juicy.”
“Actually, I have been sending you messages through Weird World, but you are obviously not watching.”
“Can you blame me? It’s not like your training’s been outstanding so far.”
“Oh, but today’s lesson is essential. May I ask, what is the power of Kur?”
“To influence cryptids,” I replied. “Get them to follow him. Me.”
“Just one cryptid?” Argost asked. “A few? Perhaps even a gaggle?”
“My Mom and Dad think Kur can build a cryptid army.”
“And have you never wondered exactly how Kur would control such an army, one that travels on land and sea and air across the entire globe?”
“I—no. I guess I never—”
“Zak, more creatures!” I heard Wadi calling. “Come quickly!”
“Well, it is something to think about, isn’t it?” Argost said.
Fisk and I left the clock tower.
I found all of the others hiding behind a car on its side.
“Where are the—”
Wadi shushed me and pointed across from us. I noticed the calopuses with another different kind of cryptid.
“Mapinguari?” Dad asked. “This just keeps making less sense.”
“Are they also from the Euphrates?” Wadi asked.
“South America,” Mom replied. “And I’m pretty sure something that big didn’t fly here.”
A flying white cryptid appeared. It noticed us and signaled the others. The mapinguari and the calopuses charged at us.
“They’re using guards, look outs?” Dad asked. “Something’s trained these cryptids into an organized force.”
Fisk looked accusingly at me.
“It’s not a Kur thing, I swear,” I said defensively.
The cryptids reached us and we moved out of the way. Except for Dad, who jumped on to one of the mapinguari. The calopuses came after me again, but I was able to handle them this time. Fisk was wrestling with a mapinguari.
“Just hang on,” I called to him, grabbing the claw. “I can calm him down.”
I activated my powers, but then the ground started shaking.
“Earthquakes?” Mom asked.
The ground cracked open and destroyed a few buildings.
“None of these cryptids is capable of—”
“High on your left!” Dad called.
A flying cryptid was carrying a calopus toward them. Sarah hit them with a fire ball and knocked them away. My friends and I were dealing with a mapinguari. Wadi slingshot herself up onto a street light.
“Wadi, what are you doing?” I asked.
“Does that super market seem unusual to anyone?” she asked.
“I’m kind of busy.”
The mapinguari was really focused on me.
Ulraj kicked it away and into a small crevice.
“Now that I have rescued Zak, I have time,” he said. “Show me the unusual market.”
Wadi pointed to it, another mapinguari sitting in front of it, staring at it, and not moving at all.
“Why does it stay still when everything else is shaking?” she asked. “And why does this creature not join the fight with the others?”
“That is weird,” I said. “Let’s go check it out.”
“Oh, I am sorry, but this is something Sarah, Selena, Ulraj, and I must do on our own. We would bring you along, but it is all bad timing. You understand.”
She grabbed Ulraj’s hand and they headed for the market, but not before Ulraj gave me a thumbs-up.
I was mad.
“It’s not like you didn’t deserve that,” Sarah said.
“I know,” I said. “Let’s just go.”
We headed to the roof, because that’s where Ulraj and Wadi were. They were trying to open the sun roof to get inside, then they noticed us.
“I believe I told you—” Wadi began.
I used the claw to open it up, then we all jumped inside.
“I do not see why it is ok for you to follow us when we could not follow you,” Wadi told me.
“Because I know cryptids,” I replied. “I can protect you.”
“I do not need protecting.”
“You’re being a hypocrite,” Sarah whispered in my ear.
In a way, I knew she was right.
We heard a growling sound. We looked from behind an aisle and saw the calopuses gathering up food in a pile.
“What are they doing?” I asked.
A hole appeared below the food pile and the food fell into it. Then two worm-like creatures came out. We all stood ready to fight.
“Don’t,” I said. “This is my job.”
“What is wrong with you, Zak Saturday?” Wadi asked. “I thought you were trying to be normal. Normal people let their friends help them.”
“Do I look like I’m allowed to be normal? Just let me do this and stay back.” I activated my powers and approached the cryptids. “Ok, so let’s stop all the earthquakes and talk about why everybody decided to take a South African vacation this year.”
I got one of the worm creatures under control, but the other one went somewhere else.
A moment later: “Wadi!”
I turned around and saw the other worm go down a hole, but Wadi was no where in sight.
I lost my focus on the first worm.
It gathered up the calopuses and went down the hole as well.
“No!” I called.
We jumped onto it’s back. The calopuses came toward us.
“Guys, try to hold them off while I get sluggo here under control.”
“Try to hold them off?” Ulraj asked, sounding offended. “Zak, I once tamed three sharks with a hand full of kelp and a star fish. I think I can handle—”
A calopus tackled him and knocked him off.
“Apparently, his shark sense doesn’t work while he’s gloating,” Selena said.
“No,” Sarah agreed.
I activated my powers and got in control of the worm creature we were riding. I had it lead us to the other one and we were side by side with it. I noticed Wadi on its back. I slingshot the claw over to her. It grabbed onto her wrist, then Ulraj came near, riding the calopus, knocking into me, and we both fell over, taking Wadi down with us. Sarah and Selena jumped down next to us.
The tunnel began to shake and it collapsed on top of us. The rocks fell around us, blocking us in. Sand began to pour in and fill up around us.
“We’re alive,” Wadi said.
“We’re buried alive,” I corrected.
She began trying to dig through the rocks. “We have to reach the surface.”
“Wadi, we don’t even know which direction the surface is. If we try to dig, it’s just gonna make it worse.”
“What about your claw? Call back the worm cryptid.”
“It’s gone, Wadi. It could be miles away already. I just don’t know.”
“Even if they know we’re gone, why would they look underground?”
“Then perhaps you would like to fix this by yourself?” Ulraj said.
“Sarah?” Selena asked.
“I could try something,” she said. “But like Zak said, it could just make it worse.”
I sighed. “Guys, I’m sorry. Look, I never meant to be such a jerk. I just— My life’s been even more dangerous lately, and if there’s anybody I didn’t want to see get hurt, it’s you, Sarah. And the rest of you guys as well.”
Sarah smiled. She gave me a kiss, probably the last one we’ll ever have, and she hugged me.
“I feel the same way,” she said.
The sand was now up to our chests. We reached our hands out to each other.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t save you,” I told Sarah.
“I’m sorry it wasn’t a very good birthday party,” she replied.
“And I’m sorry I can’t breathe dirt,” Ulraj said.
The sand was now halfway up our faces.
I activated my powers. I had to try one last time to save my friends.
I know you can hear me, but wherever you are, I need you. Please, I’m not your enemy. Please.
The worm cryptid came out from below us, making a hold that flushed the sand down it. It stopped near me and I patted it.
“It came back,” Ulraj said. “It saved us.”
“I thought your powers—” Wadi began.
“Yeah,” I said. “I think I just learned a new trick. Come on.”
We climbed on top of the worm’s back and I controlled it to go down the hole. We went through a few tunnels, seeing a couple more worm cryptids.
“An entire network of tunnels,” Ulraj said.
“I guess we know how the angry mob’s been getting around,” I said. Then I noticed something. “Wait. Stop here for a second.”
The worm stopped. We got off of it for a moment. We saw a pile of food and the calopuses were in it.
“I do not think this is an angry mob,” Wadi said.
“They are hiding,” Ulraj said. “All these food supplies. This must be the reason why they evaded that town. Not an army, a survival camp.”
The flying cryptid and a mapinguari appeared.
“But what are they trying to survive?” Wadi asked.
Sarah and I looked at each other, and we both had a silent agreement.
“Me,” I said.
I activated my powers and walked up to them. “Hey, uh, yeah, I’m Kur. I get it. But, listen, I know you’re scared, but all of this, it isn’t going to help. Look, humans are freaked out by cryptids already, and stealing food and causing earthquakes is just gonna make things worse. I don’t know what’s gonna happen with this Kur thing either, but if we’re gonna get through it, everybody’s gonna have to work together, ok?”
They all seemed to agree. They greeted all of us, but I think Sarah got more attention.
We all headed back to the surface. We reunited with my family, and all the cryptids returned the food they stole and repaired all the damage they did.
“The level of cooperation between different cryptid species, it’s unprecedented,” Dad said.
“I guess they know something big and bad is coming,” I said.
The cryptids finished their work.
“I’ll call you if I need you,” I told them. “I promise.”
They walked off and I waved goodbye to them all.
“And will you call us too?” Ulraj asked.
“Of course,” Sarah said. “Even if you two are a pain sometimes.”
Wadi gave me a kiss on the cheek.
“Happy birthday, Zak Saturday,” she said, then ran off into the airship.
“Well, I guess that makes us even now,” Sarah said.
I smiled. “Yeah.”
“And I wish you a happy birthday as well,” Ulraj said.
Then he stuck his saliva on his index finger and stuck it into my ear.
I didn’t like it.
“Really?” Sarah asked. “Was that necessary?”
He laughed and ran away. I chased after him.
“But the wet William is a traditional gift in my culture,” he said.
“It’s a wet willy,” I said. “How can it be a tradition if you don’t even know what it’s called?”
I bumped him, but he bumped back even harder, causing me to collapse right next to Dad.
“Good friends?” he asked.
“The best,” I replied.
“Good, because if you boys ever touch the experimental weapons without permission again, you’re gonna need a friend.”
I swallowed hard.
Sarah laughed. “Luckily, you have a friend to help you with that. A girlfriend, to be exact.”
“Happy birthday,” Dad said.
Mom took back home Wadi and Ulraj, and Sarah was going to wait to send back home Selena until I returned. Fisk and I went back to the clock tower to see Argost.
“Why, the prodigal student returned,” he said. “Imagine my shock. Perhaps my lesson were a value after all.”
“This one was,” I admitted. “Saved my life, actually. So, uh, thanks, I guess.”
“Pish, posh. The smile on your face is the only gratitude I need. It is, after all, your birthday.”
He handed me something in a small clear container.
“A neural parasite?” I asked.
“Consider it an emergency contact,” Argost said. “If heavens forbid you should find yourself in another crisis, this will provide you a direct line to me.”
I took it. “Don’t these things only work over a limited range?”
“Then I’ll just have to stay close, won’t I?”
I put the parasite in my pocket and we left the clock tower. Our audience with Argost was over.
Back at the airship, Sarah and Selena were waiting for us on the plank board.
“So how’d it go?” Sarah asked.
I told them.
“I hope you’ll never have to use it,” Sarah said.
“Yeah,” I agreed.
“Well, I guess I’ll see you later, Selena.”
“Yeah,” she said, standing up. “I’ll see you later too. Goodbye, Zak, and happy birthday.”
She gave me a hug, which was weird to me, but I accepted it and hugged her back.
We pulled away and she gave Sarah a hug too.
“I hope I didn’t miss the party,” a voice said from behind us.
We turned around and saw a boy wearing green and brown combat fatigues with a backpack slung over his shoulder. We almost couldn’t believe who was standing before us right then.
It was Zack.
Zack's back! Finally. And, boy, does he have a story to tell. Also, I'm not sure how old Zak turned in this episode. Some say 12, some say 13, but I decided just to have him turn 12 instead, because I had something else planned for him at 13.
Please review here.