Steampunk Family
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»

The next morning the twins found something in their net. They called it a fish, for it wriggled and had fins and lived in water. However, the fins (there were six) were evenly spaced around the back of the thing, making a ringed sort of tail. It had three eyes on either side of its head, and a great rounded lower lip that protruded over its upper lip. It was a rusty orange-pink in color, with a pattern of pale purple spots beginning lightly at its head and intensifying so that it was mostly purple at the tail.

Mirabelle held it in the net while Annabelle hit its head with the side of the pick. She worked quickly so that no one (including her) could get attached to the creature and forget it was supposed to be food. When it stopped wriggling they examined it and made quick notes and sketches in Mirabelle’s observation book before borrowing a pocketknife from Gerhardt. (For all the tools and assorted objects in their pinafore pockets, they did not happen to have a knife, comb, or handkerchief.)

The skin was smooth, not scaly, and thick – difficult to cut through. And the inside! It was not like the inside of any fish or any other animal the children had ever seen or read about. It was all the same inside, a white, pulpy flesh more like an eggplant than anything else. There were no internal organs, just a tube connecting the mouth to the tail. The twins discarded that.

They threaded the rest on sticks and roasted it over the fire. It gave off a disturbingly floral scent while cooking, rather like the orchids in Mother’s greenhouse. This made the children feel homesick, for nothing on earth has more power over emotion than smells do.  It tasted a bit like flowers and a bit like asparagus. The children were too dispirited to discuss the strangeness of it though.

The twins emptied out the cheese tin and boiled water in it, which they pretended was tea. No one, not even Adolphus, had a strong enough imagination to enjoy it, but they all knew boiled water was much safer to drink than plain river water.

After breakfast and washing up Bettina said “Boat!” and they all agreed to give the river another try. They ventured into the woods again for poles. The geology pick made a poor hatchet, and they keenly felt the loss of the axe. It felt late when they got underway, but as there had been no sunrise (the sky just got lighter all over) and no path of the sun to follow (the sky got brighter and somewhat less violet all over), they could not guess the time. Adolphus’ pocket watch, after surviving the great fall, had succumbed to the river and the mud. He wanted to take it apart and fix it, but Claire dissuaded him from doing so on the river. Fixing a pocket watch needs a flat, non-moving surface, not an upside down mushroom in a rapid current.

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This story began with On Grandmothers and continues weekly. The last episode was The Last of the Gouda and the next is Downstream.

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Entries in this series:
  1. On Grandmothers
  2. With A Bang!
  3. In Search of Ancient Angiosperms
  4. Assault on the Galley
  5. The Sorrows of Chef
  6. Faeries, Helpful Siblings, and other Mythological Creatures
  7. Meanwhile, Back in the Lab
  8. A Day of Discovery
  9. The Children’s Hypothesis
  10. A Research Date
  11. Aboard the Schmetterling
  12. The Cave
  13. The Cage
  14. Knee of the Yeti
  15. Kidnapped!
  16. A Clue
  17. The Yeti and the Comb
  18. Fighting the Count
  19. Fighting the Yeti
  20. Falling
  21. Breadcrumbs
  22. The Search is On
  23. Flight to Saigon
  24. On the Streets of Saigon
  25. The Sad Man
  26. At the Grandiere Club Aeronautique
  27. If you Give a Count a Cookie
  28. Out of Cookies
  29. Stuck!
  30. Airships Float?
  31. Where is Claire?
  32. Drowning
  33. Into the Drink!
  34. Boat!
  35. Mushroom Trip
  36. Ambush
  37. The Variegated Strangler
  38. In a Strange Land
  39. Hand over Hand
  40. The Last of the Gouda
  41. An Unusual Breakfast
  42. Downstream
  43. What's for Dinner?
  44. Axe and Fire
  45. Meanwhile, Back at the Airship
  46. Over the Gobi
  47. Return of the Grandmothers
  48. Warning from Huang
  49. Anxious Hours
  50. Ulrik Prepares
  51. Destruction by Dawn
  52. Finding Philomena
  53. No Luck in Pekin
  54. The Children Rescue...Something
  55. Corndog Liberation
  56. The Fate of Corndogs
  57. Have you Tea?
  58. Antafrican Hosptitality
  59. Onion Porridge
  60. Homesick
  61. On the Hunt
  62. Farm Living
  63. Singing for Supper
  64. You Say Potato...
  65. Curiosity is the Foundation of Discovery
  66. An Awkward Position
  67. Trouble Comes Riding
  68. Capsicum Capture
  69. To the Palace
  70. The Death of the Lincoln
  71. War Wings
  72. A Long Way Down
  73. Enter the Lightning
  74. Before the Queen
  75. You are a Tomato!
  76. A Sunken Ship
  77. Eglantine Aubergine
  78. Children of the Soil
  79. At Night in the Nightshade Court
  80. At Night in the Nightshade Court
  81. At Night in the Nightshade Court
  82. The Price of Popcorn
  83. Ulrik and Chef
  84. Fire!
  85. Claire's Bluff
  86. Tomato Queen and Aubergine
  87. It's Going to Blow!
  88. Rhodri in the Gardens
  89. The Servant's Fountain
  90. History Revealed
  91. Fight at the Fountain
  92. Repercussions
  93. Father Discovers the Yeti
  94. Aboard the Lucy Stone
  95. Summoned
  96. The Queen's Accusation
  97. The Queen's Rage
  98. The Khan
  99. The Last War Wing
  100. Eglantine Departs
  101. Thumping Rhodri
  102. Bad News from the Boys
  103. Where's the Count?
  104. In Search of the Count
  105. Spying on the Queen
  106. Confronting the Count
  107. Orphaned?
  108. Orphaned?
  109. Montesanto's Experiments
  110. Montesanto's Experiments
  111. The Queen's Tantrum
  112. Bettina's Tantrum
  113. The Flaming Queen
  114. Uprising!
  115. Uprising!
  116. Escape
  117. On the Run
  118. The Mysterious Coach
  119. Red Racer!
  120. Revolution Reset
  121. By the Acid Sea
  122. Farewell Antafrica
  123. Home Again!
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