THE MORAL INDIVIDUAL

The Catastrophy Islands

Marten Grandon sat back in his dilapidated easy chair and set down his coffee in a way that made it clear he was about to begin.

"When Yuwon asked about the 'underground,' and 'ChildIsle,' I'm sure you had no idea what she was talking about. That's because she heard about them when she was here with her aunt. I'm going to tell you all what they are.

"Do you know what the Catastrophe Islands are?" he asked them all.

They all said they had learned about them in geography.

"Well then, I suppose you have some idea where they are," he continued, "but it is unlikely you know what they actually are or why they are called the Catastrophe Islands?"

Marten Grandon's voice was deep and pleasant and when he is speaking it is like listening to someone telling a story, not like a lecture, and the children hardly noticed they were being given a lesson.

"They are called the Catastrophe Islands for two reasons. The first you may have heard because it is what most people associate with them. Throughout history they have been the site of endless sea catastrophes. The waters around the islands are impossible to navigate and no ship has ever escaped disaster there.

"Though they are called 'islands,' they are actually one enormous island which is mostly submerged, the unsubmerged parts look like separate islands. Even though submerged none of the island is more than two to twelve feet deep and much of it is only inches deep.

"Originally the Island was a volcano which exploded and disintegrated. The remains of that disintegrated volcano is the other reason they are called catastrophe islands, because they look like a mountain of stone collapsed leaving a jumble of jagged rocks everywhere both beneath and above the water. They are considered uninhabitable.

"But one of the Islands is inhabited. Most history and geography books don't mention it at all, but those that do refer to the island as 'Peron' Island or 'Neber' Island, and the inhabitants are call 'Perons' or 'Nebers,' both of which are incorrect. You know what those are." It was a question.

"I know Peron is the name of the farthest planet and that something useless is referred to as a 'Peron,'" Jasmine said.

"Aren't Nebers some kind of religion?" Lester asked.

"Sort of," Eddy said, "but it's more of an anti-religion, and very evil."

"Their real name is Nebetrastians, isn't it?" Yuwon asked, impressing Eddy.

"You're right, of course," Grandon said. "And both names are meant to be insulting or derogatory terms. The real name of the inhabited Catastrophe Island is ChildIsle and its inhabitants are all Nochose."

"Really?!" Jasmine exclaimed. "They all refused the Forbidder's choice?"

"It's much better than that," Grandon said. "There are no Forbidders on ChildIsle."

"It must be paradise," Jasmine said.

"The reason ToyLin has not been able to get thessaline is because the Forbidders have eliminated it from the world, everywhere except ChildIsle. It is the only place in the world where there is still thessaline, what ToyLin calls 'rootaba.' It is where you will have to go to get it if you choose to."

"How would we get there?" Lester asked. "From what you described, it seems almost impossible."

"It is almost impossible," Mr. Grandon said, "but since there are people living there it is obviously not completely impossible. There is a way there which is called, 'the underground.' The one I mean really is under ground but I can only tell you about it after you make your decision."

"We've already made our decision, Mr. Grandon," Jasmine said. "We're going to do it."

Mr. Grandon knew Jasmine so had to ask, "Do you all agree to that?"

"If Jasmine is going, we'll all be going," Lester said, "but it's only because we all want to."

Mr. Grandon looked at Yuwon and Eddy who were holding hands and knew he didn't have to ask them.

"The first thing is, you are no longer going to call me Mr. Grandon. From now on my name is Marten Grandon and you will call me Marten."

Yuwon had grown very fond of Marten and was never shy. "Can we call you 'Pahpeet,'" She asked, and giggled.

"Yuwon, you may call me Pahpeet, but only you. The others can too, if they learn what it means, but you mustn't tell them," he said scowling. If anyone calls me that without knowing what it means they will suffer the consequences," he said looking very stern, but no one believed he was.

"Will you tell us about the underground now?" Yuwon asked as politely as possible.

***