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923 I Make This Look Easy

About Stannie

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    The Netherlands
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    Science, writing, reading, playing games

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  1. Yes, I have. I will announce the page when I upload the next chapter! Thanks for asking.
  2. Hey guys,

    I'm writing another story right now, called Police Trouble (as for now). My editor indicated however that he won't have a lot of time to edit it, so that's why I'm asking whether you know of anyone (or yourself) who could maybe help me with my writings. I feel like I got better at it since I started, but still I make a lot of mistakes and I do need some help with keeping my style consistent. Please let me know!

    ps, right now I'm mainly looking for some early feedback on my first chapter, I'm going to write at least the first ten chapters before I start uploading, so there is no hurry.

    1. Emi GS

      Emi GS

      Post a topic at editor's forum and ask for help. You might get a good one there, if there are any free from the works of other authors... 

    2. Stannie


      You're right. I wanted to try here first, as people who will read this are mainly people who know my stories and thus know my style. Thanks for the reply.

    3. Emi GS

      Emi GS

      Don't worry. As far as I know, you are a good writer. Just post a topic in the forum. I sure you will find a good editor definitely... 

  3. You're absolutely right with the distilled water thing. Let's say Jan doesn't know everything (or just bad research by the author). Anyway, I hope you still enjoyed the chapter/story.
  4. I tear up as we're waving the group goodbye. Although we crashed on the island a week ago, we have spent so much time together already. We’ve started to trust each other. Now they're heading out; carrying bottles of water, packages of food, and home-made weapons. I don't want to be dramatic, but the uncertainty as to whether or not the people you like will ever return provokes an odd feeling. Moreover, if they do not, the rest of us will be damned. Without any water. We just had a big collective breakfast. I couldn't help but make an analogy with the Last Supper. With the apostles walking away from us directly into the darkness of the forest. Most people only watch them walk away for a few seconds before continuing with their daily chores. But mom, Casey, and I, keep waving until they're completely gone from our sight. Even after the other women walk away, I remain, staring into the woods a minute longer. They're gone! I swallow. Really gone. "They won't magically come back." I turn around. It's Milan. "I know. But it's weird, isn't it?" "What is?" "Being alone." He smiles. "We're not alone. Look around." "You know what I mean. They're our friends. They'll be all alone in the creepy forest with natives probably watching their every move." A grimace appears on his face. "You watched too much TV, dude. Come on, let's fish some more. I haven't grown tired of mackerel yet." "Is that what we've been catching?" He laughs. "I have literally no idea. But it tastes good, doesn't it?" I nod. "I already caught some grasshoppers this morning." "Nice preparation. And you're right, let's do something productive." We get the fishing poles from my hut and bring cutting tools and wood. We came up with this routine when fishing. Milan looks at the floaters while I work on my carving. Once in a while we swap around, but he always gets quickly bored cutting wood, so we'll swap back almost immediately. I'm constantly looking at the camp, trying to make the carving as realistic as possible. I already did the outlines of the encampment, but then those people decided to make latrines, so now I have to do one side all over again! Luckily the piece of wood is thick enough to afford some corrections. As I keep glancing over at the camp, I notice that Oliver and Milan's dad are talking with each other again. Even from this distance I know they wouldn't want anyone to overhear their conversation. Mom is surrounded by five kids again, but she's obviously enjoying it, and Casey is taking care of the rations now her husband is gone. Rick is staring at the sky absently, whilst Margareth is cleaning up the stuff from breakfast. Some other people are finishing the construction of the latrines or trying to fortify their huts, but with our carpenter gone, that's going to prove to be difficult. I'm not sure why he had to join the expedition, in the camp he's of much better use in my opinion. I keep watching the camp and forget about my carving for a second. I notice how Barbara and Deborah are gathering driftwood for the fire. The Russian woman is collecting the little water from our plastic bags and of course Milan's mom is sunbathing. Ronny is trying to carve a little spear out of stick. I involuntarily smile at the similarity between his occupation and mine. Then I notice the adolescent couple who have been very silent so far, secretly sneaking away from the camp into the forest. I grin. Even though I would never dare to leave the camp like that. Now with Elisah gone they can finally have some alone time. They're in their twenties, so I bet they need it. I already wondered if other couples ever did any of that stuff since the crash. I, for one, didn't have an opportunity to fulfill my teenage needs yet. But fortunately I'm not that crazy about it like I know many of my peers are. I glance at Milan and wonder if he found any privacy yet. If not, I could offer to help him out. Right? I grin at my own dorkiness. "What are you smiling about?" Milan suddenly asks. "Shush! You're scaring away the fish." He smiles. "Just wanted to be involved in whatever is making you that happy." I laugh, but quickly stop, afraid I made too much noise already. "Believe me, you don't want to know." He raises an eyebrow. "Okay then. So, how's the carving going?" he asks, still watching the floaters intensely. "After we get rescued, this piece of wood will be worth tons." "Sure." I smile and suppress a weird urge to hug the boy. We really shouldn't spend this much time together, it's getting me to see him differently than I want to see him. On the other hand, as long as I manage to suppress the feelings, nothing is wrong, right? It's actually really nice to completely trust someone for once. "Your parents must've liked our breakfast this morning," I say. He looks at me confused. "They couldn't keep you from having any," I explain. "So much for them boycotting your food." "Actually I'm very happy they didn't have to find out I'm getting my breakfast separately now. I wonder what they'll do if they find out. Oh shit, I think there is a fish biting at your bait." He carefully hands me the rod. I stare at the piece of wood acting as a floater. With all the little waves crashing onto it, it's hard to see whether it's going down because of a fish or if it's just the wave. Then it abruptly goes down completely and I give the rod a big haul. I immediately feel the fish pulling back and the rod bends. Got him! The fish feels pretty strong and I have to pull really hard to even get him a little closer. Jan told us to try to pull him towards the rock, followed by giving a little slack. If you pull too hard, he said, the fish will probably manage to break the line or his lips while trying to escape. If you give him room to swim, however, you can manage to get him tired. Then it should be easier. He was right. We managed to catch three fish yesterday. And this time it's going pretty well, too. Milan is watching me closely as I'm playing with my prey. Walking away from the sea, reeling in the fish a bit, and back towards the edge of the rock again. I continue doing this four times before I notice the fish pulling back weaker. My breathing is becoming heavier and I wonder if I'm really exhausting the fish or if he's not the one playing with me instead. "Want me to take over?" "No, it's my fish," I pant. Milan laughs. "That's true. You put so much effort into this catch already." "Well… it's not as if watching a floater is that hard," I remark as I pull the fish in a bit more. It's amazing that the agave fiber doesn't break. I give some room to the fish again and pull in. This time I manage to lift the fish out of the water. It's fairly big, around twenty centimeters long, and still thrashing around as I hold it in front of Milan. He grabs the slimy animal with both hands, I put the rod down on the rock and take hold of the line and the hook. Jan taught me how to remove the hook yesterday, but it was really hard and disgusting. I didn't like it at all. But someone had to hold the fish steady whilst the other one could remove the hook, and I'm sure as hell not going to touch the fish, so I'd rather pull out the nail. I wiggle the hook around a little, notice some blood next to the wound and manage to pull it out quickly. Yesterday Trenton was with us, so he did this most of the time. I hope he'll join soon. Now the hook is out, Milan tries his best not to drop the fish. I smirk. "I love helping out by catching food, but I'm sure I'll never get used to these weird creatures." "They're just fish, Ryan. Not that weird." We only catch one more fish that morning, but that doesn't get us down. We love the feeling of productivity and each others company. We spend several hours at the beach, most of them in silence. It's peaceful. But then, when it's around three o'clock, my mother decides class is over, resulting in a hyperactive Kai rushing towards us. "Hey guys! Did you catch any?" He is still a few meters away. I hide a smile and put a finger to my mouth. "You're scaring the fish," I whisper loud enough for him to hear it. He immediately stops walking fast, but instead he slowly crawls closer. As if he believes talking loud and moving fast correlate. "So, how was school?" Milan asks. The boy glows. "It was amazing. The other kids are really cool. Noah and I became friends." "Noah? Who's that?" I ask. He frowns. "He has black hair. And he has flip flops. Which is really cool, I wish I brought mine." I laugh. "Do you know who his parents are?" He shakes his head. "But he has a sister. Zoey was her name, I think." "Must be the kids from Barbara and Chris," Milan says. For some reason it surprises me that he knows those names. I'm not sure why it surprises me, he already proved to be a nice guy. I think it's just because I know his parents don't know any names and my stupid brain keeps believing deep down Milan is like them. We chat a little, but we don't catch any more fish. At some point Trenton joins us and I try to teach him some basics in wood carving. He is a much faster learner than Milan. He doesn't say a lot, but Milan and Kai gladly make up for his silence. I can see he is enjoying our company. And he must feel grateful for being able to leave his sister's care once in a while. He told me she had a disability and that he has to help her, but I never really see the girl around. I have no idea what is actually wrong with her. I should ask Trenton once we're alone. This is how we spend our day. And the next day. It's getting the feel of normal repetitive days like one has on the mainland. I sometimes even forget we are stranded and waiting to get rescued. This groove gets disturbed the next day, however. The day starts just like any other. I wake up early and I watch Kai and mom sleep for some minutes and then I grab my carving and silently continue the tedious creation. I occasionally glance at how cute the two are together. Kai is snuggled up against mom, who in turn has an arm protectively around the boy. I smile. I know my mother really needs him. She needs this feeling of being able to take care of him. She has me to take care of, of course, but she works wonders with someone younger, someone more vulnerable. To really be a mother to someone. I think in some way everyone needs the boy and his energy. Surely I do. He makes the days on this island so much better. My mother wakes up and accidentally, by taking her arm off the boy, awakens him too. They both look confused at first, then see each other and smile. It looks adorable and funny. I crack up, which causes them both to look at me. "What's so funny?" mom asks. Trying to talk through the laughter, I explain: "it's really silly, but the way you guys woke up. Both looking around not knowing where you were or something, but then when you noticed each other, you automatically smiled. It was really cute." Mom smiles, but Kai looks a little embarrassed. The day continues as normal. I get breakfast for the three of us plus one portion for Milan. I then walk over to their hut to get the guy. Yesterday the Bachmeier parents looked confused at first when Milan joined us for breakfast. I think they really believed that Milan didn't eat anything since they stole away his food. Guess again! So now the boy just has breakfast with us. Of course they didn't like that, but really, what can they do? I have so much compassion with Milan though, having to put up with parents like that. I sincerely hope they weren't this bitchy before the crash. After breakfast mom gathers the kids for her little school again. Milan and I check if Trenton wants to help out fishing, but his mom had decided to try and help the Russian woman by teaching her some English, which meant that it was babysit duty. I manage to get a quick look at his sister, but she looks back at me annoyed, so I immediately turn my attention elsewhere. So far this day isn't unlike any other day. It's when we're fishing - or more like: when Milan is fishing and I'm carving - that I notice something out of the ordinary. I'm once again watching the camp while trying to copy it as exact as possible on my wood, when I notice some movement in the forest. My mother brought the kids close to the border of the forest, probably to have them look for firewood, so I'm immediately wary. The movement struck me as odd, even though the trees and groves had been moving all the time, as it is quite windy today. This movement was different though, it didn't correspond with the rhythm of the wind. It's weird that we have this sixth sense to pick out those subtle variances even when we're not looking for them. It must be like our ancestor's survival instinct. I stop carving and squeeze my eyes, trying to determine whether I just imagined the movement. No, I didn't. It's there again, but this time more prominent. Mother sees it too now, and she calls the kids back to her, while slowly moving away from the forest. One of the bushes gets pushed aside and through the opening two people appear. Some other people in the camp notice it too. They drop what they’re doing and walk towards the scene. One older guy and a somewhat younger lady are suddenly in our territory. "Milan," I whisper. "Look over there." The boy turns around. His eyes widen when he sees the duo. Then I recognise them. It's the couple from the plane. When mom and I were making up stories for people we saw this older man with a young girlfriend. I came up with this story about his wife being sick and this lady being the caretaker. After the wife died, the caretaker and the widower became a couple. I never wondered what had happened to them. I think I subconsciously just assumed they died in the crash. Milan pulls the line and bait out of the water and lays the rods down. "Come on, let's go there." "You sure?" "Yes of course. Those are normal people, are they not?" I nod. "I remember them from the flight." "Well then," he says. "Let's hear their story." Oliver apparently decides to do the same, because as we're walking back to the camp, he walks up to the couple, with Milan's dad following him closely. I can't exactly hear what he's saying, but he's clearly asking them a bunch of questions. Why do they even care. I thought he only wanted to complain about things. And I thought Milan's dad only wanted to sunbathe and be served while doing so? When we approach I overhear Oliver asking a question. "So what did you do after the crash?" The older man responds. "Can we talk about this later? Can't we just get some rest. We've been walking for days. Do you have water?" "We're not sharing any of our water with you until we know we can trust you." A little crowd gathered around the couple. My mother is one of them, surrounded by the five kids. She looks around until she spots me, a sign of relief appearing on her face. "Of course you can trust us," the lady says. "Why wouldn't you?" "We don't know who you are. You were on the flight with us?" The man sighs. "Of course we were. Do we look like natives to you?" He looks defeated and exhausted. Milan's dad, who is coincidentally at Oliver the Grumpy's right side, speaks up. "You know about the natives? You've seen them. What are they like?" "Can you just shut up," the lady says. "Look, we're tired. We know you have questions, but right now we're just really happy we found you. Those people attacked us several times. My body hurts. And I just… I can't… And…" She starts crying. My mother looks at me, then at the kids, and then walks towards the couple. She hugs the woman. I instinctively know she wants me to go to the kids, so I do exactly that. I grab Kai's hand. He hadn't even seen me coming and he doesn't even look up when I touch his hand, he's too fixated on the couple. And on mom, of course. "It's okay, it's okay. Oliver and Matthew are just being cautious." Mom glances at Milan's dad. So that's his name! How does mom know? "Are you hurt?" "Just tired," the older man says. "You should get some rest. I remember you from the flight, so we don't have to worry about you being natives." She smiles at the two. "What are your names?" "I'm Karen," the lady sobs. "That's Henry." I feel a touch. One of the boys grabbed my right hand, just like I was holding Kai's hand with my left one. "Okay Karen and Henry," Oliver says. "I believe you are trustworthy for now. You can get some sleep in one of the huts. Then we want to hear everything. Understood?" They nod. "Thank you," Henry says. "Thank you." "Matthew, can they sleep in your hut?" Mr. Grumpy asks. For a second the man looks like he's about to object, but he doesn't. He defeatedly nods. Barbara and mom guide the couple to the Bachmeier's residence and the others continue the activities they so suddenly dropped a few minutes ago. Everyone seems to accept what just happened. Even Milan starts walking back. I'm still here with the kids surrounding me. Stunned I look at Oliver and Matthew, who have their backs turned against me. They're chatting, probably about what to do next. I don't really care what they're talking about, I'm just confused. Who made Oliver our leader? And why does no one seem to care? I don't like this. I don't like it at all.
  5. I'm writing the next chapter right now. Thank you for your comment, it means a lot to me! :)
  6. I admit I'm pretty happy no one asked us to help make the latrines. And no, I'm not scared of making something that is supposed to hold our shit together, quite literally. Apparently people are constantly arguing over where to build them; how to keep in mind the tidal changes, how to induce at least some privacy, whether to make seperate toilets for women and men. In short, it wasn't fun. Not that I noticed a lot of the struggle, I spend most of my time with Jan, Milan, and Kai. We're collecting all the bags from the trees. There isn't much water, but I think Jan never expected to collect a lot to begin with. Adding all bags together, we manage to fill two and a half bottles of water. On the other hand, however, two and a half bottles a day could help us out a little bit. Considering we've only been drinking one bottle per person each day (which is half a litre), we have extra water for five people with this. But that means we'd need over two hundred more plastic bags if we want to get enough water for everybody from the trees. We better find a water source fast! For now though, anything is better than nothing, right? Apart from which, it's cool. We're collecting vapour from trees! "And now we're going to make fishing lines!" I'm not sure if Kai meant that as a question or an order. Jan chuckles at his never ending energy. "I'm not going to make them, but I can show you how to do it. I'm sure you are handy enough, right?" "Ryan is!" Kai exclaims. "Well then, come on guys. Let's butcher some agaves!" We follow the Dutchman like ducklings follow their mother. Jan shows us how to extract the fiber from the plants. It's pretty easy actually, though I would never have thought of it. You grab the spine of one of those long spiky leaves with your teeth, hold the leaf with both hands - being careful not to cut yourself in the process - and twitch your mouth until the spine is really loose. Then you can just pull. The fiber is strong, it won't break. "See?" Jan asks after he explained it all. "Just roll the fiber through your palms like this. You practically weave the tiny fibers into one bigger one. And now, pull." He offers me one end of the fiber. I pull carefully. "Is that all you got? Come on, show me those muscles!" I grin and pull even harder. I pretty much use my full weight trying to snap the line, but it doesn't work. I look over my shoulder at Milan. "I'm a warrior," I say and I pull even harder. I even roar like a real warrior, but it doesn't even stretch a little. "It's seven times stronger than your ordinary fishing line, if I'm not mistaken," Jan says proudly. "Wow." "They are not long enough to use as a fishing line though," Kai says. "Then you just tie a few together." "But… I thought fish don't bite if they see the line or the rod?" Milan smiles. "I don't think that'll be a problem." "You're right," Jan says. "Fish eat if there is a plant with branches touching the water, this isn't that much different. You should be careful with showing yourself, however. They scare away if there is too much movement on the shore, frightened of predators. And keep in mind, they can see you better than you'd expect." "Yeah, I know. I actually learned that in my physics class when we were being taught about refraction." "Exactly! Doesn't it amaze you how useful physics can be?" I laugh. "It does. Anyway, thank you Yang." "No problem. My name isn't Yang, by the way. It's Jan. It's a Dutch name. A popular one even. You pronounce it a little bit like Yang, but without the 'g'." "Oh, I'm sorry." "No problem. Just pointing it out. I'm glad I could help you guys out! Do you know how to prepare the fish?" I swallow. "To be honest, I didn't even think about that." Jan laughs. "No problem. The rod isn't finished yet, right? First you have to put everything together and find bait. And oh, you should consider using something as a floater too. It's not a must, but it will make it easier to spot when you get a bite. If your hook isn't heavy enough to pull the bait under, you should attach a stone or something to the line as well. I'm sure you'll figure something out. Then I'll teach you guys how to prepare the fish." "Oh, thank you. We will. I guess we will be finished and ready to start fishing tomorrow." He frowns. "Tomorrow, I'll be gone. Elisah asked if I could join the quest for fresh water. She needs my expertise." He shrugs. "You're like a saint around here," Milan jokes. "Ryan, I think we should be able to finish the rod today." "Yeah, I guess so.. But it'll be only the two of us," I turn towards Kai, "school is going to start soon." "Noooo. Can't I just help you? You need to finish the fishing rod today! It's important I help." I smile. "No, no, I promised…" I hesitate for a second. "I promised mom I'd make sure you'd be there on time." You should've seen his face when I called her our mom in front of Jan and Milan. He almost glowed. "I can bring him back to the camp?" Jan offers. "So you two can get some more fishing lines from the agaves?" "That'd be great. Though I'm not sure if Elisah would like us being here on our own. We can't even see the camp from here." He laughs. "I'm sure it won't be a problem. Elisah is a cop, she see danger everywhere. Especially since she is an American cop." I raise an eyebrow. Is that what European people think about our police? He is right though, she is seeing danger in something that may as well be perfectly safe. But still… Rick disappeared. And Milan and I encountered one of the natives already. At least, we think we did. We haven't really talked about it yet. "I can't stay. I have to return to the latrines. Oh, boys, do you think you can continue the thing with the plastic bags while I'm gone? We're actually running very low on water and I'm not sure how long we will be gone." "Sure." "Good luck. Tell me when you're ready for the crash course 'preparing fish'." Milan’s laughing at his joke. Jan and I look at him confused. "Crash course, get it?" His stomach rumbles. Jan and Kai walk away. Kai glances back a few times. I know he doesn't like leaving us, but I'm sure he enjoys being with the other kids. And I like spending some time alone with Milan too. I hear his stomach rumble again. "Dude, are you hungry?" "Nah, it's okay." He shrugs. "You sure?" He nods. We continue getting the fibers and tie them together into fishing lines. His stomach keeps making noises, but he clearly doesn't want to talk about it, so we don't. When we're done, we head back to the camp. I expected Elisah to comment on us having been outside the camp on our own, but she doesn't even pay attention to us. I guess she is too busy getting everything ready for their expedition tomorrow. We attach the fishing lines to the rods. It looks nice. Then we walk over to the edge of the forest to look for insects to use as bait. It's actually really relaxing. We're not talking much and I think neither of us really feels the need to. We're completely synchronised now, looking for grasshoppers and collecting them in a jar. We also grab some twigs to use as floaters, and stones as weights. Just like Jan taught us. By the end of the morning the fishing rods are ready. As if we're admiring a relic, we hold the two rods in front of us. "We should get Jan now," Milan says and his stomach rumbles again. "Ah, fuck it. I'm going to William. I frown. "What's wrong?" For a split second the gorgeous boy looks embarrassed. "I didn't have any breakfast." "Why not?" "I didn't get any." I'm sure I look very confused now. "Well… my parents told me not to hang out with you today. But I wanted to finish the rods, so I made my choice." "Wait, you mean… What the hell, dude? They didn't give you any breakfast because you wanted to finish the rod? You're right, we're going to William!" He laughs. "I knew this was gonna be your reaction. It's not that big a deal, though." Not a big deal? "Of course it is! Why didn't you tell me?" I grab his hand and practically drag him to William, who is still hiding in his little fortress of suitcases. "William!" "Yes, Ryan?" "Do you maybe have some food left for Milan?" William grimaces. "I'm sorry boys, we're rationing and I can't make any exceptions." I look at Milan. His stomach rumbles. "Milan's parents didn't give him any food." "What?!" "Please, William, don't make a scene out of it," Milan says. "I'm just hungry. If I can get even one sachet of peanuts, I'll be happy." "Why wouldn't they give you any breakfast?" The boy smirks. "They don't want me to talk to the rest of the camp." "That's bullshit! Oh, I'm sorry boys, but that's nonsense." "Let's say we're trying to work on it," I quickly interrupt him, fearing he’d storm over to the Bachmeiers. "As Milan said, we don't want a scene." "Okay. If you say so, but I will tell Elisah about it." He rummages through one of the suitcases for a moment and grabs two little sachets of peanuts. It's not a lot, but it'll probably do. "Here you go. From now on, I'll give your parents food for three, okay? So you can come get your own." "That's amazing. Thank you!" We head over to Jan and tell him we're finished. He is still helping out with the construction of the latrines, which are starting to look quite fancy. I think there has never been a more elegant toilet on a deserted island. They made three wooden cubicles, each with a hole in the ground and a lid covering it, made from two palm leaves and some sticks. The holes are fairly big, but I still wonder what they'll do once they get full. One of the cubicles is for men and two are for the ladies. The men also got three big poles in the ground a little distance away, which they surely could use as urinals. I've never felt comfortable peeing when I know people could see me, so I'd probably stick with the cubicle. Jan is quite surprised we're ready. He inspects a rod, primarily the line and the floater. He tells us the stone will probably fall off, as we didn't know how to attach it seems we did it badly. Even Jan couldn't really help us out with that, apparently. "Well, I think I can only help you guys out further if you caught a fish, right?" I think about that. "I guess." "Paul!" he shouts. The man appears from one of the cubicles. "Yes?" "Do you have a bucket or something? Milan and Ryan are going fishing." He brushes his hands against his pants and then wipes away the sweat on his forehead. "You should ask Deborah." "Where is she?" Milan asks. The carpenter points towards the other end of the camp. Milan and I immediately turn around and rush towards Paul's wife, both really excited to start finally get ready to start fishing. That joy disappears quickly when we're suddenly eye to eye with Ronny. "You hungry?" he asks. "No." "You should be. I hope spending time with the fag is worth it." Milan smiles. "Actually, it is. How was your day in the hut? You had fun all on your own, with only mom and dad to entertain you?" "I wasn't home." "Where were you?" I'm trying to pull Milan away discreetly, but Ronny notices. "Your boyfriend wants to go." "Dude, stop it. We're just having fun, making these fishing rods. Ryan isn't gay." Oomph, that hurts and I don't know why. No one ever assumed I wasn't gay, I'm that obvious. So I guess it's weird when someone does. Especially if he's using it as an argument to prove I'm fun. I'm sure he doesn't mean it like that, but still, it makes me wonder what he'd do if I outed myself to him. Ronny snorts. "Riiight. Anyway, while you were queering around, I was in the woods looking for food." I frown. "Did Elisah know you were in the forest?" "Of course not, retard!" "Milan, let's go. He's not worth our time." He nods, so we leave the pathetic boy behind. We find Deborah. As promised she has a bucket for us. Then we go to the spot I discovered earlier, close enough to the camp to see the others, but on a rock a few meters in the sea, so we can reach the deep water. I always thought bigger fish lived in deeper water. Over the next few days we caught a lot of fish, which made our diet much more varied and tastier. More importantly though: Trenton, Milan, Kai and I went out fishing together a lot, during which we got to know each other better. We started to trust each other. That bond proved important, because after Elisah, Jan, Paul, William and the three remaining bachelors left for the search for water, Oliver the Grumpy became more prominent, as if he had been waiting for an opportunity to rise to power. The group leaving meant the end of the happy chapter of survival and introduced darker pages filled with violence and fear.
  7. Stannie


    Yeah, I know. This story was experimental. I wanted to focus on it being "educational" as well. I never intended the story to be easy to read. As I explained, I constantly had to look up those American idioms, so I wanted this story to mimic the effort I needed to read a story. But you're right. I originally didn't want to write a sequel though. That's why I wrote it the way I did. On the other hand, I have to admit, I grew fond of Vincent. He's a fun guy to write. Maybe I'll consider writing a chapter 2, not too sure about it yet.
  8. Stannie


    Ohh, I forgot to mention gevulde speculaas! It's amazing, indeed. Especially if it's home-made and still warm. And hot chocolate or coffee, of course! Mmmm.
  9. Stannie


    This story is about the Sinterklaas celebration. It's the Dutch version of Santa Clause. Actually, the name "Santa Claus" is derived from the word Sinterklaas (if an American or British person were to pronounce Sinterklaas it would sound like Santa Clause). The word Sinterklaas comes from Saint Nicholas, or Sint Nicolaas in Dutch. We celebrate this the 5th of December, that's why I uploaded this story today. To give you some more context (if you're interested in that) I'll list some links at the end of the story. Please let me know what you think! *** Why? Why did my mother manage to talk me into this? I look silly! She was right, I do like dancing around, jumping around, doing cartwheels and so on. But that's at home. I don't want to do that at all in public. That's embarrassing. And yet here I am, having my face painted black. I'm wearing stupid clothes. Very baggy, colourful clothes. And don't even get me started on the… I don't even know how to call it. A hat? A cap with a large red feather on it. Okay, I have to admit, I love this holiday. Who doesn't like getting presents? And even now I'm older, I still love the ambience of the day. It's not even just one day, it's a few weeks. A few weeks a year Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas as we call him, visits the Netherlands to give all kinds of presents to kids. And this whole period we eat cinnamon biscuits, called 'speculaas', marzipan (marsepein) and something I guess best described as little biscuits, kind of like gingerbread, but really small (pepernoten). Mixed with all kinds of sweets, Sinterklaas and his helpers - the black Petes (zwarte piet)- throw around. You read that right, he throws them around (in Dutch we even call it strooigoed, which pretty much translates to throw stuff)! If he's inside, that is. If you're outside during one of the many parades, they'll just give you a handful. And boy oh boy, does Sinterklaas have many Petes. And they all have their own burlap sack with them, filled with sweets. These couple of days are just… well, there is no English word that fits it. I'm sorry. You're just going to have to believe me when I say it was gezellig! When I was young enough to be considered as part of Sinterklaas' audience, his target group, my brother and I used to go to the parade with a big wagon (bolderkar - literally "roaring car", because it makes a lot of noise if you pull it over the uneven streets). See, we discovered the black Petes would look at whether you were already carrying sweets, or not. If you weren't, they'd walk over to you and give you some. All the kids would eat some and keep the rest in their hands or pockets. Way too obvious, we thought. So we brought the wagon. We'd stuff all the sweets we got underneath some jackets. And then we'd go to the parade again, look sad, and get more. Repeat for profit! This year is going to be different though. I'm on the other side of the parade this time. I'm going to be a black Pete. and that wasn't really my idea. I'll try to explain how it all started. Apparently, Sinterklaas sometimes needs a little help. He has a lot of black Petes, but not enough. The good old man has to visit all the cities in the Netherlands and Belgium. That's a lot. So, when you accidentally discovered Sinterklaas was actually your uncle Tom, dressed up as Sinterklaas, he'd tell you the man was too busy to come all the way here and he asked uncle Tom if he could help him out. He'd be helping the real Sinterklaas. Following the same logic, I was asked to help out the Petes. It wasn't Sinterklaas who asked me though. It was mom. Though admittedly, sometimes she does act as if she thinks she's a saint. Apparently, a good friend of hers helped organising this years Sinterklaas' arrival (sinterklaasintocht). And she needed more Petes. So mom promised the friend I'd help out. She volunteered me without asking first. What the hell, mom. And of course, joining in a parade like this isn't the end of the world. But, did you know that black Petes are supposed to do all kinds of acrobatic tricks? They have to act really enthusiastic and be very energetic. I may fit the description, but I'm not outgoing at all. Perhaps that's why they paint the Petes black, not to be racist or anything, but to protect the dignity of the people who are making fools of themselves in front of those kids. On the other hand though, I guess it's great to finally give something back to this holiday. As I said, I really liked it. Not just for the presents, but for the overall feeling. The excitement. I tried to explain this to an American friend of mine. I told her about Sinterklaas to which she replied, it had a lot of similarities with Santa Claus. Which is right. Where do you think the name Santa Claus comes from. It has an awfully lot in common with the name Sinterklaas, right? One of the biggest differences, however, is that Sinterklaas doesn't hide the presents under a Christmas tree. No, at Sinterklaas eve, you gather with your family. You'll be singing Sinterklaas songs, to show him you're home and waiting for him. Then, at some point, after the fourth song you sing, suddenly you'll hear loud knocks on the door or the window. Loud followed by soft knocks, if the songs are correct. It'll always take you by surprise, even though you know it's coming. That is, for me, the magic of Sinterklaas. It's like getting your eyes tested and they're about to blow some air to check out your reflexes. You know it's coming, and still you're nervous, anticipating the inevitable. It will still catch you off guard. That sensation, especially for a kid, is amazing. You're singing, constantly waiting for the knock. And when it finally comes, your heart is racing, practically trying to escape from your chest. You rush towards the front door, but you'll never spot Sinterklaas in the act. Instead, there'll be a basket or a burlap sack in front of you. Filled with presents! "You're done," the nice lady tells me. "Thank you." She smiles. "You should join the others. When everyone is done, they'll explain what you have to do." "Okay. Thank you." I walk towards the other boys and girls. Nearly everyone is around my age, fourteen or fifteen. Some of the kids are probably older, sixteen or seventeen, maybe. There are adults as well. Not everyone here is painted completely black, like I am. No, in the last few years, black Petes have been covered with some greyish sweeps across the face as well; the so-called chimney Pete. When talking about Dutch culture, you should include the well-known black Pete discussion (zwartepietendiscussie). Ughh, I shouldn't even start about this. It's complete bullshit. From both sides, by the way. I'll give a quick crash course on this topic, but believe me, it's not worth investing too much time in. So, Sinterklaas is a saint, originally from Turkey, but according the myth of the holiday, he lives in Spain. If you think that's weird, keep in mind Santa Claus is originally the same man. Ending up on the North Pole when you're from Turkey, well, that's even worse! Where Santa has the elves, Sint has the black Petes. As I said, they're painted black, they wear wigs with frizzy hair, wear golden earrings and necklaces and have bright red lipstick on. I have to admit, knowing that originally slaves were being promised bright jewelry, and lured into captivity that way, makes it really weird to believe there isn't a connection. And they're Sinterklaas' helpers. They're black. They have frizzy hair. It all adds up; there is probably a connection between this tradition and the slavery history of the Netherlands. This all resulted in a group of people in the Netherlands who want to get rid of the stereotype and the connection to those black pages of the Dutch and even the human history. But, we're talking about a tradition. About culture. If you touch someone's culture, expect some resistance. The question is whether this stereotype really influences anything. Whether kids see it, for example (yes, that's an argument in the discussion). Another question is how important you think culture and history is. Do you always have to look ahead, try to adapt, try to change, or can you look back. Can you accept what was, and turn it completely to a tradition. This is what the black Pete discussion is about. And my view on the matter? Well, I hate fights and discussions. I really do. Even if two people I don't know are fighting with each other, it can get me really upset. I don't know why. I just never see the point of it, I guess? So I don't care how, but please, stop this discussion already. I join the group. "Hey," the boy next to me says. He is painted to be a Pete as well. So, pretty much the only thing I can see that is really him, is the shape of his head. Which is normal. But… I can also see his eyes. Holy shit. He has the brownest eyes you can imagine. Like, really deep brown. Dark brown, as if you're directly looking into a cup of coffee. Can one fall in love with eyes? Of course, I don't know what he's like, or what he looks like apart from his posture, the shape of his face and the colour of his eyes. I smile. "Hey man!" "I haven't seen you around here before," he says. I frown, but I'm not sure you can even see it will all this paint on. "What do you mean? Do you guys do this every year?" "Pretty much. Well, you can't be that young when you start doing this, of course, but I know most here, yeah." "You're right. I'm new here." I reach out my hand. He does as well. "I'm Maarten." "Vincent," he says. "Can I ask why you decided to join us?" I laugh. "I didn't, really." He looks at me questioningly. "The organisator, Inge, is a good friend of my mother. Apparently they needed more Petes." Vincent laughs as well. "So you got dragged into this?" "I guess." "Believe it or not, it's actually a lot of fun to do. You get to make loads of kids happy by acting silly. And afterwards we all get together and have lunch followed by cake and soda somewhere. And you're getting some days off school, of course!" I frown. "What do you mean." "We have to visit primary schools over the next week. That means you don't have to go to school, man!" "Seriously?" "Yeah!" I smile. "Wow. That's amazing." "Three hoera's (hoorays) for Sinterklaas!" he says and instead of leaving it at that, he literally hoorays. "Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!" he shouts. The other Petes look at him at first, but they quickly turn their attention elsewhere. I look at Vincent. He's grinning. "You're weird," I say. He laughs. "I know. Thanks!" I roll my eyes. Some lady starts speaking. "Hey everyone! Thank you all for helping us out. We're going to be making this Sinterklaas period amazing! All these kids will be thankful. Today, we're going to do the arrival of Sinterklaas. That means that within twenty minutes, people will come get us. We'll be going to the pakjesboot ('presents boat') fourteen. Then we'll be entering the city by the river. Now, I know there are some new Petes with us, but don't worry, being a Pete is extremely easy. Once we arrive with the boat, you will have to follow Sint to the mayor. He will give a short talk. Just remember to act happy. That's pretty much all there is to being a black Pete.There will be loads of kids near the marina, all cheering and smiling. They'll probably hate the mayor's speech, they want to see Sint!" Some people chuckle. "They want to talk to him, they want to show them their dances and plays. More importantly though, they want sweets. That's your job, boys. Dance around, jump and laugh. Walk over to the kids and hand them sweets. Give them a lot! They earned it. Make sure no one is left behind. You just have to follow Sint to all the presentations. You'll be walking all across the city, and believe me, even though it's only two hours, you… will… be… exhausted. But it's all worth it. It really is." I smile. Maybe mom was right, maybe I will like this. Vincent catches my smile. "That's what I like to see! This will be fun." "Yeah, I guess it will be." "Afterwards we'll all go together to the old paper factory. There we will get rid of all the paint and stuff and we'll have some cake. But, that's not going to be all of course. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we'll be visiting primary schools in the area. You're expected to be here at 8 AM. Next Friday afternoon we're going to visit the hospital and later that day some community centres in the area. For those of you who normally have to go to school, everything is taken care of. You only need to attend on Monday and Friday morning. Are there any questions?" Nobody says anything. "Well, let's put on some music to get in the mood!" Sint music starts playing. "Zie ginds komt de stoomboot uit Spanje weer aan…" (Look there is the steamboat from far-away Spain.) Everyone starts going nuts. They dance, they laugh, and they make cartwheels. I feel kind of uncomfortable watching them. I smile awkwardly and try to slowly move back and disappear against the wall. What the heck am I doing here? I can't do this. Vincent sees me. He walks over with a huge grin on his face, which dissolves when he reaches me. "What's wrong?" I shrug. "I don’t think I can do this?" "What?" "This. Acting out. Going bonkers." He smiles, the friendliest smile I have ever seen. "Nonsense. Everyone can." I laugh uncomfortably. "Not me." Vincent grabs my palms with his hands and starts swinging them around. I let him lead me, but the moment he lets go, my hands drop again. He frowns. "We got ourselves a hard case here. Come on, copy me." He crouches down and does a head roll. I slowly imitate him. "Yes, very good! Now do this." He jumps in the air with his arms outstretched. It's an easy task, not sure why he'd let me do this after that head roll. I grin and mirror him. "See? It's not that hard?" I laugh. "Still not feeling it." He suddenly starts dancing. Not really following the rhythm of the music, that's not even possible with these simple children songs. No, he really goes crazy on some non-existent beat. What the hell is wrong with this guy. He's making pirouettes now. Everytime he faces me, he makes another face. Sad. Happy. Angry. I chuckle. I notice the friend of my mother is watching us with a smile. Vincent stops. He's out of breath. "Now… you…" he pants. "I'm not going to do THAT!" "Of course you are. We can't have those kids thinking black Petes suddenly got boring now, can we?" I roll my eyes. "It's easy. It really is. See, just do this." He puts his hands in the air and starts swinging them around. I hesitantly mimic his movement. "Good. Now, turn around." He shows me his pirouette while still swinging his arms. I do the same. He grins. I even imitate that, though it wasn't intentional. "Now, the head roll again." He starts doing one, but halfway through he hits another Pete. They both tumble on the floor. I can't help but crack up. I guess the tension from the awkwardness I felt all comes out at once. He gets up and helps the guy he knocked over to stand. Then he turns his attention at me and smiles. "You see? We're having fun!" I laugh even harder. "You're silly." He grins. "The good silly, I hope?" "Yeah, the good silly." "I hoped so. You know, when was the last time you laughed that hard?" I think about that for a second. "I uh… I'm not sure?" "Then this week is going to open up your eyes! And I'm personally going to guide you through it all." I laugh. "Did I ever give you permission for that?" He laughs. "You did when you let those people put black paint on you! You're all mine now!" He tries to laugh like an evil Disney character, but he fails. His laugh turns into a childish giggle instead. And apparently his giggle is really, really contagious. Soon not only him and me, but also some other black Petes are laughing and giggling. "And what are all my Petes laughing about?" someone with a heavy voice suddenly asks. It's Sint! "We actually don't know." "Well, if you can manage to get the kids this happy, I'm happy as well." Someone laughs. "Of course." "Well then, I guess it's time to head for the pakjesboot? The kids are probably waiting for us." "Let's go." We all follow the Sint towards the presents boat. We climb aboard and don't even have to wait too long for the ship to start moving. We are handed sacks filled with sweets. The friend of my mother explains what we have to do one last time. All these kids are depending on me. If I do something stupid, they'll think a real black Pete did that. Sinterklaas and his Petes are depending on me. I'm here in their name. If I fuck up, it'll be them who fucked up. It's actually a big responsibility. Now I come to think of it, it may be the biggest responsibility I ever had. Vincent puts a hand on my shoulder. "Everything will be okay man." I smile. "I know, I know." "Well then, we're almost there. Let the boring speech begin!" I chuckle. I remember from when I was a kid I always hated it when the mayor was talking. It was a different mayor then, but for some reason they all seem to be extremely boring. Imagine if the mayor was your teacher. I guess they are the ONLY people on the world who would actually be able to make school more boring than it already is. Our boat stops. We're in the marina, I guess. Vincent and I look out over the city, the spires of the cathedral sparkle in the late evening sunlight. We can see the river with the boat moored at the old quay. The clouds are moving faster across the sky, threatening rain, perhaps even snow. Imagine that! Snow. I hear some cheering in the background. People are still singing songs. Everyone knows Sinterklaas is drawn towards the songs. You have to sing very loud for him to hear you. And he ALWAYS gets lost somewhere. As well as that, something always goes wrong. Sometimes he gets lost at sea travelling from Spain to the Netherlands. Sometimes they lose all the presents. Another year the pepernoten (gingerbread nuts) factory stops working. Every single year it's a fearful question, whether or not he will even reach the Netherlands. But this time he did. We get off the boat and head towards the mayor. Spread out across the whole marina and even further than that, are hundreds of kids. All dressed up as little Petes or Sints and all singing at the top of their voices, trying to get our or Sint's attention. We climb onto the stage and the mayor starts talking. There are cameras following every movement. I feel exposed here, on this podium, but I take some comfort from knowing that you'd have to know I was up there in order to recognise me. I don't pay too much attention to the speech, I stare at all the kids who seem not to be watching the saint, but looking at me. Then I notice how Vincent is waving and smiling, so I try to copy him. I feel awkward, like I don't fit in. When the speech has finished, we clamber off the stage. Some people bring a horse to Sint. He has his own, a white horse called Amerigo. The old man climbs on the horse and off we go. Slowly I get used to the enthusiasm. I simply imitate Vincent like I did earlier. Luckily, we don't have to do any head rolls here, we're pretty much just waving and handing out sweets. Many kids have made paintings and drawings. We collect them all and put them in the burlap sacks. I wonder what will be done with the drawings? I expect, even though it sounds weird, they will be thrown away. At least, I can't imagine anyone would want to keep those paintings. I wave and I smile. I even see some kids I know from my neighbourhood. I hope they don't recognise me. "Pete, Pete!" I turn around and see a little girl. "Pete, over here, I made you a drawing." I walk over her. "Hey there." "I've been good this year, Pete. I didn't do anything I wasn't allowed to… except… I took a biscuit from the jar once. But I apologised about that to mom!" I smile. "I believe you. I don't have the big book of Sint with me anyway, so I can't look up your name. But you look like you're very nice." She beams. "I am!" "Did you earn some sweeties as well?" "Yes!" "Here you go!" I rummage through the sack with my white gloved hands and I grab a large handful of sweets. I pass them to the girl, but as her hands are much smaller than mine, some of the candy falls from her hands. I'm sure she'll be able to grab the rest once she’s eaten what she’s got a hold of. I turn around and notice the group has already moved on a few meters. "Oops, I gotta go. I don't want to lose sight of Sint!" "Thank you Pete!" I smile and take another hand of candy. I put the sweets in the pocket of her jacket. Her smile grows even bigger. Then I jump up and run away. I wave another time when I'm a few meters away and turn away for good. I run towards the parade again, pretty much ignoring some of those kids begging faces. "Welcome back." Vincent smiles. "Made some kids happy?." "You bet I did." "Nice. Now, we're starting the first act. I think the primary school kids are going to dance, but I'm not too sure, I guess at some point some Petes are going to rush onto the stage to join them. You can come too, or you can stay here, your choice." I frown. "I won't be the only one to stay here, will I?" "No of course not. Just a few Petes will dance with them. Did you think all the Petes would fit on that platform?" I grin. "I guess you're right. You are going, I bet?" "Of course!" "Thank you Sint for visiting our small city," a guy on the stage says. I think it's a teacher. "We know you are very busy, but we want to ask you to stay here for a little while. The children from "The Stone Bridge" elementary school (yes, many Dutch elementary schools have these arbitrary names) prepared a show for you." "I have to ask hoofdpiet ('principal Pete'; boss of the Petes). I'm not sure how much time we have." Sint looks at the black Pete next to him who is turning the pages of a big red book really quickly. "Uh… this is the city Ede, right?" he asks. Sint laughs. "Yes, Pete. This is Ede." "And it's Sunday today?" "All day long, Pete." "Ah no, we don't have any time, Sint. We really have to move on now, we have to go to "The Stone Bridge" elementary school! We're running late, Sint." The nervous kids on the stage giggle. "Pete, we ARE here already." Hoofdpiet looks up from the book. "Oh we are. Hello!" He waves enthusiastically. "Wait, is that Mr. Misk, teacher of the fifth grade? Oh, you grew big already! Last year you were like… this." He holds his hand one meter above the ground. "And now you're adult." The teacher who was talking before laughs out loud. "Pete, that was thirty years ago! I've been grown-up for years now." "Oh, my bad then. And what about all the children over there? Are they growing up too?" "Pete!" Sint says. "What about we let those children do their act?" "O yeah, of course. Go… go on kids." The teacher leaves the stage and the music is starting. The children start out a little clumsy, but soon they find the beat and I have to admit, for a bunch of eight year olds, they are moving pretty synchronised. Two minutes into the show, some Petes do indeed run up to the stage. Vincent is one of them, as expected. I'm not sure if they're even trying to do the same as those kids. Some of the Petes are copying the pupils, but way too delayed. Some others just run around and throw their arms in the air. Vincent conjures three medium-sized balls out his colorful jacket and starts juggling while circling around the group of kids. He tries to sing along with the music, but he fails. I'm pretty sure he does that intentionally. Some of the kids get distracted by his silliness and stop dancing for a moment and then try to get back into the song awkwardly. Everyone in the street who is watching the act, is laughing. I notice some kids pointing at Vincent and I see a boy who tries to juggle with three pepernoten, but it results in all three pepernoten dropping on the ground. He just takes three new ones and tries again. And again. I think, I have rarely seen so many happy faces together, even parents who are laughing openly. Everyone is grinning, eating candy and some kids are even dancing as well. Oddly enough, I feel kind of proud of Vincent. Just by doing crazy things, he is making several people's day. That must feel amazing. When they're done, the Petes run off the stage, grab their sacks and run back on. They give every kid an enormous heap of candy and run away again. Sint is asked to climb onto the stage. The teacher continues by explaining how all kids have been nice the whole year and that they definitely earned a visit on Sint's eve. He also tells the old man that he doesn't know anyone who has been naughty, and hence no one deserved to be kidnapped. Yes, that's true. Sinterklaas will put you in a burlap sack and bring you back with him to Spain if you were naughty last year. As I said, this holiday is a little old-fashioned. Especially if you consider the fact that, according to some Sinterklaas' songs, Pete carries a roe (a bunch of twigs tied together used to hit kids when they did something they weren't supposed to) with him. Nowadays he doesn't. At least, I don't have one, but he still carries it in the songs. Vincent walks over to me again. He's out of breath. "That was fun." I grin. "You were amazing dude. I didn't know you could juggle?" He laughs. "You only met me today, silly. You found out I can juggle the first day you know me! Most people don't know it for years or so." "It was cool, man. You even inspired some kids." "What do you mean?" I nod over to the boy that is still trying to juggle with the pepernoten. Vincent smiles. It really is the most genuine and friendly smile I've ever observed. "Cool!" he says. "I'm heading over there." I frown as I watch him walking away. He approaches the boy, who didn't notice him until he was really close. You should have seen the face of the boy, it was as if he just met his biggest hero. And maybe he did? Vincent says something, which causes the kid to laugh. I see how the parents of the kid, or well, the couple I assume are his parents, look at Vincent and smile. This is the first time I realise it must be a nice holiday for the parents as well. Being able to see their kids this happy, the whole period long, it's cool. Then I notice Vincent giving his juggling balls to the kid. If I didn't know better, I'd think the eyes of the kid could pop out any moment. The amount of energy that's rushing through his body now, seems not to find its way out through facial expressions, so the kids start jumping wildly. Vincent says something to the kid, and the kid starts trying to juggle again, but of course that doesn't work out. Pete takes two balls from him and shows how to juggle with two balls instead of three. He then gives them back. The kid tries it again, and I guess this time it goes somewhat better. At least, he doesn't drop the balls immediately. Vincent tousles the boy's hair and walks away. "That was the sweetest thing ever." He grins. "In ten years or so, I hope that kid will be a Pete." "I'm sure he will." "Thank you Sint! We hope to see you in our school this week." "I'm sure you will." With some difficulty the old man descends from the stage and gets on his horse again. The fanfare starts making music again and the parade continues. And we, we start laughing and waving again, handing out sweets in the process. Seeing all those kids smiling, makes me happy, truly happy. When I'm back home, I'm going to hug my mom. We continue our path through the city, creating a wave of joy all around us. Suddenly, a kid catches my attention. I'm not sure why, it's a boy with big round glasses, all alone, with no parents or friends close. I pat Vincent on the shoulder to tell him I'm running off again. We're pretty much doing this the whole day already, we meet up in the middle of the parade, look around for kids to share candy with, pat each other on the back and we run off. I like the routine we built up. So I run to the kid. He looks surprised and even shies away a little. "Hey!" I smile at him. "Hi." "So, have you been nice this year?" He shrugs. "I guess." "Good! Where are your parents?" He shrugs again. "Dunno." I think about it for a second. "Hey, have you ever shaked Sint's hand?" He shakes his head. "You're not scared of him, are you?" Where the kid was looking sad and down before, now he stands up straight and it even looks like he primitively pulls his shoulders back to show his chest for a second. "Of course not!" "Good! Come on, we're going to Sinterklaas." The boy hesitates and looks at the barrier tape. I pull the tape up a little, which he knows is an invitation to crawl underneath it. I grab his hand and together we run to the parade, which has progressed in the meantime. "Sint! Sint." He turns around on his horse. "Oh, hey Pete. What's wrong?" "Nothing. It's just that…" I look at the boy. "What is your name?" "Karel," he says shyly. "Of course it's Karel, Pete. We knew that, it's in the big red book." I grin. "I know. My bad, sorry Sint. But, Karel would really like to shake your hand personally, don't you Karel?" He nods, but doesn't dare to look the old man in the eyes. "Is that right? Hmm." Sint orders his horse to stop walking. "Petes, help me off the horse please." The whole parade slowly realises Sint wasn't moving anymore, so it completely stops. Sint is being helped off his horse. He kneels in front of the kid. "Hi Sint," Karel says. "I'm sorry I haven't been nice the whole year. I just… I…" He starts tearing up. Oh shit, I didn't expect this. I brought him here. "It's mom… and Steven. They…" "Karel, look at me. You don't have to apologise, okay? You're a good kid, I know that." The boy smiles, but his eyes are still tearing. I just hope he doesn't start crying. Secretly, I look around and I notice everyone is watching us closely. "Thank you, Sint." "Now, did you want to shake hands? Or, you know what? We can hug as well? So we both know everything is okay." He nods. Sint hugs the little boy. Then he says goodbye and gets on his horse again. Karel just stands there, watching Sint as the parade slowly starts moving again. I notice Vincent is watching me. I smile at him and turn my attention to the boy again. "Let's go back now, okay?" "Yes! Thank you, Pete." "No problem, Karel." I grab his hand again and we walk back towards the spot where I think he was standing before. I don't know if it's exactly the right spot, but considering he wasn't with his parents or friends, I think it doesn't really matter to him where I'll bring him. The parade left this part of the city behind now, so I bet he'll return home. Wherever that is. I wave goodbye and run back towards the parade. I don't see the stone sticking out. I'm too focused on reaching the procession before they leave my view. So, when my left foot hits the sett and my gaze, previously focused straight ahead, slowly tumbles down as my whole body falls towards the street, I can consider myself lucky enough that my hands react in time. I catch myself, so the only real damage are some scratches on my hands. But, everyone saw it. The whole audience, they were pretty much all watching me because I was the only Pete left. And they all saw me tumbling down. Vincent, apparently, saw it too. He rushes towards me. "Pete! Are you okay?" I slowly get up and look at my hands. They hurt a little. "I guess." Then I notice my wig on the ground. The wig with the frizzy hair. I dropped it. My bloody hands reach for my head, as if to determine whether that wig is mine. Vincent sees it too. Completely startled I look around. I see all the kids looking at me with big eyes. I swallow. Vincent grabs the wig and puts it on my head again. "Fuck," I whisper. "What did I do." "It's no problem, Maarten, this happens all the time." "No, no, no." I swallow again while looking around. All those kids. Oh my god!. I feel myself turning red. My vision gets blurry. "Hey, Maarten. It's okay. It really is. You're a helping Pete (hulppiet; the non-official Pete, actors helping out the real Petes). The kids know that." I turn around to where I left Karel. He isn't there anymore. Did I scare him away? Vincent grabs hold of my hands and hugs me. "It's okay, he whispers." "Are you sure?" "Yes man. I am sure. Now, how about we return to the rest? There are many more kids waiting for you." Even though we didn't stop hugging, he puts a little more force into the hug to amplify his sentence. "Mommy, those Petes are cuddling!" a girl says. I quickly push Vincent off me. I don't want him to think I disliked the hug - because to be honest, I loved it - so I smile. "Yes honey. Even Petes hug sometimes." "By the way," Vincent says, "I loved how you helped out that kid. That was really cute." I smile. "Thanks." "Do your hands hurt?" I shake my head. "Let's go." We walk back to the parade together. The rest of the morning goes better. We just walk through the city, handing out candy. We wave. We laugh. Most importantly, we're having fun. A lot of fun! As noon is approaching, many people leave the city to go for lunch. We continue walking with the parade until we reach the old factory. There is, as promised, food and cake waiting for us. "Let's get rid of the paint first," someone says. "Sounds like a plan." The friend of my mother starts talking to us collectively. "Thank you for making this day amazing again, guys. I gathered a few people to help you guys remove the paint and the Pete clothes, but we're not so many. We'll just be getting you guys one by one. In the meantime, you can grab any food you like. You earned it!" People start rushing towards the table with the food on it. Vincent and I wait, we're both exhausted and not really in the mood to queue up. We're just talking. "Let me see your hands," Vincent says. I frown and show them. He grabs my hand and traces the scratches with his finger. "You should get it cleaned. Don't want it to get infected." I smile. "It's not that bad." "I hope so." He smiles at me. For the first time since we started this morning, I can look in his eyes without risking getting disturbed by kids at any moment. And oomph, what the hell. They are beautiful. Oogverblindend mooi ('so beautiful it turns you blind'). I glance at the table with the food on it and realise I'm suddenly not hungry anymore. And no, I'm not stupid. I'm fifteen already, I know what this means. It's just… weird, don't you think? Of course, Vincent is a cool guy, and a sweet guy moreover. And yes, his eyes are stunning. But that's too little to go on, right? You can't fall in love when that's all you know. Then what the hell are my hormones doing? Slowly, the Petes are transformed back to real people again. I've been around these guys the whole morning, and this is the first time I really see them. A lady approaches us. "Vincent, do you want me to get you cleaned up now?" "Yes, please." The woman smiles at me. "Someone will come and get you soon." I nod and look at Vincent as he walks away. He must know I'm watching him, because he randomly jumps in the air, makes a pirouette and then runs towards the lady again. Such a crazy boy. Five minutes later another lady comes for me. I follow her to the bathroom, which they converted to something I always imagined a beauty salon would look like. "Take a seat," she says. I sigh. "Finally getting rid of the paint and make-up." She laughs. "Yeah, always when you remove it, you realise how annoying it had been all that time. You can take off your hat and your wig now, by the way. And close your eyes." She uses some really smelly liquid to remove the black paint from my face. It itches a little, but I'm happy to finally feel the air on my face again. Is this what real make-up feels like, I wonder. If so, then why do women use it so much? Nothing fun about it. After she removed all the paint, I go to a stall to get rid of the Pete clothes. I don't really have to change clothes or anything, the Pete clothes are very baggy, so you just wear it over your own clothes. And, it's cold outside, so only wearing the thin fabric would be way too cold. Although, considering all Petes are always running and dancing, I wonder if it would be really that cold. I thank the kind lady and head back to the big room. I'm actually really hungry now, so I immediately make my way towards the big table with sandwiches. "Boo!" Startled, I turn around. Gulp. "Vin… vincent?" "Yeah silly. Who else do you think would try to creep up on you." He smiles. No more black paint. No wig. If I thought his eyes were oogverblindend mooi, then I surely hadn't seen the rest of him. Holy shit. It's hard to describe him, any word I choose to use will fall short, but I'll try, bear with me. I told you about the brown eyes, like a cup of coffee, right? Or chocolate brown, that would fit too. His hair is long, blond with brown strands in it. Beautiful enough to make you wonder if it is real at all. It's the kind of hair you expect cute guys to have on those magazine covers that gets you to believe they could turn any straight guy gay immediately. His hair is long enough to appear from behind his ears again, cutely curving upwards. Of course, I had seen his nose before, be it was covered in black paint, suddenly it seems even more adorable than it had been before. It's a small nose, kind of pointing upwards, but not in a pointy way. It's hard to explain, but I can tell you it fits his face extremely well. Did I say 'holy shit' already? Yes? Well, here it goes again, he earned it. Holy shit! Vincent looks tanned, which is weird; it's almost winter. And his lips are almost pink, as if they forgot to take off the lipstick completely. They are small, not like my big puffy lips. No, they are tight and perfect. And hell, they make his smile a thousand times cuter than it had been before. I swallow. He smiles. "Maarten?" "Uh… yeah?" "You're… you're kinda staring." I turn bright red. "I'm sorry. I guess I expected you to look different." "Yeah, I know right, it's weird to have a fun time with someone without knowing what he looks like. I know what that's like." How do I talk to him? He's like, way too cute for me to even look at him. For real, if I had known this is what he looked like, that first conversation would never have happened. He would've asked if it was my first time, to which I probably would've replied "yeah", followed by walking away. He grins. "Well, this is me." He spreads his arms graciously. "I hope you being silent all of a sudden isn't a bad thing?" Okay. I'm being awkward. Get your shit together, Maarten. "Uhh, yeah. I'm sorry, my mind sometimes needs time to understand changes like these. I think I had an image of you in my mind which doesn't check out." He laughs. "You look exactly like I expected you to look. Well, that isn't fair, I saw you walking in this morning, so I knew what you looked like." And still he decided to talk to me? What happened to the social rule of only befriending people within your own league? "Did you eat already?" I shake my head. "No, I was about to grab a sandwich when you decided to scare me." He grins again. I'm not sure what I like better, his smile or his grin. His smile is really sweet, but his grin shows his perfectly white teeth and is mischievous, which fits his crazy personality. "Scaring you by saying "boo" or by showing my true self?" I laugh. "That's for you to decide." My heart is slowing down a little bit. It's the same guy, I shouldn't forget that. Just the guy who is funny and crazy and had been entertaining loads of kids all day long. Nothing changed. Holy shit. It's the guy that hugged me today. If I knew then what I know now, I think I would've fainted! Can I still faint now? Fainting retroactively. We both take some food and walk to a sofa in the corner of the old factory. "You made that little boy's day," Vincent says with his mouth full. "I think so. He earned it." "You actually looked really determined when you said you were going to him. Why was that?" I shrug. "I dunno. He was just so lonely. He looked scared." "It was really a sweet thing to do. To take him to the Sint. As far as I know no one ever did that." I smile. "I just wanted to help him. When he finally dared to look Sinterklaas in the eye, he almost started crying. He kept saying he was sorry. And something about his parents." I start to tear up. It's weird how such a short encounter with someone can sometimes have such an impact on you. I just feel it, deep down, I want to help him. He needs it. And surely he earned it. "Hey, don't you start crying now," Vincent warns. I smile. "I won't. It's just sad how much pain there is in the world, don't you think." "Oh, we're moving to the serious topics fast now. What happened to smalltalk?" "I'm sorry." "Don't be. I'm just joking. You're right though, it's sad. But that's why these days are so important. Show the world love." "Why can't it always be Sinterklaas (Sinterklaas is both the name of the person as the holiday, so when you say "it is almost Sinterklaas", it's like saying "it is almost Easter")," I think out loud. "Then it wouldn't be special anymore." I nod. "But it would be better nonetheless. Always focusing on happiness rather than on sadness." "Hey, now is not the time to ponder! It's Sinterklaas, we should have fun." "I know, I know." He jumps up. "Where is the music?" he shouts. "Ugh, Vince. We're tired. Do you never run out of power?" someone complains. He feigns contempt. "Tired? We should be having fun." He starts dancing without any music. Some people chuckle, some others cheer him on, but soon everyone starts minding their own business again. Vincent sits down next to me with a huge grin. "Fun! You see?" "You're crazy!" He laughs. "Crazy? Do you want to see real crazy. Come, follow me." He jumps up again. I sigh. "Come on, get off your lazy ass. We ought to have fun!" "Yeah, you said that." I can't help but smile. It's kind of cute. A crazy beautiful guy full of energy. He grabs my hand and pulls me up. "Follow me." He doesn't leave me much choice, as he doesn't let go of my wrist as he drags me behind him. We leave the main room in the factory and walk towards the stairs. We start climbing the stairs. Well, he's practically running, so I have to run as well if I want my wrist to stay connected to my arm. We're both out of breath when we reach the top floor, which is the eleventh floor! "Is… is this… you think is… fun?" I pant. He grins. "Wait until you look out that window." I look up. Damn, the view. It's amazing. You can literally see the whole city from here. I look at all the buildings, all the houses. I try to spot my own house, but it's fairly hard to navigate when looking from this angle. "Amazing, isn't it? It's all so small." I'm still out of breath. "Yeah, it's cool." "I told you I would show you crazy." I look at him. "This isn't crazy, it's beautiful." He grins again. "I didn't mean the view." He moves closer to me, looks me right in the eyes with those coffee eyes and leans in, pressing his smile against mine.
  10. Hey Canuk, Thank you for the comment! You're right, this chapter is kind of the filler chapter, in the sense that we're getting to know more people while we're slowly approaching some more action. I wasn't too sure whether this chapter really needed to be uploaded at all, but I wanted you guys to meet Trenton, he's worth your time, believe me ;) I'm glad you liked it!
  11. The food is wonderful once again. This time we're having apples, toast with honey and bacon, olives and white cheese. I know the combination isn't the best, but keep in mind, we're in the middle of nowhere! If this is what Casey manages to produce with the few ingredients at hand, it makes me wonder how good of a cook she is at home. I surely want to visit her after we get rescued! I'm sitting next to Kai and my mother. Milan is with his family across from the campfire, but I know he'd rather sit with us. Ronny looks at me every once in a while. There is no joy in his eyes. For real, if glances could kill, I would be dead by now. What is his problem anyway? Does he think I'm stealing away his brother? If he liked his brother that much, maybe he should have invested more in the relationship. I believe my relationship with Kai is stronger than the one between the brothers, and I’ve only known this boy for six days! "We are going to catch water!" Kai suddenly says, with his mouth full. "It's not really decent to talk while you're eating, Kai," I say. My mother smiles. It hasn't been more than three years since she had to remind me of that every day. "Ryan knows that really well," she remarks. I smile as well. "So, what do you mean? What water are you going to catch?" "The… uhh… fisis teacher?" Kai looks at me for confirmation. I nod. "Almost, little bro. Physics." "Ah, physics teacher! I knew that. So, he taught us how to tie plastic bags on trees. He says tomorrow there will be water in those!" I notice Jan listening to our conversation. He smiles when he sees me glancing at him. I take a few seconds to look around the camp. Forty-one people. We started out with forty-two. I didn't know Rick the Bachelor, but I can ensure you, it's weird to know he's out there somewhere. If he still is… "And he is going to help me make a fishing line." "He is? That's nice." I nod and look at the Bachmeiers. Ronny is talking to his dad;, his mother is staring at Elisah, probably trying to figure out what she is arguing about with Oliver, and Milan is just studying the white sand. Right when I want to look away, he decides to look up. Our eyes meet and Milan smiles. It's a sad smile. It sucks he's so sad over there. I know we have every reason to feel down, stuck on an island like this, but I think I managed to take away that sadness completely. I believe we're sincerely having fun. But, no matter how hard I try, I can't pull him out of that family. I never realised how lucky I could call myself, being born in my family. You don’t realise how fortunate you are unless you observe someone else’s misfortune. "I spoke to Elisah today," my mom says. "I'm going to set up some kind of school for the kids on the island." "Oh!" "I think you don't have to be there, it's more of a project to release parents from their kids." I laugh. "I see." "So you're going to have four classmates, Kai." He looks confused. "Why do I have to go? I can stay with Ryan!" Mom smiles. "No, I'm sorry. Everyone under twelve has to come with me. But believe me, we're going to have fun! It's not like school as you're used to. We're going to build things, sing, dance and swim. It will be fun." "Sounds like a good thing to do mom. I'm sure those parents will be grateful." "Everyone. Can I please get your attention?" It's Elisah. "I would like to discuss some of the things we're going to do." All conversations die down immediately. "First of all: Kyra and Barbara will have fire watch tonight. I know we've all been going to the woods to use it as toilets, but tomorrow we're going to construct a few latrines instead. We won't be able to make them very private yet, so keep that in mind. But I think, considering we're stranded on an island, we just have to accept that. There is no space for first world problems and right now the forest is too dangerous to head into. Lastly, I have to tell you we're slowly running out of water. This means we'll have to limit the little water we normally get each day until we find fresh water." "What if there is no water?" one of the bachelors asks. "We know there are other people on this island, so we know there must be a stream or lake somewhere. If we don't find any, we should start extracting the water from the sea. We can distill it to get rid of the salt." "Then why don't we do it immediately?" Oliver asks. Jan decides to answer that. "We're not sure what lives in the sea. To get the best water, the safest water, we'd have to get further offshore, which is dangerous. If we can avoid risking illnesses from the sea water, we should do it. We should try at least. Next to that, distilling takes a lot of time and a uses a lot of fuel. So even if we decide not to go into the woods to look for water, we have to go in there for wood anyway." "So, tomorrow we're going to make the toilets. The day after that we will have to search the environment again. We have to look for food and water. We finish dinner, clean the utensils in the sea and head to our 'homes'. "Ryan, can you go to bed at the same time as Kai tonight?" my mom asks. "Uh, sure.?" "I have to watch the fire and I don't want him to be alone." "Oh, of course." I smile. "Anything for my little brother." Mom smiles too. "He really likes you, you know that, right?" "I like him too." "Good." I hesitate. "But mom, can I head out now? I'm not sure when you have to leave?" "Yes of course. My watch starts really late, so I'm going to try to sleep some now anyway." "Where is Kai?" My mother laughs. "Apparently he couldn't wait to meet his new classmates. He went over to the kids of Chris and Barbara. I'm not sure what they're called." "Me neither. But you will find out tomorrow." "Yes. And tonight I will have a chance to get to know Barbara." It's weird how we've been here almost a week and I still don't know everybody's name. I don't even know the names of half the people. Though I have to admit, maybe I focused too much on Milan. Hehe!. Talking of Milan, guess where I'm going now? "Hey, Ryan!" "Milan." I smile. "You wanna go look at the sea again?" He frowns. "Sure, I guess." I laugh. "I have to get to bed early tonight, because my mom has watch. She wants me to babysit Kai." "Well, let's go then. Can't pass up on our sea-watching tradition, can we? Mom, dad, I'm heading out. See you tonight." No response. We go to our rock near the sea and start chatting. This is probably my favorite spot on the island. I just love talking with Milan. We don't really talk about anything much. You would expect it to be about the near future all the time, about surviving, but we really just talk about life. About what it was like before we got stranded. What kind of friends we have, what classes we liked, which teachers we hated. And even though we don't know each other's teachers, mocking them is always fun. You can just imagine how they might be. We also talk about how we think this experience is going to change our lives. And whether we believe we will stay in touch. We gossip about the people on the island. We wonder whether the couples have sex even when they don't really have any privacy in the creaky huts, and we laugh at the image of a fire watcher walking by, hearing it all. That would be awkward. So, you can imagine the two hours fly by. Suddenly something grabs me from behind, causing me to literally jump in the air, followed by a high pitched giggle. I turn around. "Kai!" "He… oh… you must…" He even starts hiccuping through his laughter. "Milan already saw me! But… he didn't say anything. And you were so busy discussing things. Oh god!." "Haha, funny!." I can't help smiling. "No way I'm going to fall asleep tonight anymore." "That's actually why I'm here. Mom... " He hesitates. It's as if he is waiting for me to correct him. But I don't mind him calling her mom. I actually like it. It means he really feels like part of the family. So he feels like a brother. "Mom said I had to come get you. She has to leave now." "Of course." I turn towards Milan. "I'm sorry, Ryan. Kai's face begged me not to warn you." "It's okay. I'll get back at you. Anyway, I have to go now. See ya tomorrow." "Night." "Night." Kai grabs my hand and we walk back to our hut. I'm actually really tired, so I guess it's a good thing I don't spend all night talking to Milan. I dive into my bed immediately and Kai follows. As by habit now, he snuggles up real close to me. I like the warmth, even though it's still very warm outside. This is different, it's more like an emotional warmth. The affection radiates from him. That radiation is still there when I wake up. I notice my mother joined us, but she must be very tired. I quietly get up, grab my carving equipment and leave our hut. It's still early; the sun hasn’t completely risen yet. I walk over to the campfire which has died out, but it offers me enough warmth to get rid of the morning chill. Some people are up doing daily chores, while others are asleep. I guess it's around six in the morning,. maybe even earlier. That's the consequence of sending me to bed early, mom, now I'm fully awake. For the first time since we got stranded, however, I long for a cup of coffee. I wonder if anyone managed to save the coffee from the wreckage. Planes always have coffee, right? I stare into the cinders of last night's fire, my wood carving tools unused in my hands. I haven't granted myself enough time to process what is going on. I'm fucking stuck on an island! What the hell?! Absently, while trying to think about everything that happened and all that could happen, I start carving. I'm trying to carve something that looks like the ocean, so that doesn't really require full attention. It's pretty much levelling out the bottom side of the piece of wood, which is boring and repetitive. The perfect activity to do when trying to digest recent events. My thoughts are so occupied with this, I don't even notice a boy sitting down on the log opposite me. When I finally finish the first wave, I offer my hands a few seconds of relief. I look up and spot the guy. I have seen him around before, of course I have, it's hard not to notice people when there are only forty. And he must be around my age, maybe a little younger. We teenagers check out everyone to determine if we can befriend them. Needless to say, he didn't pass the test. Nah, that's a little unfair. I guess he could be nice? He isn't particularly dislikable, let's say it like that. The thing is, I may have been a bit too engaged with befriending Milan to really pay attention to him. No, that's not true either. I didn't really want to get to know Milan at first, despite him being cute as hell; I thought he was too pompous to be sympathetic. Then maybe I didn't pay attention to this guy because he was silent, very shy. I always consider befriending everyone, especially the shy people. One of my best friends was like that. He was new in school and clearly didn't have any friends. So I walked up to him, said "let's be friends?”which he - surprisingly - accepted without hesitation. And, remarkably enough, he turned out to be a real fun guy. That's why I'm confused about this guy. I don't know why I never considered walking up to him. Well, no need to get stuck in the past if the present is as exciting as this one! He is literally staring at my piece of wood. I'm not even sure if he knows I noticed him. "What do you think?" It clearly startled him. Gotcha! Not the best way to introduce yourself to someone, but hey, I'm not your ordinary guy, am I? "Huh?" "My carving. Do you like it?" "I guess. Can't really see it from over here." I get up and walk over to him. "Hey, I'm Ryan." "Yeah, I know. I'm Trenton." "I haven't really seen you around that much. Where have you been hiding?" "Oh, mostly just taking care of my little sister." "Your sister?" He inspects the carving. "Yeah, she has an intellectual disability. She needs a lot of extra care and my mom can't do that on her own." "Oh, I didn't know. I'm sorry." "Nothing to be sorry about. We're used to it." "And your dad?" He smirks. "Not in the picture. Ah, I see, it's the camp!" I smile. "Exactly." "It really looks like it." I laugh. "It took you almost five minutes to recognise it." "Hey boys, what are you doing?" It's Margareth. "Good morning, Margareth. Not doing much, just talking." She smiles. "Can I join? Mornings are always boring around here." "Only if you can see what I'm carving." She takes a long look at the wood. "I'm sorry, I really have no idea." "It's the camp," Trenton says. "See, this is a hut - well - it's going to be one. And this is the sea." Margareth smiles again and takes a seat next to us. "I didn't quite catch your name, I'm sorry," she says. "Oh, my bad. I'm Trenton. And you are Margareth, right?" She nods. We chat a little. Margareth is really sweet. I always like it when adults try to socialise with the younger generations. She seems really interested in what we think of the situation. She asks about our families, about who we left behind in the outside world. And I have to admit, I haven't even thought about everyone who must he worried sick. My father and sister probably returned from Paris the moment they heard about the crash. They must be following the news to see whether we've been found. Every day spending in doubt. Maybe we didn't draw the short straw in the end. At least we're on a tropical island. I listen to the conversation between Trenton and Margareth. They're talking about Trenton's sister. In the meantime, I notice Milan's dad talking to Oliver. It looks like they're discussing something interesting, as Oliver is waving his hands excessively. I didn't know those two were friends. Heck, I didn't even know they were capable of having a friendly conversation, let alone getting people to be friends with them. I wonder what they're talking about. At some point Trenton tells us he has to leave, it’s about the time his sister wakes up. "So, Ryan, do you remember what happened on the plane?" she asks with a sly smile. I frown. "When we were about to take off from the airport." "No, I'm sorry, I don't know? Is something wrong?" "Oh no, not at all. I just remembered that the Bachmeier kid was complaining about not being in first class." "Oh, that I remember, yeah." "And you were looking at them. Your mom told you not to send them that judging look." "Ooooh, I see what you're getting at." I grin. "You and Milan seem to be hitting it off. You almost look inseparable." "I guess you're right." I admit hesitantly. She smiles. "There is nothing wrong with that. But it's a lesson not to judge people too quickly." I know she is right. But in my defence, my opinion about three out of four Bachmeiers didn't change. Milan is the odd one out. And to be honest, I don't think my judgement was really directed at him. "But, I seem to remember some lady telling me she shouldn't agree with me, yet she did." Margareth laughs out loud. "I knew you were going to say that! You're a clever boy, you know that?" I snort. "Really. You're wiser than most old people I know. And you're dealing with this situation better than most people would too!" "Does that make one clever?" She smiles. "Questioning my compliment like that, that's what makes one clever. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I'm going to see if William is awake. I'm hungry." "Sounds like a good plan. Tell him I said hi. And Margareth…" She was already walking away, but turns around. "Thanks for the talk. You were right about Milan, he really is nice." I smile. I'm sure that must have looked like a dorky smile to her, but I don't really care. I bet she knows I like him better than just as a friend anyway, considering the way she asked the question earlier. I glance over at Oliver again. He's alone now. He just stands there, arms crossed, studying the encampment. I wonder what goes on in his mind. The camp is waking up. Steadily it's getting more crowded. I spot people walking around with food in their hands, people carrying wood for fires, and even some people going out for a quick jog. I smile; this is really becoming like a society. When I was ten, I buddied up with Ronny. He and his parents lived in some kind of a community. They produced their own food, had a little theater, a shop and a park. He really seemed happy. I went there a lot, to play with Ronny, but also to taste that level of connection the people seemed to have. I bet they had their problems too, but the idea of being together with people you like, to be self-sufficient… it just blew my mind. And now our camp is turning into the same thing. I wonder… Does Ronny - for example - know I'm missing? Do my highschool teachers know it, even though it’s a holiday still. I'm from a fairly small town, so I guess the news would spread fast. What do they think happened to us? I'm definitely going to replay all the news broadcasts about our crash after we get rescued. That will be fun. Maybe I'll even be famous? People will ask me what happened. I'll be invited on to all kinds of talk shows. That would be amazing! I can tell them what happened here. Oh hey, maybe we can all stick together? All forty-one of us, becoming a real community after we're rescued! Okay, I know I'm letting myself get carried away. But… there is nothing wrong with dreaming, right? Even if dreams tend to be just that: dreams. They never turn out to be true. And if they do, there is always a cunning twist connected to it. I did get invited to talk shows. I became famous. You know that already, you have been there. My dreams came true. But there was a devious twist. One I couldn't explain to you, Tom. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. Even now, I'm not sure if I should be writing this down. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to. But you deserve the truth. The world deserves the truth.
  12. Pieces of metal attached to long sticks, as improvised axes and spears. It almost looks medieval. With a nagging gut feeling I look at the pile of weapons. I hate violence. I hate feeling insecure. Elisah had been very clear, we weren't supposed to leave the camp alone, and if you left with someone else, at least one of you had to carry a weapon. And you always had to ask for permission if you wanted to leave. I think it's a little over the top, but then again, I haven't seen the native people of the island yet. I don't know how how much of a threat they are. The bachelors really seemed freaked out. And of course Rick hadn't returned yet either. It's the sixth day on the island. Yesterday they spent all day looking for things to use as protection. I didn't help, I couldn't help them. I'm not going to be complicit to the use of weapons. Perhaps the people on the island could be dangerous. But can you blame them? Strange people crashed on their isolated island in something that must look like a scary, futuristic, iron bird to them. You can feel the tension in the camp. Just after the crash, all we thought about was getting rescued. Some people are still thinking about that, and undoubtedly, at some point we will get rescued, but most people moved on from dreaming, to acting. We made an amazing camp, especially considering we've only been here six days. I'm really proud at what we have achieved. But now, we're not only trying to survive and get food, there is an active danger. People are scared. I'm looking at the camp from my somewhat secluded spot. I'm not allowed to leave the camp, but because we were afraid of the tide washing everything away, we set up everything a little away from the sea. So the area between the sea and the camp is free to go to. No one is bothering me here as they're looking for sticks to defend themselves with. I asked Kai to help me finish the fishing rods, but apparently he thinks weapons are much more interesting; he decided to help the camp. So here I am, on my own, with only an unfinished fishing rod and my own thoughts. Six days. Almost a week I managed to stay positive. But now I'm homesick. I want to go back to the real world. Away from all this angst. The rods are greased and really feel flexible. I bend one and notice it doesn't feel like it'll snap anytime soon. I look at the few fishing hooks I made from nails. Almost finished now. Only need a fishing line and some bait. I have to admit, I haven't really thought about the fishing line or bait yet. Bait should be easy, I bet there are enough insects in the forest. But the line? I really have no idea. I notice Milan walking towards me. He waves. "What are you doing all the way out here? "I wanted to get away from all that craziness." He laughs. "I figured you would. So, how's it going with the fishing stuff?" "Okay, I guess. The rods are really strong, but I don't know what to use as a line." He seems to think about that for a few seconds. "We could ask Jan? The physics teacher?" "Why would we ask him?" Milan shrugs. "I don't know. He seems knowledgeable?" I scan the camp. Many people still are busy gathering weapons, while some are cooking dinner. Every once in a while I notice people staring into the woods, as if they expect to see hordes of natives rushing towards them. I don't see Jan anywhere. "I'm not sure where he is, though." "Let's look for him." I get up and brush the sand off my clothes. We head to the camp. I try not to look too much at the pile of weapons. I guess that in the end, no matter what, this is what humanity comes down to. Violence. Survival. Weapons. I never understood that. Take war, for example, what is wrong with us people to go to war with each other? If there is an intelligent alien civilisation out there somewhere watching us, I'm sure they would laugh at our stupidity. A species trying to kill each other. Crazy! I feel like we could scout out the environment, try to establish communication with the tribe here in some way. We're all human, this should be a thing right? We can make music, we can dance, make art or whatever. We can show them that we're human. That we have emotions. But instead the reaction from this camp is more like you would expect from a doomsday scenario in a Marvel film. Anyway, I guess I may be exaggerating it all. I know I'm just a kid, and a very sensitive one at that, but still, shouldn’t we look at our similarities rather than the differences between us? Margareth sees us searching the camp, so she heads over to us. "What's wrong, boys?" "We're looking for Jan," Milan says. "Oh, I'm not sure where he is. Haven't seen him for a while, actually." She looks around, as if she has better eyes and is able to spot him when we couldn't. "You should ask Elisah. After the news about other people on the island, she has been keeping tabs on everyone." I'm not really sure, but the way she said that makes me believe she doesn't completely agree with the new 'regulations'. Maybe she would prefer my more diplomatic view on the matter. I nod towards Milan. "Thanks, Margareth." Elisah isn't hard to find. Even though she is a small lady, William is always close to her. He is almost two meters tall. Oliver tends to stay close as well, I noticed earlier, though he is never involved in any of the discussions, he likes to just observe everything. I spot the head of William above the other people. We walk over. I can't help overhearing them. "We're running out of water rather fast," William says, a concerned tone evident in his voice. "I'd say we have enough for another three days. If we start rationing, maybe four." "If we ration now, that means people will start worrying about that too." "It'll give us an extra day to find water." William notices us. "Hey guys, what's up?" "We're looking for Jan," I say. Elisah looks around. "He was in the camp twenty minutes ago or so. I'm not sure where he is." "We looked all around the camp, couldn't find him," Milan remarks. The cop frowns. "I hope he didn't leave the camp without telling anyone." "I guess he knows how to stay safe," I say, already tired of her anxious attitude. "I'll help you find him, boys. William, we're going to talk about this once I'm back." She walks away, probably expecting us to follow. That is exactly what we do. I guess she didn't believe us when we told her we couldn't find Jan in the camp; she drags us around the camp in order to confirm it. When she finally comes to the same conclusion as we had already told her, she asks us to be quiet. Then we leave the camp. This lady… ughh! She may be a good leader, but for real, she acts as if we're entering a hazardous zone or something. As if dangerous and maybe aggressive natives are waiting for us to cross some invisible line so they can kill us! We search the area around the camp. Ten minutes later, we notice the man sitting on the dirty pebbles right at the edge of the woods. It looks like he's inspecting some plants. "Jan!" Elisah shouts. For a woman who acts as if we're at war, she's incredibly loud now. Be careful! We don't want to wake the scary men! "What are you doing outside the camp?" "Research." "I told you not to leave the perimeter!" Perimeter? You have got to be kidding me. She’s really watched too many police series… even for a cop. "I know you did," the teacher answers. He had gathered a collection of various plants and leaves and he's inspecting another leaf right now. He didn't even look up when Elisah addressed him. "But I'm trying to help us." "We don't know what those people can do." "And we'll never find out if we're not doing research." Jan looks up and notices me and Milan. "Hey boys! Wanna help me?" "No, we're going back to the camp." Elisah sounds annoyed. Jan sighs. "I know you're trying to protect us, Elisah, but we're close enough to the camp. I can see everyone from here. I know we're running out of water and I'm just trying to find a solution." "How are you going to do that?" He smiles. "Actually, I read the SAS survival guide when I was a teenager. I still remember some things. We're going to try to get water from the trees around us. It won't be much, but it'll help." "We want to help," I say. "And maybe you can help us, afterwards?" Jan frowns. "We are making fishing rods. We are trying to find something to use as a fishing line." "Ah! h," he exclaims. "Look at these boys, actually doing something to help us survive. Instead of wasting time making stupid weapons! Of course, I can help you guys. Moreover, I guess we chose the perfect island to be stranded on." "Why's that?" Milan asks. "Over there," Jan says and points across the beach, "there is a group of agave plants. Unfortunately we can't extract water from them, but the fibers of the plant are one of the strongest in the world. Even stronger than most ordinary lines used for fishing!" "Amazing!" "Well, enjoy yourselves. I'm going back to the camp." Elisah slumps off looking defeated. I guess that even when you are trying to survive, being in control is important for some people. "But first we have to make sure we can get as much water as we can. And we're going to need a lot of plastic bags for that!" "Plastic bags?" I ask. "I'll explain later. Head over to the camp and look around for any plastic bags you can find. It has to be watertight, but apart from that it doesn't matter what you find. Anything will help." We dash off, excited to begin our new mission. "Oh, plastic sheets will work as well. Though we may need to head into the forest a little to make use of those." "Okay!" I shouted. I'm actually very happy to do something to help. And of course I'm pleased Jan thinks like I do about those stupid weapons. Going to war is not what we should focus on. Not at all. Kai runs towards us as we enter the little settlement again. "Ryan!" He hugs me. At this point I'm not even wondering what his reason for the hug could be, I know he hugs whenever he can. I raise an eyebrow. "Oh, hey Milan." "Don't I get a hug?" he jokes. I laugh. "I'm sure you will." Hesitantly Kai hugs the boy. "Thank you," Milan smiles. "So what have you been up to, little bro?" I ask. "I made a very cool battleaxe! I can slay monsters now." He giggles. "And what about you? Did you finish the fishing rod? Did you catch something already?" Aaa…and, he's practically jumping around us again. The energy. We could power a whole continent with that energy, if only we found a way to harvest it;, I'm sure. "No, no. But Jan is going to help us getting a fishing line." "Oooh! That's the fiks teacher, right?" I smile. "Yeah, the physics teacher." "I'm sorry." I put my hand on his shoulder. "Nothing to be sorry about, Kai. One day you'll have physics classes in highschool, and you'd wish those were fiks classes instead!" "Wait, what is fiks?" I laugh. "I don't know, but I'm sure it's much more fun than physics." Milan and I burst out laughing and Kai just smiles. "Physics is pretty interesting though," Milan adds almost whispering, as if he didn't want me to hear it. "Anywaaaay," Kai says. "Can I help you guys?" I frown. "Oh, did making weapons start to bore you?" The boy frowns. Even though he is only ten, he must have noticed I was disappointed when he chose making violent tools with the camp over making fishing rods with me. "I guess you're more fun than Paul and Elisah!" "I knew it! Well, we're trying to find all kinds of plastic bags and sheets to help Jan. You can tag along if you want?" "Yes!" Once again we scout around the encampment, this time not looking for a teacher, but for polyesters. We actually manage to get a whole stack, over thirty bags and some sheets. I'm not sure what size they need to be, but I'm sure some will be usable. I wonder what Jan is planning to do with them. "Hey guys. What are you doing with all that plastic? Planning on recycling it?" It's Paul. Milan laughs. "We can't pollute the one island in the world that's probably not polluted yet." Paul laughs as well. "I guess you're right." "Nah, Jan has a way to gather water. It'll give us a few more days to find fresh water." "Hmm, how it he planning on doing that?" Milan shrugs. "No idea. But he's a teacher, and teachers are always right, right?" "I'm not a teacher," Paul remarks. I want to add something to this sarcastic discussion, but I feel this is smart people talk. I know I can't ever add anything intelligent to it, so I choose to remain silent. I love listening to Milan arguing though, it looks like he really likes it, playing with words like that. "Are you sure about that?" Milan asks. "Anyway, have fun. I'm heading to the plane this afternoon to look for food and tools. If I stumble across more plastic, I'll bring it." "Thanks Paul," Milan says. "Thanks Paul," Kai and I add at the same time. While walking back to Jan, Kai suddenly starts talking. "Ryan, did I tell you already?" "Tell me what?" "I got my driver's license!" I laugh and I see how Milan looks at us confused. "Where did you get it?" "I did my driver's test earlier today. Soooooo… can I drive now?" I smile. Damn, that boy is adorable. How can anyone say 'no' to him. "Okay then. But we're going to leave the camp, so make sure you keep an eye out for dangerous natives!" I notice a mix of emotions on the boy's face, but in the end his enthusiasm wins over any fear there may have been about leaving Elisah's perimeter. I hand Milan - who is still looking at us puzzled - the plastic bags and I crouch. Kai immediately jumps on my back. Only now the intelligent pompous guy understands what kind of driving we had been talking about. I love how even such a smart boy can be a little slow sometimes. "So, where are we going?" Kai asks. "You're the driver." "But… but I don't know where Jan is?" I laugh. "You have a driver's license but you don't know where Jan is?" My little brother giggles. "So everyone in the world who has a driver's license knows where Jan is?" "Of course!" "Then why aren't we rescued yet?" Wow. This boy is fast… He's only ten years old, but so witty already. "Let me be your navigator, mister driver," Milan says. "Straight ahead! Follow me." So there we go. A pompous Rolex wearing guy carrying thirty plastic bags and sheets, followed by a guy who's with a ten year old constantly giggling boy on his back. Stranded on an island. And even though every adult person now has a function and is contributing something to our new community, I believe we have an important role as well. Maybe the most important role of all. We show everyone there is still joy. There is hope. I'm not trying to make more of it than it was, Tom, I'm not trying to take all the praise, but I really believed we would never have survived a year on the island if not for us. No, I should rephrase that. It wasn't me or Milan who showed everyone there was still hope. It was Kai. Little energetic Kai. I loved that dude. Everyone loved him. We run towards Jan. I'm out of breath when we finally reach him. "You brought help." I smile. "We sure did." "And you found the plastic bags! Now, I'll explain what we're going to do. But bear with me, I'm a teacher. Stop me at any moment when it's getting boring." We all laugh. "We will. Now, let's start the physics class," Milan says. "It's actually more biology than physics. But it's interesting nonetheless." "Suuurree," I laugh. "So, you know trees extract water from the ground, right? We nod. Even Kai seems to understand that. "Ever wondered how they do that?" "Water evaporates from the leaves, creating a capillary pressure in the veins of the tree, right?" "Exactly!" "Oh wait… so we're just going to put those bags around the branches? Damn, that's easy." Jan laughs. "Science isn't that hard." "It's rocket science," I say. "Or what was the saying again?" Milan and Jan laugh. Kai frowns. "Putting a bag around a tree will get you water?" he asks. "It will. It won't be much, but we have a lot of bags. So we should get some bottles out of it." "We don't need any bottles, we need water to put in them," Milan says and I chuckle. "Why did we have to get plastic sheets?" I ask. "That'll be another trick. So trees pull water out of the ground, way too deep for us to dig. But there is water in the upper layers of the dirt as well." "And we're going to get that out of there?" Kai asks. "Kind of. The sun will cause some of that water to evaporate as well. We're going to catch that vapour. We will need some bowls or cans, or whatever to catch the water in. In order to catch the water, we're going to dig a hole. We put those cans or bowls in there, and we cover the hole with the plastic. Then we simply put a stone or something heavy in the centre of the plastic, right above the can. And voilà, vapour will rise, hit the sheets and form droplets. Those droplets will try to fall again, if they're getting heavy enough, but as the plastic will be like a tent, it'll follow it right to the spot of the stone. Do you still follow?" "Yes. It'll fall right into the can. That's amazing!" Jan smiles. "I'm not sure how much we'll get, but it's worth a try." "Yeah!" And he was right. Physics teachers tend to be right often, I notice. I'm not sure if the little water we got helped us surviving in the end, but it gave us hope. Not enough hope, but it was hope nonetheless. If only now life was that simple, if only now plastic bags would still assimilate hope, I'd personally swim to the plastic sea in the Pacific and collect all bags I could find. If only it was that simple, Tom.
  13. Stannie

    Chapter 7: Warrior

    We leave the camp behind and follow the beach until we find a quiet spot, just far enough away from the others so they can’t bother us, but close enough to still see them. I didn’t bring my piece of wood, I want to keep that sculpture separate, which means we have to find another piece. Or rather, two pieces, so Milan could make his own. “So…” Milan nervously hops from one leg to another. “I guess we need wood?” I laugh. “I guess that’s a good idea.” “Should we find a piece in the forest?” I think about that. “Mom told me to not go in there.” “My mom didn’t.” That doesn’t surprise me at all. I wouldn’t even be surprised if his mom warned his brother, but totally forgot about Milan. Of course, I don’t know them well enough to judge, but I don’t think it’s weird I came to the conclusion that the Bachmeier family like their younger son better? I make a mental note to ask about that later. “Come on, let’s go. I don’t think anything bad will happen.” I smile. “Well, that totally convinces me.” Of course, whether I want to go in there or not doesn’t really matter, we need wood and we won’t find anything on the beach. We didn’t walk all the way out here to not carve any wood. Well, I would accept it if we decided to have hot sex now. Hey… I’m still a teenager, you know. And Milan is cute, so I’m sorry, the thought crossed my mind several times. Hehe. Milan doesn’t even wait for me, he just enters the dense forest and expects me to follow him. I do, I can’t let him go there alone and risk him getting lost. How would I explain that back home. So we probably are the first of the camp to enter the forest, but of course we’ll never tell anyone. We venture only ten meters into the wood and find a thick branch. It is too long, however, so we violently try to break it into pieces. He keeps one end of the branch up and I jump on the middle. It doesn't work, so we try again. And again. By this time I'm sweating and panting. "This isn't working. I think we should head back to the beach. We can try to break it on those big rocks there." "Yeah, maybe you're right." Suddenly we hear a rustling behind us. A few seconds later we hear it again, but somewhere else. Milan and I look at each other, both with big, wide open eyes. We know this isn't the sound of the wind. It must be an animal. A big animal. My heart races., I tilt my head to hear where the sound is coming from. Slowly I move my arm and point towards the beach. Milan nods, we pick up the branch and carefully walk away, trying not to make any noise. We never went far into the woods and the moment we can see the white sand of the beach again, we both decide to do the exact same thing. We run. I drop the branch and make a dash for the seemingly safe sea. Only when my feet touch the cold water do I stop, panting. "What was that?" Milan asks. I shake my head. "I think it was an animal." "But it sounded so… I don't know." "I was so scared man. Now I know why my mom told me not to enter he forest." Milan walks up to me and hugs me. "It's all good." He releases me. "Do you have the branch?" I shake my head. "Dude, we can't carve anything without it. Where did you drop it?" "When we started running. Close to the edge of the forest." Milan turns around and walks back to the forest. "What are you going to do, man? Milan? You won't go back in there, right?" He looks at me and smiles. "It's over there, I can see it. I'll just grab it and come back." I watch him as he enters and disappears out of sight. I squint my eyes, as if somehow I'd still be able to see him. Meanwhile, the bachelors arrived back in the camp. They were sweaty, exhausted and their bare torsos were covered with all kinds of scratches and cuts. The people from the camp surrounded them, and obviously worried, bombarded them with questions. "What happened? Did you find water? Where is Rick?". One of the bachelors kneels down in the sand. "We don't know where Rick is. There were people. People on the island. They attacked us. We don't know what happened after that. We ran. Rick… we thought he was with us. I think… he should be here any minute." Elisah put a hand on his shoulder. "We should search for him," she told the others. "There are dangerous people here. He just told us," Oliver replies. Elisah shrugs. "Rick is one of us. He would help any of us if needed." "We don't know how many there are or what they want. Let's hear these guys out first. We need to know what exactly happened, where they were and so on." William, the nurse, finally speaks up, even though he tends to be quiet in these kind of situations. "People on the island, for fuck's sake. Were they… like… us? Or aboriginals. Well, you know what I mean." "They wore weird clothes, had dark skin and carried some kind of spears," another bachelor says. "I guess this is their island." "It’s as if we're stuck in some kind of fantasy story.!" A fantasy story; that is exactly what it felt like on that island. Even when I'm trying to remember everything now, it still feels like I'm making it up. But I promise you, what I'm writing must be close to the truth. Of course, they are just my memories and, yes, I know they tend to change over the years, but the emotions that go with the memories are very real. And I know I should've trusted you, talked to you. You would have understood me, you could have helped. But I'm stupid, Tom, that's what the hard lesson called 'life' taught me. I just want you to know this story isn't an excuse for what I did to you. Whatever may have happened to me in the past is no reason to have treated you the way I did. This is merely an explanation. I don't want you back or anything, but I do want your memory of me to be positive. We had a great time together. The way I keep explaining it to myself is: if someone else treated me the way I treated you, I would've left me too. Even though their story probably wouldn't be as weird as mine. I don't know what I'm trying to say. I guess if all this was reversed, I would try to forgive you. I can only hope you can do the same for me. You already know nothing happened to Milan, I already told you he was one of the few survivors. So, here it goes. All of a sudden Milan's head pops out of the dense forest. He wears a huge smile. "I got it!" "Good, now get out of there before you get devoured by some fearsome animal." He jumps out and runs towards me, dragging the branch behind him, leaving a trail in the sand. "You were genuinely worried, weren't you?" "Of course I was. We just heard weird noises and you decide to go back in." He smiles. "That's sweet." Trying to keep from blushing, I say: "You're crazy." I kick some sand towards him. "Now give me the branch, I'll break it in two." "Show me what you got, warrior." Milan laughs. "Warrior?" He shrugs. "My aunt used to call me warrior. I thought it was a nice nickname." "Used to?" "She passed away last year. I was really close to her." An aunt that called him warrior. I wonder if she was the only family member he was close to. "Well, let's honor her by making the most beautiful carving that ever existed." I smile and realise I want to ask him about his relationship with his family, but I also know this isn't the right time. While trying to break the branch I keep thinking about something Milan said. I really was worried about him, wasn't I? I mean, more than I should've been with a random guy I met on an island we're both stranded on. My heart really raced when I couldn't see him. I don't want that. I want to care about him, but only as a friend. At some point we decide to put one side of the branch against a large rock and jump on the middle together. That was enough to break the branch, launching one piece upwards and hitting Milan in the face. "Ooph." He drops to the ground. "Milan, are you alright?" He laughs. "Kinda, I guess? I never expected to get injured while wood carving." "I never said it was a safe sport." I help him get up and notice a small trace of blood on his left cheek. I take a tissue out of my pocket and wipe it away. In any other situation I would've thought it was inappropriate to get this close to someone who I've been secretly developing feelings for, but he was bleeding, so I guess I could make an exception. While cleaning his cheek and being so close to him, feeling his breath and seeing his pouting lips I almost feel an urge to kiss him. But I don't, of course. I can control my emotions pretty well considering I'm a teenager. "So, now teach me how to carve." He smiles. "Yes. So… we have to cut away the bark first. I brought these tools. They aren't the best, but I think they will do." I show him the screwdriver, nails and sharp pieces of metal Paul found. "Make sure you don't cut yourself with these pieces of metal, as they are sharp on all edges. Push the metal away from you, so when you slip it won't, you know, stab you in the heart." "Woah, you're afraid I might get injured all of a sudden. Don't you want to clean up any other wounds I get?" he teases. I blush slightly. Of course I would want to, but I don't want him to get hurt in order to touch him. "Let's try to make it only one cut a day, okay?" He nods. "Well then, let's get started." Stripping the branch of its thick bark jacket takes longer than I expected. When we're finally done, the sun is diving towards the ocean. We decide to walk back to camp. As we're getting close, we notice someone approaching us carefully. It's Casey. "Ryan! Milan! Oh, there you are. We've been looking for you!" she shouts. I run the last part towards her, Milan following me closely. "Why? I told mom I was going to carve wood." "Please, come with me. Everyone was worried." She puts her hands on our shoulders and pushes us back to the camp. Everyone looks at us as we enter the camp. I feel a little embarrassed by the concern. I hate to be that kid, the one wandering off. Especially as my mother looks like she has been through hell. "Oh, Ryan!" I hug her. "Mom. What happened?" "It's the bachelors. They came back. But Rick is missing." "Missing?" "There are other people on the island. Dangerous people!" I glance at Milan and see we're thinking the same thing. That noise in the bushes. Could it have been… No. It wasn't the sound of a human, right? A shiver runs down my spine. Everyone already had dinner, but there was some left for us. I'm eating it quietly while my mother tells me everything that has happened. She wanted to go look for me, but Elisah decided no one was allowed to leave the camp. Tomorrow we would look for things to use as weapons and we were going to have guards around the camp all day and night. Everyone is freaked out. And even though we have been stuck on the island for four days now, I never felt unsafe. Until now.
  14. Oh my god! I'm kissing him right now. God! Who could have seen this coming? Joshua put his arms around me, our stomachs and feet are touching, and of course the part in between… uhm… as well. But, to be honest, I don't even want to think about doing anything more with him, you know? It feels like that would destroy the magic of this moment. We break the kiss for a few seconds. I realise I have to catch my breath a little. "This is a much better place to do this than kissing in the alley," Joshua smiles. "Yes, about that, I'm sorry." My gaze falls down to the floor. He gently lifts my head up with his hand. "Don't be." A small peck on my lips. "As I said, this is better." Another peck. "Oh my, I will never be able to stop doing this." And again, another peck. This one transforms into another passionately long kiss. The soup starts to bubble and smells burnt. "Shit!" He turns around and starts stirring again, releasing a lot of sizzling smoke. "You told me this was the right way to stir?" I put my arms around his middle to hug him, but a little too low, accidentally touching a very exciting, and hard, boy. I quickly remove them and hug him a little higher, but touching him there felt awkward. Like, I just feel less in love because of it? I know, I know, I'm weird. I can't be disgusted by the fact he has a dick, right? That doesn't really go well with being gay… "I guess, this soup is ready. Can you grab some mugs from that drawer?" "Aye aye." We divide the soup and head to Joshua's room. "What game do you want to play?" I shrug. " Not sure? Something with a story in it?" "Those are always single player," he says initially thinking that's a bad thing, but then he starts smiling mischievously. "I got a nice one. The vanishing of Ethan Carter. It's a little bit a puzzle game, is that okay?" "Of course." He starts the game, bending forward to insert the disk. I suspect he's showing me his butt on purpose. And, you know, for the first time I can look at it without fearing he'd catch me. He jumps back on the bed and scoops over really close to me. We silently eat the soup while watching the introduction scene playing on the TV. When I'm done eating the soup, I move a little back on the bed so I can lean against the wall. "We can just take turns, right?" "Sounds good," Joshua spoons out the last drops of soup and puts away the mug. He grabs the controller and moves in between my legs, with his back leaning into my stomach and his hair brushing my nose. I can secretly sniff it. He even smells amazing! I put my arms around him and kiss his neck. While watching the game being played, I absently play around with my hands on his stomach, tracing circles and so on. Once in a while I kiss his neck. It just feels so great, being here with him. It feels natural! My heart must have melted by now. "Do you want to play a bit now?" "Sure." Without even having to communicate, we know that means a swap of position too. I grab the controller and sit exactly like Joshua did. I kiss him in the middle of the moving around, which of course ends up in a minute long kiss. When we finally settle again, I can feel his hardon pressing in my back. This time it doesn't disturb me much, I think I'm too turned on. Joshua occasionally kisses my neck as he tickles my stomach. I have a hard time staying focused on the game, with Joshua caressing me like that. He is tracing his hands up to my nipples then he starts nibbling on my ear a little, which is so hot! Then he moves his hand back down. Far down. He touches me through the fabric of my pants. It completely takes me off guard, so I jump a little. "Ow, I'm sorry." I swallow. "Uh, don't be, I guess?" He smiles. "You didn't mind it, then?" I press the start button on the controller and turn around, facing him. "Maybe… a little?" I say carefully. "I don't know?" He leans in and kisses me. "Why don't you know?" he asks in between kisses. "I sincerely don't know." He doesn't say a thing, but kisses me even harder. I let out a moan, which he takes as a cue to go further. He gently holds my hand in his and guides it to his crotch. He starts rubbing my hand on it. When he lets go, I keep going. We kiss passionately, breaking several times. He doesn't even pull his tongue back completely when we stop, I don't think he even realised it. He closes his eyes and pulls me closer to him. Too close to continue the rubbing, my own dick covering that area. We try to kiss, but we don't really touch lips that often, as he is rubbing my crotch against himself vigorously. Only then I realise what is going on and get off him. He opens his eyes. "What's wrong." "I don't know. I really don't. It feels wrong, you know?" "Does it? Why does it?" I shrug. "I sincerely don't know. I feel like it nullifies what I feel for you. Like it's too plastic to do it while I love you this much…" I turn red. "I don't mean it like that. I mean, 'when I care for you this much'". He smiles. "It's cute that you say it like that. Come here." He cups my head and kisses me very gently. I inhale his amazing scent, but I make sure my hard dick doesn't touch him anywhere, even through my pants. Why do I have to make everything complicated. I turn my head away. "Please don't shut me out," Joshua says after I lay my head on his chest. "Huh, what do you mean?" He is softly massaging my shoulders. Again, this feels so good. It feels like I've been in a relationship with him for years. "I think you're someone who overthinks everything. You should just tell me what's on your mind." "I'll try. I'm just not really good at that." Woah, I never admitted that to anyone. "Then I will do it instead. Adam, I really like you. We've had a great time together, and hell, you're cute as fuck. I…" He hesitates. "I really would like to go a bit further with you." "You mean… uhh, like…" "My mom isn't home, that's what I mean. I'd love it if we could get rid of these pants." He smiles awkwardly. "Uh… well… I," I stammer. "Never mind. It doesn't matter really." He pulls me up to face him again and then kisses me softly. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm making everything so weird." "It's not a problem. Really." He thinks about it for a second. "But… is there something wrong? Like," he nods towards my hard-on, "down there." I turn red. "Kinda. But that's not why I'm hesitant about it, I think. It's just… you know. Like I said. I feel like it would make this all less real. I like being with you, but if we have sex, it would start to feel like it was all for that. Just having sex. Does that make any sense?" Joshua is quiet for a few seconds. "Actually, it does. I think that's the reason I want to do it, actually. But we're moving into a really personal conversation now, I guess." He laughs awkwardly. "And yet it feels like a completely natural thing to talk about. That's how I feel with you." "Thanks." He kisses me. When I break the kiss and ask: "What did you mean when you said you wanted to do more with me because it nullifies what we're feeling right now?" He smiles again, but this time it's a sad smile. "I like this too much. It feels like I shouldn't like it. I mean, look at us, we look like a couple. We're on my bed together, embracing each other, kissing, caressing. But we're not really having sex or something. I think that's what we're supposed to do, you know?" "No?" "Well, let me put it this way. At this moment I have an urge to tell you I love you, but I’ve only known you a day. If you lived close, then I wouldn't mind this, without sex or anything, just being close. Because then I know it would be more permanent. But you're going to leave soon. And then all we did was being close together, as if we are a couple, as if we're in love. That would break me." I frown. "You want to have sex because I will leave and that way it would hurt less when I'm gone?" "In some way, yes." He quickly kisses me again. "Then I can tell myself it was all for the sex, like with many teenagers. If I can persuade myself it was nothing more, I won't feel hurt, so bad." "Ah, I get it." I contemplate things for a second. "It makes sense, I guess." "I want to be here with you forever. I don't want you to leave." He sounds sad again. I turn around to look at him and I look right into teary eyes. "I know. I don't want to leave either." I don't even have to leave. I can stay here. "You can come with me?" He tries to smile. "That's not possible. Have to finish school as well." We're silent for what feels like an hour. All this time, I'm looking directly at him. Very slowly, during this time, his tears completely form and gradually slide down his cheek. "I just want to feel loved, you know?" he adds with a lump in his throat. I swallow. "You're not the only one. I could love you, I know that much." I lean in for a small peck on his lips, but he opens them, so we went full French. At some point he starts moaning, which would've discouraged me earlier today, but after this talk, it turns me on. I crawl on top of him, crotches touching like earlier. This time it is me who starts moving, grinding into him. He moans and I do the same. I break the kiss quickly when I glide his shirt up over his head. I move down and kiss his nipples. Should I continue? I ask myself, but before I even finish that thought, I already have my hands on his fly and open it. Joshua puts his hands on mine. "You shouldn't do this just because I asked you." "I got a will of my own, you know," I reply and move up to kiss him for a few seconds, only to go back down. I slide his pants off, revealing his hardon in his boxers. My head is only a few centimeters away from it and I notice the smell of horny teenage boy. I grab his dick through the fabric, resulting in a very sexy moan. I feel it, the largeness of it, the humidity and hotness of his probably way too long entrapped boner. Then I lean in and take it in my mouth, through the fabric. I never even saw his dick properly, but it just felt like something I wanted to do. I put my hands inside his boxers through one of the legs, but I don't pull them off yet. Cupping his soft sack and balls, I move my fingers around the base., but don't touch his dick yet. When I finally do, I notice a wet drop on it. I bring my fingers back to my mouth and taste it. "Holy shit, you're sexy," Joshua moans. "You must have seen a lot of porn!" Twice. I pull his boxers off his legs completely and take off his socks at the same time. I always thought only wearing socks was extremely sexy, but I liked the feeling of pulling off all of his clothes. I grab his dick and start moving slowly. I bring my face up to his again. He is biting his lips and looks at me with a very tender gaze. I kiss him passionately, slowly jerking him off. I make sure my face is close to his all the time, my lips only few millimeters from his. I feel his warm breath on my nose with every moan., I can smell the soup. I kiss him and start moving faster. "Does this… make it easier… when I leave?" I wonder why I'm out of breath. It surely isn't physically demanding, what I'm doing, right? He moans. "Hng, umph. No. Continue, please." He licks my lips and pulls me closer to him, causing me to almost fall over. I have to stop taking care of his boyhood to keep my balance. Joshua laughs, breathing heavily. "I'm sorry." "You're digging your own grave." I smile at him. Gosh, he's so beautiful. I wish I could stay here forever. I lean in and kiss him again. I guess we have spent more time with our lips pressed on each others than not. I bring the hand I was jerking him off with up to his mouth and he understands what I want him to do. He licks it, sucking on my finger and pouting when I pull back. With my wet hand I grab hold of his boner again. "Oh god… This is so amazing." This time, whilst jerking him off, you could hear the soft slabbering sound. I keep watching his face, I don’t bother to look at his cock. I prefer to see the tension on his lips and the determined look in his eyes as if he is running a marathon. I kiss him. It's just so adorable to look at the firm face full of energy and dedication. I just feel, deep down, that he's getting close. It's almost as if we share this invisible bond, making me feel the same as he does. Now I think of it, I think I'm getting close too. I speed up. "Hnng," Joshua pants. "Fuck… I… love you… oh god." I speed up even more, up to the point where my wrist is getting a little sore. Then his face tenses up even more, he starts biting hard on his lower lip. He tries to lift his head a little to kiss me, but he fails, so I lower mine. With the same result. I try to french kiss him, but his mouth is lifeless and his tongue doesn't move. And then he cums. Several big shots right onto his bare chest, through my hand, leaving some behind. My mouth is just next to his, we're breathing through each other's lips. I collapse. I still have my shirt on, but I just drop down onto his soaked body, both with sweat and… you know… We're panting and gasping and I even manage to giggle a little at some point. Joshua puts an arm around me, apparently crushed by my weight or maybe too numb to feel it yet. "You, you must be god." He sighs. My mind wanders back to what I now consider my old life. I recall my religious education class, with Mr Hampleton. I wonder what he would think if he knew that the anonymous blogger was now laying with a naked, gorgeous boy, after just having jerked him off, and got called "god". How angry would he be? I imagine his red face and I chuckle.
  15. Happy Birthday!

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