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.
"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."
"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.
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."
"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!"
"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."
"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.
"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.
Please let me know what you thought down below in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org.