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."
"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.
"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."
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?
"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."
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."
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.
"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?"
"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 someone who was also called 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.
I would love to hear from you guys! If you enjoyed this chapter, please send me an email. It doesn't have to be about anything important. You could just tell me who you are, why you clicked on this story, what you think of it, where you're from or whatever. "The reader" is really just a concept to me, a number next to my chapter, and I'd love to change that!