The story has some explicit contents and graphic details. Along with nudity and profanity. Reader discretion recommended.
Men in Paradise - 9. Chapter 9 - The House
The highest recorded explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years is Mount Toba. It had global consequences for human populations, according to the Toba catastrophe theory; it killed most humans living at that time and is believed to have created a population bottleneck in Central East Africa and India, affecting the genetic make-up of the world's human population to the present. Volcanic eruptions, such as the End-Ordovician, Permian-Triassic, and Late Devonian mass extinctions, may have led to major extinction events. The Mount Tambora eruption of 1815 caused global climate anomalies that, because of the effects on North American and European weather, became known as the "Year Without a Summer" A volcanic eruption may also be the explanation for the freezing winter of 1740-41, which contributed to widespread starvation in northern Europe. Sulfur dioxide from the eruption of Huaynaputina probably caused the Russian famine of 1601–1603. At some point during 2020, 67 confirmed eruptions from 63 separate volcanoes occurred; 22 of those were new eruptions that began during the year.
Exactly on the 14th day after our plane crashed, the rain abruptly ended.
We decided to take a tour of the island, mostly because we had nothing else to do.
Cyclone and then the perpetual rain almost destroyed the island. Trees were fallen and plants were damaged. The water stream was overflowing which even threatened to break the banks. Banana plants were the most destroyed, which was our main source of food until then. Bushes were gone or mostly immersed in rainwater.
Next few days we spent as much time as we could to explore the island. We were seeking to find out if we could get any help for an escape. We had been on that island for two weeks, and yet we had not explored three areas in particular. We never went to the deep forest, neither climbed the mountain nor explored the places beyond the rocks. We decided it was time to do that.
At first, we went to the rocks which were situated at least 1km away from the big rock where our plane crashed and found Jai on day one. There were at least seven rocks adjoined one after another. It was not easy to climb, at least the last two rocks which were partially immersed in Sea. On the second rock, we found a small human-made stone structure. Which had plenty of carvings on the wall. It was astonishing.
"Does it mean people lived here?" Afridi was the first one to ask.
"Maybe, but the stone structure and dark stones looked like it was built centuries ago" Justin replied.
I was one of those guys who is always interested in history and architecture. I wanted to explore the stone structure and find out as much information as I could.
"Where did the people go? The ones who built this?" Afridi asked Justin again.
"They must be dead obviously" Justin replied. Jai chuckled and broke the silence.
"I have been wondering about the same Justin. This island with coconuts, bananas, and a water stream looks like a decent place to live. Why aren't any humans here? Who owns this island? What happened to the people who built this stone structure? Where are we actually" I asked him questions after questions out of curiosity.
Justin didn't reply to me immediately. But he was busy examining the rock and the stone structure.
"Do you see these stones?" He was pointing at the rock stones at the bottom of its side which was above the sea waters.
I went and looked down at the rock slides. I noticed many ash-colored stones were protruding on the rock slides.
"Yes, but what does it mean?" I asked him.
"Those ash colors are sediments on the rocks, they are not stone" Justin replied. He went further and examined one stone which was reachable distance.
"Yes, these are rock sediments," He said as if trying to acknowledge his statement.
"What do you mean by rock sediments? Jai asked him. He has been quiet for a while watching Justin's experiments.
"It means there has been a volcano here" Justin replied casually.
I am not sure if I was shocked or astonished by that information then. Since I did not know its significance at that time.
"The mountain on this island or the ice mountains from the nearby island could be a volcano" He continued saying.
"Should we be afraid of this volcano? Is that why nobody lives here? Afridi interrupted him.
"Maybe or Maybe not" Justin answered shaking his shoulders.
"If this Volcano killed the inhabitants here, then how come there are still trees and plants are alive?" Jai asked him a brilliant question.
I was wondering the same I remember Justin told me that he saw a deer in the forest. How could it be possible that the deer escaped from a volcano eruption? I didn't know, so I decided to ask him.
"Then how come the deer you saw inside the forest is still living here?" I asked, desperately wanted to contradict his findings.
"And that black snake" Afridi added.
"And Afridi," Jai said it with a chuckle again. Afridi gave him a snare and then turned towards Justin again.
"Look, I don't know OK. I am still a research student in biology. I am not even a geologist. I don't have answers to many questions here" He must be irritated with all our questions.
And he continued saying "One thing I am certain, the volcano eruption didn't happen recently. The mountains in our neighbor island are covered in ice which means volcano eruption could not have happened in recent times. If the mountain on our island is a volcano, it could have destroyed the entire fauna and flora that we see now. But one thing I was sure about those ash sediments. This island has seen a volcano eruption which could have been centuries ago since these sediments are rock solid, too dark, and looks much older" Justin finished his long explanation in one breath.
But still, there were many unanswered questions at that moment. We didn't know whether the volcano was still active. What happened to the people who built this stone structure? How did the fauna and flora survive the volcano eruption? Why nobody lives here now? Why there are no ships or boats or flights anywhere nearby?
While I pondered with all those questions, I noticed that the other guys were quiet too and I figured they were thinking about it too. We decided to walk back to the shelter and then explore the surrounding areas. We decide to go to the forest on another day since the ground then was full of mud due to nonstop rain.
Animals and birds seem to have vanished completely or hidden somewhere away from the rain. We took bath in the water stream, since Afridi saw that snake, we promised him that we will stick together whenever we go inland. Four guys washing in the waters stark naked was not photographic scenery. It was school scout camp all over again. Our nudity had become normal for us. Since Jai was the younger and scrawny boy among us, he must have felt a bit shy in the water. He hardly looked us in the eye at those times. Justin was the 'big' boy and he cared less. Afridi seems to be super proud of his body and he did show off every time he gets an opportunity, such a poser.
Since the rain stopped that day, we decided to start building the wood house as we planned. There wasn't any scarcity of wood since many trees fell over the last few days, we didn't need to cut down from the ground. We found a big tree fallen on the ground and dragged it using the coir thread. I felt I had burnt lots of calories doing that. But I knew that the tree would give us plenty of wood.
"Let's not cover the gaps with coconut branches and plane sheets this time. Last time we were lucky, but next time it will fly over by the wind. We can use clay which will provide strength to the joints and stay stronger" Justin told us.
Once again Justin and I went to fetch as much wood as possible, we cut down a few bamboo plants in case if we needed it.
Engaging ourselves with physical activities would reduce pain within our hearts out of anguish, and homesickness. We needed a diversion. It did to a great extent.
Afridi and Jai were busy sweeping the area around our shelter to clear dirt caused by the cyclone. Cleaning and clearing after a cyclone were a hell of a lot of work.
Watching teenage boys doing household choir was hilarious. Due to the same age group, they were always bantering each other playfully. I saw them playing sword fighting with their wooden sticks. I had to keep shouting at them to focus on their work, it made me feel like a babysitter at times.
I had a vague idea of building the house. But first, I need to lay a proper foundation. I wasn't a professional building architect, but rather, I have earned a fair bit of experience now after building that temporary shelter.
We had heated arguments particularly from Afridi when I started drawing the design of the wooden house. He was a boy full of vague ideas. Oddly, none of us knew the amount of wood needed to build it. For some unknown reason, Jai vetoed removing the temporary shelter which would have provided us some wood. For that, Afridi and Jai started arguing against each other for a few more minutes. It was chaos out there for a few hours.
We already picked up a large tree, we probably needed two more and plenty of bamboos. While Afridi and Justin left to bring more bamboos and clay. Jai and I started laying the foundation using wood. Fortunately, we found a small packet of nails from the toolbox. We didn't know whether the toolbox belonged to an aeronautics engineering team or the flight carried one, but thankfully we got a toolbox. But most of the tools were of not much use to us anyway. There was no hammer, ax, or any other wood cutting instruments, mostly screwdrivers and such.
Hence, we decided to sharpen the wooden pillars on one end like an arrow and plunge them into the ground using a big stone. We used screwdrivers to poke holes into the wood and attached them with other wood using wooden nails. Once we built the foundation in a rectangle shape of 400 square feet probably. We built bamboo walls around. We decided to apply clay between the bamboo sticks to fill up the gap later. The laying roof was the most complicated work. We needed to cut down a few more big trees and then chop them into flat pieces.
We decided to wait for Afridi and Justin to return and kick start the roof building after lunch. Of all the physical work and humidity around exhausted us already. Jai removed his shirt, he was sweating like Buffalo. Even though he was slim, I noticed he had fit physic and even sporting few packs on his abs. Little hair was mushrooming down below his navel reaching towards the edge of his trousers. Ever since we got the luggage, we decided not to wear full trousers and jeans, instead, we chopped off the parts below our knees for comfort. Most of the time, we were wandering around or strolling on the beach, short trousers provided us the comfort.
"Were you studying in Calicut?" I asked Jai.
"Yes, Civil Engineering 2nd year," he told me.
"Dude, then you should be doing the structural design and guide me," I told him.
"Huh, I hardly went to college, I don't know a thing about building houses," he said with a wide boyish grin. His eyes were sparkling for no reason and I believed he was telling the truth.
"So, do you work out a lot back home?" He asked.
"Yep, it's my passion," I told him.
"I don't think you need it here, we are already doing plenty of physical activity," he said as a matter of fact, which I agreed with a laugh.
"Are you married? I noticed you aren't wearing a wedding ring or something" he asked with a surprise.
I was not sure, how to answer that question. I haven't married anymore, but should I tell him? Then I might have to give him the entire story. We didn't know how long we have to be here till the rescue team arrives, so I decided to keep that information to myself rather than letting them judge me.
I just gave him a laugh and moved away a bit pretending to be busy doing wood inventory. For some reason, he didn't ask any further on that topic.
The weather on that island was most mysterious that island. It kept changing constantly. One day it poured rain out of nowhere, the next day it would be a bright and shiny sunny day. One day, we would be witnessing a storm another day, not even a single leaf moves on the tree. We have already witnessed a cyclone, cold winds, and hot summer within 2 weeks.
I removed my shirt and hung it on a branch of a small tree next to me. I was completely drenched in sweat. I could see Jai glancing at my physic a few times.
"Hey, you got six-packs" He pointed at my abs and screamed. It was more of an exclamation from him. It's not like that was the first time he was seeing me shirtless, but still, he said that. And I had no idea why then.
I chuckled and said "Not six-packs yet" I patted my tummy and flexed my muscles a little to show him my abs. He must have enjoyed the show then, he gave me a wide grin.
He looked too young and charming, sometimes vulnerable. I don't have a younger brother, most of my friends and colleagues were of the same age around the early thirties. So I wasn't sure how to be with Jai, but he was friendly and easy-going to talk to. To be honest, I didn't like Afridi much, he seems to be one of that rich spoilt kid, I wondered if his father was a sheik or something who owns plenty of oil wells in Sharjah. I hardly asked anyone about their backgrounds except Justin of course, who was the only mature grown-up guy around.
We ate a couple of bananas each and drank tender coconuts. I felt a bit of acidic taste on my tongue. I didn't think they filled my appetite, so we decided to fry the fish that Justin brought that morning from the seashore and we ate it.
When we finished our lunch, Justin and Afridi returned from collecting wood and clay. Afridi was in a good mood then, he was jumping and joking around. And when he saw Jai without his shirt, he went closer to him and patted his abs.
"Man, you are packing!" he complimented him in his way.
And then asked him “Do you take your shirt often in front of your girlfriend like this?”
Jai diffidently smiled at him and shunted away.
"Why is he so suddenly happy?" I asked Justin with suspicion.
"I don't know, he has been crazy this way since we went to the water stream” Justin answered me with a laugh.
“Really?” I asked him in disbelief.
“He even sang a song to me which I didn't understand a bit" he replied innocently with a chuckle.
We laughed out louder enjoying our jokes about Afridi. We saw a few birds flew away from the nearby tree due to our laughter.
We decided not to probe further about it and let Afridi stay in a good mood. He has been sober ever since we came here and that put us off sometimes.
"What shall we do next?" Justin asked me.
"We need a roof, finish your lunch, let's start the work," I told him.
Since I was the elder one among the four, I became the leader of the gang by default. I didn't know how that happened. Back home, I was a lazy, laid-back guy and stayed behind the lines on most occasions. But back on that island, I understood, the boys needed me to take charge, my advice, my ideas, and certainly dependent on my muscle power.
Jai and I started chopping the wood. It was a toxic work. As I said earlier, we lacked carpeting tools, for that we complemented it with our primitive style weapons such as stones, wood, and broken metal pieces from the plane. Thus, it took more time than we initially anticipated.
I fallaciously thought we could finish building the house within a day or two. But later I realized it took more than that. I started the roof work which required slicing the stem of the tree horizontally. And I made sure its edges were equal and tardy less. The boys and I were too exhausted by the evening. So we decided to stop the work and take some rest.
When the Sun sets down quickly that day, I saw a few dark clouds forming above the sea again. I wondered whether we would be able to finish building the house before another cyclone hit us.
I am publishing my story here on experimental basis. Readers feedback and comments are most welcome
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