It was utter pandemonium. A Codrow had been momentarily spotted in the trees, and the camp had started freaking out.
Mo was in hysterics. “What are we going to do?!?” She shrieked, well out of character. “We don’t know if they’re violent, if they’re meat eaters, ANYTHING!”
“Well, we can either risk it and stay here, where we know there is a possibility of being attacked by the Codrow, but we can have a good food supply and a way to get supplies. Also, it will give Jack time to heal. That or we can flee the Codrow, not risk them attacking us, and go across the island to Mt. Misery. That way we know we’re safe, but we don’t know if there is good food, fresh water, or even if there are more Codrow over there.” Harry summed up.
“It’s worth a shot.” Rachel piped up.
“One problem.” I interjected grimly from across the circle around the fire pit that we were seated in. “Jack can’t walk.”
“But…” Started Mo.
“It’s true. I can hardly stand with help, much less walk.” Stated Jack flatly, clearly unhappy to have to admit that.
Harry’s face morphed into an expression of contemplation. Still looking off into space, deep in thought, he said, “Go get six sticks, all around three inches in diameter, four about two and a half feet long, the other two about five feet long.”
Sensing that he was on to something, we all scrambled off in search of the sticks he requested.
When we all got back, there was an abundance of sticks for Harry to choose from. He sifted through the pile of sticks, and finally chose two of the shorter sticks. Not bothering to get up, Harry crawled over to Jack, and grabbed three strips of cloth from the pile by the fire. Straightening out Jack’s legs, Harry tied the sticks to Jack’s legs with the strips of cloth near his hip, his knee joint, and his ankle. When Harry was done, he shuffled back and made sure that it would hold. Then he did the same with the other leg. When Harry was done with that, he took one of the extra shorter sticks, broke it into three pieces, and tied one piece about six inches from the end of the long stick, then tied it with a cloth. He did the same thing in the middle of the stick, and tied the third at an angle near the bottom, so one end was about six inches up, the other end aligned with the bottom of the long stick. He made the same thing with another long stick.
“Ok, done!” Harry exclaimed. “Jennie, Richard, can you help Jack up?”
Giving each other a curious glance, we walked over to Jack and helped him to his feet, this time not having to hold him up, as his legs were supported by the branches. Harry picked up the longer sticks, and handed them to Jack, helping Jack position them under his arms as crutches. Now balanced and supported, Jack slowly eased out of our grasp, and took a few teetering steps with the crutches before toppling over.
Jack face planted in the sand, then pushed himself into a sitting position, sputtering, sneezing, and grinding grains of sand between his teeth. Rushing over, Rachel and Harry gripped Jack under his arms and hoisted him up, helping him regain his balance before letting go and taking half a step back. For a second, he wobbled ever so slightly to the left, the side of his foot digging into the loose, damp sand. Then he pushed upright on his crutch and took a step towards our previous camping spot.
After watching Jack successfully walk ten yards, we all cheered and took off after him.
It took nearly twice as long to get back to the river as before, where we agreed we would take a break. It was a little past noon, and, from what the complaints were telling me, everyone’s feet were rather sore, and their stomachs were howling in protest, ready for something to subdue their hunger.
I walked leisurely into the underbrush, trying hard not to push my tense muscles any harder than I needed to. After going to the bathroom, as my bladder felt like it was going to explode, I found a fruit tree with sturdy branches hanging in arms reach. I hoisted myself up, then went a few feet higher to get to the ripe fruit, Careful not to snag my bandages on any of the jagged leaves, I plucked three of the fruits, and, in a precarious balancing act, held all three while jumping down to the ground eight feet below. Satisfied with my findings, I trotted back to the group, all resting by the river, just in the shadeline of the trees.
“Great! I’m really hungry!” Exclaimed Mo, spotting the three yellow-orange fruits I held.
As if voice activated, all four others simultaneously turned their heads to look at what I had brought, and someone's stomach growled boisterously, declaring it’s want for the ripe, juicy sweetness perched in the crook of my left arm.
Harry had, apparently, already collected some suitable sticks for a fire, and soon there was the sound of fruit roasting on a hot stone near the fire.
We decided that we would stay there for the rest of the day, as no one really wanted to move from that area. We simply talked for the rest of the day, about pointless things, and about ones that were more on topic.
When night fell, Harry and I stayed up to keep watch. After going a few feet into the jungle, Harry walked back and tossed a few more sticks on the fire, which spluttered up a small puff of glowing orange sparks as they made contact. He then plopped down next to me, and sighed in a way that made me curious if it was in exhaustion, relief, or something else.
“Nice night, huh?” He asked, his eyes wandering up to the stars that glittered far above. Looking off to the right, I gazed at the ocean, the vast, glittering, warping surface of the water reflecting the moon in a detached, rippling, jagged image.
“Yes, definitely. Especially compared to the excitement of last night. Finally a bit of peace.” I replied, my voice soft, barely audible over the crackle of the fire and the constant lul of the waves lapping up onto the shore.
I heard Harry chuckle quietly, then saying, “That’s true.”
“Thank you for coming, Harry. I was afraid I would have to go it alone, or worse, stay there.” I stated, the volume of my voice rising ever so slightly. Turning my head to look at him, I continued, “Honestly, you were right. I had no clue whatsoever if there was even a chance of this island being here. All I knew was that if I was stuck being an orange picker for the rest of my life, I would have gone crazy. I like climbing trees and all, but I can’t stand it if that’s all I’m doing all day, everyday, for the rest of my life.”
He gave me a wan smile. “All in honesty, I needed to get away from that place too. Coming along made me see that. If we hadn’t found anything, and had to go back, I probably would have suggested trying again within the next year.”
I smiled back at him. Not a small, pointless, ‘You’re smiling so I’m going to push the corners of my mouth up in a pathetic excuse for a smile’ smile, but a real, ‘Thank you for saying that, it makes me really happy” smile. His face split into a genuine grin.
“Hey, now I can say ‘I told you so’ for the rest of the trip.” Harry exclaimed, his eyes lighting up and a mischievous smirk plastering itself in place of the kind grin that was there only seconds earlier.
“So can I. I told you that there was a place that was better than Nevaeh, and I told you it was out here.” I chided, my voice rising in volume.
“And I told you it was a bad idea to go into the ship!” Harry exclaimed, his voice escalating even higher than mine.
“No you didn’t! You mumbled that under your breath! I barely heard you!”
“But you did hear me!”
“You could have listened and we would have a lot less problems to deal with!”
“Oh, and you can look into the future and knew all of those things would happen?”
“It’s called a gut feeling!”
“Wha’s th’ yellin’ abou’?” Came a groggy voice from the other side of the campfire.
Glancing over, I saw that Mo’s eyes were cracked open ever so slightly.
“Sorry, Mo. We were just getting excited. You can go back to sleep.” I said quietly. She hummed back in confirmation, and was asleep in seconds.
The next morning, Rachel and Richard, who had the last watch, woke us up. It was a beautiful day, the bright blue sky littered with small, wispy white clouds, a cool breeze wafting up from the ocean, which was abnormally calm and clear.
After breakfast, we collected the meager supplies that we had with us, and set off.
Breaking into a jog, I went a head of the group, scouting out the path ahead. I was a full forty yards in front of the others when I slowed to a walk.
Breathing through my nose, I took in a lungful of fresh air, it smelling of salt, fish, and vegetation. Yes. I loved it here. Where the air didn’t smell of smoke, dust, and sweat, but smelled instead of life. Where the sky wasn’t blocked out by buildings and grey clouds, but was a vibrant, beautiful shade of blue. Where the grass grew and the trees were lush and green, warm, golden sand seeming to go on forever. The ocean’s waves making me feel dwarfed as they spanned to the horizon and beyond.
Suddenly, a loud splash sounded from the ocean, something that couldn’t be a wave. My head swiveled, my eyes training on the surface of the water, searching for the source of the noise. No bird came out with a fish in it’s beak, so that couldn’t be it. There wasn’t a large, dark figure visible on the surface, so it probably wasn’t a giant fish or shark. What could it be? I wondered. Just then, a sleek, dark brown tail emerged, just poking out of the surface of the water, then slid back under.
When it reemerged, it wasn’t just the tail. The leathery brown skin of the tail merged with pale grey flesh, a spine creating a ridge down the middle, leading up to two shoulder blades, human shoulder blades. Two long arms with pointy elbows extended from the shoulders, and then there was a neck, leading to a head with thin, short, matted hair. It was one of the strange creatures from the boat, a nort, I think it was called.
Barely containing a scream, I pivoted on my left foot, and bolted back to the group at top speed.
Mo took one glance at me, and paled. Rushing over, she inquired, “Jennie, what happened? You look like you saw a ghost!”
My hands started shaking, and although I opened my mouth, no words came out, just a small, terrified whimper.
“Is it another one of those?” Harry asked, his expression telling me exactly what he meant by those. Slowly sinking into a sitting position, I closed my eyes and mouth, and gave a small nod.
I could feel someone sit down next to me, and the heard the shifting of sand as the others sat down as well. The person next to me put a hand on my back and rubbed in soothing circles.
I took a shuddering breath. “I don’t know why I’m so scared.” I whispered, hints of dread still tainting my voice, making it quiet and shaky. “It really wasn’t that bad.”
I opened my eyes to see it was Jack next to me, and all the others sitting in a semicircle around us, all sporting concerned expressions.
“What, exactly, did you see?” Harry said, the tone of his voice calm, but not quite hiding his worry.
Taking a steadying breath, I started. “I heard a splash coming from the water, one that didn’t sound like a wave. I looked over, and saw a tail that looked like a seal. It went back underwater, and then resurfaced, only it wasn’t just the tail. It was more than that… it was kind of like a mermaid, only it wasn’t half fish, it was half seal. I mean, it just wasn’t natural! I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was, and it just didn’t make any sense! I mean…”
“So, it was one of those mutant things from the boat?” Exclaimed Richard, cutting off my rambling. Swallowing hard, I nodded.
“Ok, half sea creature,” I heard Harry mumbled under his breath. “I think that they were called ‘nort’,” He said out loud to the group, his eyebrows creeping closer together due to the search for the memory.
I stood up, not wanting to be the subject of their pity for much longer. “Let’s go. I’m pretty sure that it couldn’t get on land, and it would have a hard time hurting us from out there. I just wasn’t ready for it, and got rather freaked out.” I waited a few seconds for everyone to get to their feet, then took off at a steady pace.
“Um, Jennie?” Came Richard voice from behind me.
“Yes?” I tossed over my shoulder, not turning fully around or slowing my pace.
“Weren’t we going the other way?”
Realising he was right, I turned around and continued on, going the opposite direction, my face heating up.