In a fantasy land that needn’t a name, there is a small town inhabited by small, unimportant people, and some big, unimportant people.
Well, actually that’s wrong. Everyone in that town was extremely important, but what I mean is they were not going to go down in history books or become world leaders. The biggest impact they will make on the universe will be on each other (although actually that impact is huge!), and that is considered unimportant because it will never reach the other end of their fantasy land. (Although it could because the people they touch could travel or become world leaders themselves or touch world leaders.)
In this small fantasy town I have not named (and do not plan to) there lived once five children running from the ages 13 through to 17; just about children.
There were not only these five children in the town at the time, obviously, and they are no more important than their peers, nor less so. They just happen to be the ones I have decided to write about because they just happen to get involved in a story I took an interest in.
I am hoping you will take an interest in this story as well, but of course if it is not your thing feel free to put it down and pick up a book about dragons or wars in our world or whatever takes your fancy – perhaps star crossed lovers with cancer or quiet boys growing up in 90s America who feel infinite.
Or perhaps you could write about those other children in this nameless fantasy town, as they grow up and fall in love or invent a new thing that changes life a little bit, stories just as important as this one. Maybe more so.
I don’t know, I’m not telling those ones.
Our story begins four or five paragraphs into my book and in the middle of a sea in a not-terribly-small-but-not-that-big rowing boat.
They were on an adventure. Of course they were. They were in the middle of the sea in a book that you picked up that hopefully looked adventurous. Maybe you even read so in the blurb, I don’t know; I haven’t written that bit yet.
I don’t suppose their adventure seemed that important; they weren’t on a quest to find hidden treasure or some magic flower that will save a little girl back in town from a terrible disease.
They weren’t even after fame and great reputation – although I bet they expected their story would be quite one to tell.
The honest reason they were on this adventure: they were bored.
Awfully bored! Their town was, as I have said, small, and so there was very little to do there. And they were those horrible things, what do we call them? Dreadful, self-serving, foolish...
Oh yes, teenagers.
They were teenagers and teenagers get bored before anyone else.
They had heard of this rather strange island about a mile off the coast of the land their town resided on from, well, I can’t really remember where; it was a bit of a legend in their town, it being small and a little dull and not much to talk about.
Then again I would certainly talk about this island; it was long and thin, or maybe it was rather normal shaped, nobody was entirely sure because it was always immersed in these dark and swirling clouds. And people rarely visited it anyway.
Everyone was pretty sure, however, that it had a mountain range on it, for two parts of the island were clear of the fog – besides the bottoms of the cliffs around it and the jagged rock surrounding.
One visible part was a small meadow, about big enough for five people to stand comfortably within, that sloped upwards and began getting a little rocky before being swallowed by the fog.
The second visible part was a mountain top, a high one, at the adjacent end of the island with a small cairn piled on the top.
Well, I supposed it was that, I couldn’t really see it properly; it was probably higher than some of the tallest mountains in America, certainly much steeper though.
I guess you can see why these five were interested in the island, or maybe you don’t give a toss about it and you’re going to go eat a sandwich in which case I could say whatever I wished because you’re not reading anymore, are you? May I mention that I don’t like that shirt you have on?
As they rowed, the five sang songs they had on old cassettes – things they had recorded from radio broadcasts from cities they’d never get to visit far away.
“Ooh ooh ooh, I know what to sing next!” The sixteen year old labelled Max babbled, taking a deep breath to begin singing but not beginning to, a glint in hir eyes and a smirk on hir mouth, looking around the group as ze balanced hir behind precariously on the edge of the boat.
I’m going to pause the story there, I’m afraid, because I want to check my reader knows something about Max. I guess I should not have cut into their conversation with this character but ze is the loudest of them all.
Some of you informed individuals will have recognised this pronoun ‘hir/ze’ and know exactly what I am explaining about Max, but some of you have not yet been informed.
That’s ok because now I’m not wasting your time.
Max is neither male nor female – this does not mean biologically; ze has an assigned gender but doesn’t care about it or let it define hir. Ze is not better than hir peers for this; ze is just more comfortable without a gender, like how some people prefer to not have butter in their sandwiches.
So, for the benefit of people like Max, someone made up this pronoun – which you will get used to, I assure you – and I am using it now.
Well done, you now know more about gender identity vocabulary.
Anyway, I was telling a story before I rudely interrupted myself.
The eldest of the five, a seventeen year old by the name of Leslie, who assisted her Brother Christopher in rowing smiled and rolled her eyes before setting them on Max, “The song you want to sing is rude isn’t it?” Max nodded, hir dreadlocks bobbing as hir did so and sloshing in the water. “Welp, thanks for not startin’” Leslie grunted as she dragged her oar through the waves.
Max saluted, “Nei problem, cap’n.” Hir laughed, grinning a lopsided grin and looking to Christopher, who mopped his brow quickly as he rowed.
“How much longer till we get there?” he asked his sister in a worn out voice.
“Welp,” Leslie stretched her neck to get a good look at the map balanced on her knees, “I think we’re, um... damnit I can’t even see the map – oh.”
Leslie’s irritation was cut off as the youngest in the group took the map and held it up in front of her, peering at her over his thick glasses.
She smiled at him and nodded her head gratefully, “Thank you, Arthur. Now let’s see, we’ve been rowing for about half an hour away from the sun at probably an average of five knots, so it should be – turn, turn, turn! To the right! To the right!” she ordered, fumbling with her paddle then paddling quickly backwards; the island was next to them on the right about 200 metres away.
That’s a certain amount of yards far enough that details are blurred out and things seem smaller, although the island still loomed ahead huge and dark, the cloud swirling just like in the legend, dark grey waves crashing against the cliff bottoms, which were almost smooth enough to reflect this action.
There was a certain amount of bustling and heaving of oars before they were set on the right course, at which point things calmed down enough for excited chatter about their upcoming adventure.
A character you have yet to meet, a 15 year old girl by the name of Amelia, perched at the head of the boat, staring in nervous awe at the island, “Ooh, I hope there’s lots of greenery; greenery always makes everything better somehow.” She muttered.
Christopher smiled up at her, squinting in the light, “Little flower girl, shrubs and bushes keep her happy.”
Amelia’s head whipped around to stick out a little pink tongue at him, her hair swishing as she did; the flowers weaved into it not budging an inch.
They didn’t even budge when, with a squeal, the small girl was thrown forward into dewy grass. She scrunched up her face as she lifted it, dripping, from the ground.
Although a smile graced her oval face as she saw the expanse of dark jade meadow dotted with feint pinks and cornflower blues and the brightest of canary yellows.
“Quick, someone haul the boat up!” Leslie ordered, shoving her oar into place and nudging her brother before scrabbling to help.
Max leapt out seemingly effortlessly and grabbed hold of the boat, lugging it up and tossing the passengers back inside.
With the help of Amelia, the pair managed to haul the boat to shore, at which point Max dusted hir hands together and winked at a huffing Leslie, holding out hir hand for a low five from Amelia.
Leslie stood at the end of the boat and cleared her throat, Max and Amelia stepping aside for her to climb ashore, “Thanks for that, you two.” She stepped up to the edge of the fog, throwing back over her shoulder, “But Max, please don’t spread around your big city customs. You’re just as much a small town bumpkin as the rest of us.”
Max sighed and rolled hir eyes, singing, “Somebody’s jealous.” Quietly to Amelia who giggled with slight unease.
Arthur glanced back at Christopher as he stepped out of the boat, which was empty bar him and Leslie’s tall lanky worrisome sibling, “Um mate you coming or what?”
I would say Christopher was white as a sheet, but in reality that would be inaccurate since his skin was naturally nut brown and thus, with the blood drainage that would cause a paler person to be ‘white as a sheet’ he was more a washed out grey like in a pot of water you’ve washed your brush in for a watercolour project.
He was also very still, his muscles tense, and his eyes quite wide, focused on the wall of fog and the distant cairn like shape just about visible from where he sat.
His knuckles, however, were white from gripping his paddle so hard. I’m surprised it didn’t break, he’s such a strong lad and he was gripping quite tight.
And, from my speculation, he was also very very scared.
Obviously, I am not Christopher, as I am narrating this story and he is not, and I am able to describe exactly how the grass weaved into the strongest of grass bracelets in Amelia’s hands, while this is something Christopher never saw.
But, I can imagine what he was seeing.
I picture a young boy, rather reclusive and – despite his four strong and loving friends – rather lonely.
He’d only just started out in this world full of opportunities; an apprenticeship as an engineer in the next town over, his for the taking perhaps. Or a family business about to fall into his responsibility as his elder sister searched for less sturdy ground.
I can’t say for sure what his future was, but I can say that it was looking bright.
Unlike this island, which was shrouded in layer after unforgiving layer of darkness – from the rumours to the missing sailors to the very sight of the thing.
And yet here he was – here they all here – about to throw themselves into what seems like a monstrous nightmare of no return.
Personally, I’d be thinking about how illogical it was to be here, walking to our death basically. Perhaps it was an adventure; was going to be fun; was going to be so worth it in the end, but why bother?
I’d do anything to back the hell out.