Read The Island Online

Authors: Jen Minkman

The Island

 

The Island

Jen Minkman

 

© 2013 Jen Minkman

 

Cover design by Humblenations (goonwrite.com)

 

This book is copyright. Apart from fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without the prior permission of the author. You are welcome to share this book with friends who might like to read it too, however.

The waves are calling,

beckoning me.

As my blood turns to water

I bleed into the sea.

 

And the current of hope

will carry me home

No woman is an island,

and I am not alone.

 

Prologue

 

WHEN
I
step out of my bedroom door, mother and father are waiting for me in the hallway.

The clothes I’m wearing feel uncomfortable. They’re grown-up clothes: rough-textured and of practical cut. Made to last for a long time.

“I go my own way,” I say softly. The words that every child utters at age ten – the words my brother will say after me today – don’t sound as if I’m sure of them. But I am, because I know this is right. I clear my throat and speak up. “I stand on my own two feet. No one takes care of me but me.”

Father
nods solemnly. Mother looks pale and is staring down at her hands. Why won’t she look at me? Is this her way of saying she wants nothing more to do with me? I haven’t even moved out yet. Dull disappointment grows in my stomach like a heavy brick.

The door next to
mine swings open, and Colin steps over the threshold. My twin brother. He’s wearing brown pants and a simple shirt. Slung across his shoulder is a bag containing a few possessions he doesn’t want to leave behind. Almost all of our things will be destroyed after our departure, our rooms cleared, so we won’t ever be tempted to return. Not that I would want to. I’m done here.

Colin
coughs. “I go my own way,” he says with a quiver in his voice. His eyes search our mother’s. “I stand on my own two feet.” A tear rolls down his cheek. He’s having a hard time with this. Oh well – he’s the youngest, after all. There’s a half hour between us.

“No one takes care of you but you,”
father finishes the speech, when Colin can’t go on.

When I pass my mother, she suddenly puts a hand on my shoulder. “Leia,” she says, pulling a simple bead necklace from her dress pocket.
It has a painted and glazed walnut for a pendant. “For you.”

My heart skips a beat. That’s the necklace my
mother got from
her
mother when she moved out. And now she’s giving it to me.

“Thanks,” I
whisper. Just for a moment, I imagine her giving me so much more than this. I feel this can’t be the end, but just then my father pushes open the front door for us. I walk out after my brother, into the early daylight, away from my mother.

Colin
is waiting for me and grabs my hand. “You coming?” he mumbles.

We walk down the path without lookin
g back. We’re going to the manor, where we will live until we get married and have children ourselves.

The front door slams shut. A new life has begun.

 

-1-

 


HOW MANY
freaking
times do I have to tell you
not
to get damp wood?” Ben throws down the branches I hand over to him with a scowl on his face. “You can’t start a fire with that!”

“I’m sorry,” I mumble.

“You’re sorry?” Bens face turns red under his curly, brown hair. “What good will that do me? You have to make yourself useful in the wilderness, if nothing else.”

“Shut up,
Ben,” Colin snaps. He’s busy next to me skinning a rabbit. “Like you never make mistakes.”

Ben
smiles a superior smile. “Oh, really? Well, as far as I know I’ve kept us all alive so far. Who shot that rabbit? And who caught the two pheasants we ate yesterday?”

Colin
raises a quizzical eyebrow. “And who got smacked in the face last night because he snuck into a sleeping tent he wasn’t supposed to be in?”

I bite my lip to stop myself from giggling nervously.
Ben is a survivor, no doubt about it, but social skills aren’t exactly his strong suit. Last night, Mara made it perfectly clear she’s not interested in him. It was a good thing Colin heard her screaming – I’m not sure the blow to his nose would have been enough to get the message across otherwise.

“What are
you
laughing about?” Ben snarls, catching my almost-smile. “You think it’s funny?”

No, I don’t. Nothing to laugh about
when you’re living in a world where the strong always win and have more rights than the rest of us.

Ben
is Saul’s younger brother, and Saul is in power in the manor. He organizes fighting games between the strongest boys and the weaker members of our group to keep them perpetually afraid. You never know when your number is up. Only a few weeks ago Colin was beaten up by Max, a giant of a guy nicknamed The Bear.

Saul
also decides who has to take hikes into the wild in order to learn survival skills – and if you’re not in his good books, you’re sent out every other week – and who gets to live in the manor house. He decides when to read The Book, and picks the chapters to be read during our assemblies.

“I think you should leave
Mara alone,” I reply feebly. “She’s already told you a few times she doesn’t want to get married to you.”

Ben
grins maliciously. “Who said anything about marriage?”

Completely shocked, I hold my breath. Everybody knows where babies come from. If you do…
that
… without taking responsibility of the child and raising it until its tenth birthday, you’re pretty much a criminal. In the rare event that it does occur, the boy is obliged to marry the girl.

Something tells me that
Saul won’t oblige his younger brother to anything.

I turn around in disgust. The flints I was using to start the fire fall out of my hands and drop to the ground. I run down the forest path, through the trees, across the grassy fields, as far away from
Ben as possible. I won’t let him see my tears.

I keep running until I get to the beach.

The sand tickles my toes. I walk toward the sea.  The surf bubbles and foams over my bare feet. Seagulls shriek above my head. The endless surface of the water extends to the horizon, whichever way I look.

Our world is small. If I turned aro
und now and walked north, I’d be able to cross our land within a day. It would take me to another beach, and I’d be faced with another stretch of endless sea. Nothing but sea. We’re on our own, and we only have the Force deep within us to depend on. It comes from the inside, not from the outside.

If I were to walk westward from here, I would come across a barrier – the Wall. Behind it, there are Fools. According to our forefathers, we are not supposed to cross it.

It’s not difficult to cross the Wall, but nobody wants to. The Fools don’t believe in their own Force. Instead, they believe in something outside of this world that will save them and come to their rescue. No one wants to mingle with idiots like that.

And they keep to themselves
too. They leave us alone. To be honest, I wouldn’t even have believed there
are
Fools, if not for the fact that I saw one of their ships once. It was far away in the distance, so far away from the island that it frightened me. Everyone knows there is nothing beyond the horizon. Ships that sail out never return.

And yet, it stirs something
deep inside of me to see how brave they are. Our world may be safe, but it does make me feel trapped sometimes. Especially with a horrible leader like Saul controlling it. I know I should get married as soon as possible and get away from the manor and move back to Newexter, where the parents live, but I don’t like anybody enough to get married to.

Sighing, I spread my arms like wings and walk into the sea. When the water reaches my waist, I lower them and touch the water with my fingertips. The cold gives me goosebumps all over my body, but standing in the sea and touching the surf like this makes me co
nnect with the Force. It’s as though I’m closer than ever to the source that feeds the entire universe. It feels like I can take on everything – the hikes through the wilderness Colin and I have to endure because Saul claims we aren’t ‘embracing the Force’ enough yet, the fear of never finding anyone to share my life with. My fear of being disappointed.

When I turned ten, I
became a grown-up. Colin and I joined the rest of the youngsters in the manor house after our birthday. We had our own room, but we didn’t stay in it a lot. Much more often, we were outside, making bows and arrows for the hunt. We were taught how to make fishnets. We learned how to make fire – although I never quite got the hang of that. And some time later, Saul claimed most of the rooms in the house as his own, but we no longer cared about sleeping indoors. We had our own tents and huts.

We learned how to take care of ourselves.

I startle when I see dark clouds gathering on the horizon. Thunder clouds are a bad omen. The stories of our ancestors tell us about rain burning the skin and causing sickness in their people. It has never happened in my lifetime, but we are still afraid of it.

It’s time to find shelter.

 

-2-

 

WHEN I
return at our camp after the downpour passing over the island, only Mara is still there waiting for me, a bag of camping gear at her feet.

“Oh, good, there you are,” she exclaims in relief. “What happened to you?” Her hand reaches for my jet-black hair, all matted with sea salt and tangled up because of the wind.

I shrug. “Nothing much. I ran until I hit the beach. Stayed there for a while to unwind. I really had to get away from Ben.”


Yes, who doesn’t?” Mara sighs. “He should be called to order, but who’s going to do it?”

“You,” I tease her. “I bet his nose still hurts.”

Mara stares hard at her feet. “Yes, about that – I’m not looking forward to getting back to the house. Saul will probably give me the shittiest job imaginable for giving his brother a left hook. I bet I’ll be scrubbing filthy bed sheets in the laundry house for the next three weeks.”

Together, we pack my tent and hit the road home,
Mara walking silently beside me. “I really have to get out of here,” she breaks the silence after a while. “For all I know, Saul will marry me off to his brother, just to stop him from always harping on about me.”

“An arranged marriage?” I gape at her. “Come on, that
never happens anymore! We have freedom of choice.”


Yes, in case you hadn’t noticed: Saul’s not freedom’s biggest fan. That guy is nuts. You think he comes from a line of Fools?”

I chuckle. “
Did you cross the Wall and fall off?
Nobody
here is descended from Fools.”

Mara
averts her eyes. “Aren’t you ever curious, Leia? About the people on the other side of the Wall?”

“No, of course not,” I deflect quickly. “We know how it is with those people.”

“Why? Because
Saul
says so?”

“No, because the parents taught us that way. And they were taught by theirs. Besides, it’s also written in The Book.”

“Yes, the part
we’re
allowed to read,” Mara mutters.

I come to a stop in the middle of the trail and stare at my best friend. “
Mara, what are you talking about? Who told you these things?”


Andy did,” Mara admits. “He says…”

“He says what?” I press on, when
Mara bites her lip and stares at the ground. My best friend starts to blush under my inquiring gaze.

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