Chapter Five: The Island

“I think I see a light,” said Joe.

The friends peered out across the dark ocean.

“Yeah, you’re right, Joe,” said Nathan.

The friends stood up. There was definitely a faint light on the horizon.

“That must mean there’s people,” said Nicole.

Jane turned to Zac, “Why don’t you jump over there and see what it is?”

Zac glanced at Christopher. They rolled their eyes.

***

The morning dawned clear.

“Who votes that we leave the pilot’s suitcase unopened, and return it to his family when we’re rescued?” asked Dave.

“Excellent idea,” said Luke. “It will give a kind of ambiguous purpose to the whole ordeal.”

“Maybe we should paint some weird looking wing things on it,” suggested Matthew.

Philip ripped open the suitcase.

There wasn’t much inside.

“We should look in Joshua’s suitcase for gear,” said Dale.

“I wouldn’t exactly call it a suitcase,” commented Becky.

She had a good point. Joshua’s Dad had put together his ‘suitcase’ for him. The main part was an old washing basket he’d got from the dump. A couple of rusty hinges – which Zac had found down the back of an old farm track years ago – held the lid on. The lid was about a dozen aged wheelbarrow handles tied together with unravelled pot mitts.

“In fact,” she added, “I’d rather not touch it.”

“We need to decide on teams for the exploration parties,” said Joseph.

“Can Joey and me pick the teams?” asked Nathan enthusiastically.

“We’ll go in three parties,” said Luke. “One group can explore the low inland area, I’ll take a group up to the top of that peak, and the main group can explore around the shore.”

“Look for any traces of how Joshua went missing,” said Adam.

“Or was captured,” said Nathan.

“And look for the Pilot,” said Nicole.

“And cans of coke,” wheezed Dave.

“Maybe I should crawl around as a sniper,” suggested Matt.

In the end, Luke took Dale, Philip and Adam. Christopher and Zac led the shore party. The guys had suggested that the girls all stick with the shore party. So they did.

Except for Becky, who insisted she was needed inland. She went with Matt, Aaron, Joseph and Nathan into the swampy lowlands.

Dave volunteered to stay and guard the luggage.

***

Zac and Christopher had led their group rather uneventfully along the shore. They reckoned they were about halfway round the island. The group was enjoying it, kicking along in the shallows of the sandy beach.

Janelle had fallen behind. She’d stopped with her precious Nikon to take a few photos of the beautiful scenery. As she looked around she saw some exotic butterflies in the jungle undergrowth. She moved off the beach to get a few shots.

The voices of the group died out of hearing as they continued down the beach. It’s okay, she thought to herself, I’ll easily catch them up, they’re only walking along the beach.

***

The swamp party had stopped a short way from the beach to gear up.

The guys were busy making elaborate weapons. They’d covered themselves with mud and leaves as camo.

Matthew had gone all the way, rolling in the mud and splattering mango pulp over his body. He’d pulled out a baby palm tree and tied it to his backpack. Now he was quickly weaving a cloak from fallen branches and vines. Out the corner of his eye he’d spotted a bit of the tale section from the wrecked plane. If I can just shape that steel into a rapier, he thought, I’ll be able to sneak through the undergrowth and attack anything.

Nathan had made a nasty looking club with jagged shells and stones sticking out of it.

Joseph had collected a pile of ammo for his slingshot. Aaron had mixed up an explosive cocktail which he’d poured into a few coconut shells, ready to ignite.

Becky was sneezing. . . when she wasn’t rubbing her swollen leg bites.

They were ready for anything.

***

Luke and his guys had scaled the top of the steep little mount. It stood about 200 metres high, he guessed. The summit was slightly toward the northern end of the island, and close to the western shore – opposite the shore where their base camp was.

The view was fantastic. The blue Pacific Ocean sparkled in every direction.

“Look at that,” said Philip pointing.

“Wow,” said Adam.

“I wonder if any of those are inhabited,” said Dale.

Luke pointed, “That was probably the one where we saw the light last night.”

There were a number of islands scattered around, stretching off to the horizon. They were all a long way off.

They turned around and looked out to the west.

“That’s a boat!” exclaimed Dale.

It certainly was.

“And look,” said Phil, “how far away do you think those rocks are?”

“I’d say only about three kilometres, or so,” said Luke.

“Come on man!” laughed Phil. “Those don’t mean anything to me. Kilometres!”

“About two miles,” said Dale.

Adam patiently explained to Philip, “Miles are bigger than kilometres, because they are American.”

The rickety looking boat was a short distance from the large rock outcrop.

“Should we try and signal to them?” asked Adam.

“I dunno,” said Dale. “They look like they might not be so friendly.”

“We’ll talk to the others, and see what they found. Then we can decide what to do,” said Luke.

There were several dots on the distant ocean. They could have been boats or clouds or birds. It was difficult to tell.

***

Later on, the shore party realised Janelle was not with them.

“Anyone know how long she’s been gone?” asked Christopher.

“Not really,” said Sarah, “she’s just not here anymore.”

“Let’s turn back and look for her,” said Zac.

“Luke won’t be pleased if we’ve lost another person,” said Nicole.

***

Janelle had got herself stuck in a dense patch of bush. She thought about yelling for help, but if I got here I can get back out. I may just end up with a few bruises and things to show off.

She struggled through the vines and broke free. She could just see the glistening ocean through the trees.

A man stood up from the undergrowth. Ice rushed through Janelle’s veins.

“Don’t move and don’t yell,” he said gruffly but quietly.

She turned screaming and ran. He chased after her rapidly. The leaves flashed past her face. It was difficult to even walk in the undergrowth, but now she was bowling through it. She tumbled on the ground. Frantically she scrambled back up, desperately trying to get away from the man behind her. She tripped again, tried to stand up and was grabbed by another villain who had abruptly loomed up in front of her.

***

Coming down the mount, the guys got a manly amount of scratches and cuts. Luke had said they should come down a different route, so that they explored more territory.

They stumbled onto a cave entrance. The guys dashed into it, each one eager to be the first into the darkness.

“Someone’s been living here,” said Philip.

“Someone small,” said Dale.

“And girly,” said Luke.

They explored around for some time. Dale found a sat phone in a pile of junk.

“I’m going to call Dad,” he said.

They went out into the sunlight. Dale dialled the number.

“Hey Dad, we’re alive.”

“Don’t start telling me about the perfect point breaks you’re enjoying,” joked his Dad. “It’s good to hear from you, why didn’t you call yesterday?”

“Ah, Dad, our plane crash landed on a tiny island.”

“Oh, my!” exclaimed Mike.

“Everyone got through it okay, Praise the Lord,” said Dale.

“Yes.”

“I’ll try and give you some details about where we are, for rescue. . .”

There was a blur of motion. Something flew through the air and tore the phone from Dale’s fingers. The phone clattered, broken on the rocks.

A little girl landed on her feet, and turned to face them. She had dark blonde locks and pretty hazel eyes.

“What are you doing with my things?” she asked cheekily.

“Who are you?” asked Luke.

“I am Scrat, Queen of this Island,” she said boldly.

“Come on, what’s your real name?” asked Dale.

“Lydia Griffuth,” she said. “I washed up here three months ago.”

The guys introduced themselves, and briefly explained what had happened.

Lydia grinned at them coyly. “So you need my help,” she said.

“Yeah,” said Luke decidedly, “we do.”

Lydia’s little face turned serious. “You must beware of the Chief,” she warned.

“Who is the Chief?” asked Phil.

“All this sea is the Chief’s Waters,” said Lydia. “The Great Chief is ferocious and cruelly rules over all. Any strangers who are captured are turned into slaves. . . or killed instantly if the Chief is displeased.

“It’s not safe at all.”

To be continued in the next chapter of. . . And Then They Made Me Their Chief