Searching for Paradise
All the sails were set and trimmed. The crew had worked hard. Jake supervising the effort on the main, Roger on mizzen and Keith had labored on both the topsails and
the jibs. Except for the chef the captain had called for all hands on deck! She wanted to give them some last minute instructions. The breeze was fresh from the southwest and they were flying! But Jake noticed that there were two members of the crew that had not made it up on deck.
“Alright everyone,” the Captain called, “I know you’ve all been working hard and are tired but we must continue our search, if you need to rest take shifts with others. There will be something out here, I know it.”
“As if, we’ve been at this for months,” Roger muttered, his dark eyes glaring at the Captain.
The rest of the crew dispersed and went back to their jobs. All eyes scanned the horizon for viable land that hadn’t been destroyed by the fires or floods of 2035. The sun beat down on the tops of their heads and the salty air stung their lungs. As the crew worked Jake quickly slipped below deck to find Lucy and Eliza. As he ran through the
halls and past the engine room he thought, What’s wrong with them? We have to work to stay on the ship. The Captain will kick them off if she thinks they’re dead weight.
“Lucy? Eliza?” He called.
“In here, be quiet,” whispered Eliza from the door to his left. He walked into the room and gasped. Lucy was so pale she was almost the color of the sheets and her thin hair
was drenched in sweat.
“What happened?” Jake exclaimed.
“She got sick again last night, I stayed with her,” Eliza replied. She pulled him to the side and whispered, “I don’t know if she’s gonna be able to pull through this Jake, there’s not enough food or medicine to help her if she stays like this for much longer.”
“No, no, it’s fine, she’ll be okay, it’s okay,” Jake repeated “she’s not leaving me, she’ll be okay.”
“Jake…” Eliza sighed.
“No, no Eliza, that’s our daughter, and she has to be okay. I’m going to get some more food and make sure the Captain doesn’t notice that you’re gone.” He left the room and went back upstairs.
The crew was tirelessly working to keep the ship moving. Jake glanced around at who was left and sighed, they wouldn’t make it like this much longer. The Captain left people behind who didn’t pull their weight, or who couldn’t see the bigger picture anymore. Jake watched as Roger walked across the deck and into the mess. That’s strange, Jake thought, Roger just left without anyone relieving him. But he disregarded his suspicions and walked over to the Captain.
“Morning Jake,” she replied.
“Have you seen anything hopeful yet today?”
“No, we passed a chunk of land a while back but the soil and environment was destroyed by the fires.”
“That’s okay, I can feel we’re getting close. There has to be something out here,” Jake said.
“That’s what I’ve been saying for two years,” the Captain said as she walked away.
Jake walked over to the mess and entered the large gray room. Light peeked in from the small slits in the walls they passed off as windows. He saw Roger sitting sullenly in a corner and passed by the metal tables that they ate at twice a day. Jake grabbed his small portion of breakfast and discretely snagged an extra apple and a piece of bread
“Good morning Roger,” Jake said as he passed by him on his way out. He got an angry stare in response. Jake continued on and went back down to the room that Lucy was in. He laid out all of the food he had collected.
“Here you go honey,” Jake said as he passed her a piece of bread. She feebly lifted up her hand and took the piece but couldn’t bring it to her mouth.
“Jake, I really don’t think this is going to get any better,” Eliza said softly.
“STOP saying that!” Jake yelled. Eliza shrank back from his outburst. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Jake breathed.
“Jake? Hello?” Keith called from the hallway, “Jake?” He opened the door to a room to his left and found Jake standing surrounded by his food on the floor. Keith’s red hair almost glowing in the dark room, he asked, “Jake? What on earth are you doing? Never mind, I don’t know what this is, and I don’t want to know. We need your help on the main.”
We were lucky, thought Jake, He didn’t see how sick Lucy was. Jake hurried to catch up to Keith but as he glanced back into the room, he couldn’t see Lucy anymore.
“What happened?” Jake asked as Keith moved quickly up the stairs. Keith just grunted in response and walked faster. As they approached the front of the boat Jake saw
Roger leaning against the rail and staring at him, his gaze never breaking as they moved across the deck. The Captain was at the front of the boat with a few crew members at her side. As the ship moved swiftly through the murky waters the Captain scanned the area around them, looking for any piece of land that had potential.
“Jake,” the Captain said as she turned around and focused her attention on him, “some crew members have concerns-”
“Concerns? Concerns about what? I haven’t done anything. Roger was looking awfully suspicious today,” Jake sputtered out.
“We’re not talking about Roger, we’re talking about you, Jake,” the Captain responded, “It seems like you have been taking extra food and not doing all the work you should be doing.”
“I need to go check on something, I can’t be here right now,” Jake said as he began to run back to the stairs. He passed Roger again and yelled, “This is all your fault!” He ran past the empty rooms and the engine room and finally to the room Eliza and Lucy were in. Eliza was the only one there.
“Where is she? What happened?” Jake asked, panicked.
“She’s gone,” Eliza replied sadly.
“What? What do you mean she’s gone?”
“She died, Jake,” Eliza said gently, “Our daughter died and so did I.”
“What, no, you’re right here, are you feeling okay?” Jake asked confused.
“After the temperatures rose and the floods and fires started we got sick, remember?”
Suddenly the Captain, Keith, and Roger appeared at the door. Jake turned to them and yelled, “Get out of here! You can’t be here!” He turned back to Eliza but all he saw
was a room littered with food and garbage. The light walls turned black and a rotting smell filled Jake’s nose. “What? What? No.” Jake cried, “They were right here, they were right here, they were okay and they were right here.”
“We know, Jake,” the Captain said, “but now it’s time for you to go.”
“Go? Go where?” Jake exclaimed.
“We’re coming up on some land.”
“Is it viable? That’s great!”
“No Jake, it’s not viable,” the Captain said sternly, “your body has reached its limits being out at sea for this long, like Joey and Rose and Julia and all the others before you. We don’t have time to take care of you, so you have to go.” She pushed him out of the room and Keith and Roger flanked him on each side. They trudged up the stairs and
emerged on the top deck. The whole crew was staring with sad and tired eyes, they were losing another member of their team.
“I really didn’t want this to happen, Jake,” Keith said regretfully, “I’m sorry.” Jake nodded in acknowledgment. The boat pulled up to a dry and harsh patch of land. Jake stared at what he was supposed to survive on. There was no grass, the ground was hard and dark, the land was barely as big as the boat’s deck and was floating aimlessly.
Suddenly, Roger pushed him onto it and Jake took stumbling steps forward.
“Why do you hate me?” Jake asked him.
“I don’t, we need to survive,” Roger said grimly. Jake nodded again, realizing he would have done the same thing. He sat down on his piece of land and watched the boat move slowly away. The Captain moved back to the front of the deck and the crew went back to work. Keith remained, looking out at where Jake was left behind, his red hair standing out against the dark sky. As the boat became only a spot in the distance Jake sighed, and rested his eyes. It will only be a short time now, I’ll get to see Eliza and Lucy again.
Ed. note: The Block Island Yacht Club created the Short Story contest several years ago as an opportunity for seniors and juniors attending the Block Island School to write
creatively about the island. The format is that the opening paragraph, created by the BIYC, must be used for all entries, but then the writer can let their imagination run free. The contestants are given a time frame to submit their stories, which must be fiction. We have a panel of three judges who are anonymous to each other and to the students, as well. The judges are given the stories not knowing who wrote them and they rank them to determine the winner. This is the second best entry. Next week The Block Island Times will publish the winning story. Congratulations, Isabella!