“Aye, we’re saved!” the Captain whistled. He turned the boats towards the land and we continued rowing with the little energy we had left. As we reached the shore the waves dissipated and the rain had stopped. Captain Pickford threw down the anchor and I collapsed from exhaustion. This was one of the few rare moments where I would need to sleep.
I was greeted by birds chirping when I woke up the next morning. Sun was shining and the weather was much warmer than what I had felt on the open seas. I looked over to find Captain Pickford, Mark, and the other sailors already up and enjoying their bland hardtack and jerky. I got the impression this food wasn’t very enjoyable.
The island had serene white beaches that led into a lush green forest. Only the occasional driftwood tarnished the seemingly perfect paradise.
“How are you holding up?” Mark asked me.
“Tired. But I’m glad we were able to find some land. I can’t wait before we get back onto the sea though.”
“Oh about that. Malik is gone. Captain Pickford believes he went onto the island to find some better food,” Mark stated while scratching his now scruffy beard. It looked good on him. I wondered if anything could damper his charm. So far nothing seemed to.
“So should we wait for him?” I asked.
“We’d better go onto the island and look for him. There’s no telling what dangers could be lying within those forests, even if they’re beautiful.” Mark said.
“Aye lad. I agree with Mark. Sometimes the nicest looking places got the nastiest critters. It’s best we find him before he ends up a meal.”
Everyone except for Borris were able to fit inside the two rowboats Captain Pickford had. He opted to stay behind and watch the ship while we were out looking for our lost partner. There weren't any waves on this beach, so it was easy rowing until the bottom of the rowboat hit the sand beneath the water. The few times the boat rocked as I shifted my weight made me nervous. I couldn’t swim, unlike the sailors I traveled with.
It wasn’t long before the soft sand beneath my feet was replaced by the dirt that covered the island’s forest. It wasn’t like the forest on the mainland. The trees were thin and spread out, allowing for easy movement. It would be hard for someone to sneak up on us since I could see far into the forest. The only signs of life were the birds that hopped from tree to tree.
Mark took the lead navigating the party after Captain Pickford became tired of walking. I was surprised when we stopped to let him catch his breath.
Soon we climbed to the top of the small upward slope of the forest and looked down into a small valley. It was a steep cliff. I could tell some of the crew was starting to get out of breath, specifically the captain. His heavy breathing became worse the farther inland we went.
“I can’t keep on going. I’m all out of breath and will just be holding you back. It’s been ages since I’ve had to move more than the length of a dock.” said the Captain while cracking his back. He slumped over onto a log on the ground.
“I’m ashamed that I haven’t kept up my health. I hope you can forgive me for slowing you lot down.” stated the exasperated captain.
“It’s ok. Everyone travels life at their own pace. All life struggles one way or another. Only the dead don’t struggle and there is nothing good that comes from the dead.” Mark responded solemnly.
It was the first time I’d seen his lips curl into a frown. Lost was the cheery demeanor that I’d always seen on his face. I didn’t think it was possible for the man to frown, but at that moment I’d been proven wrong.
We left the Captain who assured us he’d be fine. So far I haven't seen anything in the forest so I wasn’t worried. It would be good to have someone other than Borris to watch the ship. The boy was always optimistic but I quickly learned he wasn’t the most capable sailor.
The further we moved inland the more uneasy I became. The vibrant flora was still there, but scattered among the healthy trees there were a few that were wilting away. It didn’t make sense, we have seen plenty of streams of water on our hike and the sun had been shining. The environment was plentiful. Disease. It must’ve been a disease.
Mark was the first to notice a pile of bones, buried halfway in soft mud. Then another was found and soon we’d seen almost a dozen of these piles of unidentifiable bones. Whatever creature had caused this destruction, it was brutal in how it went about its hunting. It was sad to think that most of the life on this island was now gone. Only the songbirds remained.
The first signs of life we’d seen weren’t any animals but an ancient looking sundial. It was made of ebony and had writing on it that matched no language I had ever seen. It sat on top of a small hill, away from any trees or rocks. It was distinctly out of place, which was unsettling. I could tell from looking around I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.
Eyes looked the most uncomfortable. His body was rigid and a scared look crossed his face. He made sure to keep as much distance as he could from the strange object, while still staying with the group.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, looking Eyes in the eyes.
“It’s been ages, but I’ve seen the writing before. We should stay away. Nothing good will come from messing with that.”
“And why’s that?” Mark responded.