Stranger (Namara)

         I am sweating buckets. There are footprints on the shore near the bog houses. They

can't be mine, I don't wear shoes, especially not shoes that big. It has to be a man, a slave hunter. I have to capture him before he makes it to the palace, it doesn't matter if he doesn't see me, if he sees the palace he'll contact others. When others come, then I'll be found, then sold, then abused. I might be paranoid, I mean, the only thing I talk to is an over-attached bird. Either way, I have to catch this person.

         I run through the jungle, dodge a snake dangling casually from a tree, over a tree root, following the trail, this person is clumsy, the footprints often drag then there's handprints, also large, as if he fell. Then I see him. He's tall, fit, but not quite muscular, like the boat keepers, he has dark hair, but that's all normal, there's something different. He turns suddenly, I had stepped on a branch, but I'm way out of sight. He's so young. He's probably my age, he must not be a slave hunter then. I have to set a trap.

          I sprint up the mountain, he's taking a trail I often take when hunting. I grab vines on my way, never stopping to a walk. I set a simple slip knot and tie it to a branch above my burn hole, I don't plan to burn him alive, no! That's horrible! The hole is 8 feet deep, it's not hot anymore, I haven't used it in a while. It was my first shelter, before I found the palace, I was always too scared to see what I might find in the bog houses. It has a hole in the wall, a ladder, it was pretty good, it blocked the wind, but I never knew what was at the lip of the hole. I cover it with a large leave, then put some random sticks and leaves on top, it looks perfectly natural.

        I hear footsteps and quickly climb a tree I lower the slip knot, bait. He'll be curious about what it is. "You can't fool me! I know you're there! I've heard you!" I feel my face pale, he knows I'm here, I have to make this work! "Wonderful trap here, but I'm not going anywhere near that." Wait, he seems nervous. He's scared, he doesn't know who or what I am, I have an advantage. He walks forward, he steps on the leave and it falls, revealing the hole, he stumbles, but doesn't fall in the hole, only barley a fail, but this prey can't get away, do or die time. 

        I jump out of the tree in front of him then push him, he takes half a step back, but isn't inside the hole. I jump onto the branch above me, he turns to see an empty space, I grab onto the branch then swing into him feet first, like one of those old circus people we learned about in school. He finally falls into the hole, screaming on the way down. I hear a thud and a grunt, then a shuffling, he's crawling into my old shelter. "Are you okay?" I ask slowly, I haven't talked too much, besides to, as I've said, to a bird, who has just landed on my shoulder.

        "You're only a girl?" I don't like him already.

        "No, I'm a girl who's trapped you in a hole. A girl who has the potential to kill you on a drop of a hat. Who are you?" There's a silence. "It could be worse, you could be in the hole with a flinger."

           "A what?" Oh yeah, he hasn't lived on the island near as long as I have.

           "A large flesh eating bug. Now who are you, why are you here, and more importantly, how did you find my island?" Silence. That's it, I let him live and he has the nerve to stay silent! I jump into the hole after adding a vine to the slip knot. I walk over to the shelter and grab his shirt, dragging him out. "Who are you?" I shout. He answers with a punch to the stomach, I bend in pain, but quickly recover. I punch him in the jaw, he steps back.

          "Do you now know who you're dealing with? I still have the power to kill you! Answer my question and do what I say and you can live! He's still shaky and tries to punch me back, last minute survival skills, I've seen the same look in the eyes of animals. I catch his wrist and bend it back, he cries out, and I let go. He tries to run to the shelter, I simply trip him.

         "I won't hurt you unless you attempt to hurt me." I say more gently.

         "My name is Captain Charles. I am an explorer. My crew is on the shore, all I have to do is make the sound and they'll save me. Don't even think about.."

         "Did you not hear? I won't hurt you if you don't hurt me. Threats won't exactly help you if I knock you out you won't be able to make the signal!" He quickly cups his hands over his mouth and makes an animal noise. I hear shouts and footsteps from not so far away. I look up quickly to see his face, he only smirks. I climb the vine and run into the  woods, to my palace. I sprint hard, too hard, I trip over something, I get up quickly and try to run, but I trip again, I’m caught in one of my own snares! I see a big muscular man stomping toward me. I get loose and run again but he has already got a hold on my ankle. A fist from someone else crashes on my temple, the last thing I see is Charles looking down at me.

r

I wake up and see dark brown boards for a ceiling rather than the tops of trees or beautiful faded turquoise tiles like in the palace. The room is rocking back and forth like on the slave boat. I have to get out, Charles might sell me to Afrite. I get up and try to walk, I run into something, a wall? I bang on it, but it doesn’t make a noise like glass would, it doesn’t feel like glass either, it feels like cinder block, with grooves and everything. I can still hear the crew on the deck above, there must be a hole or something, how else would I get in here? I look on the other side for clues on how I was put in here. There’s a ladder. 

I jump as high as I can, but I’m short of the ceiling by an inch, if there’s an opening at the top I’ll be able to reach it. I start on the left side and start jumping, around the middle of the room I can put my hand through. I jump again and throw my leg over the side, I’m out. I carefully walk up the stairs and crack the door. No one’s on the deck that I can see, we’re still on the near the island but the r

I wake up and see dark brown boards for a ceiling rather than the tops of trees or beautiful faded turquoise tiles like in the palace. The room is rocking back and forth like on the slave boat. I have to get out, Charles might sell me to Afrite. I get up and try to walk, I run into something, a wall? I bang on it, but it doesn’t make a noise like glass would, it doesn’t feel like glass either, it feels like cinder block, with grooves and everything. I can still hear the crew on the deck above, there must be a hole or something, how else would I get in here? I look on the other side for clues on how I was put in here. There’s a ladder. 

I jump as high as I can, but I’m short of the ceiling by an inch, if there’s an opening at the top I’ll be able to reach it. I start on the left side and start jumping, around the middle of the room I can put my hand through. I jump again and throw my leg over the side, I’m out. I carefully walk up the stairs and crack the door. No one’s on the deck that I can see, we’re still on the near the island but theI jump as high as I can, but I’m short of the ceiling by an inch, if there’s an opening at the top I’ll be able to reach it. I start on the left side and start jumping, around the middle of the room I can put my hand through. I jump again and throw my leg over the side, I’m out. I carefully walk up the stairs and crack the door. No one’s on the deck that I can see, we’re still on the near the island but the boats still about a mile from the shore. I run out and jump over the side. I dive into the cool water with a splash and swim for it. About half way to the shore I hear splashes, some of the crew members are rowing a small boat to the ship. I take a deep breath and dive deep into the blue water and wait for it to pass over. It passes over and I notice something, they have fishing poles, this is going to be too easy. 

I get another gasp of air and swim to one of the hooks, carefully I take it and swim to the other side, quietly I hook it to the other man’s life vest. I do the same to the other hook and yank on on of them. I swim to a safe distance and watch. the man is pulling so hard the other has to yank on his in order to keep balance. The first man stands up and the other falls of the boat, the first man following. They’re still tugging! It’s priceless! 

I start swimming toward shore again before they notice me.

r

Drenched I run to my palace, taking a path I don’t see footprints on. Five minutes of sprinting later I gasp at the sight of a small crowd going toward my palace. There’s more than one way to get into my palace though. I run to the east side of the mountain, to a large oak tree. I crawl through what looks like a fox’s home and land in an underground tunnel. I sprint down the endless tunnel, hoping and praying they don’t find the kitchen before I climb out. The kitchen is the middle of the palace, if I can make it there, I can navigate my way throughout the rest of the castle. I haven’t used the tunnels since last year, I know where the openings let out, I just need to distinguish which ones are which. Why didn’t I use theses paths more? 

I lift the plank of wood slightly, and look around, safe. I crawl out quickly and run to the main room, the stairs are there, and there’s so many places to hide I can spy on them without anyone realizing I’m there. I hop behind a large vase, and wait, Captain is leading his group down the stairs, he stumbles but someone catches him, he’s clumsy even without roots to trip over. The large main doors are pushed open, letting in the warm tropical air. The two men who were fishing are there, shivering. 

“What happened to you two?” Charles seems unfazed by the men’s drenched clothes. 

“The girl, she’s found the way through the block.” Charles seems too calm for someone who’s prisoner’s escaped. 

“I should have known there was something off, I feel like we’re being watched. Half of you check the castle, the rest of you search the treehouse things near the river.” I need to get back to my tunnel. I don’t know what he’s going to do to me, why is he here? Why am I so important? 

Maybe if I go to the ballroom, I can go unnoticed. I’m still deciding which tunnel opening to take when I feel a hand on my shoulder. “You should have stayed on the ship sweetheart.” Charles. I can’t be caught again. I can’t set foot on another boat! I can’t be a slave!

“And let myself be sold to slavery? I’d rather die fighting you on my own island!” I spit in his face. 

“Men, I think our captive needs to be held down while I explain things to her.” His two largest men come and hold me in sitting position while another gets a chair and rope.

“Very brave of you Charles, three men against one girl. The audacity, the risk!” The men tie me in the chair, I don’t resist, I only stare at him.

“I don’t thin you realize why I’m here.”

“I don’t think you realize, I was here first, I found this island, and I absolutely refuse to be sold,” he stares at me. 

“You’re a slave?” Really? didn’t I just say I’m not a slave? 

“No.” 

“Will you answer a few questions, slave?” If I wasn’t tied up, this guy would be unconscious and at the bottom of the ocean. “What is this place?”

“The Paradise I was promised dirtbag.” He laughs at me.

“How much do you think we could sell her for? She’s very pretty, but she’s got a temper.” He has me by the chin, studying me from different angles. Disgusting. I yank my head away from him.

“Take me to Afrite on your ship and see what happens. You’ll have a dead body to sell into slavery rather than a girl who’s about to kill any and everything in sight. How did you find Paradise?”

“Same as you, I stumbled upon it Namara.” I stare, I said nothing to him about my name. “I happen to know more about this island than you could ever imagine. I was here far before you, I just haven’t returned in a while.” he waits for a reply, I give him nothing, not even an emotion, I stay like a stone, emotionless. “It turns out I can’t leave without a special person’s consent. I used to be that person, but you see, the island chooses who it’s leader is. until now, I was the leader. Can you guess who it chose above me?”

“The guy with the fat lip looks promising, ask him if you can leave.” I get a jab in the stomach for that. “Good job, you must be really tough if you can hit a girl Charlie.” I wheeze.

The End

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