Day One: 1,264 words.
The winds were violent as were the ocean waves that crashed into the beach and dragged away all in their path. A dark cloud lay on the horizon looming towards a secluded island chain. With every inch the storm came closer the winds grew more violent and the stronger the waves crashed. A little girl sat far from the water, where the sand met the grasses of the jungle. The girl's skin was bark-colored, glossy, and her thick black curls blew as wild as the palm leaves. She eyed up the waves with suspicion as she dug her hands deep into the sand, grabbing a large wad and piling it beside her. The ground vibrated; she looked up to she a group of children rushing and shouting on the beach, having a game of volley. They ran so free, often close to the rough, dangerous waters, but continued to laugh and play without care. The little girl sat alone, building in the sand, much farther from the ocean. She remained involved in her sand sculptures, but from time to time, glanced up at the playing children.
"I'm awful at volley", she thought to herself.
But nonetheless, she would look up from her work and watch the game. There were four children: a chubby girl with frizzy hair, a boy with fresh cornrows (soon to be covered in sand), a lanky boy, and another boy who was far too well-dressed to be playing on the beach. The lanky boy hid his face when the ball came his way, but the well dressed boy on his team played for the both of them, singlehandedly winning against the other two children each time. The little girl giggled as she watched the kids argue. Between the crashing waves, strong winds, and the construction in the village, it was hard to hear what they were saying, but she could make out words such as, 'No Fair', 'Showoff', and 'Jealous'.
If the volley game wasn't enough to distract her, behind where she sat, teams of laborers bustled and sweat as they hung banners and shells on the trees, arranged flowers along the stone pathways, rolled barrels of rum toward the village square, and grilled a feast of fish, pork, and vegetables. The workers were diligent, but there was fear in their eyes when they looked out into the horizon. Strong gusts made their work difficult; for every few banners they hung, one fell and was carried off into the wind. The little girl watched as a rope hung loose from one of the palms. None of the workers seemed to notice and it would be a shame if the vibrant painted banner were to fly off to a distant land. It wasn't too far from the girl and the rope wouldn't be out of her reach. Her eyes diverted to a group of people, seated at wicker tables under an awning farther down the beach. They enjoyed a lavish feast and were dressed as elaborate as was she in her flowing azure dress that brought out the blue in her eyes. Conflicted, her vision darted between the rope and the diners. Palms blocked their sight surely? But as she decided, the rope came undone and with the banner it flew west toward the mainland coast.
"Maybe we'll find it again one day" she thought, returning her attention back to the sand.
The mound of sand was taking shape. She sculpted a tortoise and was decorating its large shell with seashells from the beach as well as flowers that had blown her way. While she knew tortoises could not grow flowers on their shells, she also knew she hadn't seen a tortoise in well over twelve moons. Who's to say they hadn't grown some in the time they were gone? She was nearly finished when a voice startled her, almost causing her to fall face first into her creation.
"Why a tortoise? Talk is the sailfish will host tomorrow's festival." The boy in wet ragged clothes said, looming behind her, pressed against a palm.
It took her a moment to regain her balance and compose herself before stating with a slight shake in her voice , "The sailfish can cut through the waves, but he'll grow tired. The tortoise knows not to fight; he'll guard himself and survive the night."
He scrunched his face and shook sand from his long hair which had half-way turned to dreads. "The tortoise is smart. But I doubt our village would understand. They'll celebrate the sailfish tomorrow and try to cut through."
She stared at him confused for a moment, "What do you mean?"
But before he could say anything, a laborer from the fishing docks grabbed him by the shoulder and tried to pull him back to work. The boy was defiant, shoved the man's arm away, and ran back to the docks himself. The girl wished he had stayed. She wanted to know what he meant. Tomorrow was the Full Moon Festival, the celebration of life. No one would die surely? Even the sailfish knew his limits.
But there was no use trying to decipher what the fisherman boy said. He was a laborer after all; his lack of proper schooling must have made him unsure in his speech. Besides, the little girl had become hungry. The tortoise was complete and a delicious buffet awaited her four stone throws down the beach. She left her sand sculpture, bidding it luck to stay standing in such weather, and made her way to the awning to eat.
Her stomach growled like a panther as she viewed the fully stocked buffet of rotisserie pork, grilled fish, stir-fried roots, puddings, and cold coconut milk to drink. A laborer handed her a slab of bark as she neared the buffet table and she rushed over to the pudding like it was instinct. As her plate piled high in banana and sweet potato puddings, she heard a laugh behind her. She put the bark down on the table and hugged the tall woman behind her.
"My dear Omoachel, you're trying to fill up on dessert. Please, at least have a taste of pork," the woman brought her plate to the meat section and cut a small sliver from the pig, "it's sweet; you'll like it."
She handed Omoachel the bark slab, now with added pork; the little girl sniffed the meat and looked at it with a slight frown.
The woman laughed, "It tastes good, I promise."
The little girl looked up at the tall woman and smiled, "Thank you, Aunt Talau."
They sat together at one of the tables under the awning. Her aunt had dark, glossy skin like hers as well as cloudy blue eyes, and thick black hair although the older woman wore hers back in a tight bun decorated with large yellow and orange flowers. Talau shoveled meat and vegetables into her face like the world was ending while Omoachel picked at her pork like a mouse sharing a meal with a lion.
Talau's focus was on the coming storm, "Do you like it here?"
Omo was oblivious to her aunt's distress, "Of course. This is home. How couldn't I?"
Talau sighed to herself and returned to eating.
Omoachel had tried, but couldn't get it off her mind and blurted out, "Sailfish or Tortoise?"
The tall woman stopped eating. She was silent, but her face could tell she was in deep thought. "We haven't seen a tortoise in many moons." She couldn't take her eyes off the horizon. Far out in the sea was near black; the arriving storm would be vile. Looking back to her niece's wide dark blue eyes she stated, "Tomorrow we'll celebrate the tortoise."