How to Take the Kill Shot (Part 1)
Comics Retcon Universe 001
How to Take the Kill Shot
Jonas Oliver's life has been turned upside down. While on vacation his parents are murdered, he's stranded on a deserted island and all he can think about is revenge. The only tools he has are his intellect, his overwhelming sense of right and wrong and his skill with a bow.
Author's Note: Here's part one of my Green Arrow Retcon. I'm not sure how long this is going to be so at the moment its just going to start with an origin story. I'm not even sure how long that's going to be. I'm just going to take it one step at a time and hope you enjoy. Green Arrow is copyrighted and trademarked by DC Comics.
He punched me in the gut, I gasped out in pain.
The others around him started laughing as my mother screamed. I fought back tears and tried as hard as I could to get out of his arms. But there was no use, the guy was built like a linebacker, his arms were like tree trunks. I was going to kill him though. I was cutting to cut his heart out and watch him bleed out on the deck. I was going to make him and all the others pay for what they did to my father.
We were on a sailing vacation. We were three days out of Miami when we got caught in a little squall. We have a small boat but we were able to manage the storm pretty good. Unfortunately when it was over, we were a little off course. My father, Gregory, isn’t a sailor but my mother is. She grew up on it, sailing about Nantucket and other places. She was able to get us out of the storm but by then we were already far from US waters.
My mother is named Jessica, she’s a college professor, she teaches Medieval English Literature. I grew up on tales of King Arthur, Ivanhoe and Robin Hood. Though Arthur was cool I was always had a thing for the Emerald Archer, that’s what my mother called him. It had something to do with some old Robin Hood movie, the outlaw was always depicted as wearing green. When I was a kid, I convinced her to buy me some green tights and she made me a felt hat like Robin’s. I pranced around the house with a toy bow and pretty to rob from the rich and give to the poor.
All that was over now.
We noticed the speedboat coming up fast. It was a sleek silver thing; I think they called them cigar boats. It looked like something a drug dealer used in some dad TV movie. My father was the first one to notice the men with guns. There were six of them, each wielding AK-47s. WE tried to outrun them but you know how it goes. There was barely any wind and they had a fricking speedboat. They caught up to us pretty quick. The men were an assortment of nationalities. I recognized only one language though: Spanish. I was currently taking and failing it. There were two Spanish speakers amongst them and they were bickering.
‘We don’t have any money” My father had tried to scare them off. He reached for the mooring hook that was attached to the inside of the boat.
One of the guys, a huge black man, stepped forward, putting his foot on our book, anchoring the two boats together. “A fine boat like dis” he said, his accent clearly Jamaican. “You got to be kidding me, mon.”
My father shook his head. “There’s nothing.”
That’s when they shot him. One of the Spaniards pulled out a gun and put one in my father’s head and another in his chest. My mother screamed and I froze. I didn’t know what to do. They all jumped onto our boat, two of the men grabbed my mother and held her while a third came toward me. I snapped out of it then and tried to fight. Unfortunately I was a weakling. I’m about five six, maybe 120 pounds when wet. When I tried to fight back that’s when one of them grabbed me from behind while the other punched me in the chest.
They hit me in the stomach again.
“That chica can really take it” said one of the Spaniards.
The others laughed. I spit in my abuser’s face which caused them to laugh more. It caused him to punch me again, harder this time.
“She’s feisty too.”
God I hated it when people mistook me for a girl. Puberty wasn’t kind to me. Unlike most fifteen year old boys, I had yet to experience it. At least not in the way most guys did. My voice never changed, I didn’t grow any taller nor did I get the muscles that my friend Roy got. I gained weight but it was all in my hips and my chest. At first I thought my chest weight was my pecs growing out but it turns out they were actually breasts. That’s right; I’m a boy with breasts and a girl’s butt. My doctor called it Intersexed and told me when I was older I could get the surgery to fix it all. But in the meantime I was some kind of freak, neither boy nor girl. It didn’t help matters that I had shoulder length sun bleached hair and a girl’s face. If the guys didn’t know me, they hit on me constantly.
It was so fricking embarrassing.
“I love them when they’re cute and innocent like this” said one of the other thugs as he reached over and grabbed my face.
“Leave him alone” my mother screamed.
I think she realized her mistake as soon as she screamed it. She clamped a hand over her mouth but it was too late.
None of the guys were laughing anymore. The one holding my arms grabbed my hair. The one squeezing my face sneered at me and ripped my Rockets shirt open. He laughed because it was clear I had breasts. At school no one knew because I wore a compression vest. But on vacation I agreed to allow them to go free. Well not free actually. I was an A cup by now. My mother talked me into wearing a bra for the trip. Yesterday she surprised me with a bikini. I protested but finally agree to wear it but underneath my clothes. My shrink, Dr. Weisinger, told me it might be a good idea to try being a girl, at least during vacation so my mother reinforced it.
That is until now.
“What are you smoking lady” said the guy who ripped open my shirt.
He grabbed my breasts, giving them a good squeeze. I groaned in pain, it hurt like a son of a bitch. I reacted by kneeing him in the balls. HE stumbled back; my Puncher hit me in the gut again. I gasped out, if I wasn’t being held I’d probably fall on my face.
“Put her on her back” shouted the Jamaican, clearly he was the boss. “Teach the little bitch some respect.”
I screamed. My mother screamed. They dragged me to the floor, I kicked and struggled but there was no use. One guy held my arms while the other grabbed my board shorts. He tore off them off it a giant tug. Underneath I was wearing the bikini bottoms but I hadn’t hidden anything. I did a lot of research on the Internet about my condition and how a lot of guys out there tried to embrace it. I found a lot of transgender sites and read a lot of books. I knew all the tricks but the last three days were just me and my parents. I didn’t need to hide anything down there. So I left the gaff down in the cabin this morning.
“What the fuck is this?” shouted the man who had my legs currently spread my shorts in his hands.
“Holy shit we’ve got ourselves a little fag.”
My mother creamed and cried. She told them to leave me alone, to take her instead. The two guys holding her smacked her around. I screamed at them, calling them all a bunch of fucking cowards.
“You want to be a real girl, you fag” he asked, throwing my shorts away and pulling out a knife. “That can be arranged.”
“What the hell is the matter with you” said the Jamaican as he grabbed the man’s arm, stopping him from cutting off my you know what.
“You see It” said the man with the knife. “The little fucker is mocking us.”
“We’ve already done enough thanks to you and your itchy trigger finger” said the Jamaican, pointing to my dead father.
“What the hell are we supposed to do with It, then?”
“Throw him overboard.”
My mother screamed then. She bit the arm of the man holding her and ran for me. She took the guys holding me by surprise. I managed to get free and tried to run to her. But the guy with the knife got in-between us. He stuck the blade in my mother’s chest. I screamed and was grabbed from behind. I kicked and fought. Whoever it was carried me to the side of the boat. I screamed for my mother. She fell to the deck, gasping. The guy with the knife stabbed her again and again. The Jamaican was shouting at him but he wasn’t paying attention.
“What do you want me to do with him?” asked the guy holding me.
The Jamaican sighed. “This has got way out of hand. This was a simple drug run and then you morons had to fuck it up.”
My mother fell to the deck, laying a few feet from my father. I could see she was dead. I started crying, fighting as hard as I could to get away. But the guy holding me was too strong.
“What about him?” asked the guy holding me?
The Jamaican groaned. “Take him down below and lock him in the cabin. We’ll get some gas and burn the boat.”
“No” I screamed as the man carried me toward the cabin. “I’ll find you; I’ll find all of you sons of bitches.”
I’m not sure what happened. I don’t know if it was a burst of adrenaline or what. But somehow I managed to get free. The man let me go and I slammed down on his foot. I went for the man who killed my mother. He was laughing and not paying attention. HE was holding his knife; I snatched it out of his hand and threw it at the Jamaican. My aim was off; the blade only grazed his face. He screamed out in pain and double over. The guy with the knife pulled out a gun and raised it to fire.
I did the only thing I could do. I ran for the side of the boat and dived into the water.
I used to be on the dive team. It was the JV squad but it wasn’t any less important. I had to quit when my condition started to show itself. It would have been real hard to explain why I had breasts. I was real upset at the time but at least I had archery to full back on.
I hit the water in a straight dive. It was one of the more complicated ones but I was always able to pull it off. I went down about six feet or so. Luckily we were in the southern Atlantic because the water was nice and warm. Unfortunately I was far from out of danger. Several bullets whizzed into the water around me. One narrowly missed my head. I stayed underwater and swam to the other side of the boat. I poked my head up just above the water, to take a breath. I was about to duck back down when I heard them talking.
“Where the hell did the little half bitch go?” I recognized that voice as the guy who killed my parents.
“Never mind her mon” said the Jamaican. “Get the gas so we can light this thing and get out of here.”
Damn it, they’re actually going to burn our boat.
I ducked back into the water when one of the thugs walked by. I popped back up when he was gone. I was a pretty decent swimmer and could hold my breath underwater for a couple of minutes. I could have stayed out here all day, listening to these morons. But I should have made a break for the shore. I knew enough about the ocean to know the general direction to go. But it still didn’t mean I wanted to go. These bastards were going to burn my parents’ bodies and leave them out her to rot. I couldn’t just stand by and let that happen.
I fought back whatever grief I was feeling and ducked back into the water. Their speedboat was right alongside ours. I swam over, hoping there was enough cover underneath them so they wouldn’t see me. The water was crystal clear today and the brightest blue I’d ever seen. My mother loved the light blue water. That’s why we always went to Florida on vacation. She said it was much better than the cobalt blue water of the Hamptons where she grew up. We were hundreds of miles from the Hamptons now and who knew how many from Florida. After the storm last night we could have been anywhere.
I poked my head up as one of the thugs climbed over into the speedboat. He was rummaging around, looking for the gas apparently. After a few minutes he pulled up a red plastic container, like the one we put our lawnmower gas in. He lifted it up in the air, waving it about so his friends could see it.
“Stop being such an ass and get over here.”
He grunted and left the boat.
I took that as the opportunity I was looking for. I grabbed the edge of their boat and pulled myself over the side. It wasn’t nearly as big as our sailboat and there was hardly any room for the six of them. It was clearly meant for small time transport which meant they probably had a larger boat nearby. I started to rummage through their stuff, which wasn’t much. They had a cooler full of beer and a whole stash of dirty magazines scattered about. Naked women didn’t do anything for me but not without trying. For some reason I couldn’t get it up when looking at magazines like that. I once mentioned it to my medical doctor; Dr. Papp and he told me it was more than likely due to my condition.
According to him, I was more boy than girl. I argued that point on more than one occasion, not only with him but with my parents and Dr. W. My penis was fully functional but I’d never be able to have kids because I had no testicles. They never descended when I hit puberty. Instead I had a pair of ovaries and everything else that made me a girl. Except I wasn’t a girl, at least not as far as I was concerned. It annoyed me that everyone, my parents included, seemed to think the right course of action was to make me a full girl at eighteen.
I tossed the magazines aside, looking for something I could use. I found what I was looking for underneath of the seats. It was an inflatable life raft. We had one of these on our boat too but there’s no way I could get to it now. I tossed it in the water and jumped in after it. I went under again, dragging the unflated raft down with me. It was pretty hard because it was meant to float but I managed. I swam back over to our boat and watched from underwater as they lit it on fire. A small part of me wanted to jump up and scream at them. But instead I stayed where I was and watched as everything I loved burned.
The thugs got back onto their boat. I popped up out of the water as they started the engine and took off. I made sure I got the name of the boat: The Lady Catherine. I committed it to memory. You fuckers are so dead.
I tried to climb back onto our boat but wasn’t able to do so. The gas burned quick and soon the whole deck was a raging inferno. I cried as I swam a few feet away, the heat and flames too intense to be closer. Soon the mast caught flame and fell into the water. The fiberglass of the hull popped and crackled. I tried one more time to get close but it was no use. Finally I let it go, I let my family go.
I pulled the pin for the raft and inflated it. It wasn’t as state of the art as ours but there was enough there to help me survive. I climbed over the side and flopped on my back. I took a deep breath and cried harder than I’ve ever cried before.
My raft got caught in the current and carried me away from everything.
I must have fallen asleep because when I opened my eyes, I was lying on my back, a soft surface beneath me. But something was very wrong. I drifted for a few hours; the only sound was the lapping of the waves and the only smell was the salty sea air. But now I could hear the banging on my door and could smell breakfast. I sat up and found myself in my room. I was lying on my bed, the sun was shining through my window and everything was ok. Was I dreaming? If I was it was the most horrible nightmare in the whole wide world.
I got up and stretched. My hair flopped around my ears and my horrid chest swayed a bit underneath my tank top. I wish those had been a part of the nightmare too. I hated waking up feeling them on my chest. I wish there was a way to remove them and the damn things in my stomach. I don’t care if I don’t have any balls, it was better than having breasts.
I stumbled out of bed and across the room to my bathroom. I have my own private bathroom. We live in a large colonial, it belonged to my grandfather. It was one of his summer homes; he gifted it to my mother when she graduated college. My parents meant when my father’s contracting company was hired to do some remodeling. They hit it off, started dating and got married two years later. My grandfather thought my father was too old for her---there was only a ten year difference---he also thought she could do better. He disowned her after that. He still sent me presents and things for my birthday and Christmas but I never him. At least not personally. I don’t think there was anyone in the world who’d hadn’t heard of him.
I stumbled into the bathroom, not paying too much attention as I washed my face, brushed my teeth and stumbled back out into my room. I couldn’t even remember if today was a school day. In my dream it had been summer but a lot of people usually dreamed about summer. Especially if it was like November or something. Was it November?
I didn’t bother to get dressed. I walked out into the hall, wearing my usual tank top and bed pants. I stumbled down the hall; my mother came out of the upstairs laundry room, with a basket in her hands.
“Honestly Jo Jo, do you have to wear that shirt to bed” She said, shaking her head.
Jo Jo was her nickname for me. My real name was…ummm….Jonas, that’s right. I’m Jonas Oliver, fourteen year old, high school freshman. I guess I’m a lot more tired than I thought. I shrugged my shoulders, mumbled a reply to my mother and followed her down the stairs. The kitchen was off to the side of the stairs. It was absolutely huge. It had an island in the center, state of the art appliances and a room off the back. We called it our second dining room and it’s where we ate breakfast. It was really a sun room, all four walls made of glass, three of which faced the large lake we had in the back of our house.
We owned six acres; most of it was taken up by the lake. The rest of it was consumed by the forest. When I was little I used to call it Sherwood and had all my Robin Hood adventures out there. Now I barely went out there, I didn’t have the time.
“Morning champ” said my father as he sat at the table reading his newspaper.
I sat down at my usual seat and helped myself to the bacon piled there. My mother liked to cook a lot and left it on the table for us to help ourselves. She said when she was a girl she used to have a housekeeper who did the same thing. My mother wasn’t a great cook but she was better than my dad. He usually burnt everything. I sat and ate. Breakfast is my favorite meal because it seems to have all the right foods. My mother makes a large spread too: bacon, eggs, sausage, pancakes. What we don’t eat she usually either feeds the ducks and fish at the lake or she throws into the woods. We used to have a dog, Sparky, but he died a few years ago.
“Are you ready for the big trip, son?” asked my dad as he folded the paper and set it aside.
He picked up his cup of coffee and took a small sip.
“What big trip?” asked, chewing on a piece of bacon?
“Our vacation” said my mom as she ruffled my hair. “The one we take to Florida every year. You know, camping on the beach, sailing off into the ocean.”
Florida, why did that sound so familiar.
My mother opened her mouth to say something else but what came out of it wasn’t her voice, it was a cawing a seagull.
Holy crap, she’s a bird. I backed away in the chair, hit something behind me and stumbled backwards. I smacked my head and blacked out.
“My mother isn’t a bird!” I shouted as I snapped awake.
I wasn’t in my room this time. I was lying on my back, in the big yellow life raft. There were seagulls circling overhead, cawing or whatever it is they do. I sat up and rubbed my neck, it felt horrible. I felt horrible too. My body was stiff and cramped. Sleeping in a life raft was not a wise idea. Sleeping, I’d been sleeping. I moaned, realizing that that ideal little scene was actually the dream. No not a dream, a memory. It happened a few weeks ago, right after school let out. I remember now because after that my father asked me who I was going to take to the End of the Year Dance.
I tried to remember what happened. I was in the raft, drifting along in the waves. The sun went down and I could barely keep my eyes open. It was the raft that eventually put me to sleep. It was sloshing back in forth in the waves, slowly rocking me to sleep. Like a mother with her baby. It had been so gentle and serene. It helped me forget my troubles for a bit. But now they all came back to me. I broke down again, the tears streaming down my face. Those fucking bastards killed my parents, forced me to jump overboard and burned our boat.
My father loved that boat. He called it Danaá«’s Gentle Ride. The Perseus myth was one of his favorites and he always thought Perseus’ mother got screwed. That’s why he wanted to name his boat after her. Her father was a nasty son of a bitch who set her out to sea in a cask. My father thought it poetic that his boat be a gentle journey for the mother of one of the greatest heroes in Greek myth. My father was like that. He may not have looked like a road scholar but he sure acted like one. Or did act like one. God, he’s dead. They’re both dead. How can I live in a world without either one of them in it?
I wiped the tears from my eyes and looked around. I half expected to see ocean. But I’d been too preoccupied to realize that there was no ocean to see where I was. Oh God, I’m not even moving. The water had been so soothing all last night that I never even realized that the raft had stopped. I jumped to my feet and saw sand. Land, I was on land. I jumped out of my little salvation and planted my face into the soft, wet sand around me. Kevin Costner kissed the wet sand in Robin Hood and I did the same. I didn’t care that it was grimy or disgusting. It was the greatest thing in the world.
I looked up and saw I was on a little beach. But more than that I was on an island. It was a pretty good sized one too. I looked left and right, the sand looked like it went about a mile on each side. I looked in front of me and saw dense foliage. It was lush and green and beautiful. But where the hell was I? I remember looking at my father’s chart the other day, right before we set sail. My parents always liked to find little places to set down for picnics. There were a lot of little small islands out there in the world. But most of them were small and uninhabited. I don’t know how any one missed this little pearl. It was a lush paradise. But more importantly it was salvation. I thought I was going to be on the ocean for days.
Right first order of business.
I climbed out of the raft and dragged it further up the beach. I knew there was no way to deflate it without puncturing it but maybe there was a way to salvage it. I dragged it up to the tree line and did my best to secure it. There was a little rope dangling from the one side and I managed to tie that to one of the trees. If all else fails, I might have to sleep in that again tonight.
I took a deep breath and stared into the vast jungle like growth in front of me. It looked pretty dense and unwelcoming. Most of the trees towered way over my head and a lot of the undergrowth looked to thick to traverse through. But that gave me a lot of hope. The first thing I needed to do was find fresh water and if there was this much growth there had to be lots of water somewhere.
There was this TV show that I liked on the Discovery Channel that told people how to survive in every situation. It was called Buck McGrady’s Survival Guide. Each week, good old Buck---an Australian survivalist---would put himself in a dangerous situation and tell the viewers how to get out of it. I had a decent memory, ok it was a super memory and I remembered almost everything I saw or was taught. That’s what made me such a good student. At least that’s what my mother always used to tell me. I remember one episode where Buck showed people how to survive on a deserted island, a lot like this one.
Buck had these rules. He called them Buck’s Rules of Staying Alive. Each episode he adapted the rules for the situation he was in. Rule number one was the simple one: Do whatever it takes to survive. It didn’t matter who you were or what you were used, you had to throw that all out the window. He said it was all about your comfort zone and how that was gone. Everything that you were accustomed to would not be available on the island. But I knew that already. I was used to being outside my comfort zone. After all I was a guy with a girl’s body. How much more out of my comfort zone could I be.
Ok so it’d only been about two months. One morning back in March I woke up complaining about my chest feeling itchy. My mother took me to the doctor and he ran some tests. He did the works and that’s when we found out all about me. It was a little rough at first and I did a lot of crying. We informed the school about it a few days later and I was excused from Phys. Ed. I was still allowed to compete in team sports but I dropped out of both: diving and archery. My archery friends were still made at me for it---I was the best on the team---I only one who was still talking to me was Ray.
Buck’s second rule was finding clean, drinkable water. That one was a given. If there was no clean water, he even showed his audience how to get some. It wasn’t too complicated. Buck’s third rule was prepare to eat the wigglies. That’s what he called anything that might not necessarily be considered modern cuisine. At least not cuisine you’d find at Burger King. As long as it was cooked, it was good enough to eat. On the show he described lots of different fish and sea creatures that were edible. Buck’s fourth rule was about shelter. Shelter was important because it got you out of the elements and was essential to survival. Caves were good as long as there were no dangerous animals already living in them. I knew water and food were essential but to me shelter was the most important. I’ve done my fair share of camping, most of it was in my own wooded backyard but I knew the importance of a good shelter.
Buck’s fifth rule was fire. On the show he grunted about like a caveman, waving a burning stick above his head. But seriously, it was all about the fire. Whoever said it was essential to human life was damn right. To survive anywhere outside of civilization, fire is the key. It cooks your food, it provides comfort and warmth. It can also keep away most predators. Buck’s final rule was about being rescued. It was all about letting people know you were there. There were several ways to do it. The easiest being if you had a satellite phone.
Ok, Buck’s Rules, they were easy enough to follow. I knew them all by heart. But things would have been so much easier if I had gotten back on our boat. WE had everything to survive in a situation like this. My father had been a cautious man. He had the satellite phone and the emergency survival, he even had GPS. All of it was on the boat and all of it was probably in the bottom of the Atlantic by now. None of it could help me now.
So I need to be like Buck. That’s easier said than done.
I set off along the beach, thinking maybe there was an easier way into the “jungle” somewhere further from where I was ashore. It was a good plan and seemed reasonable enough. Walking the beach was kind of refreshing, at least at first. The salty sea air blew my hair and the seagulls were company. But it got kind of tedious after an hour. After two hours, I was dragging my feet, walking like the dead. I couldn’t believe how much beach there was and how long it was. Not only that but it seemed to be in some weird irregular pattern. There were these peninsulas. The first one I came across was small but as soon as I got to the tip of it, I could see at least two more, both of them enormous.
I spent the next two more hours walking to the second peninsula. But it’s there that I struck gold. Well not exactly gold but good enough. There was an area of the jungle that I was finally able to enter. It was matted down; a lot of the foliage looked broken. Something large and violent had come through there. It was the first real sign that there was something else on this island besides me and the damn seagulls. Yeah, they were friendly at first but now they were fucking annoying.
I moved quietly through the jungle, making sure I avoided stepping on anything that might snap or crackle. I was definitely not the kind of person that could fight off a panther or some kind of jungle ape with my bare hands. Not that I expected to find either but I was being cautious. Like father, like son I guess. After another hour, thirst got the better of me. I did fin one little spot of fresh water, about three hours ago but it wasn’t very big and I had nothing to carry it in. I literally only had the clothes off my back and they weren’t much. My t-shirt was ripped down the center, exposing the bikini top I was wearing and my board shorts were not meant for my new lower physique. They were a little big and kept sliding down.
There was something else I didn’t cut on too. There were mosquitoes in the jungle, big ones. They took every opportunity to try to take a bite out of me. There were more of them near the ocean but they started to appear inland as well. It was a good omen though, because if I remembered my Animal Planet correctly, mosquitoes bred in water. Which meant with every step I took, I was getting closer and closer to the Nectar of the Gods---ok, so I was being a little over dramatic but thirst and the possibility of dying does that to you.
Two hours later, the sun dipped below the clouds and I finally found water.
It was a God sent.
Smack dab in the middle of the peninsula was the quaintest little pond I’d ever seen. It was nowhere near as big as the lake in my backyard but it was heaven as far as I was concerned. I tasted it to make sure it was fresh and looked around for dead animals nearby to make sure it wouldn’t poison me. With those two things out of the way, I scooped my hands into the water and drank my full. It was a good thing too because I was so tired I nearly collapsed right there.
I managed to climb a nearby tree though, I knew better than to lay on the ground. After that it didn’t take me long to fall asleep. I dreamed again too, another memory.
The boy cleared his throat behind me and I sighed.
When I turned around I saw it was one of the guys from another class. In school we went to all the classes with our homeroom. We stayed in one room and the teachers came to us. Unless it was a lab day then we went to one of the lab classrooms. Even the art teacher came to us, pushing a huge cart loaded down with supplies.We lived in San Francisco but us locals liked to call it "Star City". I'm not sure why. Star City Central---really Jack Kirby Central--- worked things a little differently but I kind of liked it there. It was easy to remember my classmates because I saw them every day. But it was also a pain in the ass because the other students in the school didn’t know you.
The boy fidgeted, his palms were sweaty and he looked like he was about to puke. I groaned because I knew what was coming. It was starting to become a daily occurrence and it was really, really annoying.
“Hi” he said in a real low voice. “Ummm…I was wondering….if you had a date to the End of Year dance yet?”
Yep he was another one.
I’m not sure when the other guys started to notice but everyday it was getting worse and worse. I’m not sure what it was. It was like there was a giant neon sign blinking above my head or something, advertising my freakishness. But to the guys who didn’t know me it wasn’t freakiness at all. To them I was a cute, blonde haired goddess. It didn’t matter than we wore uniforms and that the girl’s had to wear plaid skirts and knee socks. To every single hormone driven jackass in this school I was girl. I’m not sure what it was: my breasts were bound, my face had no makeup and as far as I could tell my butt wasn’t that prominent.
I smiled at him. “What’s your name?”
God even my voice sounded like a girl’s.
He toed the ground. “I’m Mark, I’m from Class C.”
He was a goofy looking kid. He had red hair and a splattering of freckles all over his face. He was a whole head taller than me and looked to be well on his way through puberty. He was definitely in that awkward gangly stage. His neck was too long, his arms and legs were spindly and he looked like his clothes didn’t quite fit right. A part of me was kind of envious because at least he looked like a boy. Me, I felt like the biggest slab of meat in the super market.
I wanted to bust his balls. But that was embarrassing and not just for him either. I hated drawing attention to my deformity. So I smiled sweetly at him, which made him blush a little. I wanted to roll my eyes but I played it cool.
“I’m sorry Mark but my father doesn’t allow me to date boys.”
Mark looked as if someone punched him in the gut. He nodded and slowly slipped away. I felt real bad for him but there was nothing I could do. There was no way in hell I was going to slap on a dress and prance around as some arm candy just to make some half blind moron happy for the night. That’s what they were too, all of them. I couldn’t believe that they all thought I was a girl. Mark was number six this week; I was starting to run out of excuses.
“Ollie!” shouted a voice that came with the thundering foot fall behind me.
I turned around and saw my best friend in the whole wide world, Mia Dearden, come running up to me. We’ve been BFF’s since kindergarten. Mia’s father worked with mine, they co-owned a construction company. My father was the Contractor and her father did all the manual labor. Mia and I were inseparable, like brother and sister. We told one another everything and kept no secrets. When I was diagnosed with my intersexuality, Mia was the first one to know about it. Outside my family, she was the only one who knew about. She was cool with it, she never once judged nor did she want to slap me in a skirt like everyone else seemed to want too.
Mia was spunk personified and not because she had bright pink hair. She was like a firecracker. She was constantly in motion, always jumping from one topic to the next and rarely ever stopping. She talked a mile a minute which annoyed most people but it was one of the things I loved about her. When we were in third grade she started calling me “Ollie” because my last name was Oliver. I thought it was pretty cool. Right around that time I started calling her “Speedy” because she never knew when to stop.
I frowned at her as she came up to me, hugging me tightly.
I nodded. “You think I should wear a sign, Speedy?”
She stepped back from me and gave me a once over. “As long as it’s green because anything else would definitely not work for your complexion, girlfriend.”
She liked to tease a lot.
“Don’t say that out loud, you’re going to get me more stalkers” I hissed and she giggled.
A group of guys walked by and stared at me. They were upper classmen and their eyes were penetrating.
One of them shouted: “Put on a skirt, sweetie, we want to see those legs.”
They laughed. I ignored them, Mia gave them the finger.
We hooked arms and I slammed my locker shut. I was happy that school was over for the day because I’m not sure how many more times I could live through being asked to the dance. We walked arm and arm down the hall; I was trying to be invisible. But that’s really hard to do when you’re with Mia. She stands out no matter where she goes.
Right before leaving, we passed by the girl of my dreams. I know what you’re thinking and you’re probably right: I had the perfect girl on my arm. Mia was fantastic too: she was fun, energetic and great to be around but dating her would have been like dating my sister. It was yuck city. Don’t worry; she thought the same way as well. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t try. It was only a onetime thing, a couple of years back. It happened at our first boy/girl party. It was long before any of my problems. It was that stupid game, 7 Minutes in Heaven. We were pushed into a closet together and we kissed it. It was a little peck and at the time, we might have felt something but we were only eleven. We laughed it off but I did ask her to the movies the next day. It never went any further after that because like I said, it was like dating my sister.
We decided if we dated then it might really ruin our friendship, so that was the end of it.
“Why don’t you ask her to the dance?”
“Who?” I asked as we passed the girls by.
She smacked my arm. ‘Sandra Hawke you big dummy.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She smiled. “Of course you do, she’s the girl that’s like the Walking Wet Dream for you.’
“I wouldn’t know.”
“You really are more girl than boy.”
I stuck my tongue out at her. She laughed and slipped out of my arm and ran for the front entrance. I gave chase. She was fast on her feet too, all the more reason for her to be Speedy. I chased her down the sideway, weaving in-between other people trying to walk home. Mia was way ahead of me, laughing and taunting me. Every time I seemed to get the least bit closer, she moved further and further away. I tried to catch her but it was no use.
Mia disappeared down the street which suddenly morphed into the jungle.
“Mia!” I shouted her name as I snapped my eyes open.
I was flailing so much I nearly fell out of the tree. I caught a branch though, holding myself steady. My heart started pounding a mile a minute and my body was covered in a sleek layer of sweat. I looked about, a little groggy, not sure where I was. Then everything came back to me: the drug dealers, my parents’ deaths, being shipwrecked on a deserted island. I rubbed my eyes and stretched, holding onto my perch with my legs. I climbed into this tree last night to keep myself safe. But my mind was still a bit fuzzy and I wondered what happened to Mia.
Then it dawned on me. She’s back in "Star City" you moron.
I moaned. It was another one of my dream flashback thingies. They were a strange thing again because they felt so real. It was like I was consciously activating in them too. I once read an article in Scientific America where they were talking about lucid dreaming, it had to do with being an active participant in your dream, knowing you were dreaming and being able to change things. It wasn’t as if I knew I was dreaming but I was thinking in it. It was still fresh in my head too. The memory was from the last week of school, a few days before me and my family left on our trip. It was actually the day of my last dream, the one with the family breakfast. I wonder why I kept thinking about that day.
I climbed down the tree and went over to my little oasis. I stripped out of my shirt and shorts and stepped into the water. I could feel the grim of the jungle all over my body and definitely needed a wash. When I stepped into the water, I was surprised how warm it actually was. I was also surprised how green it was. It was drastically different from the bright blue of the ocean. I’m not sure what made the ocean so bright and blue but I knew what made the water here green. I took a deep breath and slipped under the water. It was a good six or seven feet deep and I was able to reach the bottom with a shallow dive. I reached down and scooped one of the rocks of the ground. I pushed myself back up the surface, my hair sticking to my face. I brushed it away and looked at the rock in my hand. It was two or three inches in length and looked like a good skipping rock.
It was bright green too.
There were thousands of them in the little pond. I ducked back down and grabbed a handful of them. I’d never seen anything like them. I swam over to the shore and grabbed the shredded remains of my Rockets shirt---I wasn’t a big baseball fan but I bought it to make myself seem more boyish. I dropped my rocks into it and dipped back into the water to get more. I don’t know why I was so obsessed with them but maybe they’d come in handy.
While walking yesterday I had a long time think and decided that in order to survive this place, I needed to keep myself in peak physical condition. That meant I needed to hone my mind and my body. The only way to do that was to keep myself active. My father used to say, “The best way to keep active is to work with your hands”. So that’s what I was going to do: I was going to make a bow and arrows. Not only was it the best way to keep myself from going insane but it was also a fantastic way to hunt. I convinced myself that whatever trampled that underbrush yesterday was probably good sized and made of lots of meat. If I could find some way to kill something like that then maybe I wouldn’t have to dig for grubs.
I finished washing myself, doing my best to make sure everything was clean. When my hands brushed against my little breasts, a pleasurable shiver ran down my spine. I bit my lip but I wasn’t going to let it rule me. My mother mentioned that lots of young women found pleasure in certain ways. Dr. Papp gave me a pamphlet on young woman and their reproduction. Apparently the breasts were an erogenous zone. There were other zones on the female body too but luckily I didn’t have those. At least on the outside, I’m not really sure what I had on the inside.
After washing, I gathered as many stones as I could. They were small enough and narrow enough that they’d make the perfect arrowheads. Now all I needed to do was find something to use as a knife. I kicked myself for throwing that knife at that son of a bitch. If I had just held onto it I would have the perfect weapon. But I had to throw it and now it was at the bottom of the Atlantic with everything else.
I wrapped the stones in my shirt and tied it like a bundle. The shirt was shot, I’d probably never wear it again but it’d make the perfect makeshift bag. I hefted it in my hand and left it over by my tree. When I left the area, I started to count my footsteps. I’ve decided that the oasis was going to be my base of operations so I really needed to know how to get back to it. Counting my steps was going to help me achieve that goal. I started off my going left, I didn’t know navigational directions but I knew that going left always seemed to help.
It took me an hour walking inland but I finally found what I was looking for.
It was a large rocking mound in the middle of the jungle. I’m not sure where it came from but it was at least ten feet tall and though the jungle covered most of it, it was not all that hard to excess. I found a place where I could climb and did so without a problem. It didn’t peak above some of the taller trees but at the top of the mound I was able to get a good look at my new island home. I was shocked at what I saw. The island was huge, a lot bigger than I originally theorized. The jungle was vast and looked like it covered most of it. Not only that but this little mound was an anthill compared to the huge mountain that was off in the distance.
That’s my goal. I could see the whole of everything from up there. Not only that but it was the perfect place to put a signal fire. But that could wait; in fact exploring this place could wait. I needed something to cut my bow with. I climbed back down the mound and found what I was looking for: a sharp, six inch long piece of rock. It wasn’t the greatest thing in the world but it was good enough. I tested it by scrapping it against another rock and got a spark. More than one use. This is absolutely perfect.
After finding my “knife”, I backtracked toward my oasis. It didn’t take long to find. I counted my way back, taking note of where the rock mound was too. When I got back to the oasis, I started looking for the perfect tree.
I took up archery when I was six. My father thought because I loved Robin Hood so much that I might like to see what it was like to fire a bow like him. He took me to meet a friend of his, John “The Magician” Merlyn. I’m not sure how my father met him but Merlyn, as he asked me to call him, was a world famous archer. He was an Olympic gold medalist and boasted as being the best archer in the world. I was his student for almost four years. He taught me a lot, including how to be a bowyer and Fletcher. Merlyn said that an archer couldn’t be great until he made his own bow and arrows. I made my own bow when I was eight, out of yew. Merlyn had a crop of them growing in his backyard. It was a longbow that I painted green. It wasn’t the greatest thing but it made me feel like Robin Hood.
When I was ten, Merlyn told me there was nothing more he could teach me. He never said it but a lot of his peers thought I was a better shot than he. I think he was a bit jealous. After I left his tutelage I tried to track him down but he was gone. Apparently he went overseas to train. Who knows, maybe he really was jealous. I mean they called him The Magician because he could perform magic with that bow. He was a fantastic shot. I still search the Internet for him, from time to time. But it’s always a lost cause. He clearly doesn’t want to be found.
Unfortunately for me my jungle didn’t have exactly what I was looking for. There were no yew trees and there was no string so I’d have to improvise. I searched for about an hour until I found a tree that I think could work. The limbs were strong yet flexible and they were easy to cut with the stone knife. I found two real good ones. They were both about four and half feet tall, about a foot shorter than I am which makes them ideal for a longbow. A good bowyer takes several hours making a bow but a skilled one can do it in about an hour. I’m not skilled but I’m not bad either. The bow I made when I was eight was pretty good and I still had it, it hung on my wall at home. But I’d made others since then.
The one I made now wasn’t nearly as good because I lacked the proper materials but it was sturdy. I couldn’t find any rope, I could have used shoelaces I supposed but I wasn’t wearing any shoes. I took my sneakers off when I was on the boat, I didn’t usually wear them when we went sailing. So they were now permanent residents of the ocean like the rest of my stuff: my iPod, iPhone and PSP. Most of the rest of the stuff was probably at the house we were renting for the summer. Who knows how long that would stay there?
For the bowstring I found a good substitution. There was a tree nearby that had these long, thin vines. I was able to grab a few, work them so they were nice and taunt and fixed them to my bow. When I was done the bow was very primitive but it held when I flexed the string so I’m sure it would do perfectly.
Next came the arrows. I cut a bunch of smaller branches, making them about twenty four inches long then I went to work on the little rocks. Sharpening arrowheads is a long and tedious process. It took me several arrows to sharpen six of my little green rocks into perfect arrowheads. I tried to make them as close to broadheads as possible. But they looked a lot like the arrowheads that archeologists like to dig up all over the place. They weren’t the greatest but they would do for now. I tried them to my arrow shafts with the same vine I used for the string. Then I went about to feathers for the fletch.
Fletching is just as long and tedious as making arrowheads. It takes a lot of patience and a skilled, steady hand. The only feathers I could find were that of seagulls. So far they seemed to be the only animal on this island besides me and whatever liked to trample the underbrush. I’m sure there were other things too but I had yet to see anything. It was kind of strange but not unheard of.
Six hours after starting, I finished my bow and arrows.
I put them aside and started on my next course of action: looking for wood for a fire. I wanted to gather that before it got dark then I’d go off looking for food. I’m glad we weren’t vacationing in the Pacific because the wood on the ground would have damn and unusable. But because we were in the Atlantic where it was a little less humid, I was able to find some good branches. My father taught me how to build a fire when I was ten. He was an Eagle Scout and he wanted me to be prepared in case I ever got lost in the woods. I used to think he was kind of a dork with all his precautions and things but now I just wished he was here.
I missed him and my mother so much that it ached.
After building up my little fire spot---I didn’t start it yet---I went looking for food. I knew I probably wouldn’t find the thing that did the trampling but there had to something around here that I could eat. I set off going right this time, hoping I’d have better luck because I found nothing going left. I walked for about an hour before I heard some rustling in the bushes. I dropped down, shielding myself behind a tree and waited. It didn’t take long. A chicken came waddling out, pecking bugs from the undergrowth. It was a little bigger than a normal chicken and sort of a muddy brown color. It didn’t have one of those red thingies on its head either.
I took aim. I’m a right handed so I held the bow in my left and pulled the arrow back with my right. Merlyn was all about the kill shot. He used to set up this straw man dummy and marked off the ideal areas. He painted those areas red and told me which ones to hit. He’d shout out arm and then I’d have to hit the arm. Then he’d shout out leg and expect me to hit the leg. I was always good at those shots. It was when he shouted out heart and head that I hesitated. I used to ask him why he wanted me to learn how to kill the dummy.
“You have to learn about the kill shot, Jonas” he used to tell me. “It could save your life one day.”
Looking at the bird down the end of my arrow I sighed. I didn’t want to kill anything. But I couldn’t stop myself from this task. It was the only way to survive. I let the arrow fly and hit the bird in the chest, killing it instantly.I was good at small targets. Most people probably would have taken a few practice shots but I didn't need too. I gathered it up, pulled out my arrow making sure not to break it and carried the bird back to my camp by its feet. I used my stone knife to cut off its head and most of the feathers. Then I stuck a stick through its body and started my fire. It took me about ten minutes to get it going and I roasted the bird.
I ate all of it and doused the flames with dirt. I climbed back up into the tree because the sun was going down. In a place like this it was good to go to bed with the sun and wake with the sun. While I was laying there I couldn’t help but think what I did. Killing a bird was one thing but there was no way that I could a human.
When I opened my eyes this morning, I wasn’t confused about where I was.
I groaned and stretched, trying to work all the knots out of my stiff joints. Today I was going to have to find some real shelter. I wondered if I could make one. I’d seen Buck do it a hundred times on his show so I’m sure it wasn’t all that hard. He had a variety of different ways to do it, some were more complicated than others but they all looked like a kid could do it. But Buck had something I didn’t: a lot more than the clothes off his back. What did he say about surviving?
Buck’s voice entered my head as if he were standing next to me: “You need to comb the beach, mate. There’s bound to be a bunch of stuff washed up there.”
I smiled and climbed down the tree.
I gathered my things. Last night while I was trying to fall asleep I had a great brainstorm. I took my shirt and tore it into strips then wrapped those strips around my six arrows. It made the perfect makeshift quiver. I knew my shirt was now useless but it was pretty gone anyway. I tied the “quiver” around my wrist and carried my bow. I tossed the green stones back into the little pond, there was always more where those came from. I took a quick look at my oasis, hopefully I could find something to carry water in so I could explore further. It was getting tedious having to count every time I left. Maybe there were other water sources on the island, ones that weren’t so hard to find.
I left my oasis, counting as I did.
The air was cool today, until like the warmth from the last few days. I was kinda cursing the fact that that son of a bitch had ripped my shirt. I shivered as I walked, trying my best not to think about the cold. I still had my board shorts but they weren’t right for my body. I think I might have mentioned about wanting to appear as masculine as possible. The t-shirt was one part and the shorts were the other. They were the most masculine ones I could find. My mother wasn’t too happy about it but I she got me into the bikini so she was part happy. I’d wear a fricking tutu and join the cheerleading squad if it could bring her and dad back.
It took me over two hours to reach the beach. I backtracked to the trampled path from before. I found a quicker route to it, cutting a couple of hours from my journey. Once there, I took a moment to wiggle my toes in the sand. It was the whitest sand I’d ever seen and was not as hot as I thought it might be. It felt good going through my toes though. Mia would have hated it. She was part Irish on her mother’s side, so her skin was white as can be. When her hair wasn’t pink, it was actually a nice shade of red. She dyed it pink last year; she got tired of all the carrot top jokes.
She hated everything about the beach. Mia was short and on the chubby---at least she thought she was---I thought she was perfect and told her that numerous times. She hated anything to do with showing more skin than she had too. When they announced they were making us wear uniforms, Mia headed the protest to get them banned. A lot of girls got on her side because none of them wanted to wear those short skirts but they were overruled by the football, lacrosse and basketball teams. Men were pigs; I knew that first hand---half of them thought I was a kicking babe. I stopped associating myself with the pigs a long time ago. I was still a man but not one of those men.
I combed the beach just like Buck said. I started near the shore first, walking very slowly. I found a lot of sea shells, some plastic bags and shards of glass. It was like that for the first hour or so. But on the second hour I hit pay dirt. Near the tip of the peninsula, was a bunch of rocks. There was a lot of stuff that wasn’t up against them. I waded out to them; the water only went up to my chest. I found some good treasures: including an empty milk carton, which was all worth it as far as I was concerned. I grabbed as many things as I could and tossed them on the beach. I spent twenty minutes wading out to the rocks and back to the beach. I made the trip three times before I gathered everything there.
My biggest haul was also my most heartbreaking. I’m not sure where it came from or how it got there but I recognized the suitcase immediately: it was my mother’s. I broke down when I pushed it onto the beach. It was the last thing I retrieved because I was kind of avoiding it. I cried for a long time, unable to even look at it. It wasn’t anything fancy; she bought a set of three, all of them engraved with her initials J.O. It took me a long time to stop crying and even longer before I actually got up the nerve to open it.
When I popped the lid, I cried even longer. It mostly contained my mother’s clothes but on the top of them was a picture of us. It was from three years, taken on our trip to New York. Mom and Dad were on either side of me, their arms wrapping me tightly, the Statue of Liberty in the background. It was a good day, a bit cold but I didn’t care. I saw the smile on my face; I was so happy back then. There was no sign of genetic problems; I hadn’t even gone through my androgynous stage then. My hair was still short and my face still looked like a boy’s.
I held the picture in my trembling hands for the longest time.
I rummaged through the rest of the suitcase. It was mainly clothes, several shirts, some bras that were too big for my little bumps, a few pairs of her underwear. There were several pairs of shorts and some socks. There were no shoes though which was a real bummer because it turned out we were the same size--- I have small feet and I hate it. Underneath the clothes was a makeup bag but there was nothing in there that I wanted. I found a flashlight with a spare pack of batteries, at least four books, a can of bug spray, her iPod and her phone. That was the biggest find of them all. My mother actually had two phones, one she used strictly for work and other she used for personal use. She kept her personal one on her at all times. So this one was her work phone.
I pulled it out of case and flipped it open. It had a full charge but no signal. I spent the better part of ten minutes trying to find one. I ran up and down the beach, almost running myself to exhaustion but still I got nothing. I wanted to toss the damn thing into the ocean but instead I returned it to the suitcase. I shut the case, making sure everything was securely inside then went to look at the other junk I salvaged from the deep.
Most of it was that: junk. There was a couple pieces of drift wood, some plastic bags; there was a bunch of wire that might come in handy. I got some Styrofoam that used to be a McDonald’s cup I think and a piece of a surfboard. There were a couple of empty plastic bottles too---they’d be good for water. The most interesting piece was actually a length of metal, about ten inches long. I’m not sure where it was from but it was light enough to float and had a jagged end. I smiled when I saw it because my stone knife was now a thing of the past.
I reopened the suitcase and managed to cram everything inside. It was a tight squeeze but I managed. Then I took one last walk up and down the beach. I walked along it for about ten minutes and was about to give up when I noticed something buried in the sand. It was half submerged so I missed it the first time. I pulled it out in one big yank and laughed.
It was a sun bleached high heel. I laughed because boy did it bring back memories…
“You ask her out yet?” asked my buddy Roy as we walked down the hall together.
I looked to where he was gesturing his head and saw Sandra with a group of her friends. They were standing by her locker, laughing about something. Sandra was by far the most beautiful girl in school and the most popular. Her real name was Moondance; her parents were modern day hippies and named all their children drippy names like that. She had a sister named Rainbow, who graduated two years ago and I think her little sister was called Sunbeam. I would have killed my parents if they did that to me. Sandra and her siblings used their middle names in school.
Roy nudged me in the ribs as we passed by them but I made no effort to go over there. He sighed, grabbing me in a headlock and dragging me down the hall. I tried to push myself free but Ray was a much bigger guy than me. If it was possible to have two best friends, Roy Harper was the second. I’d know him since first grade. Whereas I was always the small, defenseless kid, Roy was always tall and everyone feared him. I was getting beat up by a bunch of bullies and Roy came to my defense. He was like that. His father was a park ranger who died in a forest fire saving a Native American man. Seeing as his day was the only family he had, the Native American guy took Roy in and raised him.
Roy’s adoptive father, Brave Bow, was awesome. We never knew if that was his real name or not but we called him Mr. BB. Like Merlyn, BB was an archer but unlike him he didn’t seek fame and fortune. Instead he shot for recreation. He taught Roy all about the boy. Roy’s fantastic, maybe not as good as me but he’s a very close second. When we were younger, Roy, Mia and I were like three triplets. We used to play Robin Hood together in the woods behind my house---I think I might have mentioned that before. Roy and I used to take turns playing the Emerald Archer but he refused to wear the tights. He also thought green was stupid.
“You lost your chance to” he said as he finally let go of my head.
“It wasn’t the right time.”
Roy sighed. Puberty was kind to Roy. He’d always been tall but now he had the muscles to go with it. He didn’t look anything like a girl either. He had short brown hair, a strong manly chin and he was starting to get hair on his face. We were good friends but I was jealous of his manliness. Besides being on the archery team, Roy was an all-around athlete. He played soccer, was on the track team and dabbled with golf---I didn’t let him get with that. Who the hell plays golf at our age?
Today was a soccer day. Roy like all the others players had to wear his uniform to school. The Rockets were the school’s mascot---I think I might have mentioned the t-shirt---. The school colors were red and gold. A lot of the girls swooned at the guys in uniform. I used to love wearing my archery outfit on match days but it was off season now, at least for me. I had to drop out of the team when my doctor excused me from PE. The principal said it would have been a bit suspicious if I was excused from gym but not other activities. The team wasn’t happy---I was the best after all---but there was nothing I could about it.
“Is there going to be a right time” asked Roy as we stopped at my locker.
I shrugged as I put in my combination.
“Well if not Sandra, you should definitely go after Mia.”
I opened my locker. There was a little mirror on the inside of my door. I looked into it, groaning. There were bags under my eyes and the beginning of a pimple on my chin. Mia was keeping me up at night on the Internet. She was a computer nut and IMed me well into the night. Every time I tried to get off, she found another reason to keep me on. The pimple was a problem too. Did girls talk to guys with pimples?
“Why are you obsessed with trying to set me up?”
Roy saw himself as a Matchmaker but only one who helped me. If it wasn’t Sandra than it was Mia. I’m not sure why but he was hell bent on matching me with someone. Every once in a while he switched tactics to a new girl, like that Japanese exchange student or that girl from the Choir team---the blonde with the voice, he called her. But I wasn’t interested. I mean I really liked Sandra but I’d never actually spoken to her before.
Roy sighed. ‘You’re like my kid brother; it pains me to see you like this.”
“We’re the same age, Roy.”
“Yeah but with you being smaller, it makes me feel older.”
I groaned. Everyone liked to poke at my size. My girly looks drove me nuts but my size was worse. I wanted to be a man, more than anything and size was part of it. I wasn’t short by any means but I definitely wasn’t six foot something like everyone else. They grew them big in Star City; I was probably the only freshman guy that was less than five foot ten. It was embarrassing. Even more embarrassing than the fact that the only ones in my class actually knew I was a guy.
I got my backpack and coat out of my locker. I didn’t need the coat but it had been raining when I left the house this morning. I walked with Roy all the way to the back of the school where he left to go off to practice. He turned around and shouted something about stop being a wuss. I gave him the finger and he laughed as he ran off to join his teammates. I was in a funk as I walked down the hall, staring at my shoes. I wasn’t really paying attention to where I was going so I never saw the person in front of me. But I knew I walked into a girl because my head squished against her breasts.
I raised my head and opened my mouth to apologize but froze when I saw it was Sandra.
“Jonas?” she asked, I stuttered. “Are you ok? You look kind of down?”
I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to say so I quickly blurted out: “I’m fine.”
She laughed because my voice squeaked. A normal guy could have chalked it up to puberty but I wasn’t normal. My voice wasn’t cracking; it was never going to crack. If anything I think it was getting softer. I was singing in the shower this morning and my Dad actually thought I had been my mom---how scary is that. I was so embarrassed about my girly voice, I wanted to find a hole and die. But even more embarrassing was the fact that even Sandra was taller than me. It was only by a few inches but still it made me feel like an ant.
We stood there in awkward silence, neither one of us sure of what to say. I’m not sure why but for some reason she hasn’t left yet.
“You gonna to watch Roy practice?”
I shook my head. “I’ve got to get home and pack. We’re going to Florida in a couple of days.”
“Does your family do much vacationing?”
She shook her head. “Only to this Ashram up north. My parents drag us all of there and we spend our entire summer meditating.”
I nodded. I had no idea what an ashram was but it sounded kind of boring.
We slipped back into our silence again. I smiled at her and she smiled at me. I took a quick glance at my watch; it’s a nervous tick of mine. It was a good thing I looked though because earlier I promised to meet up with Mia and help her with some history homework---my photographic memory is really good with facts.
I sighed. “I’m sorry Sandra, I gotta go and meet Mia, we’re doing history homework together.”
She nodded and told me by.
I cursed myself as I walked away. I had had the perfect opportunity to ask her to the dance and I blew it. God I’m a fricking idiot. I wanted to scream but instead I started to make a hasty retreat.
Sandra called down the hall to me: “Jonas, are you taking anyone to the dance?”
I turned around and shook my head. “Are you asking me?”
She laughed and nodded. “I’ve only been waiting for you to ask me all week.”
We both laughed. I told her I’d pick her up at seven on Friday night, the dance was at eight. She walked toward me, pulled out a pen and scribbled her address on my hand. I hated that I was only fourteen and couldn’t drive. Underneath her address she wrote: I’m wearing a pink dress and shoes so maybe you should dress to match.
I held the pink high heel in my hand. I groaned and angrily threw it into the ocean.
I’m never going to see her again.
I left the beach, dragging my mother’s suitcase behind me. It didn’t weight that much but it was easier to drag through the sand then carry it. Once I got to my trampled path, I picked it by the handle and started lugging it in my left hand, the right I carried my bow. Once again I went back to my oasis via the shortcut and got there in about two hours. I dropped the suitcase at the base of my tree and the first thing I did was fill the large milk jug with water. It didn’t have a top but I didn’t care. I filled up the two plastic bottles next, only one of them had a top.
I closed up the suitcase but not before taking the metal shard with me. I took one of my mother’s shirts from the case, it was pink, something I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing. But more importantly than that, it was bright. I tore it in strips. Then I tied one strip to the lowest branch I could find on my tree. I grabbed the capped bottle of water, the flashlight and my bow and started off in the direction of the rock mound I found yesterday. Today I was a little more prepared for a long journey though. Every sixth tree, I carved an “X” into the bark, marking my trail. It was something my father taught me, in case I ever got lost.
I made the hour walk without a problem. I climbed back up the mound and looked at the island again. My ultimate goal was the mountain but I knew I wasn’t going to get there today. Instead I needed to concentrate on a better place to sleep. As much as I liked the oasis spot, it was a little open and too near a water source to be considered secure. If there were predators on this island then it was stupid to be so close to water.
I scanned the jungle, trying to find a better place. I think I spotted it too. There was a copse of trees that was taller than the others. I counted about six treetops, towering up above the rest of the canopy. I smiled, they were perfect. I climbed back down the mound. It took me a few seconds to get oriented but as soon as I did I started off in the direction of my newest find. It was a grueling hike and the air didn’t help much. The cool air from the morning was gone to be replaced by something that only be described as sweltering.
It took me all day to reach the trees. I was so exhausted when I finally got there I almost collapsed. I fell against one of the thick, tall trunks and took a deep breath. We once went on a trip to Redwood National Park and the trees there were massive. These six weren’t as big but they were pretty close. They looked study too and had a strange green bark. I’d never seen anything like it. Maybe they’re from some alien planet. I laughed as I sat with my back to the tree, taking a swig of my water.
How far away was it from the mound? I’d actually lost count. I knew it was way over two hundred feet. Mind you my feet are small so it’s possibly it was much further away than that. I took several sips from my bottle but I need had plenty of water. I needed that water if I was going to hike it back to my oasis tonight.
I looked up at the sky. The sun was still out but it was lower. I wished I paid more attention to my father when he tried to explain the sun and its relative position in the sky during the times of day. He tried to lecture me on it once but it was boring. I knew it was directly overhead at noon but that’s all I could remember. It wasn’t overhead now so I’m guessing it was sometime afternoon. I cursed myself for now wearing my watch. I always took my watch off when I went to sleep. After being battered by all those storms I practically pulled it off from exhaustion. When I woke up the morning after the storm I forgot it. I got dressed in the closest clothes and stumbled onto the deck. That’s when the drug dealers showed up.
So my fancy, waterproof dive watch---a gift from my grandfather---was now at the bottom of the ocean somewhere. I guess it’s kind of fitting, considering its nature.
I took another sip of water and decided to get up. As soon as I did my legs seemed to give out on me. I groaned and slumped back to the ground. I guess I’m not as in shape as I thought. I’d been doing a lot of walking the last few days so I figured I was getting a lot of exercise but I think it’s only made it worse. I could barely keep my eyes open. All I could think about as my eyelids fluttered was the Dance and how I suck at it.
“Ok” said Roy as he straightened his tie. “Why am I taking Mia again?”
We were exiting my mother’s car, walking up Mia’s driveway.
After he tried to unsuccessfully set me up with half the female population, I was surprised to find out he didn’t have a date of his own. I called him when soccer practice was over and told him how Sandra asked me. He laughed his ass off. He began to make a lot of jokes on my behalf but they were all in good fun. I let him laugh then I dropped the question on him: Who was he taking? He stopped laughing and went real silent for a long time. It took me a while to get him to talk again and when I did he confessed that the person he wanted to take was already going with someone. That’s when I suggested Mia. He wasn’t thrilled with the idea---the two of them didn’t get along---but I talked him into it.
Then I called her. Suffice to say she told me she’d rather swallow hot coals. But I was able to talk her into as well. I told her she owed me for the time she talked me into one of her skirts a few weeks ago---I don’t want to relive that story. After a bit of arguing and agreements---I had to wear another one of her skirts a whole day when I was with her---she agreed to the pairing. But that’s all she agreed too. She wouldn’t dance with him, sit with him or even talk with him.
“I’ll go to the stupid thing to be his arm candy and that’s it.”
Now Roy and I were on our way to pick up his date.
The Dance was a casual affair but a lot of people liked to dress up. The girls especially. After Mia got done complaining about spending the car ride next to Roy, she started busting my balls---well figuratively of course. She kept ribbing me about Sandra and asked me if I was going to wear a dress too. She had a lot of fun with it, telling me she’d do my hair and makeup. We had our laughs. I through a couple zingers her way too. The last time I’d seen Mia in a dress was when we were eight. It was at Easter and her mother forced her into the frilliest pink dress I’d ever seen. I still made fun of her about it.
We didn’t get a chance to knock on the door because it opened as soon as we stepped on the porch. But it wasn’t Mia that was standing there. It was some girl with long blonde, too much makeup and the tightest red top I’d ever seen. Her boobs were practically busting out of it. She looked at us, gave us the cutest smile and closed the door. Roy and I were both flabbergasted. What the hell was this girl doing here? If Mia had forced someone to take her place I was going to kill her.
“Hi y’all I’m Bonnie King” She had the thickest Southern accent I’d ever heard. In fact it was so thick it was fake. “Mia couldn’t make so she sent little ole me to take her place.”
She looped her arm through Roy’s, giggling as she did so.
It was the giggle that gave her away. This girl was trying too hard and I knew from that moment that it was Mia. I grabbed her arm and pulled her from Roy. Roy was standing there, still flabbergasted, apparently he was dense.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I hissed in her ear.
“You think I’m actually gonna let those dicks at school see me with him, it’d ruin my rep” she whispered harshly to me.
I sighed. Typical Mia. “Where did you get the boobs from?”
She smiled slyly. “Push up bra and lots of padding.”
I sighed and shook my head. She took Roy’s arm again and the two of them walked ahead of me. Mia put a little wiggle in her step to sell the look. Besides the tight top she was wearing the shortest jean skirt I’d ever seen and these really cool cowboy boots---not that I’d ever where those. I groaned; she looked like a damn prostitute. Roy put his hand on her butt as we walked down the step and I heard her mumble something about breaking his hand. He removed it quickly. When we got to the car, my mother raised her eyebrows when she saw Mia/”Bonnie”, clearly my Mom could see through the disguise too.
The two of them got into the back while I got into the front. We drove in relative silence the three or four blocks to Sandra’s house. The whole time my mother kept glancing in the rearview mirror at Mia. I ended up having to whisper, “I’ll tell you later” which got a nod and a small laugh from her.
I was the only one who got out of the car to get Sandra. When I rang the doorbell I was so nervous. I actually now knew what that Mark kid felt like when he asked me to the dance a few days ago. My palms were sweating and my heart was pounding. When I rang the doorbell and she opened the door, I felt my heart leap into my chest. She was absolutely gorgeous. She was wearing a short pink dress and pink high heels. When I told my mother she was wearing pink, she made me get a pink tie to match. I wasn’t happy with it but I went along. I’m kind of glad I did because we really did match now. She smiled when she saw me.
She slipped her arm through mine like Mia did for Roy then the two of us walked to the car. I helped her into the car then sat in front with my mother. This time it was me who spent the whole car ride looking in the rearview mirror.
When we got to the school, mom told us she’d pick us up at 10. We got out of the car, I made sure to open Sandra’s door for her. I was the perfect gentleman, I think. Roy was an ass. He slid out of the car behind Sandra, leaving Mia to get out herself. She looked pissed. When Roy reached for her arm, she elbowed him in the gut and pushed past him toward the school. It was then that Roy realized who he was actually escorting. He looked as if someone had just waxed his private area.
When we got inside a lot of people kept whispering when Sandra and I walked pass. Unfortunately for me, there wasn’t much I could do to make myself look masculine. I was even wearing one of my father’s good shirts but still it was no use. Everyone assumed we were lesbians. I kept apologizing to Sandra but she didn’t mind. We found a table but Mia refused to let Roy sit with us. He got fed up and found some of his soccer buddies who’d gone to the dance stag. He sat with them. I didn’t care because it left me with two beautiful women all night.
Sandra and Mia roped me into dancing. I took turns with the both of them and we had a good time. I even managed a few slow song dances with Sandra, which was fantastic. My night would have been perfect if not for some jerk. Mia and Sandra left me alone so they could go to the bathroom and that’s when the vultures descended. There were three of them. They slipped into the empty chairs at my table and started causing me trouble.
They were upper classmen so they didn’t know me but they thought they did. They kept making lude remarks. One of them got real close, putting his hand on my knee. He wanted to know why I wasn’t wearing a skirt or dress like my friends. He also wanted to know why a pretty girl like me came to a dance all alone. He tried to kiss me, grabbing my arms and holding tight. I tried to push him off but he was too strong.
Sandra saved me. “Hey, that’s my date you jackass” she said as she stormed over to the table.
The guy let go of me and sneered. “No wonder she’s alone.”
He pushed me away like I was diseased. “Fucking Lesbos” said one of his friends and they disappeared.
I started crying and Sandra slipped into the chair the jerk vacated. She grabbed my head and let me sob on her chest. She told me she understood and that everything was going to be all right. Mia tried to explain but Sandra smiled. She said she knew what others thought about me and that she didn’t care. We sat out the rest of the dances until my mother came to pick us up. Roy got another ride home which made Mia happy. AS soon as she got into the car she pulled off her wig and sighed. I sat in the back seat between the two girls.
We dropped Sandra off first. I walked her to the door.
“I had a good time tonight” she said, smiling. “We should do it again, but just you and me.”
I smiled. Did she want to start dating? I smiled real big and opened my mouth to say yes when she leaned forward and kissed me. It wasn’t on the cheek either; it was smack dab on the lips. I was in heaven; the world was exploding all around me. When I pulled back, something horrible happened. Her face morphed from beauty into a beast, it was a horrid thing that looked like a hairy pig but with huge elephant tusks.
When I opened my eyes I wanted to scream. Sandra’s beautiful face was gone to be replaced by a hideous boar. The boar’s head was right over me, sniffing about my chest, grunting like a pig---well I guess that’s a given. It was absolutely huge. It had to at least three feet tall and it looked to weigh at least two hundred pounds. I’d only seen them at the zoo or on Animal Planet. In fact I once watched something on them and I was certain they didn’t live in the Atlantic. At least not that I heard.
I slapped a hand on my mouth, remembering something else about boars. They scared real easy and defended themselves like vicious beasts. They’ve even been known to kill people from time to time. The guy in front of me was male, I knew this because I could see his tusks---females had theirs in their mouth.
I moved my head, looking around him slowly. He was alone which I guess was a good thing. I’m not sure if I could handle more than one. In fact I’m not even sure I could handle this guy. He could have killed me with one sweep of his head. Calm down and don’t panic. I tried to remember if Buck had anything about wild boars on his show but I actually drew a blank. I was too scared to think. I tried to see if there was another way out of this. I had my bow and the metal but both were useless. If I made any sudden moves I was definitely a goner.
The boar continued to sniff. It moved its head from my chest down my stomach to my crotch. It sniffed there for a few seconds then sniffed down my left leg. What the hell was it looking for? I think they were omnivores so maybe I smelled tasty. God wouldn’t that be ironic, a pig eating a human for a change. I wanted to laugh but was glad that I still had a hand over my mouth. I tensed my body and waited it out. The boar moved its head back into my face, its large snout brushing my cheek. It smelled absolutely horrible. Its hair was all bristles and they were rough on my skin. Some of them brushed my nose. I tried to fight back the urge to sneeze but I failed.
My sneeze was like a gun shot.
The boar freaked. It jumped back and ran around in a couple of circles. I took that time to jump to my feet. I knew running was pointless because it could easily chase me down and kill me. So I did the next best thing. I turned and squeezed myself into the collection of trees. The six trees were so big and so close together, in the center of them were like a cage. It was big enough for me to fit but very narrow so I had to stand. When I was fully in the trees, the boar charged. It lowered its head and came at the trees like a battering ram. When its thick head slammed into one of the trucks, the tree actually shook.
I had enough room to raise my bow and nock an arrow. I didn’t know if there was enough to fire but I tried. I aimed for between the eyes but its skull was too thick and my arrow bounced off. It only pissed off the boar even more. It slammed harder into the tree; I nearly broke my arm because I was too close. I took a small step back and fired again. But it was too far back and my arrow hit the dirt at the boar’s feet. God damn it. I nocked my third arrow and fired. That’s when I heard the snap of word. I cursed because I knew what it was.
I was afraid something like this would happen.
I rushed the bow. I didn’t use the proper technique to make it and now it wasn’t going to hold up. I had been in a rush because I needed to eat. I cursed myself again. I should have spent today making a better bow not blundering about like an idiot. You better have enough left in you to kill this thing. I took aim again with the third arrow and let it rip. I got lucky but it wasn’t a kill shot. The area hit the boar in the leg, barely sticking in. It squealed and stumbled but it didn’t go down. It got back up and charged again.
When I fired my fourth arrow, the head chipped and shattered.
Son of a bitch.
Once again I’d been too hasty. The arrows weren’t shaped enough. Merlyn hadn’t touch me that. It was BB. He said in order to be a proper archer I needed to k now how to make proper arrows. He showed me how to shape stones into arrowheads. He called it knapping. He said his grandfather taught him who was in turn taught by his grandfather. He drilled into Roy and me, until we both made perfect arrowheads. My green arrowheads were good but I cut corners, they weren’t as good as they should have been.
Two arrows left.
I nocked one and l let it fire, the boar turned his head and got it in the eye. I’ve never seen something in so much agony. It squealed and thrashed. It kept smashing its head against the tree, trying to dislodge the arrow. I think it banged itself silly because after a few minutes it dropped to its side, giving me the perfect shot. I put my last arrow into its chest, right between two ribs. There was another crack and the bow broke in my hands. I suspected it would and I’m glad it held up as long as it did.
I waited a while to climb out of the trees to make sure the boar was dead. It thrashed about for nearly an hour, whining and wreathing in pain. Finally it let out a rattling breath and died. Merlyn’s voice came into my head: That’s how you make the kill shot.
I walked over to it and cut its throat with my metal shard, ending whatever misery it may have had left. I wiped sweat from my brow and cried. I came to a decision as I sat at the boar’s side, crying for the animal. There was nothing satisfying about killing and I vowed never to do it again unless it was absolutely necessary.
After killing the boar I kind of felt less like myself and more like someone else. I’m not sure who that someone was but it gave me a new purpose in life. I wonder if that’s what happened to young hunters from primitive tribes when they were tasked with something like that. Killing that boar changed something inside of me. It didn’t make me feel like a man but it made me rethink my life. It was kind of sad too. A few days later I went wandering and came across a group of boars, there had to be at least twenty or more. They were living in a clearing, there were several adults, but there were babies too. They looked so cute compared to their elders. It was then that I realized that I robbed someone of their Dad. It made me sad because in the end I was no different than the drug dealers.
I had an epiphany I think. My vow had meaning. I would never again kill needlessly, nor could I stand by and watch others do it too. Sure I had to kill to survive but I’d only kill what I needed and hopefully nature would take care of the rest.
I skinned the boar, made a fire, and ate well that night. I gathered water from the ocean and used one of my mother’s shirts to drain the salt from it. I salted the boar meat. I’m not sure where I learned it from but I knew that salting meat preserved it for a while. It lasted too. I’m not sure how long but I think I had it for weeks.
Weeks, I think it’s been weeks.
The days are molding into one another now. If I had been a normal guy like Tom Hanks I would have been thinner with a beard and longer hair. But I’m not a man and I’m not normal. I got two out of three though. I was thinner except the fat wasn’t gone, it was moving places. I may have mentioned how I had a girl’s butt, well the one before was miniscule compared to the one now. I’m not sure but I think my butt’s at least twice the size. In fact it was so big now that my bikini bottoms no longer fit. I had to put on a pair of my mother’s underwear and shorts. My chest was bigger too. It wasn’t ginormous like Mia’s fake chest at the dance but it was bigger. My bikini top was starting to strain a bit and the strap was cutting into my flesh. Unfortunately there were no bras in my mother’s case.
I didn’t realize that it was my female hormones changing my body so I started exercising. I developed a routine. I started doing pushups in the morning, running in the afternoon and sit-ups in the evening. I alternated it every few days only it didn’t matter which I did or in what order. It was hard at first but then it became easy. I’m not sure when I started to notice the muscles but I did notice they were different than Roy’s. He was all bulging while I was lean and slim. I had the washboard abs but my pecs weren’t huge and my arms did look like tumors---not that Roy’s did. I was upset at first, not looking like the Terminator. But the more I worked out the more I realized that in a place like this it was bad to be huge.
A lot of my muscle came from island exploring.
I abandoned the oasis and the tree copse and moved north. After a few weeks of living here and there, drinking sparsely and eating salted boar meat, I finally found what I was looking for. The island had a little stream. I followed it for a few days until it led me to another little oasis. It was a lake, a massive one. Not as big as the one in my backyard but it was still impressive. Better yet, it was right at the base of the mountain. There was this freshwater waterfall running into it and the water was so crystal clear I could see my reflection in it.
My reflection startled me at first. When I first got to the lake it had been a couple weeks since I’d seen myself and when I saw the blonde haired girl staring back at me I was a bit floored. It was still me but there were subtle changes…I think. The girl in the water had a softer face, high cheekbones and I think her nose was a bit smaller than mine. Her hair was definitely longer. It was past my shoulders now and in my eyes. My mother always wanted me to grow it out but I always managed to keep it slightly androgynous. I liked long hair, but long as in guy standards---which to me meant down to my shoulders. The hair on me now was still about that long but it looked softer, shiny but dirty too.
Besides the changes, I kept myself busy.
I built a shelter, which took about a week---I think.
After my first initial sojourn, I went back to the beach but from a different peninsula. This beach was a gold mine. I found a lot of empty bottles, lots of plastic and driftwood and lots of useless consumer junk. It was funny but I never realized how much crap I had until I could no longer use it. A lot of the stuff I found on the beach was useless but there were some good things. On one trip I found my best tool yet: it was a machete but without the handle. It had a real dull blade but I sharpened it quickly enough. I also found a green tarp; it was at least five by five, about my height and in pretty good condition. I did some editing to it and made myself a cape/rain poncho. It was pretty wicked and it also helped me when the cold winds came blowing through.
I found a lot of other useful things on the beach. I found this old fish net and when I looked at it I had this image of an arrow, capable of spreading a net on a target. It was so cool but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it would never work. I kept the idea in the back of my head though. I wondered if it was possible to modify arrows to do different things. I know Robin Hood never did but he didn’t live in the modern age like us. Another image popped into my head: one of a man dressed in green, running around the city, fighting crime and helping people. It was an interesting concept, but it was crazy too.
I did use the net. Even though it was a little battered, I was able to fix it and use it for fishing. After getting my machete, I converted the metal shard into a spear. I attached it to a long branch and used it to spear fish. I was a little rusty and it took lots of practice but I pulled it off eventually. Now I’m a pretty decent spear fisher.
A few days after my first bow broke, I resolved to make another. This time I took my time and did it right. It turns out that there were a lot of trees on the island that were perfect for bow making. I found one that was like yew but was more sturdy and flexible. I took my time crafting the bow. I made sure I kept the wood moist and with the machete, I was able to carve it to give it a more bow-like shape. It took me several days to get it right, instead of the several hours like before. I perfected the string too. I actually found a tree that I was able to scrape some fibers from. I learned this from BB too. It took me forever but I was able to twist and braid the fibers into a practical and much stronger string that I ever could with a vine.
The arrows became a task. I realized how weak the stone arrowheads were. I still liked the idea of the green stone but I needed to perfect that too. I found my answer in scrap metal. A lot of it was washed up here and there. I gathered as much as I could. Then I carved an arrowhead mold into a thick piece of wood. I burned the wood, melted the metal until I filled the mold with it. I crushed some of the green stone with a large rock, sprinkling it into the metal. The arrowheads weren’t green anymore but they were a lot stronger than before. I made a lot more too: about twenty. I used the same process to make the arrows but switched from seagull feathers to a more colorful variety.
I found a bird on the island that had bright colorful feathers. I used those to make the fletch on my arrows. I tried to use mainly green ones, but they were in low supply.
With a proper bow and arrow, I became a better hunter. I tried to avoid killing the boars whenever possible, but I killed a few every now and then. I mainly stuck to killing chickens and other small game. I found that my new home was teeming with life. Not just birds either. Most of the animals hid further inland. There was a dozen different little rodents, none bigger than raccoons, but they easy to kill and had a fair amount of meat. My diet wasn’t just fish and meat though. There was a lot of fruit I was able to pick from trees. Most of it was of the tropical variety which I never really cared for before but I abided by Buck’s first rule.
After arriving at my permanent home, I went about building a shelter. I didn’t do anything real elaborate. I built a small hut out of thick branches. I tied them together using real thick vines and I made a roof by thatching huge fern leaves together. It wasn’t the greatest place but it was enough for my needs. I retired the net form fishing and turned it into a hammock. My mother’s suitcase had a place of honor as did the picture of us. I often went to sleep every night staring at it, dreaming about that day. It killed me that I’d never have another day like it. I would often think about the guys who killed my parents and my anger would get the better of me. I carved a rough likeness of the bastard who killed my mother, into a tree, and used it for target practice. Though I still refused to take the kill shot I did put every single arrow into his ugly forehead. In real life there was no way I could kill him but it helped me work out my frustrations.
It bothered me that men like them were allowed to walk around. The world was filled with dangerous people and nobody cared. In Star City alone, the crime rate was astronomical. There were drug dealers and rapists and petty criminals running all over the city. The police were overwhelmed. There was too much crime and they were spread too thin. Someone needed to help them, someone needed to stand up to all those bastards and put them in their place.
But my current task was to climb the mountain.
I’d been debating it for weeks---at least I think it’s been weeks. I’ve been trying to find the perfect way to do it. For a few days I tried to figure how to climb. I had no rope and nothing to climb the rock face with but my hands. Looking up it was a sheer rock face, I could see places to grab a hold, but I wasn’t really confident in my abilities to climb it.
I’ve only gone climbing once; it was one of those fake rock walls….
“Why are we doing this again?” I asked as we pedaled our bikes down the street.
Roy sighed. He told me why, but I still didn’t believe him. Apparently it was to help us unwind after a grueling school year. School was over with, it ended yesterday. Now the two of us had the whole summer to slum around. My family and I weren’t leaving for Florida until sometime at the end of July. It was supposed to be sooner but a project of my father’s went a little behind schedule. Roy claimed he was going to be bored all summer, what with me in Florida and most of his teammates off at baseball camp or something. I personally think he was out to get revenge on me for the dance.
The day after the dance he called me, pissed that Mia had screwed with him. He seemed to think I had something to do with it and we were playing some messed up game. I talked him down and told him it was all her. I reminded him who Mia was and how she danced to the beat of her own drummer. That seemed to calm him down but he was still a bit mad. I couldn’t blame him; I would have been pissed at her too. I was kind of miffed at her but I was miffed at him too. After he found out who she was, he completely ignored her. I know they hated each other, but he could have at least been polite to her. I realize she wasn’t the one he wanted to take but at least he could have tried to be civil.
I asked him the same question again but he didn’t listen or refused to answer. Roy liked to do crazy and sporting things, usually dragging me off on them. Today it was rock climbing, last month he tried to talk me into bungee jumping. Luckily we were too young for that one. I’m not sure what his beef was but as long as I’d known him Roy was a bit of a thrill seeker. I think it might have been because of his dad. Roy’s lifetime dream was to grow up and be a firefighter. He said it was because his dad died in a fire trying to save people. I’d always wanted to do something in law enforcement. I wanted to help people too but I didn’t need to put myself anywhere near fire to do it.
The rock climbing wall was actually inside the Wildcat Gym. It was this ultra extreme sporting center. It was a combination gym, boxing arena, and karate dojo. It was run by this big old guy named Ted, but everyone called him The Wild Cat. He was apparently some big war hero. He had the medals to prove it; there was a bunch of them framed on his office wall. Ted was a mixed martial arts expert, who’d had more concussions and broken bones than anyone---or so they say. A lot of the Gym regulars say he has “Nine Lives” because of all the scraps he gets himself out of. Ted was a decent enough guy, he was a bit cranky but it was just a façade.
The rock wall was a new thing. He’d only installed it a few weeks ago and it was the newest craze with us young people.
Roy and I chained our bikes out front. When we entered there was already a bevy of beefy guys working out. Several of them were surrounding the boxing ring in the center as two guys were going at it. There was more in the dojo while one of Ted’s junior instructors led a class. The big man himself, Ted, was in the corner, chewing over the lone girl in the room. I recognized her from school, it was that Japanese girl, I think her name was Shado or something. She was off in the corner by herself, limbering up with some exercises. She was bending her body in ways that were humanly impossible. A lot of the guys were drooling over her but pretending not to watch.
As we walked past Ted, he was grumbling about a girl being in his place. Ted was a notorious chauvinist, who took offense to girls of all shapes and sizes.
He was busy grumbling about Shado until I walked under his nose. One of his large hands clamped on my frail shoulders. I jumped about ten feet, Ted glared at me.
“One girl in here is enough, missy” he roared.
Roy came to my defense. “This is Jonas, Ted” he said quickly, stepping in front of me. “He’s a guy, he’s just a little…ummm…girly.”
Ted squinted his eyes at me. “You need muscles on that body of yours, boy. You should come by when the place isn’t so packed, I’ll whip you into shape.”
He let out a hearty laugh and slapped me in the back.
Roy laughed and wrapped his arm around my shoulder, leading me away.
Everyone knew better than to cross Ted. Rumor had it that after the army, he became a big fighter. There was a match he was supposed to throw but he didn’t. He apparently screwed a bunch of people over, really bad ones and they tried to make Ted’s life a living hell. But he fought back. Everyone said that’s why he had Nine Lives because the guys he screwed nearly beat him to death. But somehow Ted bounced back from it.
I looked at the man, all dressed in black, and grimaced. He didn’t look like a man that had had his ass kicked more than once. He looked like a guy who ate bricks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ted was definitely the enforcer, how anyone beat him up was a mystery.
Roy went through the basics of rock climbing. Apparently this was his third or fourth time there. I let him set up my harness and make sure my ropes were all right. I stepped into the harness and one of the attendants held my rope. I started up slow, taking my time. Roy was already ahead of me, climbing like a pro. It bothered me a little bit to see how athletic he was. Roy was always a super jock, even when we were kids. It used to drive Mia nuts because she was sure he was cheating. But Roy just had natural talent, everything he did he seemed to do right. I wasn’t really good at anything, except diving and archery of course. The only thing I ever beat him at was archery. But Roy wasn’t one of those guys that got angry; he just smiled and said “I better do better next time.”
“Are you going to ask her out?” he called down.
“Maybe, tomorrow” I said.
We continued to climb for a while until I remembered something. “What about your girl? Are you going to ask her out? I mean you missed your opportunity for the dance but I’m sure she’d go to the movies with you.”
“I’m not sure she’d go out with me” he said sadly.
I shook my head. That was Roy’s problem, his only problem; he didn’t think he was good enough at anything. That included asking girls out. It was strange because two years ago, we didn’t even like girls. Now they were the only thing Roy talked about. His hormones were definitely raging. I’m not sure what was wrong with mine. I mean, I liked Sandra, she was nice and sweet, and she smelled real nice. But I didn’t like her the way Roy talked about other girls. I didn’t notice her butt, except to silently compare it to mine. Her breasts were bigger than mine but I shouldn’t have noticed that. She had a cute laugh. She also did this thing where she wrinkled her nose when she was thinking. I really liked that, I wish I could do that.
I sighed at Roy’s answer. “You have to stop putting yourself down. If you really like this girl you should go for it.”
He smiled at that and continued climbing.
It didn’t take him long to reach the top but it took me at least thirty minutes. I was kind of embarrassed because it was such a little wall. After we climbed down, Ted talked the two of us over to the exercising machines. He went kind of easy on Roy but he was really grilling me. First it was the bench press, then it was free weights then back to the bench press. We were at the Gym for about two hours and on the way back home I could barely ride my bike.
Roy and I parted, it was the last time I saw him. When I got home, my Mom was smiling and told me good news. Apparently my mother fixed the problem and we were leaving tomorrow.
I wonder if Super Roy would have problems with this rock wall.
It had to be at least a hundred and fifty feet straight up. From the ground it looked pretty sheer but it was actually pretty rocky. There were a lot of handholds and foot holes. I wouldn’t say it was an easy climb but it was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. It was a lot like the rock wall in fact except I don’t have a life line and I didn’t have boobs then---well I did, but they weren’t as big and they were compressed against my chest. Now I was having a hard time because they kept getting in the way. I tried to imagine what girls did with these damn things. Mia played intramural field hockey and her boobs were a little bigger than mine, I tried to imagine what she did with them. I cursed myself for not asking.
Besides the boobs, the climb wasn’t so bad as long as I concentrated. There was this guy in India who could climb up walls like a monkey. I saw it on some show on the History channel. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. He scaled right up the wall, he practically ran up it. When the host of the show looked at his hands, they were like sandpaper. It was so damn freaky. So I figure if he can do it then there’s some hope for me yet. Of course, he’d been doing it for about ten years but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
I climbed for about two hours. It was the most grueling and gut wrenching thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. When I finally reached the top, I collapsed to my knees, gasping. I took a giant swig from my water bottle and poured some of it on my head. My wet hair clung to my back and face until I whipped it around, splashing water about. I stumbled to my feet. I was still panting heavily so I took another swig of water. Then I stood up straight, took a few deep breaths and finally looked at my surroundings.
It wasn’t the mountain top that interested me---that was barren rock. What interested me was the view. I could see the whole island and beyond. I could see the whole jungle, including my little oasis---the second one with the waterfalls, the first was way too small. The island was a lot bigger than I thought it was. It was also the strangest shape I’d seen. I knew there were at least three peninsulas but what I saw absolutely floored me: there were at least five. It was kind of crazy and looked like a giant starfish. What wasn’t crazy was the fact that there was nothing else around. The whole of the ocean around the island was nothing but water.
So much for thinking, there were other islands around.
I thought maybe I could use the raft and paddle my way to another island but there was nothing. It made me think though. If there were no other islands around here, did any boats pass this way? Surely this place had to be on some map. It was too big an island to not go undiscovered. I don’t care if I was smack dab in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle, there had to be some place somewhere that this thing appeared. I tried to remember if I saw anything like it on my father’s map. I had been looking at it the day before the storm. My parents liked to find little secluded places to set down and have picnics. This would have been the perfect little place for them.
I spent a lot time of the mountaintop, getting the lay of the land. The mountain had island on three sides and faced north into the ocean. It was a sheer drop to the water below. If the fall didn’t kill you, the jagged rocks would. The beach wrapped around the majority of the island. The rest was a rocky shoreline. The jungle was pretty much everything. I’d never seen anything like it. It made the one in my backyard look miniscule. I could see the little copse and the place where I buried the dead boar---yes, buried it. I skinned it, took whatever meat I could and then buried its bones. I even said a little prayer for it.
I stayed on the mountain for about an hour, walking the whole of it. I was trying to see if there was anything I missed. I was just about to leave when I saw it. At first, I didn’t think it was anything because it was so small. But after staring for about ten minutes, I realized it was actually a white speck and that white speck was slowly moving.
Oh my God, it was a ship.
I’m not sure how fast I climbed down the mountain but it was a lot faster than I went up it. I hit the ground running, exhaustion my constant friend but I pushed it back into my mind. Nothing was going to stop me from achieving my goal. I ran into my little shelter and grabbed everything I could carry. Most of the stuff was now set out and made things look homely. My mother’s clothes were hanging on the walls, her books---which I’d read from cover to cover---were stacked in a pile. Her flashlight was always with me even though the last battery went out about a week ago. I had her phone with me too but there was no charge left in it. They were just trinkets now but they were my mother’s trinkets.
I threw everything into the suitcase, well everything I could grab in a hurry.
The only things I didn’t were my things. I grabbed my boar hide quiver---that took me forever to make---and I got my bow. I wore the machete on a belt I made from tree fibers and I always carried my spear in case an aggressive male boar caught me off guard. I pulled on my tarp cape and took a deep breath. I took one final look at my little home. I felt a weak pit in my heart. Even though it wasn’t really home, it had been my security for God knows how long.
I couldn’t help but think about leaving my real home for vacation. Back then, I didn’t realize it was going to be the last time I’d see it…
‘C’mon Jo Jo.”
My mother was a in a hurry. My father had left the night before to make sure everything was ok with the rental property. We owned a house on Miami Beach, it was a little costly but my parents hired someone to care for it when we weren’t there. When my parents got married my father’s business was a tiny little thing, barely a blip on people’s radars. About a year later though, he and Mia’s dad hit it big. Even though they didn’t have my grandfather’s money, they did very well for themselves. We and the Deardens co-owned the beach property but they didn’t do much traveling. Mia’s dad was a workaholic.
I was taking my time; I always took my time. I grabbed the essentials: iPod, iPhone, PSP, Wrigley’s Spearmint gum. I love that gum, don’t ask me why. I like to leave everything to the last minute. My mother calls me the Great Procrastinator. My father is the same way but he calls it “being thorough”. I like to think of it as “being prepared”.
I made sure I had everything, which constituted two bags of stuff. One bag was filled with all my things, including clothes and toiletries. The other bag I called the “pink bag”. Two days before the trip my mother announced that she wanted me to see what it was like to explore my feminine side. I protested but lost. Apparently, Drs. P and W were in agreement with her. Even though I made it very clear that I was a guy and wanted to remain as one, they asked me how did I really know unless I tried. Dr. P tried to use medical mumbo jumbo to explain things and Dr. W came forward with psychiatric reasons. In the end, they told me it was my decision.
So I finally relented and my mother dragged me to the mall three towns over.
I was extremely embarrassed as she dragged me from one girly store to another. First it was underwear which wasn’t as bad as I thought---I’m not saying I liked it I’m just saying it was more comfortable than my boxers. After that, we hit several clothing stores. I protested when she took me to get my ears pierced but she fired back that a lot of guys my age had pierced ears. I lost that fight too. I didn’t win any fight; she had an answer for everything---that’s how I was saddled with that bikini. The only thing I got her on was the salon. She wanted to give me the full works but I was able to talk her down. The girls trimmed my hair into a more feminine style and did my nails. They gave me a little makeup and tweezed my brows---apparently a girl was supposed to have dainty arches. The last place we went to was a store where they sold things to help enhance or hide my figure. It was where we bought the compression vest a couple of weeks ago. We got something called a gaff, it was supposed to hide my you-know-what so I’d look normal. My mother made me wear it home.
My mother knocked on my door as I stood staring at myself in the mirror. It was horrible. With my hair and my eyebrows, I looked just like a damn girl. I couldn’t help but think of all the ribbing I’d get from Mia. Without the vest, she made me wear one of my new bras. The A cup made my little bumps protrude, pushing my t-shirt up into little anthills. The gaff thingy flattened everything below. The jean shorts she had me wearing were also brand new and very much in style. They were also way too form fitting. If anyone saw me in them, they’d be able to tell I didn’t have a guy’s figure. It was so damn embarrassing.
My mother gushed when she pushed open my door. “Oh Livvie, you look adorable”. She hugged me from behind, crying a little.
I smiled weakly.
We decided that while in “girl mode” that calling me Jonas was a bad idea. So she came up with Olivia, apparently it was the name of her mother. She died before I was born, lung cancer I think. My mother didn’t like to talk about it; she said it was too painful. My mother always told me it was scary how much I looked like her when she was younger. I’d actually seen pictures; it was kind of scary. But my grandmother was a real woman; I’m not sure what I was.
“Do I have to wear a pink shirt and short shorts?”
She laughed. “Isn’t that what girls your age wear?”
I groaned. I hated it when she answered a question with a question. I also hated when she was right. Girls my age did dress this way but not as girly. My mother went a little overboard on that. Everything we bought was pink or purple and they were the girliest things she could find. She told me she’d never have a daughter again and wanted to make sure the world knew I was a girl. I told her that that wasn’t going to be a problem.
“Why do I have to wear new shoes?”
I wiggled my toes and looked down at my feet. On them was a pair of girl’s Nikes with a pink swish. We got them at Lady Footlocker. My mother wanted to make sure I was girl from head to toe. Even my socks---which were ankle ones---were girly and cute. I talked her out of pink ones but the ones on my feet were just as embarrassing.
She didn’t answer me. Instead, she gave me another hug. I loved my mother to death but sometimes she went a little overboard.
A beep shattered our embrace, our dare I say it, mother/daughter moment.
“That’s the taxi, sweetie.”
We left my room in a rush; my Mom added my two bags to the pile on the front porch. The taxi driver got out of the car and smiled at us. He made some remark, complimenting the both of us. It made me blush---what can I say it, was kind of sweet. He wouldn’t let me touch the bags. He told me a pretty young thing shouldn’t do any of the lifting. I blushed again but I was also kind of annoyed. I hated it when men thought girls were dainty and not able to do stuff that they could do. The taxi driver was just like that jerk Ted. This guy might have flattered me but he was still a pig. If Mia had been here and heard him, she would have kicked him in the balls.
I wanted to punch him in the gut but my mother gave me a stern look. So instead, I let the “Man” load our bags and got into the back seat with my mother.
We left the driveway a few minutes later. I slouched down as far as I could go, not wanting anyone to see me. But our house was the only one around; the others were down the road a bit. I got one last glance at the house as we pulled out of the driveway. As we drove away, I couldn’t help but think that things were going to be different when we got back in three weeks. I’m not sure if that was extremely scary or really exciting.
I ran as fast as I could, thinking about my last day in Star City brought tears to my eyes.
I was making good time but I’m not sure if it was fast enough. It took nearly an hour to climb down the mountain. I spent at least ten minutes in my little camp and no matter how fast I ran it was still going to take an hour to reach the beach. The boat has to be there still. It was so far off so it was going to be there. I kept trying to reassure myself. I needed it to be there. This was my only chance to get out of here and I wasn’t going to let it pass me by.
When I reached the beach, I ran to light my fire. I set up this one and several just like it all over the island. I put them in places where I knew they’d be seen. My goal was to put one on the mountain as well. But I hoped that would no longer be the case. My signals were large piles of wood, stuff with whatever I could find that would burn long and fast. Mostly it was leaves but there was some plastic and paper shoved in. This particular one had all of that and some. A few weeks back I found a single flip-flop and remembered something Buck said about making the fire as noticeable as possible. The flip-flop was ideal.
Last summer Mia and I were on the beach, for the Fourth. Our parents were preparing to set off their fireworks. We had those dinky little sparklers and were waving them at one another. We started to pretend they were light sabers and were clashing them together. That’s when we had an accident. Mia’s broke and the top fell on her foot. Luckily, it didn’t burn her too badly but it scorched the hell out of her flip-flop. The flip-flop was completely burnt; the smoke that came from it was horrible and black. But it was extremely noticeable. It caused quite a commotion. One of the beach cops tried to shut down our fun but my Dad was able to convince him that no one got hurt.
So when I found that flip-flop I knew exactly what to use it for.
I reached into my belt and pulled out the two stones I used to light my fires. I rubbed them together and got a spark. I lit my Signal and waited. I couldn’t see the boat from the beach but I knew it still had to be out there. For a while, I started waving my arms in the air and shouting. But I got tired and I was starting to lose my voice. I sat down, sighing. Twenty minutes later, however, I saw the boat. At first, I didn’t think it noticed my fire but then I saw it turning toward me. I jumped to my feet and starting waving my arms some more.
As the boat got closer, I realized it was a cruise ship. All I could do was smile and thank the Maker. It was one of those huge liners, a giant Caribbean one. I saw them on all the commercials, advertising a tour of paradise. It was gleaming white and looking for all the world like it owned the ocean. My parents took a cruise on one of those a couple years back but they wouldn’t let me come. It was some kind of second honeymoon. They were gone for about two weeks; I had to stay with Mia. She and I had fun but I was a little jealous of the rents when they got back and told me about all the fun they had. They promised to take me on a cruise some day but…
The boat finally stopped coming. At first, I thought they were forgetting me then I saw them come at me with a smaller boat, it was white too and there were several people in white uniforms inside. It was some kind of launch. It bobbed up and down on the waves as it cruised toward my island. I quickly decided that I looked like a barbarian so I did some quick changes. I pulled off my hooded tarp and quiver. I stowed both of them in my suitcase. I did the same with the machete but there was nothing I could do to hide the bow. But I took off the string and set it up like a hiking stick, leaning a bit on it.
When the Launch came ashore, two of three people onboard scrambled onto the beach. They were both wearing white uniforms. One was clearly a Jamaican; his long dreadlocks were pulled behind his head in a ponytail. The other was a pretty blonde woman who was carrying a white bag. They both approached me at a rush.
“Holy moly, there really was a person on the island?” said the man, glancing back at the driver of the launch. Then he looked at me. “Are you an island princess?”
The blonde rolled her eyes. “Are you all right, sweet heart?”
All I could do was cry. I dropped my suitcase and ran into her arms. She stumbled a bit and then wrapped her arms around me. I cried into her chest. It’d been so long that I’d seen or talked to anyone I wasn’t sure if they were real or not. She let me cry. I’m not sure how long I did it but after I was done, she had me sit while she ran some tests to make sure I was all right.
“I’m Dr. Carlson; I’m the Ship’s Medic, its company policy that I check you out before I let you onboard?”
I nodded. I wouldn’t have let me onboard either.
The Jamaican guy pulled a walkie-talkie from his belt and started talking to someone. I only heard his side of the conversation and it was all about me. I kept hearing him say “her” and “she”. I sighed; it looks like these people thought I was a girl too. Not that I was giving them any reason to doubt me. I looked more like a girl now than ever. I was wearing a pair of my mother’s shorts and my bikini top; my assets were on display for the world to see.
The Jamaican kept talking. All I could think about was the man who led the assault on our boat. Though they were nothing alike, his voice made me cringe. I’d been having a lot of nightmares about that voice.
“What’s your name, sweetheart?”
I lied, I don’t know why. “It’s Bonnie” I said, internally groaning. “Bonnie King.”
Great now I’m the damn cousin from Texas. I even said it with that stupid accent.
Dr. Carlson starting asking me other questions but I didn’t want to answer anything more. I was nervous and excited. I kept looking at the ship, wanting more than anything to get on it and off this island. But she kept asking. I kept refusing to answer. I clutched my bow in a death grip. I wasn’t going to let it go, I don’t know why. My heart was racing and I was starting to get a little woozy. I think Dr. Carlson noticed because she was doing everything to keep me conscious. I’m not sure if it was a delayed reaction or what. I was so happy to be rescued I think I overdid myself. The exhaustion from all the running caught up with me at that particular moment.
The world came rushing around me and I passed out in her arms.
The scream woke me up.
I snapped my eyes open, confused because I thought I was dreaming. I sat up, the fluffy white comforter slid off my body as I did so. I woke to darkness, which was strange. More strange was the fact that I had no idea where I was. I wasn’t in my hammock, I was on a bed and there were no creaking trees, strange jungle noises or stifling heat to greet me. Instead, the room was cool; the only noise was that scream and I was sure I was no longer on the island. I tried to think back to what happened. I remembered seeing the cruise ship, running myself to exhaustion to get to the beach and then the people came. They must have taken me to their ship when I passed out.
Oh, God, I’m off the island. I would have been ecstatic if not for that scream.
I jumped out of bed, nearly stumbling because I wasn’t used to being so high. I hung my hammock low and sleeping on it as long as I did, one tends to get accustomed to that. I stumbled about in the dark, trying to figure out what was going on. I found the wall and the light switch a few seconds later. I flipped the switch and the room exploded with light. I stumbled into the wall, shielding my eyes. It was fricking bright. I wasn’t used to so much light. I was used to the light the jungle provided which was half obscured by foliage unless I got into the open. Even then, it was quite different from the artificial light from a bulb.
I looked around my room and was shocked to see it was quite large. It wasn’t as big as my room at home or the one in the beach house but it was bigger than I thought. It was decorated in a corny nautical theme; everything was blue and white. The walls were wood paneling and the floors were carpeted. There was a closet, a white dresser, a huge vanity with mirror and a bathroom off to the side. The main wall had a huge white Q on it; I knew instantly what kind of cruise ship I was on. I knew the logo well: it appeared on every packet I received from my grandfather. I groaned. My mother spent my whole life trying to shield me from her father and all his billions but it had a tendency to pop back into our lives every now and then.
I heard another scream and it snapped me back to reality.
I ran to the door and opened it a crack. There was no one in the hall but I could hear screaming. What the hell was going on? Then I heard it, it was distant at first but it was recognizable. It was a noise that any avid action movie fan would know: gunfire. Holy crap. I shut the door slowly and leaned against it. What the hell is it with me and boats? I took a deep breath and pushed the dresser in front of the door. It wasn’t heavy at all but a while ago, it would have been. I guess all that jungle exercise was really paying off.
I turned around and saw my room had a balcony. There was a pair of glass doors opening up into it. I wonder if I can get out that way? I was about to rush to it when I heard the rain. It was pouring like crazy out there. I looked around my room and found the suitcase, my bow lying on top of it. I rushed over, finding a note there as well. It was from Dr. Carlson: Bonnie, I put all your stuff in the room with you. The Captain want me to check it for some ID but I told him I wasn’t about to invade your privacy. I also brought your walking stick; you were clutching it so tightly that it took me forever to get it out of your hand. When you’re up and about the Captain would like to see you, there’s some questions he’d like to ask you.
I opened the case and found my quiver and tarp right where I left it. I pulled them both out. I was wearing my clothes from the beach, so I’m glad no one bothered to undress me. I wonder what kind of shock they would have gotten seeing my you-know-what. I couldn’t imagine trying to explain things to them---after calming them down of course. I wasn’t too happy about them thinking I was a girl but I guess it was good for now. Hopefully I wasn’t going to be on this ship too long.
I pulled the tarp on; making sure the hood was over my head. It was a little big and obscured my face but it did its job. On the island, I don’t know how many times the thing kept me dry. It might have been a little stiff and uncomfortable but it was kind of cool too. Robin Hood wore a cape and hood when he went traipsing around in Sherwood. I wonder if he thought it was cool too.
I secured my quiver, restrung my bow and ran out onto the balcony.
The boat was no longer moving. Whoever was onboard, shooting, must have gotten to the bridge. I looked down, trying to see if I could see anything. I had a pretty good idea what was going on too. Before we left there was a lot of talk about pirates in the area. The Coast Guard and the Navy were having problems keeping them all in check. After I went into the water and was on the island a few days, I concluded that that’s what probably killed my parents. I thought they were drug dealers at first but now I was certain they were pirates. I still couldn’t figure out why they’d burn my parent’s boat though.
I hope these are the same ones. I hefted my bow and jumped barefoot onto the balcony railing. With only one hand, I grabbed the bottom of the balcony above me and pulled myself up. My upper body strength was insane now. I can’t remember how many pull ups I did in one day but I was sure it was more than the average man. After a while, I even got bored and started doing them one handed. I know it sounds crazy but there’s not a lot to do on a deserted island. Like I said before, exercise helped focus my mind and kept me sane. Without it, I’d of probably started talking to a coconut or something.
I climbed over the railing and slipped belly first onto the balcony. The room above me was identical to mine. The sliding glass door was unlocked and I let myself in. Whoever was there looked like they were about to go scuba diving or something. There were two beds in this room; one of them had a green and black wetsuit lying on the bed. Whoever it was, who stayed here had left in a hurry. There was a half-eaten sandwich on the night stand and a cup of coffee. I stuck my finger in the coffee; it was still warm. Did the gunshots scare them?
I walked to the door and peered out. There was no one in the hall. I went back into the room, closing the door and started pacing. I couldn’t keep climbing from balcony to balcony; someone was eventually going to find me. It was only a matter of time before whoever it was went room to room. I had to do something and I had to do it fast. In my pacing, I bumped one of the other tables in the room, causing the newspaper sitting on it to fall not the floor. The headline caught my eye: Mysterious Jade Saves Tour Bus. The name of the reporter---Lois Lane---appeared underneath as well as a grainy black and white photo, depicting what looked like a girl in a strange costume, hovering near a bus. She was in front of it, pointing her clenched fist at it and there was some kind of glow surrounding the bus, lifting it off the ground.
What the hell? I grabbed the paper off the floor and started to read: Mysterious Jade, the woman who calls herself the Green Lantern, strikes again. This time it was in Miami Florida where a tour bus full of senior citizens blew out a tire on a bridge and skidded into the guardrail. The bus was tittering on the brink, ready to go over when Jade appeared out of nowhere. She used her strange green ring and saved the bus. When this reporter tried to get an interview, Jade smiled, refused to comment and flew off. The passengers of the bus were ecstatic and the Mayor praised our new green protector for her courage and bravery. “We need more people like her in the world,” he said with a big smile on his face.
What is this? I sat on the corner of the bed, flabbergasted. This Jade person must have popped up when I was on the island. I quickly looked at the date: it was October 20th. Holy crap, I’d been on the island for almost three months. Damn, it felt longer than that. I stared at the picture again; the woman in it didn’t look like a woman at all. She looked be about my age. It was kind of cool. Mia was huge superhero fan and always said the world would be cool if they really existed. She was a huge fan of one of them; I could never remember her name. Me, I’d never really gotten into the whole thing, I liked my Robin Hood. I was always used to tell her “screw men in spandex, the world needs a Robin Hood again.”
I dropped the paper on the floor.
I went to pick up again but stopped when I looked at the wetsuit. There’s no way. I looked at the picture on the front page again and back to the wetsuit. I kept looking at both of them and finally sighed. I left the paper and grabbed the wetsuit. What the hell was I doing, I had no clue. But there were people in trouble on this ship. Yes, the bad guys had guns but I had the element of surprise on my side. Was I crazy? You bet your ass I was. But I needed to do something. Maybe they’d think I was Jade and surrender. I laughed at that.
I slipped off my shorts, the tarp and my quiver. I wasn’t wearing any underwear but I had the bikini bottoms on. They were real tight but they were good enough. I pulled the wetsuit on slowly. It was a little tight in a few places but it looked all right. I stood in front of the mirror, staring at myself. It was really tight and left nothing to the imagination. I had a body, a real hot body. Looking at me sent shiver up and down my spine. No guy alive had a body like this. Was it possible that I’d never be able to go back to being a guy again?
I smirked. As scary as that sounds I need to think about the now.
I pulled my tarp back on, pulling the hood down over my head. I looked like a total idiot but if it could distract the goons then I didn’t care. I grabbed my quiver, putting it at my waist and nocked an arrow. I opened the door and slipped out into the hallway.
Here goes nothing.
I crept along the hallway, keeping my bow raised the whole time. BB taught Roy and me how to hunt like his people. He took us both on a hunting trip when we were eight and showed us the finer point of deer hunting. He said his people had a knack for sneaking up on their target without being seen. It was all about the way you stepped and how you carried your weight. He demonstrated but not on a deer. Instead, he crept up on a bush and fired an arrow into it. Roy and I were a little skeptical because it was a bush after all. But BB said the principle was sound. He showed us another demonstration by sneaking up on a rabbit. He got pretty close before he fired his shot. But he didn’t kill it; he never killed anything.
I was creeping along now, padding down the hall in my bare feet, not making a sound. I was on the fifth deck of the ship now, moving my way up to the top. Apparently, I seemed to be the only person they didn’t have locked down. To me it felt like an inside job, it was the only explanation. They came in, emptied out all the rooms and took everyone somewhere else. They had to know the manifest and roster to know who was on the ship. Which meant either that they had a hacker or someone from the cruise line gave them the information. I knew that Queen Star Cruise, a subsidiary of Queen Industries, ran one of the best security mainframes in the world. Old man Queen---aka my Grandfather---would never have allowed a hacker into his system. He knew “everything about everyone”; my mother used to say it was “his business”.
My business was to find the bad guys and put a stop to them. I know it sounded corny but it was really the only way. I made an oath, a solemn vow that no one would be put in harm’s way when I was around. These people were in trouble and someone needed to help them. That sounded even cornier but I wasn’t going to let these bastards get away with this.
When I rounded the corner, I came upon my first pirate. I took a deep breath and slipped back around the corner. There was only one of them. He was a greasy looking guy, holding an AK47, standing between me and the only way up to the top deck. There were a couple ways I could do this: kill or wound. Well, actually only one way and it was the simplest for me. I took another deep breath and snapped around the corner, firing as I did so. My arrow whizzed through the air and found its target. I hit the son of a bitch in the left shoulder, putting the arrow right underneath the collarbone. He screamed out in pain and dropped his machine gun.
I slipped down the hall. He saw me coming and tried to stand up but the pain was too much. I smacked him as hard as I could with the limb of the bow. I heard a crack and for a second I thought it was the bow. Then I realized it was his jaw. He dropped face first onto the carpet, unconscious from my blow. Well, either that or the blood seeping from his shoulder. I checked him to make sure he was out cold. I tried to retrieve my arrow but he broke it when he fell. That’s got to be painful. Snapping an arrow when it was inside of you was never a good thing but then again pulling it out wasn’t very bright either.
I rifled through the pockets of his coat, looking for anything that might ID him. I found a wallet but there was no driver’s license in it. There was a lot of money though, way too much for a thug like him to have. I took it all, sticking it in the only place I could: my bikini top. Where the hell did he get all that money? I know it was wrong for a hero to take from the bad guy but it was over five hundred bucks. In fact, it felt a little uncomfortable pressed against my chest---I’m refusing to acknowledge them as boobs.
I stepped over him and went up the stairs. I was amazed at how big and open everything was. It was so clean too. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. I mean I’d seen the TV commercials and the brochures, but they didn’t do it justice. It was like a floating hotel. When I walked up those stairs, I didn’t even know I was on a ship. Everything looked as if it should. I was half expecting to see the cast from Love Boat walk by---yes, I know what it is, I watch a lot of TV Land. I’d like to describe what I was seeing but I didn’t even know where to begin. I could feel the breeze on my face and smell the salty sea air. For a moment I closed my eyes and felt like I was still on Starfish Island---cool name, huh, I thought it up just now.
I unfortunately didn’t get much time to take in the sights.
Two guys came walking up, leisurely holding their guns. They didn’t see me, which was to my advantage. Merlyn always said an archer has two great weapons at his disposal: speed and accuracy. He demonstrated it by setting up four targets; each one had a balloon attached to it. He gave me a stopwatch and told me to time him. When I told him go it was so fast. He drew and fired all within a blink of an eye. One balloon popped then the other until they were all gone. I timed him at just less than twenty seconds. I’m not sure if that was good or not but he seemed impressed by it. My first speed trial didn’t go so well, I did it in about forty five seconds but he told me it was better than when he first started learning.
But I kept working at it. Two months before we left, shortly after learning about my condition, something changed…
“Ten seconds” said Roy as he hit the button, stopping the timer.
I lowered my bow, my heart was thumping, my palms were sweaty and I was on fire. I usually got that way when I was shooting but today something different. I’m not sure what it was but I felt like the whole world stopped for a minute there. It was just me, my bow and those four targets. When I fired, it felt as if the world was slowing down. Everything was perfect and precise. For a second there I felt something too. I’m not sure what it was but it was definitely something.
‘That was fricking impressive,” said Roy, giving me a big hug.
I shrugged out of it quickly. My chest was a bit tender and itchy. My mother was supposed to get something for me to hide it but right now, it was too exposed. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was a Class A Freak. Already I had to forego showering and had to change in the bathroom. The Coach and Mr. Grell, our principal, were the only ones outside my family who knew what was going on. It was already embarrassing enough that I had to wear a camisole to school. I didn’t want Roy hugging me and noticing something was wrong.
He and the other guys were already freaking me out as it was. I’ve always been a little girly, but lately it’s been ten times worse. Someone actually asked me out today and yesterday I swore a couple guys in the mall were checking me out. It was absolutely horrible. Roy wasn’t helping either. This morning when he, Mia and I walked to school, he kept giving me these funny looks. Mia noticed too and slugged him in the back of the head. Roy confessed, admitting that my hair looked shinier. I hadn’t really noticed but Mia said the same thing a couple of days ago.
She was my rock. It was actually Mia who noticed something was wrong with me. We were stripping off in the boathouse on her property. Mia had this awesome outdoor pool that was heated, so as soon as spring hit the water was amazing. For as long as I could remember, she and I used to change together. Now that we were older we were both somewhat nervous about it but that all changed as soon as I took off my shirt. Her mouth dropped open when she saw my chest and the swollen nipples. I thought I was coming down with something. But she knew better. She went and grabbed her mother, who was a Pediatrician. It was Mrs. D who told my mother and everything else was history.
“How did you do that?”
I shrugged. “I’ve been practicing a lot lately.”
Roy shook his head. “That was unreal; I’ve never seen anything like it. I didn’t even see you pull the arrows from your quiver”
He knew all about my sessions with Merlyn. At first, he was a little miffed because Merlyn was the best. But after I told him I impressed the hell out Merlyn, he was stoked. He started calling me Robin Hood Jr. for a while which was both cool and annoying at the same time. I started ribbing him about his hair; it was a sore subject for Roy. BB and Roy’s new family were the only ones who were allowed to pick on his hair. Roy compensated by trying to be the best archer he could be.
Roy knew archery better than most. Archery was in Roy’s blood or pretty close to it. So me making those shots was absolutely unheard of. When BB adopted him, they gave him a new name, calling him “Red Arrow” because of his red hair.
I looked at the four-inch long red arrow on Roy’s forearm. He got a tattoo when he turned thirteen. He called it his “rite of passage” into manhood. I tried to convince my parents to let me have one but they didn’t go for it. My father wasn’t happy with BB for a while; he hated the fact that he put insane thoughts in my head. I got over the tattoo real quick; especially when I found out it involved needles. I can’t stand needles.
“No amount of practice can achieve that!”
So we set up four more balloons and I tried again. I did the same thing. We tried three more times after that. A crowd started to gather, including the Coach. I completely forgot that we were at school. Usually Roy and I practiced in my backyard but he had soccer practice in a few minutes. We always tried to squeeze in practice time whenever possible. I became somewhat of a spectacle after popping my fourth set; people started cheering and wanted me to pop more. The Coach put a stop to it. He claimed I had to be exhausted but I wasn’t. Which was strange because I should have been. He made the crowd part, which included Roy who was late for practice now.
“Are you feeling all right, Jonas?”
I nodded. I hadn’t even broken a sweat, which was strange because usually firing that many arrows was a lot of work. “I’m good, Coach”.
Coach McCoy nodded, crossing his arms in front of him. The Coach was a big guy, built like a linebacker. He was only a coach part time. He was actually a professor from Berkeley and was on loan for the time being. The school had some budget cuts last year and they had to cancel the athletics program, but Professor McCoy came through. He agreed to run things, without pay, because he felt athletics was the most important part of a child’s upbringing. He wasn’t the only one who worked for free around here. He was able to recruit a lot of young athletes from the college to come and help. The Coach was a well-liked guy and had a lot of friends.
The Coach frowned. It was strange, because the Coach frowned a lot. He wasn’t exactly the kind of guy that one would expect to teach several sports but he was athletic and super agile. I think he was a gymnast or something because he could move in ways that I’d never seen anyone move. Which was strange because he was such a big guy.
He sighed. “It’s a shame the Board won’t let you play anymore.”
I nodded. I found out yesterday that the Board had decided that in order to keep my condition secret, but there were a few things I had to give up. One of them was gym class, the other was my sports. I was pretty pissed but I understood why I was such a risk. I was neither boy nor girl. It would have been a lawsuit waiting to happen if anyone found out that I was in the girl’s locker room changing with them. The same could be said for the boys but they were avoiding putting me in there for a few good reasons. So the official story was that I had a fatigue problem, that I got tired too easily and couldn’t keep up with the strain.
‘Can I finish up here?” He smiled and nodded. He stayed with me as I continued to pop balloons. Even he was a bit impressed. In fact, I think there was a bit of a sparkle in his eye. It was only there for a second. He asked me a few questions, mainly about my family life and medical history. I told him I didn’t know much about either. My father’s family lived in another state and we only saw them every other year or so. My mother only had her father left and I’d never met him. I saw him all the time but who didn’t. He had an ego the size of Texas and plastered his face all over the television.
I fired arrows for another hour, the Coach stayed with me the whole time. Never once did I break a sweat and never once did I miss. Neither of us said anything after his initial questions but he kept nodding every so often. When I finished he told me if there was anything I wanted to talk about that I knew where to find him.
It many have been strange to fire so many arrows like that but I thought it was kind of awesome.
The two pirates were laughing and still didn’t notice me.
I clung to the wall, staying in the shadows. I was able to blend in with the green table umbrella right next to me. It was the best disguise. The two of them were talking about the passengers, laughing at how easy it was. They were pretty carefree about it too. It was hard to understand them because they were switching between Spanish and English, which was kind of strange. One of them was clearly American while the other was of Hispanic origin---I didn’t want to speculate because my mother always taught me that that was rude.
They started walking closer. “What the hell is the boss going to do with a cruise ship anyway?” asked the American.
‘I heard he wasn’t really after the ship. It was the guy who owned it. Someone paid him big money for this.” The guy who owned it? What the hell would a pirate want with my grandfather? Granted it was a multi-billionaire but he had nothing to do with pirates. Queen Industries had their hands all over the world, in just about everything. But they were legit, unlike some other corporations. There was no way my grandfather would have anything to do with pirates. As far as someone paying a pirate to capture one of my grandfather’s ships, a few people came to mind. It was all over the news; some big company was trying to buy out Queen Industries. The company’s name was left out but there was a lot of speculation as to who it might be. But were they stupid enough to pull this?
I let anger get the best of me.
I fired my first shot, hitting the American in the shoulder. Shoulder shots were the easiest way to subdue someone. But I couldn’t help but think there had to be another way without actually harming people. But it did the trick. The bastard fell to the ground. His companion was too slow. I dropped him with an arrow to the thigh. Both men hit the deck about the same time, withering in pain. I nocked another arrow and sidled over, keeping them in my sights. But neither was in any shape to fight back. Just to make sure though, I kicked their guns away.
“What the fuck?” snapped the American, trying to pull the arrow out of his shoulder?
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you”.
I made my voice as cold as possible. I wanted to sound threatening and not like the girl, I appeared to be. I don’t think it worked out all that well. They both laughed through their pain.
“It’s a chica,” said the Hispanic. “What the hell are you supposed to be?” I kicked him in the face. Ok I’m only fourteen years old---fifteen actually, because my birthday was in September--- me kicking a grown man in the face shouldn’t have caused much damage. So I was a bit surprised when I actually broke his nose. Maybe all that exercise actually paid off.
“I’m asking the questions around here.”
The American was no longer in any shape to answer anything. In fact, the pain from both his shoulder and his face caused him to pass out. I smirked, surprised that I’d actually done something so vicious. But I didn’t have time to be Mr. Courteous. There were people’s lives at stake here. “Looks like it’s just you and me.”
The Hispanic wasn’t in the best of shape either. The arrow in his leg must have hurt like a bitch. He was twitching and moaning, doing everything to stay conscious. He was feebly trying to pull it out but he was so weak that his fingers could barely grasp it.
‘You shot me in the leg,” he moaned.
I nodded. “If you don’t want a matching one in your throat then you’re going to tell me what I want to know?”
He nodded. So I asked the questions and he gave me the answers. I found out that there were twelve of them altogether, which mean I had about nine left. They came in two speedboats and took the ship by surprise. Most of the passengers were already in the dining hall eating lunch and watching some horrible magic act. The rest were at either the pool or doing some other stupid activity. When I asked them why they hit the cruise ship, he said he didn’t know because they usually went for yachts. The cruise ship was too big to sell and there were too many people onboard. But the boss was adamant about it, apparently he was being paid handsomely for it. I asked him if he knew who their mysterious employer was but he shook his head. He passed out shortly after my questions but I got what I needed to know.
I left him and his friend. The passengers were being held in the dining hall while the crew was locked in the bridge. That’s where the boss was too. It was the ideal place to go but I wanted to secure the hostages first. According to my bleeding friend, four guys were left in charge of guard duty; he and his friend were sentries. The guy downstairs was in charge of rounding up any stragglers. This meant the boss had about four guys with him. Twelve guys altogether. I silently counted my arrows. I had twenty to begin with and was down by three, which left me plenty for the deed.
I made my way silently down the deck, passing several tables with giant umbrellas and deck chairs. The entrance to the dining room was on the other side of the pool. When I reached the pool, I sighed. I’d always wanted to swim in one of those pools. When my parents went on their cruise they couldn’t stop talking about the pool and other things. I felt a pang as I looked at the crystal clear water, knowing that I’d never be able to take the trip with them like they promised.
The dining room was huge. It was two floors; the top floor was visible through the large glass windows that surrounded it. I peered through one of those windows, seeing one guy on the top level while the other three were downstairs with a whole bunch of people. This isn’t going to be easy. As soon as I opened a door, that bastard was going to start shooting. I needed a distraction.
I found one in the form of a golf cart. Yes, there was an actual golf cart on the top deck. I think it went with the miniature golf course that was right nearby. I tried to force back my excitement because that was so fricking cool. Instead, I concentrated on the task. I ran over to the golf cart, shocked that the keys were still in the ignition. I’d actually driven one once before. My father was a golfer and liked to drag me to the course. I hated everything about the game, it was real boring---I liked mini-golf though---but he let me drive the cart. It was the coolest thing in the world.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t driving it now. I found a life jacket nearby and jammed the gas pedal with it. Then I turned the ignition. The cart purred to life and I let her go. I had t pointed at the glass door leading into the dining room. My wish was for it to crash into the door and cause enough of a bang to draw the guard out. It didn’t go quite like I planned.
The cart hit the door all right but instead of stopping it went right through the glass. The pirate turned and started firing. But he was shooting at nothing. I think he realized it about ten seconds before the cart barreled into him. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. The cart ran right over him and skidded to a halt inches from going over the side of the rail. It sputtered to a stop.
I ran over to check the man’s pulse to make sure I hadn’t killed him. He was lying flat on his back, groaning. So he wasn’t dead, which was a good thing.
The bad thing was my distraction worked a little better than I thought. It caused too much of a commotion and drew a guy from the bottom up the stairs. He came charging at me, machine gun at the ready. He fired; a burst of it hit the ground right in front of me. I stumbled back, tripping over my own two feet. I managed to get up and fell into a table. I went over the top of it, causing it to tip on its side and crash with me. Plates and silverware broke and scattered all over the place. The pirate advanced on me, firing another burst.
I used the table as cover. It wasn’t wood like most dining places. It was actually metal, which saved my life.
The pirate advanced. I pulled an arrow from my quiver but realized one very important thing. I lost my bow; I think I dropped it when he started shooting. Damn, some hero I turned out to be. He started shooting again. I was screwed. I needed to do something so I fumbled for a weapon. My hands came across something long and shiny. I didn’t bother to see what it was. I snapped up and let it fly. It flew with great speed and accuracy, which was fricking unbelievable. It hit the pirate right in the forehead.
He screamed and fired downwards, shooting his own feet. Which I think made him scream even more. Me, I was shocked as hell. I realized what I’d just thrown at him: it was a fork.
“Holy Hannah” I gasped.
I walked over to the golf cart guy and found my bow lying there. I picked it up and nocked an arrow. Fork head guy sat up and reached for his gun. I put an arrow in his shoulder and he screamed. I smacked him in the face with the limb of the bow, silencing his agony.
I ran to the railing and looked down. All the hostages were in the center of the dining room, there had to be at least two hundred people down there. They were murmuring and looking around. The noise was quite loud. The two guards were looking kind of nervous. I think they were debating whether or not to leave their posts or stand guard. One finally made up his mind and started running for the stairs. The other stayed below. I’m not sure if either saw me or not, but I wasn’t going to take that chance. I drew another arrow and fired. I hit one on the stairs in the right leg, just above the knee, exactly where I was aiming.
He took a stumble and fell down the stairs. When he hit the ground, he was out cold.
The last ran and took cover behind the bar. He raised his machine gun and started firing up at me blindly. I took him down with a well-placed shot to the shoulder. He didn’t get back up. This caused an even bigger commotion and people started looking around, gasping. I’m not sure how many of them looked up and saw me. I didn’t stay around long enough to find out. I’d rescued the hostages and now it was time to take on the Boss.
There were two guys standing on either side of the door. The other three, including the boss, must have been inside guarding the crew. These two didn’t have AK-47s, they were packing MP5s and they looked pretty nasty. There was something about these two that told me they weren’t the typical pirates. They were dressed in black and looked like soldiers. Maybe they were Mercs. I’d seen a lot of action movies in my day and these guys definitely looked like the baddies for hire that usually appeared in them. The only question was why did the pirates have mercs?
I took a deep breath and raised my bow.
I was about to fire when I felt something hard pressed against my head and heard a click. I realized what it was and how stupid I’d been. I lowered the bow as a hand reached around and took it from my hands.
“You didn’t honestly think you could do all that stuff and not be noticed” said a voice as my captor walked around the front of me.
He was another one of those black suited Merc types. He had an MP5 slung around his shoulder but the gun pointed at me was some kind of pistol. He kept it pointed at my face. He motioned me into the open and one of the guards at the door came down the hall, keeping his gun on me. My captor put away his pistol and examined my bow.
“This is pretty good,” he said, running his hands along one of the limbs. “Did you make this yourself?”
When I didn’t respond he sneered and broke it in half over his knee. I felt a pain in my gut when I heard it crack. It took me forever to make that thing. I put my tears, sweat and blood into it. It pissed me off to see him break it like that. I snapped. I’m not sure exactly what happened but it was like the world slowed down around me. I’d only felt like this once before, when I shot those balloons in ten seconds. It was an incredible and scary feeling.
I lashed out at the son of a bitch. I punched him in the face and kicked him in the balls. I’m not a fighter, so I had no idea what I was doing. Whatever it was, it only seemed to stun him for a second. He lashed out at me too. His fist went right for my head but instead of hitting me like a normal punch, it was like a slow motion punch. I saw it coming long before it reached me. I was able to dodge it easily. I dodged his other swing too, ducking under it. I blocked his kick and gave him one of my own. It was fricking incredible, I was moving like Jet Li or something. I was moving too fast for him to stop anything or maybe it was because everything was too slow.
I’m not sure. But whatever the reason, I finally laid the son of bitch out by punching him in the throat. He gasped and fell to the floor, clasping his nose. The world went back to normal speed and the other Merc was on me. I was a few feet away from him and grabbed my broken bow from the ground. I ran at him, laying into him as well. I used the two limbs like swords, slapping one down on his gun hand and hitting him in the kneecaps with the other. He dropped to the ground; I smacked him across the face and ran at the last Merc. My body went into slow motion again. I’m not sure how I was doing it and I didn’t care. I charged down the hall, the other Merc was raising his gun. He fired a burst at me but it too was moving real slow. I actually passed it in the hall as I ran. It flew by me like a slow moving swarm of bees.
I slammed into the guy, disarming him. I threw him over my shoulder, using my body and shoulder to overcome his weight and size. He landed behind me and I snapped back to normal speed. I was panting like crazy, not sure exactly what happened. I was panting heavily, looking at the three guys I had just torn through like they were tissue paper. I looked at my hands and they started to shake. Whatever I just did scared the hell out of me.
I almost threw up. Instead, I forced myself back and went to look for a weapon. I still had one more son of a bitch to take care of.
I found a knife on the guy I flipped over my shoulder. I pulled it out of its sheath, he was still conscious but I’d knocked the wind out of him. He was gasping for breath when I took his knife. He looked up at me with unbelieving eyes.
“You’re just a little girl,” he gasped.
I smirked. “Tell that to them.”
I punched him in the face and that did the trick. But boy, did it hurt like hell. I shook my hand off afterwards. The guy was out cold like his buddies though. I took my knife and went to the bridge door. I wonder what kind of bastards were waiting behind it for me. If my calculations were correct, there were only two left now, the boss and one of his goons. I couldn’t help but wonder what this was all about in the first place. There was something more going on than just grabbing a cruise ship. I mean they appeared to be pirates but what was up with the damn Mercs.
I grabbed the handle and took a deep breath. I knew it wasn’t wise to walk right into the room but there was no other way inside. I suppose I could of jumped through a window or something but that was crazy. They would be expecting that. They wouldn’t be expecting me to just walk right into the room. So that’s what I did. I turned the knob and opened the door.
When the door was fully open, I saw them. There were several people in white lying on the ground, their hands behind their heads. Standing over them were two guys dressed in black, like the Mercs. One of them had an MP5 and was pointing it at the crew. The other was standing nonchalantly off to the side, holding a pistol. He smiled when I walked into the room. He was a vicious looking bastard, bald and black. He had a jagged scar running down the side of his face and sat on the console when he saw me.
“I wasn’t expecting a little girl,” he laughed, causing the other to smile. “I was half expecting Steven Segal.”
That got another laugh.
“You’re not pirates,” I said, trying to keep my cool.
He sighed. “No, we’re not” he pointed to himself and the man next to him. “Neither were the three in the hall. But the seven you stuck full of holes were.”
There was something about him, something that made me think that he’d never dirty himself with the likes of pirates.
“What the hell is this all about, then?”
He shrugged. “I don’t really know. I just do what I’m told. My employer told me to get a bunch of lowlifes and convince them I was one of them. Then he told me to create some pirating scares. After a few of those, I got a call to take out this cruise ship. No one second guesses anything he tells you to do; it’s very bad for your health.”
‘Who is he?”
The man smiled. “Why would I tell you that?”
The other man laughed. I looked around the room, trying to see if I could turn this situation to my advantage. But I couldn’t and now I was screwed. Playing superhero was a dumb idea. I wasn’t the girl in the paper, she had super powers. I was just some dumb kid, who was half boy and half girl. I was good with a bow, which I didn’t even have anymore. These guys were professionals and they were going to kill me. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t let them see me do that.
So I bit my lip and stood up straight.
“Now then” said the Boss, waving the gun in the air. “Why don’t you drop your knife, take off your silly cape and get down on your knees.”
I nodded, tears streaming down my face. I dropped the knife with a clang. Then I lowered my hood, allowing them to see my face for the first time. The both of them laughed.
The boss smirked. “You really are a little girl, aren’t you?”
He was laughing when he pointed his gun at me. He was about to pull the trigger when he stopped. His laugh was caught in the middle as a black arrow whizzed through the window behind him and stuck in the back of his head. Blood spit from his mouth, he fired at the floor and fell forward dead. He almost hit me on the way down but I jumped out of the way. His goon snapped around and took an arrow in the face. He dropped too just as quickly. I was scared but ran to the window to see who saved my life.
There was a black clad figure standing on the bow of the boat. He was holding a bow but a hood shrouded his face. He lowered the bow, nodded curtly at me and then disappeared over the side of the boat. I stood there flabbergasted. What the hell just happened? Who the hell was he? I was only stunned for a few seconds though. I recovered quickly.
As the crew was starting to get up, I threw my hood back on and took off. I didn’t want anyone to see me. I ran through the ship as quickly as possible. I snatched up my broken bow along the way. I ran hard and quick. When I got to my floor, I pulled off my tarp. When I got to my room, I stuffed everything back into my mother’s suitcase. I threw the wetsuit off the balcony and watched as it drifted to the water below. I ran over to my bed after that and waited.
It didn’t take long for someone to knock on the door and Dr. Carlson to enter. I pretended to walk up from sleeping. She sighed, relieved, putting her hand to her chest. I feigned rubbing my eyes and yawned.
“Sweetie have you been asleep this whole time?”
I nodded. “Did something happen?”
It didn’t take long for my escapades to travel around the ship. Everyone was buzzing about the strange “Green Archer” who rescued them and stopped all the pirates. Some people actually thought it was Jade in disguise. But those few who saw me before I disappeared seemed to think I was some kind of green clad angel. It didn’t take long before the Coast Guard to show up and sort things out.
The Coast Guard took the remaining pirates into custody and asked a lot of questions but didn’t get any answers. They definitely wanted to know who the Green Archer was. Shortly thereafter, the crew did a head count and questioned everyone. But it seems most of the people were in the Dining Hall. There were a few who eluded capture, like Dr. C. who was hiding in one of the storage rooms. They didn’t question me; the Captain said I was too traumatized by my earlier ordeal. Dr. C. vouched for me too, saying I was asleep in my cabin the whole time.
I was questioned about the island though. The Captain gave the Coast Guard the coordinates. Apparently, they actually knew about it. The island belonged to the US Navy; they used it during World War Two to spot enemy planes trying to fly over the Atlantic. After a few months, it was abandoned. It was left off a lot of charts because it was insignificant. The land wasn’t fertile and it was so far out of any shipping lanes that it was a bother to settle.
I was questioned about my identity too. So I stuck with the Bonnie King story. I told them I was seventeen, which I don’t think anyone believed. I also told them I was on a yacht when I fell overboard. I made it clear that I had no idea how I washed up on the island. They grilled me with some other questions but the Captain put a stop to it. The Coast Guard left me alone after that. But they did want to know if I saw the Green Archer person. I told them exactly what Dr. C told them: that I was asleep in my cabin and saw nothing. I’m not sure if they believed me but I didn’t give a damn.
A few days after the Coast Guard left with its prisoners, the press descended on the ship. They were like bloodthirsty wolves, trying to score up a good story. As soon as some of the hostages starting talking about the mysterious archer, the press had a field day. They started to interview everyone. CNN quickly ran a story with a headline that read: MYSTERIOUS GREEN CLAD ARCHER SAVES CRUISE SHIP. The press started dubbing the Archer “Miss Arrowette”, it was kind of corny and real embarrassing, not to mention stupid. What the hell kind of name was that? Then again who was I to talk; I was “Bonnie King” after all. Reporters started hounding everyone, trying to get their story. It was a black haired woman in a smart red suit that caught up with me.
She sat down in the chair next to mine as I lounged at the pool, reading a borrowed paperback. She smiled at me. “You’re the girl they rescued off that island right?”
I nodded. “That’s right, I’m Bonnie King.” I overdid that horrible accent just to make sure.
The woman smiled. “Lois Lane, Daily Planet. Do you mind if I ask you some questions?”
She stuck a little recorder in my face. When I nodded, she smiled. She wasn’t a wolf like the rest of them; she was a shark.
I recognized her name. “You’re the one who wrote that story on Jade rescuing that bus.”
“That’s right” she said, “do you know a lot about Jade?”
I shook my head. “I was on that island since sometime in August. According to what I’ve read, Jade popped up only a few days ago.”
Lois seemed to hear me but she didn’t seem to care or something. “What do you know about Metahumans?”
“What the heck is that?”
She filled me in a little bit. A Metahuman was someone who exhibited abilities beyond normal humans. So far, none had appeared yet but according to Jade, several were going to start to appear all around the world.
It was an exciting and dangerous time. But Lois sounded kind of excited about it. If I was a reporter, I might be as well. I mean all these “super-heroes” popping up and saving people. As I looked at her, I realized she had one of those Savior complex things, I could see it on her face. She was itching for someone to swoop down from the sky and scoop her up.
She asked more general questions, mainly about the island. I told her everything I was willing to tell. I left out the part about making a bow and arrows to survive. If she knew that then there was the possibility that she’d connect me to Miss Arrowette---God I’ve got to change that name. After that, the interview started dwindling down but she hit me with one more zinger before she left.
“If Miss Arrowette uses green arrows, who used the black?”
I shrugged. “How would I know that?” It was an interesting question and one that had been bugging me for a few days now. After pretending to wake up in my stateroom, I went back to the bow of the ship to investigate. There was no visual evidence. I even looked over the side, to see if the Black Archer---that’s what I’ve been calling him---had rigged some kind of escape. But there was nothing there. I’m sure at the time he probably had a parachute or a rope that I just didn’t see. Then there were the arrows he used. I wish I hadn’t fled so quickly and had gotten a closer look at one. They were far more high-tech than my own. For one thing, they looked expensive and very professional. They were also meant to kill. I saw a broad-head a split second before it hit the Merc in the face.
“It was nice talking to you, Bonnie,” said Miss Lane, holding out her hand to me.
I smiled and shook it. She made a face for a second. “Such rough hands for such a dainty thing like yourself.”
I inwardly gulped. This one was going to be a real problem. I outwardly smiled and bid her goodbye. Before she disappeared, her young cameraman snapped a few shots and then they were gone. I let out a sigh of relief. There were a couple people nearby, close enough to hear me, and they laughed. Apparently, they were close enough to hear the interview too. One of them was a reporter too. He smiled at me, then frowned a bit. “Don’t worry, kid, Lane’s like that with everyone.” That made me feel a little better.
When I was picked up by the Sword of the Ocean---that’s the name of the cruise ship---they were only two days out of Miami, on a two-week tour of the Caribbean. The Captain allowed me to stay aboard until we reached the states, free of charge but with some conditions. First, he made it very clear that I wasn’t getting a free ride and that if I wanted to stay on the ship I needed to contribute. So he made me get a job. I actually took two. The first one was as a waitress in one of the ship’s three restaurants---I took a job in a place called the Watchtower Bar and Grill. If you’ve never worked as a waitress I advise you to never try.
My second job was much easier and a lot more educational. Dr C. took me on as her assistant. She told me there wasn’t much to do on cruise ships as far as medical emergencies go so she spent her time teaching me field medicine. She actually called it triage. But it was nothing more than basic first aid. She taught me the ABC’s; Airway, Breathing and Circulation. She also taught me how to tend to wounds, patch them up, do some stitch work. She wouldn’t let me touch any of the medical equipment, but she showed me how to take blood pressure, how to put in an IV and how to draw blood. She was convinced that I’d make a wonderful doctor some day. I laughed and told her I wanted to teach like my mother.
We spent a lot of time together and grew pretty close. At first, I was a little standoffish with her, but I began to open up more. I didn’t do well with new people. I wasn’t shy but I wasn’t outgoing either. I think Dr. C. ---or Gloria as she told me to call her---noticed my earlier apprehension. It wasn’t the only thing she noticed either. I’m not sure when she found out but she dropped the bomb on me two nights before we docked in Miami.
We were restocking the shelves, right before the Clinic was about to close up for the night. I was dressed in a pair of shorts---one she bought for me---and a white lab coat---she insisted I wear it. I was trying to put something on a high shelf. When I closed the cabinet and turned around, she ambushed me.
“We’ve known each other for about two weeks now, Bonnie?”
I nodded. “More or less.”
“Then why don’t you drop the act and tell me who you really are?”
She took me by surprise with that one. I stuttered a bit, not sure how to react. So I started to cry. I was doing that a lot lately. She came over and gave me a hug. She held me for a while, allowing me to cry it all out. When I was done crying, I asked her how she knew. She told me it was little things. She was in the army for a bit---she was a combat surgeon. She was stationed for a bit in Texas before being shipped to Iraq. She knew the accent and knew that mine was too much.
I cried some more. Then I told her everything. I told her my real name and explained about my condition. When I got to my parents and how they were killed, she stopped me. She wanted to tell the Captain, but I talked her out of it. I didn’t want anyone to know I was still alive. I know it was crazy but I’ve had some time to think and I find it strange that my mother was a Queen and thugs happened to come upon our boat. Then this ship was a Queen ship and similar thugs attacked it as well. I was now convinced someone had specifically targeted us that day. I don’t know why but I didn’t want anyone to know that Jonas Oliver was still alive.
She reluctantly agreed.
“I want to give you a full physical though, including an ultrasound,” she said, taking on a serious tone.
When I asked why she didn’t answer and instead ordered me to strip. I did as I was told, stripping down to my new bra and panties---she bought those as well. She didn’t make me put on a gown but she made me sit on her little table. She started with the physical first; she even took some blood. Then she did the ultrasound. That gel stuff was cold and made me flinch. I was scheduled for one at home but they were waiting until I got back from Florida. When I thought about it brought me to tears a bit.
The ultrasound didn’t take long but the blood work was going to be a while. Apparently, they had no way to test it aboard the ship. She was going to have to take care of it when we reached Florida. The ultrasound tests came back with some interesting results. Apparently, I did in fact have ovaries---I think Dr. P thought I might---but I didn’t have a uterus. This meant I wasn’t as female as they originally thought. The ovaries were producing estrogen just like they should have been and I was maturing into a very healthy young woman. Gloria was afraid that I might be ovulating as well but her ultrasound proved that not to be the case.
She had me re-dress then gave me a big hug.
She asked me a lot of questions after that. She wanted to know about my life, my real life. So I told her about Mia and Roy. I told her about the dance and Sandra. I told her about my diving and accidentally let it slip about my archery. She didn’t react to that. She did wink slightly but it was only for a second. She hugged me when I told her how a lot of the guys in school thought I was a girl and kept asking me out. Then she got brutally honest with me.
“It’s only going to get worse you know.”
I nodded. “That’s why when we started the vacation my mother and my doctors convinced me to dress and pretend to be a girl for the trip. They said it would help me see things from a different perspective.”
She nodded. “Has it helped?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer the question so I told her the truth. I told her about how I hated it when people called me a girl and asked me out. I hated all the flattery and stupid pick up lines. As far as I was concerned, I was a guy and I liked being one. Then my parents died and my world changed. The island changed me. I wasn’t sure when it happened but I suddenly realized I could look any way I wanted but it was what was inside that counted. Being a guy was like fighting an uphill battle. It wasn’t that I really wanted to be a girl but it seemed nature wanted me to be one.
“You can fix it” she said “There are surgeries. Your ovaries and breasts can be removed. They can give you testosterone and make you a man. You can be a boy if you want to be.”
‘I’m not sure I want to be a boy anymore.”
The scary thing was; it was the truth. It happened slowly at first but as the days went by and my body changed more I stopped seeing Jonas and only saw Olivia. She was gorgeous, she had a great body and she liked herself. I was unhappy before and I didn’t even know it. I liked Sandra a lot but I didn’t lust after her like Roy might. She was a friend, a very good friend. Mia was a friend too. We were like sisters, girlfriends, BFF’s. I even had one of those stupid friendship bracelets---she gave it to me in fourth grade. I’m not sure when I realized it but I was never truly a boy, I was a girl but I was good at hiding it.
I told all that to Gloria and she said she understood.
The rest of the trip I spent buried in work. By the time, we reached Miami I had done more than enough work to pay for my passage. In fact, I did a little more than that and the Captain actually gave me a paycheck---it was only a couple hundred bucks but it was still cool.
When we finally docked at Miami, Gloria had a surprise. She was able to convince the Captain to give her some shore leave so she could help me out. I was extremely grateful. We had only two bags when we left the marina and hailed a cab. I gave the driver directions to my parents’ beach house, hoping that it wasn’t too late to retrieve some of my stuff.
The house wasn’t directly on the beach but it wasn’t far off. Both the driver and Gloria whistled when we pulled up. My mother was a Queen after all so she never did anything half way. The house was ginormous. It had six bedrooms, three bathrooms, and an unattached garage with studio apartment and a large in-ground pool with boathouse. We had a private beach too with a long dock that led out to it. It’s usually where our sailboat stayed.
Gloria paid the driver. I led her up the drive. The house was dark and the rental car was no longer in the driveway. So clearly, someone had been there. The front door didn’t require a key; everything was done electronically. I punched in my code, hoping that it still worked. I sighed when there was a click and the door opened. It was dark inside and kind of musky. I nearly tripped over a box that was in the middle of the foyer. When I found the switch and flicked it, nothing happened. I sighed. I was afraid something like this might happen. Even though we co-owned the house with the Deardens, they rarely used it.
Most of the furniture was still there but it was covered with white sheets. There were boxes all over the place, all of them sealed up and marked with Queen Industries logos. Apparently, my grandfather had sent people here. Did that mean that the world thought I was dead? I walked through the house like a boy---girl? ---with a purpose. I checked the faucet in the kitchen but the water was shut off. I checked the cupboards and fridge but they were empty. Gloria followed me, staying close on my heels. Though the lights were off in the place there were large windows everywhere and it was midday so the sun shone inside.
I took her to the second floor and checked all the rooms. My room was the last one at the end of the hall, right next to Mia’s. When I opened the door, I saw my stuff in boxes too. It kind of hit me hard and I dropped to my knees, sobbing. Gloria helped me up and over to the bed. I cried in her arms. I couldn’t believe my grandfather. He wanted nothing to do with my mother when she was alive but now that she was dead, he was everywhere.
When I stopped crying a few minutes later, I tore into the nearest box.
“What are you looking for?”
But the box was mainly clothes, ones that would never fit anymore. There were two other boxes in the room but I knew what was in those. This room had been decorated the way I liked…when I was ten. I never bothered to redecorate because we weren’t here all that much. Most of the stuff in the other boxes belonged to a ten-year-old boy. Anything modern that had belonged to fourteen year old me was at the bottom of the Atlantic now.
There was one thing that I might want but it wasn’t here.
I left my room in a rush and went down the hall to my parents’ room. It was kind of sad to open the door and see an empty bed. There were a lot of boxes in here, my parents were always updating and modernizing. Gloria asked what I was looking for so I told her to be on the lookout for a little black bag. WE tore open several of the boxes, one after another. Most of them had clothes but there were some electronics and things like. After about twenty minutes, I found the bag.
“I’ve got it,” I said, waving it in the air. I opened it up to make sure everything was still there. I smiled. The bag was my father’s emergency kit: it contained a couple hundred dollars, a prepaid cell phone, a credit card, and copies of all our IDS, a spare key for his car, my mother’s car, the boat, the house in Star City and the penthouse they kept in NYC. My parents weren’t loaded but they had more than most. It was the money and the credit card that I was after but I took the whole bag. I took something else too, a framed picture of the three of us. It was the most recent one we had; it was taken last year at Christmas. My parents liked to take a Christmas photo every year.
I added my money to the money in the bag then we left the house. I activated the prepaid phone and made two phone calls. One was to a cab company and the other was to a nearby motel. We usually didn’t stay in motels but I wanted to keep a low profile. If someone really did kill my parents then they’d be able to track a credit card without a problem.
When the cab pulled up I tried to convince Gloria to part ways with me, but she wouldn’t.
“We’re in this together until you get back home.”
But where was home now? Could I actually go back to our house? I tried to imagine how it would be, just me, all alone in that big empty house. A tear rolled down my cheek. Maybe I could move in with Mia. I practically lived there most of the time anyway. We were like sisters anyway so maybe her family would adopt me.
I thought of Mia as we got into the cab. I pulled out the phone again and gave her a call. I cursed when I realized the time difference. The call went right to voice mail. I groaned; I didn’t want to leave her a message and explain things that way. I could imagine how that would go: “Hey Speedy, it’s me, Jonas, your supposedly dead best friend. Guess what I’m not dead and am currently in Miami. I just thought I’d call and see what you were doing this Friday. Maybe we could go to the mall and hang out”. Yeah, I don’t think that would have gone over well. So I decided to text her but something was wrong because as soon as I hit send, another message came back immediately: PHONE NO LONGER IN SERVICE. What the hell was that all about? Mia’s iPhone was her lifeline, she’d never shut it off. Maybe I texted the wrong number so I texted her again. I got the same message. I groaned angrily and threw the phone on the seat.
The cabbie laughed. “Teenage girls and those damn phones. I have a niece and all she does is text like crazy.”
Gloria smiled, squeezing my shoulder. ‘My niece here is the same way. Isn’t that right, Bonnie?”
Great now she’s using Bonnie.
I smiled. “It's my life, auntie.”
We pulled up to a little motel called The Sunset Inn. I paid the driver this time, giving him a big tip for coming so quickly. He was grateful as he helped us with our bags and drove away. I left getting the rooms up to Gloria, giving her my father’s credit card. I knew I shouldn’t have used it but I needed all the cash to get me back to San Fran. Besides paying in cash probably would draw too much attention, it usually did in the movies.
The room had two beds; I took the one near the window. I wanted to crash as soon as we got there but Gloria was convinced we needed some kind of plan. I flopped on the bed while she talked and only half listened. I heard her mention something about getting some plane tickets tomorrow. I didn’t realize how tired I was until sleep overtook me.
I woke to a gentle knock on the door. It was a light rapping, barely audible but it was enough to wake me from my dreamless slumber. I opened my eyes and sighed. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d slept that well. I slept pretty good in the jungle but there were several nights where I was plagued by horrible nightmares. I kept seeing my parents die over and over again. In all of them, I tried to help them but it was like I was frozen or something. Some of the dreams I was actively there and in others, I was watching it like it was a movie. I think last night was the first night that I fell asleep and didn’t have a single one.
I sat up and stretched. Gloria was still sleeping, her covers half off, her body clad in only underwear. I sighed, looking at her almost naked body. If I had been a normal guy that would have been the biggest turn on. But it did nothing for me. In fact, I thought about her bra and wondered if I could ever where anything that sexy. I groaned, realizing I was turning more into a girl every day. It was a bit scary but it was kind of refreshing too. I was tired of pretending to be one thing or the other.
The knocking on the door got a little more persistent.
I got out of bed and found my pants. They were a pair of jeans that Gloria bought me on the ship’s promenade. There were a lot of little shops there. It surprised me at first because I thought the whole idea of going on a cruise was to get away from all that. But apparently, the people of Queen Star Cruises didn’t see it that way. Their slogan was: All the Luxuries of Home at Sea. I hated to burst their bubble but the ship was ten times more luxurious than anything I ever did at home. I mean who has a miniature golf course, bowling alley and arcade in their homes.
I pulled on my pants. I liked to sleep in my underwear for a long time. At home, it was boxers but now it was my panties. I was a little weirded out by that at first but I was kind of used to it now. My thing was so small now that it barely showed and my hips were so big that you barely noticed there was anything down there. They were quite comfortable too, ten times more so than boxers. I was never a fan of everything hanging about. I liked things snug and in place.
I padded across the room in my bare feet and opened the door.
I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. There were two big men in black suits standing there. They were giants, at least seven feet. One was blonde; the other was bald. Both of them wore dark sunglasses and had bulges in their jackets. I knew what that meant. I was frozen with fear looking at them. They had to be from the guy who tried to kill me and ruin my grandfather. I wanted to close the door but for some reason I couldn’t move my hand to do so.
“Good morning Miss,” said the blonde, smiling politely. “We’re looking for Jonas Oliver.”
I recovered after that. I slammed the door in his face. I screamed for Gloria. She screamed too, snapping awake and jumping nearly off her bed. It was quite a sight, seeing her all tangled up in the sheets. She looked confused at first but as soon as she saw my panic, she knew something bad had happened. I didn’t explain as I ran over to my bed, looking for my sneakers. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night after falling asleep and stripped off my clothes. I was a little groggy when I did so I wasn’t sure where everything was. I found both of my sneakers under the bed.
The knocking on the door was louder. Gloria fumbled with pulling up her pants, still confused as to what was really going on.
“You mind filling me in?” she asked as she buttoned her pants.
“Two goons at the door” I said as I laced up my sneaks. “They’re looking for Jonas Oliver”
“How do they know you’re here?”
I cursed myself. There were two ways to know. The first one was the obvious; it was the credit card. I knew it was a bad idea to use it. But I really needed the cash. The second one was less obvious but just as stupid. It happened at the house when I used my code. I forgot that all the door codes were registered every time they were used. Every entry was filed with the security company and logged in their computers. Each one of us had specific codes. Whoever was at the door was probably monitoring the security company. I never should have gone back to the stupid beach house.
As soon as we got dressed, we tried to open the window in the bathroom. WE got it open enough for me but not enough for her. She was a little bigger up top than me and she’d never fit. She realized that and tried to talk me into leaving her but I wasn’t going to do that.
“They’re not looking for me” she insisted. ‘If they’re really after you than you have a chance to get out of here.”
“I’m not leaving you.”
She rushed back into the main room and came back with my bag. We didn’t buy a suitcase for me because we didn’t get me a lot of clothes, just the essentials. My bag was actually a purple backpack, inside was the stuff we bought on the ship, plus the black bag I took from the beach house. She pushed it into my chest.
“They’re no longer pounding but they’re still out there. You need to go now. I’ll open the door and distract them. I’ll try to buy you enough time.”
“I can’t leave you, they killed my parents.”
I started crying which got her to cry a bit. She took me in a hug and held me tight. We stayed like that for a few minutes. When the hug was over, she kissed my forehead then smacked me on the butt, urging me to go. I clipped onto the bathtub rim and reluctantly climbed out the window. I hated to abandon Gloria but she was pretty damn insistent about it. When I hit the ground, I started to run. Tears were streaming down my face. How was I going to do this without help?
I ran around the side of the building. The motel had two buildings that were almost identical. The main office was in the first building and we were in the second. I was currently between the two, peering around the corner at the two goons. They were at the door to our room. Gloria was there, talking to them. I couldn’t hear what she was saying but the two goons looked kind of flustered. I looked around, trying to find their car. It was easy enough to find, it was the only black sedan in the lot. While Gloria was keeping them distracted, I ran over to their car.
I skidded to a halt on the other side of it, dragging myself through glass. Some moron broke a mirror or something; there was glass everywhere. I cut up my hands and my knees but the cuts were small. The glass did give me an idea though. I grabbed the largest shard I could find and slit the tires on the driver’s side. I was amazed how easily that worked. I’d seen it done in movies but I never thought I could do it with a shard of glass. That’s some pretty cheap rubber.
I popped my head and looked at the room. Gloria saw me and motioned to go with her eyes. I smiled sadly and waved. She winked and I took off, running down the street and hopefully out of sight. The motel was sort of in the middle of nowhere, on a stretch of highway that could have led anywhere. My best bet was to go into the nearest town. So I stuck my thumb out, it didn’t take long to get a ride. It was a nice couple in a mini-van with three kids who finally stopped. I gave them some story about my car breaking down and they bought it.
The Dover’s---the family who picked me up---insisted I stay and have lunch with them. They were on some kind of family vacation but decided to drive instead of fly. They lived in upstate New York, in some little town north of Buffalo. They took trips like this all the time. They were nice enough and they didn’t seem too nosey. The little girl, Marcia, seemed to take a shine to me though. She kept asking me a hundred questions; I made up a lot of answers. I don’t think she minded. She and her brother, Stanley, were both six. Whereas she was really outgoing, Stanley was real quiet, especially around me. Every once and a while I caught him talking to someone. When I asked him who he was talking too, he didn’t answer but his sister did.
“It’s Spot,” said Marcia with a laugh. “His stupid imaginary friend.”
“Marcia, what did I tell you” snapped their mother, Sheila.
Stanley spoke for the first time. “He’s not stupid and he’s not imaginary.”
I smiled. I remembered being his age and having an imaginary friend too. But I didn’t make mine up; it was Robin Hood. I know that it sounds corny but I was obsessed.
“What kind of friend is Spot?” I asked; ignoring the raspberry Marcia gave her brother.
Stanley’s face lit up; glad someone was interested. “He’s a giant purple monster. He’s big and furry and has huge tusks. But he’s not mean; he’s real nice and has lots of friends. There’s a leprechaun named Shaughnessy and a gremlin named Schnitzel.”
Stanley spent the rest of the car ride telling me about Spot and his friends. He had a really wild imagination. Marcia got annoyed at one point and started trying to tell me all about her stuffed unicorn collection back home. Their two voices started to overlap until it got so loud that it was hard to hear yourself think. Their father, Mitch, finally put an end to it, but not soon enough. It was cute though that the kid could imagine that well, I wasn’t even that complex at his age.
We stopped for lunch at a mall. It wasn’t as large as the ones back home but it was good size. We ate in Burger King. We had to take two booths. Apparently Spot, who Stanley said had stayed in the van, arrived sometime in the middle of our meal. Stanley had to sit him at his own booth because he was too big to sit with us. Marcia huffed, his parents rolled their eyes, but I thought it was pretty cute. Every few minutes during our meal, Stanley would laugh and start talking to the empty booth. His father tried to tell him to stop being so foolish which kind of annoyed me. I hated people who tried to squash a child’s imagination like that.
After lunch, the Dovers said they had to be shoving off. I gave each of the kids a hug and thanked their parents for a ride. I offered to pay them for their troubles but they wouldn’t take it. Something strange happened as they were leaving. I was still sitting at the booth, watching them go. Stanley was holding his hand up in the air, like he was holding someone’s hand. For a split second, something so small that you could blink and miss it, I saw something. I’m not sure what it was but it was big, purple and hairy. I rubbed my eyes and the family was gone.
Now I’m starting to imagine things.
I finished my lunch and paid quickly. I wandered the mall a bit after that, not sure, where I was going or what I was going to do. I know I needed to get back to San Fran but flying was probably out of the question. So I stopped at an information kiosk and asked the girl at the desk if she had a bus schedule. She handed me one, telling me they ran every few hours or so. I found one that was leaving town but it was still about an hour off. I decided to do a little shopping.
I found myself in a clothing store first. I’m not sure what I was doing in there but it didn’t take long for the salesgirl to descend on me. She tried to talk me into buying this and that but the only thing she was doing was being annoying. But I was polite about it. I did find something that interested me though. I found this real cool green hoodie. It decided to buy it a size too big, so I could hide my face if need be. The salesgirl was polite when I bought it but I could tell she wasn’t happy. She was trying to score up a huge commission and I destroyed that for her.
I left there and found myself in a costume shop; everything was now half off. Halloween happened while I was on the ship. They celebrated it, but I didn’t attend. I ended up working it, though. There were decorations and a huge bash. People came dressed in costume and the kids got candy. Most of the trauma from the pirates had been long gone by then. The Halloween bash ended the trip, a day later we arrived at Miami.
In the shop, I browsed all their stuff. I found this cool Robin Hood felt hat with a feather and everything. I put it on and modeled it in front of the many mirrors. It looked pretty cool but it wasn’t really for me. Maybe in another lifetime. I did find something l liked. It was this real cool black mask, like Zorro’s. It was kind of neat because it made me feel like a bandit. I bought it and found I still had about twenty minutes to spare. I wandered down the mall, finally stopping at a Sporting Goods store. I thought of my broken bow and a small emptiness welled inside of me.
I went right to the bows; they had a wide selection from fiberglass to carbon. I liked fiberglass, I used to use a Matthews Ignition at home, it had about a forty-pound pull weight on it. It was a damn good bow but I didn’t see anything like that here. I did find a nice Conquest 4; it had a fifty-pound draw weight and integral grip, which I loved. It was a little pricey but it would have to do for now. I found some good arrows, Easton X10s, like they used in Beijing in 08. I got myself a case too; all of it came to close to a thousand bucks. But I needed a bow, I’m not sure why but now I felt naked without one. I paid with the credit card; it had a real large limit on it.
“You sure you know what you’re doing with that missy” said the jerk at the counter. “That’s a mighty dangerous piece of equipment you got there.”
I scoffed. “I’ve been handling a bow since I was eight, I think I can manage.”
The alarm went off as I was leaving the store. At first, I thought there was something I hadn’t paid for. Then I heard the scream. The alarm wasn’t coming from the sporting goods store; it was coming from somewhere else in the mall. I tried to ignore it until I saw three masked jerks running by, followed by an overweight security guard. Damn why does this always happen to me.
I ran into the ladies room locked the door behind me. I looked into the mirror and sighed. It looked like Miss Arrowette was going to make another appearance.
I dressed quickly, pulling the green hoodie over my head and fixing the mask to my face. I wasn’t so sure about the mask but after that close encounter with Lane last time, I think it was needed. She almost put two and two together and that was dangerous. I couldn’t let anyone figure out who I was. Even if Jonas Oliver technically didn’t exist anymore, I still did. Someone clearly knew there was a connection between my new self and my old one. Maybe I should come up with a different name and not just one for my true self too.
As I looked in the mirror and saw the masked, hooded figure, I couldn’t see Miss Arrowette anywhere. I decided not to use the green tarp because I wanted to distance myself from what happened on the cruise ship. You need to be someone new, someone different. I racked my brain for a few seconds but when nothing came readily, I sighed. I guess I’ve got a lot of time to decide. That is if I still wanted to do this when I was done here. I mean I was convinced the ship was the first and last time but I couldn’t just let those bastards get away.
I hefted my bow and slipped out of the bathroom. The mall was in utter chaos. The lights were dimmed; it looked like someone was messing with the power. People were screaming and running amok. I slipped into the throng of people, trying to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. I made my way for the stairs and went up to the second level. When I got there, I saw some commotion going on up ahead and shots were fired. There was more screaming and a lot of the running people became immobile, dropping to the ground to avoid being shot.
I ran along the upper walkway, trying to get closer to the action. God, I need some kind of grappling hook. It made me wonder for a few seconds but I pushed the thought to the back of my mine, there would be time for that later. Right now, I had a bunch of crazed, armed robbers to take care of.
There were six of them, three more than I saw run by me earlier.
They were holed up in a pharmacy, with at least eight hostages. Apparently, they were outmaneuvered by mall security. They were also outgunned. There were at least eight security guards. Four were behind the fountain in the center of the mall; one was taking cover at a kiosk. Two more were standing behind the mall’s large stone pillars. All of them had their guns drawn, pointing at the pharmacy. Inside two of the robbers were standing by the door, one was looting the cash register and the other two were guarding the hostages.
I had a clear shot at all six and the advantage: they couldn’t see me.
I nocked my first arrow. The X10s wouldn’t have been my first choice but they were all I had at the moment. I pulled back the bow, a little uncomfortable because it was a little heavier than I was used too. I compensated by shifting my weight and then fired. It was a clumsy shot but I hit my target. I winged one of the guys at the door. I put the arrow in his shoulder; he screamed out and dropped. His gun clattered to the floor. I nocked another arrow and hit the second guy at the door before anyone knew what was happening.
It was one of the security guards who noticed me. “You on the second floor, cease firing now!”
I didn’t pay any attention. Instead, I nocked a third arrow and took aim at the guy behind the counter. I knew I should have taken out the guys near the hostages but I had t be careful. If I took one of them out, I’d risk a firestorm. So I put the arrow in the guy’s shoulder, then quickly nocked a fourth. I caused a great deal of panic inside the pharmacy. Two of the guys guarding the hostages ran for the door, looking about to see if they could spot me. I also caused quite a commotion amongst the security guards.
The two guards at the posts left. I knew where they were going.
I fired my fourth arrow, hitting one of the robbers in the upper thigh. My fifth arrow dropped the other guy at the door, another shoulder shot. None of them were life threatening but they were pretty painful. The last guy in the pharmacy looked frantically at his fallen comrades, all of them writhing on the ground, arrows sticking out of them at wicked angles. I drew a sixth arrow but didn’t need it. He dropped his gun, got down on his knees and put his hands behind his back. The remaining security on the ground floor swept into the shop and apprehended him.
‘You in the green!” shouted a voice to my left. “Stay where you are.”
I turned and saw a security guard walking slowly toward me, his gun drawn. On the other side of me was another guard, the two of them were trying to box me in. You’ve got to be kidding me; I just foiled a hostage situation.
‘You guys jealous?” I asked as I lowered my bow.
The one to my right spoke into his walkie-talkie: “We’ve got the shooter”
“Drop your weapon, get down on your knees and put your hands behind your head,” said the one on the left, as he got closer.
They were serious. They were really going to try to take me in. I just helped them and they were repaying it by trying to arrest me. This was fricking ridiculous. I groaned and started to set the bow on the floor. The two guards were almost on top of me when the sirens appeared. It distracted them for a second and that’s all I needed. I grabbed my bow, smacked the nearest guard in the chest and took off running. The other guard was so stunned that it took him a few seconds to give chase. But by then I was half way down the stairs. I slipped into the crowd of people, trying to blend in.
The guard tried to push his way in but there were too many people now, trying to flock to the exit. I tossed the bow in the trash---which was a damn shame because I paid a fortune for it. I tossed the arrows in too, making sure I wiped everything of all my prints. I kept the black mask and hoodie but I pulled them both off as I moved with the crowd, slowly being pushed toward the double doors. I passed right by a couple of the guards but they didn’t bat an eyelash. Outside there were four cop cars and more on the way by the sound of it.
The police officers present wouldn’t let anyone leave, though.
Ten cop cars and three news vans filled the parking lot in the course of fifteen minutes. The reporters hit the crowd like vultures even though the police tried to hold them back. I tried to keep my head down, avoiding the media as much as possible. The police put up crime tape then moved us all into another part of the mall. It was quite a feat seeing, as there were hundreds of people. We ended up in the food court. On the big screen monitors hanging from the ceiling we all got to see the rest of the action outside. One by one, the robbers were led out of the building.
The murmuring about my deed started to make its way around the crowd. It didn’t take long for someone to mention Miss Arrowette. I groaned, I really needed to get them to change that name. After that, things really picked up. People kept asking one another if they saw me and of course, a lot of them said, they did. I became the big topic of discussion. They talked about me for a half an hour before the police came in, taking statements from everyone. When they got to me, I told them I saw someone dressed in green with a bow but didn’t see anything else. It seemed to be the same thing that a lot of other people were saying too.
They wouldn’t let us go until they got statements from everyone. That was about two hours later. The reporters descended by then. A lot people wanted to be in the papers or on the news. I wasn’t one of them. I kept my head low as I slipped through the crowds. I almost ran into Lois Lane. She was interviewing a group of giggling college girls. She didn’t look too happy because all they wanted to talk about was how scared they were. Luckily, her back was to me so she didn’t see me.
I hailed a cab. I asked it to take me to the nearest bus depot. I was tired of this town and I definitely didn’t want people to put two and two together. When I got to the depot I bought a ticket for the furthest place, I could find which happened to be St. Louis. I paid in cash this time; I didn’t want any more goons showing up uninvited. My bus wasn’t set to leave for at least another hour so I found a little coffee shop. There were only a few people inside: a few guys at the counter, a couple of guys sitting together and a man in the corner, his face obscured by a newspaper.
It didn’t take long for the mall incident to appear on the news. There was a little flat screen monitored from the ceiling. It was set to the local news and the headline said it all: MISS ARROWETTE STRIKES AGAIN. I groaned. As soon as I got the time, I was going to call in and tell them to call me something else. Miss Arrowette made me sound like a damn circus performer or something.
The Silver haired newscaster told the story: “People in Grandview Mall today got the shock of their lives when six armed assailants robbed multiple stores and made a mad dash to the exit. They were chased into a pharmacy by mall security and took eight hostages. But the robbers were in for a surprise themselves: a hooded, green clad archer”
The screen switched to a female reporter, interviewing several “eyewitnesses” who claimed to have seen the archer take out the robbers one by one. Each account was more outlandish than the next; one person even said I used different kinds of arrows. It was a crazy idea but it did have interesting possibilities. The female reporter interviewed several people before it switched back to the silver haired anchor in the newsroom.
“Some of you may remember that only a few short weeks ago, another similar green clad archer rescued a bunch of people on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. Though many eyewitnesses claim they might be the same people, sources tell us that this young William Tell was dressed differently and used a different kind of bow. Are these two persons the same or do we have ourselves a copycat archer out there, time will only tell. This is Bud Henderson, Channel Six”
I groaned. I was glad it was such a short story but it already speculated on too much. I’m not sure if I wanted any of it. I only did what I had to do on the ship and as far as the robbery today, I felt compelled to help. Maybe I had a death wish but it kind of felt good to help those people. It also fit in with my pact: I couldn’t let people suffer around me. Did that make me some kind of vigilante superhero now?
Someone cleared their throat next to me: “A young woman like you shouldn’t be sitting here all alone, mind if I join you?”
I groaned again. But who was I to disagree at the moment. So I sighed and nodded. The man who sat down across from me was the one hidden behind the paper in the corner. He wore a crisp gray suit, black tie and was old enough to be my grandfather. He smiled at me and it took me a few seconds to realize that I recognized his face. It was all over the place but predominantly in all the old pictures that my mother used to show me.
He looked old enough to be my grandfather because he was.
“Hello, Jonas” he said with a curt nod and sipped his tea. “Or is it Bonnie now?”
All I could say were two words: “Holy Hannah!”
To Be Continued