Jack was a young man on a mission. His mission, to reach out to his parents and ask if he could go with his friends on a trip to the Verilyn Islands and convince them to agree. He decided to talk to them after dinner when they are watching un-interesting TV shows for the sake of staying awake till bed time. He on the other hand would do the same with several streaming websites on his Smartphone. As planned, he sat down on a chair next to the sofa that was now housing the couple. His father understood that Jack sat there waiting to be asked about what was it that he wanted to discuss, but was nervous so he decided to break the ice.
“Did you know that Dolphins can be trained to talk?”
Jack was a smart kid and he knew his father well. He never liked these trivia games but he knew that if he had to solicit the money for the trip from his father, he had to play along.
“Yes, I read about it a few years ago, is it what’s on TV today?” he asked and turned around to face the idiot box.
“No, it was what we watched yesterday dear”, his mother quickly replied.
“Did they tell you that they can learn curse words faster than normal words?”, he questioned.
“Nooo”, his parents quirked in unison.
“I’m just joking”, came an expeditious reply from Jack.
“You better be, last thing we want is that beautiful fish jumping out of the water and saying I effin hate it here!” his dad exclaimed.
“Dolphins are mammals not fishes”
“Mammals, Fishes, reptiles, Animal kingdom ugh. If they live under water, they are fish for me” his father laughed.
Jack and his mother chortled as well. Jack decided not to correct his father about the under water comment he made.
“Anyways, why are you here watching TV with us today? Don’t you have some videos to watch on that nuisance of a phone you have?” Jack’s father never really liked the smartphone, it just took family time away he would tell his friends and cousins every time he met them.
Ignoring his father’s comments about his phone, Jack gathered all his courage for the next thing he was about to say.
“Mom, Dad” He paused. “I want to go on a trip to Verilyn Islands with my friends. It’s a 7 day excursion. It starts 2 weeks from today from here, tomorrow is the day we book the tickets so I need to tell them by morning if I am in or out. I really want to take this trip. I have always wanted to go into a jungle and explore”.
Jack slipped a piece of paper to his father. He made sure he was prepared. He had chalked out the entire itinerary on the paper he just gave his dad, it was precise to the last hour. He had made some absolute and approximate assumptions of the expenses they would incur as well.
His parents looked at the plan and read it, they looked at each other and almost as if telepathically signalled each other about the next move.
“Son, we are always worrying about you. This is a remote island with no mode of communication except for the phone booth at the docks, and it habitats some seriously venomous snakes and God knows what other animals.” He mother was the first to talk, and her feelings also showed in her worrying eyes.
“How do you guys know about the island, I only read about it a month ago?” Jack was puzzled.
“It was on the TV a few months ago, better than your tiny idiot box isn’t it?” His father chuckled.
“Please guys, let me go. It’s not that dangerous. We will have a trained guide, and everyone of us knows how to defend ourselves from snakes. It was like the beginner’s lesson in the summer camps”. Jack insisted, hoping that his parents won’t need more persuasion.
“Jack, you are old enough to take your decisions and we don’t want to be the people to stop you from making your own informed choices. Hence we will allow you, but on one condition” his mother said it like she had rehearsed these lines a 100 times.
Jack was perplexed that his father had not uttered a word against his mother’s arguments, it wasn’t his usual way, he was letting his mother take charge. Jack decided to wonder about the irregularities with the process later and asked
“You will pay us back from your salary in instalments within 2 years” his father replied.
How are they in sync? Jack’s mind was now more confused seeing and hearing everything from his parents like it was walked through before. Once again he gave rest to his confusion and replied, “Yes, actually that is what I was planning to do as well. Thank you so much”, he couldn’t control his emotions any longer. He jumped off his chair, hugged his parents together, kissed his mother and started walking back to his room.
“By the way” He stopped mid-way, turned back around to face his parents. “Something seemed fishy. How did you guys agree and completed each other’s points and arguments without having to discuss?”
His parents looked at each and smiled slyly. “I found this paper lying on the table right after you left in the morning. I think you took it back when you were home but I had already seen it, I talked to your dad and both of us made the plan right there”, replied his mother.
“So you already knew I wanted to go, and you were okay with it?”
“Of course not. We still don’t want you to go, but we will not stop you because you are not a kid anymore and this is technically not a bad decision. You have a lot to learn there, but out parental instincts will always say no”.
“Thank you guys. You made it easier for me”.
“You’re welcome. Now go back upstairs and do whatever is that you do on your computer and phone”.
Jack went upstairs excited. He couldn’t sleep all night thinking about Verilyn Islands. He was imagining the islands based on what he had read and the photographs he had seen on the internet. As if it was his own self standing in front of him and giving a presentation on Verilyn Islands. A little imaginary Jack talking about his next holiday destination. He loved imagining himself as a presenter for every project he took up, he never actually had the guts to face an audience in real life so being a presenter and day dreaming was his solution to be more confident. It never boosted his confidence ever though.
Verilyn Islands are a pair of one large and one small island in the Indian Ocean. They were discovered in 2011 by Caribbean explorer Verilyn Fisher. She had described both islands not habited by humans. Now after 5 years, we all know that it wasn’t true. While the large island is human free, the small island is the home of a completely unknown tribe and unfortunately the 2 explorers who went there in 2012 never returned. The drone images show several people and smoke rising from time to time from various locations on the island. The International Small Islands Studies Association have declared the island dangerous. Long story short, it is off limits. The federal government has put a ban on travel to the small Verilyn island and the island in under surveillance as well in case if the tribe tries to make contact.
The little imaginary presenter in front of Jack was now looking excited.
However, the large island is now one of the best tourist destinations and is open to public only 4 months a year from April through July. There is only one tour operating every week and the duration of the tour is 6 nights and 7 days. Each week from April through July, a group of 75 registered tourists arrive on Monday morning and leave on Sunday evening. The 75 tourists are then divided into 3 groups. Each group has their own 2 guides. Every tourist must follow the guide’s instructions to avoid mishaps like getting injured, be lost or anything of such kind. Please register in advance to avoid disappointment, we are usually fully booked for the whole season.
Jack was running out of patience, he wanted his imaginary counterpart to tell him about the stay and the places he will see. Being his own subconscious, the presenter obliged.
You will camp within the jungle about 3 kilometres from the beach where you arrived. Each group will be about a kilometre apart from each other sideways. You will be visiting the island’s lake, rock climb a little cliff and enter a now inactive volcano in the first 4 days. The last 2 days will be for self-exploration. You are free to walk around the jungle by yourself and if you make a new discovery of a flora or fauna, be sure to get it registered with your guide. You will all carry a unique tracker and a digital map with yourself. The tracker will pinpoint your location on the map so that you can navigate your way back to your camp if lost. If you are not comfortable wondering around alone, rest assured the guides will take you to other parts of the island. I do not want to disclose any information about the lake or the mountain, or even the volcano because it’s better to see it yourself than imagining it from my words.
This of course was Jack’s idea. He did not know anything about the island, so how was his presenter going to explain it? Jack was excited about the trip, but he did not know what was it that he was visiting. He just wanted to spend sometime with his friends. Little did he know what was he going to face when he is at the island.
2 weeks passed and he found himself on the ferry to the island. On the ferry they could see the small Verilyn Island. The forbidden island as nicknamed by their ferry captain. A chill ran down everyone’s spine when the ferry captain announced that the drones captured images of acts of Cannibalism from the inhabitants. Everyone wondered that the explorers who went there were possibly eaten by the locals.
In about an hour all 75 tourists were standing in a group on the island’s entrance point. The beach looked clean and the jungle spooky. Jack had slept through the introduction of the island by the captain on the ferry and hence still had no idea what was it that he was going to see inside that jungle. He and all 7 of his friends were placed in the same group, Group 2 or the red group. Group 1 and group 3 were Blue and Green respectively. They were given Red T shirts and strictly instructed to wear it all the time. They were also handed over the small tracking device which was a bracelet and a small mobile phone type device with a 3 inch screen, the digital map. The map showed the position of all 75 bands, the 3 campsites and the ferry point when fully zoomed out. You would still need to zoom in to find a navigational route to any of these points. As they entered the jungle, Jack had his first realisation of how colossal the jungle was. Each tree they passed was atleast 10 times his height.
The path is carved out for the season so do not worry just follow the open path. There won’t be any snakes here because they are afraid of us and they never come here during the season. The first guide’s voice entered his ears partially.
Jack was so mesmerised by the beauty of the jungle that he couldn’t understand what the guide was saying. All he could make out was the word Snakes. When finally registered, he jumped and shouted:
“Snakes, where are the snakes? I don’t like them”.
Everyone in the group started laughing at him. The guide however was patient and looked like this wasn’t the first time he had seen such a reaction. He said,
“Don’t worry. The snakes are far inside the jungle. None here”.
Jack acknowledged the reply with a nod and started walking ahead. He did not look up till they reached their camp site. Camp was soon set. The camp was set in a circular arrangement with the couples’ tent in a smaller circle while the single tents in the wider circle around the smaller one with campfire right in the middle. That is not the usual norm as no one likes to hear the snores from the nearby tent but the guides insisted on the model so that the group is close by in the already small camp site. The guides made an announcement,
“We will go fishing today and cook fresh fish for dinner”.
Cheers came from all around the camp site as everyone started grabbing their fishing gear.
Day 1 was the lake visit for Red group. In 15 minutes the whole group of 25 was walking towards the lake.
“I don’t like fish”, Rubin announced quietly to his 7 friends walking with him including Jack.
“Oh no Problem Sire, we will find you a nice juicy McDonalds here”, Jack snapped back sarcastically in a broken British accent. He didn’t know why he did the accent.
“And some fries for me” coughed Aneta joining the moment of laughter.
Jack was happy he had his friends to joke around, he was an introvert and would shy away from talking to strangers. This was the reason he had ignored the glances that a red haired girl from the opposite tent was giving him. He thought to himself, If I just pretend I didn’t see her, I won’t have to talk to her. He was choosing ignorance over what could be a budding friendship. The group was now at the lake. It was a sight to marvel. The lake wasn’t as huge as the ones found in the other parts of the world but it was naturally the most beautiful lake that the people ever saw. There were no connecting rivers and no human habitation which meant the lake held the purest form of water available naturally. The water looked blue under the daylight and was clear enough to let you see the life under the sea like there was nothing in between you and the bottom of the lake. Everyone walked upto a certain safe distance in the shallow lake and stood there with their fishing rods hoping to catch their bounty. Jack was standing silently facing the mountain in front of him. This must be the mountain we climb later, he thought to himself. An hour before sunset the group started to walk back to the camp site. They had caught enough fishes for dinner. The fishes were easy to catch in the lake which only sees human activity 4 months a year.
After dinner people sat around the camp fire and started talking to each other. This was the first time the group was actually sitting down and socialising. With no internet, no phones, no social media, people were forced to make new friends by talking face to face. This was Jack’s weakness. Apart from his 7 friends, he wasn’t willing to talk to anyone. His friends and he together made up a whopping 30% of the whole red group. His friends however slowly began to mingle with other members of the red group eventually leaving Jack alone staring at the fire. Suddenly there was a tap on his shoulder from behind, he looked back and saw the red haired girl he was ignoring all day.
“May I sit next to you?” she asked politely.
Jack nodded shyly.
“Thank you. I am Maya” she extended her hand for a handshake while introducing herself.
Jack grabbed her hand lightly and shook it. “Jack”. He was nervous.
“You know Jack, I don’t bite. You don’t have to be afraid of me” She sensed the discomfort in Jack and smiled.
“I am sorry. I am just not immediately comfortable talking to strangers”.
“Hmmm, okay. I understand. Let’s talk about something else to break the ice then. Tell me”. She pointed to the fire and continued “Why is there a crackling sound in the burning wood?”
“Do you want the long answer or the short one?” Jack was now excited.
“The snap, crackle, or pop sound you hear is the wood splitting along a crevice and releasing steam into the fire”.
“Good, you know your science”
“12 years of camping teaches you a thing or 2”
“Nice to hear that”
After a long conversation about school, college, their home towns, friends and future plans, Maya and Jack called it a night and decided to meet again the next day. Jack couldn’t wait to tell his friends about Maya but when he looked around for them, he realised that the 2 of them were the only people still at the campfire, everyone else was now in their tents. Maya had reached her tent, she waved goodbye before entering. Jack got up, smiled, and went inside his tent. He made a new friend today, on his own. Technically it was Maya who approached him, else he would have never talked to her. Tomorrow begins a new adventure, he fell asleep as he thought about this.
To be Continued…
-Naimish Sanghvi || ©2016 FinallyJobless.com
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Preview of the upcoming parts:
Jack and Maya’s relationship blossoms as they spend more time together exploring the island.
The gang’s curiosity leads them into unexpected and the inescapable danger.