I awoke shivering. My clothes still weren’t dry. I sat up from leaning on Aunt Lorelei’s shoulder and rubbed my sore neck. I wondered why no help came yet. I looked around. Everyone in the life raft was awake, but no one said anything. The many bodies, life rafts, and pieces of the ship dwindled to only a few overnight. I assumed they must have floated away or sank. Off in the distance, to the right of the raft, I could have sworn I saw land.
“Hey, guys, is that land up there?” I said, pointing.
Aunt Lorelei turned to the right and looked where I pointed.
“You know, Shayne, I think you’re right!” She looked around at everyone else. “Guys, does that look like land to you?”
The other people looked.
“I think it is. Let’s paddle toward it,” the blonde lady said.
Using our hands or whatever metal pieces from the ship we found still floating around, we paddled slowly but surely toward land. It took us somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour to reach a beach. Beyond the beach grew a thick forest, and a mountain peeked over the treetops. I got out of the raft and plopped onto the sand. I lay on my back and just rested.
Aunt Lorelei and Natalie thanked God aloud. The rest lay on the sand near me, except the man and the black-haired woman, who pulled the raft far enough onto the beach for it not to get taken away by the tide. Then they collapsed onto the sand with the rest of us. I fell asleep again.
When I woke, the sun just peeked over the horizon. The sunset colored the sky orange and purple. I sat up. Everyone else sat around a fire a couple yards away. My skin burned. I guess I got sunburned while lying there. I wished I’d thought of that earlier.
“Aah!” one of the women screamed as I approached.
“What’s wrong?” Aunt Lorelei asked.
I sat down next to Aunt Lorelei as the blonde lady said in the most disgusting, high-pitched, whiny voice I ever heard, “These mosquitoes are just dreadful! I can’t stand bugs! Why are they still attacking me when there’s a fire?”
I already didn’t like her. I couldn’t stand her voice. Maybe that was mean.
“Shayne, you haven’t met everyone yet,” Aunt Lorelei said and motioned to each person as she said their name.
She motioned to the black-haired lady. “This is Daniella.”
Next the blonde lady. “Caroline.”
After her, the man. “This is Liam.”
And finally, the boy. “And this is Rupert.”
“Hi, I’m Shayne,” I said.
“Hi,” the two ladies responded, Caroline still swatting around her face. Mikaio nodded, and Rupert straightened his round glasses, and then waved.
“Here, Shayne, eat some of these,” Aunt Lorelei said, handing me a baseball cap full of berries. I thanked her and put some in my mouth. The idea of eating out of someone else’s sweaty old hat made me cringe, but my hunger overcame that. At least the berries were pretty good.
“Where did you get these?” I asked.
“I found them, and gathered them in my hat. Since I’m a Webelos Cub Scout, I know what kinds of plants are safe to eat. And if there are any animals around here, we can eat them, too,” Rupert said.
“What in the world is a Webe-what?” I asked.
“Webelos Cub Scout. It’s what you are right before you become a Boy Scout. You can’t be an actual Boy Scout till you’re ten. Well, not you, but you know, a boy.”
“Well, good,” said Aunt Lorelei. “With your experience, Rupert, you’ll definitely be a help.”
Rupert smiled a super conceited-looking smile.
“Does anyone have anything to kill animals with?” I asked.
“Well, some things from the crash washed up onto the shore. There are a couple knives,” Aunt Lorelei said. “We put everything in a community pile so everybody can use them if they just happen to need them. Not that a lot of the stuff is super useful.”
“What’s in the pile and where is it?” I asked.
“We put it over next to the life raft,” she said, pointing. “A deflated floaty ring, a few ship pieces, a wooden cutting board, a broken CD case, a bedpost, and three knives with sheaths.”
“Well, I certainly wouldn’t use a knife. I couldn’t dream of killing an animal. That’s so gross and cruel!” Caroline said.
“So, Rupert, do you have any parents?” Aunt Lorelei asked, ignoring Caroline.
“But what about the woman on the boat with you?” I asked.
“Oh, you mean my foster mom. My real mom died a few months after my seventh birthday. Then I got put into foster care with this awful woman named Miss Queenie. See, she doesn’t let me have or do anything, except Scouts. She only took me on the cruise because I won it in a sweepstakes. I needed a parent or guardian and she wanted to go, but she wouldn’t have taken me unless she had to. She would have made me stay with her mother, Miss Prudence.”
“Is Miss Prudence any better than Miss Queenie?” Ginny asked.
“No! She’s so old and she has twenty cats and she made me memorize all their names and which ones are which, and she calls me ‘sonny boy’ and her house stinks.”
“What are their names?” Natalie asked.
“Watson, Gladys, Elliot Ness, Matilda, Archibald Hammerstein the third, Oscar Schnarfenbergendorf, Ralphie, Jehoshaphat, John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg-”
“Okay, I’ve heard enough,” I said.
“Aren’t they horrible names?”
“Yep!” Ginny and I said at the same time.
“Well, sorry about your mom,” I said. “I mean, your real mom. I guess you don’t miss Miss Queenie very much.”
The others murmured their regrets.
“Thanks,” Rupert said. “It’s not like Miss Queenie wanted me. She only took me in for the money. Nobody ever wanted me. I’m just a useless orphan.”
“You’re not a useless orphan. And I know someone who really wants you as part of His family,” Natalie said.
“Yeah? Who?” Rupert said, as he crossed his arms.
Here she goes again! I thought. Natalie took every available chance to talk about God.
Caroline looked over at Aunt Lorelei and said, “I always love to see religious children. They’re so nice.”
Aunt Lorelei smiled.
“Yeah, that’s nice, but a big invisible guy in the sky doesn’t sound like great family,” Rupert said.
Natalie looked disappointed, but she didn’t push the point.
We sat around the fire, talking about whatever we thought of. I learned that Daniella was a divorced hairstylist who worked at a fancy salon. The hairstylist part explained the blue streak in her hair. Liam was a single businessman who spent all his free time at the gym or surfing at the beach. Caroline said she’d had a husband and son, but they died in a car accident, so she lived alone and taught preschool. After a while, Daniella said, “Well, I’m tired. I’m going to go find a place to sleep.”
“Okay, good night,” Aunt Lorelei said.
“I’m going to go to sleep, too,” Caroline said.
“All right. You three girls find a good place to sleep and I’ll be there in a bit. I want to do something,” Aunt Lorelei said.
“Okay. Good night, Aunt Lorelei,” I said and gave her a hug.
My sisters did the same.
“Well, see you, Rupert,” Ginny said.
“See you guys tomorrow,” Rupert said.
Natalie, Ginny and I waved to Liam, and left to search for a place.
We found a spot under the low hanging branches of some trees and lay down.
Falling asleep took me longer than normal. My sunburn hurt a lot and I couldn’t get comfortable on the rough ground.
I had an awful dream. A blonde girl stood on the witness stand, testifying she saw a lady kill a man and a little boy. Then, the judge pounded her gavel, and sentenced the woman to life in prison. As the police led the woman out, she stopped in front of the girl and glared at her with piercing green eyes.
“I’ll get you one day. You will pay,” the woman whispered so just the girl could hear. The woman continued to glare at the girl as the police took her away. The girl screamed.
I jerked out of sleep. That scream sounded so real. But now, no noises came from the dark. The dream probably just made me think I heard a scream. I dreamed that a lot and it always felt real. My sisters, but not Aunt Lorelei, lay on the ground beside me. I figured she must have decided to sleep somewhere else. Maybe she couldn’t find us. I lay down again and went back to sleep. When I woke up in the morning, Aunt Lorelei still wasn’t there. I got up to search for her. I walked along the beach at the front of the island. The sand burned my feet. The sea had claimed my flip flops the day before. I found no sign of her. I decided to look in the forest. I walked through the forest for a while, looking under trees.
Not finding her, I almost turned back, when red sand caught my eye. It looked like blood stained the sand. I jogged farther into the forest, following the blood trail, and then screamed at what I saw. Aunt Lorelei lay on the ground, bloody slashes covering her body, soaking her clothes. Her eyes were open and glazed over. Tears welled up in my eyes. I dropped to my knees, sobbing into my hands. I couldn’t think straight. Why would someone kill her?
Natalie and Ginny’s voices surprised me.
Oh no, how can I tell them?
I ran away from the body, not wanting them to see it.
I found both my sisters a little way away.
I tried to compose myself, but I was breathing hard, and I started crying again.
“Guys, oh my goodness, blood,” I panted.
“Oh my word, Shayne, what’s wrong? You look awful. What happened?” Natalie said, putting her hand on my shoulder.
“Dead,” I forced out.
“Who’s dead?” Ginny said.
“What? Shayne, how?” Natalie said, tears forming in her eyes.
“Found her dead. Blood all over.”
Both my sisters started crying and hugged me. I hugged them, not sure what to do. I felt helpless. We just hugged and cried for a long time.
Then, a thought occurred to me. Someone on this island was a murderer. I didn’t know who it was, but I had to protect my sisters from them.