Prompt: One day, while reading your favorite book on the beach, you notice a boat slowly drifting to shore. It eventually lands near your spot. A person, draped in pirate clothes, yells to you from the boat, “I have a treasure map and I need help. Are you in?”
I sat up, shifting my arm to block the sun and gazed at my surroundings. I couldn’t help but smile as my eyes quickly glazed over the sun dancing upon the waves and the small sand tornadoes that the light breeze carelessly tossed about and focused solely on her sleeping form. Her body moved slightly with each breath, small minute twitches of her fingers the only sign that she is alive. Mariella, the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. Her face was so still and peaceful. A slight frown pasted across my face as I remembered times when it wasn’t so peaceful. I shook my head savagely to clear it, remind myself that this is why we took this vacation. To get away from everything and remember how it all used to be. I smiled again and slowly reached to her face and started to shift the strands of hair that the wind had brushed on her face but stopped. I could see my hand reaching out to her in the dark hall, the air polluted with our angry voices and I could taste the rage in my jaw as I almost struck her. I had stopped in time but the damage had already been done. I gritted my teeth and forced myself to relax, no bad thoughts could enter this paradise.
I yawned then, arms outstretched to the sky, a simple moment of pure joy as the sun’s warmth beat against my naked chest and the wind ran delightfully chill fingers across my torso. I collapsed back on the beach towel and rolled over, grabbing the beach bag as I did. I knew that I couldn’t relax as easily as Mari did and when packing I had thrown in some books to keep me occupied. I reached inside and grabbed the first book my hand touched and sat stock still for a moment in shock caressing the time worn cover. This had been my favorite book as a child. I flipped it open to my favorite page and began to read, chuckling as I remembered spilling the orange juice that now stained the page in my fifth grade cafeteria.
I read for a while, laughing often, more from the memories attached to certain sections of the book than from the jokes which I now knew by heart. One particular dark brown stain caught my eye as I drew close to the climax of the story but as I tried to focus on what could have caused it my eyes fought to stay open. The sun dipped behind the downy clouds and the soothing metronome of the waves started to make my droopy eyes quiver with sleep. I wryly closed the book with a content smile, seems I did know how to relax after all. I was about to roll over and settle my head in the crook of my elbow for a nap when I heard a shout from the distance.
“Heya stranger!” the distant voice called out. “Ain’t no time for lying around! Time’s a-wasting.”
I shook my head to clear it, thinking maybe I was imagining things. After all, Mariella and I had chosen this spot specifically because it was tucked away from everything. We could get away from all the hustle and bustle and just laze around in our little paradise. Could someone else really have found it? I was imagining it, it had to just be a figment of my imagination and fatigue. Then I heard it again.
“Mister! Come on or it’s gonna be too late!” the voice rang out again, definitely closer.
I sat up once again, grumbling irritably under my breath and looked towards the ocean where the voice seemed to come from. I rubbed my eyes, unable to believe what I was seeing and squinted again to make sure I wasn’t my eyes were not being deceived. A small canoe like boat was bobbing up and down in the water a few feet from the shore and there seemed to be a small person on it. I lurched to my feet, and stumbled a little closer to confirm the bizarre site. A small child draped in pirates gear that seemed a few sizes too large was paddling a canoe towards me, his sun browned face split open in a grin.
“Hey Mister, you’re finally awake! Come on! I got a treasure map and I need your help!” the child hollered this at me while paddling closer. “Are you in?”
“Where are your parents?” I called back quietly, not wanting to wake Mariella up. “What are you doing out in the ocean by yourself, that’s not safe!”
“Hurry, or else we won’t get there in time,” the boy called out beckoning me with his hand. “The bad men are coming and if we don’t get the treasure before they do then bad things will happen!”
As he drifted closer, I could see his clothes were worn and threadbare and the tricorne perched on his head had seen better days. Clearly he had been lost out on the ocean for a while and was probably confused from hunger and exposure. I sighed, knowing my vacation was ruined but also knowing I had to get him proper care. I ran towards the incoming boat, flip flops falling from my feet as I did and plunged into the water. The bracing cold water hit me like a glacial hammer and quickly stripped any remnants of sleep from my consciousness. This brought with it the remembrance that I wasn’t the strongest of swimmers. I clawed my way to the surface, gulped in some air, and the set to ferociously doggy paddling my way towards the boy, muscles straining against the water. In my mind I could hear Mariella laughing at me, her bell like laughter echoing mermaid melodic through the air as she swam fluid circles around me. After what seemed like eternity my hand brushed against the rough surface of the canoe and I reached for the surface, breaking free and gulping for air like a mad man. The strange boy was looking down at me with a perplexed expression on his face, dark eyes shining with mischief.
“What are you doing? Is that a game?” He asked curiously, as if he had never seen anyone swimming before. “I wanna try!”
Having said that, he jumped out of the boat and landed in the ocean with a splash that rocked the canoe and threatened to capsize the small vessel. He proceeded to start drowning in a horrific pantomime of my swimming, arms flailing and voice crying out intermittently as his head would break through the water. I released my hold on the canoe and swam after him, praying every prayer I knew that I would somehow be able to swim with the both of us and cursing my pride for stopping me from taking swim lessons at the YMCA. I swam with a savage strength borne from fear and adrenaline and soon reached the spot where he had last gone under. As I took a breathe and prepared to dive in, he shot out of the water like a leaping dolphin, his slim body arching through the air in a spray of glistening sun struck rainbow water. He flipped then through the air and landing laughingly on his feet.
“That sure was fun Mister!” he giggled merrily, “But wouldn’t it be faster to just walk on top of the water? It sure is hard to move underwater.”
My mouth gaped open and I forgot to keep my feet moving. A few moments later I fought back to the surface, spitting salt water as I did and came eye to eye with his smiling face. He peered at me from where he was standing, perched on the water as if standing on solid earth, his body undisturbed by the churning current moving beneath him.
“You’re a funny Mister and I would love to play but we really gotta go.” He said, reaching his hand out to me. “The bad men will catch up soon if we don’t hurry.”
I grasped his hand out of sheer muscle, my mind still reeling from the shock and unable to process anything else. That was why I wasn’t even shocked by the surprising amount of strength he showed in pulling me from the water with one hand. He walked towards the canoe, his feet barely making any impressions on the surface of the shifting sea and dragged me behind him like a child would drag a teddy bear.
As we climbed into the canoe, my tongue finally loosened and I uttered a stream of unintelligible words before finally piecing together a complete thought.
“The canoe…walking on water, Jesus. I mean, why do you need the canoe if you can walk on water?” I asked. He looked at me, his gaze mirroring my 4th grade teachers whenever I asked a stupid question.
“How else are we going to get through the door?” he replied, his finger pointed towards the portal that had opened up a few feet from where we were. My mouth dropped open even wider and I stammered nonsense syllables as I tried to comprehend the rip that had appeared in front of me, separating the wind kissed beach from the sun painted sky and leaving only a gaping black hole that seemed to be sucking us towards it. I opened my mouth to say something about vacuum tubes but the air was stolen from my lungs as the canoe squelched into the black hole and we started accelerating through a pitch black tunnel. My brain came back long enough to remind me that I hated roller coasters and water rides and that maybe I should be thinking of throwing up. I gagged, scrabbling for the sides of the boat to release the contents of my stomach and then suddenly we weren’t in the mysterious tube anymore.
The canoe slammed into the earth and bounced back as if the ground were made from the same material as the bouncy castles. After a few more bounces it slowly settled unto the ground. The boy leapt out of the canoe sprightly and landed on the ground, dancing from left to right with impatience.
“Come on! Come on!” he shouted as he pulled me out of the canoe and started folding it. I sat back, still flabbergasted as the small canoe quickly became a palm sized lump of clay which he stuck in his pocket. Reaching into his pocket again he drew out a scrap of paper that had brightly colored marks scribbled across the surface as if by a excited child with a crayon. He looked at it briefly and then grabbed my hand and took off running. My feet moved on their own accord using only muscle memory and my eyes darted from place to place unable to fixate on anything. As the ground started to blur and the surroundings start to melt into one another in my sight, my brain simply ran through a list of the impossible things that I was seeing and could not process. Three suns, one purple, one green, one orange. Blue clouds on the ground and upside down trees growing from the sky. Visible sound moving through the air. The list went on and on as we ran. After an eternity, we stopped abruptly and I crashed into the young boy. I started to apologize and realized I didn’t even know his name.
“What’s your name?” I asked him, my brain logically trying to put things it could handle in order before attempting to make sense of the crazy hallucination. He turned to me and looked at me as if it was ludicrous that I would ask.
“Tony, of course. What kinda question is that?” he replied, “Anyway, this isn’t the time for that, the Bad men could get here at any time. I can smell them.”
I didn’t have the time to ask the burning questions that his answer had made spring up in my mind because the earth, ground, surface thing we were standing on rippled forcefully as if someone had dropped a heavy weight on it. Turning I looked to see a large group of amorphous creatures in business suits dropping from the sky in a horde that sent waves of foreboding up my spine.
“They are here!” Tony shouted fearfully. “We gotta get in the castle.”
Having said that he grabbed my hand and launched himself towards the castle that I could see of in a distance. Dazed as I was, my brain still seemed to find the castle familiar. But as I began to ponder why it felt so familiar he grabbed my hand and we took off again.
“Run!” he shouted.
“What are you doing?” he exclaimed, seeing that I wasn’t able to keep up with him. “Stop thinking and run or else they will get you and hurt you.”
I listened and turned tail and ran, my feet seemingly not even touching the ground anymore but simply slicing through the air. Wait. I lurched to a stop, eyes straining beyond their capacity to open as I looked down to the ground which was approximately 10 feet below me. I screamed as the realization make me start to plummet to the earth.
“Stop thinking!” Tony screamed as he caught my hand, his face pulled tight in fear and strangely enough excitement. “You can’t think about it. Just do it.”
He ran, launching himself into the air and dragging me behind him as I vainly tried to move my legs in some motion resembling running. Having to drag me behind him seemed to be slowing him down as the suits were catching up, some corkscrewing through the air with misshapen wings while others raced along the ground beneath us in a fear inducing hoard. The one in the lead seemed to be the humanoid of them all, his legs jack knifing through the air like an Olympic runner as he got closer and closer. He raised his arm and a large ball of fire shot from the palm of his hand and raced towards us. I stared stupidly at the fireball as it neared, growing both in heat and size as it drew closer to us.
“You gotta block it!” he shouted at me, desperation coloring his voice. “Just put the fire out! You gotta imagine it away, it can’t hurt you.”
I opened my mouth to ask him how but the ball of fire was already too close. I threw my hands up to protect my face and imagined something to put the fire out. A wall of water exploded from my fingers and the two elements collided in a cloud of heated mist and smoke. I gaped at what I had just done. Curiosity overwhelmed my incredulousness and I threw my hands up again imagining the wall of water. It exploded from my fingers and hung in the air for a brief moment before crashing down unto the ground which was now more than 20 feet below us as we raised straight to the top of the castle. He seemed to be aiming for a particular window in the castle. I couldn’t remember why the castle seemed so familiar.
“Woo!” Tony whooped and released me. “You finally remembered.”
I caught myself and kept running, keeping pace with his small form as he ran through the air. I didn’t know what he meant by remembering but something in me had accepted that things worked differently here. I grabbed his arm and accelerated, running faster and faster until the surroundings were mere blurs. Within moments we had arrived to the small red window. Without slowly I imagined it open and to my surprise it sprang open and we landed in the small room within. It was dark and spider web filled as if it hadn’t been used in quite a while. In the center of the room, a small chest sat and pulsed with an amber light. My eyes shone with incredulous light as I tried to process the fact that ther was actually a treasure chest and this was actually happening. I look at Tony, unable to believe that his map had actually contained the directions to a treasure chest. He grinned, almost as if to say I told you so.
As we turned toward the chest, the walls behind us blew apart as if ripped by some Godly act of vengeance or by a natural disaster. I remembered then that we had forgotten about the Bad men in the excitement of finding the treasure. I spun only to confront the bad men as they alighted on the floor of the room. The one in the lead reached into his pocket and flung a knife straight at me. I lifted my hand and imagined a steel shield in front of me, not even shocked when it materialized in front of me. My eyes did open in shock as the knife passed the barrier as if it did not exist and sliced through the air towards me. I stood rooted in shock, I couldn’t die here, not before fixing things with Mari. At what seemed like the last moment Tony sprung in front of me and I could only watch helplessly as the knife entered his small chest and blood fountained from his body even before he hit the ground.
A fuse blew within me as I watched his body slowly crumple to the floor. The suit turned towards me and laughing gravelly said.
“Can’t block real things now can ya?”
Still laughing he reached into his pocket for more knives as the other creatures arrived. I threw my hands in the air, not caring to try to decipher his cryptic message but simply wanting to destroy all of them. I imagined a hail of bullets lancing outwardly from me and couldn’t help but feel childish glee as they tore through the bodies of the incoming suits. As their bodies fell apart the one in front raised his hand and seemed to summon their bodies towards him. I watched horrified as he assimilated the others into himself and steadily grew until he was a giant towering over me.
“You think you can get away from me boy?” the creature roared at me. I sat stunned, noticing the reek of alcohol in the air and idly wondering where it came from. “I made you, and I can take you outa this world! Ya hear me! You can’t never get away from me!”
It reached out with an enormous arm and swung a giant knife towards me. I stood there, stunned mute and waited to die knowing there was no way I could fight this behemoth. I never could.
“You gotta get the treasure!” Tony gasped, his voice faint against the roaring of the giant. “That’s the only way to beat him!”
I snapped back to action at the sound of his voice, my righteous fury truly ignited and launched myself out of the way of the incoming knife. I quickly rolled and imagined myself next to the chest. I flung it open and grabbed what was contained, unable to see through the light. I held it up instinctively and was surprised when the small pen in my hand blocked the huge sword with ease. I could hear a whisper of a memory saying “Write your pain away.” I held the pen in my hand and imagined the giant away and he started to deteriorate before my eyes. As he faded, he raged and reached into his pocket and grabbed another knife and flung it before he disappeared. I threw my arm up in front of my face and felt it pierce my skin to the bone.
I fell to my knees as the pain shorted my brain but I would not allow myself to rest. I scrambled up and ran to the inert body laying by the chest and turned him over. He moaned slightly and coughed, his blood staining his white teeth. I lay my hands on him and imagined it away.
“It won’t work. The bad men use real things. And you can’t imagine away reality.” He gasped out, his eyes laughing at me. “You still don’t know anything huh Mister? But don’t worry, I won’t die.”
He reached out slowly and pulled the knife from my arm and threw it to the side. Then he slowly slid his hand into mine and as I watched he faded. As if from the distance I could hear him say.
“As long as you remember and accept me, I won’t die.”
I my eyes blinked closed with tears. As I reached to close the chest the light flashed and blinded me for a moment and I lurched upright, sitting up on my beach towel and looking up into the glaring sun. I whipped my head around looking for the castle and the crazy world but all I saw was an abandoned beach and Mariella looking at me with a confused expression on her face.
“Are you alright?” she asked, her hand cautiously reaching out for my forehead. “You shouted out in your sleep.”
“In my sleep?” I asked, “But I wasn’t sleeping! I was just…” I drifted off, coming to my senses and realizing how ridiculous it would sound to say out loud.
“Tell me.” She asked, her voice intense and inquisitive. “What happened?”
I opened my mouth to make up something feasible but something stopped me. It felt like a small hand against my arm. I reached for where it was and touched the scar and stopped as it all clicked into place in my head. The wind whistled softly in the distance and I could almost hear giggles and a voice telling saying Tell her. I laughed then, a deep laugh that rippled through my body and exploded outwards.
“Anthony!” Mariella exclaimed accusingly. “Why are you laughing?”
I turned to her and spontaneously kissed her passionately. Then laughing some more, I turned and told her to get comfortable because I had quite the story to tell her. And so I did, telling her everything or at least as much as my brain could piece together from the ludicrous fragments. Finally I finished and stopped talking, somehow completely spent. I looked at her and was shocked to see tears in her eyes.
“Your father did that?” she asked, her fingers tracing the scar.
I nodded, unable to put words to the enormity of the relief I felt having finally told someone the truth about that day, still remembering the alcohol lacing the air as my blood splattered across the page of the book I had been reading.
She started to sob even harder and I started to ask her what was wrong but stopped as she flung herself at me and we fell to the sand in a tangle of bodies. She kissed me, first on my lips and then all over myself.
“That’s why you got so distant after that fight?” she asked finally pinning me to the ground with her dark eyes, her curly hair curtaining our faces in our private sanctuary. “Were you scared of becoming like him?”
“Wait, what do you mean I grew distant?” I asked, “I thought you hated me, I almost hit you.”
She laughed then, her beautiful bell chime summoning peace to the restless beach as it rolled out into the sea. And turning to me met my eyes with her innocent one and slew the giant in my heart.
“I trust you, I know you would never hurt me.” She said earnestly, “You are not your father, you are the man I love.
Tears in my eyes, I turned to her and told her I had yet another story for her. I told her the story of a small boy walking on water and the space traveling canoe and the pen that is mightier than the sword.
“I had missed you so much!” she whispered finally. “You probably don’t remember this but you used to tell me stories like this when we were kids. That’s what made me fall in love with you even then. I missed the old you who would tell me stories and take me to wonderful places. I love you Tony”
I lay back on the sand, her body warm against mine and finally understood what Tony had been trying to tell me. I wrapped my arms around her and closed my eyes and imagined we were sleeping on clouds. I didn’t open my eyes to find out whether it had happened or not but simply smiled into the darkening sky. Turns out I got the treasure after all. And even though Tony grew up, it turns out he didn’t die after all.