Tears in the Pacific (3/5)
The weeks passed and it became certain we were not going to be rescued. It would take a few years but with housing, water and an ocean full of food we integrated back into the land. The original 53 let go of their past and embraced the new life, we had no choice but to live. To me it felt like an eternal vacation, no more school, just life and the beach. I did wish my mom had been there with us. I would sit on the beach and look back to the small island and talk to her. There was not a day I didn’t miss her.
Life doesn’t stop and the will to survive is too deeply ingrained into our genes. The 53 quickly became, 54, 55, 56 and more. Omar, my father and three others headed the council who ruled the island. I was 21 when my father passed and the astounding loneliness was almost too much for me to handle. Omar took me under his wing and if it hadn’t been for his counsel and attention, I would have walked myself into the waves. A few years later I met Hope. She was the original Islander. The first baby born and resident number 54. Between her and Omar I allowed myself to be happy once more.
Hope and I fell madly in love. I felt alive after so many years of feeling half dead. A few years later we married in a beautiful sunset ceremony. Seven months later, I mean nine months later, Lawrence was born. I was 27, had a beautiful wife, a precious baby boy and lived in a paradise. The world had forgotten about us, but Mother Nature hadn’t. Then, it all fell apart once more. Hope had complications from the birth and two days after giving me the greatest joy of my life she died. As I mourned her on the beach, staring out into the dark blue sea, that’s when the skies turned dark.
There was no way of knowing what had caused it, but clouds of grey covered the skies, it rained ash, storms raged and the sun disappeared for 12 years. I wanted to quit, give up but I had my little Lawrence, his big blue eyes just like his mother's, gave me all the strength I would ever need. I raised the boy in an ever changing world. The tropical paradise I had known disappeared and was replaced by a tumultuous and volatile environment. The ocean began to freeze and thaw and once the sun finally came back it was no longer our friend. The first few celebratory souls met the same fate Lawrence had, burned alive. None of them survived. I hope my Lawrence would.
The days were ruled by the oppressing and deadly sun during the summer, the summer nights haunted by hurricane strength storms. After the volatile summer there would be three or four weeks of ocean harvest then the once tropical waters would begin to freeze. Winter was brutally cold. The old thermometers in the military hospital could not read how cold it got, but all we could do was hunker down and try to survive like bees in a hive. Once the big blue would thaw, we would get three or four more weeks to harvest and the torturous summer would chase us back inside.
Lawrence had grown to be one of our better swimmers and fishermen. He was truly one with the sea. Where bigger stronger men had drowned he would navigate the water like a fish and bring back food for the colony. Unfortunately, food had started to run low and it wasn’t enough to get us through the seasons. Rationing started, Omar was now the only elder left and he made sure everyone got their share. The problem was that the shares were not enough. We improvised, found new things to eat but eventually human ingenuity was trumpeted by an angry Mother Nature.
We had barely survived and the big fish were hard to come by anymore. The fertile spring season was coming to an end and there was not enough food to keep us through the tumultuous summer. Panic found its way into the conversation and a new possible leader arose. Kapena was a young man and son of Yuki, one of the original five council members. He was a quiet kid from what I remembered, a hard worker but never much for leadership. Now Kapena was the main opponent of Omar and his rationing policies.
Omar didn’t have to say it, but as he looked down to his feet in shame I knew why Lawrence had been out there in the burning sun. We needed more food to make it through the summer and Lawrence was our best fisherman. I just never thought Omar would risk my boy’s life for more fish.
“Look at me. Look at me Omar!” He slowly raised his gaze and his tear filled eyes met mine. “He shouldn’t have been out there! No one should have!” The first tear escaped his left eye, I turned around and walked before he could see my pain instead of my rage.
I checked on Lawrence once more and left him to rest as I searched for Kapena. I found him in quarters reading one of the outdated books from the old military library.
“We need to change things.” Kapena smiled at me, leaving his book and standing to properly greet me. We hugged and he offered kind and reassuring words about Lawrence. We sat and talked. I had heard about Kapena’s ideas and proposed policies but wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth.