Tears in the Pacific (5/5)
The choosing of how many and who was going to be selected became the next big point of contention. Many unfair methods were proposed but Kapena decided the only fair way would be to make it random. It was hard to argue against the random choosing so everyone eventually fearfully accepted. The number was decided, it would be 27 bringing down the colony number in the big island to 70. Running the numbers the big island could sustain about 75 individuals, we just had to hope the small island could sustain the 27 chosen ones.
By the time the fall harvest had arrived Lawrence was learning how to walk all over again. I would take him on walks down the hallways and he was visited by everyone in the colony, everyone except Omar. The harvest started and everyone worked harder than I had seen in years. Even though we were tired and malnourished we wanted to give the 27 a fighting chance once they went over. No one knew who would be going over, so everyone wanted to make sure as much provision could be sent, in case they were chosen.
Over the next two weeks Lawrence became more and more himself. The colony banded together like when we had first arrived. The night before the choosing tension were running high everywhere. The nervous energy suffocated the hallways as it oozed out of all the citizens preparing in their quarters. I went to see Lawrence once my duties had ended just to find his room empty. Martha caught me on my way out with a smile. “Where is he?” I asked her my voiced filled with panic.
“He is fine. He is starting to come to terms with it. He went outside for a walk.” Martha told me as she held my shoulders in reassurance. The words brought tears of joy to my eyes; my boy was going to be okay.
I slept better than I had slept in months that night, Lawrence and I back in our regular quarters. The next morning everyone made their way to the common room and I must have been the only one with a smile on my face. Kapena stood in front of the whole group with a single piece of paper and soberly started to read out names. Sobs and curses emanated from the trembling mass as the chosen learned their fate. I felt for them, I knew it would be hard but I had faith they would make it. Omar’s name was called and I am ashamed at the little bit of satisfaction that I got from it. He didn’t say a word, the old Egyptian man accepted his fate with the same grace he had lead the colony.
“James Nelson, Lawrence Nelson…” As I heard the names it didn’t seem real. I had to still be dreaming, but I soon realized I was not. Every eye in the room had turned to me in as much disbelief as I was feeling. The meeting soon adjourned and everyone dispersed under a veil of sobs to pack and say their final goodbyes. I stood there petrified glaring at Kapena. I don’t know how but all of the sudden I was standing in front of him, screaming, pleading, questioning how it was possible that me and Lawrence would be sent over. If Lawrence hadn’t been there to hold me back I would have probably choked the life out of Kapena. Once I was done venting all the venom I could his way, he looked me straight in the eye and said. “You best go pack old man.” He turned and left me there to lay in the bed I had made.
The next few hours were a blur and before I knew it we were once more boarding the big yellow rafts that had once brought us to this island. A sea of memories flashed through my mind and heart, as the familiar rubber smell overtook me. I looked across the channel and could not help to think of my mom. I looked back at the island that reminded me of my dad.
We pushed off the shore and started to paddle frantically, as I had watched my dad do so many years ago. The currents were strong and if we didn’t want to get drug out to sea, we better put every ounce of effort we could into it. I looked around the provision filled boat and finally started to see the faces coming along with me for the voyage. Lawrence brave and strong as always did his best to paddle but his body was not what it once was. The grey manes and balding heads finally came to focus. I looked over to the other raft just to see the same field of dandelion heads.
The panting of the man next to me snapped me out of my surreal observation. I looked at him, his brown, wrinkled skin frantically paddling under the cover of the grey clouds. The dark blue, almost black sea, ominously sprawled in front of us. I had seen that same scared focused look so many years ago. Omar rowed next to me as he had next to my father, both of us paddling for our survival. I looked back at my son as he struggled to row and my heart broke. It was obvious there was no randomness to these choices. The old, the weak and the sick had been selected as sacrificial lambs. This was not a chance for all of us to survive but a purge to save the colony.
Tears ran down my face, once more joining the big dark blue Pacific. I rowed with all my might, trying to reach an island which had only one destiny for all of us, a destiny that I had caused. I cried and I rowed, the salt spray mixing with my tears and my salty tears mixing with the ocean. I cried and I rowed for I knew my Lawrence and I would soon meet the same fate as my mother. I cried and I rowed as I kept telling myself “We shouldn’t be out here.”