Island of choice

Island of choice - mystery

“You’ll have to choose your shore when you grow up. You’ll be among the first people to greet the rising sun and will learn how to survive in Golden Sands should you choose the eastern shore. The western shore is cold and its inhabitants have hundreds of words for the shades, the softness, and the sounds of snow”.
“Which shore is better?”
“Neither. They are just different”.
“Can I visit both?”
“No. You can choose only one”.

That was the conversation Seder recalled often. The Tutor - a soulless speaking machine - couldn’t predict its words would have such a strong impact on the boy.

The machine gave the same answer to all Seder’s predecessors, according to its memory archives. Usually, not much came out of it, but for this boy the outcome was different. The answer sowed doubt in Seder’s mind, and as time passed, this doubt only grew.

“I want to visit both places!” was the first phase: a little kid, a dreamer who believed everything was possible.

After a few years, lots of studies and conversations with island Tutors, Seder had to accept the fact that changing the shore after the choice had been made was impossible. It was a fundamental law in the world of Three: two Shores and one Island between them.

A person is given twenty three years to study the Island and grow out of it. Then he or she has to choose. After the choice is made, there is nothing they can do besides making up stories about what life on the other shore might look like. The Island itself becomes just a childhood memory, no one ever returns there.

“I will choose nothing!” was the next phase, Seder becoming an angry, stubborn teen. “I will stay on the Island forever!”

This idea, in its sweet rebellious triumph, brought new fire and new meaning into Seder’s life.

He spent long days exploring the Island down to its darkest and most dangerous places. Inspired by the idea, Seder stormed the unknown with the persistence of a sea wave that, weak as it is, eventually breaks up the hardest rocks. He learned the secrets if he could and stole them if he couldn’t. He studied nature and questioned Tutors. He sought answers and found many.

Soon, Seder knew the Island, along with its animals, secret places, and wild winds, like he knew the back of his hand and was very proud of it. There were moments when he felt one with his little world and was as happy as a climber who’d just got to the top of the highest mountain.

But in the end, his happiness faded and died like an autumn leaf. Seder got used to adventures and exploration, that was what he came to love with all his heart. So, when there was nothing left to explore on the Island, he felt trapped here. The eighteen-year-old boy’s gaze now drifted to the horizon more and more often.

“I must choose,” he said one day, bitterness in his voice. That was the beginning of phase three.

Seder wasn’t the only rebel in the history of the Island: there were others before him who roamed about the little lonely realm seeking answers and hesitated with their choice. By their twenty-third year or even earlier life had broken them all. It was normal.

And now history was about to repeat itself: another young mind was subdued and ready to face the choice. It had always been that way.

Disappointed and heartbroken, Seder cast away his childish dreams and faced the reality. He read a ton about the Shores, bombarded the Tutors with questions, and considered his future very seriously, as an adult should.

The maker of this world would be very pleased with this young man, watching his careful research and strong determination on his journey to the fateful decision.

For years Seder’s opinion on the matter of the choice hung in a delicate balance, each new answer from the Tutors, each new book from the library adding to or subtracting from the weights on the scales. The final decision seemed only a matter of time.

He hasn’t decided anything really, but even that was okay. The Island knew such hesitant persons too. When the day came, half of them chose at random, and the other half became a bone of contention between the messengers of the Shores. A battle followed and after it, the stubborn girl or boy was taken by the winning side as a trophy, their chance for a normal life ruined forever.

The evening Seder turned twenty three a noise of oars, creaking and splashing, disturbed the silence of the Island. Every Shore had sent a boat after the newcomer.

The messengers of the East came in a spacious metallic boat. It spread around a halo of faint silver sheen and was as light as a feather. Their sabres had rich sheaths encrusted with precious stones, and their faces were stern.

The messengers of the West came in a boat made of redwood, with rows of shields on both sides placed there to protect the oarsmen from enemy arrows. Their heavy axes shone bleakly in the moonlight, their cloaks bristled with white wolves’ fur, and their faces were as stern as the easterners’.

“Which Shore did you choose?” there was a question. For the first time, Seder heard the voice of the Island itself… He raised his eyes to the sky, feeling exhausted and forlorn the way he’d never felt before.

Having seen the messengers, Seder finally understood: he didn’t want to live among them, no matter which Shore they came from. And with the Island being too small for him now, it meant only one thing: he, Seder, had no place in this world. With that thought pounding in his mind, he cursed the day he was born.

“He hasn’t chosen...” said the Island to the messengers. With a throaty roar, two little armies charged and clashed with each other in a mortal fight.

Paralyzed with horror, Seder watched them tearing each other apart. He never wanted this. And now, when it had happened, the very thought of anyone’s victory and his own fate after falling into the hands of the winning side disgusted him.

Angry tears glistening in his eyes, Seder ran away from the battlefield as fast as he could and, having nowhere else to go, threw himself into the sea. Cold, salty waves closed in above him.

“There is always a choice, even if it seems there is none,” he thought a moment before he had passed out.

The messengers on the Island didn’t notice what had happened, being too busy fighting each other. By the end of the day, a boat of the winning party left to its Shore without a prize.

Seder imagined death as a quiet dream that would bring him peace. Maybe it really was like that, but he didn’t have a chance to find out.

Something cold touched his lips and he woke up. A blue-skinned girl was looking at him with wide eyes.

“Who are you?” Seder asked her.

She replied wordlessly, with a melodic singing Seder didn’t understand.

Wherever he was now, he couldn’t see the Island or the Shores. This world, so unlike the World of Three he had grown up in, smelled and looked alien and seemed to consist of an endless ocean, cold and unkind, with a heavy purple sky looming above it and grey fog gathering on the horizon.

Seder couldn’t swim and was chilled to the bone. Everything that could hurt in his body, did. Helpless, he was now at the mercy of a strange girl who kept him above the water.

“Not human…” Seder thought. “She is not human…”

The girl smiled and then grinned broadly, showing two rows of sharp teeth. Seder felt a hot streak of fear race through his body. For a moment, he thought of trying to wrench free from this creature’s grip and escape, but where would he go there, in the middle of the cold alien ocean? He had no chance.

The blue monster knew this, Seder realized. He was still alive only because she was bored and wanted to play a little with a curious thing she had found in the sea before ripping it apart and eating it raw.

He prepared to die, hoping she would make a short work of him and bracing himself for the imminent bite, when a moving shadow appeared in the fog not far away. The blue-skinned “rescuer” fled at the sight of it and left Seder alone in the water.

Having had a rough day, Seder wasn’t quick to rejoice at his newly found freedom. Something that was able to scare a monster away might be even worse than the monster itself.

But no, it wasn’t. What had emerged from the grey fog was a ship. It was beautiful! The messengers’ boats would look ugly and small before this glittering giant. The very sight of it filled Seder’s heart with hope, just as wind fills the sails.

Seder heard people on board shout something in a language he didn’t know and saw them pointing at him, a little human figure among the waves. Soon, they lifted the boy on board. Somebody covered his shoulders with a coat and gave him a cup of hot drink.

“Where am I?” he asked in a scared whisper, listening to the alien speech and not understanding a single word.

It won’t be easy to get the answer. But that doesn’t mean much already.

Twenty years later, Seder the Seafarer will return here. A captain of his own ship, in search of the mysterious Triangle… Because everything returns to its beginning sooner or later. Because you can not finish your own story if you leave the most important question unanswered.

He will return. But, before this, he will learn the alien language and master alien crafts. For years and years, he will always look at the sea cautiously expecting to glimpse the glittering scales of the monster who let her prey go… Sirens have a long memory and can spend their whole life trying to get back what belongs to them.

She and Seder will meet again. At this very place. Not far from where Seder made his choice, just as the siren made hers.

(April 13, 2007)

---This is the first part of the story. Seder returns to the Island of Choice in part 2.

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English is not my native language.
If you see an error or a typo, please, tell me. I will fix it.