Saturday, November 04, 2006

Chapter 3

‘So what did everyone find?’ asked Callum Knight. The sun was getting low on the horizon now, and they had gathered back on the beach with all the things they had found. It was turning into a beautiful sunset and the sea was rich blue. Jessie kept turning to look at it.
Some of the hunters had been more successful than others. The fish spear had come back empty. The boy said there were loads of fishes, but they moved too fast.
The most exciting thing was that Trigger and Dennis J Joans had found a cave. The rock was very hard and prickly and inside it was greenish and slippery, but after they had followed it down a bit, they heard dripping and found an underground pool. They had filled up all the bottles they could, and they had also lain a trail of red flowers all the way back to the camp so that others would be able to find the pool too. Jessie tasted the water. It was very slightly salty but it was cool and washed away some of the sandy dryness in her throat.
Rachel Wellard and her team had come back with three big hands of bananas. There was enough for one banana each to eat that night. They had also seen some coconuts hanging from palm trees, but they were so high up a long tall trunk with no branches that they couldn’t reach them. They had picked up some rocks to throw at them but hadn’t managed to shake any down.
‘That’s a shame,’ said KC.
‘Why?’ asked Rachel.
‘Because they’re very nutritious,’ said Karen, who seemed to know everything about food. ‘If we have coconuts we can survive.’
‘And we found these lying on the ground.’ Rachel laid two large green fruits on the ground. She'd found them under a big tree with overhanging branches, but no-one knew what they were and they were all a bit afraid of being poisoned by something they didn’t recognise.
Jill and Scarlet had made a big pile of branches and twigs. And Callum had started a fire with some dried leaves using the special method he knew with a stick and string. But he’d been complaining at the girls.
‘You shouldn’t have torn branches off the trees.’
‘Who says, Mr Sheepdog?’
‘For one thing,’ Callum stood tall, ‘it doesn’t burn when it’s all green like that. You have to get wood that’s been lying around on the ground, that’s got dry.’
‘Collect it yourself, then,’ said Scarlet, folding her arms.
‘And for anther thing,’ piped up May Pillow. ‘We said we weren’t going to harm anything on the island. And that includes the trees.’
‘You said that,’ said Jill. ‘We didn’t.’
The group who had been looking for things from the crashed plane had kept quiet so far. They were shuffling around at the back of the circle, looking at their feet. Finally they were asked what they had found.
‘Just a few more bottles,’ said Kieran Cooster.
‘Nothing else?’
‘And a tin of peaches.’
‘Great!’ said David Casket. ‘Has anyone got a penknife?’
‘They found a suitcase too,’ the words burst out of Jessie. She was still feeling very angry about it.
All the heads turned to Kieran and his friends.
‘Well?’ Trigger asked.
‘Whose was it then?’ Shouted Scarlet.
‘David’s’, Kieran finally said.
‘Oh brillaint,’ David burst out. ‘Who’s for a Tunnock’s Tea-Cake then? My Mum packed 30 - enough for one each and two for me!’
A big cheer went up. Trigger did a little victory dance and trumpeted out ‘Goal’ in his Foghorn Voice.
‘Where is it then?’ They all asked. One or two ran off and found the suitcase where it had been left lying under a tree and dragged it back, but when they opened it, there were some wet clothes, and a copy of ‘Treasure Island’, but only an empty yellow box and some torn foil wrappings.
‘You idiots,’ screamed Scarlet. ‘They were for all of us.’
David Casket looked as though he might cry.
Jill Beaddie walked up to Kieran Cooster with her hands on her hips. ‘I think you’d better apologise to us all.’
‘Or else.’
‘Or what?’
Jill turned to Scarlet and some of the others. ‘What will we do to them? Did someone say they’d found bamboo? That sharpens very nicely doesn’t it? It can be poked under fingernails.’
After Callum had calmed things down, they all went and gathered around the place where ‘The Rule’ was written. ‘Maybe we need more than one rule, after all,’ he said. ‘If we have no control, we might not all survive.’
This time Scarlet and Jill were a bit keener on having rules themselves. ‘They should be ‘not-so-strict rules’, though,’ said Scarlet.
Jessie picked up the writing stick again and asked what she should write next to the rule for meetings.
‘If you find water or food, you share it,’ said Jill.
Jessie wrote that in the sand.
‘Can I have my rule too?’ asked May. ‘That we shouldn’t harm anything on the island?’
Some of the children weren’t so keen on that rule.
‘Does that mean we can’t eat fish?’
‘What does it matter if we harm it? No-one else is here to care.’
In the end they had a vote by show of hands and decided that …….

‘I always thought if we got stranded on an island, we’d just run around and have fun, not spend the whole time arguing and making up rules,’ said Lizzie Huston. She ran off to chase some more hermit crabs across the sand.
‘Come on,’ said Kia to the little ones, and started running to the sea. The waves were crashing and foaming like the mouths of wild horses. Ghost crabs scuttled along the beach between the children’s toes, making them squeal and dance about, kicking the powdery sand. This was the first time they had laughed since the crash.
Jessie sat on the silver sand, running it through her fingers and toes. It reminded her of holidays at the seaside – laughing and playing. This was not fun, though.
It got dark in the blink of an eye. The sun was there one minute and gone the next. Then the wind started and blew away some clouds to make a beautiful big full moon shining down on the sea.
They were frightened and tired and had no adults to help them. It had been a long day since the horror of the plane crash and they were still in shock. They had a quick meal of bananas collected from the jungle and made a bed as comfy as they could from palm tree leaves.
Most of the children couldn’t get to sleep quickly because it was hot. Bugs flew about, and some of them woke up spitting with them in their mouths. They laid leaves of the trees over them as blankets, but the bugs still got through the holes. They heard things flying about, and the song of the grasshoppers. All they could see was the moon and a few stars. They smelt the salty sea air and smoke from the fire. There were loads of shadows and the kids were wondering what they were. Everyone who was there at least woke up once or more.
Jessie could see all the shadows that the animals made and could feel all the creepy-crawlies moving on top of her. She nearly fell asleep and then a bug crawled up her leg. With the fright, she kicked the person next to her, who groaned. She got up and lay down again near a group who had gathered around the fire. Although she was frightened and scared, she felt safer as she watched the dancing flames. They took her thoughts back to memories of home – sitting by the huge roaring fire toasting marshmallows. She could almost taste the sweetness. She so wished she was cuddled up in her bed at home. But what she tasted now was blood from a cut on her lip.
She noticed that Ali just sat there, looking around.
She closed her eyes and could hear a murmur of voices. Then she heard a slithering noise in the branches above them. ‘It’s nothing,’ she said to herself. ‘It’s nothing at all.’ But it got louder.
Then she heard Ali speak, so very quietly it was like the sound of a wave lapping on the shore. ‘Snake,’ he said. ‘Keep very still.’
Jessie gasped.
‘Ssshh’, he whispered.
She lay there, without breathing, and finally heard the slithering and rustling in the branches getting quieter, moving away. After that, she must have slept for a while.
She woke to a dazzle of sunlight spearing through the branches and hunger rumbling in her stomach. They had all forgotten where they were, and sat up, quiet and confused. She heard some voices coming from the beach and could see that some of the children were already up and had gone for a morning swim. It was a bit different to getting in the shower and going to school, she thought.
The voices from the sea suddenly rose into an explosion, and drew all the remaining children from under the trees down to the shore to see what was happening.
‘There’s a ship, there’s a ship,’ Karen and KC screamed. ‘We’re going to be saved!’
Jessie looked at the horizon through her smudged glasses and saw a ship chugging across the horizon, tall and solid-looking, with a puff of black smoke trailing form a chimney.
‘Hurrah, hurrah,’ the children leapt in excitement.
But Callum Knight was frowning, and started calling instructions very quickly. ‘Dennis. You take some others and get some big leaves to fan the smoke from the fire. Where’s Trigger?’
‘Here,’ He stepped forward.
‘We need your Foghorn Voice. As loud as you can.’
Trigger started to broadcast, ‘HELP. HELP,’ in a chorus that went on and on. Some other children joined in. But their voices got sore and croakier, and the ship continued to chug on a straight course towards the right hand end of the horizon.
‘Surely they can see us. What else can we do?’ said Rachel. She started to jump up and down and wave. But nothing seemed to make any difference. ‘Who’s got something we can make a flag out of?’
But they were too late, and they watched the stern of the ship finally disappear from view, and they all sat down, sad and very hungry.
‘He’s so bossy, that Callum Sheepdog Knight,’ said Scarlet. ‘Why should we do as he says? If we’d set the whole island on fire, they’d have noticed us, wouldn’t they.’
Some of the children looked at her as if she’d had a good idea. But some looked shocked.
As Scarlet gathered a huddle around her, who whispered and looked over their shoulders, Jessie looked around at all the faces. It was only then that she noticed that one of them was missing. There was no sign of Ali. And when she asked, ‘Where’s Ali,’ it turned out that no-one had seen him since the night before.

To be continued…..


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