The ocean gently tossed the boat back and forth. Sam leaned over the rail, trying desperately not to puke up his guts. Every time one of the waves sloshed against the side, Sam dug his fingers into the peeling paint of the rail.
“Urgh, this is the freaking worst,” He muttered at the waves “Why did he have to live in this stupid place, anyways?” The glittering blue sea, as if hearing him, replied by knocking another wave against the boat.
“Oh, are you mocking me now? You might want to reconsider, or else I’ll end up vomiting all over your head,” Sam groaned.
“Who do you think you’re talking to?” Came the question from off to his left. Sam glanced up, and recoiled in shock. Or at least he tried to; at the moment, the most movement he could manage was a weak flinch.
“What the heck are you doing, Katy?” He asked. His younger sister, Katy, sat perched precariously on the edge of the rail. She was facing with her back to the ocean, completely ignoring the rocking motion of the deck. In her lap was an old, dog-eared copy of Harry Potter. She continued reading, even as she talked to her brother.
“Well, not all of us are as seasick as you. There are hardly any waves, you know. If you’re this bad now, imagine what would happen if we got stuck in a storm,” She said. Sam stuck his face in his hands.
“Stop making fun of me.”
“I’m not making fun of you, I’m sympathizing.”
“Oh, that’s you sympathizing, huh? Could’ve fooled me.”
Katy shut her book with a snap, and turned to face Sam. She glared at him from behind her glasses.
“At least I’m not the one muttering to himself like a creep.”
“I was talking to the ocean, not myself, idiot.”
“I’m not an idiot, idiot.”
“Heh, what the heck kind of comeback was that?”
“Shut up, idiot.”
“Huh? Wait, what does that mean?”
“It means that you’re a member of the uneducated masses.”
“Oh. Well then, you’re a stupid brainiac”
“That’s an oxymoron!”
The two siblings continued arguing, completely oblivious of the stares they were getting from the other travelers. Finally, after a little while, the argument petered out. Sam stayed slouched over the railing, moaning to himself.
“Hey, Sam,” Katy said.
“What do you think this Uncle of ours is like?”
“How should I know,” Sam snapped. His back was starting to hurt from staying hunched over for so long.
“I mean, he’s got to be super wealthy, considering he owns a personal island,” Katy mused to herself.
“For all I care he could be Bill Gates. I mean, seriously, what kind of relative lets you spend two years in foster care, and then suddenly decides to take you in?”
“Maybe he didn’t know who we are, or maybe he didn’t realize that Mom was dead.”
“Yeah, maybe. Or maybe he just decided he could care less about us, until he figured out about the inheritance.”
“That’s wrong,” Katy said.
“Huh? How do you know?”
“Oh, not your idea. I was just saying that your grammar was wrong. It’s not ‘he could care less,’ it’s ‘he couldn’t care less.’”
Sam opened his mouth, a sarcastic comment on the tip of his tongue, when a large wave made the boat lurch suddenly. So, instead of letting out the comeback he had planned, Sam found himself retching up the remains of his lunch. It didn’t taste nearly as good coming out his mouth as it had going in.
Even though he was standing on solid ground, Sam felt as if the world were still swaying. With the tip of his thumb, he adjusted the straps of his backpack so that it sat more comfortably on his shoulders.
“Hurry up, Sam,” Katy shouted. She was already standing at another dock.
“I can’t believe this. We’re finally on dry land, and we have to switch right over to a different boat. Just kill me now,” Sam muttered.
“Stop being so juvenile. It’s not like any commercial boat will go out to a private island. We have to hitch a ride along with the staff,” His sister said. Sam lurched to a stop, and eyed the rickety little skiff that would be taking them to their (hopefully permanent this time) new home.
“Yeah, but does it have to be on that little thing?” He said skeptically. Suddenly, he felt a hand clamp down on his shoulder. Sam jumped, and yelped like a terrier.
“It’s bad luck to call a boat by anything other than its name. Boats have spirits, boy, and if you insult them, they might just sink to spite you,” The man behind him growled. He had a rough voice, with a heavy accent that Sam couldn’t quite place.
Sam slowly turned around to stare at the person. He was a tall and lean man, with ebony black skin and piercing eyes. His glittering, white teeth made him look like he was modeling for a toothpaste commercial. His arms were huge, made of muscles that looked like knotted rope. His large hands were rough, calloused, and covered in small scars. He wore simple clothing: a sleeveless tee-shirt and pants. The only thing fancy about him was the silver crucifix he wore around his neck. He might have seemed handsome, if it wasn’t for the terrifying expression on his face. The man glared at Sam like he was burnt tofu.
As he sized this intimidating stranger up, Sam felt a twinge of nervousness in his gut. Or maybe that was the leftover seasickness.
“Great,” He said, “I only had to walk 20 feet on this island, and I still ended up stopped by a superstitious nutjob. What a wonderful trip this is turning out to be. You know what would make it even better?” Sarcasm practically dripped off Sam’s voice as he plastered a charming grin on his face.
“If you just keep squeezing my shoulder like that, I’ll end up vomiting all over your shoes. Wouldn’t that be awesome?” The man gripping his shoulder narrowed his eyes. Sam watched his hands carefully, looking for any signs that the stranger was going to punch him. Suddenly, the man burst out laughing. The sailor threw his head back, and laughed a deep, booming laugh. Sam staggered back as the hand that was on his shoulder let go. He rubbed his arm and glanced back at Katy. She was holding her book like a weapon. As usual, she was ready to help bail him out if it came to that.
The two siblings shared a confused glance. The same thought seemed to be running through both of their heads: What the hell just happened.
“My apologies,” The stranger laughed, “I was kidding. Making fun of foreigners is the only entertainment I get around here. You can call me Ben; it’s nice to meet you Sam and Katherine Miller.” The man, Ben, stuck his hand out. The siblings, now royally confused, just stared at it. Katy recovered first, and nudged Sam in the side. After jerking out of his reverie, Sam shook Ben’s hand and muttered a “Nice to meet you too.”
“I have to say, you are just as ridiculous as your uncle said you were, Sam. Not many people have been brave enough to insult me to my face,” Ben said.
“It’s his nervous tick,” Katy said, “He gets sarcastic when he’s uncomfortable.”
“Hmm, sounds dangerous.”
“How do you know our uncle?” Sam asked, trying to change the subject.
“I’m his personal assistant,” Ben replied, before turning back to Katy “How many fights does your brother get into like that?”
Sam sighed, and decided to ignore the two of them. The big man started humming Highway to the Dangerzone as he hopped into the little skiff. With surprisingly nimble hands, he untied the ropes attaching the boat the the dock.
“Well, what are you two waiting for? Hop in, and I’ll take you to the island.”
Katy, appearing to have taken a liking to the odd man, hopped in first. Sam muttered a string of swears as he found himself slouching onto yet another ship. This one, though, seemed like more of a death trap than anything.
“Hey, look, there’s the island!” Katy yelled. Sam glanced up from his position slumped over the edge of the boat. His sister hardly ever yelled, so it must have been something interesting. Sam squinted into the distance, and then gasped in shock. Mola Island was beautiful, there wasn’t any other word for it.
The island rose up suddenly from the glittering, turquoise ocean. The sand on the beaches was white and fine looking. Higher up on the beach, huge boulders and rock formations stacked up against the shore. Even further inland, trees had started sprouting. The vivid green canopy made the whole island look like a lush paradise.
“Wow,” Was all Sam could say. For the first time, this trip actually seemed like it wouldn’t be the worst experience in his life.
“It’s beautiful,” Katy whispered.
Ben started to laugh.
“Toto, it looks like we aren’t in Kansas anymore,” He said.
Sam resisted the urge to fall to the ground and kiss the sand.
“I’m never riding another boat ever again,” He said. Feeling like a newly born foal, Sam wobbled off the dock and onto the sand. It crunched under his ratty sandals and stuck between his toes.
“You said that last time,” Katy said as she walked up beside him.
“That doesn’t make it any less true.”
“Hey, you two. The mansion’s this way,” Ben yelled. He was standing on a path made of steel grey slate paving stones. As Sam and Katy went over to join him, he pointed off down the path.
“Just follow the Yellow Brick road,” He said with a laugh, “Though, in this case, I suppose it’s not really yellow, huh?”
Ben, Sam was starting to notice, loved to quote The Wizard of Oz. The three set off. As they walked, Sam slowly started to get his balance back. The aftereffects of his seasickness started wearing off, and he could actually pay attention to his surroundings. Katy bounded ahead, stopping to examine a flower or one of the lush, shoulder-high ferns, before darting on. Still, even at their brisk pace, it took them nearly half-an-hour to reach their destination.
The path passed out of the forest and into a clearing. Sam blinked as his eyes tried to get used to the sudden light. The clearing was filled with long, green seagrass. At the end of the field, there was a sudden edge where the land dropped off the horizon. Past that was only the blue ocean stretching far into the distance. The path passed close to the edge, and Sam glanced over. Black and deep brown rocks dropped down the edge of the cliff. Waves crashed against the jagged spikes of rock far below. Sam guessed it was maybe a 50 foot drop. Katy took one look, blanched, and backed away. From then on, she stayed as far away from the ledge as possible.
“Ah, you are afraid of heights?” Ben asked.
“Kind of,” Katy replied.
Soon, the sight of the mansion took everyone’s minds off the cliff. It was a huge house, made of brilliant red brick and miles of white trim. Balconies and huge windows dotted the mansion. Sam could imagine it in some beautiful, rich neighborhood. However, perched near the edge of a cliff on a tropical island, it looked unnatural. Like someone was trying to pass off a piece of western culture by sticking a tiki mask on it. Still, it was amazingly impressive. Sam noticed he was gaping and closed his mouth with a snap.
“Holy crap, he really is rich!” He murmured.
Soon the group trotted up the stairs and to the giant, mahogany door. Ben reached out and pulled the rope hanging by the door. The sound of a bell rang out from inside. The siblings shot Ben an odd glance.
“Your uncle is a fan of the classics,” He replied with a wry grin.
A local-looking lady opened the door. She wordlessly gestured them in. Sam and Katy walked into the cool, air-conditioned air, followed closely by Ben.
Sam had never been in a house nearly as big as this one. The foyer was huge, with ceilings stretching up at least two or three stories. The floor was made of light grey marble. The walls were painted beige, and there was beautiful, mahogany trim. The stairs started out as one large staircase, before branching off into two different directions. Wrought iron railings framed the edges.
With feet clicking over the stone tiles, Sam and Katy walked openmouthed through the room. They were so in awe of the place that they couldn’t even focus on where they were going. So busy gawking at their surroundings, the siblings bumped up the stairs and through the twisting hallways. It took a few seconds for them to realize when they had stopped in front of one of the many doors. Ben gave them another sparkly smile.
“Well, are you two ready to meet your new caretaker?” He asked. Sam gave a noncommittal shrug, while Katy nodded her head so quickly she looked like she would get whiplash. Without any further thought, Ben reached out and rapped gently on the door.