The sunlight streamed in the translucent windows, flooding the small office with light. No matter how much the world has changed, the sun has always been there. Never failing to rise every morning and look out for them.
“The island is full, sir,” reported an officer standing in the doorway. He wore a solemn look on his face, already mourning those who wouldn’t be saved. The elderly man he was addressing sat behind a wooden desk covered with maps and charts full of information about Earth’s population. He continued to study them, even though he had read them a thousand times before.
“And the people that weren’t chosen?” the man asked. Neither of them wanted to acknowledge what would happen to the people who didn’t make it on the island. The people whose lives were considered... expendable.
“There was rioting, but it has been contained.” the officer looked to the older man for an order.
War erupted as sea levels rose and volcanic ash swept across the planet. Homes, people, and land were destroyed by a war that was pointless. Each country hoped to claim the last habitable land, none of them realizing that it would all be gone soon. The only thing that had caught their attention was another offer of land, a floating island. He was a leader, for now, because he had designed their only chance of survival.
“With all due respect, sir, do we really expect people that have been at war with each other since the beginning of time to live together on a single island? Mankind never attained peace with oceans between them, a greater number of people in less space will only lead to more conflict.” the officer said, incredulously.
“This is the only choice; we weren’t ready for this. The only people that are going to survive will be the people on that island. They will have to find peace, because if they can’t unite, every single one of them will die. I just hope saving them wasn’t a mistake.”
93 years later
It has been so long that we have forgotten what it is like to live without fear. All memories of life that existed beyond our home have become faded like the pages of an ancient book. Without anything to compare the present to, things that would have seemed cruel are tolerated. We all have empty mouths, empty heads, and empty hearts.
There used to be a resistance. They started weak but gained strength as they inspired others to fight back. But when you take away the most important element of something it shatters. When their leader was captured and murdered by the king, they slowly shrunk back into the shadows.
Now, hope on the island is a rare thing, if it even exists at all.
The shock barely registers when I find myself frozen in place with two guns aimed at my figure. I quickly drop the accusing loaf of bread I stole, but it is too late. They caught me.
It is hard to judge how much time has passed as I sit in an isolated, cold cell. I silently curse myself. I should have been more careful. After all, everyone on the island knows what happens when you commit a crime. The king would never let us forget.
He likes to look merciful, so he pretends to give us a second chance. A chance to start our lives over, all by ourselves on another island. But the truth is, there is no other land. Our floating island is the only chance of survival in a sea of emptiness.
In a matter of seconds I have dismantled my future.
I wish I could freeze time, to spare myself the misery of watching my ending play out. This time I will be the one the guards push off our island in a rickety boat. The one that is lost in the suffocating blue waves.
When we get to the shore, citizens are gathered in the viewing area. Many of them impatiently checking their watches as if the king guaranteeing my death is just another thing keeping them from their busy schedules. I suppose I’m not surprised they don’t care more, by now this has become a weekly practice.
I keep the look of utter despair off my face and hold back the tears until I see the boat. It brings back the memory in a wave of pain, a memory that I tried to bury but couldn’t. One that I relived every single night as I slept. A goodbye.
I wasn’t always alone. I didn’t always have an empty space by my side. Before my older brother was floated, I didn’t have to steal to keep myself alive. He was floated for an insignificant mistake, like so many before him.
Now I am about to meet the same abrupt end. Our fates were always tied together.
His last words to me echo in my head.
You can survive anything as long as you never give up. Not until your ending is definite.
Suddenly, things seem different. Instead of a death sentence I see a chance to live a free life. One far away from the terror and destruction the king brings with him.
It is all or nothing.
“Lisha Summer, you are being banished for theft. The mainland is the only known island, however this is not a death sentence. In order to survive, you must navigate these waters to find a new home.” the king states, a malicious smile on his face.
I give a small wave to the crowd, then step carefully into the boat with the determination of someone that isn’t ready to die yet.
It rocks beneath my feet, threatening to dump me into the icy cold water. The guards push me off the sand, setting me adrift.
It is a beginning, not an end.
On the night of my fifth day on the water, the moon is full. It reflects brightly off the lake, a glowing white orb on the water. I focus on it, trying to keep the small wisp of hope I have from drifting away.
Maybe if the inky air wasn't so thick, I could have seen the very tips of trees peeking out where the sky meets the sea.
Land that promises there is a better life is out there. Waiting for me.