For the February writing challenge, I decided to write the first jump Andrei ever had. It won’t be his last time on a boat either, but the first time can be pretty impactful. Enjoy this tale from Andrei’s past!
The classroom is buzzing with chatter. Morning recess has just finished and everyone is hanging their coats along the back wall before they make their way to their seats. The teacher, Ms. Conan, is ushering us to hurry up. November is the beginning of the winter season, so coming in from recess takes longer which is always a good thing. I hate sitting anyway.
I sit at a desk in the second row, next to the window. Next class is math. I reach into my desk and pull out the scary thick textbook; Math Quest. Math seems fun, but I don’t get why the book is so big. It’s hard to carry. I drop it on my desk with a loud bang, making everyone’s eyes turn. Mohammad, behind me, snickers loudly. “Nice one, Andrei.”
“You break it you buy it.” Susan leers over at me from the right.
I mimic her, “Break it, you buy it, just like my heart.” I grin.
“Eww, gross!” She shoots me a disgusted look and turns away to talk to Jennifer and Fatima in the next row over. I laugh, just as the teacher calls our attention.
“Ok, everyone. Next is Math. open your textbook to page fifty-six and would the runners grab the bins of blocks from the shelf and pass them out?” She asks. Pages ruffle and the third student in each row stands to retrieve the block bins for counting. Fun times, math.
The class goes by in a blur and before I know it, it’s nearly time for history. I’m not feeling so good though. I feel a little warm and itchy. I lean across the cabinet to unlock the window but Ms. Conan catches me with a frown.
“Andrei, we have the heat on, we aren’t trying to heat Toronto.” She says curtly.
“I flop back into my chair, pouting. “Yes, Ms. Conan.” I pull out my history file folder and set it on the table as Mohammad walks past me to sharpen his pencil. His shoulder bumps me a little and I feel a spark of static electricity jump between us.
He flinches and looks at me. “Dude, you’re sparky.” He laughs.
“Yeah, sorry.” I pout, rubbing my arm. I feel another spark and it makes me flinch.
“Alright everyone, sit down. Let’s get ready for history.” The teacher calls.
The bell rings and I feel another spark. I raise my hand, wondering if I can go to the office and call home just as another spark jumps along my arm. The teacher looks at me, I flinch and suddenly I’m thrown backward off my chair.
I land on my back with a grunt, blinking with shock. I stand up and look around, but the class… is gone!
All around me is a dark space filled with hanging glowing ribbons that stretch endlessly from an unseen ceiling. They blink different colours and move back and forth as if in a gentle breeze. I spin around, confused. Where did everyone go?
“Mohammad? Ms. Conan! Where are you!” I call out. Only my voice echoes back to me. I don’t understand, I don’t know where I am! I start to run, pushing my hand forward to push past the ribbons but as soon as my finger brushes up against one, I’m flung forward and the world tilts.
I fall hard, landing on my hands and knees against a rough wooden floor, slick with water. As I move my hand, I realise it’s slippery and very much tilted to one side.
I hear screaming all around and the floor creaks, swaying heavily as if at sea. When I look up I see dark thick black storm clouds above me, long wooden shafts sticking up into the air as if reaching for the clouds. A canvas sail – ripped and torn, hangs from the ropes that once held it up. The wood floor I’m kneeling on is the deck of a ship, I realise as rain falls in fat drops from the sky and onto my face, soaking through my shirt.
People run to and fro in nothing but trousers, hardly pausing to notice me. Their feet, bare, toes nearly purple with the cold on the wet deck which echoes with each step. I scramble out of the way as a barrel comes rolling across the deck and I tumble into a man who smells so disgustingly of rancid oil and vomit. I almost puke.
His voice breaks through the confused chaos all around, hoarse and phlegmy. “An’ what be a lad ‘bout ur age doin’ on this ‘ere ship? ‘Ow’d you get ‘ere, Hmm?” He speaks in a heavy accent. His breath smells worse than his body odour and I gag again.
“I- I don’t know! I swear! Where am I!?” The sound of my panicked voice not sounding familiar at all. I look around wildly, confused and more than a bit scared for the first time in my life. I shiver in the cold.
“‘At a stowaway, Pip?” Another man comes looping up to us, taller than the first, but equally thin and muscled. They both look to be older than my dad, with thinning hair and stained wet shirts. I can’t even tell the colour anymore, they’re so dirty. This guy has a scar over his left temple and in his hand, he holds a thick rope, a long hilt pokes out from his belt and I gawk, wondering if that’s some sort of sword.
“Ai, might just be, Meff. Just foun’im ‘ere on the swab deck. I reckon he be ‘iden with the rats down below, and now they be flooding out, come up ‘ere to get away.” The first smelly man says.
“No! You’re wrong! I wasn’t below! I was in school! I was in class! Then suddenly I’m here!” I shout over the creaking of the sinking ship. As the floor lurches I grab for the railing, trying not to fall over.
“This be no time to be tellin’ lies, Lad. We be a sinkin’, whether you come ‘ere with the rats or no. No sav’n y’now.” The taller man with the scar says.
“Sinking?” Where? How?” I shout as a wave breaches the edge of the ship and hits me hard in the face. I’m sent sprawling across the deck, shoulder scraping along the rough boards. I feel a splinter lodge itself in my arm and I cry out, feeling the sting. I cough as the salty sea water slams into my face, squeezing my eyes shut against the onslaught.
One of the men grabs me by the arm and hoists me to my feet. “The sea may yet take y’away, hold onto this ‘ere, lad.” He says, handing me a rope. I grab it, hair falling in my face, sticking to me. I taste salt on my tongue and my eyes sting.
“I want to go home!” I complain, slipping on the wet deck, barely catching myself before I hit the floor again. My indoor shoes are soaked through and I’m starting to shiver. How are they only wearing pants?
The men run off, joining a few others as they try to save the sails, but I don’t know anything about boats… or sailing… I can swim but, I’ve never been in the ocean before. I look around wondering if there are any lifeboats but I don’t see anything. What about life jackets?!
The boat tips again, taking on more water and flinging me across the deck. I quickly tie the rope around my waist, feeling a little safer but still not, since the thing is definitely sinking. The boat shudders as it hits something hard and I lean dangerously over the edge of the railing to see a gaping hole in the side of the ship, the cargo spilling out and sinking as we slowly join it on the reef.
Another huge wave hits and knocks the ship free of the rocks and out to the deeper water. I panic as I stumble on the deck. “We’re going to drown!” I shout, hanging off the rope. Why are there no life jackets?
I seem to have been forgotten amidst the chaos, clutching the life rope for dear life as we drift further away from the shallow bottom. The waves must have slammed the boat into the rocks, breaking the hull open. I don’t imagine we have long.
After what seems like forever, but surely is only an hour at most, the men forget the sail, abandoning their tasks and start throwing themselves from the ship, which is now mere feet from being underwater. I fumble to untie the rope, struggling with my frozen numb fingers. I finally get the rope off as the water washes over my feet, sucking me under as the ship lurches one last time to the side.
I leap from the deck, arms spread wide as I flop – face first into the ocean water. It’s icy cold and I gasp for air, kicking wildly to get away from the ship. I splash frantically until I find a piece of wood floating nearby and grab on with my numb fingers, kicking my feet more to keep warm than for movement.
I’m exactly sure how much time passes as I lay my head against the board, letting the waves lull me inland away from the shipwreck. As darkness falls I’m pushed up onto a rocky beach, legs feeling like lead, shivering. I’m hungry, cold and tired and really scared. I can’t believe I’m still alive.
Maybe this is all a really bad dream. As I stumble stiffly onto the shore, I try to find my footing, but I can barely feel my feet. My clothes are soaked through and feel like heavyweights. I slip on the rocks, coated in some slimy green plant. I fall onto my hands and knees. I give up and try to crawl, still hurting everywhere.
I drop onto the rocks, away from the waves and curl up into a ball as I try to stay warm. The beach is quiet. I don’t hear any more screaming. Just the pounding of the waves against the rocks and the rumble of thunder overhead.
I rock on my butt, holding my knees to my chest. It’s so cold. It’s so dark. I just want to wake up. It has to be a dream. Please! I want to go home!
I sniffle, alone on the unknown beach, waiting, crying. I can’t fall asleep and I can’t move, so I sit there, staring into the nothingness. As the sky is starless and dark, except for the fading lightening of the storm. I start to feel itchy again, sparking as light jumps over my arms erratically. With my body so numb, the shocks kind of hurt and I wince as they get stronger and stronger.
The same feeling of being pushed forward sends my arms shooting out to break my fall. I roll forward onto my hands and knees as I slip on a hard tiled floor, crashing into something hard with metal legs. My tumble, causing something to fall, narrowly missing my shoulder as it crashes to the floor beside me. I cry out, scrambling to my feet, still numb.
As I push myself up, recognizing the lines of desks and chairs. The room is dark except for the morning light coming in through the large window to my back. My mouth hangs open, shocked to find myself back in the classroom. I look at the clock, six forty-seven in the morning. You mean… it wasn’t a dream? The class is warmer than the beach, but I’m still soaked and bruised.
I run for the door, wanting to go home, my coat still hanging on the hook at the back of the class. I grab the handle, pulling at it but it doesn’t budge. The door is locked and there’s no mechanism on this side. I’m on the wrong side of the door!
I sniff, feeling more tears coming. I brush my eye with my arm, stiff with the salty water and brine of the ocean. I guess I have to wait ’till school starts. I stumble to my coat, ripping it from the hook and wrapping it around my shoulders. It helps… a little. I walk back to my desk, not sure what to do. I drop into my seat, hugging my arms around myself as I hold the coat tight.
I wait patiently, sleep threatening to take me finally, now that the elements are gone. Then, the door shakes. My head snaps around as the handle twists and the door swings open Ms. Conan stops in the doorway, frozen to the floor as she sees me.
“Andrei?” She says, going pale as if she’s seen a ghost.
My lip trembles and the tears threaten to come again.
“Oh my goodness! What happened! Where did you go!” She starts asking, dropping her bags and running over to my desk. I feel her warm arms embrace me and I fall into her. I can’t speak, I don’t know how to answer.
After some time she calls the front office who call my parents. Soon after that, my mom and dad show up while another teacher watches the students out in the hall. The principle ushers them into the classroom, keeping the others out. They still try to peek in before the crack of the door vanishes. I nearly jump into mom’s arms as they rush to me, Ms. Conan’s chair scraps behind me as she joins us.
“Mom! I missed you!” I cry out and she holds me tightly. I squeeze my eyes as dad turns to Ms. Conan.
“So he was just here? Before you even came in. I nod against mom’s shoulder and Ms. Conan repeats what she saw. Dad tapes me on the shoulder and I look up to see his brown eyes looking deep into mine. “Andi, what happened?” He asks softly, rubbing my shoulder comfortingly.
I sniff, not sure what to say. “I- I was in history and then I got itchy and hot. I fell off my chair and saw these light up strings. Then I was on a ship and we were sinking. I had to swim and it was raining. I waited on the rocks. I was cold and wet and I don’t know where the men went. Maybe they drowned!” I explain in a rush.
Dad’s eyes widen in shock and he looks up to mom.
“Andi, let’s go home and clean you up. We can talk about it there, ok?” She says softly.
I nod against her shoulder, not caring if my friends see me in her arms. I grip her tightly as Ms. Conan and the Principle both agree and tell dad they will stay in touch about what happened. My eyes go to Ms. Conan as mom turns toward the door and I watch her till we leave the classroom. I shut my eyes so I don’t have to see the others as mom walks through the school and out to the car. The drive home is quiet and tense.
As we pull up into the drive and mom switches off the engine, dad twists in the passenger seat and looks at me slumped against the back seat of the car, staring back at him.
“Hey, bud. Mom’ll get the bath ready while I get you something to eat, how does that sound?” He asks with a smile. I nod, pouting. My whole body aches. I just wanna lay down.
We climb out of the car and head inside. Mom takes off my coat and wraps a fuzzy blanket around me, sitting me up on the kitchen counter while dad grabs a fresh bagel from the fridge. I hear mom go up the stair and the water turning on as she prepares a bath.
“A ship, eh? You look like you you’ve been on a shipwreck.” He says, cutting the bagel in half and putting it in the toaster.
“I was. I’m telling the truth!” I say back defensively.
“I believe you. There aren’t many explanations for the way you look right now. Not to mention how Ms. Conan called us in a fit yesterday when you vanished from fourth-period class before her eyes.” He chuckles.
“I don’t understand. What happened? What was that place? Everyone disappeared and I was someplace else! It was scary, dad! I thought I might die!” I complain. The toaster pops and he pulls out the bagel, picking up the knife to butter it.
“Hmm, sounds like you teleported.” He hums.
“But… that’s fantasy, dad. That’s not real.” I say confused.
“Or… is it? There are many things we don’t understand in this world, son. Maybe you have a magic, like your cousin Emrys.” He hums.
“Emrys stares off into space and talks to things we can’t see,” I mumble. I don’t like being compared to him. He’s only a toddler.
“I thought you liked Emrys?” Dad asks.
“I do, but that’s different!” I complain.
“Well, it could be different, but it seems likely you have a gift similar to is. Perhaps you can tell us more after your bath. If you’re tired, you can rest up. You don’t have to go back to school right away. You got pretty banged up.” He remarks, poking my arm as he hands me a plate of bagels.
I flinch as he starts cleaning the gash on my arm with the stinging bubbly stuff. The bagel is awesome and I suddenly realise how hungry I really am. I wolf it down, hoping for more, but dad makes me wait.
“Your mom’s ready. Let’s go upstairs.” They give me a bath, washing all the salt away and mom scans me up and down, clicking her tongue at the bruises and scrapes.
“You look like you’ve been trampled.” She remarks.
I yawn, feeling sleepy now that I’m warm and full. Mom and dad take me to my room and crawl in next to me, pulling the blanket over us. I fall asleep pretty quickly, so happy to be home again. I hope that never happens again. I don’t know what I’d do if I disappeared again. It was so scary. I definitely don’t think it was a dream… it felt really real to me. I snuggle in close to mom, squeezing her arm as dad hugs me from behind. I want to stay here, between them, safe and sound, forever.
By Kayla West