James was uncharacteristically quiet during the flight. Tom tried to prise the thoughts from him but they were never alone and so could not talk freely to each other. As they sat next to each other on the aeroplane, James would occasionally clutch Tom's hand when he was certain they could not be seen; with each touch, he could sense James relax.
For most of the flight, James stared out of the window and into the blue infinity. He was above the weather, higher and further than he had ever been. He was in his own space, cutting out everyone around him, and only allowing Tom in for those precious few moments. The seas and oceans passed beneath him, punctuated by island nations and subcontinents, he watched the subtle changes of the blue water change shade with salinity. It was a strange sensation for James, watching the world change, the large forests stopping suddenly to reveal a sprawling city the size of his thumbnail. All of a sudden the minutiae of his life seemed unimportant and he no longer cared that he would miss some his favourite television programmes; his life back home faded into insignificance.
As the aeroplane began its sudden descent, Tom reached out and grasped James' hand. James snapped his head round at the unexpected touch and looked into Tom's eyes. His life was not insignificant, he had found Tom. And they smiled at each other.
On landing, the kids felt like cattle when they were herded from the aeroplane to a waiting coach.
"Your suitcases will be brought on behind us, in a van, with the rest of the equipment. There's too much for it to fit on the coach." The blonde chaperone shouted above the heads of the group when they started to worry about their luggage.
James allowed himself to be led on to the coach by Tom and they settled into some seats near the middle. Tom tried to talk to others but would soon go back to James as the others didn't want to be brought down by his mood. He was not the only one who seemed strange, several others were distant too and the chaperones would linger near them and constantly enquiring as to if they were alright. They put their sullenness down to being homesick and the overwhelming experience.
An old wooden boat waited for them when they stepped from the air-conditioned coach to the warm humid air. As they waited on the rickety jetty, the chaperones checked with the dark skinned crew before, one by one, the kids gingerly stepped aboard. James wondered just how well prepared they were as the boat filled up with nervous teenagers. The previous exuberance waned into some nervous laughs and hushed whispers.
As the engines spluttered, the rotting jetty seemed to be slowly moving away from them as they headed towards the horizon.
James felt Tom's breath against his ear. "Are you alright? You don't seem yourself."
The engine roar drowned out all chatter. Some kids resorted to shouting to the person next to them. James preferred Tom's subtle approach.
"I'll be fine." James whispered back. "I just feel very strange leaving Martin. We've really helped each over the past few months and I still want to be there for him, and he for me. But I'm glad you're with me. It would have been worse staying at home and not being with you."
"Don't worry; we'll be here for each other." Tom felt eyes behind him boring into the back of his head. He turned and saw a boy staring at them with a question in his eyes. What's going on with you?
James turned to look at the boy, and recognising him, smiled and nodded. They had met at the orienteering day but he spent the next few minutes wracking his brain to remember his name. It seemed so long ago when they met and he remembered talking to him for quite some time. But what was his name? James stared up at a lone cloud drifting across the clear sky hoping for inspiration.
An almighty cheer resounded around them as they saw land ahead. In unison, almost all the kids leapt to their feet causing some strained shouts from the chaperone telling them to sit down or they could capsize the boat. James wondered just how true all this was. It seemed too easy for them to try and set some roots of doubt about the children's safety. James smiled at Tom thinking that it would take a tidal wave to capsize the lumbering craft they were on; a few kids standing up might just cause it to sway a little.
"This is like being at school." A voice was heard among the teenagers as they were led from the boat and into one large group on the beach. The young blonde woman stood with a clipboard in hand taking a register.
James looked around him as the woman shouted names into the group. Tom jabbed James in the ribs when he heard his name called so that he could respond. The beach seemed to extend for miles, at least as far as James could see. It was a narrow strip of white sand bordered by the lapping ocean and a dense forest. Looking into the forest, James could not see far. The canopy was thick and blocked out much of the intense sunlight. Occasionally he could see the spears of sunlight which broke through the canopy to the small shrubs and bushes which were strewn on the forest floor.
Sensing movement, James stared intently into the undergrowth and watched as a young man came striding out, closely followed by three more young men each holding cameras. The man in the lead ignored the other men and the cameras perched on their shoulders and walked to the group of teenagers sitting on the beach. One of the three cameramen positioned himself behind the man so that he could film the faces of the group; the other two cameras flanked the group. Each lens scanned the group until it found a face it liked or a reaction it found amusing.
The man stood with his arms folded across his bare chest and his legs parted slightly, waiting for the murmuring crowd to hush. James looked at the handsome man and tried to hide his blushing cheeks. His eyes locked onto his sculptured chest and the thin coat of hair which covered it. The loose shorts he wore camouflaged anything which it covered and came to just above the knee.
As he spoke, James stared into his bright green eyes which glinted in the sun.
"Ok you lot, this is the first and only time you will all get to hear the rules and what you are expected to do. Firstly, I'm John and I'm the producer of this. So if anything happens it's me that has to cop it from your parents. So I'll be keeping a close eye on all of you to make sure nothing happens. Now, how do I keep an eye on you? Well with cameras." His hands gesticulated to the three men surrounding them. "And also, there are several doted around the forest, hidden in the trees, bushes and such. Some you might see or find, others you might not. Needless to say, you will be watched all the time so it would be better to assume that there is a camera on you all the time. That way we won't catch you doing anything embarrassing." John smiled at some of the boys. "So the rules. Well the first one is that if you do anything which is unsafe and is likely to either harm yourself or others then we will throw you off the island. Fair?" He asked the group all of which seemed to mumble their agreement. "Secondly, there is to be no bullying or intimidation. If someone isn't comfortable doing something then find someone else who will. This is all about the individual pushing themselves beyond their own limits, not any limits that someone else sets for them. I for one what am shit scared of heights, so you wouldn't find me up any tree. On the other hand I don't mind creepy crawlies and so would have no problem picking up the strange insects and animals which live around here. Some of you might hate insects but have no fear of climbing trees. That is what makes us all different and my limits will be different to some of yours. It's about working together as a team."
Some of the crowd groaned.
"Thirdly, swearing. I am not saying don't act normally, but this is supposed to broadcast in the late afternoon when you lot get home from school. So please try and keep it to a minimum. We won't pull you up on it as we can always bleep it out. But if it becomes excessive then we will have to do something.
"Thank fuck for that." A mousy lad called out much to the groups' amusement.
John just folded his arms again and frowned at the teenager.
"What's your name?" He asked the boy.
"Henry. But people call me Ree."
"Well, Henry." John emphasised his name. "We do not want gratuitous swearing and that counts as gratuitous. So just be careful."
A few boys around Ree started to laugh at him and jeer is cockiness.
"All right, settle down again. Now how you organise yourselves is up to you but everything you see around you is all you currently have. We have not built shelters found food or water, and just in case you were wondering, there are no showers or toilets here either.
"Just to start you off, and because if this was real then some stuff would have been washed ashore with you young rascals, we have allowed some things to wash ashore up the beach.
"So, the day is not getting any longer so here are some suggestions. Firstly you need find the stuff which washed ashore. They were shipwrecked at the same time as you so should be nearby. Secondly, you need to make sure you are going to survive, so I would suggest that you split into three groups, one to build the shelter or shelters, it's up to you, another to find food and fresh drinking water and the last to dig out and build some latrines."
"Ergh!" Some of the girls cried out.
"Well, unless you want to do your business in front of everyone, but be warned we won't allow you do it in the ocean. We have a responsibility to keep this island clean and the last thing they want is your raw sewage in their ocean. Ok guys, that's it. Your on your own."
The man, along with the chaperone, started to walk away and back into the forest leaving just the three camera men filming the reactions.
"Hey, what about our stuff, our suitcases?" Ree yelled at his back.
"Oh, they were shipwrecked with you. If you're lucky they might wash up on shore, but until then what you are wearing is all you have. And whatever you find on the island."
"You can't be fucking serious, this is bullshit." Ree yelled out but this time he ignored him and disappeared.
A group of girls started squealing among themselves. "Oh, no. This can't be happening. I've got to have my stuff, my clothes, my make up. Oh god, how am I gonna survive without make up."
"Alright! Everyone shut up!" Ree screamed out and everyone stood quiet. "Right, those bastards have dropped us right in it. Despite them giving us some grand speech about how fantastic it'll be on a tropical island we have nothing, and that's how they wanted it all along. For now we do want they suggest."
"No, fuck `em. We do what we want." Craig called out.
"No, we go up the beach and get what we can. Then we split up and find food, build shelters and the other. If he didn't suggest it then I would have done anyway. It's sensible."
The group mumbled their agreement.
"Right, I want another three volunteers to come with me."
Mostly boys called out but James did hear they odd female voice.
"Right, you, you and you." Ree pointed at three boys. "What are you names?"
Each boy spoke their name, Craig, Perry and Simon.
"The rest of you, split up into three groups and wait here until we come back. Don't know how long we'll be so just chill, get the lay of the land." His face hardened. "But don't start anything until we get here as I need to know where everyone is."
Ree started to walk off up the beach, his three new mates tagging behind him.
"Who the hell does he think he is? Who left him in charge, bloody chauvinist."
"Just ignore him, Sophie. He's a jumped up little squirt who thinks he's better than he is."
"Right, me and Katie," Sophie spoke to the group, "will find food and water with two others. You two will do. She pointed to James and Tom who were sitting on the edge of the group just watching the teenagers flap amongst themselves.
The rest of the group, she just stuck her arm out and divided them down this middle. "You lot build the shelter." She pointed to those on her right. "And you lot can dig the bogs." She pointed to the others. "How you do it is up to you but I'd suggest we start now and not wait for our self proclaimed leader to come back."
Sophie pointed to James and Tom. "Right you two, this way."
They jumped to their feet and walked into the forest behind Sophie and Katie, closely followed by a cameraman. The people they left behind just chuntered among themselves, unsure as to what to do.
"I'm James by the way. And this is Tom."
"Katie," the dark haired girl turned round and smiled at James. " and this is Sophie."
"Do you two know each other?" Tom asked.
Katie said that they had met at the airport and just hit it off. James suspected that they had just latched onto each other so that they would not be alone, both girls seemed insecure. Despite Sophie trying to exert some confidence, James thought it just an act so that she was not left on the sidelines.
The plan to find food and water seemed simple to James. Just walk around aimlessly until you find something. James tried to pull up Sophie on her master plan but she just shouted him down. Feeling tired and exasperated Tom yelled at her to stop.
"What's up now?" She moaned.
"We are not getting anywhere just walking like this; we're not even looking at the trees and the fruit. I saw a banana tree back there but you just said that we had to find more together as one tree is useless. Well one tree isn't useless; at least it could feed some of us. And what about water? Just because Henry has pissed you off it doesn't mean that you have to act like that twat." Tom's rant ended.
"So what do you suggest, Tom." Sophie yelled.
"Let's just rest up. Catch our breath and rethink."
"Great idea Dr Livingstone." Sophie slumped to the ground and tore at some grass reeds by her feet.
The four teenagers rested on the ground. James listened as their laboured breathing evened out and he could hear the wind rustle the leaves above his head. For an instance it was quiet. James heard an unusual noise but it faded when Sophie started fidgeting on the ground.
"Ssh. I heard something."
The four stayed still. "I hear nothing." Katie whispered.
"Ssh, I thinks it's rushing water. It's coming from over there." James pointed.
"Bullshit, it's just the breeze." Sophie dismissed James.
"Well, it wouldn't harm us to investigate." Tom chimed up.
Without waiting for anyone's approval, Tom walked in the direction James pointed. Sophie was last to follow, grumbling.
Soon, the forest began to clear and they were faced with a large cliff face.
"Great idea, a thirty foot cliff, brilliant, just what we needed." Sophie teased.
Ignoring her, Tom carried on. "This way." He beckoned to James and they followed the cliff a short while. Rounding a corner they heard the familiar sound of water hitting rocks. Tom dashed ahead and stopped when he say the thirty foot waterfall and the small lake below. The lake fed a small stream which Tom guessed led to the ocean.
"It's beautiful." Cooed Katie.
James went to the water's edge and knelt down. Cupping his hands he scooped up some water. "It looks clear enough." He brought his hand to his face and slurped some of the water. "Tastes fine."
All four now lined the bank and drank from the clear lake. James splashed some water over his face to wash away the beads of sweat which ran down his cheeks and to cool himself down. Tom did the same.
"I suppose we could go for a swim to cool down properly." Tom suggested.
"Don't be daft." Sophie said. "We've got no costumes and the others will want to know about this. We'd better go back and tell them."
The walk back to the beach was a good twenty minutes. As they emerged from the forest James saw Henry on the beach, surrounded by people clambering to see inside a large trunk which they had hauled from a few miles up the beach.
"Where the hell have you been!" He called out when he saw Sophie and the others emerge. "I said to wait until we got back."
"Too bad, Ree. We thought we'd do something useful and we have. Fresh water's that way fellas." She grinned as she gave the good news.
It has taken me some time to continue this story, for that I apologise, but if any of you are wondering why then there is a brief explanation on my website. The first few chapters are really just setting the scene and introducing new characters and surroundings, but it is important as we need to see how the relationships develop. There are some testing and exciting for both Martin and Phil, and James and Tom, to come.
Thank you for reading.
Comments are welcomed and gratefully received. Please email me at nifty (at) talesfromastream.co.uk
There are other stories on my website www.talesfromastream.co.uk, some of which have not been posted here, yet. Why not take a look and let me know what you think.
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