A New Life
It was a gorgeous, sunny day in Southern California. Luke and his parents were about to set sail on a long cruise to Hawaii and the surrounding islands. The breeze tousled his short blonde hair in the wind as he stood on the deck, watching the other travelers gather on board.
A hand touched his right shoulder, and he turned to see his mother smiling at him. I think the ship is about to set sail, honey! Let’s go find your dad, she signed to him.
Luke nodded excitedly, We have to hurry! How did we lose Dad already? He signed quickly. This was Luke’s first cruise, and he couldn’t be more excited to experience it all.
The twelve year old boy could feel the slight rocking of the waves, and a strange new vibration tingled his feet. What’s happening? The floor feels really weird, he tugged on his mother’s sleeve, signing anxiously to her.
Laughing, Mom gestured as she said, “That’s the fog horn, baby. They’re just letting the passengers know that we’re about to leave port.”
Luke was visibly relieved as they stepped up to a tall, chestnut brown bearded man at the bar. The man picked up a beer, a Sex on the Beach, and a Sprite, then turned and kissed Mom on the forehead.
Turning to Luke, Dad offered him the Sprite, “Here’s your soda, buddy.” Luke reached towards the beer, watching his father chuckle as the boy reluctantly grabbed the fountain drink instead.
“Good try, kid, but you have to be this tall to drink beer,” Dad grinned as he waved his free hand around Mom’s face. She snatched his beer, took a sip while winking at Luke, and then traded the beer for the fancy pink cocktail. Dad pretended to be shocked, and then took a sneaky sip from Mom’s straw as they walked a little closer to the edge of the main deck. Luke slowly sipped his fountain drink as he watched the land shrink and fade into the horizon.
Day four of the cruise started when Luke woke up as he fell off his bed and onto the cabin floor. He held his head in his hands, looking around for an answer as to what was happening when he felt the ship rocking violently. His eyes met with his mother’s, and she yelled to him, “We’re traveling through a massive storm! Gather your stuff and get ready to move when we tell you, baby!” Her eyes were watery with fear as she kept losing her balance, and Luke began to tear up with her.
Dad was packing everything into the suitcases with lightning speed like a criminal on the run. Articles of clothing flew through the air and landed on Luke’s head and lap. “Change your clothes, son,” he yelled over the intercom sirens and instructions Luke was incapable of perceiving. “We’re going to the boat deck. Stay between your mother and me, okay? If we get separated, you get on a lifeboat, wear a life vest, and don’t worry about us. Do you understand me?” Dad demanded, staring straight at Luke. He didn’t wait for an answer from Luke, and tossed Luke his backpack.
Luke changed in a flash, wiping the droplets on his cheeks away as he put the pack on. Mom grabbed Luke and held him close, kissing his forehead and brushing the hair from his eyes. Dad joined in the hug, kissing mom passionately on the lips, and pulling his son close. A teardrop fell from Dad’s right eye, and landed in Luke’s hair.
Pulling back from his family, Dad signed, It’s time to go. Stay close, and make sure you get on the lifeboat. We’re going to be okay. Dad handed out the raincoats, and took a deep breath as he placed his hand on the door knob.
Opening the door, Dad led his family towards the lifeboat deck, Luke followed directly behind him as Mom closed the cabin door. The family ran through the small corridors, bumping into the walls as the ship violently rocked in the turbulent sea. Red lights washed the hallways in an eerie glow. As the cruise took a sharp turn towards danger, fun and relaxation were lost and survival became the one goal of this vacation.
Entering the boat deck, the family joined the large, frightened crowd waiting to get onto the small inflatable rafts. The crew raced back and forth, shouting instructions over the heavy rain crashing waves. Suddenly, Luke was being pulled through to the front of the crowd. He turned back and saw Dad towering over the others. He mouthed and signed to Luke, Get on the boat, buddy. We will find you. I love you, son. Everything will be okay.
Crying out, Luke reached back to his family as he was pushed to the very front of the deck. A crew mate grabbed Luke by the shoulder with calloused hands, bringing him right next to the railing. He calmly strapped a life vest onto Luke, taking his backpack off of him. The man picked Luke off the ground, and placed him onto the dinghy. Signaling to another member of the crew, the packed raft was quickly lowered into the churning ocean.
Luke watched the deck, the chaos, as the lifeboat met the sea. He looked around at the faces of other children and the two crew members, noticing the woman was pointing up to the sky. Just as Luke turned his gaze upward, his backpack came flying down, hit him on the head, and knocked him unconscious.
Blurry eyes slowly came into focus as Luke regained consciousness. Spitting out sand, he raised his head to find himself on a white beach. He slowly rolled over to his back, hands running up and down his body to check for injuries. A sharp sting rushed through him as he felt a warm, dripping gash on his forehead. Wincing, he quickly sat up, and confirmed the rest of his body appeared to be unharmed.
The beach was littered with debris and bodies, none of which seemed to have survived the journey. Luke stood up, a bit woozy, checked eight times for a pulse on the six kids and two adults, and eight times he only felt cold, lifeless flesh in his palms. Although he didn’t recognize any of the sand covered faces, he wept for each one.
His backpack floated gently as the waves tried pulling it back out to sea. Luke scrambled over to it, tripping through the sand, and retrieved it from the water. Walking away from the shore, Luke unbuckled his life vest, tied it around the strap of his book bag, and placed it on his shoulders. He needed a plan, and he needed it fast if he was going to survive.
Reaching the grassy embankment, Luke sat down and rested against a palm tree. He placed the pack on his lap, and opened the zipper to inspect its contents. Dad had stuffed some clothes, several bottles of water, some snacks, a cell phone, and a pocket knife into the pouch. The phone powered on, but there was no signal. Luke wailed, smacking the back of his head against the tree trunk. For the first time in his short life, Luke was completely alone.
Wiping the wet streaks away, the boy composed himself. Crying wouldn’t help him find his parents, or get him off the island. He placed the items back into the bag, stood up, and walked towards the sand. Luke decided he would make a large S.O.S. on the beach, like he’d seen in the movies. He gathered debris from the wreckage, along with some large, dark rocks and assembled them near the middle of the beach. While making his sign, Luke searched for any useful items, and ended up finding a small cooler of sandwiches, a flare gun, a few hand-held flares, and a tarp with only a couple of cuts and holes.
Everything was going to be okay, just like Dad had told him. He had remembered how important finding shelter would be from watching those survival shows with his father. Luke dragged the tarp up to the grass, and laid it down while he looked for somewhere safe to make his camp. He didn’t want to be too deep in the tree line, just in case a boat or plane twinkled in the distance. Plus, he was scared of what might be waiting for him in the tropical jungle.
Luke found a large boulder with a concave in the face of the stone big enough to provide some protection and space to sleep. Gathering twigs and branches, he decided to use the big, long sticks to help hold the tarp up, and the small ones to try to make a fire. As he set up his lonely shelter, the boy had noticed tracks in the dirt near a winding path into the forest. From what he could tell, they appeared to belong to a barefoot person. Fear and excitement competed for his main emotion. But right now, he needed to eat, drink some water, and rest his weary body.
Protected by the boulder, Luke ate one of the sandwiches in the cooler, washed it down with half a bottle of water, and rested his head on the backpack beneath his tattered canopy. His eyes fell heavy, and he quickly gave in to sleep.
A jabbing sensation in his shoulder quickly bolted Luke out of his sleep. He scurried closer to the boulder, and looked up to find a man in the shadows. The man was very tan, covered in tattoos, and had very little clothing. Dropping the stick used to poke Luke, the man moved his lips without forming any words Luke could understand. Luke furrowed his brow, trying to understand what the stranger was saying to him.
The man seemed just as confused and curious, and sat down next to the boy. The man gestured to himself, and mouthed what looked like Mele, perhaps his name. Luke finger spelled the name, trying to confirm what he believed the man said. Mele raised his eyebrow and scrunched his mouth, obviously not knowing ASL.
Luke sighed, picked up the stick, and wrote Mele? in the sand. The man nodded, tapping his right hand on his chest. Luke then wrote his own name in the sand, gesturing to himself. Mele mouthed his name, pointing at the young boy. Luke confirmed, shaking his head up and down, a bit of blood landing in the sand next to him.
Frowning, Mele began talking again, pointing to the child’s head. Tenderly touching the wound, Luke saw it was bleeding a little bit again, and he signed, We were on a cruise ship when the storm hit, but my head will be okay. Can you help me get home?
Mele contorted his face with confusion. He spoke more forcefully and slowly, but Luke still couldn’t understand him. Luke stood up, and walked towards the beach. Signaling Mele to follow him, he led the man to the bodies on the beach. The man placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder, his mouth dropped in shock at the sight before them.
Using the stick, Luke drew a crude figure of a boat under a storm cloud. He then swiped the boat away, and drew a house in its place, with the word HOME above it. Luke pointed the stick to the ocean and weakly muttered, “I have to go home, Mele.” Still not quite understanding what the boy was trying to communicate, Mele patted the boy gently on his head.
Mele brought Luke back to his village, deep in the tropical foliage. They were greeted by men, women, and children all similarly dressed as Mele, but most had less tattoos. One woman helped tend to Luke’s wounds, and another brought him some freshly sliced pineapple and sizzling hot meat to eat.
While Mele explained the situation with the strange boy and the bodies on the beach, Luke was shown around the village. There was a bit of a misunderstanding when it came to the bathroom situation, but Luke eventually figured out where it was suitable to relieve himself.
The other children were fascinated by Luke’s lighter skin, and inability to hear them. Luke continued to draw pictures in the sand, sign the words/phrases, and helped them bridge the language barrier. The boy would point at objects around them, sign the word, and have the others sign it back to him. It was a slow process, but the children were quick learners and started signing important small words and phrases like “water” and “food” to Luke instead of speaking to him. The kids had the most fun when Luke would pantomime actions like running, sleeping, and jumping, and then show them the ASL signs.
Mele prepared a cot of palm leaves and branches for Luke in his hut. Luke noticed smaller sized clothing and perhaps toys around the hut, but had not met Mele’s child. When Luke asked about these items, Mele ignored the questions and told him not to ask about it anymore. Luke obeyed.
Life around the village was far different from home, but the boy was growing accustomed and even comfortable there. He helped the other children gather supplies - fresh water, fruits, berries, sticks, plants for the healers, and other items around the island. Mele was also teaching him how to hunt and fish with their crudely crafted spears.
Luke asked how often ships and planes would come by, but no one was really able to give him a good answer. Every day, the pre-teen would go to the beach to check up on his S.O.S. in the sand, making sure it was as visible as possible. Mele often watched from the tree line, silently protecting his strange, little survivor.
As the days progressed into months and years, Luke began focusing more of his time on the tribe and becoming a hunter like his favorite person on the island, Mele. They were able to make some improvements to the hunting gear once Luke gifted his pocket knife to the community. Spending hours (up to days) tracking and hunting, he learned the fastest and most humane ways to take down rabbits, birds, and even boars.
Mele was so proud of Luke’s first boar kill, that he gave Luke a tattoo - one which meant strength in their native language. He chuckled as the young man winced with pain at each poke of the inked stick, but smiled with pride as Luke showed off the finished art work to the villagers. The tattoo looked particularly cool to Luke since it was on his newly profound bicep, as time and hard labor gifted the young adult many changes to his physique.
Deciding to fully embrace his new home and culture, Luke donned their attire as well. Lalani, one of the young women around Luke’s age, crafted him a loincloth that made him feel a little embarrassed at first, but he soon wore it with pride. She also made him a shark tooth necklace from the first shark he killed - one of the achievements he was most proud of completing. Mele would often tease him about the girl’s fondness of him, but Luke didn’t mind her attention, or breath-taking smile.
Luke spent much of his free time teaching Lalani, Mele, Makoa (the tribe leader), and a few others ASL, as they found it fascinating and useful. Luke also learned a bit of their language with private lessons provided by the patient, beautiful Lalani. She taught him their alphabet, word structure, and their most commonly used words and phrases, which helped tremendously for Luke to write their native words in the sand for the ASL translation.
After a few years, Mele became almost proficient in ASL, and was able to hold full conversations with Luke. He rarely needed to draw in the sand to talk to them anymore, and now hunting in groups was even easier.
On occasion, he would dream of his parents - their smiles, hugs, and jokes they would tell. He would also have nightmares flashing back to the day he lost them. Mele would wake the once boy, now teenager, when he started to cry out in the night, and comforted him with a pat on the back and stories of the great adventures and wars of his ancestors.
One night, he told Luke a tale he had been waiting what had to be years to know.
You remember asking me about the toys when you first arrived? Mele signed.
Luke nodded slowly.
Well, they belonged to my son, Keoni. He was almost ten when I lost him and his mother to a hurricane. We were headed to the cave to take shelter, and then giant waves smashed around us on the shore. The sea swept my boy away, dragging him down into the depths.
And my love, he paused. My love swam in after him. I tried to follow them, but Makoa held me back. They never came up to the surface. I cursed the gods for taking away my entire life, and leaving me here to go on alone and broken.
His hands shook as he signed, and he blinked his watery grief away. Luke had never seen him this way, and he could feel the pain radiating from Mele. The young man gently placed his hand on his guardian’s shoulder, and signed, I’m so sorry for your loss. I don’t know what to say.
Don’t say anything. The sea may have taken them from me, he smiled and continued signing, but it also gave me you, keiki. He whispered the last word, and put his hand on Luke’s shoulder.
Luke wiped a tear away, and tightly hugged Mele after being called son. Mele held him tightly, chuckling to himself. It was this very moment when Luke knew what he had to do.
It was a gorgeous, partially cloudy morning on the shore of the island, Li’i Moku. Luke closed his eyes as the ocean breeze washed him in peaceful clarity, blowing his long blonde hair across his face. With speed and ease, he dismantled what remained of the sand covered S.O.S. on the beach. He moved the dark rocks to form a small barrier in the shoreline, inviting fish to explore closer to land. As for the debris, he gathered it into a pile to take back to the village to find uses for the materials.
Mele watched from the trail, smiling to himself with his arms crossed against his tattoo covered chest.
Luke had brought the flare gun with him in his backpack today. He plopped down in the sand, and dug his toes in just enough to feel the cool touch of dampness. Opening his bag, he pulled out the old flare gun, carefully inspecting to see if it would still function. Just as he was about to test it, a glimmer in the horizon caught his eye.
Mele saw the ship first, and even though his heart sank to this pit of his stomach, he had to do the right thing. Instinctively calling out, he shouted, “Luke!” But he quickly realized he would need to run to his ward to show him the boat. Dashing down the trail through the palm trees, he watched as Luke raised the flare gun to the sky, and he stopped in his tracks.
Luke, arm to the heavens, saw the cruise ship. The prospect of going back to America was within reach, and his heart skipped a beat. This is what he was waiting for all along, yearning to go home for years. Flashes of his mother, father, friends and family raced through his mind. They would be so excited to have him home and learn of his adventures… that is, if his parents survived.
Suddenly, the flare gun dropped from his hand. With a swift kick, it was buried in the soft, white terrain. Everything will be okay, he signed towards the disappearing cruise ship.
Mele dropped to his knees, stunned and completely overcome with emotion. This boy, brought to him from an unforgiving taker of lives, chose to stay with him. No, this man whom he helped raise, chose to live with him, even though the possibility of returning to a family was one well-aimed flare shot away.
Luke turned around to find Mele on the ground, and rushed over to him. Are you okay? He signed frantically.
I’m just so… his hands dropped for a second, trying to remember the correct sign.
Old? Luke zinged back, laughing at his own joke.
Happy, Mele replied as he stood up and wrapped Luke in a loving embrace.
Luke finally felt at home in his arms, and knew this was where he was meant to be. As for Mele, the sea gave him a new life, and finally allowed him to live again.
About the Creator
I’ve always loved writing, and I’m excited to get some work out there! I tend to write more on the dark and spooky side. So if you’re into it, check it out! My art insta is @drapersdapperdoodles, and cosplay is @drape_soda
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme
Such a beautiful and heartwarming story! I love that you included ASL. So well written!
This is a thoroughly enjoyable story. I'm glad and saddened at the same time at Luke's action. I wonder that if he were to commit to his first choice if he would ever return, like an annual visit? Also, Mele understood English writing. This leads me to believe that he may have been bilingual before he met Luke. Knowing English and his native tribe's language. I just wonder where the island would be at. I feel like it resides around the Hawaiian islands if not somewhere close to Australia. Thinking of Moana, I'm also curious if the natives ever built a lot of seafaring boats meant for travel. In the manga/anime of Dr. Stone, there was a boat design competition, and a native by the name of Magma drew the image for a common islander boat meant for traveling long distance between islands. I enjoyed how Luke brought about more efficient and human ways of hunting. When I read the parts about the boar I was reminded of "Lord of the Flies."
A nice heart warming tale.
Enjoyable story. Not sure I was able to buy into the language barrier, but would love to see this developed into a longer tale.
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It's really nice story 🌠✨✨🤗
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