In a language only the Islanders understood, “What’s wrong with you?” Tala was one of the elders of the island with a few lines showing on his face. But he was far from being the great elder. Lalaku was still in his hut making arrangements for the evening ceremonies.
Kulo had a long face when he looked back at Tala from across the fire, “We didn’t even give them a chance.”
Tala rolled his eyes, “You know we don’t like the others being here. They don’t belong and they bring evil to everything they touch.”
Kulo knew Tala’s words were correct. They were actually the law on the island, an island full of one people who never allowed anyone else to come onshore. They had been captured in pictures from above and they had been studied from afar but those pictures only showed blurry images of men throwing rocks at helicopters and fiery spears at boats.
Kulo was a free-thinker. Every community has at least one. When a community is set in its ways, there is always one person who challenges everything they stand for. Not allowing others to get within the vicinity of their world seemed wrong to him. He had grown tired of his life revolving around the same people all the time but he was very aware that this island law they followed had kept him alive.
He had watched the world burn from the highest mountain on the island. The flames were high enough to see as far as his eyes could reach across Thailand and down to Singapore, over to Sri Lanka, and up to the huge country of India if he only knew what the names of those lands were called.
When Lalaku came out for the evening ceremonies, that was when all the Islanders came together for the feast that would include traditional music as well as their own unique dance. Lalaku had the bloodline of the ancient king. All of the Islanders were related in some way but Lalaku was the designated one as the direct descendant of the long family of royalty. A people who did not write in the language they spoke, the Islanders relied on Lalaku to carry the laws of the island as they were passed down to him.
Lalaku looked at Kulo as if he were one of his own children even though the young man’s questions were often challenging to a law that had stood the test of time. They often discussed tradition and practices at length. While Lalaku found most of their conversations amusing, he was adamant about the laws. They were not to be broken. Such an infraction could lead to death because those laws were in place to protect the Islanders. If they were not followed, it could put the whole island in danger and Lalaku had made that point very clear.
The festivities lasted late into the evening as they always did. Kulo nearly fell asleep at the fire. But he got himself up and went to his hut where he soon found himself in dreamland. Sometimes, his thoughts would keep him awake at night. Especially when he would think about the great fires he had seen in the distant lands surrounding the island. He wondered what caused it. He didn’t know enough about the people throughout the world to know that they had finally gone completely mad.
They had driven themselves crazy with every conflict and all the rumors of conflicts. The rest of the world had devices like televisions and phones where they were constantly bombarded by bad news after bad news. Their psyches were embedded with the awful notion of the world falling apart and coming to an end. What they didn’t know is that they were being driven to that end by their own minds.
Fallacies were easily believed while the truth was hard to find. The people throughout the world were easily led into their own destruction. What Kulo saw at the top of the highest mountain on his island was the end of civilization as the rest of the world knew it. Lalaku may have seemed strict to Kulo about senseless laws but those very laws saved the Islanders from the world’s terrible demise.
It was hard for Kulo and the Islanders to know this, but they were most likely the last people on earth, a tribal people who kept away from distant lands and didn’t allow strange inhabitants to come ashore on theirs. Even though Kulo always questioned the law, he had no idea how it had in fact saved his life. All he knew was that he watched the world burn in flames big enough for him to see from the top of the mountain where he had made a hiding place for himself.
It was with those thoughts that Kulo woke up the next morning, just before dawn. Unlike other Islanders who jumped up and got their day started at first light, Kulo liked to wake up a little early and be at peace with the world for a moment. He was not a quick riser at all.
But once he shook off the cobwebs of sleep and felt good enough to rise to his feet, he loved going straight to the water where he would take a quick swim and look around for new things to collect. The past few years had brought him great treasures. Boxes with locks would float to the island and Kulo would pry them open to see what was inside. He would find weird colored fabrics and bottles of strange solutions that smelled good, things he had learned not to drink after trying the first one. But they smelled good nonetheless. His collection included wonderful gadgets that either moved, shined or made noise. They were all so fascinating and they gave Kulo hours of entertainment.
But this day was different. As he was swimming in the cool waters of the Bay, he noticed something shining. It only happened when he tilted his head a certain way but as the sun moved, it started shining directly in his eyes. When he approached it, he didn’t know what to think of it. It was a bottle made of the same material that held the smell good. But there was something different inside.
He had to find a stick to use as a tool to extract it. After fighting with it and getting frustrated several times, he finally pulled something out that was rolled up. When he unrolled it, his eyes grew wide. He cocked his head in confusion but there was an ounce of recognition on his face. In his hand, he held the likeness of a strange person. She was smiling, but what he noticed the most was the heart-shaped locket she had around her neck. He studied the photo in admiration until he suddenly heard a voice.
“What are you doing, Kulo,” Danmi asked with a huge smile on her face. She was lovely and friendly. Kulo knew he had feelings for her and that he would probably marry her one day so that they could bring forth children. But she was no free-thinker like him. She didn’t entertain those kinds of thoughts at all. She would smile at Kulo when he talked of such things but she would change the subject when she got a chance and that was the only flaw he knew of her. Other than that, she would make a fine companion for life.
He quickly tucked the photo in the waistline of his garments and nodded to Danmi with an awkward grin, “I am just taking a morning swim. It feels good.”
“I’m going to be getting in myself,” Danmi replied, casting a look at Kulo that meant she’d like him to join her.
He picked up on the look but his mind was on the photo, “I will later if you’d like. I have to do something now.”
She cocked her head with a beautiful smile, “Later it is then. Don’t forget.”
He nodded sheepishly as he walked up the beach, “I won’t.” Then, he waved humbly before disappearing into the tree line.
Kulo avoided the village on his way back. He looked up at the huge mountain in front of him knowing it would be about a day’s journey but it was a journey he had made many times. Only this time, he wasn’t going all the way to the top. A long time ago, he had found a cave and since then, he had camouflaged it so that no one else knew it existed.
It took him half a day to make it to his hideaway. Along the way, he had flashbacks of a certain day in the recent past that he would not soon forget. When strange people on a boat were approaching his island, he thought he had seen the most beautiful lady in the world.
There were several people with her and he could tell they were lost. He tried to wave them away but they misunderstood him. They kept coming closer. They yelled in their own language, a language he did not understand. And there they were, in a situation where they were having trouble communicating. Kulo was trying to warn them of the dangers of getting closer to the island while they were simply trying to ask if they could come ashore.
Within minutes, a team of warriors came out of the tree line. That’s when the fiery spears started flying and rocks were thrown. He watched as she was hit in the head with a rock and went into the water. The man who tried to save her ended up with a spear in his back. Within minutes, everyone aboard the boat was taken in violent aggression. But the Islanders meant it. They lived by it. No one was allowed on their island.
Thoughts about that day kept crossing Kulo’s mind as he made it to his hideaway. He looked around outside the entrance to make sure no one had followed him. Then, he went inside the cave.
On the way, there was an unlit torch on the wall. There was still a bit of light from the entrance that allowed him to find it. He made fire quick from the stash of flint he kept and lit the torch so that he could see his way deeper into his secret place.
As he reached the end of the cave, it opened into a bigger space where he kept his treasures. He looked around and then he pulled the picture from the waistline of his garments. As he looked at it, he nodded. And then, he got on one knee and reached forward to grasp the heart-shaped locket around the lady’s neck. She was lying on the matt in front of him. She was still as beautiful as the day he first saw her. Her eyes closed and not a breath of life in her, her face had a magical glow.
She was his only connection with a world he did not know or understand. And she was his evidence that it could have been a beautiful place if it had only realized that itself. “What a waste to be,” Kulo uttered under his breath.
“Is this what you do with all the things you find,” Danmi said from behind him.
Kulo turned in shock but Danmi merely smiled and then, she observed, “She’s very beautiful. Is she as beautiful as me?”
Kulo looked upon Danmi with a smile in his eyes, “No one is as beautiful as you, Danmi! And besides, she comes from a world that no longer exists.”