Sunday, February 7, 2016
1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Clark
Name: Mari Clark
Genre: YA Mystery
Title: AURORA ISLAND
When I’m on my board waiting to catch a wave, I don’t care how buoyancy counteracts gravity to keep me afloat. If I launch myself into the air for a jump shot, I’m not concerned with the mechanics of lift. And three weeks ago if I’d been a passenger on Flight #111, I wouldn’t have spent my last seconds wondering which one of Newton’s three laws of motion was responsible for plummeting my plane into the Atlantic.
If I ever plunge to my death, I’m hoping my final wipeout is aboard my custom-made Firewire—because that’s how I want to go out. My father, on the other hand, will probably be calculating pitch angles and contemplating g-forces on his deathbed.
My dad’s a good guy. His ability to solve complex electromagnetic wave problems is the reason he’s here. The strange anomalies on this island are a career opportunity for him and good luck for me—he’s letting me tag along to surf.
“Come on, Travis. The ocean will still be there the other side of the airport.” My father drops a hand on my shoulder and turns me away from the water.
An orange-vested worker directs us inside the terminal and that’s when the emptiness hits me. The line at immigration? We breeze through. The shops and kiosks? Half of them are shuttered. The only movement is a lone baggage carousel snaking around, readying itself to spit out luggage.
Despite the doomsday feeling, I’m not worried. Lack of tourists is expected after a psycho billionaire builds a weird-ass machine that causes a plane to crash.
Finally, an official-looking suit hurries up with two others trailing behind. The Minister of the Interior and his entourage has arrived. “Apologies, Dr. Hutchinson. Last minute political shenanigans,” he says, pumping my father’s hand.
One of the two men shadowing comes over and picks up my duffle, and the other one grabs my father’s laptop case and carryon. The two men are much younger, maybe not even that much older than me. I offer up a fist-bump to the one closest. “Thanks, dude, but I can manage.”
The guy flashes a crooked-tooth grin. “No worries.” He mimes throwing a ball into a basket.
Okay, I get it. For a sixteen-year-old, I’m tall. And unlike the rest of my family, sports are my thing. “Yep,” I say. “I play b-ball. You play? Who’s your favorite? Don’t say LeBron.”
The guy shakes his head no to my first question and answers “Jeremy Lin” to my second. Only, it sounds like “Jar-uh-me Lean.”
I love this accent. Back home, girls would be all over this. More importantly, Jess would be on it. I wonder if I’ll pick it up while I’m here. “He’s great. Actually, I’m more into football and soccer. Which probably sounds funny to you guys since they’re the same thing to you, right? By the way, I’m Travis.”
“Nigel,” he says, sticking out his hand. The other guy introduces himself as Alastair.
Cool. British names to go with Caribbean accents. “Uh, excuse me a minute,” I say, spotting a sign for the men’s room.
As soon as I enter the empty bathroom, I take out my cellphone with a slight nagging of guilt. I’d been lectured ad nauseam by mom about international roaming rates and the importance of limiting my texting, streaming and downloading.
I text Jess anyway: This place as happening as Griffith Park Zoo. Or Dodger Stadium postseason.
Jess answers right away: Wha? Where r u?
I shake my head, amused. Jess doesn’t always get my SoCal references. Good thing she’s so damn adorable.
I text: Ocean looks amazing. Epic waves. Can’t wait to surf.
I don’t mention that a plane’s wreckage lies scattered among the waves like a museum installation piece or an abstract sculpture of carnage, even though the only reason I know about such artistic things is because of Jess. She talked me into going to an exhibit at Boston’s Institute of Contemptuous Art last month. Okay, Contemporary Art. In my head, it’s still contemptuous art. As payback, I dragged her to a Redsox game.
Jess: Send me pic of beach so I can drool.
Me: Only if u send me one of u so I can drool.
Hesitating a moment before adding Lol, I hit send.
I rub my fingers over the fake tattoo on my wrist. Jess drew that last night after she showed up at my house while I was packing. I’d spent the better part of our flight here trying to decipher its meaning, figuring if I stare at it long enough it’ll tell me whether we can take this relationship past the friend zone.
After our bags arrive, we breeze through customs and exit the terminal, heading for the deserted parking lot. Nigel piles our bags in the back of a black SUV while Alastair takes the driver’s seat. It’s weird seeing the steering wheel on the right side.
Flying past green sugarcane fields, I spot a sign for Soup Bowl and my heart flip-flops. According to Surfline, my go-to guide, Soup Bowl is unpredictable. Sometimes you get decent sets. Sometimes you get close-out waves. But it’s a notorious spot I’d been wanting to surf forever.
The Minister says something to Nigel, who turns and hands the local island newspaper with the headline “Devil’s Playground” splattered across the front.
My father skims the newspaper article, while I subtly read over his shoulder. I catch a few key words and phrases—Satan’s sinkhole, baffling billionaire, mysterious magnetic machine—before my father folds the paper and passes it back to the Minister.
We fly by half-built houses and colorful shacks. We pass a rum shack, a stone church, a cemetery, a chicken farm, and a Rastafarian sitting alongside the highway. The dude’s only a couple of feet back from the asphalt, leaning against a Coca-Cola sign and waving at cars—stoned out of his mind or friendly. Either way, I’m digging this. Occasionally, my nose is assaulted by the burned-toast smell of sugar cane fields on fire. I recognize the aroma from our Hawaiian vacation a few years back.
A few minutes later, the Minister announces, “We’re here.”
Awesome. We’ve arrived at the psycho billionaire’s home. I lean forward, anxious to see the mansion and former laboratory of Peter Knightsbridge, which unfortunately got sucked into a big hole in the ground along with him and the weird-ass machine he was building.
My father notices my excitement. “I’ve never seen you so enthused about a reception,” he observes.
“Reception?” I repeat, like an idiot.
“Weren’t you listening?” He takes off his glasses and frowns.
No, not really “Uh, sure.” I’d been too distracted by the Soup Bowl sign, picturing myself riding some epic waves. “Is, uh, this reception going to be at Mr. Knightsbridge’s house?”
He shakes his head in exasperation. “No, this is the home of Ian Van Stiles.” My father finishes wiping the lenses and looks at me like I’m supposed to know who that is.
“I’m not sure that name sounds familiar,” I slowly say the words, gauging my father’s reaction as to how pissed he is I wasn’t paying attention.
“He’s one of the wealthiest men on the island.” When I continue looking puzzled, he adds, “And he’s funding the investigation."
“Sorry. I’m drawing a blank.”
My father shakes his head again and finishes with an eye-roll. “The Minister mentioned he has an attractive daughter about your age.”
“Oh, yeah?” Things are looking up.