In the heat of the night, amongst the waves of a whispering ocean, Levi Emmitt struggled to pull the old wooden boat to shore. His feet sank into the sand as the sea pushed up to his thighs. He kept his breath short and quick; he must be quick; no one must know what he was doing. Once the old thing was on the beach shore, he grabbed a rope and tied it from the boat to the trunk of a bush. Levi pushed it further into the shrubbery, hoping to mask it in the green, but the moon gave little light as the clouds crowded above.
From behind, sixty meters away by an old shack, Levi thought he had heard a noise. His heart pumped faster now as his eyes darted throughout the dark, scanning the shack and then the cemetery that lay to the right of the old building. Searching for anyone. Willing to take a life to keep his secret safe. Take life, Levi thought. I couldn’t. I won’t become like them. He made one last glance to the shack and then to the fields of graves. A wave of relief washed over Levi when nothing was found as he collapsed on the shore. It was only a minute. He hadn’t noticed how sore his legs were and how his arms burned as they lay in the sand. But Levi couldn’t stay here. Soon he was on his way back to the town, down the beaten path filled with overgrown weeds. Praying, hoping that no one would find his little secret.
But someone did. Someone did see his little secret as they peered from the darkness of the old shack. They watched and waited by the dead.
Ext. School Roof — Morning
Levi dangled his feet off the edge of the school building. He felt much better the further away he was from his little ‘secret’. He watched as the sun started to rise up over the ocean sending rays of heat directly to him. The sky bloomed from violet to pink and then edges of blue. The young man’s mind danced at the wonderment of how the burning star looked marvellous. Scorching the ocean with its reflection. The breeze carried the smell of salt and fresh bread that snuck its way up to his nose. A few minutes before, Levi was cold, and now he started to feel warm. If only time would just stop here, he thought. Then there would be no need to run.
Levi was born into a simple family with a simple convenience store located down by the pier. He was an only child with a mother and father who could care less about Levi’s hobbies and interests. On the island, it was common for parents to not be interested in their offspring; it made the Festival enjoyable. Levi’s father would tell him that sometimes it was better to be a stranger to him than a parent. The eighteen-year-old thought that his mother would be different. Their connection should have been stronger, but she was just as cruel. Levi understood that this was hundreds of years of conditioning, and it wouldn’t be broken just by a rebelling teen wanting the affection of his parents.
Conditioning. It was a word Levi had learned from the books a cargo ship sailor had given him from the world beyond the horizon. From the lands called America. The books were enlightening to him. History, Sciences, Literature, and Art were never taught in the two cement buildings he called school. He only learned culture, language, cooking, and fishing in the first building known as the Middle School. While in the High School, he learned farming, weather cycles, and business management. It was expected that the youths would take over their parents’ positions as they grew old and ended up sleeping with the dirt at the cemetery on the other side of the island. There was no room to explore, no room for creativity. Unless that creativity was a part of the job.
There were no novels or movies on the island, which would taint the mind and strike the youth with wanderlust. Art was never abstract. History was only of the island and usually taught from word of mouth. Science was never necessary, and tradition took its place. You didn’t need to understand how things work. You just needed to mimic what everyone else did.
To Levi, the island he knew as home was dull. As dull as the white brick road that travelled from the school buildings to the pier. As dull as when those fascinating books were found by his parents. As dull as when they were burned in the town square. Levi was beaten in front of friends and family for it.
Levi reached for his back, the pain still lingering ten years later. The marks ever present, his father had gone hard with the whip.
The roof building door swung open, and Levi glanced back to see a young girl, fourteen, with shaggy black hair covering her eyes. She wore a brown dress with patches on them and underneath shorts.
“Phila, what are you doing here?” Levi asked. “You know this is the High school building, right?”
She nodded. “I usually come here before school starts. I like catching the sunrise.”
“So, this was your spot, huh,” said Levi looking down at the edge. There were drawings in the cement of people, birds, and eyes.
“What are you doing here, Levi?”
“Thought I should wake up early for once before my life changes.”
“Are you talking about the Festival?” Asked Phila sitting next to Levi.
“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t worrying me,” he said, rubbing a silver bracelet on his left wrist. There was a glowing band of yellow and red, almost like it was liquid, flowing through the silver. The bracelet was more modern than anything on the island, borderline even futuristic in design. It was a gift from a man he had met a couple days ago, and as strange as the bracelet looked. No one on the island even noticed it, not his mother, father, and even Phila as she stared at it. It was like they could see it but didn’t bother to ask about it. A different response compared to when the island had obtained a smartphone. It was declared witchcraft and quickly destroyed by the Mayor. “Are you?”
“Probably not as much as you,” said Phila.
“Levi…are you still planning on leaving the island?”
Levi glanced over to her, looking deep into her green eyes before gazing out over the sea. “That’s what I had planned, but D-Day is today.”
“It means I’ve run out of time. How did you sleep last night?”
“I slept fine. How did you sleep?”
“Terrible. You didn’t hear anything did you?”
“Are you talking about the ghosts? I know I live next to a cemetery, but you don’t have to tease me about it. Everyone else does.”
“Sorry,” said Levi. Of course, it was just my imagination.
“It’s okay,” Phila said as she gazed out at the sun.
“I like talking to you, you know?”
“I know. You don’t talk to any of the other girls but me.”
“Because you’re different. You don’t ask how many kids I want or if I find you attractive. You don’t swamp me with personal questions about how good I am in Sex-Ed or how much I can bench? Or how cute the girls look in their dresses.”
“How good are you in Sex-Ed?” Asked Phila.
Levi looked back at the young girl, her eye full of curiosity. “I’m pretty damn good.” She blushed, and he chuckled. “Anyway, I find it all disgusting.”
“Then…do you like boys?”
“What? No — what? Why would I — never mind. I like girls,” said Levi. “I like women. I just don’t think that…fourteen-year-olds should be thinking about that. They shouldn’t want to give birth to twins at fifteen. They should be enjoying their youth, playing around, enjoy what little freedom they have left before responsibility sets in. There are people out there who don’t even think about children, only how they can survive the next day. Why do the boys who are eighteen have to choose from the girls who are fourteen?”
“Because all the other ones are already taken. Except for the younger ones,” reminded Phila.
“Choosing from a younger batch does not solve the problem,” said Levi.
“That’s just how it is here. We don’t want to make the goddess upset.”
“The goddess, how could I forget about the goddess.”
Int. Classroom — Morning
“The Festival of Love is a tradition that has been upheld for generations and will be for generations to come. I’m sure you’ve heard your parents or others talk about how the Festival has changed their lives. However, this Festival is a bit different from last year. It is extremely important because the Mayor gave birth to a daughter fourteen years ago. Now she is one of the many lucky girls participating in this year’s Festival. This is the first time in forty years that such an occasion has happened,” said Abitha Mackey. She adjusted her glasses and pulled some lint from her blouse, which had three buttons open at the top. Enough to show breasts but not everything.
Abitha glanced around the classroom filled with only eighteen-year-old boys. She watched as some of them squirmed in their seats while others fantasized about her. Undressing her in their mind, taking off each piece of the clothing one by one, before ripping the rest off. It drew a smile on the teacher’s face. These young boys full of vigour wouldn’t last the night before ravaging their soulmates. If they were smart, they’d wait till the girls fully bloomed, but that would never happen. Mrs. Mackey made sure that would never happen. “Does anyone know why the Festival of Love is so important? Mr. Emmitt?” She was watching Levi, who found it more interesting to look out the window from across the classroom and doodle in his notebook. “Levi,” she said louder, and slowly Levi met her stare.
“Yes, Mrs. Mackey.”
“Have you found your soulmate yet?” Abitha asked. She was smiling but underneath her mask was anger. Levi showed no interest in her, which only burned her up inside. She was the pinnacle of all women on the island. She was chosen just like her mother before her to be the Headteacher for the boy’s section of the High School. A position of power that rivalled that of even the Mayor. It was even said that Mrs. Mackey was the one that ruled the island. The men listen to her, each remembering their time fondly at school. She filled out in all the right places, perfect proportions of genetics. Every boy should dream that their soulmate would one day look like her. A goddess among men.
Yet Levi saw Mrs. Mackey as a nuisance. He knew her tricks and how she got off teaching the boys Sex-Ed. She would love to have the whole class attack right now, Levi thought. “No, I haven’t. Working on it.”
“You’ve had years to work on it, Mr. Emmitt. If you didn’t score so high in my classes, I would have you committed in front of the Mayor. Our goddess loves sacrifice after all.”
“Sure, but then you’d have three sacrifices, and from what I’ve learned from your classes, Mrs. Mackey. Sacrifices are short-lived, and I don’t think three will last long.”
“Then you are dismissed from class. Pick one of the girls and have it over with. Woo her, rape her, I don’t care. You have until the last bell.”
“But I need to love her,” said Levi rolling his eyes.
“Love will come with time. Now out,” Mrs. Mackey said with her last word peaking in pitch. Levi gathered his stuff and headed for the door. “The Festival of Love brings prosperity to the island. It is our way of showing the goddess our love. Having a mate is important, and the goddess will devour anyone without one. Love and fertility are important to her. Tonight, if things go well, there will be only one sacrifice. Right, Mr. Emmitt.”
Ext. Middle School Building — Morning
Levi stood next to the school gate. His bag slung over one shoulder as his hands sat comfortably in his pocket. The fourteen-year-olds were out in the front doing their laps around the running track.
“Came just in the nick of time, Mr. Emmitt,” said the Gatekeeper. “Mrs. Mackey said you would show up.”
“You bet she did, and she wanted me to inform her when you made your choice. See the girls in red,” said the Gatekeeper pointing to two girls. One at the front of the pack leading the charge and to Phila at the back lagging behind. Levi had noticed them before; they stuck out like a sore thumb. A couple of years back, all the girls were wearing red. He also noticed how tight they wore their shorts, and the same could be said with their shirts. All in order to pull a mate from his class. All the girls were successful except for Phila and, “Grace Attyte is the one in the front. A high prospect, being the Mayor’s only daughter. A bright future for the lucky man who gets her. A strong job and a lot of responsibility. Seems perfect for you, Mr. Emmitt. You’re a strong lad; you know how important all of this is and that we’d be ruined without the blessing of the goddess. You are perfect to continue running the show and bringing prosperity to our great island.”
Levi nodded. “What about that one,” he said, pointing to Phila.
“Phila Schotts. She’s no good, sir. Her father is a cursed individual. As you may have already known. He runs the cemetery just on the other side of the island. His wife died giving birth to that cursed child, and somehow, she twisted her father to never remarry. As you know, that goes against the goddess’ teachings. He’s a hateful man and is everything that the island despises.”
“And if I choose her?” Levi glanced over to the Gatekeeper. His eyes were dead set on the teenager. They dripped of suspicious sludge as the Gatekeeper’s mind wondered if this boy too was cursed. Would three sacrifices be bad? It would be worth it in the long run…maybe. “That was a joke.”
The Gatekeeper burst out in laughter to the point of crying. He howled so loud that the girls had stopped running to see what was going on. “Good one, Mr. Emmit! Good one!”
“I think I’m going to go take a rest.”
“Shall I go to the Headteacher and make it official?” Asked the Gatekeeper, switching on a dime as if he never heard the joke. It was off-putting.
“I’ll do it myself later tonight. To make it more romantic. As I proclaim my love for her in front of the sacrifice and…the goddess.”
“Perfect. Perfect. Grace, right?”
“O-of course,” said Levi walking away but not before glancing back to see Phila staring at him. He wondered if she had heard them. Suddenly he felt gross for being here. He didn’t like how the Gatekeeper tried to sell the girls to him. Selling Grace to him like some cattle, but the worst of it all was that girls were fine being sold off. They held it with pride.
Ext. Town — Morning
The town danced with music and decorations, both made on the island and not imported. There was very little on the island that was imported from the world, such as specific clothing and building materials. What the island shared with the world was also the same, being very little. Bananas and certain fruits were the main export. They didn’t have a lot to share, but their export quality was unrivalled. The taste of their fruits was richer than those around the world. They had a particular flavour that could only be achieved on the island. Aside from that, the island didn’t talk much with the world. No one knew the island’s religion since no one talked about it with the sailors who came by but never stayed. It was a rule that the ships would come to dock, trade the goods and leave before nightfall. So, the culture and the goddess were never spread.
At first, Levi had thought it was because the Mayor was trying to save the world from the ritual they had been forced to repeat. This all had to be forced. No sane human would willingly continue to do this. Controlling the population and dictating how many kids each family should produce. Equalling to the right amount for the Festival, resulting in no sacrifices. But then his mind drifted to the Gatekeeper and then Mrs. Mackey. They lived for this, and soon Levi’s opinion changed. They weren’t protecting the world from it; they were hoarding it.
“How’re the crops looking this year.” “Bad most of them have died off. We’re on the tail end of the blessing.” “Right, right, right.” “Just wait it out till tomorrow; we’ll be on the up and up after tonight.” “I can’t wait.” Levi listened in as the citizens talked about the blessing and how this happened every year, and soon everything would be great again. “I can’t wait till we’re allowed to have children again.” “I think that’s coming up in five years.” “The blessing is going to give us a peaceful monsoon season.” “The Feast is coming up in ten years. We’ll have more houses for the newlyweds by then.” “My little girl is already pregnant; I can’t wait to be a grandmother.” “Didn’t she get married just last year?” “She just like her mother, getting stuffed at fifteen.” The talks made Levi sick to his stomach. He cursed at the white brick road and houses. Wishing that they would match the insanity of the island.
“Just turn black,” Levi growled to the floor.
A hand grasped his wrist and pulled him into an alleyway, away from watching eyes. Levi was thrown up against a wall, the air in his lungs escaping him. His bag was stripped from him and tossed away.
“Where ya going, Levi,” said the leader of boys. Levi recognized him as Isaac Pennel. His father was in charge of the pier, and Isaac had some sway in some of the contraband that ended up on the island. Such as technology and food. Isaac had his own little business running underneath, with cigarettes, magazines, candy, and other small items that wouldn’t disrupt the harmonious cycle that island had crafted. The Pennels were the second wealthiest family on the island, second to the Mayor. “I asked where you are going? The Middle School is in the opposite direction.”
“I’m just taking a walk, Isaac.”
“Take the walk at the Middle School.”
“If you don’t pick a girl, poor Grace is going to be devoured, and none of us want that,” said another boy. He was Garvan Sinclair, Isaac’s right hand. No one had picked Grace because of her father’s position. No one wanted to be Mayor; everyone was happy with Mr. Attyte. Yet this didn’t mean that Grace wasn’t making connections around the school. On the contrary, she was, she had most of the students under her thumb. All of the bullying that Phila went through and the idea of her being the sacrifice was enforced by Grace Attyte.
There were two more boys with Isaac and Garvan, but they kept quiet.
“What about poor Phila,” Levi asked and was responded to with a slap to the face. It stung, and Levi found his eyes watering. “I guess fuck poor Phila.”
“Damn straight. She can blame her father for what’s going to happen to her. I have no idea why that fucker is still alive. He should have been devoured ages ago.”
“Well, that kind of sucks. Because I’m pretty sure I’m going to pick Phila.”
“Allow us to change your mind,” said Isaac, slamming his fist into Levi’s stomach.
Once again, the air was out of his lungs as Levi started to bend over. Garven kept him up straight, unbending him like a straw, and landed a jab into Levi’s face.
Together Garven and Isaac threw Levi to the ground. His bones clashed on top of each other before his joint flung them back to their proper positions. A helpless fish as the sharks pounced on with their food. The rough hot bricks pounding against Levi’s body, he was being attacked by men and the earth.
Ext. Cemetery — Evening
Levi woke up with a kink in his neck. He stood up slowly and swung his head in the opposite direction of the pain until he heard a crack which led to him say, “Oh.”
“He’s awake,” said a man outside of the old shack that Levi found himself in. He was expecting to wake up in the alleyway.
Levi got out of bed and walked towards the entrance. After seeing the tombstone just right of the hut, he knew where he was. On the other side of the island. By the old little shack.
“What did you say to get a beating like that?” Asked a man sitting down by a rock with a bottle of rum dangling from his hands. It was still full, with the man taking a sip from the bottle.
“Said I would pick your daughter over the Mayor’s.”
The man chuckled. “Yeah, that would do it. Found your boat,” said the man pointing to it. It wasn’t as neatly covered as Levi thought it was when he hid it last night. “Thought you were a thief but then again, what thief exists on the island. And then I started to wonder why a thief would steal from a poor guy like me.”
“It’s not always about you,” said Levi. He had heard his parents talk like that before. They spoke as if they never had children, and everything that happened in town or around affected only them.
“Sorry. How far are you thinking of going out? Not too far, I imagine,” said Mr. Schotts.
“Far enough. I got a ship coming in just off the coast. They’ll cycle the island twice, giving me enough time to reach them and leave all of this behind.”
“Look. At. You. You got this all planned out. I guess all those rumours of you planning to leave wasn’t just some teenage angst,” said Mr. Schotts raising his rum to Levi. “Rum?”
“Don’t you feel like everything on this island is just wrong?” Asked Levi.
“When I was young, I was happy, but now that I have a daughter of my own. I’ve seen how ugly people are. I think we’d find the same out there,” said Mr. Schotts pointing out to the ocean.
“Probably, but there wouldn’t be a goddess.”
“Maybe,” said Mr. Schotts, his voice trailing off. “You don’t need a goddess to feel trapped.”
“How about…how about we all leave?” Mr. Schotts sat up and cracked his back.
“I’m too old to leave.”
“You’re in your thirties. Not that old compared to Mayor,” said Levi.
“I can’t just pack up and leave. Everything I know is here.”
“So, you’re okay with your daughter getting devoured?”
“I thought you said you picked her?”
“You think those leeches are going to let me refuse the Mayor’s daughter? Phila has been chosen as the sacrifice even before she was born.”
“Then why don’t you do something for your family for once. I’m offering you and your daughter a way out. This should be a simple — ,”
“Yes. Yes. We’ll leave. When’s your boat supposed to come?” Asked Mr. Schotts. He didn’t need a lecturing from a child.
“Seven? That’s thirty minutes from now.”
“Where’s Phila?” Asked Levi, glancing back to the little shack.
“She went into town for some bread for dinner. That was an hour ago.”
“Shit. Get what you need and make sure that boat is ready,” ordered Levi turning back.
“What if someone comes?”
“No one will. They are expecting me to leave, but if I show up at the Festival, they’re not going to check,” said Levi rushing down the beaten path towards the town. It was now lit up with lanterns and torches.
“Festival? Why are you going there?!”
“Because that’s where she is!”
Ext. Town — Evening
The town was empty. Lights dangled from rooftops and lines that stretched from building to building. A web of glowing stars illuminated the white brick road in spots of colour. Levi ran up the road with newfound vigour. A clear goal, he was going to leave, and he wasn’t going alone. He glanced over to empty shops and empty restaurants. Levi slowed his pace and stopped. He turned back to see the town he grew up in, the town he once had fun in, the dull town, the town now empty and for once filled with peace. No more talks about the Festival or how many children they were having. No more talks about how well their businesses were blooming or how much money they were making. No more talks about strangers coming in from the pier.
As much as Levi didn’t want to admit it, this town, with all its bad, was a big part of his identity. Eighteen years of his life were here. His mother, even though she was distant, was here. The same for his father.
Levi shook his head. It only stunted my growth, he thought. I need to see the world. He moved forward, up the hill, to the two cement buildings that glowed bright like a star.
Ext. Middle School — Night
The sun finally dipped beyond the horizon, sizzling out its light as Levi approached the massive crowd of two thousand and two hundred and forty-four. The whole island was here to celebrate love and sacrifice. His mother and father standing among the masses, both smiling.
Levi’s eyes locked on Mrs. Mackey as Grace stood on her right in a pristine white dress and pink bow while Phila stood on her left in black. He noticed the Mayor, Mr. Attyte standing off to the side. A fat man with many rings on his hands. He wore a striped suit of peach and cream. Mrs. Mackey was also stunning, with a dress that revealed more skin and accentuated her curves. Her hair twisted up into a bun so that you could see her face clearly.
“Mr. Emmitt!” Mrs. Mackey roared. “You’ve arrived at the perfect time. We had just finished commemorating the joining of all your classmates. You’re the last. Now come and embrace your soulmate.” Mrs. Mackey pushed Grace forward as she pulled Phila back. Grace ran towards her lover.
Levi stepped forward as the crowd parted ways for him. He glanced at the faces in the crowd, at their real faces under their masks. The faces of ecstasy for the gifts that the goddess would bring. They didn’t care about love or marriage. They care not for the heart of their children. They only care for the prize at the end. What pressure, they give off. This island has only stunted my growth.
“See, kid,” said a middle-aged man leaning his weight on his clockwork cane. The sun setting behind him. “Sometimes, you can’t run from the trouble. But you know I really do hope you never use this,” finished the man offering the silver bracelet. “But people tend to learn the hard way.”
Levi rubbed his bracelet before grabbing Grace by her hair and pulling her towards Mrs. Mackey. He was rough with the child as she lost her footing and tripped. Her white dress dragged against the brown soil. “What are you doing to my daughter,” yelled Mr. Attyte but was silenced by Mrs. Mackey’s glare. She turned back to her student.
“What is this, Mr. Emmitt? Are you thinking of choosing this rat instead of Grace?” Asked Mrs. Mackey.
“I am,” said Levi as a certain feeling in the pit of his stomach erupted and surged through him. He did not know why he was feeling this way. There were many reasons to be angry with the island, but Levi didn’t want to be angry. He wanted to be cruel.
“Think this over child.”
“I have,” he growled.
“We will not let that happen.”
“It’s not up to you,” said Levi grabbing Phila from his teacher’s grip. Mrs. Mackey could do nothing against him. He was stronger now, stronger than he had ever been. If he wanted to, he could have ripped his old teacher in two. Levi lifted Phila by her waist as she rested her head on his chest. He threw Grace before Mrs. Mackey. The girl holding herself in pain.
The crowd began to circle the rebel, leaving no room to escape. Yet Levi looked confident. He turned towards the ocean and started to leave. Mrs. Mackey reached out to grab him but missed, only catching air. She couldn’t go any further. The boy was no longer in her control. Maybe he never was. Something inside held her back from stopping her student.
An explosion in town caught everyone off guard as it shook the island. The crowd immediately looked out to see a part of the town on fire. “Isn’t that Ajax’s gas station?” “No, the fire it’s spreading!” The mob began to panic as another explosion solidified their fears. Their livelihoods were at stake. They rushed down the island, grabbing anything they could to quell the fire’s destruction.
“Come back, you fools,” yelled Mr. Attyte. “The goddess will provide!” He glanced back to Mrs. Mackey, hoping she would back him up but found her staring at her hand. Still wondering why she didn’t push further to stop her student. “I’ll stop the boy myself,” Attyte said, searching for the Levi, but found him missing. Mr. Attyte turned to Mr. and Mrs. Emmitt. They had begun to sweat nervously, each holding each other’s hand tightly as they looked out over the flames. It was from their seed that everything had started to fall apart. “You will pay for this. I’ll make sure of it,” Attyte swore, but the parents did not hear his promise.
Ext. Cemetery — Night
“Damn,” said Mr. Schotts limping to the boat. “Was a little too close on that one? Let’s get this thing ready to go.” He looked out on the ocean, barely seeing a ship making its way around the island. “Shit was that the first cycle or the second.” He turned back to the town, the fire now rising high into the air.
“Good job on the fire,” said Levi rushing towards him with his daughter in his arms.
“Phila!” Yelled Mr. Schotts.
“Papa,” said Phila rushing towards her father. They embraced, and he squeezed her tight. It had been too long since he had held her close. He missed loving her. He ignored the pain. Mr. Schotts glanced up at Levi, the flames roaring high behind the boy, almost as if he was the one bringing the flames. A shot of fear made the hairs on his arms stick up.
“You can embrace when you’re safe. On the boat quick,” said Levi grabbing a hand-held floodlight from the belly of the boat. He flicked it on, sending a message out to the black. The ship flickered a message back before coming to life with lights. “That’s the goal! In the boat, I’ll push off!” Levi pushed the boat from the sand with the two passengers on board. This newfound strength impressed the two as he pushed the boat from the sand to the sea. He didn’t stop until the water was waist deep, then Levi gave one last push.
“Come on,” yelled Mr. Schotts grabbing the oars. “What are you doing, boy?”
“Go on without me!”
“No,” yelled Phila. “You can still make it.”
“Look,” said Levi pointing back to the island. From the shadows of the mountains, a gigantic woman of darkness rose. Her body, that of black smoke, dissipated into the ether. The woman bent down to the fire and started to contain it. “I need to deal with that!”
“Are you insane? That’s the goddess!” Yelled Mr. Schotts trying to turn the boat back.
“Go! They are waiting for you! Tell Jackson I understand now! And Phila,” said Levi, the boat drifting further out now. He said something, but neither could hear what he said.
“Let’s go,” said Phila turning to her father.
“But Phila, what did he say?” Asked her father.
Mr. Schotts nodded, and together they rowed to the ship. To freedom away from the island.
Ext. Ship — Night
The crew helped Mr. Schotts and his daughter up to the deck. Phila was tired; her arms ached from rowing. “I need a medic here,” said a crew member. Phila glanced back to her father; his right arm was severely burned.
“I’m alright,” said Mr. Schotts. “I’m alright.”
“Where’s the boy,” said a middle-aged man approaching them. His clockwork cane clopping on the deck as he came them. The man wore a black suit with a golden apple pinned on his left breast. A white trench coat with black lining sat snugly on his shoulders as the sleeves hung empty at the man’s sides. Phila thought it was a cape at first, one that an old king would wear. The man’s hair was a salt and pepper that matched his beard. Which was short but full. “Where is Levi?”
“Are you Jackson?” Asked Phila standing up to the man.
Jackson peered down at the girl. “I like your eyes. I am Jackson.”
“Levi said he understood now.”
“Did he? That’s a shame. Did he say anything else?”
A flash of Levi mouthing words dancing in her mind before returning to nothing. “No.”
Jackson grinned, and the middle-aged man now seemed frightening to the girl. As the air began to tense into a dead silence. The man seemed large, his presence overwhelming the crew and the two survivors. “Give these two the best treatment we can give. They are our guests! We head out. We’ll leave the island to the boy until it is time. I wonder if he can last?”
Ext. Middle School — Night
“Mrs. Mackey. Mrs. Mackey,” said Grace over and over, trying to get the head teacher’s attention. “Mrs. Mackey — ,”
“Shut up, you brat! What do you want?” Asked Mrs. Mackery as strands of hair fell out of her bun. The smell of charcoal stuck to her make-up and clothes. Grace pointed to the entrance, where Levi had returned. “Why have you come back, you ungrateful bastard?”
“It must burn,” Levi said, smiling. “To have things not go the way you planned. To lose…control.” He bent down to Grace and reached out for her. She flinched.
“Where is the sacrifice?” Asked Mrs. Mackey.
“Grace,” said Levi.
“Yes?” Asked the dirty girl.
“Don’t speak to him,” ordered Mrs. Mackey.
“I want to apologize for treating you in such a rough way. I’m sorry about your dress,” said Levi.
“You think we care for your apology? You ruined the Festival!”
Levi stood tall in front of the Headteacher. “And I came back to fix it! I am choosing Grace.” Grace’s face lit up with joy, not because of love, but because of her fear. Death loomed high above.
“You mean it,” said Grace
“Mhmm. You were right, Mrs. Mackey. Love does come with time,” said Levi.
“Levi,” roared Mr. Attyte.
“Daddy, it’s okay. He’s chosen me,” said Grace, and Levi pulled her close.
“He has ruined this islan — ,”
“Aphrodite!” Roared Levi interrupting the blundering fool. The goddess pulled her attention away from the burning inferno. No one had called her name in so long, but when the sound hit her ears, she knew that was who she was. “The Festival of Love has now come to an end. Bless this land anew to commemorate our budding love!”
“You dare speak the goddess’ name,” said Mr. Attyte, his face turning red with rage as the veins popped out on the sides of his skull. He was ready to rip this boy apart.
“Hush now, my child,” Mr. Attyte turned his gaze to the goddess. “You have some guts to you,” said the goddess as her voice glitched in pitch and in gender, unable to fully accept its existence. Her eyes now set upon the boy.
“It’s all I have,” said Levi. That’s right, keep your eyes on me. There’s nothing out beyond the sea. “As the next successor of the island and your acolyte. If I didn’t have such courage, you wouldn’t accept me.”
“Hoh, I haven’t even accepted you, but my interest has been peaked.”
“I shall give you what you need then and what you wish for,” said Levi.
“And what may that be?” Asked the goddess.
“Freedom from this land. Give me twenty years. Twenty years of a golden age on the island and then along with an army of love, we shall move throughout the world. Spreading your glory.”
“My goddess, do not listen to his words,” said Mrs. Mackey. “He is a liar.”
“But I see no liar. I see a king,” said the goddess. “What do you gain from this? You care not for the island. I have seen the way you have lived. I have seen how you refused to leave on that small vessel. Giving those two scum a chance for freedom. What do you gain from this?”
“No longer will we hold the Festival of Love. That is the deal. The golden age is for those who can’t live without the riches,” said Levi looking over to Mr. Attyte. The Mayor’s fists were clenched as he kept his eyes down at his feet. “I wish to keep you here.”
“To learn from you, so that I may be more than just your a slave. But to be your friend and give you what you have lost. Plus twenty years is not that long for a goddess.”
“Deal. I bless you.” She bent down and kissed Levi; from their kiss, a wave of pink energy flowed throughout the island like a rushing wind. It blew out the inferno, giving life back to the dying crops on the land, and filled the mountain with life. “I’ll be waiting, my king,” finished the goddess, and she disappeared back into the mountains. “Don’t disappoint.”
“You — ,”
“My dress,” Grace said, interrupting her father. Her dress was clean and a pristine white.
“And just like that, the Festival was a success. Grace, take your father down into town. The people must hear the good news. A blessing of a golden age,” said Levi. Grace nodded and rushed over to her father, grabbing his hand pulling him towards town.
“Let’s go daddy.”
“What have you done?” Asked Mrs. Mackey.
“I have set a deadline.”
“Oh, don’t go showing that you care. I know what you want, Mrs. Mackey, and I’ll give it to you, but you must know that this wouldn’t have happened if you didn’t offer Phila as a sacrifice. You could have just sent the poor girl and her father on a ship off the land, but no. I know how you control the island from behind the scenes. How you continued pushing this tradition. But that ends now. You, my dear Headteacher, with all your beauty and lust. Have sentenced your goddess to death. It will never leave this island. Mark my words. Mark the name of this dagger,” said Levi raising his bracelet as it morphed into a blade concealing molten lava in its core. The heat from it was scorching as the Headteacher could feel the hairs on her skin beginning to burn. There was a vile hatred in the blade, a rage of betrayal that made the woman uncomfortable. Then the blade was plunged into her chest, deep through, splitting her spine in twain. “Uxoricide of Hephaistos,” finished Levi.
Mrs. Mackey blinked and found herself on her knees as Levi towered above her. The blade was clean, with no blood on the edge. She felt for her chest and found no wound. “Watch as everything you have, everything this island is…,” venom on Levi’s tongue. “…Burn.”