The island is at peace.
Children sing and play and learn. Women weave baskets, rugs, bags and coats; men fish and hunt to provide for their clan.
Life is calm, idyllic.
The sentry, Mick, is in the tower, watching the horizon. Below him a group of children begin to fight. He looks down, growls at them to cease.
‘You can’t tell me what to do, Mick,’ yells Bart. He’s the youngest in the group; smallest too, with the tip of his bushy hair reaching only the shoulder of the next tallest.
‘Bart,’ responds Mick. ‘Don’t get too big for your boots.’
‘I don’t have any boots,’ Bart calls back, lifting a foot high to show his bare feet. He and the group of children cackle.
Mick shakes his head, not bothered by them. They’re good kids, Bart especially, and this behaviour is not deliberately insubordinate. Mick’s certainly not going to report what has just taken place to King Elijah. Even though, according to the Codes for Children’s Behaviour II, he should. He knows the punishment enacted on the group would far outweigh the so-called misdemeanour. Mick himself would appreciate someone turning a blind eye if his own child, Mathilde, was gadding about in a similar fashion. That is the one bad thing about life on Turon Isle: life is too regimented, a code or policy for every group, every action. And a consequence for anyone who steps outside these clearly documented guidelines.
He watches as the children run towards the shoreline. There’s an inlet just around the bend which is hidden from sight, even from Mick’s view here in the tower. The beach is perfect for play; the water always warm and laps onto the sand. Mathilde has told him that the children strip off their clothes—a misdemeanour—and play together in the waves and sand. They build castles, they splash each other with water, they bury each other in the sand, leaving only a head visible.
Mick watches until the last child rounds the bend. He stares off at the distant horizon again, anticipating nothing but sea meeting sky, a boring end to his post as sentry. His heart skips a beat, however, when he sees a fleet of ships, already making their way towards Turon Isle.
He flips his internal switch, goes from gentle guard to an avid defender of his land, his lifestyle, his king. Blood pumps fierce heat through his body, his eyes defiant of the approaching ships.
He sounds the siren. Baa-barrrrrrm. Behind him, he hears the bustle of his kin prepare for war.
Five minutes after he sounds the siren, the island is ready. Everyone in their place. Mick is to stay in the tower, even after his allotted post ends. His gun is loaded, extra ammunition at his feet. His mind goes to the children, at the inlet. Had they heard the siren. Did they come back? He didn’t see. He doesn’t know. He places his gun down, and runs down the stairs on the inside of the tower. His lungs burn in his chest as he flies towards the beach.
He rounds the bend. He hears them before he sees them. Laughing, splashing. Chatter and yelling. He calls to them, but the waves and their own voices drown his out. He waves his arms high and wide, desperate to catch their attention.
At last Bart notices Mick. Bart’s wide grin disappears, noticing the fear in Mick’s eyes. The children are all naked, sand covering their damp skin. Bart rounds them up, gathers random clothes, as Mick is still approaching.
‘We’re under attack,’ Mick yells. ‘Get back to your homes.’
Bart starts guiding his friends toward the bend. He’s got the last one off the beach, running towards safety.
‘Run Bart,’ Mick screams, through heaving breaths. ‘Just run. I’m right behind you.’
The last thing Mick sees before the bites explode in his back, tearing his flesh open, is Bart running out of sight. Mick falls to knees, prays Bart makes it back.