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Lakewood Times

Lakewood Times

“Coral Reef”


The waves bombard the shoreline harder today than yesterday. They crash into the rocks sending water spraying high into the air. Above the splattering water, petrels fly, catching the unlucky fish who are caught in the roaring current. Where yesterday the water was clear, it is now white and foamy. I can tell a storm is approaching. 

Behind me, I hear a noise, “Is anyone there?” I have a sense of desperation in my voice. No one responds; I turn around but see nothing different. It is just the same imposing room, with its pastel furniture and concrete walls lit only by the grey light permeating through the giant windows. I sit on the concrete platform that makes up the windowsill. 

  Looking at the ocean and its workings are mesmerizing. The ocean keeps me distracted from the fact my parents were supposed to be home 46 hours ago. They are not answering their phones. How long is it before I’m supposed to assume they’re dead? 24 hours? 48 hours? I can’t think about the odds; in my mind, if I sit here gazing upon the ocean they will come home eventually. 

“This is supposed to be a vacation,” I say out loud. At least, I think it was. Why else would my parents drag me thousands of miles from our home in Detroit to some island called Aitutaki in the middle of the Pacific ocean? They said it was a vacation, but it never felt like one. Everything they have done since we got here over a month ago would be peculiar on any vacation: my mother got a job as an accountant, and my father became a contractor. All of their actions have seemed reminiscent of settling down. 

I never mention anything to them. They seemed on edge in Detroit. They stopped going out for walks in our neighborhood. They made me take extra precautions anytime I left the house. It was like they had become paranoid. They have been much happier here; in Aitutaki, they behave like functioning members of society. It is starting to dawn on me that maybe something is wrong. Back in Detroit, I had friends and school to focus on; my parents had to take the backseat. In Aitutaki, I have no friends. There are hardly any people my age here. Even the natives probably see me as an annoying tourist. I was never close with my parents back home, but now they are the only people I talk with. I have no one else. 

I get up from my slumped position on the windowsill. I brush off my sweatshirt that had collected some dust on it. How long had I been sitting there? I shuffle over to the side table across the room. I check my phone: no notifications. Something has to be wrong; I can’t keep ignoring it. To search for my parents would be a waste of time. There is only one restaurant on this island, and it’s at the resort. I start to notice myself sweating. 

“Everything will be fine Robert. They are probably just hungover and don’t want me to see them like that. Everything will be fine.” The sound of me talking aloud to myself is comforting. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t talk myself out of something. I leave the living room; I have to remove myself from that place before I let my anxiety fester anymore. 

I head down the hall to my parent’s room. I know they are not there, but I have to check. I can’t explain it. Their room is just how I expected it to be: empty. One time, I found my mom asleep in her closet. I open up hers to check. She is not in there, but a mountain of other crap is. The place is a total disaster. Boxes of paper are everywhere. Some of them are complete, others look shredded. What is she up to? I notice one of the papers is actually marked “secret file”. How inconspicuous, I was thinking to myself sarcastically. 

I reach down to grab it, but before I can the sound of shattering glass draws my attention back to the hallway. Fear overcomes me. I know that’s not my parents. Why waste time hoping it is? If I stand here, I am defenseless against whatever is out there. My eyes turn towards a piece of yellow coral my dad has on his bed stand. He loves coral; both of my parents do. I grab it and scurry out into the hallway. My skin prickles adding intensity to the cold sweat secreting out of my skin. My nerves are so intense I can almost touch, taste, and smell them. 

My father told me every time I got scared, even when I was scared over the littlest thing, I was saving up my courage: saving it for when it really mattered. Now is when it matters. I slowly peer over the wall dividing the hallway from the living room. There stand two men dressed in jeans and black sweaters. I would think they were just simple robbers in any other instance, but we are 200 miles away from any place where they could pawn the stuff they take.  

They must be here specifically for my parents. Millions of thoughts shoot through my head. Have they already found them? Is it too late? They are probably looking for whatever was in my mom’s closet. I deduce that if they came here to the middle of nowhere for those files they would withstand more than what my measly piece of coral could do. I sneak back down the hallway and duck into the powder room. I throw open a window, jump out, and run away from the house. 

“Hey, did you hear that?” one of the guys says to the other one. They heard me. They looked fast. They had the large legs and arms of someone who could easily outrun my scrawny figure. The area behind my house is essentially a jungle. As I take off through the jungle I am immediately out of breath; I really should work out more. I don’t turn my head, it will only slow me down. I can see the resort. It might be ¼ mile in front of me. The sound of my pursuers behind me gets louder with every passing step. 

Just keep running. I say these words hundreds of times in my head. I would say it out loud, but if I say a single thing, I think I would have a heart attack. I still grasp the coral in my hand. It is digging into my skin imprinting circles on my palm. I can now feel the ground shake below me; someone is behind me. Without even thinking, my arm turns my body and swings the coral. Somehow it hits just right as to slice the neck of my assailant. Blood splatters onto my clothes. 

It’s a weird feeling. The sight in front of me is repulsive. I am disgusted and hurt by the soon-to-be corpse laying in front of me. Somehow I feel removed from this encounter. How could I, the small 15-year-old from Detroit, who would never even watch violent movies cause this to happen? I can reflect on it later. The other guy appeared to trip early on in the chase, but he is now catching up. I see the corpse is armed with a pistol. Against the advice of every muscle in my body, I pick it up and keep running. If I make it to the resort, there will be others there. I assume they can’t hurt me there. 

“No don’t,” I hear those words on my left. They sound remarkably like my mothers. I think about running towards the resort, but my body takes control of me. I find myself running towards the sound of my mom’s voice. My body leads me back to the beach. I notice that the storm I was watching come in is almost here. I ignore the multitude of bad vibes that an approaching storm gives off. 

On the beach, my parents sit on the sand tied to a post. My mom looks exhausted; I have never seen bigger bags under her eyes. Her face is drawn and pale. My dad looks just as bad; his eyes are bright pink and bloodshot. You would think he had inhaled 4 espresso shots. Behind my parents are 2 men talking on the beach; they don’t notice I’m there.

“You shouldn’t be here,” my dad attempts to yell but it is more of a mumble. 

“I had no choice. What have you done?” I scream back. Tears are now streaming down my face.

“I’m so sorry Robert. I thought if we left it would just disappear.” This time it is my mom who replies. What would disappear? Nothing about this situation makes sense. My parents have always been distant. I always had a suspicion they might be hiding something, but this all seems unreal. 

“Don’t move.” The other guy from my house has caught up. I drop the bloodstained coral and clench the pistol close to my waist. 

Finally arriving on shore is the storm that I spent hours watching. The waves come in ferociously. Rain pours from the heavens wiping the tears from my face. 

The man walks slowly around me with his gun pointed in my direction. I could shoot him, but that wouldn’t help my parents. The man keeps his gun pointed out, but he turns and points it at my parents on the sand. My mother looks my way. She sees I am hiding the pistol. 

“This is your chance,” she mouths at me. I know I should do it. If I shoot the man in front of me he can’t shoot my parents, but then the men supposed to be watching my parents will notice me. I don’t know what to do. Everything is converging all at once. I am forced to make decisions that would have been unimaginable 10 minutes ago. No matter what I do, nothing will ever be the same. I will never be able to trust my parents the same way. I will never be able to feel the same way about myself. I will never be able to keep the same level of blissful ignorance again. I have to do something. 

Instead of focusing on my decision, I focus on the rain. I stare out towards the ocean and let my body take control of me. I have already proven it can. I watch a bird get caught in a roaring wave as my arm discharges a gun. I watch lightning strike across the sky as another gun is fired two more times. If I look down at the sand, I will know what I am capable of. If I look at my parents I will be devastated. If I keep staring at the ocean, I won’t have to feel anything. If I keep staring at the ocean, nothing has to change.

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