Build A Thousand Fires (Original Group Story)

Build A Thousand Fires (Original Group Story)

Four women and two men go on the same cruise, all hoping to get away from their various lives, but are instead met with the fate of a crashing ship and being stranded on a deserted island. (Character Info)

Chapter 2

Hummingbirds and Happiness - Kenneth Vulcan

First Class. Snob. Superficial. Rich guy. Ostensible. Shallow. Scrooge. I can come up with a thousand names for people like me, most of them considered by the society. It's anything but fair. Money isn't the world, so why do people care about cash flow more than mental repose? If I cared about money more than anything else, then why am I not sitting inside a room full of gold and riches, instead of buying a ticket for the two-month cruise on Ship Metis? If you ask me, people need to get a life and stop treating us this way. They make me want to smash someone's face repeatedly into a brick wall. Not that I'd do that… well, probably not, anyway.

When people talk about the Vulcan family, especially when they talk about my father, they do it like they’re afraid of us or something. I mean, we won’t kill them or anything, but I guess I have some sympathy for them. They probably think that they need to pick every word they say carefully to not offend us, because if they do, then we’ll probably give them hell for the rest of their life. To be honest, we have better things to worry about than a bunch of eggheads constantly avoiding running into you on a narrow path. They don’t realize, and they never will.

Here, sitting on a lounge chair on the top deck, I have the full view of the ocean in my scope. The evening sun is shining softly down on me, tinting everything with gold, amber and auburn. Although I don’t get out much and relax often, it’s a good feeling to finally do so. I guess I can remember when I used to have a head full of dreams. I was soaring up all the way in cloud nine, but as soon as my tenth birthday passed I came crashing down onto the ground with a hard landing flat on my face. The world isn’t a place for dreams. It’s a place for blood, sweat, and tears. It’s a place where if you don’t fit in, you’re immediately disqualified. I remember reading a book once called The Hunger Games. The strongest will survive. It makes sense. It’s the same with the world. If I’m going to have dreams and hopes and a smile on my face every day, I probably won’t go anywhere in life except for backwards. And that’s if I’m still qualified enough to be in it. But I guess I’m lucky, because the Vulcan family isn’t a family that people would mess with. Sure, if you did, we’ll probably just sue you, but they think that we’ll get revenge and kill your whole family or something. People these days are officially hopeless.

The sky is slowly painted a deeper shade of crimson, and when I lean down to check my watch I realize that it had already been half an hour. The people around me are now in clusters, talking and moving off to their cabins. Although it’s only evening, I know what they’re thinking. Tomorrow is scheduled as a special day, because we’re going past Windmill Point. People will be getting up really early to look for dolphins. Early for them, late for me. I’m usually an early riser, and that’s not just waking up around seven. I consider that late. I try to keep myself up at five thirty. When I did army training, it’s one of the things that we had to do. Even though I was offered a place, I chose not to join, but some of the training habits still stuck. Even now, if someone tries to sneak up behind me, I will have the sense to immediately turn around.

As I watch an old couple emerge from the dining room, I suddenly realize how hungry I am. I had been too busy admiring the scenery and unpacking, to even go down to the dining hall and check out the food. Now my stomach rumbles and I roll my eyes. I’m usually not one to be hungry easily. Even if I am, I’d usually resist it. But hey, when there’s a bunch of excellent food waiting right there, who can resist the temptation? I suppose it’s going to be good, seeing as it’s a first class restaurant, but you can never be too sure. I stand up and stretch my legs, yawning like I just woke up from a deep sleep. Then I turn and head off towards the direction of the dining room, the once-warm sunshine beginning to fade and fall behind me.

Earlier on this afternoon I had taken a quick tour around the ship. I made a point to spend some time at the gym, too. They have really good gym equipment, probably even better than the gym we have back home. There I even managed to make some friends, while also making a point to hide my family background. Her name is Phoenix Ann Parker. She resembles my sister, Christina, in a strange way that even I can’t describe it. They have the exact same midnight black hair, and the same hazel eyes, except Phoenix’s eyes are a bit bigger and she wears a very light touch of makeup. She was with another girl named Shannon, and she told me that she was her best friend. It’s great to know more people, but something in me tells me that if I had told those girls my last name, then they probably wouldn’t be so nice to me. I wish my last name was something else other than Vulcan. Even the name sounds menacing, in a way. Whenever I hear it, it reminds me of the words “falcon” and “vulture” combined together. Not a good combination. It also sounds really harsh and mean. Either way, I don’t like it.

After making sure my suit is immaculate, I walk into the dining room. It really surprises me. It’s like a big fancy night club, except it has a more ambient theme to it. It looks like it came out of a James Bond movie. Slow, classy music flows softly through the speakers. The lighting is slightly dark, but it still has a great, red-tinted glow down on the ground, mixed with rainbow colours from the colourful ceiling lights. People are sitting at round polished tables for two, with high chairs. There is a gorgeous red counter near where they serve the drinks. There are people sitting on purple velvet club couches, holding long-stemmed glasses of coloured drinks and sipping slowly and delicately. Surprisingly, I notice that the room isn’t a square or a rectangle, for that matter. As I survey it carefully, it resembles more of a blob in shape. But it looks absolutely amazing. I love it how the walls curve in and out. Looks like the First Class cruise really is worth all that money. It’s absolutely amazing in here!

A waitress in a pretty orange halter dress comes towards me, smiling. She is carrying a large tray with an assortment of drinks on it. “Good evening, sir,” she says, sweetly. “Would you like a drink?” She holds out her tray for me to examine all the available drinks and pick one.

All the drinks are in long-stemmed glasses, like the ones I saw the people on the couch holding. They are of all different bright colours. Some are purely white like milk, and some are shocking pink. There are even black-coloured ones and rainbow ones. Seeing my astonished expression, the waitress daintily selected one glass and handed it to me. “It’s a hummingbird,” she tells me, with a sly smile. “They will make your wings flap really fast.”

I examine the drink closely. It’s not a shocking pink colour. Instead, it’s a light shade of rose pink. There is a blue parasol inside it, and two orange slices floating on the top. There’s only a little bit of the drink itself, probably only about five or six spoonfuls altogether. I accept the drink graciously. It’s definitely alcoholic. I can tell by the colour and the amount of it in one cup, and what the waitress had said to me. I remember that I had vowed not to drink to my parents when I boarded the cruise. But again, they told me to have fun. It’s what it’s all about. And right now, inside the most amazing dining room I have ever been in, I’m being offered a gorgeous drink. And it’s all part of the cruise fee, so I can have all the food and drinks I like, and I won’t have to pay at all. Why can’t I let myself loose a bit? I nod at the waitress, smiling. She goes away to fill up her plate again. I decide to sit down at one of the couches with my drink. Waiters dressed in suits are bringing out plates of hot food. I feel overwhelmed at everything.

As I sink into the soft velvet couch and take a cautious sip of my hummingbird, my whole world erupts and sparks and twists and twirls with golden stars and colour flying everywhere. It’s like sucking on a giant sweet peach sprinkled with sugar. Unable to control it, I chug the rest of it, and lick my lips, which now feel like they’ve been dipped in sugar as well. Everything starts to spin, and I feel like a stallion in the wild, completely lost in freedom. It’s such a great feeling. Without knowing it, I’m already waving another waitress over and this time I take a glass of the strange white drink. I expect it to taste something like milk, but instead it fills my mouth with a sort-of smoky and bittersweet taste, like chewing on a cigarette plus the sugar. Although it’s not the best taste in the world, it’s like I completely lose control. I take more sips of it. I feel like I’m on one of those life-is-good commercials where everything is just literally perfect.

A girl comes towards me, and sits down beside me. I can feel my heart starting to beat really fast, like I’m on testosterone, which I’ve never been yet. My friends tell me it’s a really great and exciting feeling, though. I’m perfectly aware that I’m nearly drunk, but all the same, I still order one of the rainbow drinks. My vision is blurry, and I blink, clearing up the fog. The girl has ash-brown hair and eyes the colour of the morning ocean. She is wearing a cream-coloured tank top with wide straps, a short teal-denim jacket over the top, and black skinny jeans with glinting silver buttons. I look down and I see that she is wearing Converses. It’s funny how most of the people here are dressed up in a fancy way, while she is dressed up so casually.

She doesn’t say anything, but she smiles and she raises her drink a little. “I’ve never felt so awesome in my life! This is really cool!” And even though I don’t know her, I have to agree with her, because this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The food is amazing. The drinks are even more amazing. A huge burst of colour erupts in my face, and my head feels light. I nod and manage a smile. A small voice of conscience is telling me to put down my glass, and I do for a while, but then I feel like I’m missing something and I pick it up, chugging down the rest.

“Have some cake,” the girl said, passing me a brilliantly gleaming white plate holding slice of caramel-and-honey biscuit cake that makes my appetite increase heaps. It looks so amazing, with gorgeous chestnut slices lining the top, and the caramel oozing out onto the plate like lava. I take the plate, and I smile at her. “Thanks,” I say, as I feel more stars come out of my head. Is it just me, or is the world spinning? Did the ground just turn upside down? Is this what it feels like to be drunk? I feel the need to laugh out loud, but I pinch my thigh and control it.

“My name is Maria,” she tells me. “Maria Carey.”

“Like the singer?” I ask, and she snorts. “It’s what everyone asks me. I never listen to Mariah Carey, though. I’m more into retro and hip-hop. What’s your name, anyway? I bet it’s something classy, like… I don’t know, Thomas or Edward or Harrington, I’m guessing.”

“It’s Kenneth,” I tell her. And before I can control myself, it just slips out. “Kenneth Vulcan.”

“You mean from the Vulcan family?” Maria raises her eyebrows slightly, and I want to throw a brick at myself for ever saying it. What will she think of me now? Will she hate me or be scared of me or something? But we’re all First Class, so maybe she wouldn’t be so irked about it. By the looks of her, she doesn’t look like someone who would care much. But if she does, then it would really feel bad. Mind you, if it was someone else, then I wouldn’t have bothered to cover it up or anything. It feels different talking to a girl. Maria gives off a sort of aura that not every girl can achieve. The girls I know back at home are snobby, wearing long ankle-length dresses and high heels and they paint their nails every single shade of pink. Their parents would talk to my parents about making an arranged marriage, and as much as I dislike rejection, there’s no other choice. Maria is different, cooler, and she’s just not like them at all. I’m busy deciding whether it’s a good or bad thing in my near-drunken state, when she interrupts my thoughts. “That’s quite cool. I’ve heard about the Vulcan family. Your dad is running for president next year, am I right? Isn’t he the guy with the brown hair and the bushy eyebrows?”

“Yeah, that’s him,” I say. I don’t really like talking about my family, especially when it’s to someone who I just met. I don’t want to ruin my first impression. I need to change the subject, or stop talking about myself. “Well, then, what about you? Where are you from? How’s your life going?” I ask, hoping that she will stop asking me any further questions about my life.

“Well, I was born in Eastport,” she tells me, flicking a strand of hair from her face. I bite into my slice of cake and, as the warm caramel melts in my mouth, she carries on. “We moved to New York City when I was seventeen. It was quite a big move and I didn’t get used to it at first, but then it was really awesome there. I live with my dad and my mom. I work in a company that, well, is attempting to make a car that will run on saltwater. It’s pretty ridiculous and I don’t really like the job, because people will always be a bunch of lowlife lunatics, but I can earn money, and that’s about the bottom line. I’m supposed to come on this cruise to investigate the water from different parts of the ocean.” She cuts herself abruptly short here, but I can see in her eyes that she was about to say something else. I decide not to dig into details, as I know that it would be tactless to keep on asking somebody questions when they don’t want to answer.

“Looking forwards to the dolphin thing tomorrow?” she asks me, and I nod. We talk for a bit longer after that, and I didn’t have any more drinks, except for a simple orange juice when I was about to leave, but they probably added some energy stuff in it, because I felt a bit more energetic after I had finished the whole glass. Maria is pretty nice. She looks like she has a cold personality, but once you get to know her, she’s great to have a conversation with.

As I walk out onto the deck, the cool wind hits me suddenly. The music has gone and the atmosphere feels so quiet. I realize that it has already been four hours in there. Maria steps out behind me, yawning and stretching. “That so did not feel like hours,” she says, grinning. “It felt like minutes! But I’m quite tired now. Any idea what time it might be?”

I check my watch. “Wow, it’s already fifteen to eleven,” I report back. “If we want to get up earlier tomorrow to see the dolphins, we better go off to bed now. I don’t want to miss the dolphins.” Maria nods her agreement as we head out down the hallway leading to the rooms.

“Where are you located?” I ask, and she checks her ticket.

“Room 387,” she replies. “That’s near the middle.”

I take out my ticket. “Mine is Room 91.”

We begin our walk into the lobby, talking about random things like our favourite sports team, and our favourite colour, and what we got for Christmas last year. Then, as we arrive at Room 387, she turns around and waves at me. “See you tomorrow,” she says, with a very small smile. “I’m going to be up quite early, anyway. I’ll see you down at the dining room for breakfast.’

As she opens the door and enters her room, closing the door again behind her, I smile and lean against the wall, stifling a yawn and rubbing my eyes. I suppose I’ll see her again tomorrow. I’ll probably see Phoenix and her friend Shannon as well. Maybe I’ll even make some new friends. I turn around to head back upstairs to my room.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe people really don’t care about my family. Well, Maria certainly didn’t, and probably I’ll be safe telling Phoenix and Shannon as well. Maybe I should stop hiding stuff and just get out there in the open. Thinking back to the hours in the dining room, I need to thank all the drinks I’ve had to allow me to spill out the truth. Even if Maria is really hiding her true feelings towards my family, at least I was honest. And speaking the truth makes a stone drop in my heart. Everything in me feels light and airy, and I jog up the stairs with renewed energy. Maybe tomorrow will be the best day of my life.

I’m starting to love this cruise.

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