The storm was here at last. He stood on the shore, eyes on the sky, which was darkening with every passing moment.
The ocean had always been a source of comfort throughout his life; it been one of his only constants, so until now, it simply hadn’t occurred to him to be afraid of it.
The adults had been talking about the incoming disaster for days, stockpiling provisions, for the sea was far too treacherous to navigate now, with the storm so close. He’d wanted to leave, to pack up the family and sail away, ahead of it, but his parents and big sister wouldn’t hear of it, saying that it was too dangerous, even for people like them.
He knew that he should leave, should return to the hut and help prepare, but something compelled him to stay, watching the violent waves turn the water into a dark bubbling soup, his feet buried in the damp sand.
“Kai!” A voice called from behind, and he turned toward it; a young woman was racing toward him, arms pumping at her sides, her dark curls flying behind her like a black flag, gleaming even in the darkness. “What are you doing?” She asked when she skidded to a stop beside him. “Shouldn’t you be helping your family with preparations?”
“I just wanted to see if it was all true this time, or if the adults just were overreacting,” He answered, shrugging, eyes drawn against his will to the blood-red tattoos that adorned her arms, clavicle, and neck that marked her as a daughter of one of the Elders. He pointed to the clouds, thick and black and ominous. “Looks like it’s actually happening this time.”
She nodded, taking a band of thin rope and winding it around her hair, tucking it all into a bun at the nape of her neck.
“Your mother and uncle have been looking for you. I figured I’d find you out here.”
“What makes this storm any different, Kalani?” He asked his friend, reaching for her hand instinctively. “Aren’t they an occupational hazard on an island like this one?”
She squeezed his hand lightly. “You know the story, Kai. One day a storm will come and send the ocean into a frenzy, and it will devour the island. You know, like that story of the land of… At.. Atlan… I can’t remember.”
“Atlantis?” He asked, and she nodded, her eyes on the horizon, biting her lip worriedly.
“But it’s just a story, isn’t it? Like all of our tales and myths? Surely they aren’t all true.”
“The adults of our tribe seem to think differently,” Kalani replied, shrugging her slim shoulders. “Come on, your parents are worried about you, and besides, it’s almost dinnertime.”
As if in reply, Kai’s stomach grumbled angrily, and he reluctantly turned away from the ocean, and the pair began the long trek back to the village.
The hut glowed with weak, golden lantern light, and Kai’s mother came to the door, hands on her hips.
“And just where have you been, son?” She asked, sparing a smile of thanks for his childhood friend. “The storm is nearly here, and you’re out wandering! You should be ashamed!”
“I’m sorry, Mother. I just… I wanted to see if the rumors were true this time. There have been false alarms before, after all.”
“Why would the Elders lie to us? The gods give them their powers for a reason. Now, come inside and have some dinner. She looked at Kalani. "Would you like to stay for dinner, dear? Fish stew and taro mash. We’ve got plenty, and you’re looking awfully peaky.”
“No, thank you, ma’am, my parents are expecting me. Have a nice night!” She smiled at Kai and waved, then disappeared, walking back to her own hut further down the street.
Kai walked inside, his stomach grumbling angrily as he caught the scent of garlic, ginger, and chili.
“I didn’t mean to worry you, Mother. I’m sorry.”
“Your mind is always elsewhere,” His mother replied; though the words were sharp, her voice was soft, exasperated. “Ever since your father died, your feet have led you back to the ocean, never mind that is one of the most powerful forces in this world. I don’t want to lose you.”
“I know, Mother,” He said, washing his hands and sitting at the table. As usual, there were three seats, and three bowls, though it had been years since his father’s passing; his mother just couldn’t bear to clear away his seat at the head of the table. Kai knew how she felt; he missed his father too, and it had been the ocean that had taken him, on a routine trip out on the waves to bring back fish and other seafood back to the village, some to sell, and some of it to feed them.
And still he couldn’t bring himself to be afraid of it, to not love it, even after seeing all the destruction it had wrought, upon the island and his own family. It was as much a part of him as the sun, the moon, and their children, the stars, and the bright blue blanket that was the sky.
He just couldn’t bring himself to listen to the Elders’ warnings, even though he knew they meant well. He didn’t want to leave, either, even on pain of death.
This was the only home he’d ever known.