Archive for March 14th, 2012

14th March
written by amber

Kessel Islands

Fewer than one hundred of us live on the Kessel Islands, a small chain of coral islands perched atop an ancient dormant volcano in the middle of the South Pacific. We are the descendants of men from a wrecked sailing ship, either a pirate ship or a slave ship, depending on who you ask.

These islands are not paradise. Fish and coconuts is all we eat; there’s no soil to speak of so we can’t grow crops. If the great Nathan Reid hadn’t bought Middle Kessel in 1898, probably no one would live on these islands any longer. But he did buy it, and he built his castle, Sandham, and he employed many of us to work in it, so our lives became sustainable.

Oh, our young people still longed to get off the island, and now there was more money for them to do so. But a few were lured into a higher level of service to the Reid empire, either on the island or off the island. My nephew, Nabal, manages Sandham, keeping it ready at all times in case someone from Reid flies in on the corporate jet looking for a retreat or a site for a private meeting. His cousin, Elisha, works in Houston in the public relations division of Reid Oil.

We are a quiet people. Historically, loudness would have been intolerable in such a close living situation. We are, it also must be admitted, terrible gossips. The weather never changes here, nor does the menu. What else did we have to do beside talk about each other and make babies? And a great deal of talking is needed before the making of babies is undertaken, to be certain of all the blood lines so that cousins too closely related forego sexual relationships.

The Reids and their entourage contributed some variety to the gene pool, and much fodder for the gossip mill. We served their drinks and we listened, we cleaned their rooms and we watched, we delivered their telegrams and we remembered. We learned about the great world beyond the Kessels – the wars, the crime, the wealth and poverty, the political struggles.

We were never enamoured of the Reid family. They treated us and our islands very poorly. Money does not give a person the right to presume they are better, presume that sexual favours will be granted without desire, presume that a brown-skinned person whose English is not polished must be an idiot. They extended their airstrip into the ocean, right over our best oyster beds. They forbade us to harvest coconuts from the trees surrounding Sandham.

But still, we kept our ears perked to pick up juicy details about their lives and the corporate intrigues as fascinating as those soap operas that the Reid women used to watch after the satellite television was installed. My great-niece Abigail came to us in a panic to repeat a conversation she had heard around the dining table as they ate their imported beef and vegetables with their guests.

She told us, “The visiting man, Mr. Creasey, he said, ’But what if global warming is real – don’t you know these islands will be underwater within ten years?’ and Mr. Reid became very angry.”

That was the first time we heard about global warming and rising ocean levels. I wrote Elisha a letter and asked him to find out what he could. He’s settled in Houston, he has a wife and children there. I think the Kessel Islands were not much in his thoughts, but my letter was like a tether, yanking him back to happy days of his childhood playing in the waves. He sent me a secret letter, not through the normal post but hand-delivered by a worker on the supply ship that visited us once a month.

Elisha confessed that the major portion of his public relations job was to find dubious science to debunk the authentic evidence of the reality of global warming, so that Reid resource extraction operations could continue unabated. He’d heard about the rising ocean levels and he was very ashamed that he’d not once put two and two together to consider what it meant to his home islands.

We bided our time – what else could we do?

But when the waters began to lap against the foundations of Sandham and even against the houses we’d built for ourselves on the highest ground of the islands, we presented our evidence to the Reid empire and to the world stage. After a trial, we were awarded a generous settlement. All of us can afford to relocate.

49 of us have decided not to relocate. We’re here on the island, sloshing around in gum boots, tending a very important person – Mr. Reid, who mysteriously disappeared from public eye following the trial. He sits on Sandham’s palatial porch, and we bring him food each day. He’s chained to one of the pillars.

When our island slips beneath the waves, so will he.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.