Elaine's Expedition:Part Two
Relief at the proximity of Mystery Island washed over her.
The adrenaline that had propelled Elaine through the past two nights faded slightly, and it was only then that she realized how exhausted she was.
But this was not the time to worry about that.
She grabbed the paddle once more, and headed straight for the nearest port.
Eventually, she found a large dock, where she could see a lot of other small sailboats similar to hers already parked. She paddled up to an open area, grabbed the rope, and begun tying it to a nearby post. As she was fiddling with a knot, a large Skeith approached her.
"Did your other passengers fall off your boat?" the Skeith joked, while also eyeing her suspiciously.
"No, it’s just me…" Elaine replied, fidgeting the rope’s knot into a tight bow. "Here from Krawk Island."
"But you’re so…you’re a kid…" he faltered, mouth gaping wide open.
"What can I say – we Krawks have a lot of determination," Elaine grinned. To be truthful with herself, she was surprised she had managed the journey, too; she definitely needed a brief respite.
The Skeith laughed heartily. "Well, then, welcome to Mystery Island! To park your vessel here, it will be 5000 Neopoints, please!"
Elaine hesitated, suddenly embarrassed. She had no Neopoints; she was so used to using Dubloons that she hadn’t thought to bring any. "I…I only have Dubloons," she said meekly.
Again, the Skeith laughed. "No worries, matey! We get your folk here all the time. That will be five Dubloons, please!"
Elaine quickly scavenged in her sack and removed the proper Dubloons, handing them over to the Skeith.
"Thank ya, matey! If you have any questions about the area, come find me! Just ask for Klark, ay?" The Skeith winked and swaggered off down the dock toward another boat that had just arrived.
Elaine stepped up on the seat of the small boat and extricated herself from the vessel, onto the dock. The dock was worn, much more so than her family dock. As she walked down the wooden planks, the boards creaked and squeaked, and right before walking off the pathway onto a patch of sand, she paused.
A sudden realization reminded her that she was about to take her first step onto Mystery Island.
Elaine took a deep breath, exhaled, and stepped forward.
She began to take in the sights around her immediately; palm trees swayed, sand was everywhere, and the air smelled of salt, swirled everywhere by a peaceful zephyr. Krawk Island had all of these things, too, but it all seemed different somehow – somehow all new.
Elaine embraced it all, spinning around in a circle; she didn’t even know what to do first.
When she started to feel a bit dizzy, she wobbled to a standstill and shut her eyes. As soon as she opened them, she found someone standing in front of her –
"I don’t think going on a vacation to ‘unwind’ means spinning around in circles," a joking voice said to her.
She was still not quite sure who was before her. Blinking to clear her vision and staggering a bit, she said, "I was just…admiring the scenery," Elaine replied awkwardly.
When she could finally see again, she knew she was looking at a local; she could tell by his Island paint-color. He was a tall Kougra who looked to be around her age, maybe a little order; he sported palm tree leaves as garments and a polka shell necklace around his neck. Realizing she had stared at him far too long, she looked away in a random direction, pretending to admire a nearby coconut milk stand.
"Ah, so that’s what that was," he said casually, a half-grin across his face. "So what are you doing here on Mystery Island?"
Elaine supposed it was pretty obvious she was not a local herself. She also must have looked quite a mess compared to this guy. "I…I’m here to explore the world," she said simply.
"Ah, I see, we get a lot of explorers like you here…" he said, looking her up and down. Elaine felt slightly self-conscious. "I don’t want to make assumptions or anything," he continued, "but I’ll go ahead and guess you’re from Krawk Island?"
"Lucky guess?" Elaine replied, somewhat sarcastically.
The Kougra chuckled slightly. "Yes, a lucky guess." He stepped forward, offering a paw. "Well, I’m Jaycin, and you?"
"Elaine," she answered, returning the handshake.
"Elaine…that’s pretty," Jaycin observed.
Elaine smiled, looking at her feet.
"Well, Elaine, if you don’t have other plans, I can show you around, if you’d like? Be your personal tour guide, if you will. I know all the coolest sights, being from here and all," he said, shrugging slightly.
While Jaycin was a complete stranger to her, there was something intriguing about the guy. Elaine smiled. "Sure, that’d be nice," she agreed, nodding her head.
"Great," beamed Jaycin. "Follow me, and you’ll be A-OK. Watch your step, though; sometimes there are Turdles around, buried in the sand."
As they walked along the southern side of the island, the sand squished between Elaine’s toes. Of course there was plenty of sand on Krawk Island, too, but the sand here seemed whiter, brighter, softer – smooth as water itself.
She enjoyed every step.
As she and Jaycin were walking by a stretch of volleyball areas, she spotted locals practicing their serves. Suddenly, there was a yell from one of the courts –
Jaycin turned to his right; Elaine followed his gaze.
A Mynci was strutting across the sand towards him, followed by a couple of others behind him. "Who’s this?" he asked, indicating towards Elaine. Elaine tried to stand a little taller.
"She’s my new friend, Elaine," Jaycin said, looking at her. "I’m showing her around the island."
"Better be careful, Elaine, you’ll get lost following this guy around," the Mynci said. The group behind him chuckled.
"I think that volleyball has hit you in the head too many times," Jaycin countered. "You must be mistaking my directional abilities with your own. Didn’t you recently get lost making your way back to your own house?"
The group behind the Mynci lost it, laughing their heads off. Even Elaine laughed a little at that.
"We had just moved to a new area of the island, alright?" the Mynci interjected through the laughter. "I forgot exactly which alley to go down…"
Jaycin raised an eyebrow. "Even so, I think I can direct Elaine just fine, but I appreciate the concern," he concluded. Jaycin looked at each member of the group. "Have a fun game, boys. Come along, Elaine," he said, waving her along.
Elaine quickly followed.
"Wow," all Elaine could get out.
"Yeah, they…are quite a group," Jaycin said. "I don’t think they’ll bother us again, though."
"No, I don’t think they will," Elaine laughed.
"Anyway…" Jaycin said, steering the conversation elsewhere. "I’m getting a little hungry, what’s say we get something to eat?"
As if by cue, Elaine’s stomach growled – loudly. She had not eaten anything since finishing her mother’s snacks the night before. Embarrassed, she attempted to cough to hide the sounds of her stomach. "That would be great," she answered quickly.
"Great, I know just the place," Jaycin decided, leading them off towards a round, wooden hut.
A blue Techo with face paint across his nose and a necklace similar to Jaycin’s stood in front of the hut, admiring a bunch of plump, purple berries. The Techo was so intrigued by the berries that he did not seem to notice Elaine and Jaycin approach.
"Er…Gareth?" Jaycin prompted. "Have anything good today?"
The Techo – Gareth – started, genuinely surprised to see Neopets in front of him. "Why…yes, yes I do…" he trailed off, walking inside the hut, somewhat absent-mindedly.
Elaine looked at Jaycin to sense his reaction. Jaycin shrugged. "He’s always like this," he assured her.
Moments later, Gareth returned with sandwiches – what looked like burgers – and coconut vessels filled with a milky liquid. Placing the food on the counter before them, he said, "Freshly caught and prepared today, enjoy!" and stalked off to the back of the hut.
"Thanks a lot, Gareth," Jaycin called back to him. Then he turned to Elaine. "Gareth is a bit of an…oddball," he said. "But you gotta love him."
"Seems like quite a character," Elaine returned.
He pushed a sandwich and coconut toward Elaine. "Cheesy Cod and Tofu Burger and a Coconut Fruit Cup. Hope you like it."
Stomach churning from hunger, she immediately took up the burger, taking a ginormous bite. The flavors melded together perfectly; the cod was the freshest she’d ever tasted.
Swallowing, she mustered, "well, odd or not, he makes excellent food," she complimented as she took the coconut in hand. Taking a sip, she realized the drink seemed to have chunks of coconut bathing in a slurry of coconut milk.
She slurped it up quickly -- too quickly. After putting the coconut down, she realized Jaycin was staring. "A little hungry, were you?"
She blushed as much as her green-tinted skin would allow. "Err a little, yeah."
"Well, take your time," Jaycin laughed.
Elaine picked up her sandwich again and made an effort to take smaller bites, savoring the freshness. As she ate, she looked out at the sparkling blue water and its undulating waves. And across the sea, she saw an Island. Krawk Island. Her island. Home.
She wondered if her parents had seen her message left on the dock yet. More than likely, her mother had begun to worry when she had not returned from Lysa’s yesterday. Elaine at least hoped that the message had been found, so that her mother’s nerves would be soothed slightly.
Nevertheless, Elaine felt a twinge of guilt, pushing it deep inside her heart.
Taking the last bite of her burger, she turned back to Jaycin. He had already finished his food; she supposed she had gotten a bit distracted, lost in her thoughts. "Well," she said. "What else is there to see on this island?"
"Lots," he said, with a half-grin. "You’ll just have to wait and see…"
To be continued…