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“Grandma please tell us a story!” Michael plead with all his little might
“Please Grandma, please! Just one before bed,” Cindy hopped on the train of convincing.
“Well alright, let’s see then...” Granny Rebecca, as they would call her, furrowed her face and looked up to fish around in that mind of hers that was always able to easily hook onto an exhilarating story for her grandchildren whenever they visited her. “Have I ever told you the story about the one last treasure?”
“No you haven’t,” Cindy assured her.
“Tell us that one then...please!” Michael remembered proper manners after Rebecca glanced down through her nose at him.
“I think you two are old enough for it. It’s about the same time I told your Mother this same story. Actually, I haven’t told this story since then, but I still remember it clearer than any of the others.”
“Does it have any big battles?” Michael asked.
“No, I’m sorry. It doesn’t have any of those this time,” Rebecca laughed off the innocent excited question on her grandchild’s bright face.
“Does it have a whole bunch of gold behind some traps?” Cindy so badly wanted to know, hoping it would.
“No, it doesn’t have any of those either, I’m afraid. This story is about the one last treasure—the greatest treasure of them all, that at the same time could be considered completely worthless to many. This treasure is harder to find than any lost city, or hidden gold behind some tricks and traps. It’s both the hardest thing anyone could ever hope to attain in their lifetime, but at the same time, it’s the easiest to find if you know just where to look, and hold onto.”
“I don’t think I get it Grandma...” Michael trailed off.
“Oh it’s alright. Grandma is just ranting a bit, but I’m sure you will understand just fine by the time I’m finished. Now, it all begins thirty years ago...”
This tale doesn’t begin on any high rumbling seas, or in any twisting caverns. No, this begins on an abandoned island in the middle of nowhere. Only other animals and rare beasts occupied this piece of undiscovered untouched land floating around the farthest reaches of all the seas. It might seem like the perfect place to hide precious treasure, but no gold was there to be found. What might look to be a nice place for people to settle, was completely devoid of human life aside from one lone good for nothing pirate who just so happened to make their way there out of sheer dumb luck, or so everywhere else would accuse them of.
In truth, this good for nothing pirate was only good for mostly nothing. Even if they weren’t brave, dangerous, threatening or strong at all, they had a nose for navigation. They could find the trickiest treasures in all the seas, but they could never actually go and get them. They would always be followed by any number of pirates, and the treasure taken out from right under their noses. It wouldn’t matter if the other pirates were strong either, because this mostly good for nothing pirate had no crew. They were on their own, but this time, even the strongest of pirates couldn’t follow this mostly good for nothing onto this island. After all, she barely managed to come away with her life, and she could have sworn that she had been passed out for a few days before waking up with only the sopping wet clothes on her back.
For days on end, all on their own, they tried to lure out and trap some beasts to eat, but they were all wise to the traps she laid. So, she tried to take the initiative, on wobbly cowardly legs no doubt, to try and hunt something—anything at all to help her survive another day. Unfortunately, she wasn’t very good at that either, breaking her spear when she threw it against a rock upon widely missing her target. Hopeless, she resorted to gathering what seaweed she could, and roasted that over a fire with some boiling water to have in her travels. It wasn’t much, and she wouldn’t dare lie to herself that the seaweed wasn’t so bad when in reality, it tasted like molded rot. Still, it was all she had, so she stomached it down before turning in to wait for daylight the next day. She was a fool to think that this would at all be a cozy and peaceful uninterrupted sleep. Then again, she knew. The tight, tense, stressed and anxious clutching of the wide palm leaves she used as blankets showed that much.
She could hear the curdling growls, and the piercing hungry yellow eyes that would stalk back and forth in taunting—letting her know at any moment, they could all pounce and rip the flesh from her bones with ease. Perhaps out of own subconscious self-preservation, her eyes refused to feel heavy and shut, so she sat upright—her body not in agreement with her now wired mind. There wasn’t even a fire anymore to enjoy, not that it was all that enjoyable beforehand. She wondered why she was even bothering to stay awake in the end, when in reality, she wasn’t going to put up any kind of fight anyway.
After a long and tired night, her reward was a beautiful sunset that looked as if the gods themselves painted it with great care—splashing around the sunburst colors that popped and warmed even after the coldest and most stressful of nights. She knew she didn’t have much time to appreciate it though, and got right up to get moving on with the day.
Even on tired legs, she trudged on ahead—with heavy bagged eyes that almost seemed completely devoid of any life in them as she just stared on ahead droning on up the steep jungle hills coated in moss that threatened to rob her of any progress, and send her sliding all the way back down. She didn’t care about that though. This treacherous mountain would throw rogue roots, slippery moss, and even the occasional rock slide out of nowhere. She just kept going on ahead, no matter how many times she would find herself slipping down until finally regaining her awkward footing. No matter what, she would keep going until finally reached the top.
When she finally reached the top of the mountain, spending half of the day just to get there, she could see the entire other half of the island that the mountain seemed to have cut in half. It looked just as wild and untamed as the area she found herself washed up on, with tangling vines, tall curved trees with swooping branches that seemed to sway with a life of their own without any wind that could be felt. The view was magnificent, but that’s not what demanded her immediate attention for very long. It was the crystal clear pool of water resting atop the mountain, right there for her and her alone—as if it were some kind of reward for another milestone. She didn’t hesitate, and went to drink it by cupping her hands to her mouth—slurping it all up and feeling the cool cleansing touch.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a cleansing touch she felt.
After only a second of bliss, it quickly turned into one of horror. Her throat burned, as if someone had poured alcohol down her throat, and lit a match inside of it. It felt like it was spreading down into her chest—heating her entire body from the inside out without anything she could do about it. She would come to soon realize that would be the most pleasant part, after her sight and hearing were suddenly robbed from her. All of her senses completely gone now other than smell, she was left in painful silent darkness in the middle of broad daylight.
She scrambled around, obviously unable to keep her wits about her, and just like that, her feet slipped up from underneath her—sending her tumbling down the jagged steep mountainside onto the other half of the island she laid her eyes upon while she could. She couldn’t even tell how long she was falling for—slamming to the sides of fallen stumps, but only for her to stumble over and continue falling. Nature wasn’t so kind as to put a halt to her tumble now, not until she finally rolled to the bottom, and laid there crumpled mess on her side completely helpless. Not even the animals around her wanted to pounce, she wasn’t worth it as such a pathetic thing to hunt. Even they weren’t so desperate for food.
When she woke up, she realized her sight and hearing were back, but her body was left completely ravaged and nearly broken—broken to the point that would send anyone into wishing for their own death, just wishing for anything to finally put an end to this lonely secluded torture she’s been enduring, but she didn’t. Inch by inch, she dragged herself by the one arm that wasn’t completely shattered toward a nearby tree to sit up against. It was just as she thought though, her one leg was mangled beyond repair, her head was pounded with the infuriating ringing of her ears, and she could barely feel her face. That didn’t matter though. She wasn’t paying any mind to what was broken and useless now, much past acknowledging that much. All that mattered was the one leg she could hobble on, and the other arm she could prop up under her to move. The problem now, was to find a crutch of sorts, but there wasn’t anything around her other than a thick branch that swooped down in her face down from the tree she leaned against.
Without even thinking twice, she leaned her head over to the sensation of debilitating pain that shot all through her body. After reeling back for a second, she forced her head back that way, and dug her teeth into the branch as far as she could clench down on it. Bit by bit, she chewed away as hard as she could on the branch. Even if all she was doing was scraping the bark off, it was something. Even if all she could accomplish in the rest of the day was a small little divot in the branch, that was something more than where she first started. Nothing else mattered until she managed to get even further.
All throughout the night, of course refusing to sleep, she gnawed on the thick sturdy branch, even with her slowed pace from her cramped and tired jaw. It wasn’t until two days later of just sitting there on her own that she managed to break through—when she managed to feel that ever so sweet heavy thud of the branch falling into her lap.
She took her one arm and awkwardly squirmed around as much as she could with her broken, starved and dehydrated body until she could almost force herself into vaulting upward standing up. Right away, she could tell her body wasn’t supposed to be standing right now. The blood rushed so fast after sitting for so long that she nearly fainted again, but with all of her will and determination, she remained standing, albeit still a little wobbly and woozy. Not to mention her one leg merely dragged behind her lifelessly, much like the other half of her body that just dangled there as if it they were irredeemable and waiting to be removed altogether.
Lumbering away slowly on her crutch, she looked possessed at this point—as if her body was merely operating on pure instinct at this point, motivated by one sole thing she refused to let go of or give up on. With as much pain as she was experiencing with every single step, she managed to creak out a meager whimper of a smile when walking along. The view was absolutely stunning all around her—even more so than the half of the island she just came from. Everything was so vibrant and colorful, almost as if none of it could possibly be real, as if it were one of those exaggerated interpretive drawings, but instead, she could hear and see all of it right in front of. The thing is, she wasn’t smiling at the beauty of it all, she saw all of that when peering down the mountainside. She was smiling at the fact that if she wasn’t such a clumsy mostly-good-for-nothing pirate, then she would have been able to peacefully walk along in this serene area that’s seemingly completely devoid of any problems. Instead, even this leisurely walk has turned into a hellish trial.
While the scenery was serene, and this half of the island more forgiving, luck wasn’t one of the small gifts ever afforded to her.
A giant rabid boar stepped out onto the path she was walking—cutting her off completely. It only stood there, towering over her with its abnormal size, and drooling mouth that seemed to have no shame or problem in taking such pathetic prey that the other animals felt shameful of.
She just stood there, still as can be. Even if she was healthy, without any issues, and afforded a weapon, this wouldn’t be a contest. The boar would easily have her for a light dinner if it so pleased, and especially now. She wasn’t about to plea for her life either though, she knew it wouldn’t do her any good, and she still could barely mutter anything after drinking that water—still feeling some of the residual burning damage it did to her.
Finally stepping forward, the boar’s patience seemed to be running thin on waiting for her to run away, or at least stumble in her case, to provide a bit more of an exciting hunt. The second it moved one more step closer though, a giant ferocious looking cat pounced on its back from out of nowhere—digging its claws into its back, and sinking its long saber-like teeth into the boar’s neck. The boar wrestled around for as long as it could, trying to shake the cat off, but it eventually slowed down before it could even fight back in the slightest, and succumbed to his deep wounds.
She could have perhaps taken this chance to hobble away while they were both distracted, but she just stood there with tears streaming down her face. For the first time—after all of this time, and after all she just experienced to get to this point, this was the first thing to bring tears to her eyes. Not the arduously long aimless journey it took to get here, pestering herself with doubts of if she would even reach this island. Not the suffering she had to endure since getting here. No, instead of tears of pain and sadness she had every right to shed beforehand, these were tears of happiness laced with regret. These were the tears she had been waiting so long to shed, and have been waiting so long to share.
“I’m sorry...I took so long...” She muttered out in her dry cracked voice, barely able to even be heard or even understood what it exactly was she said.
The cat didn’t need to hear anything though. It knew regardless of words, and approached her with a big reassuring lick to her face, wiping up her tears. She looked in horror though when she further observed the cat up close, and emerging from out of the tree’s shade and into the light. It only had one eye, scratches all over, big patches of missing fur that looked burned or tore off by force, as well as half a tail—just to name a few off the battered ripped apart body of this kind beast.
She couldn’t give the cat anything else. There wasn’t any other more meaningful apology she could conjure up, or anything that would feel the least bit genuine. Instead, she only a fond heart-warming pet onto the cat that saved her, as the two of them walked together slowly through the forest without anything else giving them any more trouble. For the first time since crashing on this secluded secret island—no, since well before that. Since before she even went on this journey to find this place to begin with, she felt a sense of ease, a sense of fulfillment and weight off her shoulders.
When the two of them emerged from the forest, the two of them found themselves stepping on a white sanded beach stretching all along the crashing coast of pure water separated by rocks from the vast ocean beyond it. It was complete paradise, the kind that you would read about in any fairy tale. She didn’t focus on any of that though, and it wasn’t because of being wronged by the water she drank earlier, it was the long stick poking out of the sand that caught her eye.
“You’ve been waiting all these years protecting it, haven’t you?” She asked the cat, as they walked over to approach the stick that at the base had rocks keeping it upright, like a makeshift grave.
The cat lowered its head in confirmation, and sat down beside the marking, while she sat on the other side of it. Neither of them said or did anything besides look out onto the clear ocean in front of them, as if nothing needed to exchange between them for now. Even after so long, this was enough, because this is what they both promised—this is all they ever wanted and needed from this, being with the ones they cherish most.
“I might be a mostly good-for-nothing pirate, but I managed to fulfill that promise to the both of you, no matter how long it took me.” She fondly looked down at the marked spot beside her with a few happy tears that cascaded down from her face, and took a marked wooden coin that had been nearly completely covered in the white sand it rested in. “Finally I can see my one last treasure...Finally I can see you again, so thank you for waiting for me all this time, both of you. Thank you so much.” She spoke looking directly at the marked grave in between her and the cat, and ran her hand through the warm sand.
The two grandchildren looked up at their grandma still captivated, but awaiting something more, as if they didn’t truly understand it right away.
“But Grandma, why did she go through all of that just for a wooden coin?” Michael asked.
“And what ever happened to her, did she get off the island?” Cindy eagerly agreed, and asked.
Rebecca only laughed as loudly as her grandchildren had ever heard her laugh before. “Your mother almost had the exact same reaction to this story when I told it to her.”
Michael and Cindy just looked at their grandma utterly perplexed, still waiting for any kind of explanation.
“Did you not enjoy your Grandmother’s story this time?” Rebecca asked.
“No, it’s not that...” Michael trailed off, and looked over at his sister for some backup.
“Oh then what is it?” Rebecca fished for an answer.
“It’s just...It doesn’t seem worth it after all of that,” Cindy replied, much to Michael’s nodding agreement.
“Ah I see, you’re right. It probably wasn’t worth it at all if you think about it,” Rebecca looked up at the ceiling briefly with a fond grin, and shaking her head. “But to a mostly good-for-nothing pirate, it was worth everything in the world to keep the one promise she might have been able to keep. Because you see, a mountain of gold can be everything anyone ever wanted, but to someone else, it could be completely worthless. Just like this. A wooden coin, while completely useless to buy anything with, can be worth more than any mountain of gold could ever hope to live up to. Do you see what I mean?”
“Kind of...but I hope she managed to at least make it off that island now since she got what she wanted,” Cindy mentioned.
“That might be another story for another day, but a story that really isn’t worth all that much in telling,” Rebecca teased.
“Aw, why not?” Michael plead, crossing his arms in protest.
“Well, it’s not as though she had any grand adventures or triumphs, after all, she was a mostly-good-for-nothing pirate,” Rebecca cracked her trademark warm smile with her squinted eyes, as she sat comfortably in her chair. “Now, I think it’s about time for you two to go to bed, don’t you?”
Michael and Cindy, as if on cue, both let out deep yawns in unison.
“Ok Grandma...goodnight,” they both conceded, and pulled the sheets up to their chins.
Rebecca blew the lanterns out in their room, slowly and silently made her way out the door, and fished around in her pocket to pull out an old wooden coin.
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