Chapter 16: Memories: Part 2
Waves thrashed against the boat. Jaz shivered, trying to stay warm underneath the blanket she lay under. She curled up, preserving whatever heat she could. Her teeth chattered loudly. Her eyes were shut tight as she tried to block out the violent sounds of the waves battering against the ship. The floor she lay on was cold metal. Whenever she walked on it, the rusted ground dug into the soles of her feet. Grazes and bruises scattered both her feet and her legs. Sleeping on it was even more uncomfortable. It made her back hurt and strained the muscles in her body, particularly her shoulders.
She winced in her sleep when another wave smashed up against the boat. Even while she was sleeping, she wished she was back in her real home. She longed to be back with Jack and little Faith. Her dreams were filled with the Overland boy’s image, and were the only thing that brought her comfort in these painful days of travel. The rest of her family seemed to be doing alright but then again they weren’t on the brink of death. Though the trip was rough, Jaz remained grateful to her parents for all they had done for her. Travel to other countries was a very rare privilege that few people, usually those with excessive wealth, received in their lifetimes.
She kept her eyes closed, attempting to return her mind to the sleeping world.
Jaz felt something pushing against her body. She groaned, blinking her eyes open. Ryan was kneeling over her, shaking her by the shoulders.
“Get up!” he exclaimed excitedly. “We’re here!” Jaz heaved her body up, wincing at the pain it caused her. Ryan took hold of her hand, trying his best to help her up. Jaz eventually struggled to her feet. She coughed deeply. Her brother eagerly dragged her by the arm to the rickety door of the ship. She shunned away from the sunlight that blinded her as he swung the door open. Her eyes soon adjusted. Ryan had let go of her hand and run to the railing. Their parents were already outside, watching as the sailors unloaded the cargo from the ship. They turned to face Jaz when she walked out. Her mother rushed over. She held both sides of her face, despite Jaz’s attempts to escape her examination.
“How are you feeling?” her father asked sympathetically. Jaz eventually shook her face free from her mother’s grasp.
She snuffled, “Better.” She inhaled the warm air. It was something she was not used to but she had to admit it made her feel much stronger.
“What do you think of our new home?” her mother questioned. Jaz was already observing her surroundings. Soft sand along the shore, with trees unlike those she had ever seen before lined excessively from a few metres away to as far back as she could see. The sound of birds chirping was sweet music to her ears as they replaced the coarse noise of the crashing waves she had grown used to over the past week or so.
A large part of her didn’t want to confess her liking of this new land; mainly because no matter how beautiful it was, it just didn’t feel like home.
She jumped slightly as Ryan bolted past her.
“Can we get off this thing now?” he shouted to his parents. Jaz was happy to see he was enthusiastic. She longed to be like him, ready to explore this new place she’d learn to call her home but the life she had left behind held her back. However, she did agree with him on one thing. She was desperate to get off the boat and onto dry land again. It seemed like forever since she had last felt the earth beneath her feet.
She and her brother followed their parents onto the ramp and off the ship. The family walked through the unfamiliar land.
A small settlement was established on a ridge, just beyond a forest. Trees stretched high up into the sky, their leaves dappling the light that poured through. It reminded Jaz of the forest she and Jack used to visit everyday. Thinking about it made her heart ache. She did her best to put it out of her mind.
“This is our new home” their father announced. Jaz was already well aware of it but hearing him say it in words just made the realization to her even clearer. Getting used to this place would be no simple thing.
After a year of living in her new home, Jaz had grown accustom to the warm climate. She enjoyed the heat that had previously been unknown to her. The sickness that she had once been infected with showed no signs of returning.
She still loved sitting by the fire of a night-time, watching in wonder as the bright embers from the flames rose up into the dark sky, each one giving off a tiny explosion before falling back down to the ground.
She had taught her brother how to start one using different materials. He looked up to her just as he always had. Jaz, being a hopeful girl, taught him to be optimistic. She showed him how to find the light in whatever situation he was stuck in, no matter how dark it may have seemed. She had a very strong relationship with her brother and did everything in her power to protect him.
The two of them spent most of their time together. In particular, they loved going into the forest that lay on the far side of the clearing near their house. Most of the time they would be alone whilst there, but every now and then they’d hear a gunshot followed by the mournful cry of an animal. Hunters used the forest regularly. Jaz had even seen the remains of some of their animal traps before.
It was an evening that the two siblings decided to go out into the forest. The atmosphere was hot and murky. Night was approaching fast.
They had done this bushwalk so many times before but something didn’t sit well with Jaz this time round. Something was wrong, she could feel it. There was a faint musky smell that filled the air, growing stronger.
There had been no time to escape it; it all happened so fast. Flames began to engulf the forest around them, trapping them. Wasting no time, Jaz took hold of her brother’s hand and ran. They had barely made it a few metres through the smoke when Ryan tripped on one of the many vines that covered the forest floor. Jaz did her best to try and untangle his foot but it wasn’t coming free. Her eye was drawn to a sharp object that was embedded in one of the trees. Its smooth silver surface glowed in the fire. Jaz quickly ran over to it. It was a dagger. She assumed one of the more traditional based hunters must have left it there by accident. She didn’t waste time thinking about it though, and hurried back over to her brother. She cut him free and they kept running, keeping the dagger firmly in her grip.
The overpowering stench of smoke choked the two of them. Jaz’s vision blurred, the sound of the crackling flames muffling with the frightened screams of her brother. They were surrounded. The blazes tore at the trees around them, making it impossible to escape.
Through a small opening in the flames, Jaz made out the familiar hills of their home, remaining untouched by the nightmare she and Ryan were in, but the growing fire was close to covering up their only escape. She ran over to it with her brother.
Just before they reached it, a loud cracking sounded above Ryan. The fire had burnt through the trunk of a tree. It snapped the wood, toppling down towards him.
Instinctively Jaz leapt forward and knocked him not only out of the way but to the safety of outside the forest. The tree came crashing down, landing on Jaz. It crushed her legs and lower body. Several flaming branches from the same tree broke off, cutting her off from her brother. He reached out through one of the small holes left, screaming her name. Jaz tried to wriggle forward to him. She did her best to extend her hand, grabbing hold of his.
“Get to safety!” she told him. Ryan shook his head.
“I can’t leave you!” he protested. The heat was starting to burn the longer they kept their arms in between the branches. Jaz didn’t have time to argue with him. She knew her fate already but wasn’t going to let Ryan know that.
“I’ll be fine” she lied. “Just go!”
“I’m scared” he whimpered.
Jaz clutched his hand tightly. “I know.” Even through the smoke and flames, she could see the dim light that came from their village.
“Follow the light” she ordered him. “It’ll lead you home. Now go Ryan!” She let go of his hand, letting hers fall limp. The last thing she saw were the flames covering her brother’s fearful face from view before everything went black.
The moonlight shone down through the scorched forest. A body lay on the ash covered undergrowth. Her body was bathed in the intense moonlight. Her amber eyes flashed open as she gasped desperately for a breath of air.