Voices echoed from every direction. I questioned if they were coming from my own head and I’d been hit one too many times this year. However, they were all male voices—and last I recalled, I still had a mother and a sister.
“…where’d she come from…”
“…why’s she here…”
“…who is she…”
“…what’ll Pan do with her…”
The whispers continued, and they sounded as if they came from a distance. I couldn’t quite grasp where and who they came from, but there were few to be discovered.
Darkness engulfed my vision, grasping on tight. Trying to open my eyes was a struggle, but I was sure I’d get them to work again.
While opening my eyes, the voices got louder, and words came out faster. I wondered for a moment if I had been in an accident and nearby citizens were checking to see if there was blood.
However, they weren’t citizens. They were boys.
Trees surrounded us and I could hear what sounded like the ocean from behind me. I’d never been to the ocean, nor did I live near one. This had to be a dream, but it wasn’t. I knew what a dream felt like and this was far from it.
Just last night I had asked to come to Neverland and escape my terrible family, and I hadn’t expected it to come true. I guess Pan’s shadow decided I was worthy of living here, and I couldn’t lie and say I wasn’t excited about it.
Studying these boys, I noticed their dirty faces and messy hair. They all displayed very confused, shocked, and even some irritated facial expressions towards me.
“Step aside, boys,” someone said from the back of the small crowd. His English accent wasn’t hard to miss. They quickly moved out of the way and just a single face replaced all of theirs. “Who do you think you are coming to my island?” This boy was older than the others. The looks he shot back at the other boys were to intimidate them. One didn’t have to think twice about him being the leader.
I sat up and watched as the boys moved back some more. Their leader didn’t move an inch. I eyed him and looked to my right to get a view of some of these boys. Returning my attention to their leader, I said, “I’m pretty sure that’s not how you’re supposed to treat your guests, especially when your shadow brings them here. Who are you to be treating me like an intruder?” I was in an unfamiliar place, and despite how I ended up here, I had to keep my guard high.
He straightened himself up. “I’m Peter Pan. This, Love, is Neverland. I own the island. I created it.”
My suspicions had been correct. I had ended up in Neverland and Peter Pan himself stood before me. I had been given freedom from my family. “Thank you.” I shot him a small smile. I stood up from the ground and dusted off the back of my shirt and shorts.
I took in the new faces and confirmed my suspicions. Not a single girl resided here, and there were at least ten boys already. I turned back to the boy who was in charge of them all. The other boys wore more raggedy clothing, but Peter Pan had neater clothes. He wore a belt with leggings. The leggings were what stood out to me the most since it struck me as odd that a boy wore leggings yet didn’t like the idea of girls. His belt, however, said the opposite of what vibe the leggings gave off since a dagger hung on the right side of it.
He had to be six feet as he was at least a head taller than I was. How long he’d lived here was a mystery but by his strong build, it had to be a long while.
He deflected anything I had to say by crossing his arms. I couldn’t take him seriously since he was barely older than I was, and with his smooth chin, his real age was displayed for everyone to see. He couldn’t have been any older than eighteen.
“So, what makes me so special? I notice I happen to be the only girl around.” I wanted to say more but first impressions were everything, weren’t they?
He didn’t smile nor laugh. “You’re really not that special. You’re here because my shadow took you as you asked. Whether you remember it or not, you did ask to come here.”
That didn’t answer my question, but I couldn’t ask for direct answers from a male who wore leggings. “All right, apparently I’m the only girl who asks to come to Neverland.”
He lifted his eyebrows in amusement. “No, there’s another girl here. She helps around the camp. I must warn you that most girls who end up here don’t last a day. They can’t handle this lifestyle. I don’t expect you to be here by tomorrow.” He waved his hand as if I meant nothing to anyone.
You don’t mean anything to anyone, remember?
A small smirk formed on my lips. “Is that a challenge? I do love a challenge.” Nature calmed me in ways Peter thought wouldn’t be possible. I was a woman—yes—but the outdoors was home to me more than a house with four walls could ever be.
Surprise showed in his eyes as my words entered his ears. “If you’d like it to be.” An idea sparked in his head. “But let’s make this a little more interesting, shall we? What shall I get if you do not last?” He let out a chuckle. “I’m not exactly too fond of you, but I don’t ignore the fact that I do appreciate your presence for one reason.”
Judgment swirled around in my eyes. “Don’t even tell me, I already know. If I don’t last, you want me to have sex with you?”
“What’s that?” a boy asked.
Peter laughed it off. “Really? That’s what you think of me? No, I love their presence because they’re fun to kill off. You could call it bloodlust.”
I rolled my eyes. This Peter didn’t seem so welcoming, and he was about to learn I wasn’t too fond of being treated like I didn’t belong. “Oh, great. My only option is to stay here or be killed.” I took a step closer. “Since this is a deal, what do I get when I win?” I didn’t let his height scare me.
“To stay here, of course.” He gestured to the island.
“No, a real deal. What do I get if I win?” I repeated the question again but slower and more pronounced.
He looked at his lost boys. Even they were curious about how this could go. He faced me after determining a solution. “I’ll give you the third biggest cabin.”
“Why the third?” I asked many questions to annoy the fuck out of him. Two could play this game of his.
His eyes narrowed just a bit. “The biggest cabin is mine and I’d be a fool to let you have it when I run this island. The second-largest belongs to my second-in-command, and he won’t be losing his position just because you may or may not win a game.”
I nodded a bit, intrigued by this. “Sounds like a good deal to me.” I carefully eyed the boys, wondering who his second-in-command was. My best guess was on the other big guy who appeared with the meanest looks. He was Peter 2.0.
Peter looked at me once more. “I will make sure to test you on every skill you’ll need to survive. I would very much enjoy hearing you scream and beg for mercy. I want to watch you bleed to death. I know you won’t make it.” He didn’t give me an evil smile, but his eyes were blanketed by his wicked desires.
“Why don’t you believe I’ll win? I’ve already got the sun beat. I can’t burn. I say that’s step one to living in Neverland.” I’d survive. I’d prove myself. “So, what’s going to be the official code for when I give up? Do I say I surrender? Do I cry? What?”
He came closer, his breath fanning my face. He was far too close for my liking. “You beg me to take your life. Neverland is nothing like your world.”
“No, it’s not. My world is worse.”
This was a real challenge and I’d show him I was worthy to live in Neverland, whether I had boobs or not. At least here, I had a chance to earn respect and a position. Back home, I never would have gotten this far.
He turned away to face his kids. “We have a new game.” He twisted his head back towards me. “Let’s begin.”
I didn’t know what he had in store for me, but it couldn’t be good. It looked like introductions and tours wouldn’t be part of my first day. This was certainly one way to be accepted into Neverland.
The lost boys cheered and yelled as Peter circled me. “I need to lay out the rules for you. The first rule is do not disobey. There will be deadly consequences.”
From his insane satisfaction, that was a literal threat.
“Second, call me Pan. Peter is a name I don’t wish to go by anymore.” I wanted to ask him why he didn’t like Peter, but I could only guess that Peter Pan himself, too, had a past he did not want to associate with anymore.
“Third, you always respect me. Are we clear?” I had to respect him because he was the leader? Respect was earned, not something you could force. I’d respect him if he was a good leader, and not the one standing before me now. He relished in his power far too much. “I said, are we clear?” he repeated louder.
I sucked up my pride because I wanted to be here as much as I hated to admit it. “Crystal.”
He stopped right in front of me. “You will get only one meal to eat for the next twenty-four hours. I also do not want to hear one word about how my lost boys treat you. They are free to do whatever they want.” He waved his lost boys over. “Let’s get training. You’ll need it.” He turned away and walked off. The boys started to follow him, and I studied each of them as they passed by. They either glared or laughed, but one of them licked his lips while his eyes lingered below my neck. He was the scum of the earth if I was nothing more than an object to him.
I followed them to the training center.
Being around boys was nothing new to me. I had two brothers and got along with them more than I did my own sister. I had a footing that could give me an advantage that maybe some other girls never had.
They might have hated me now, but I could work with that. I wasn’t one to back down from winning their acceptance. I’d be applying my knowledge from reality into this world to come out on top. They were still boys after all.
We arrived at a clearing with targets, bows and arrows, swords, and plenty of bushes and trees that circled the space.
Peter, or Pan, stood between us and the targets. “Everyone starts off with what they left off with yesterday. I want to see real progress. Let’s get going!” The boys scattered within seconds, finding their stations. Pan approached me. “As for you, new girl—”
“Lili,” I corrected him.
“If you win this challenge, I just might call you by your name. No use in getting attached to a name I may not be using in a few days.” He nodded his head towards my left. “I want you to start off over there.” He pointed to the bows and arrows.
I made my way over and tilted my head as I studied a target. The boys watched my every move, curious as to how this would end up.
Grabbing a bow and arrow, I stood in front of a target. I pulled the end of the arrow against the string where it fit perfectly between the split ends. I then pulled back with my position ready. My elbow was bent, and my feet were planted a few inches apart. I faced ninety degrees right from the target.
I wasn’t new to this and they all made the mistake to think that I was. I aimed just above my mark and let it fly. It landed near the bullseye but not quite in it.
Where I came from, some people used bows and arrows, and my older brother happened to be into archery. I would use his weapons to practice just in case things went too far with our father.
Boys whispered to each other and Pan let a little smirk play on his lips. “Impressive, Love. Let’s see how you run.” I put my bow down as he called another boy over. “Levi, I want you to race her.”
Levi was a tall kid, but probably younger than me. He had the body for running though. He got in position and said to me, “You’re really going to get squashed this time.”
“I know. I’m not a great runner but I’m not a quitter either.” I got ready.
When Peter said go, we ran. I used all my speed to carry me to the end. I focused on that finish line that waved a cabin in the air. I needed to fit in.
I barely passed it a second before Levi. The boys watched with wide eyes while Levi narrowed his. “I thought you said you weren’t a great runner.”
With a small smile, I shrugged and said, “Oops, I guess I lied.” It had been too easy to fool them. Being a fast runner was not that hard and I didn’t need the practice to do it. I had to run home when it got dark and I wanted to avoid my father’s wrath.
Pan watched me with curiosity. “Not bad. Now, let’s see how well you do when you’re fighting one of us.”
We all followed him to a more spacious spot. I stood in front of the boys and took a guess at who he’d pick. Either the smallest boy or the largest. He used his finger to wave a boy over. “I call you to fight Jacob.”
Jacob stepped forward. This couldn’t be too hard. He was the same boy who’d been eyeing me from the start. If I didn’t warn him now, he’d think I was free game. Jacob was tall but most people were taller than me anyway.
I had to use my knowledge of fighting to get away from this without a broken rib.
He took the first punch which caught my side. I might have been a big talker, but my body was sensitive. That punch hurt like a bitch.
I finally dodged the next punch and blocked my face when he aimed there. He punched my stomach before I could process the move. I clenched my stomach for the moment, and he managed to hit my boob. I yelled out in pain and I grabbed my boob for comfort. He grabbed me by the neck, cutting off my air supply with his arm.
I struggled for a few seconds, but soon elbowed his ribs and he stumbled back. I took a hit to his knee and he fell down onto both of them. I sent one last knee to the face and he went down like a broken man. Heavy breaths entered and exited my lungs as the boys watched in shock. Pan seemed to be the only one among them not amused by my victory.
“Where did you learn that? A girl can’t fight like that!” a younger boy yelled.
I faced the younger boy. “They can—and I just did.” I wiped my shorts and straightened my posture. When your father despised your existence, you learned to defend yourself in desperate times. Knowing most people had knees that were fragile was just common knowledge.
As I glanced at Pan, I smirked, staring him in the eye. “What’s next?”