After a long tedious day of work, Gerard Ramirez slumped in his office chair and rubbed his eyes. He hated his job as the principal of Tranquillity Valley High School of New York City. This wasn’t an ordinary school where the core subjects would consist of maths, English and science. Under the Government’s latest ‘Talented Students’ scheme, the students of Tranquillity Valley High School were being trained in martial arts, archery, and sword fighting, along with other complex sports. The students here were not like the standard, regular teenagers loitering around street corners after school hours. Far from it. They were sharp, instinctive, highly skilled, and disciplined. With the constant need to monitor their performance in the gruelling training programs, and the endless signatures on irrelevant documents, the dreary meetings, along with the requirement to wear a suit every single day, Gerard Ramirez had had enough. He sighed in disappointment at what his life had come to. From the heights of being an Army soldier, to being trapped in the four bland walls of his office.
RING! RING! RING!
Gerard rolled his eyes. Another pointless phone call. About the school curriculum probably. Or about school health and safety regulations. He didn’t pick up, hoping the caller would hang up.
RING! RING! RING!
The shrill ringing of the phone continued. Gerard groaned. ‘What could be this urgent that I am being disturbed after work hours?’ he thought to himself. He wheeled his black leather chair over to the office telephone.
Private number. Strange.
‘Wrong number,’ he thought, as he unplugged the telephone cord and wheeled back to his polished oak desk. He just wanted to be alone. That’s all.
He untucked his shirt, loosened his tie and put his feet up on the desk, savouring the few moments of silence before heading back home in the hectic rush hour.
RING! RING! RING!
This time the exasperating ringtone was not coming from the office telephone. It was coming from his mobile phone. Gerard grunted. ‘Can I seriously not get one minute of peace around here?’
He dug into his pocket and pulled out his latest model of the iPhone.
Private number. Again.
RING! RING! RING!
Gerard frowned. Two phone calls back to back. Both private number.
RING! RING! RING!
The ringtone pierced Gerard’s ears and his thumb hovered over the decline button. But he hesitated. ‘Whoever it is clearly wants to speak to me,’ he thought. ‘I might as well answer so they can just leave me alone.’
He shook his head in frustration and took a deep breath.
And then he answered.
“Marco Cortes, hurry up!” Zak called from outside my house. “We are going to be late for school! I really don’t want a detention again like last week.”I knew my best friend was angry with me when he referred to me by my full name. Frantically, I sprinted around my small house, trying to find my tie whilst throwing my textbooks into my bag and peeling a banana all at the same time. I was a mess. I had slept through my alarm for the third time that week and my parents had already left for work. I found my tie underneath the sofa and wondered how on earth it got there as I located one of my shoes in the living room and hastily slipped my right foot into it.
“What?” Rachel blurted.“Señor, you know how much we love this school and respect you as a principal. But how do you expect us to bring back the Golden Leaf when it could be anywhere? And what about danger? Who knows what obstacles we will face?” I explained.Señor Ramirez stood up and bore his eyes into us. “Hear me out before you overthink the situation and make a decision. Look Marco, your combat skills with a sword and shield are second to none in your weekly classes. Zak, your martial art skills are the best in the whole school. How many tournaments have you won consecutively? And Rachel, your archery ability is unr
“You will head off in the afternoon. I have arranged a taxi for you which will drop you off at a hotel in Midtown Manhattan that I’ve reserved for you. The Benjamin. I’m sure you’ve heard of that five star hotel. You can stay there for the night. Tomorrow you will begin your journey to Lower New York Bay. It’s a twenty mile journey. Stingray Island is somewhere around there. Take public transport and stay in crowded places. Be careful of the people around you. And most importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, trust each other and each other only. No one else,” he explained. “Go to one of the changing rooms, get changed, get freshened up and go to the canteen where the chefs have prepared you three a good meal.”Señor Ramirez stood up strai
Just as we arrived, the lift door opened and a couple walked out, holding hands and laughing. We entered the lift and I pressed the button for the third floor, where our room was.Even the lift was special. An Alpana themed golden wallpaper ran around the lift and the black marble floor was sparkling in the bright in-built light. The lift door opened and we walked slowly down the corridor, taking in the unique designs and patterns of the walls and ceiling. “This is the room,” Rachel said.
“Come on!” Rachel screamed.I tried again, this time barging into it with my shoulder. The door remained shut.“Wait, I’m going to use my knife to open the lock. Face the guards,” Zak said hurriedly, as he inserted his blood-soaked knife into the keyhole.Rachel and I squared up to the guards, as they closed in on us.12 feet… 11 feet… 1
Having hiked infinite miles, hopped on and off buses and taken four gruelling train journeys, we finally reached the coast of Lower New York Bay, as the Sun began to settle. In front of us, the vast Atlantic Ocean sparked in the dazzling sunset. In the distance, I managed to see a faint silhouette of a few mountains, surrounded by rocks and forests. Zapped of our energy and strength, we slumped on a nearby bench.“Is that the place?” I asked, squinting and pointing out in the direction of the silhouette.“Looks like. We made it guys,” Zak sighed tiredly.I heard footsteps from my left coming towards us. A dockworker. His cl
We jumped off the ship to be greeted by thunder. Dark clouds in the night sky obscured the glinting moonlight, our only natural source of light. The sky rumbled, clearly sending a message to us that we should leave while we had the chance. Adrian and Zak took out their torches as we stepped through the rocks and pebbles of the cold ocean and onto the beach. I felt a gentle drop of water on my head and looked up. Rain. Gaining momentum. By the second. Then, I felt a slight breeze, which grew in intensity and it was only within moments that we began to experience an intense tornado. Rusty leaves, sand grains, and water particles exploded from the ground, causing an aggressive whirlwind that sunk our hearts and zapped us of our confidence. “Guys, listen to me carefully. Let’s get underneath a tree, find some wood and make a fir
We managed to find a safe spot to sleep and recuperate just off the beach. Rachel’s bruised ankle was now swollen whilst I struggled to push the sight of my best friend disappearing right before our eyes out of my mind “Get up, you two. New day, fresh start!” Adrian said, trying to sound enthusiastic. The morning air felt as hot and heavy and moist as steam, as the scorching Sun’s radiance beat down on the island’s inhabitants. Bees and dragonflies buzzed around the bushes and trees, whilst birds chirped and flew around elegantly. The beaming sun rays reflected off the waves, emitting splashes of heat, as it gently caressed the coast. &nbs