I have been wanting to write stories for a few years now. And I've also been giving myself excuses for putting them off. But I've decided to start a thread and put what I wrote here. I probably won't update often but I'm going to try. Any and all criticism is welcome.
Without further ado I'll post this here. It's the first chapter in one of my oldest ideas, please welcome Trials or Tribulations
! I watched my friend as he began his lecture for the second time today while I waited to be introduced. Henry Bryner asked me to give a presentation on this island’s history like he has done every year since we both moved to Verde Island. I zoned out as Bryner gave his announcements and started to reflect on the progress the two of us made, especially this past year. Our goal was within our reach. Years of searching, and we were almost there. In the past 7 seven years I did this, I would always hope this would be my last visit to The Vermillion Boarding School, but this was the first time I really felt like this wish could turn into reality.
! The classroom remained the same since my first visit. Room 401 was a mini auditorium that could seat roughly 100 students. The first time I was here, Bryner had about 20 students in his class. Now, over half the auditorium was full. Normally Bryner taught two classes and tended to act as a sub for the absent teachers when necessary.
! I was right next to the door in the back of the room. Above me was a world map that covered the entire upper back wall. The walls on the side were covered with maps that covered smaller regions of the world with much more detail. If somebody wanted to find any city in the world, I would bet it could be found on one of these maps. From the ceiling hung a tiny projector that provided images for his lectures on his giant projector screen. Since the projector wasn’t down, three whiteboards could be seen holding the student’s assignments for the week. His desk and another door was to the left of the whiteboards. Large stacks of paper were cluttered around Bryner’s desk. Above that door was a flag of the Calico Jack Jolly Roger. He got it from the gift shop during his first visit at my job. Next to the Jolly Roger was a clock that could be seen anywhere in the classroom. I turned my attention back toward Bryner.
! He was a fairly tall man and could reach over six feet with the right shoes on. He had dirty-blond hair and bright blue eyes that hid behind his glasses if he failed to put on his contacts, which happens more often than not. His school attire consisted of a blazer (today he chose his dark blue one) and slacks, most were black like the pair he wore today. Despite his despondent demeanor lately, he seemed to lecture with a lot of energy in his voice. I couldn’t tell if he was faking his enthusiasm or not for he could always put on a smile and cheery attitude if he tried and most of the time I could not tell the difference. While he pointed towards the whiteboard and explained to his students what they had in store for the week, I looked around the classroom to see if I could spot “the one”.
! I shuddered. “The one”. It was a horrid thing to think about but Bryner seemed open minded about the scenario. Bryner told me that he wasn’t hard to spot, but I only saw the back of the student’s heads. Most of the class was attentive to Bryner. A few near the back talked amongst themselves. Third row to the very left, I spotted a kid in a school jersey frantically trying to write something down. During my second scan of the room, I spotted someone in the back corner by himself who I somehow missed. He had short, jet black hair and an equally black hoodie. At first, I thought the kid was attentive since he had pencil in his left hand. Then I noticed that his face was resting on his right hand as his arm held his head up. In his defense, the kid could just be tired or bored. I doubted he was tired since the students just had a break before this period started. Bryner also said that this person, “the one”, excelled at history, so I didn’t think he could find the material boring. Once again, a chill crept up my spine so I turned to the front of the class and tuned in just as Bryner began introducing me.
! ”But we will start all of that tomorrow because today we have a guest speaker,” Bryner explained. “He is an executive director at The Vermillion Museum. He has managed many of the recent archeological projects across town and continuously plans for future interactive events for the community. His position has left him very knowledgeable in our little island’s history, and he was nice enough to come down today to share of bit of what he knows about the island, along with how this city grew into what it is today. So without further ado, let me introduce Mr. Nicholls.”
! Bryner gestured me in as if I was a contestant on a game show. A round of applause was given as I started down the steps. I took a quick glance at the kid in the corner. Despite his large, round glasses I noticed bags under his eyes, but he seemed normal enough. The guy in the corner was not part of the applause, but as I walked down the steps he lifted his head up and twirled his pencil around his fingers.
! “I’d like you all to give him your full attention. That includes you Jeff. You should really finish your homework earlier than the period right before it’s due.” The guy in the jersey looked up, embarrassed, and put his stuff off his desk and on top of his backpack. As I faced his class Bryner gave me a goofy grin and a pat on the back as he headed toward his desk.
! My mouth formed a smile despite myself and I turned to face the students as Bryner took a seat at his desk.
! “It’s good to be here. I’m happy to come down to the Vermillion Boarding School and share a little bit of what I know. But before I do, I just wanted to ask, how many people have visited the ‘Timeline of Verde Island’ exhibit at The Vermillion Museum?”
! A few hands shot up. One of which was half-heartedly held up by the guy in the back. His face was looking down on his desk, but when he looked back up and saw that I was looking at him, the boy put his arm back down and began twirling his pencil again.
! “Oh good. The Timeline Exhibit was one of my first executive decisions when I became the director. It’s a nice exhibit if any of you are interested in learning about our little island. I guess I’ll start at the beginning. The earliest rulers of this island were the Portuguese in the late 1500s. It was one of the earliest settlements made by the Portuguese, but its main function was a resting dock for their ships to rest while preparing their expeditions in Central and Southern America. Eventually, a town was borne and Verde Island became a hot spot for international trade and commerce.”
! One of the girls that visited the Timeline Museum waved her hand. She had chestnut brown hair set in a ponytail and sat in front of Bryner’s desk. Bryner gave me a look to check if I saw her.
! “Yes, you in the blue blouse.”
! “Sorry Mr. Nicholls,” she said. Her gaze shifted towards Bryner. “But there were people here long before the Portuguese right? When the Portuguese arrived here in the early 1500s, they studied the agriculture and the ways the locals irrigated their fields before killing off most the population and turning the few survivors into slaves.”
! I was stunned. She wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t expecting a student to “correct” me during my presentation. Bryner answered the student for me, “That’s true Stacy. It’s believed that the residents that were here migrated from somewhere on one of the main lands a couple hundred years before any Europeans started to become curious about the Americas.”
! “Right.” My voice finally came back to me. “Stacy is it? You are absolutely correct. The takeover of the Portuguese over the locals is actually one of the first dioramas at the Timeline exhibit.”
! “Well, it’s nice to know that my students seem to know more about your area of expertise than you do.” This led to a few chuckles by the students. I shook my head but kept the smile on my face. It stung a bit, but it was fine. Once again, I looked up to the kid in the corner. He rolled his eyes and seemed amused. Yet, despite his half-smile I don’t think he found it funny either.
! Bryner turned to the class and said, “I kid of course. But nice catch Stacy. I’m glad you took my advice on going to the Museum.”
! As Bryner gave Stacy his approval for showing me up a small smile formed on her face. She rubbed her hand on her neck as she tried to avoid Bryner’s gaze directly.
! I decided to spend some time explaining the culture of the locals. I expected the students knew what my speech normally consisted of, since I gave the same speech every time I came here. It’s the tale that brought Bryner and me here in the first place.
! I was ready to segue into the tale by turning the conversation to the British. During that time, I noticed the kid in the jersey kept his head down and tried to keep a low profile, which just made what he was doing all the more obvious. This fact wasn’t missed by Bryner.
! “Jeff, seriously, do your homework on your own time,” Bryner asserted. Jeff gave Bryner an annoyed look as he put away his books in his backpack this time. “Sorry for interrupting Nicholls.”
! “It’s fine. Now where was I? Oh yes, Verde was given to the British as a gift to show goodwill for the restoration of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance after the Portuguese Restoration War. Now this is true, but there was another reason why the Portuguese decided to give this island away.” I paused for “dramatic” effect. “How many people know of the Pirate known as the Golden Devil, or as he was known back in the day, “The Diablo del Dorado?”
This time around, about half of the class had their hands up. The boy in the back of the room once again had his hand to his head. He tried to stifle a yawn. He seemed to be trying his best to pay attention. Maybe he was just tired.
! “The legend of Double D shrouded in mystery. A cunning smuggler, his high intelligence was fabled to be only rivaled by his sheer viciousness. The true identity of this Pirate is said to still a mystery, and there are no official records of his arrest or death.
! His name came from Spanish sailors that recorded the first witness to his attacks. The Golden Devil only attacked Spanish ships at first, but his terror soon spread to other nations and his ship attacked indiscriminately. He received his name for smuggling anything valuable from the passing vessels, but his vessel was never spotted by anybody outside those that were mugged, and the stolen merchandise was never recorded to pop up. Legend stated that the Golden Devil took all of his merchandise to the Underworld, while some theorists believe that this merchandise was sold on the black market.
! Hundreds of years later, the secret behind Double D’s success has more or less been revealed through various records and journals. The local authorities and the merchants along the coast were on his pay roll. Sometimes the Merchants didn’t have their merchandise actually stolen. Many decided to make the “deal with the Devil”. If this didn’t work, the Diablo used extortion. There were a few cases where the “Golden Devil” was captured and executed, but a few days later the Devil would “rise again from the Underworld”. It was presumed that he hired fall guys in his place to sever his connections to the attacks.
! Eventually, Double D essentially ruled the island. There was only a tiny minority that rebelled against his rule, claiming their loyalty to the Portuguese crown. It led to chaos among the island, and the instability made the other countries decide to start an embargo.
! Coincidentally, the mayor at the time, Drake Dias, decided to sell the island to Britain. However, many believe that the deal made by the British was with the Devil himself. In exchange for the island, it was presumed that Double D kept his business operating. Those that were fighting back against the city were perceived as Portuguese extremists fighting against the British, something that the motherland did not want. The Golden Devil had the best of both worlds, his payroll and some sense of inner peace.
! So there you go. If you choose to believe it, this island was became what it is today because of a legendary Pirate. This is where the story of Double D ends. Any questions?”
! A few hands went up in the air, but the only one I was interested in was the one I had my eye on the entire class period. “Yes, you in the hoodie?”
! The boy cleared his throat with a slight cough and asked wearing a serious expression, “Um…yeah…what happened to Double D’s treasure?”
! There were some odd looks toward the kid. I swore I heard one of the kids in the front row whisper how surprised she was the boy asked about something, though it could be my mind playing tricks on me.
! “Well, like I said, many believe the treasure was sold on the black market.”
! “Right, but you mentioned that he kept the merchants on his payroll even after Britain took over, so Drake must’ve had a lot of money stashed somewhere to pay them off since he kept his business running even after his active years. Plus, you don’t seem to believe the treasure was sold on the black market.”
! Bryner and I exchanged a look. There were murmurs of agreement among the students. A smirk appeared on the boy’s face.
! “What makes you say that?”
! “You keep saying, ‘many believe’, instead of telling us what you think happened.”
! “Like I said, no records of the stolen merchandise exist. That’s why most believe it was sold in the black market. I will admit though, that there are those, including myself, that believe the treasure is still hidden. While it could be on some remote island, the treasure could also be somewhere within Vermillion. Nobody knows for sure.”
! The boy let the words ponder. His expression was impossible to read.
! On the other hand, the boy in the Jersey seemed to have paid attention to my story and blurted his thoughts. “So is that why you’re always digging around the island? Are you searching for treasure?”
! Bryner and I turned to each other and started laughing simultaneously. A few students also followed in the laughter, not understanding the joke between the two of us.
! “Yeah Jeff, he’s a real Dr. Jones,” one of the kids sneered. At this point Jeff shot the kid a dirty look. He let out a snort and clenched his fists.
! “Well it would be nice if I could find that treasure,” I replied truthfully. Hopefully it would happen soon. “In fact, if any of you want to go try to find that treasure sign up for any of The Museum’s archaeology projects. We’re always looking for volunteers that are willing to go with us on ‘these adventures’.”
! “And with that I think we’ll end it for today,” Bryner stated as he got up and pointed towards the clock. The class gave me another round of applause. I could see the whole class clapping, except for the boy in the hoodie. He put on his backpack and turned himself towards the door. “I’d like to thank you again on behalf of the class.”
! The bell let out a large ring and the boy in the hoodie seemed to sprint out the door. Bryner tried to call him, but it was too late. “Shoot. Alright class see you tomorrow. Stacy, could I see you for a quick minute?” Her eyes widened as she mustered up a nod toward her teacher.
! Eventually it was just the three of us alone in the room. Stacy began twirling her hair and waited in anticipation to hear what Bryner had to say.
! “So Stacy, what’d you think of Mr. Nicholls speech?”
! She turned to me embarrassed. “You did a great job. I’m sorry about the whole Portugal weren’t the first thing…”
! “Don’t worry. It’s not a big deal,” I assured her.
! “It’s not. I just like to give Nicholls a hard time every so often,” Bryner said as he winked at me. Stacy let out a few giggles but then repositioned herself in a dignified manner.
! “Actually, I wanted to see if you were interested in an extra-curricular project,” Bryner explained. “It’s something that both Nicholls and I are working on, and I was hoping I could get my brightest students to help me out.”
! Stacy was glowing from her teacher’s admiration. Eagerly she replied, “Of course. Anything for you, Mr. Bryner…” She began to blush. And there was a short awkward moment of silence before she recomposed herself. “I mean, yeah. Definitely.”
! “Great, so is after school today okay with you,” Bryner asked.
! “Sure, it shouldn’t be a problem,” Stacy said. She turned towards me and shook my hand in gratitude I guess, I’m not sure why, said her goodbyes and left. As she left, Bryner’s smile disappeared as he began to rummage through his drawers.
! “Well, I have a free period right now, so let me clean up a bit and we’ll get lunch,” Bryner said as he started organizing his desk. “We’ll also plan how we’re going to present this to them.”
! “Don’t forget the logbook.”
! “Yeah, it’s here somewhere.” Bryner stopped for a moment to think where he placed it.
! “So is she the one,” I asked. Then I mentally kicked myself. I didn’t want to bring it up, but I was curious. She didn’t seem to fit the description.
! “No,” Bryner flipped the papers on his desk all around. He kept searching until he took out our prized possession. The paper was ancient but the writing was well preserved for the most part. The binding on the other hand seemed to be falling apart by the seams. Dust blew from the leathery cover with a skull carved on the front. “She’s just another bright student I thought I could help us out.”
! “She seems nice…and has a major crush on you,” I teased.
! “Alright, first off, she’s underage. Second, she’s my student,” Bryner said while giving me a dirty look.
! “Isn’t this a senior class,” I asked jokingly.
! “This is getting uncomfortable by the second,” he said sternly while flipping through the pages. “And I’m not deflecting, but when was the last time you went out with a woman?”
! “Hey, I’m just waiting for the right girl.”
! “And that would be…”
! “The one that loves being spoiled by somebody super rich.”
! “You’re not rich yet.”
! “Yeah, but we’re close. We’re really close.” I paused for a bit as Bryner kept flipping through the book. I didn’t want to bring it up, but I felt like I should know. “So if she’s not the one, who is?”
! “You know. I doubt you called on him to ask his question randomly.”
! “The kid just seemed tired to me. People can be tired.”
! “He’s always tired. And he never says anything in this class, to me or the other kids.”
! “That doesn’t mean anything. He could just not like this class.”
! “It’s not just this class. I’ve heard from the other teachers. He is like that in every class, though I doubt he would need to ask any questions. He’s one of the highest, if not the highest ranked kid in the school. You knew it was him right? So it must be obvious.”
! “But that’s because I was looking for him. And besides, we’re not even sure that is what Double D meant in his notes?”
! “True. We still haven’t seen the coffin. But we were right about the moon. Plus, what else could it mean?” Bryner gave the book to me opened on those dreadful pages.
! This was the reason I was so hopeful. At the beginning of the year, during one of my archaeological digs near the coast, this book washed up along the shore, almost by fate. After months of verifications, the both of us were certain that this was the logbook of Double D. It was the biggest clue we’ve received, and with the devil’s luck guiding us, we realized that there were directions to his fabled treasure.
! A few pages were torn, and a couple of the pages at the end were drenched in black ink, but we were certain the directions to his treasure were kept intact. One of the pages at the very back had a treasure chest, but the drawings showed a grim fate that awaited those that took the journey.
! A picture of a horned demon was drawn right next to a closed coffin. Streaks of red oozed from the coffin and a hand could be seen sticking out. The drawings showed that as the coffin with the corpse within dropped, a passageway opened which led toward the treasure.
! “These drawings could mean anything. There are way too many unknowns at this point.”
! That’s when Bryner gave me a stern gaze. He wasn’t angry, but I felt troubled when he looked at me in this way.
! “You’re right. But we’ve been over this. We have been in the passage. It’s a possibility.”
! “He has no one. No living relatives. No friends. He is miserable. I feel like we would be doing him a favor.”
! “Hey, don’t joke about that.”
! “Just be glad I’m not thinking of throwing you into that coffin.” Complete deadpan but he wagged his finger excessively which showed he meant that as a joke.
! “Now this is getting uncomfortable. Let’s go back to talking about that Stacy girl.” The both of us laughed, but I wanted to make my message clear. “I’m just saying this is way too hasty.”
! “I don’t want it to come to that. Really, I don’t. I’m just saying, the option is open. I’m just pointing it out, not really considering it.”
But I wasn’t convinced. He had been talking about this idea a lot lately.
! “Alright. Let’s just drop it. But you are really sure about the other thing? Are you sure we should get your students involved at all?”
! “We’ve been staring at this for awhile now and we’re not making headway. A fresh perspective can really be helpful,” Bryner took the book back from me and began flipping through it again. “Also, they’re my students. I don’t think they would expect an equal four way split. And seriously, these kids are some of the smartest I’ve ever had. You’ll see.”
! I already believed that these kids were pretty bright. That Stacy knew her history, though I do wonder if it was just to impress Bryner. But even her infatuation could be of some use. As for the boy… he read through my story well enough to know what I thought of Double D’s treasure. That kid…”the one”.
! “What was that boy’s name again?”
! “Seriously?” I heard my heartbeat. I was curious but scared to find out the answer. There will be a name along with a face to the body I had nightmares of sacrificing to get something I’ve been searching for years.
! “His name is Jake. Shoot. That reminds me. I need to pass a note to him so that he knows to meet us after school. We’ll drop by the office before we go, okay?” He shuffled the papers on his desk into a neat pile and prepared to head out the door.
! I took a deep breath. Things were about to get very complicated, but who knows? It might just be worth it. “Sure. No problem. So for lunch. What are you feeling like?” And with that walked out the classroom to get a bite to eat.