The storm and our mother shared the same name and were equally as cruel. When the mayor announced mandatory evacuations, she abandoned us to a leaky roof and an unstable foundation.
Upon hearing the tornado sirens, we tied bedsheets around our waists like rope. If the wind was to carry us away, at least we’d be together.
The roof blew off, and the funnel cloud swept us into the sky. I was sure we would die, but Johnny, who I called Little One, said the cloud was a bubble. It protected us from the hail and the rain. From flying debris in the midst of the storm.
And it would protect us from Mama’s fists too.
I don’t know when I fell asleep, but when I came to, we were on the ground again, lying on a sandy beach as waves pushed against us. Little One pointed to a gang of children running toward us, waving vigorously.
“Howdy! I’m Sudie! Welcome to Children’s Island!” the oldest, who might have been the leader, said.
I slowly stood to my feet and helped Little One to his. I smacked my ear to make sure I didn’t have any water or sand clogging it, because there was no way I heard her right.
“What’s a Children’s Island?” Little One asked.
“It’s the place where children can do anything they want!” all the kids said in unison.
“You can play whenever you want and have ice cream and cake for dinner,” Sudie continued.
“And what about the adults?” I asked.
Sudie frowned. “Who needs ‘em?”
“Not me!” Little One said defiantly. “You got some fried chicken? I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”
I cringed. Food like that was a luxury in our house. And asking for it meant no food at all. Little One’s rib cage, which showed through his wet t-shirt, was evidence of that. I looked back toward the ocean, toward the life we left behind, and wondered if Mama even cared enough to worry whether we were alive or dead.
“You comin’?” Sudie asked.
I shook my head to get Mama out of my mind. What’s the use in wondering now when she never showed she cared before? Sudie was right. Who needs her?
I turned to Sudie. “I could eat a whole bowl of macaroni and cheese.”
“You got it!” She took my hand and then Little One’s, and we skipped down the beach with the others in our welcoming party to a new beginning on Children’s Island.
© 2021 Nortina Simmons
“Children’s Island” was a story I originally wrote with my dad when I was around six or seven. This is obviously an updated version, but the premise is still the same—a group of kids get caught in a storm and are whisked away to a fantasy island inhabited only by children.
It’s only in my adulthood that I’ve come to realize the story sounds vaguely familiar to The Twilight Zone episode “The Bewitchin’ Pool.” Funny how those things work out, huh?