This story is by Bisan Mourad and won the Readers’ Choice Award our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Bisan Mourad is a Lebanese writer who writes fictional stories. For the Summer Writing Contest, she wrote an impeccable story that features the life of a college girl working vigorously till her last breath in order to pass her final exam. However, she is faced with unexpected obstacles.
“Next stop, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” announced the captain of the ship. The boat was filled with people. Some were fellow classmates who attended my college. The rest were a bunch of unfamiliar faces. I sat on the edge of the boat and started reading the book that my professor gave me. I had to read a book about myths and legends for my criminal justice class. This book was all that I needed for my final exam. I was told I wouldn’t be able to survive without the information in this book, so I knew I had to start as soon as possible. Thirty minutes had passed and I finally reached the last chapter, “La Isla Encantada.” This was the Spanish name for The Enchanted Island. The book talked about how no one was able to survive more than two weeks on the Enchanted Island. Some weren’t able to survive on their way to the island itself! According to the book, the Island would appear every seven years and its location would change every time. No form of civilization was found on the Island; it was segregated from the rest of the world. I was so bewitched by what I was reading that time flew by quickly.
Soon the sky sparkled with the glistering light of the moon. However, I saw a storm coming. I was agitated so I went to inform the captain, though he confidently stated, “It’s fine, I’ve seen worse.” I left him and sat admiring the beautiful scenery before me. Yet as I expected it didn’t last long, for a couple of minutes later the sky started unveiling a series of conspicuous, rapid thunder and rain. The ship started rocking. Everyone was screaming, and the atmosphere was filled with panicked thoughts. All I could see was the world spinning, but I tried remaining tranquil. And just like that, everything was black; nothing moved, not even a whisper could be heard.
I woke up to the gentle breeze of the wind. I looked around to see a vast Island in the middle of the sea. I saw some of the boat’s ruins on the shore. I didn’t know how I felt. Was I supposed to be scared, nervous? I was more concerned about what I was going to do rather than how I felt. I got up and started making my way through the Island when I found something unusual on the ground. I picked it up and found out that it was a journal. It felt like a piece of leather that was sitting in the sun for way too long. I skimmed through it till I found this: “After weeks, I finally found out where I am. This is the ancient IsLand Of La Isla Encantada. I dOn’t Know if I will be able to survive For much lOngeR. This Island is Isolated from tHe world; thEre’s nobody in it; I’m all alone fighting for my life. I had to Cut tree branches to make sheLter and some fire. The only way that I can get fresh water is by boiling it. I Use the big treE leaveS as a blanket To stay warm from the cOld breezy air. This is the only way that I’m able to SURVIVE, I don’t know how much longer—” And just like that, it ended. However, I noticed that this message was coded. Our professor once told us if we needed to write a secret letter we had to code it. We were to capitalize and write the letter in a decorative script; that way only certain people would be able to read it. And in this case, it looked like someone wanted to leave a secret message. I looked closely into the writing and I was able to formulate the following message: “Look for the clues to survive.” It was weird that this person knew our secret code since only our college taught this technique. It didn’t make sense but I kept going. It started getting dark, so I had to find shelter. Luckily the person who ended up here before me left their shelter and some extra wood, so I was able to sleep the night. I found a fishing pole made out of firm wood, so I caught some fish, used the wood to create fire, and fried it up. Then I went to sleep.
The next morning, I went looking for the clues. Every day I would find a clue that would lead me to the upcoming clues. For example, one said: go to the place where the fruits blossom. Or, it would say go to where the birds start chirping. They always ended with the same initials, M.A. Many names came to mind; the name list was endless. But I kept looking in hope of escaping. The island had held me captive for what seemed to be two weeks now. I was segregated from the human race; my thoughts kept haunting me. Every day I would wake up hoping that this was a dream, but it never was. I tried spending most of my time looking for clues, and nutrition. The only food available was coconut, wild berries, and fish. All of these obstacles that I was facing didn’t demotivate me and make me lose hope, but rather made me try harder to find all the clues.
One day, as I was looking for more clues, I stumbled upon something. I picked up the delicate piece of paper and analyzed it carefully. This was my final clue. Though this time there was something else written next to the initials. It was written in tiny handwriting, but I finally figured it out: Nunca subestimes el poder de la Paciencia, never underestimate the power of patience. That was my professor’s signature phrase. Over the days I kept connecting the clues together and it always made me think of my college, and today was no different. I followed the directions written on the paper, underneath lies all of earth’s secrets. I immediately started digging. At first I thought that it was going to take a while, but I found that the grass in that area was fake, so it came off very easily. That’s when I saw a round wooden door. On it were the same initials that I found on every note. I opened the door and found a tunnel that would lead to my freedom. I immediately ran towards the place I’d been using as sanctuary and grabbed all my stuff, including the book my professor gave me. I made my way through, saying my farewells. I was going to miss all the adventure. I was feeling a bit tentative about my decision, but I knew that I had to leave.
I entered the damp, squalid tunnel, and as I was walking I noticed that I was still holding the clue that I found earlier. However, I found something odd about the paper. I observed it closely and realized it was folded. So I opened the paper and found another message: “If you found this note, then you probably found the tunnel. Good job on finding and following all the clues. I’m glad you used all the advice that I taught you, and I’m glad you read the book I gave you. That helped you a lot with knowing more about the Island, which benefited you on your test. And know that all your assumptions are correct. And remember, Nunca subestimes el poder de la Paciencia. M.A.”
The only person who could possibly know about the book is the person who gave it to me, my professor. That’s when it all made sense. All the clues, codes, this was all a test. This explained the initials M.A: his name was Mathew Anderson, and that’s why on the last clue it said Nunca subestimes el poder de la Paciencia; that was his signature phrase. And that’s why he knew how to code the journal. He was the one who left the shelter there, the fishing pole, and the wood. He left all the clues lying around. And that’s why I found fake grass on top of the tunnel. This was all part of my final exam. It all made sense now! Everything was okay. I would soon be able to go back to my college life, my family. Everything was okay.
I felt ecstatic, triumphant. Finally, I finally found the way out. I was stuck on the Island for almost a month, and now that I knew that I was just minutes away from home, I couldn’t wait! Once I reached the end I was able to recognize the familiar scent of my favorite candle, Japanese Cherry Blossom. I cautiously opened the door and found myself in the middle of my humble, minute dorm room. Something caught my eye immediately. Another message was lying beneath my feet. “Congratulations on passing the first part of the exam. Can you pass the second part? M.A.”