Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2018 finalist, Sagnik Nag Chowdhury! Sagnik finished 5th grade this past school year. The story he submitted is called “My Name is Akela.” Sagnik told us that his favorite part of his story is the twist at the end. Who doesn’t love a good twist? Enjoy!
Chapter 1: The Cold Beneath
“What is dependence? What is reliance?” I wonder to myself every day, and maybe one day, when I understand the true meaning of why he did what he did, I can trust Kai Ailani. Maybe I never will.
Maybe I will tell myself, “He thrust Mai into the cold. He sacrificed her for good cause, but she was my mother. My Mai.”
I got up, feeling like I should take a walk along the beach. I walked along the coast, thoughts pouring into my brain like fresh “ka wai niu,” or coconut water. None of these thoughts were relevant, of course, unlike trusting Kai Ailani.
I was walking when a thought came into my head. I didn’t know what it was, but it was like a force that was slowly driving me into the raging water. I slowly waded into the water, going deeper and deeper. I was close enough that my head was bobbing out of the water, and so I went underneath. The cold swept through my body as I was going deeper and deeper. I didn’t want to get out. But then, what I call “the hands of life” pulled me out of the water.
“Oh Akela, what were you trying to do? You could have almost died!”
These hands pulled me out of the water onto a canoe that was quite small, but manageable. Why was I doing what I was? Mai was gone, but that didn’t mean I completely was. Sure, I had the other townspeople, and soon enough Kai Ailani would hopefully gain my trust. I was rowed back to the island of Maika’i and cared for. The townspeople had my back. I went back to my dog, Lana’i, and fed him.
Lana’i whimpered quietly on my lap, as I felt a sudden pain I knew he had felt too. It was the searing pain of loss. Lana’i and I had lost many things over the past few months. Mai, my home, one of them, at least. Poor Lana’i was found by me a few months ago, amidst the destruction of the Tu’kale War, against the Pax tribe. In the war, I lost my one and only trainer, who was my only hope at getting a shot to be in the Island Army. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“Akela, Akela! Come! Immediately!” said Kai Ailani.
“Wh-Why me? Does this have anything to do with me?” I said, utterly confused.
“Y-Ye-Maybe, okay? I’ll explain all the way. But, it has something to do with Mai.”
At this, I jumped up. I was immediately intrigued to hear about this. I patted Lana’i and distinctly gave him some orders.
“Noho, e hoʻi wau.” He immediately trotted back to the woven bark cage that I had made especially for him. I walked behind Kai Ailani, and as we neared the meeting spot, I saw something suspicious. I saw the Island Elderlies talking amongst each other, and they were holding a pouch.
“Anything could be in the pouch,” I thought. But then I got a bad feeling in my stomach. What if, in that pouch, were my mother’s ashes? I ran towards the elderlies. When I got there, of course, I did the proper greeting to meet them.
I screamed, “HANOHANO!” then crossed my arms over my chest, and finally brought them to my sides.
“Stay still,” I told myself. To really prove your worthiness in the Army test, after doing the greeting, you must stay absolutely still. Even at a young age, you wouldn’t want to plant a seedling of doubt into the elderlies’ minds that you were unworthy, not ready.
“Ah, Akela,” one of the elderlies said as he came towards me and escorted me to a table.
“What does this look like to you, I must ask.” He emptied a pouch, and just as the material flowed, I quickly tried to cover the opening, but it was too late. But wait! Instead of what I thought it was, it was… seeds? But why?
“Your honor,” I said, “what might Mai have to do with this?”
“Oh Akela,” the Elderly responded, “a lot you must know. These seeds… are why Mai sacrificed herself. Here, let me tell you a story. One day…”
Chapter 2: Why Mai Did
“A group of people came to our island in hopes of bringing back something to their own island. They had been venturing for days, but something didn’t fit. They had been going on without any food or water except for a specific type of fruit, and no one knew what it was. Mai noticed this as she saw them wandering.
“She asked what they were doing, and, why their sacks were so light. They said they were looking for things to bring home, but they refused to answer the latter. That made her suspicious. She offered them a hut and as many services as they wanted.
“One day, when they were out, she scavenged through all their belongings. All she found were a few fruits and a bag of seeds. She knew at once that these were the seeds of the mysterious fruit. She took a bite out of the fruit and she waited a few seconds and realized it had no taste. Why did they eat these on the other islands? She decided to bring these to her fellow people.
“That day, the same day she bit into the fruit, she did not eat or drink any water. She stayed that way for about 3-4 days. She had an ‘ike,’ or an epiphany. Having these could be good for the explorers on the island, as one of the main setbacks for them was starvation or dehydration. And so she kept the seeds. Somehow, the strangers did not notice and thanked Mai before sailing back.
“A few days later, the island men came back, noticing that their fruit seeds were missing. Our people tried to cover our tracks as best as we could, until the search. The whole place was searched, items rummaged through, trees hollowed out and destroyed. They then found the pouch inside of a tree, but before they went back to their canoes, your mother went out alone on a canoe and tried to stop them.
“She warned them, ‘Those seeds are ours now. We put those seeds through the ke hoW’ololi process, and they must never leave our island, whether you say so or not.’
“Meanwhile, Kai Ailani and a few others stole the pouch and brought it back. The Pax tribe got very mad when their leader found out that the seeds were missing. They thought she pulled off a scheme of some sort, even though she was not even aware of the fact that the seeds had been retrieved. They chased her into a large wave, which even I think you heard, in the underground ‘o ia. Thundering, crashing, how large and monstrous it was. The Pax managed to avoid it, only after realizing that your mother had sailed into the storm.”
Chapter 3: It Begins Now
At the thought of this, I ran.
“Akela, come back!”
I ran and ran, staying as far away from the story as possible. One of the elderlies, I didn’t know who, started running after me. I looked back, and it backfired as I stumbled on a rock and fell on the ground. My vision was blurred. I could feel hot blood trickling down my mouth as I saw… something. It was on the waterline, getting closer. The elderly caught up to me, and hoping he would notice, I pointed.
“Oh no,” I heard him whisper.
“Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no,” he said getting louder and louder.
“THE PAX ARE HERE!” he screamed at the top of his lungs. My vision was getting clearer, and I saw a ship as it was hoisting a flag with… a skull on it. Was this the Pax tribe?
I slowly got up and trotted over to the nearest hut, leaving a trail of blood behind me. I went into a cabin I saw and noticed that there were two men, both packing.
“Why are you packing?” I asked.
“D-don’t you know? Pa’i ka Pax!” one man replied. The Pax are coming. They both looked at me oddly.
“Aren’t you the son of the lady who sacrificed herself?” the other man asked.
“Yes,” I replied, but a little disturbed by the way he put it.
“Don’t you know? The ke po’o asam has vowed to take revenge on this island, by sending all his forces… towards her son. That means that… you are officially a threat to anyone near you, and that means… pono mākou e hele! Now!”
They immediately fled, as I screamed “Wait!”
Just then, I felt a hand on my shoulder. A gloved hand. In all the islands, there was one rule everyone followed. The chief of the richest and wealthiest island shall be honored with a glove by the other islands. I looked behind me and saw an overly-hideous man. Wearing a crown made of tree bark, a coat of deer hide, battle scars all over his face.
He started dragging me towards his ship. I resisted as hard as I could. Next thing I knew, I was blinded by an animal’s skin. The man also bound my arms with rope, which was also a sign of wealth within an island. Most islands just used yucca plant fiber, which wasn’t as sturdy as real rope. I sat there waiting.
“HELP!” I cried. I knew it wouldn’t help, as most people were on the other side of the island, staying as far away from me as possible. I sat there, but I started to hear murmurs. Was it the army hoping to rescue me? Did they even know I was there? They could easily have killed me along with the others by bombing the ship. I tried to move back so I could hear more clearly, and then I heard a familiar voice. Was that one of the men I encountered earlier? This finally gave me hope, as they might know about my abduction and warn the others. Unless, of course, the Pax tribe’s mission would only be completed if I were dead.
I tried to break free. I stopped myself for a few seconds, as I heard…. footsteps? Could this be the army trying to rescue me? Or the chief?
“E pani i ka puka,” the chief said. I heard the thud of the door closing as I was unblinded. I saw the chief’s hideous face, and a disgusting odor came from his mouth.
“Soon, you will be dead because of what your mother did to us. I’m really sorry you’re her son because your death will give us gratitude. Mahalo,” the Chief said. But there was someone behind him. Chief was immediately hit in the head by a log, and he fell to the ground. It was Kai Ailani!
“Akela, come. I’m here to save you. Two men told me about how Chief Ikaika took you. I followed him through the ship, as it was quite a large one.”
He unbound the rope, and I got out and followed him. One man behind me slowly rose, as he wasn’t impacted as much, I assumed.
“E! E ho’āʻo anaʻo ia e pakele! E kiʻi iā ia!”
Everyone started getting up and running after us. There were a lot more than I expected, but no time to think about that. Kai Ailani picked me up and started running out, until after many lefts and rights, we managed to get out. He kept running, with me in his arms, until we got to the nearest cabin, where one of the elderlies was.
“Put him in the underground O ‘ia,” he said. Just as Kai Ailani was about to speak, I stopped him.
“No,” I said. “I want to help.”
Chapter 4: A War Wages
“I can be used as an advantage. They want me, don’t they? I can distract them while you take down their ships,” I said.
“No, it’s too dangerous,” said the elderly.
“Wait, we’ll protect you. But you know what they want even more than him? The seeds. Maybe we give the chief some fake seeds, and then when he goes back in, thinking he has the actual seeds, we boulder the ship! Akela won’t even be needed!” said Kai Ailani.
But they were going to carry out a plan without me?
“I’ll stand guard,” I said as I butted in, trying to be of some help to avenge my mother’s death.
We all went to the collection hut, where all our things, traded, picked, or stolen, were collected. We went to the corner, where we found all sorts of seeds. Fortunately, there was a pouch of the exact same shape and size as the other one, so we filled it up with Papaya seeds. We went to the front of the ship, and Kai Ailani stood forward.
“We give in, Chief Ikaika! You can have your seeds back!”
At hearing this, the chief stepped out and came towards us. “You give in?” he asked. “Well, what makes me trust you?” He came over and grabbed the pouch from Kai Ailani’s hand. He opened it, checking if it was the same thing. “Hmmm, same pouch, same seed color, same seed size, nā hua like hoʻokahi?” He took two seeds, and bit into them. “Not the same seeds! TROOPS, DESTROY THE ISLAND!”
Immediately, troops deployed and went throughout the island. Ikaika grabbed Kai Ailani, and slugged him to the ground.
“All of this for some seeds? Wow. I am amazed by your perseverance, being motivated by dust.”
I couldn’t stand the sight of this, so like a coward, I ran. But, an idea shot into my mind. I ran to the cabin where the fruits were stored before the troops got there. I was watching the troops take out people from their huts, using their coconut bombs to destroy our fruit trees, cutting our many resources, and stealing what we had. This was making me even more willing to fight back against the chief. I went in and bound all the openings with yucca fiber and tule reed. I moved aside the sewing table, and under that were loads of the magical fruit. I took as many as I could, and feasted.
Chapter 5: We Fight Back
Fruit juice was pouring down my chin as I was just finishing my seventh one. I got up and walked out. A lot of people might have thought I was crazy, that I would never be able to fight a war when it came, but if it was for Mai, I would die trying.
I felt a sense in my body, a sixth one. Was this fruit really that powerful?
“Hey, where did you come from?” a man, probably from the Pax army, said to me. I waved my hand towards him, and he immediately got splashed with water. All of a sudden, people were screaming at one another, and everyone started running after me.
Something weird happened when I was running away. There was a trail of water behind me that was spraying the man in the face. That stopped him from coming any closer, and everyone just went in front of him. I tried to get as close to the ocean as possible, but then I saw something I could never get out of my mind. Kai Ailani, on the ground, with bruises on his face, was being mercilessly beaten up by Ikaika.
“Stop it!!” I screamed. “Why are you doing this to us? All for some seeds?”
“The seeds… are what make our island thrive,” he replied. I waved my hand as hard as I could, and Ikaika was tumbled with water.
“Loaʻa i kahi hakakā i loko ou,ʻike wau,” he said. He slowly started dragging Kai Ailani into his ship.
“I recruit you, Chief,” Ailani said. I pointed to myself to see if he was referring to me. He nodded.
“Kill me if you have to,” he said before he went in.
Did this mean that I was in charge of the whole army? I hadn’t even taken the army test, and I had been put up to a level with so much honor?
“I won’t let you down, Warrior,” I whispered to myself. I ran to the army base, coming up with ideas to take down the Pax tribe.
With the idea that was in my head at the time, I felt like I would be able to isolate the troops. All of them. I went into the base, and I was immediately confronted by a man, probably one of the generals.
“What are you doing here, kid?” he asked.
“Sir, I was appointed to be Captain,” I replied.
“Have you even taken the army test?” he asked. I nodded.
“Show me the proper greeting, kid.”
I did so, and he let me in. I shared my idea, and we worked out plans for making that happen. Our troops ran out and got into their positions. I was surprised they actually listened to me, whether they thought I was actually appointed the captain.
I called out to the Pax army, “Troops, the seeds are here!!” I hoped they were gullible enough to come, and luckily, they did.
When they came, they were whispering to each other about things like where the seeds were, or the fact that they were fooled. When they were about to head out, the army of our island quickly moved to the sides of every possible opening. The Pax troops tried to charge through, but our shields were powerful enough to hold them back. I concentrated as much power as I could, and after a few seconds, I noticed that the sky was beginning to turn a dark, dark shade of gray.
The troops inside were stormed with the water from above and when it stopped, most people were lying on the floor, heavily unconscious. Together, we put them in the underground o ‘ia, and bound the gates with as much tule reed as we could find.
Chapter 6: Will There Be A Final Act?
I was feeling pretty confident about bringing back Kai Ailani, and so I brought it up with the army.
“Men, we need to save Kai Ailani before we destroy the ship of Ikaika once and for all. ʻO wai lā me aʻu?” Unlike last time, when everyone cheered as a response, this time everything was silent.
“No,” one man piped up and said.
“We’re going to practically kill ourselves going in that ship! The chief and the remaining troops are angrier than ever now.”
“YEAH!” everyone shouted. Amidst the cheering, I could hear people saying things like “You want to kill us all?” and “He shouldn’t have recruited you!!”
This brought me down, but I wouldn’t give up without a fight. I quieted them down by using one of the few army signals I knew. I put my hand in a knifehand shape and moved it vertically up and down. As they got silent, I started speaking.
“Even if you wo-” I started, but was soon interrupted by a loud, blaring sound.
I went to the highest peak I could see… and saw that Ikaika’s ship was leaving. I ran towards the ocean, realizing one thing as I did. If I wanted to fulfill the whole island’s one wish of destroying Ikaika and the Pax tribe, I had to kill Kai Ailani. I had no choice. I went to the waterline and concentrated my power. Much of my power came from anger, at Ikaika, at the troops who destroyed this island and took Kai Ailani.
I was creating a “ka paia o ka wai,” or a “wall of water.” It was going higher and higher. I didn’t want to let it drop. I wanted to inflict as much pain on Ikaika as I could for what he did to us, the island. After a few minutes, I couldn’t see all of the wall. I closed my fists and let it drop. It created one of the loudest crashing noises I had ever heard, and I pressed my hands to my ears as hard as I could. Kai Ailani was gone.
‘O ia – Hideout
Pa’i ka Pax!! – The Pax are here!!
pono mākou e hele! – We need to go!
Ke po’o asam – chief
E! E ho’āʻo anaʻo ia e pakele! E kiʻi iā ia! – They are trying to escape! Get them!
nā hua like hoʻokahi? – but the same seeds?
Loaʻa i kahi hakakā i loko ou,ʻike wau. – There is some fight within you, I see.
O wai lā me aʻu? – Who’s with me?