He sat in his usual perch, as close to the top as the slender branches could support. Even a year ago, he could have sat a couple branches higher, but like his friend, he had grown a lot since then. Along with marking the days, he had also been marking his height every few months on one of the higher walls in the cave. Bandit sat on a different branch, but still within easy reach as Max put his arm around the big cat, mussing up the tuft of fur under his chin.
Because it was so hot today, he had decided to spend the night up on the mountain. Later on he would climb down and start making camp, but for now he would remain and gaze out at the Ocean.
Sometimes, when he gazed down from here, his mind’s eye superimposed terraced levels and landlocked house boats of Shipwreck Bay over the jutting slabs of rock that converged to form of the face of this side of the mountain. Even two years away from his former home hadn’t fully dimmed his vision of it. From this lofty vantage point, he could see the ghosts of his fellow Islanders making their rounds, just as he had watched them so many times back then.
At times like this, he occasionally wondered what everyone was up to, how they were doing after all this time. Though it would start innocently enough, it would usually end in picturing his mother all alone, the storm having whisked away both father and son, and it always left him with a deep sorrow that would take a long time to fade. Which was probably why he had come to think about it less and less as time went by.
Contemplating these things too long often made him wonder if this was what it was like to be dead. After being gone so long, he must surely be dead to the world.
Though the island had offered him peace and abundance, at times like this he became restless. Even from up here, the tide whispered its secrets, and he somehow knew he could hear them better if he could just get out there. The longing he felt sometimes completely overwhelmed the idyllic joy of his life here, taunting him with the one mystery he desired most of all to know.
“Dad…” Max spoke quietly, believing that on some distant horizon his father spoke his name and sought after news of his son.
Max would still be up there after dark, when he would finally come down by the light of the moon and stars.
-Notebook draft: March 11 – August 1, 2002
-Word-processed draft: July 28 – August 20, 2003
-additional revisions: May, 2008
In a lot of ways, this was one of the most challenging parts of the series to write, because the story itself is very different from most of what I write, since this is mostly an action-adventure type of series. Though necessary to the storyline, it took me a long time to get in the right frame of mind to write it. I think it took experiencing the pain of loss for myself to finally understand Max more fully. Time seemed to stand still for me at that point in my life, which really contributed to the feeling of time going soft while Max lived on the island. I was originally worried that I would lose everybody at this point, but I guess I must have done something right, given the solid response this story has gotten nearly everywhere I post it. Thanks for sticking around for the ride, and I promise the pace will start to pick up in the next part.