I awoke to the sensation of someone shaking me.
I opened my eyes, and saw a pair of black eyes peering at me worriedly. Her long black hair, the same glistening color as her eyes, draped down to the floor.
She was a pretty girl, around the same age as me.
I tried to get up, and let out a groan from the pain in my head. The girl murmured a little cry of concern, and propped me up with her thin hands.
Where was I?
What had happened to me?
I put a hand to my head, and looked around. I was in a spacious lounge. There were elegant antique-looking tables and chairs scattered here and there. In the corner was a bar counter, lined with many wine bottles. A small stage had been set up on the side of the room, with sheet music left open as if someone had been performing there.
There were a lot of other boys and girls my age lying down on the polished hardwood floor. There were at least ten of us there. All of the kids were gripping their heads, complaining about their headache.
I realized that the kids belonged to many different races. Nearly all of them had white skin. But since the group included everyone from a heavy-set, particularly Germanic-looking boy with blond hair and blue eyes, to a tanned, curly-haired boy who looked like he grew up around the Mediterranean, I could tell that we came from many countries. There was also a short, yellow-skinned, Chinese-looking boy. A small boy and girl of similar swarthy complexions tried to communicate, but when they realized that they spoke different languages, they seemed taken aback.
Out of the roomful of groaning voices, probably complaining of their headaches, I could make out the sounds of English and French, but there were also many kids speaking rapidly in foreign languages, and I didn’t know what they were saying.
The yellow-skinned boy came over and helped me up. I thanked him in French, “Merci,” and he nodded as if he understood.
“Where are we?!” I heard someone say in clear-sounding English. The children all turned around to see who was yelling.
A white boy was standing there. He was skinny, and his hair was short. His skin, dotted with freckles, was ruddy and deeply tanned.
“Some adults in this weird carriage grabbed me and gave me a meal, and I fell asleep. When I woke up, I was here. And my head hurts…. What’s going on here?”
I stood up and said the same thing had happened to me.
“Did that happen to everyone here…?” the boy replied uneasily.
Only the children who understood English nodded.
The freckled boy looked around the lounge. He paced around the room impatiently, then looked up at the door. He put his hand on the doorknob.
I followed him to the door and took a peek outside. There was a long corridor, lined with lamps that lit up the ornate wooden walls and dark red carpet with much brighter light than they needed.
The freckled boy looked back at us, tension straining his face. “Say…” he asked, tilting his head doubtfully. “Doesn’t it feel like the ground is moving?”
Now that he mentioned it, it did feel like the ground was slowly moving from side to side. The movement was steady, swaying every few seconds….
Where were we?
Why were we here?
Then a girl lifted her head up from her hands and cried out shrilly, “Is it an earthquake? An earthquake, that must be it!”
This sent the group into a frenzy. Some of the children quickly dove underneath the tables. Just as panic was about to overtake us, the Chinese boy who lent a hand to me earlier said, “That’s not it.”
He spoke in English. His pronunciation was flawless.
All eyes turned to him.
“This movement is no earthquake.”
“Why do you say that?” asked the freckled boy.
The Chinese boy answered in a calm voice, “Because we aren’t on land.”
“This movement … these are waves. We’re at sea. This room is probably a ship’s cabin. What I think is, we’re not in a building on land, but on a ship.”
The lounge fell deathly quiet.