In the midst of a raging storm aboard a stolen sailboat, Scott and Aiden fight for their lives on the open sea against modern day pirates, hunger, a rapidly disintegrating boat, and mother nature herself. The two desperate teens must find a way not only to survive, but to navigate back home. Their only hope is to salvage a sinking friendship and work together. Their survival depends on it. Red Skies is from Survive, an EPIC Press series.
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Scott lost sight of his best friend, Aiden, between colliding walls of gray seawa-
ter. Had Aiden been washed overboard? Was he dead?
The icy curl of the latest wave pounded into their sailboat, knocking Scott down hard. With the boat’s deck now slick with seawater, Scott lost his footing and smacked his head into the now empty metal cleat next to him. Only minutes ago the rope that had held the torn main sail had been ripped away from the cleat by the force of the winds.
His ears rang. As Scott drifted in and out of con- sciousness, his mind went back to a time earlier that day when life was normal, almost boring.
Even at fourteen years old, Scott knew the harbor wasn’t just filled with boats; it was packed with the dreams and hopes of grownups. Some sailboats were drifting along, shiny and new, and some had not left the harbor in years. A few of the boats were in disrepair from neglect, while some were just well- worn from many adventures. Scott knew when they visited the sailboat that “just stopping by,” as his dad would say, really meant they would be there at least a few hours.
Scott looked out his parents’ car window at the winding road down to the sailboat harbor. The boats lining the dock baked in the afternoon sun
of a blue, cloudless sky. Scott was a passenger along with his mother, and his old friend Aiden. His dad drove, all the while radiating a child-like energy as he talked to them about his newly purchased sail- boat now tied up in the harbor.
“Today we seal up any leaks, boys. Then we do more preparation for our maiden voyage.”
Scott looked over at Aiden, whose face was buried in a computer tablet game. After watching Aiden feverishly tap the touch screen, Scott said, “Looks like we are almost there. What level are you on?”
“Oh, man! I just got another bonus chest with 400 gold and a protection spell.”
“Awesome. Thanks for coming along.”
Aiden didn’t answer, but scrolled through sev- eral screens before finally looking up and saying, “Huh?”
“Thanks for finally coming along to see my dad’s sailboat.”
“Your dad has a sailboat?” Sometimes Scott was embarrassed that Aiden was even his friend. He caught his dad looking at them in the rearview mirror. He must have heard Aiden’s stupid question.
Scott let out a breath. “Yes, Aiden, he has a boat! We’ve talked about it almost every time you’ve been over this summer. Seriously dude, do you even care what’s up with us, or do you just come over to use my computer because your parents banned you from playing anything online?”
“Um . . . little of both. Hey, a boat sounds cool.”
One thing about Aiden was his honesty. Sometimes it was infuriating, but Scott always came to appreciate it eventually. He and Aiden had been friends since kindergarten. Aiden had stood up for Scott against Jimbo Tykes, a third-grade thug who had it out for Scott. Even though Aiden sometimes acted stupid, he had moments of brilliance. And Scott felt bad for Aiden; his parents were basically letting him raise himself.
Aiden looked back down at his computer tablet
as Scott’s dad pulled into a parking spot. When Scott exited the car, he noticed how many people had already come down to the dock to work on their boats. Some families ate picnic meals while others walked along the shore admiring all the boats tied in their slips around the floating dock.
Scott’s dad headed toward the trunk of the car. “Dad? Do you want help?”
“Of course! Let’s put Aiden to work, too.” His
dad turned back and rummaged around a short while in the trunk. He gathered a few supplies and headed toward the dock while Scott’s mom stayed back with the boys.
Aiden looked up at them in confusion and Scott’s mom extended her hand to ask for the com- puter tablet back. Scott thought he seemed sincerely baffled.
Scott’s mom smiled knowingly. “Aiden? It’s best to let me have that so it doesn’t get in the water.”
Aiden handed over the pad and headed after Scott’s dad toward the sailboat. Scott didn’t know if he should stay with his mom or run after them. His mom seemed to know what he was thinking.
“Go on, Scott. Your dad loves it when you help him work on it.”
“Okay, Mom. See you down there?”
“I’ll be right there. I’m going to say hello to Mrs. Hernandez first.”
Scott didn’t need to hear more than that. Mrs. Hernandez would talk his mom’s ear off for an hour, and he would be stuck there with them if he stayed. He bounded over to catch up with Aiden.
The way along the wooden dock smelled like the worst part of the sea to Scott, with barnacles and some kind of greenish slime growing along the sides of the path. When it was hot like this, with no afternoon breeze and a heat that sat over the water, the smell got concentrated in his nose. Aiden and Scott hopped on the boat after his dad and watched as he took out a few things he’d saved to add to the boat’s cabin supplies.
“We’ll be able to take her out for the first time, soon. I figure we can gradually move some of the cans of food and things that won’t spoil anytime soon into the cabin while we clean her up.”
Aiden looked impatient, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He brushed the long strands of black hair from his face. Scott went to the side of the deck and started to scrub the portal of the cabin. This was one of many tasks his dad had assigned him last time they visited the boat.
Scott was so focused while cleaning that he man- aged to tune out Aiden’s obvious boredom for a few minutes. When he glanced up at his friend, Scott was surprised to see Aiden looking with some inter- est at the ropes that kept the sailboat in its place against the dock.
“Do you think you’ll ever actually take this thing out, sir?” Aiden asked Scott’s dad.
“Of course, we are going to take it out, Aiden. There are just steps you have to do first to be ready for any voyage.”
“Couldn’t we go out today, just for a little while?”
His dad paused. “No, Aiden, she’s not ready.”
“But what’s the point of having a boat if it just sits here?”
Scott watched his dad’s patience strain. Aiden sometimes talked like this; he liked to push peo- ple’s limits. Most of the time, Aiden didn’t notice he was doing it. Afterwards, when Scott tried to explain, Aiden’s response was always, “But I was just curious!”
“We’ll take the boat out when it’s ready,” Scott’s dad calmly replied.
“What kind of knots did you say those were?”
Aiden pointed at the nearest knot that held the 1978 Ericson sailboat’s slick white hull in place against the bobbing of the sea.
“That is a cleat hitch. That’s the best kind of knot to use to attach a line from the boat to the dock.” Scott’s dad was smiling; he seemed pleased that Aiden was showing an interest.
“Why don’t they just make a knot? Why do there have to be fancy, special knots for stuff?”
“Because each knot can accomplish a different type of task. If you like, I can show you how to tie one of those.”
“Sure,” Aiden said enthusiastically, and Scott moved over to watch as well. Scott’s dad soaked up the attention—he was practically beaming.
“First, you have to untie it, of course. Why don’t you try it? It will make it easier to show you how to do up a knot if you see how to undo it.” Scott’s dad encouraged Aiden with a wave of his hand in the direction of the dock.
Aiden leaned over and started to pull at the knot. Scott realized this was going to take a long time doing it this way so he bent over the edge of the boat and showed off his skill by quickly undoing the cleat knot.
“Scott! Hey, I was going to do that,” Aiden protested.
Scott’s mom called out to them. “You forgot that
new table for the boat radio you bought the other day, honey. It’s up in the car. I can’t bring it down by myself. Someone want to help me out with it?”
Scott’s dad was up and out of the boat to help her.
“I’ll be right back boys. Then we can take a look at sealing the portals.”
Aiden moved over to the other cleat knot hold- ing the sailboat in the dock and started to undo it. He must have watched how Scott untied the knot and copied him because the rope came undone in seconds.
“Aiden! Dude, what are you doing? You can’t undo both knots or we’ll drift out of the dock. Put it back.”
Aiden popped back up and looked very guilty. Scott felt a wave of panic come over him. He looked up to the parking lot and saw that his mom and dad were now walking to their car with their backs to him. Scott went to yell for them, but knew
they would never hear him now—it was way too noisy, and they were too far away. His dad’s sail- boat, named The Long Wavy Home by its previous owners, was made for the sea. It answered its call once it was untied from its moorings like a race- horse to the field. It started to drift out of the dock quickly.
Scott ran for the rudder. Aiden laughed. “Come on let’s just take it out for a little bit.” “No! Absolutely not!” Scott grabbed the wheel
as the boat slipped out of the dock toward the open sea.
“Come on. You’re the one who says you know so much about sailing. Prove it”
“I know how to sail. That’s not the point!”
Scott looked back at the dock. His dad was a dot in the parking lot, but he could tell that dot was moving quickly back toward the dock.
“Aiden, we need to go back.”
“Come on. You should be able to do this. Just around here.” Scott saw his dad make it out to the dock where his beloved sailboat had been. He was shouting, but Scott could barely hear him. “Scott! Get back here!”
“Dad! Wait there, we will be back in . . . ” Scott looked to Aiden for the rest of the information.
“Half an hour.” “Half an hour!” “Tops.” “Tops!”
He saw his dad wildly waving his hands. The boat was picking up speed away from the dock now. Scott thought he would just take it out for a bit since Aiden had already gotten them out there. He figured maybe he’d use the outboard motor to show Aiden how it was done. By the time his dad had a chance to cool off and see Scott had everything under control, he’d just bring it back into the dock. His dad might even be proud of how well his son handled the boat.
What could happen? he thought as he turned to start the motor that would guide them around and
back to the dock. He wouldn’t be in that much trouble.
It was Aiden’s fault, after all.
The sound of a pulled rope greeted Scott’s ears as he looked over the outboard motor.
“Hey, this knot is a lot easier to loosen than the ones holding the boat.” Aiden smiled as the rope holding the main sail came untied. “Cool.” Aiden continued, grinning. “Okay, you know so much. Show me how you paid attention to all that stuff your dad talks about.”
The silky, white fabric billowed out then gath- ered the wind and pulled the sailboat out into the sea far away from the dock. This was the moment Scott realized that he didn’t really know how to sail at all.