The beach ahead was empty, and when he turned to look, the tide pools were gone. “Back to the beginning then?” Isaac asked himself.
“Nonsense, you didn’t begin here,” a gruff voice said. Isaac turned to see a tall skinny man moving towards him. Strangely enough, he was facing Isaac and stepping backwards to move forwards.
Isaac was pretty sure the man was a pirate. He had an eye patch and a peg leg and big red beard and a parrot. Isaac looked down at the bottle in his hand. “Is this yours?” he asked. “I found it when I arrived.”
The man pointed at Isaac. “Hah! I knew you didn’t begin here.”
“I began walking here when I arrived,” Isaac said. He looked around. “At least I think I did.”
“So you admit you didn’t really begin here at all, right?” The man narrowed his eyes and looked down his nose at Isaac.
Isaac shrugged. “Sure. I came from somewhere else, so I guess I didn’t begin here.” He held out the bottle. “So, is it yours?”
The man threw back his head and laughed loudly. “I knew it,” he said, slapping his knee. “Short Jim Black is always right.”
“Why are you called Short Jim Black if you’re tall and your hair is red?” Isaac asked.
“Because my name is Jim, of course.” The pirate scratched his nose. “Oh, hey, where did you get that bottle?”
“I found it. Is it yours?” Isaac held it out yet again.
“Nope. I already found my treasure. That must mean it’s yours.”
“Treasure!” the parrot squawked.
Isaac looked up at the pirate, feeling a little confused. “I thought pirates could never have too much treasure.”
“That depends entirely on the type of treasure, of course,” Short Jim said.
“Treasure!” the parrot squawked again.
“I guess that makes sense.” Isaac held up the bottle and looked through the glass at the rolled up paper inside. “So what kind of treasure is it?”
“That looks like a map to King Island. The location changes, of course. But you only ever need to find it once. Then you’re always king.”
“King of what?” Isaac asked.
“Oh, it’s hard to say. You can be king of so many things. I became king of the pirates.” Short Jim puffed out his chest and lifted his chin. He stayed like that for several minutes. “You should bow and say, ‘your majesty,’” he said out of the corner of his mouth.
“Oh, right.” Isaac bowed. “Your majesty.”
The pirate nodded his head. “Welcome to my island. Of course all islands are my islands, because I’m king of the pirates.”
“Were you always a pirate?” Isaac asked.
“Well, not exactly. I was a baker and hoping to be king of the bakeries, but someone else got that one. Still, it could be worse. Someone else got turned into a dolphin when he found King Island.” Jim shook his head. “I wonder if he misses having hands.”
Isaac looked down at the bottle in his hand with horror. “I don’t want to be king of anything. I just want to go home.”
Jim shrugged. “You should have thought of that before you picked up the bottle. At this point, the only way out is through.”
“Can’t I just put it down and pretend I never saw it?” Isaac asked.
“Go ahead and try it.”
“Treasure!” the parrot squawked.
The pirate glared at his parrot. “I didn’t say treasure, I said try it.”
“Treasure!” the parrot squawked again. The pirate huffed.
Isaac threw the bottle out towards the ocean as hard as he could. It fell at his feet. He tried to step away from it. Suddenly it was back in his hand. He dropped it and it reappeared. “What do I do?” he asked.
“You need to read the map,” Jim said. He pointed to the bottom of the jar. “Read it first, and then you can unroll it and pull it out of the bottle.”
That didn’t make any sense, but Isaac tipped up the bottle. He could see the inside of the map through the glass at the bottom. The moment he saw the big red x in the corner, the map started to unroll. It pushed against the sides of the bottle and the bottle disappeared.
He was left holding what looked like a large treasure map. “Now what?” he asked.