The Downfall of Peter Pan

Every lonely boy dreams of Neverland. They traded stories of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys like baseball cards, and, in the orphanages of London, every boy wished to be a part of that family.

I was barely ten years old when I got my wish. It was just past midnight when I heard the faint tune of pipes float in through the open window. I opened my eyes and saw the figure of a boy sitting at the foot of the bed. He was playing a pipe made of reeds, and his bright eyes shone with mischief. I knew at once that this boy was Peter Pan.

When he saw that I was awake, he smiled and lowered his pipes.

“How would you like to come and join the Lost Boys?”

My heart pounded as I sat up. “But, why me?”

Pan grinned. “I like you, Jimmy, and I think you’ll be a nice addition to my family. Are you interested?”

He didn’t need to ask me twice. I had wished for this moment a hundred times, never once dreaming that it would come true. Now that it has, I wasn’t about to pass it up.

“Yes! Please, take me with you.”
Pan’s smile widened as he lifted the pipes to his lips and played a quick little jingle. Before the last note disappeared, a small light appeared and flitted around his head. It landed in his outstretched hand, which he then shook over my head. I sneezed as the pixie dust entered my nose, but that just made him smile more. Releasing the fairy from his grasp, he stood up and held out his hand.

“Take my hand, and I promise you a life of adventures as one of my Lost Boys. Are you ready?”

There was a look in his eyes that did promise adventures, but there was something dark lurking just beneath. I felt it prickle along my spine, but I had nothing to lose. So, I took his hand, and we flew to Neverland.

Neverland was everything I had dreamt of and more. The fresh air was so much better than the London smog I grew up in, and the freedom from authority was both liberating and terrifying. We landed on a sandy beach surrounded by jungle, and Pan gave out a long whistle.

“Come on, Lost Boys! Come and meet your new brother!”

A group of boys quickly surrounded us on the beach and embraced me as one of their own. There were maybe thirty boys in various states of undress, and I noticed that some seemed older than others. The older ones took me under their wing and gave me a tour of the island, introducing me to the wonders of the island. That night, we bedded down inside a massive oak tree that had been hollowed out. Small candles lit the inside, and beds were an assortment of clothes, furs, and springy ferns. The air was heady with the smell of young boys, and I fell asleep in perfect contentment.
Finally, I had a real family to call my own.

*

            Neverland was a wealth of adventure and opportunity. I swam with mermaids, cavorted with fairies, and listened to the natives. The Natives intrigued me the most, for their women were the only adults on the island. I loved to sit by the fire and listen to their wisdom, and it was through this interaction that I learned the truth about Neverland.

“Time is different here,” Grandmother Wolf once told me,  “eighty years I’ve lived on this island; but, in my homeland, I’d be over four hundred years. That’s how Neverland works, and why you boys don’t age as quickly.”

I was fascinated. “How did your people come here, Grandmother?”

She stirred the fire before replying. “Stories say that a great storm blew our ancestors off course and marooned them on this island. After adjusting to the change, they made peace with their fate and lived in harmony for many generations. Then, Pan arrived.”

Grandmother wouldn’t tell me more, but I gathered from her expression that Pan was not someone they talked of lightly.

Later that evening, I told Grandmother’s story to the other boys, who listened with rapt attention because new stories were rare on the island. After the story, the other boys went off to play while I returned to my bed.

Why would the Natives be afraid of Pan? Was there something about him that I didn’t know?

I soon fell asleep and dreamt about my first meeting with Pan. Everything was the same, except that his shining eyes were full of darkness. His smile was also sharper than I’d remembered, and I awoke in a cold sweat as my spine began prickling again.

 

That dream was an omen, but I never knew what darkness lay beyond the horizon.

*

            Years passed, and on the night of my fifteenth birthday, I witnessed an event that would be forever called “The Thinning.”

It began when Pan called an assembly of the boys, and we crowded around a tree stump as he stood upon it and addressed us.
“Lost Boys! Tonight, we will have a grand party to celebrate the aging of Mark, Henry, Joe, and William! Now eighteen, they are too old to be Lost Boys and must move on to their next adventure, but not without a proper farewell! Do what you must, for the party begins at sundown!”

We cheered and scattered to prepare the things needed for the party. It took hours, but we managed to put together a bonfire, some roast pigs, and someone found a barrel of homemade ale that was promptly opened and sampled. It was time.

Pan returned as the sky darkened and congratulated us on a job well done. He then left us to party on our own, which we did with reckless abandon. Later that night, I saw him return to the party and single out the four older boys before leading them to the same stump he had used earlier. Pan then called for our attention.

“Lost Boys! Tonight, we celebrate and say goodbye to four of our most loyal brothers. Mark, Henry, Joe, and William have reached the ripe, old age of eighteen, and, since they are now adults, they are no longer considered a part of our family. Now, they move on to the next great adventure! So say your farewells, for they leave at dawn.”

There were some boos from the crowd at Pan’s parting words, but the boys eventually returned to the feast and said their goodbyes with mouthfuls of ale.

I wasn’t one of them. Something about Pan’s words bothered me, and I was determined to find out the truth about this “next great adventure.”

But Pan was crafty. He waited until the Lost Boys were too content to notice anything beyond their pillows before taking Mark, Henry, Joe, and William into the jungle.

I was the only one who followed him into the thick trees, and I was the only one who saw Peter Pan, defender of Lost Boys and protector of innocence, use his knife to slit each boy’s throat and drain the life from their bodies. He collected their blood in a jar before throwing their bodies into the crocodile pit, watching with glee as the beasts tore my brothers apart. He then began whistling as he picked up the jar and made his way back to camp, confident that his ritual remained unnoticed.

But I had seen it. My whole world came into focus then, and I finally understood what the small voice in my head had been whispering to me.
Peter Pan was nothing but a demon disguised as a child, and we were all in danger.
I didn’t dare tell the other boys for fear of starting a panic, but how could I proceed? Nowhere was safe from the eyes of Pan because he knew this island inside and out, so I decided to improvise. I had once found the hull of an old ship half-buried in the sand, and it had given me the best idea. I would use that hull to make a ship of my own.

It would be big enough to live on, but not so big that it would draw attention. I went to Grandmother Wolf and the other Natives, who showed me which trees to use for wood, and which sap to use for waterproofing, but it was slow going.

Pan had eyes everywhere, and I knew that he suspected something was up when I excused myself from our regular games.  He played it off, but I could see the spark of distrust in his dark eyes. He would be watching me.

*

            Somehow, I managed to complete my ship. It took three years to finish, but the result was so beautiful that I almost cried. But it wasn’t quite finished yet, so I went to the fairies for help. Grandmother had told me stories about the fairies and how to win their affections, so I snuck some cream from the breakfast table and took it to their section of the island.

Fairies are mysterious creatures, and they generally don’t like to be disturbed, so I set the bowl of cream in the middle of their village and voiced my request to the wind.

“Please, if you can help me, I need some pixie dust to get my ship to sail. I want to leave Neverland so I can learn how to defeat Pan. Please, if you can help me, I’ll be forever thankful.”

Bowing, I left the offering and my words to their consideration. I had no idea if they’d help me, but it was worth a shot. Confident in my decision, I went back home and began gathering my things in secret.
Soon enough, I’d leave Neverland behind me.

*

            “That’s a beautiful ship you’ve made, Jimmy.”

Pan’s voice startled me as he emerged from the jungle. I quickly stowed the rest of my belongings and feigned a smile.

“I’ve always loved building things, so when I found that old hull a few years ago, it gave me the idea.”

Pan nodded as he flew around the boat and surveyed it. “I like it. Did the Natives help you?”

I didn’t want to give anyone away, so I shrugged. “Not really. I was there when the canoes were getting fixed, and I figured the same materials could be used for my ship as well.”

Pan mused over this answer for a moment before flashing his trademark smile. “Well, be sure to come home tonight. You wouldn’t want to miss the party!”

The blood froze in my veins. Who was Pan going to kill tonight? I nodded and left the safety of my ship as I made my way back home. I had to keep up appearances for the safety of my brothers, but that didn’t stop my spine from prickling the whole way back.

Later that morning, Pan stood on his usual tree stump and addressed the Lost Boys. “Lost Boys! Tonight, we will have a grand party to celebrate the aging of Luke, Matthew, Drake, and James! Now eighteen, they are too old to be Lost Boys and must move on to their next adventure, but not without a proper farewell! Do what you must, for the party begins at sundown!”

My heart skipped a beat as I heard my name being called out. Was I already eighteen? Or was Pan getting a little too suspicious of my activities? Either way, it was now or never.

While the boys prepared the bonfire, I grabbed Luke, Matthew, and Drake and pulled them to a corner.

“Listen to me. We can’t let Pan take us into the jungle. It’s not safe.”

“Not safe?” Drake scoffed, “How can it be dangerous with Pan and four of the best hunters around?”

The others agreed, but I shook my head. “Look, I saw what happened at the last aging party. Pan is going to kill us and feed us to his crocodiles.”

The three boys just laughed at me before turning away. I had expected some form of disbelief, but this was much worse than I had anticipated. Nevertheless, I was determined to be on my guard. I had attached my hunting knife to my side before the festivities, and I checked it to make sure it was secure and hidden. I then paced the campground, avoiding all offers of food and drink as I waited for Pan’s return.

It didn’t take long.

He returned before sunrise and landed at my side. “Time to go, Jimmy. Please gather the others for me and meet me at the stump.”

I bowed my head and did as he asked, but not before trying to warn the other boys once more. They were full of ale and merriment and would not heed my warnings, so I knew that, whatever happened, I would be alone.

Pan led us to the stump and stood over us as he made his farewell speech, which was the same speech he had made for the previous Thinning. He then led us into the jungle for one last “Adventure.” I fell to the back of the line, and I could hear the others talking and laughing about their future. When we reached the crocodile pit, Pan took out his flute and began playing a slow, haunting song. He hadn’t done this before, and I felt myself becoming drowsy as he put us in a trance to ensure that we complied, despite what I had told the others.
Luke was the first to fall, and his scream of agony shook me from my trance. Pan was too busy reveling in the blood to notice me, so I ran. I didn’t stop running until I reached the beach where my ship was. The sun was rising now, and I had just paused to catch my breath when I heard the flute playing behind me. I turned and saw Pan standing a few yards away with two enormous crocodiles at his side.

“We missed you, Jimmy. These two fellows were looking forward to a good meal tonight. Why’d you run off?”

“Maybe because I don’t want to die?” I leaned back against the ship and faced him like the man I was. “All this time, I knew what you were doing, but I was too much of a coward to say anything. My brothers are now dead because of it.” I sighed, “Look, you want me gone, and I don’t want to be here anymore. Just let me go.”

Pan shook his head. “That’s not how this works. I brought you here and gave you the best childhood imaginable. In exchange, I get your life. That’s the deal.”
I was furious now. “We never made a deal! You asked if I wanted to come to Neverland, and I would have gone anywhere at that age. I never agreed to give up my life so a monster could keep on living.”

Pan regarded me curiously. “You’re smart, James. Still, rules are rules, and it’s not my fault that you didn’t ask for the terms before you agreed. All miracles come with consequences, and this is yours.”

He pulled out his knife and smiled when I pulled out my own. “I will say, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a boy of your spirit here. Most of them are too dumb to know what’s happening until it’s too late, so this will be a nice change.”

Pan lunged at me, and I was barely able to block his knife with my own. We fought on that beach for hours, both of us fighting for our right to live. I was holding my own, but my strength was failing, and Pan saw his opportunity. He brought his blade down on the only part of me he could reach, and I screamed in pain as my hand dropped the knife and fell into the sand.

Pan went over to it and smiled as he picked it up.

“Here you go, fellas. A little taste of what’s to come.”

He threw my hand to the crocodiles and watched as they fought over the small morsel. Then, he picked up my knife and handed it to me.

“Come on! Let’s finish this properly.”

Blood gushed out of my handless arm, and I took a moment to wrap my tattered shirt around the stump. I then took the handle of the knife he offered, but not before slicing open the palm of his hand as I removed the knife from his grasp.

Pan let out a yelp and examined the sudden gush of blood from his hand. He then began to laugh. “Well done, Jimmy! Well done! No Lost Boy has ever been able to cut me before. You can wear that badge with honor as I finish you off.”

Before Pan could fulfill his promise, a small light appeared between us, then another, and another, until there was a wall of twinkling lights shielding me from his wrath. Pan’s eyes widened as he took it in.

“Well, It seems you’ve made friends on this island. Very well. I’ll spare your life, for now, but if you ever set foot on this island again, you’re mine.”

Pan sheathed his knife and herded his crocodiles back to their pit as I collapsed against my ship.

*

            “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

I began to sob with a mixture of relief and agony as the fairies surrounded me. They covered my ship in pixie dust and helped me get it into the ocean before all of them disappeared, save one.  Her dress was a silvery-blue, and she alighted on my bloodied arm and covered it in silver dust that I had never seen before. It began to tingle, then burn as a shape emerged from under the cloth. I removed my bandages and examined it. A silver hook now took the place of my right hand, and, while it wasn’t the same, it was better than nothing.

The fairies had saved my life twice today, and I knew that, no matter what, I would return the favor. Peter Pan may be immortal, but he could still be wounded, and I vowed on my ship that I would save Neverland from his reign.

Pan was now my enemy, and I, Captain James Hook of the Ocean Breeze, would be his downfall.
*
I sailed away from the island and searched the horizon for any signs of land.  I don’t remember how many days had passed before a great storm blew up and threatened my life. Tattered sails flapped in the wind as I tried keeping my ship afloat with only one hand and a hook, but nature was too strong for me. The Ocean Breeze capsized When a giant wave overtook her, and I fell into the salty blue abyss.

I awoke on a rocky beach with bits of my broken ship surrounding me. I felt a moment of panic as I remembered Pan’s promise to kill me if I set foot on the island again, but it wasn’t until I saw the shapes of grown men around me. One of them, an older man with a long beard, gently shook my shoulder.

“Hey, kid, you ok? Can you hear me?”

I coughed up seawater as I slowly sat up. “Yeah. Where am I?”

“The Island of Rue. We found you among the debris this morning. Are you the only one?”

“Yeah. I’m all alone.”

The older man nodded. “I thought as much. Come one, let’s get you dried off and find you some food. What’s your name?”

“James. James Hook.”

The older man smiled. “Nice to meet you, James. My name is Walter Shmee. Welcome to our humble island.”

I went with Shmee to his humble cottage at the edge of what looked like a fishing village. I accepted his hospitality and asked him many questions, for I had never interacted with a male adult before.

Over the next few days, I talked with all the men of the village, determined to learn all I could from their experience. Then, when I was ready, I’d return to Neverland and end Pan’s reign once and for all.

But first, I’d need a new ship…

 


Here’s the completed story! Written in 2018 for my fiction class.

(photo credit)

 

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