12 Islands: Episode One: Get the Girl
Eric Scott Johnston
© 2017 Eric Scott Johnston
All Rights Reserved
This is a work of fiction. Anything you might think is real, is not, including the people you read about. That’s just coincidence.
The air felt easy. The same way the air is easy on the first day of fall, or the day after you fall in love. The afternoon sun was easy too and it bathed the short ripples of the Indian Ocean and its sinewy reflections danced alongside the hull of the small sloop Allison Pratt stood aboard where she watched the wreath she dropped, in memory of her family’s murder, float away.
Allison turned and looked over the deck for any other chores she needed to do. Everything was in order except for a line that secured the mainsail to ensure it would stay tightly rolled when not in use. She wrapped the rest of the line in a figure-eight around the cleat, then jammed the line by threading the last bit under a loop that was tight. She gave the line a tug and the last of her chores was over. She drew the easy air deep into her chest. Satisfied with the ship’s condition, she got on with the next task. I got this, she reassured herself several times while unsheathing her rigging knife.
With it held tightly in her right hand, she pierced her left arm deeply enough to puncture the vein. The dark redness beaded up behind the edge as she slid it down and away. When she sliced the blade down her forearm, it made a sound that reminded her of preparing food. When the blood ran, it turned brighter in the easy air. The vein opened wide. The released blood flowed up and out then over her arm and dribbled onto the deck in a scarlet pool, then made a small stream that coursed across the planking, bending over the gunwale and down the side of the pearl-white hull until the turquoise water of the Indian Ocean diluted the bright red liquid. She decided to lie down. The teak deck felt warm and good on her bare back and she stretched out.
The blood was beautiful, she thought, and it flowed well. It felt warm on her skin and looked bright as it puddled around her. The puddle became large and fed the small stream leading into the ocean. Why isn’t this scary? Allison asked herself. She lifted her head up then felt her hair weighed down by the blood. She set her head back down. How long will it take? Some images floated into her mind about her family. A smile. Then she wanted to back out. Yes, I will keep fighting, she said out loud. Remembering the food and water had all gone and there was no chance of getting more, she quit that thought. I could try though. Should I try? She asked out loud.
Five days ago, she tried to port. The images of what happened then replaced the nice images of her family. The angry images. The hands in the dark and cold. Her body feeling the warm and angry hands in the darkness. The gripping hands. The hands holding her down while other hands removed her clothing. The warm and angry hands hurting her. Other warm and angry parts hurting her. Then no hands and she was cold and crying in the darkness. She would not try. It was now the same everywhere, she thought. And she would die anyway. Probably brutally.
It was difficult to hold onto a thought, she noticed, and it was getting darker but the sun was still shining across the water. The blue sky was growing bluer. Her thoughts became quieter and she felt very aware and part of everything around her. The teak deck felt good and sturdy under her and she was part of that. The blood all around redder and the stream slower and she was part of that. The mast seemed to stretch taller into the rich blue sky. The rich blue sky was getting richer and darker and the sun was still shining and she was part of that too. It was all very beautiful to be part of that she felt. Very beautiful. It was darker. The sun shining across the water. Still very beautiful and everything getting darker. Everything was dark now and the sun still shining across the water.
There was no thinking. And it was dark. There were no images of angry hands. There were no images of family. There was no fear and there was no peace. There was nothing beautiful. There was no rich blue sky and there was no blood surrounding her. There was no part of anything. Allison Pratt did not know she was on the deck. She did not know she was no longer breathing the easy air. The blood was no longer flowing and her body grew cold and pale in the easy afternoon sun.
Then there was pain. It moved up along her back and burrowed inside her head. There was coldness running into her arm. There was darkness and thinking. Allison’s eyes snapped open. She felt restricted and did not know where she was. She felt the cold teak deck under her and she felt a salty breeze across her face. Her left arm felt heavy and she touched it. It was inside something soft. There was a plastic tube with a needle taped to her right arm. She traced the tube to a plastic bag filled with liquid that had been hung from a boom above her. She removed the bag from the boom and rolled over onto her stomach. She felt hungry and hollow from which a pounding came up and into her throat. There was not enough light to see the deck of her ship and she tried standing but fell. She crawled to the hatch at the rear of the ship and hurt her knees going down into the cabin. Once inside, she flipped on a light switch. Her left arm bandaged and she was clean. Her clothing was different. Her shirt had a note pinned to it. She tore it off and read: ‘Not Yet.’
She grabbed hold of a rail near her and with her unrestrained arm pulled herself to her feet. She climbed the narrow and steep stairs onto the deck. The plastic bag filled with blood dragged behind her. The wind caught her hair and she listened. She wasn’t sure what she was listening for. The water was dark and calm and the only sound was the lapping water against the hull. A sensation of panic set in and made her stomach feel hollow again and she felt as if she was going to vomit.
Accompanied by the sensation of panic, she felt alone. She touched the bandage on her arm again. She dropped the note, picked up the blood bag and the inside of her head swirled. Her consciousness drained, her hands trying to grab hold of something to steady herself but a moment later she felt herself go limp, hit the deck, and everything became dark again.
When she woke, there was something soft wrapped around her legs. She forced her eyelids open and focused her vision on the quilt around her limbs. When she could look around the room was bright with dried flowers hung in various places. The bag of blood was above her dangling from a small shelf and it was empty.
The hollowness was still in her stomach, like before, but it was now hunger. She was curious about her whereabouts but the hunger-weakness dominated her thoughts. They kept turning on finding a meal and she hoped that whoever was caring for her, a feeling she had not experienced since her family was alive, would offer food.
Then the door to the room opened slightly and Allison saw the face of a woman. Her brown eyes were large and round, set in a kind visage that appeared sun and wind worn. When the woman saw Allison was awake she shut the door.
Allison struggled to her feet.
“Hey!” Allison said to the closed door.
“One moment, dear!” the woman said.
After a few moments passed, Allison heard footsteps walking back toward the closed door.
“Dear?” the woman said, “would you mind?”
Unsure what to do, Allison stood and stared at the closed door. The thought then occurred to her to open it. The woman this time was holding a tray with a steaming pot of tea and two small cups. Several small slices of bread had been placed on a small plate next to the tea kettle.
“We don’t have any milk, dear,” the woman said, while setting the tray on a small table near the bed Allison woke from. The woman seemed genuinely sad at the thought of not having any milk then added, “Sorry.”
The aroma from the tea was unlike anything Allison had ever experienced. It had a hint of wet alfalfa mixed with a spice she had no comparison for. She approached the woman who was pouring the tea into one of the cups. The woman handed the cup to Allison who took it, examined it, then with both hands wrapped around the cup, downed the contents.
“Careful, dear, it’s hot!”
Allison barely felt the burning sensation which was good going down her throat. Allison held her cup out and the woman obliged. Allison drank that cup slower.
“Where am I?” Allison said, wiping away some of the tea that had dribbled down her chin.
The woman opened her mouth, then stopped before she said anything. She took a breath as if she was unsure of what she was about to say.
“We call it”—she paused and looked out the window—“Ara. It’s short for Ararat,” she said. Her voice sounded hopeful to Allison.
“Yes, dear.” The woman sat down on the bed. “Let me take that needle out of your arm and I will answer any questions you have as best I can.”
Allison sat next to the woman and she gently pulled the needle from her vein. Both women looked at Allison’s left arm that was that appeared to be rebandaged.
“My name is Margret, dear,” she said, “did you,” she paused, uncertain how to broach the subject, “did you try to hurt yourself, dear?”
“I, um.” Allison pulled her arm away, she felt it better to evade the question. “Um, where is Ara, exactly?”
“Well that would be a better question for Bill Tanner, he’s our chief elder.”
“Elder?” Allison said tersely.
“Yes, dear, we all thought it best after God flooded the world again to keep our leadership system as biblical as possible.”
“God”—Allison paused, trying to eliminate the contemptuous feeling—“flooded the world?”
“Most of us believe this.” She looked out the window again. “But some think the icecaps melted because of global warming, others think it was a comet, you know, too much ice melting.”
Allison felt strengthened by the tea and what she thought was bread. She drank another cup and ate the bread.
“But their ideas don’t explain how bountiful this island is, how else could you explain how the fruit trees give fruit all year and how a tomato vine grows in a week?”
Allison had finished the tea and the bread was dry in her mouth. It was hard to swallow without liquid but she managed to get the lump down her throat. She thought the woman was nice, but obviously disconnected from reality. She wondered where she really was and who could give her an answer. She also wondered where her boat was. And while Margret seemed nice, she also wondered who else lived here, and if it became necessary, how to escape?
“Do you know where my boat is?”
“Oh yes, your boat is at the dock. Very curious how you came into possession of a boat like that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, dear, no one has seen a ship on the seas for,” she paused then looked up trying to recall the last time, “twenty-years.”
“Yes, and your ship is like the ones before the flood.” The woman stood up and looked out the window, then directly at Allison, “what’s your name, dear?”
The woman’s expression changed suddenly. The skin around her eyes grew tight and the corners of her mouth pointed down.
“You’re not from the evil waters, are you?” the woman said with great suspicion.
“I’m sorry?” Allison was unsure if she heard Margret correctly, then decided it best to not have her elaborate. “Look, I really appreciate you taking me in, but I just need to get back to my boat and be on my way. Perhaps you could point me to someone I can get supplies from?”
Margret did not answer but snorted at what she perceived Allison to be, whatever that was. Allison watched the expression Margret wore grow into outright suspicion, no, hatred, Allison observed. And fear.
“I think you’re from the evil waters,” Margret said while picking up the tray, “like the other one.”
Allison began to follow Margret out of the room but stopped when she closed it behind her. Allison figured she was to stay put here until this chief elder could examine her.
She went to the window and examined it to decide if she could leave by breaking it. It was set crudely in the wall and she thought it would be easy enough to escape. But what then? She wondered if her boat was under guard, and she had no real chance of overpowering anyone, or sneaking aboard in her current physical state.
And the strange things Margret was saying. Twenty-years? It made no sense. Maybe this chief elder would be a person who was reasonable, but then again maybe he wouldn’t.
“Hey!” Allison called out then banged on the door, “You can’t keep me in here!”
A moment later the door opened.
“Dear,” Margret said in an unsympathetic tone, “you’re free to come and go as you please.” She pointed her arm down the hall.
It took Allison a moment to realize that she might be wrong about Margret, but there was still something odd about her. She took another moment to decide what to do. Allison walked past Margret, holding eye-contact with her while she moved past and down the hall. The hallway was short and connected to a large room, which adjoined another room. On the far side of the smaller room, Allison spotted a door she guessed led outside and hoped would have answers, especially the location of her boat.
There was a main road. It ran directly from the sea. She turned around and the road continued over a slope. On each side of the road were small structures, like the one she had just left. She guessed Margret’s house was about half-way along the road.
A complex and pleasant scent hung thinly in the air that reminded her of lavender and citrus. A cloud layer masked the sun making the light soft causing everything to appear flatter without the strong shadows a clear-sky sun produces. Allison watched several people folding a fishing net down where the road ended by the sea, while others were walking up and down the road carried large baskets, some overflowing with produce and fruit.
She made her way down the road. As she walked, she noticed two more roads that ran up and down from the sea, and three other roads running perpendicular. There were many more structures, some larger, some smaller. The whole organization of the village reminded her of a resort she had visited as a child. The people she passed seemed friendly, but cautious. Everyone said hello, but was quick to break eye contact.
Allison arrived at the end of the road and looked across the beachfront for any sign of a dock. There was no sign. A young woman, an old woman, and a teenage boy stood waist-high in the water throwing nets, then pulled them back. Allison watched this process several times and if there was a fish, the boy would take it and put it in a basket he wore slung around one shoulder by a wide strap. They did not seem to notice Allison. She thought about interrupting them when a voice came from behind her.
“Excuse me,” the voice of a young boy said.
Allison spun around quickly. Her not hearing the boys approach alarmed her. Their clothing appeared hand-made and they both seemed timid but trying to overcome it the way she always noticed young boys do at a certain age.
“Yes?” Allison said.
“Were you on the water?” The boy with short dark hair asked.
“I was on a boat,” Allison said.
“Where are you from?” the boy with reddish-blonde hair asked.
“I’m from San Diego. Do either of you know where the dock is?”
“Everything was destroyed in the flood. What island have you been on?” the dark-haired boy asked.
“Everyone knows there are only islands now,” the other boy said contemptuously .
“I didn’t,” Allison said growing alarmed at the hostile tone.
While Allison was answering, the two women and the boy that were fishing in the water approached. Everyone had formed a semi-circle around Allison.
“Listen, I just need to know where the dock is. I need to make sure my boat is okay,” she said to the crowd.
“Are you here to collect your own?” the young woman asked Allison.
“I, uh,” Allison started to respond, but did not know what she meant, “just someone tell me where my boat is and I’ll be happy to leave.”
“Is she from the evil waters?” the old woman said to the younger.
“Is who from the evil waters?” Allison said taking a step back as the crowd had begun to envelop her.
“The same place you’re from!” the dark haired boy said, yelling the words.
Allison felt the crowd had turned into a mob and she decided it best to leave. There was a gap between the women and she started out of the circle when the dark-haired boy pushed on her back with his foot sending Allison’s face into the sand. While she was clearing the sand from her eyes she heard another voice.
“Hey!” he called out, “get away from her!”
Allison felt hands helping her up. These hands were kind and large. Allison turned around and found a man with twinkling blue eyes. His hair and beard was grey and the tips of his moustache stained yellow, covering his upper lip. He was tall and built like a wrestler, but she sensed he had no inclination toward violence. His clothing appeared hand made as well.
“Are you okay?” he said.
“I’m fine,” Allison said brushing the sand off. She looked around and noticed the crowd had dispersed. The boys were walking back up the road, occasionally glancing back, and the others returning to their fishing.
“Don’t mind them, some of us don’t know how to handle unexpected situations very well,” he said then held his palm up, “I’m not excusing their behavior, mind you.”
“Thanks, um…” she said, but suddenly realized she didn’t know his name.
“My name is Henry,” he said, “Margret told me you were out and about.”
“Henry, do you think you could show me where my boat is?” she asked in earnest.
“Of course,” he said, “and afterwards, I was hoping you would let me take you on a brief tour of our island.”
Something in his tone, and that he had asked her if it was okay, was an unfamiliar experience to her. Pleasant, but unfamiliar. Her experience over the past year, especially with men, was anything but pleasant. Most of the men she knew, even the ones she trusted, would never ask for her consent. A test of his sincerity was in order.
“Would you let me decide after I see my boat?”
“Of course I will.”
“Will you let me leave if I want?”
“Allison,” he started, “it is not my place to let you do anything,” he said, with a chuckle, then started walking down the beach, “come on, young lady.
Allison watched him walk away for a few moments. She saw his crudely made shoes and the footprints in the sand they made. She decided it was okay to follow him.
The dock was a short walk from where they began. The sand on the beachfront had gradually changed from fine particles into pebbles. The dock stretched out two-hundred feet into the water and at the end was her sloop, gently rocking with the waves of the water. She stepped on the dock and walked across its planks. She went aboard her boat and looked around. Everything seemed to be in order. She made her way down into her cabin. There, too, everything seemed to be okay. She went above and found Henry standing on the edge of the dock.
“Everything ship-shape?” he asked hoping his nautical term would elicit some amusement . It didn’t.
“It seems to be fine,” she said while giving the boat another look, “do you know where I can get some food and water to take with me?”
“I do,” he said, “do you have something to trade?”
Allison thought about what she had available. Then she thought about what they might want. She realized that she didn’t really have anything of value.
“Is there any work that I might do?”
Henry appeared to consider Allison’s request. His eyes searched around, then met Allison’s.
“I will give you supplies in exchange for information,” he said.
“What kind of information?” Allison wasn’t sure she liked his proposal.
“The kind of information that will help me convince these weirdos that God did not flood the world,” he said, with a contemptuous laugh.
“I don’t know if I can help you with that,” Allison said. She didn’t know what information she could pass on that might help Henry.
“Probably not. How about that tour?”
Allison nodded and Henry held out his arm as if he was going to escort her to some function where a gentleman was obliged to make such gestures.
“Are you serious?” she asked, stepping off her boat.
“Oh, why not?” he asked optimistically , “let an old man give you a proper escort,” he said as if he had every right.
“Alright, Henry,” she said then took his arm.
“How old are you?”
“Hmmm. Too old.”
“Too old for what?” she said, taking offense then realizing he was trying to keep the situation light-hearted. He did make her feel better. “Henry?”
“Is that Margret woman crazy?”
“She said she hasn’t seen a boat like mine for twenty-years.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I.”
“Where is this place, Henry?”
They arrived at the end of the dock. Allison turned as if they would backtrack the way they arrived. Henry gently stopped her.
“This way,” he said, then let go of her.
Henry led her up and off the beach. After a few minutes the pebbly shore changed into short grass. Allison noticed the terrain turn rocky. The smaller rocks turned into boulders the further inland they traversed. Soon the boulders were large boulders and Allison felt as if she were in some sort of labyrinth. Several times Henry had to come back for Allison after she couldn’t figure out which boulder Henry had walked around.
Then after a few more minutes of making their way inland Allison noticed the natural shape of the boulders begin to change. Their bulbous shapes gradually became shallower curves and soon the boulders became large blocks of stone. She really felt as if she was in a maze. She took another wrong turn. Henry took her hand this time and continued to lead her.
“Just a few more yards,” he said. Allison assumed he was trying to reassure her.
“Where are we, Henry?”
“That’s what I am hoping you can help me with,” he said while leading her around another large block of stone many feet higher than the top of their heads.
Soon, Allison noticed, the stone began to have designs cut into their sides. They were simple at first. Then as they moved toward, whatever Henry was leading her toward, the designs became more complex. Allison thought the stone carvings were beautiful.
“How can I help you?”
“Before all this,” he said as if he was referring to some unknown event, “I was an Astro-physicist.”
“Is that like a person who looks in telescopes?”
“Don’t be coy, Allison,” he said not buying her act.
“Sorry. I’ve just gotten in the habit of playing stupid. It’s helped.”
“You asked me a few moments ago, where we are?”
“Where are we?”
“I don’t know. For the past twenty-years there has been this cloud cover.” He pointed up at the sky. “Day and night. If I could see the stars I could tell you where on the planet we are, but I can’t.”
The designs carved into the boulders took on even greater complexity and shape. Soon the shapes took on the shape of people in action, like hieroglyphics, but more complex.
“This place seems ancient.” Allison said out loud.
“It’s not,” Henry said while ascending a stone step.
“How much further, Henry?”
“We’re here,” he said while letting go of her hand.
They were standing on the edge of what appeared to be a circle of large stone blocks. They were the most massive yet. On the inward facing side, the carvings were the most complex. In the center was a stone pillar. It had large holes and other shapes carved into to it but it’s carvings did not seem complex or sophisticated. In fact, to Allison, it appeared to be a misguided attempt at art.
“Over here,” he said motioning for her to join him.
She walked over to Henry who was watching the stone pillar.
“It only happens once per day,” he said.
And within a minute there was a clearing in the cloud layer and the brilliance of the sunlight came through. Its angle was right for the rays to shine through the top of the pillar where the light channeled through the various holes and began to cast the directed light onto the carvings in the stone block encircling the pillar. The way the light moved around was like an animation.
First it lit up what appeared to be a semi-circle. Then human figures held hammers on it. The mound grew larger. The semi-circle emerged from a horizontal line as Allison’s eyes followed it around the circle. The human figures now stood upon it and stacked blocks upon it.
“What is this, Henry?” she said in astonishment.
“Just wait,” he said while pointing his finger.
The human figures continued to light up like they were building something. Then the human figures disappeared. The channeled sunlight continued to shine on the next block as the angle of the sun shifted across the sky.
A topographical map began to draw itself in light. It appeared to be a series of islands. Twelve of them. Each one lighting up in a certain order. Then they disappeared as the sun continued to shift across the sky. Then, on the last block an image appeared. The image made Allison tremble. It was the logo of a company she knew well: The Pratt Shipbuilding Company. The company her father started. Allison looked at Henry who was looking at her studying her reaction. She looked back at the logo, which was now disappearing as the angle of the sun continued to shift.
“I met you once,” Henry said, “when you were a very little girl,” he paused and cleared his throat, “I worked for your father, Allison.”
“You worked for my dad?” Allison asked not knowing what else to say.
“Your father was a visionary,” Henry said in the tone a zealot talks about religion, “I think he figured out a way to save us, save the planet.”
“What did you do for my father?”
“I worked in a laboratory. Doing experiments. Now I see how those experiments are relevant to what’s happening right now.”
“How so?” Allison said, now afraid of Henry, but in a different way.
“Your father built this island.”
That thought made Allison shudder. Not because it was ridiculous. But because it was well within her father’s capability. Anything was, she thought. She now understood Henry’s behavior.
“What do you want from me, Henry?”
Henry looked away.
“What do I want?” he said as if he offended her, “I don’t want anything. But maybe you could tell me where your father is?”
“He’s dead, Henry. My whole family is.” Allison responded as if he should have known this already .
“Dead?” Henry seemed visibly disturbed.
“Dead.” Allison repeated the word by way of affirmation.
Henry’s legs seemed to give out on him, like a man who realizes his religion is false. He steadied himself by gripping his fingers in one of the carvings on the stone blocks but Allison watched his breathing change, drawing deep breaths that made his stomach cave in. He started weeping.
“Henry!” she said , moving over to him and bracing his arm over her shoulders.
“I’m okay, it’s okay,” he said, seeming to his outburst embarrassing.
“Let’s go back, Henry, okay?”
“Your dad, he was a good man.” Henry continued to speak with the weight of his arm around Allison’s shoulders.
She didn’t want to answer him. She wasn’t sure if that was a true statement. Her father was many things, but good? She knew who was good and who was not. The way a man is, is always an indicator to that effect. And besides, she acquired the experiences of her mother and grandmother to the same through a series of childhood experiences. Men always know how to behave, it is programmed into them. All men have a moral code. And when they don’t follow it they’re not right, she thought; without excuse and no need for further consideration. She never felt love from her father.
They were outside the square-cut boulders and making their way onto the beach front. It did not take them long until they were back out onto the beach. From there Henry and Allison made their way back up the main road to Margret’s home. When she crossed the first perpendicular road she noticed a building, unlike the others. It had small windows, barred by large wooden dowels set vertically, like bars on a jail door. In the window, furthest from her, she saw a face appear then disappear. She held her gaze until the face reappeared. It was the head and eyes of a child, of a young girl. Allison stopped. She made her way to the window.
“Allison!” Henry said in a tone of dissuasion, “don’t worry about that right now.”
She ignored him and went to the window. It was lower than her height so she knelt. It was dark inside the room. “Hello?”
“Allison?” said a voice from a place in the room.
It was dark and Allison could not see into it.
“Allison?” the voice said again.
“Who are you?” Allison said, feeling very disturbed.
“Am I a mistake?” said the voice from the darkness.
The question sent her mind spinning and it sounded very familiar.
“Allison!” Henry called out, still standing at the corner.
Allison looked over at Henry who seemed ready to collapse to the ground. She forgot about the voice and went to help him. She braced his arm around her shoulders and they continued up the road. The villagers looked on but did not interfere with them. They walked past Margret’s house, where Margret stood outside with her arms crossed, watching the duo make their way up the hill. Soon, Henry pointed.
“This is my house,” he said.
Allison helped him inside. It seemed to be the same layout as Margret’s house except the furniture and the interior smell was different. She helped Henry to a chair.
“Thank you, Allison. Will you stay for a while?”
“What about those supplies?”
“I was hoping we could get to know each other,” Henry said while trying to ease some of the pain in his knee, “if you want, then I can get you anything you need.”
“Do you have anything to eat?”
There was a knock at the door. Allison looked at the door which opened and Margret stepped through. She wore the same look of suspicion and fear she did before.
“Hello, Margret,” Henry said flatly.
Margret turned to Allison.
“Would you excuse us please, Allison?” Margret said. Allison recognised it as a thinly veiled, if polite, demand.
“Um, sure,” Allison said making her way out of the house.
“When you’re hungry,” Margret said looking at Allison, “I put some dinner in your room. Bill Tanner will be here shortly to talk to you.”
“Thank you,” Allison said and closed the door.
From outside Allison could hear the conversation continue.
“I heard you took her to the pillar,” Margret said .
“I thought it was important.” Henry said.
“Don’t you think that’s Bill’s call?”
“Bill Tanner doesn’t know what I know about the Pratt family.”
“And what do you know about the Pratt family, Henry?”
“I know that in some way, that girl’s father is responsible for everything that’s happened.”
“God is responsible for what happened, Henry.”
“How do you explain the girl?” Henry said, now matching Margret’s hostile tone. “Does God bring back little girls from the dead?”
“You didn’t let her see the girl, did you?” Margret’s tone shifted to outright condemnation.
“The reason that girl is here is because of Allison, Margret!”
“That girl is here for our benefit, Henry.”
“Benefit? How does her death benefit us?”
“Be careful, Henry,” Margret said, “you remember what happened last time you went too far.”
“I just want answers, Margret.”
“Why can’t you accept the way things are, Henry, like everyone else?”
“I can’t accept that you and Bill and everyone else thinks God sent that little girl here to be sacrificed.”
“You know that’s what it takes to make the island prosper,” Margret said, “you remember what happened last time we disobeyed.”
Allison shuddered at what she just heard. She decided it best to stop eavesdropping. The idea that a little girl needed to die was beyond any horror or evil she had ever experienced. The little girl’s voice from the darkness replayed in her mind, “Am I a mistake?”
She walked back to Margret’s house and wondered if she could just ignore everything she heard. She knew that if she played dumb, she could be on her way away from this place by tomorrow with a ship full of supplies. Then she thought about what she did the last time she was at sea.
She replayed holding her rigging knife in her hand and saw the blood come up out of her opened vein. She wondered why yesterday she was so set on ending her life but today she felt that was no longer the best idea. What changed? Nothing. Nothing has changed. She should leave this place and finish the job. Then she remembered the note. Not yet. Who would bother saving the life of one woman? Who was out there?
She thought about the place Henry had taken her to and thought about what it meant. It was very strange, and yet somehow, if her father was involved, it wasn’t beyond possibility that this island, was a direct result of his doing.
She thought about what to do while eating the food Margret left for her in the room she had woken in. She thought it best to wait and see what events would unfold. She finished her food and looked out the window and watched the remainder of the evening light fade. Above the cloud layer, the moonlight shone through and caused a halo to form around it.
She could smell vegetables cooking, and guessed that Margret was preparing them. Allison went over to the window again to see if anything was happening outside.
There was little activity that Allison could see. It was a beautiful place except it had an artificial quality to it, but Allison could not immediately explain to herself why. A moment later a figure jumped up from the outside of the window. Allison let out a scream. It was one of the boys from the beach today. He started laughing.
“They’re going to sink your boat,” he said from behind the glass.
A moment later Allison heard talking in the next room and footsteps approach her door. Allison looked at the door then at the window. The boy was gone. She stood with her back to a wall near the bed. Her heart was still pounding from the scare and she heard and watched the door handle turn. The door opened and there stood a man in his early fifties. He had kind, dark brown eyes and his beard was dark except for the graying around his chin.
“Hello, Allison,” said the man gently, “My name is Bill Tanner, I hope you are feeling better. You were in quite a shape when your boat drifted our way,” Bill said with genuine concern in his voice.
His posture, his tone, his face all made Allison feel at ease. But then he quickly reached out his hand to place his on Allison’s shoulder and she jerked away.
“Allison, I promise you. No one is going to hurt you here. We are a peaceful community,” he said. It seemed to Allison that he was trying to sell his benevolence.
“One of the boys said you were going to sink my boat,” Allison said, testing his sincerity.
“Well, we might have to,” he said, then held his palm up, “but that doesn’t have anything to do with you. The safety of this community is my priority.”
“If you just let me get some supplies, I can be on my way, and I promise I’ll never return,” Allison said, hoping he would see reason.
“Look,” Bill looked away then back at Allison, “we’re not going to do anything tonight. I think we should all take some time and think about what to do.”
“What’s to think about?” Allison said in anger, “that boat belongs to me, it’s the last thing I have of my family!”
“I understa…” Bill started but stopped when Margret appeared. She shot him a serious look then nodded as if confirming something, “I’ll be back as soon as I can. You’re not our prisoner, but please stay here until I return,” he said quickly then left.
Allison looked out the window and saw what she guessed at thirty torchlights at the bottom of the road. A moment later Bill Tanner passed by the window and he was moving in the direction of the torch holders. Soon, Margret followed him and Allison knew she was alone.
Allison left her room and walked down the narrow hallway into the main room. She left the house and started toward the sea. She thought it best once she was near the sea to avoid the torch bearers. The idea proved difficult as increasingly people appeared from small homes. Her planned route would take her past two small homes to avoid the larger road. When she drew level with the second home a man in his late-twenties exited. Allison stopped dead in her tracks. The man looked at her curiously.
“It’s not safe out here, you should go back to Margret’s house,” he said then left as he lit his torch.
She thought about what the man had said and for a moment she thought she was going to heed his advice. Then the thought occurred to her that these people could move her boat or worse if she didn’t act quickly. She kept going.
The sea was calm and Allison looked to her left and could see the villagers standing in a semi-circle at the water’s edge. They were over a hundred yards away. Allison stepped onto the dock and saw her boat gently rocking at its end. She saw no guards.
As light footed as possible, Allison moved across the dock, and stepped onto the deck of her boat. She began to do a quick visual check of the ship’s condition, but the low light made this difficult. She found the line securing her boat to the dock and began loosening its knot. It was then a girl’s screaming came across the shoreline and was as loud as if she was screaming in Allison’s ear.
Looking over at the beach, she watched the group of torchbearers moving off the beach and toward the main road leading into the village. They moved quickly and some of them appeared to be carrying someone.
It was then another scream came across the beach. It was coming from whoever the torchbearers were carrying. Allison decided it was none of her business and went back to loosening the knot.
“Allison Pratt! Help me!” The girl screamed from within the torchbearer circle.
Holding the knot in her hands, Allison felt a pound in her chest. She looked back up at the torchbearers.
“They’re going to kill me, Allison!” The girl screamed out again.
Allison retied the line to the dock. Quietly, she made her way up the smaller road that ran parallel to the main road. They were now half-way up the main road and Allison had nearly overtaken them, then she was ahead of them. She ran between two buildings that sat on the main road and looked for somewhere she could conceal herself while observing the passing mob. She found cover in a shadowy area behind a shrub and waited. When they got closer, she could see some of the men in the group were carrying a young girl, maybe twelve or thirteen years old. As they passed, the girl turned and looked right at Allison.
“Oh, Allison! You’re here!” the girl said as if relieved of a burden.
She must have escaped, Allison thought, that was the voice from the darkness. One of the torches the men carried lit up the girl’s face. She had large blue eyes and the sight of her stunned Allison, her mind sent spinning back to a memory.
Caitlyn flipped the light switch. The florescent lights flickered then lit bright. She stepped lightly across the linoleum floor and it was cool on her bare feet. She approached the mirror above the sink and examined herself. Her crystal blue eyes seemed large and round, but sunken and set in dark circles. She rubbed her hand over her head and mourned the loss of her hair and she wondered how long it would take to grow back.
She wondered if JJ would ever marry a bald girl but she was sure that when the leukemia was gone, everything would be okay. Of course, there was the matter of turning eighteen to marry, which was a long six-years away. She thought about how handsome and nice JJ was. She was excited that he was coming to visit today.
She hated the hospital gown she wore all the time and it always made her feel worse. She had worn it for so long she couldn’t remember what normal clothes felt like. The other children in her ward had clothes brought to them by parents, or relatives, but Caitlyn had none of these. None that seemed to care enough. The last time she had seen her mother was over eight-months ago, and the nurse said that her mother could not return. It was the day her mother had told her she was a mistake and that good children don’t get cancer. She didn’t know what she had done to her mother, but she thought, if her mother would give her another chance, she would be a good girl.
She smiled in the mirror to practice her goodwill, and she made various smiles to decide which one was the most endearing. After a few moments, she left the bathroom. The hallway in the children’s oncology ward was busy. Nurse Cunningham was the first to see her.
“Good morning, Caitlyn,” Nurse Cunningham said, “did you eat breakfast?”
“Not yet, Nurse Cunningham,” Caitlyn said sweetly and shyly.
“Well, you better get to the cafeteria before they stop serving, you need to keep your strength up,” the Nurse said.
Caitlyn nodded then decided to show Nurse Cunningham one of her practiced smiles and she went on her way. The pediatric oncology ward was a busy place in the mornings and the medical staff appeared from various rooms holding clipboards only to disappear into another. Caitlyn kept walking until she reached the cafeteria.
She fetched a plastic tray and set it atop the metal slider. She moved along the line where the workers on the other side would hand her small plates of food. As one of the workers handed her a plate of toast, Caitlyn reached for it but felt the energy drain from her like it had happened before. The room spun and she fell backwards unconscious.
The beeping from the heartbeat monitor always woke her up several hours after she had an episode. Her vision was blurred and she tried to focus on who was standing around her bed. As her vision cleared she saw Doctor Lancaster, the chief pediatric oncologist.
“Hi, Caitlyn,” he said softly, “how are you feeling?”
She felt sick and she turned to the side and vomited. She started to cry, not because she was in pain, but because she felt that she wasn’t being a good child.
“I’m sorry, Doctor Lancaster,” she said.
“There’s nothing to be sorry for, Caitlyn,” he said, “I’ll get someone in here right away to get you cleaned up.”
Caitlyn watched Doctor Lancaster leave the room and a few moments later an orderly came in and began cleaning up the vomit. She then helped Caitlyn into a clean hospital gown and changed the bedding. She felt weaker than usual and she wanted to go to sleep when a familiar face came into view. It was JJ. He was holding a bunch of balloons and he had a package that he had wrapped in purple and yellow paper. She forgot to show him the smile that she had practiced.
“Happy birthday, Caitlyn,” JJ said, with his usual optimistic tone.
“JJ,” she said, but she was too weak to sound enthusiastic.
JJ sat on her bed and looked her over. He had been Caitlyn’s regular visitor for several months now. She looked up at him with her sunken eyes that no longer had the clear appearance they had earlier. Doctor Lancaster approached from behind and took JJ to the corner of the room where they spoke in a tone too quiet for Caitlyn to hear. Every now and again JJ would glance over at her and nod when Doctor Lancaster said something.
She looked at the present sitting beside her. She tried to open the wrapping but her fingers felt sore and weak and she couldn’t muster enough strength to tear the paper. JJ saw this and came over.
“Here, let me help you,” he said then tore some of the paper to get her started.
Caitlyn ripped the paper off and inside was a dress. She smiled.
“Can I try it on?” she said.
“As soon as you’re feeling up to it,” he said.
“Thank you, JJ,” she said, running her hand over the soft fabric.
“You are welcome, Caitlyn,” he said, tenderly .
“JJ, do you think my mother will come today?” she said, hoping her mother had forgiven her for getting cancer.
“I don’t know, Caitlyn. I’ve left her several messages,” he said, “but someone is coming with your birthday cake, I think you’ll like her.”
“Is she your girlfriend?”
“No.” He chuckled.
“She’s my sister.”
“JJ.” she said. “Where do you go when you’re not here?”
“Well,” he looked up, “I go to work.”
“Where do you work?”
“I work for my family’s company,” he said proudly , “we build ships.”
“Do they have waterslides?”
“Some.” He chuckled again. “Depends on what the customer wants.”
“The ships on TV have waterslides. I want to go down a waterslide.”
“When you get better, I’ll take you on a ship with a waterslide.”
“Am I a mistake?”
JJ seemed visibly disturbed by the question and she knew he didn’t like it when she asked it. She couldn’t help asking.
“You are the furthest thing from a mistake, Caitlyn.”
Caitlyn saw another person standing in the doorway. It was a woman holding a birthday cake. JJ turned and smiled.
“Caitlyn,” JJ said, standing to introduce her, “this is my sister, Allison.”
JJ took the cake from Allison. He brought it over to the bed and Caitlyn looked at its design made in frosting. She smiled wryly.
“Hello, Caitlyn,” Allison said, “happy birthday!”
Caitlyn started to speak but her eyes rolled back into her head. A moment later she started convulsing and several alarms in the room started sounding off. The medical staff pushed JJ and Allison out of the way when they came in and surrounded the bed, “give us some room,” one of them demanded.
JJ and Allison walked into the hallway and sat down on a bank of chairs.
“Did I hear her ask if she was a mistake?” Allison said to her brother.
“Her mother,” JJ said, “told her that she was a mistake and that good children don’t get cancer.”
“Oh, my God,” Allison said, gasping, “how could anyone say a thing like that to their child?”
“I don’t know, but I have some news.”
“The court let me adopt her a few days ago,” he said, “I was going to tell her today but I don’t think she’s up to hearing it.”
“JJ!” Allison said. She was astonished, “I had no idea you were adopting her.”
“Look, I haven’t said anything to mom or dad yet, so will you keep a lid on it until I can talk to them?”
“Um,” Allison said, searching her feelings, “of course.”
“You know that you’re her aunt now, right?” JJ said smiling.
Before Allison could answer, Doctor Lancaster appeared and took JJ aside. Allison watched JJ’s face turn white and he slid his hand down his face. Doctor Lancaster put his hand on JJ’s shoulder for a moment then left. JJ went into the room. Allison followed.
She watched JJ holding Caitlyn’s hand and there were tears coming down JJ’S face. The beeping monitors were silent now and Caitlyn’s face had lost all its color. Allison walked up to her brother and hugged him.
“I’m so sorry, JJ,” Allison said.
“She didn’t deserve this,” he said, with a tight throat, “she was my compass. She was supposed to show us the way.”
Allison wasn’t sure what he meant. She was sure that the loss of Caitlyn was devastating for him and figured that whatever he was saying was a result of emotional pain, although his attachment to her still didn’t make sense. Allison stayed by her brother while Caitlyn was wheeled out of the room and taken to the hospital chapel. JJ wouldn’t let her follow him in there. He held up his hand and left his sister standing in the hallway confused and shocked.
Some of the men in the group looked in the same direction the girl was looking at. They moved their torches forward, spotted Allison and moved quickly to take her. Allison ran behind several of the small houses back toward Margret’s house but was intercepted by two of the villagers. Turning back, she continued to run, but was blocked by more of the mob. They were now surrounding her. Two of them took Allison by the arms. Bill Tanner arrived a few moments later.
“Allison,” Bill began with the tone of a disappointed father, “staying in Margret’s house was for your own good. There are dangers on this island that newcomers aren’t aware of.”
“Dangers like little girls?” Allison said. She spat the words out in contempt.
Bill didn’t seem in the mood to talk with Allison. He motioned the two men holding her by the arms to take Allison away. “Take her back to Margret’s,” They began to walk her back up the hill when the man Allison saw earlier whispered into Bill Tanner’s ear. Bill looked at the man, and nodded, “change of plans, take her to Mike Johnson’s instead.”
They arrived in Mike Johnson’s living room five minutes later. One of the men asked him if they wanted her restrained but he declined. They left and Allison stood staring at the man.
“Bill said I wasn’t a prisoner,” she said, trembling.
“Well, Bill lied,” he pointed to his chest, “you are most certainly a prisoner. My prisoner.”
“I see,” Allison said, beginning to distance herself emotionally from reality as she had learned to do when men had previously forced themselves on her.
Allison looked around for a place that might be comfortable for her. She looked back up at Mike. “Where do you want me?”
Mike appeared confused, “Where do I want you?” Then he understood. “No, Allison. Where I want you, is on that damn boat.”
Allison felt surprised by Mike’s statement. Then she felt confused, then she wondered what was going on. A flood of emotions began to overtake her, the emotions she had been holding back ever since she arrived on the island. She collapsed and wept on Mike’s floor. Mike went over to her and knelt beside her. Allison hid her face.
“Why are you killing that little girl?” she asked attributing her emotional state to her.
“She isn’t a little girl.”
Allison stopped and looked up at him. She sat up, then stood up. Mike stood with her. With her arm, Allison wiped her face dry.
“What, is that supposed to make you feel better?”
Mike sat down on a chair and invited Allison to do the same. She accepted and Mike took a breath.
“About six months ago, that little girl, as you would call her, came to our island. She seemed like a normal little girl, but she wasn’t willing to say anything about how she got here. All she said is I am waiting; waiting for Allison Pratt.”
Allison felt another pound in her chest. She furled her brows flat over her eyes and wondered if by some miracle, she hadn’t died that night she was with JJ, but she did not know how or why. Mike continued.
“And that’s all she would say, she was waiting for Allison Pratt. About two-weeks after her arrival she was playing with some other children and there was an accident and she died.”
“How could she die, and be here?” she said, referring to her knowledge of her dying in the hospital.
“About two more weeks passed and she appeared on the beach, right where she did tonight. It was like she walked right out of the water. At first, we thought we made some mistake, that she hadn’t died, but that wasn’t the case. And sure enough, that little girl showed up again on the beach.”
“Two-weeks later?” she said, trying to establish a pattern.
“No, this time it was about one week. It seemed though, that every time we would”—Mike paused— “eliminate her, the shorter the interval became until her reappearance.”
“Margret thought I was from the ‘evil waters’.” She thought for a moment. “I guess it makes more sense to me now.”
“Margret is a cookie,” Mike said, his voice flat, “but she did get it right with that girl.”
“What will you do with her?”
“Execute her, then burn the body.”
“But, she’ll come back,” Allison said, “why not just keep her a prisoner?”
“No one in the community feels safe with her here,” he drew a breath, “which is why I am going to get you to your boat, and you’re going to take whatever that thing is with you,” he said, staring directly into Allison’s eyes.
“Why does she have to go with me?”
“I have a theory,” Mike said, “she was here waiting for you, and now that you’re here, I’m going to give her to you and then she will leave us alone. It’s the only way you’re getting off this island, Allison.”
“Good. We have about two-hours to get you both out of here before they execute her,” Mike said then stood up and looked out his window, “I’ll get some food and water onto your ship and I’ll show you where we keep the girl. You’ll take her and get on your ship and go. I will create a distraction that will give you a chance to escape.”
Allison listened to the rest of his plan while also thinking about her brother and the day she met him at the hospital. She remembered that was the last time she saw JJ.
She had a hard time believing what they told her about the girl. It was more likely she just got unlucky and wound up with a bunch of bizarroes who were making up a story to justify themselves. Regardless, Allison thought, how could she look after the safety and care of a little girl? She could barely care for herself. She thought about just leaving without her. But once again she heard that voice play in her head. “Am I a mistake?”
Mike had left twenty-minutes ago, Allison guessed, and it was time for her to leave as well. The two-hours until the girl was due for her execution was drawing near, although without a watch Allison did not know exactly when. She opened the door and slipped out quietly.
She looked around and found no activity so she made her way to the place where Caitlyn was imprisoned. If Mike had followed his own plan, he should already have the supplies aboard the sloop and all Allison really needed to do was get Caitlyn and get away.
The plan was simple. She would get her flare gun and rigging knife, in case she ran into resistance getting Caitlyn out.
She decided to be cautious and stick to the shadows as much as possible. As she was nearly halfway down the hill, in between two houses, she saw a group of men building a pyre. She continued down the hill. As she got closer, she heard the ocean waves sweeping onto and off the beach. Allison stepped onto the dock and walked across the planks. She boarded her boat and retrieved the flare gun and found her rigging knife and made her way back to the village. She decided to take the main road up as it was the fastest way. She sprinted across the beach, turning up the hill when she realized that something was on the beach. She stopped and turned.
There she was, the girl was standing at the water’s edge. She was soaking wet and she opened her mouth and water began to pour out. She pointed at Allison and made an unnatural sound. The skin across Allison’s body felt as if a layer sheared off while being frozen. She had never felt so scared. She was unable to move. The girl took a step toward Allison, which jolted Allison out of her fear enough for her to turn and make a run for it. When she did, she heard the girl cough behind her.
“Allison! Wait!” The girl called out. “If I’m here, she’s already dead!”
Allison stopped running. The girl’s voice momentarily relieved Allison of the panic she felt. She turned around. She was still standing on the beach, wearing what appeared to be a hospital gown.
“What are you?” Allison said, unsure what else to ask her.
“A mistake,” she said, “I need to take you somewhere. JJ has a message for you.”
“JJ? How is that possible?” Allison asked in anger.
“I don’t know!” the girl said, then pointed at Allison, “Run!”
Allison turned around and there was Mike. She had no time to react. His fist coming at her was the last thing she saw. She didn’t even feel the pain.
She was beginning to become used to waking up without any memory of how she got there. This time the shock was not present as she opened her eyes and saw the familiar ceiling to her cabin aboard her sloop. Daylight poured through the skylight. Her head throbbed from where Mike struck her and she felt a lump there. She sat up and then stood after she felt steady enough to go topside. She climbed the stairs and faced aft towards the helm. It consisted of some navigational instruments and a large aluminum wheel. The sun shone through an overcast sky, causing a soft light to shine on the boat.
She turned to face the bow and there was Caitlyn. She was awake and appeared frightened. Somebody had bound her wrists and ankles, then tied her to the mast . When she saw Allison, her countenance brightened.
“Allison!” she said, as if she was an old friend, “I’m so glad you are here.”
“Are you some sort of—”
The girl interrupted her. “A ghost?” She started to cry, “I don’t know,” she said, through her tears.
Allison suddenly felt a wave of compassion for the girl. She cut the binding on her wrists and ankles. Caitlyn threw her arms around Allison and hugged her tightly while continuing to cry. Allison became teary eyed herself and felt overwhelmed by the events. The girl let Allison go.
“Do you keep coming back too?” The girl noticed the recent wound on Allison’s left arm, “Oh,” she said in disappointment.
“I woke up on that Island after I—”
The girl interrupted again.
“When I come back, I don’t have scars or wounds,” the girl said, sounding authoritative.
“How do you come back after—you know?”
“I don’t know,” the girl said, “I die, then I am standing on that beach.”
“Caitlyn” Allison said, “how do you know my brother has a message for me?”
“He told me at the hospital. He told me I needed to take you to an island and he would tell you something very important.”
“Is he alive?” She wondered how that was even possible. The rest of her family had been murdered at sea, him included.
“I don’t know, just that he needs to tell you something important, and it’s on another island.”
“Not the island we were just at I hope?”
“No. One much more dangerous.” Caitlyn turned away from Allison because she felt she was sending Allison into danger.
“How do we even get to this Island?”
“Follow the water,” Caitlyn said, as if the answer was obvious.
“There’s water everywhere.”
“Straight,” Caitlyn said.
“Aye, aye skipper” Allison said, giving the girl a mock salute.
Allison had Caitlyn sit in the cabin while she prepared the ship to sail. It took her twenty minutes, and as soon as she unfurled the mainsail it caught the wind and the sloop began moving forward then Allison trimmed the sails to reach the fullest speed possible.
“You can come up now!”
A moment later, Caitlyn appeared from below. The wind streamed through her hair. She smiled at Allison.
“Doesn’t it feel great?” Allison said. “You look very pretty with hair.”
There was a momentary reprieve from the turmoil Allison felt, watching Caitlyn smile, and enjoying the sensation of the wind. She gripped the wheel tight when she went back to the thought about JJ’s message. That was all that mattered, she concluded as she kept the boat’s course true and steady.
It was evening when Allison spotted the purple mass rising from the water. The island was right where Caitlyn said it would be. Allison adjusted the sails to slow the boat down and when the purple mass changed into distinguishable features, she spotted a small cove with dense foliage and decided that was where she would anchor the boat while on land. She furled the sails and dropped anchor. She decided that deploying the small dinghy was too much a chore and that it would only cause her problems if she needed to make a quick escape.
“Can you swim?” Allison said, looking at the girl’s frail figure.
“Yes, but not very fast.”
Allison instructed the girl to remove her clothing and she removed hers as well and placed their garments in a waterproof bag, which Allison slung over her shoulder. She looked over at Caitlyn.
Caitlyn nodded. Allison dove into the water and Caitlyn jumped in. Allison waited for Caitlyn to catch up and they made their way to the rocky shore. Allison hoisted Caitlyn up and then found a place that obstructed the view from further inland behind a large boulder. They both struggled to get their wet bodies back into their clothes.
“So where do we go from here?”
Caitlyn moved as if she was familiar with the land. Allison followed her for a half-hour and Caitlyn never once indicated she was going in the wrong direction or was unsure of her path. Another twenty-minutes of walking and they came to the edge of the tree line where Caitlyn crouched.
Beyond the tree line was a grassy area and in the middle of the area was a small dome. A receiving dish was on the top and there was a closed entrance door.
“The other island has one like this, too,” Caitlyn explained, “but only this one will let you in.”
“Are there people living on this island?”
Caitlyn seemed reluctant to answer. “Be quick,” she said, keeping her voice soft and low.
The immediate area seemed to be free of any threats that Allison could perceive, so she started toward the dome. She looked back and noticed Caitlyn did not follow.
“Come on.” Caitlyn did not move, but wore a horrified expression. “What are you doing, I need your help!”
“I’m sorry, Allison.”
“There’s nothing to be sorry for, come on!”
Caitlyn kept the same expression on her face.
“Will you come get me on the island?”
“What do you-”
Within a fraction of a second something pulled Caitlyn backwards slamming her body against a tree. Allison froze. There was a sound, like a rattlesnake when it shakes its tail, but distorted as if she heard it through an old speaker. The sound came closer. Allison heard breathing. She stayed motionless and felt warm and moist air against her face. Before Allison knew it, she was flying across the grassy area. She landed twenty yards on the other side of the dome and could still hear the rattlesnake sound. It seemed that whatever was making the sound was moving toward her again.
Without thinking she sprinted toward the dome. She could tell there was an entrance but there did not appear to be any sort of handle or other way to open it. The sound was getting closer. She desperately searched the entrance with her hands, looking for a way in. The sound was on the other side of the dome and making its way around. She began to pound on the door with her fists.
“Let me in!” she screamed at the door.
A moment later two small lights illuminated at eye level and a second later, the door opened, like a door on a jetliner and she was sucked in. The door closed behind her leaving Allison in complete darkness.
It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust. It wasn’t total darkness, she discovered, and there was a small light above her. As she stood she hit her head. She moved closer to the light and found a button labeled ‘On’. She pushed it and the interior of the dome lit up.
There was a desk with a small monitor sitting on it that had a note attached. The note read: ‘broken, see box under desk’. Allison searched under the desk and found a small metal box. She opened its lid and inside was a small rectangular shaped box with two buttons that had icons for play and record. She pushed the play button. For a moment, she heard static.
“Allison, you know those arguments Dad and I always used to get into? You know about how people have a right to know what their government is doing? Well, that’s what’s going on right now. I realize that you’re probably overwhelmed…”
The recording became distorted and Allison could not make out what was said. The distortion continued for a while until it cleared.
“…Caitlyn is the compass, she’s the only one who knows…” The message garbled and distorted again then came back, “…Dad had an almost limitless amount of resources. I’m just glad I could make you a part of it. But now that you know what happened to the planet, people have a right to know the truth. Allison, you must tell everyone who has survived. And now that you know how to disable the security system outside the dome, you should have no trouble making it to the island where you will find help. Caitlyn knows how to get there. Anyway, the door to the dome will open in five minutes from the time you entered it. If you don’t leave, there is no way to get back out. That was dad’s idea of deterrence. I love you sister. I hope to see you soon.”
Allison played the recording over to see if she could get anything more from the distorted part of the recording, but she could understand nothing more. Great, she thought. Another damn island. There was a part of her that understood that what was going on, although she had no details of it, was because of her Father.
He wasn’t exactly a warm and friendly man. No, he was eccentric, powerful, and sometimes Allison wondered if he was capable of love. She never felt it from him, but she saw him always helping others. In fact, that’s all he ever seemed to do was help others. She also knew that he believed that people really couldn’t help themselves and that he always needed to save them from themselves. Her brother, Jim Junior, never agreed completely with his ideals. It’s no surprise that JJ was working against him in some way. They always loved to undermine each other. But her thoughts turned to the more immediate matter. The door would open in less than a minute, she estimated.
Everything is going too fast, she thought, while staring at the door. She felt like she didn’t know who she was, as everything she was doing was out of instinct. She didn’t know who anyone else was, except for Caitlyn. Her brother’s voice made her feel both sad and comforted. She wished more of the message was intact. She wished for a lot of things. She wondered about Caitlyn, if her new version was standing on that beach, or if the villagers there had taken her again. She thought that her brother might be somewhere, if people weren’t dying like they used to. This thought made her chuckle to herself. Leave it to JJ to mess that up! She also wondered what her level of crazy was. A few days ago, she tried to end it all. Now, she felt like she had to figure out what was going on. She was interested in life again! “I love irony,” she said to herself out loud. The sound of the door opening jarred her out of her thinking.
Allison, still holding the message player, pushed play and the sound of JJ’s voice began playing. She threw the device as far as she could. The snake sound started up and Allison heard it moving toward the device. She quietly moved out of the dome and around until she thought, she and whatever it was, were on opposite sides of the dome. Then she ran. From behind the intensity of the rattlesnake sound grew and she could tell it was pursuing her. It took another moment for Allison to reach the tree line and she hoped that the trees would slow down whatever was following her.
Allison did her best to retrace the path Caitlyn led her on. The snake sound seemed to be getting closer as she heard waves breaking on the rocky shore of the island. She felt the warm and moist air on the back of her neck. The snake sound grew in intensity. There were strange vocal sounds behind her, as if the pursuer was trying to speak. It was, it was saying ‘stop.’ She did not stop but ran to the boulder and when she reached its edge she pushed off with her right foot as hard as she could and dove into the sea.
The moment she hit the water she felt safe. Until she heard a splash. She opened her eyes and saw what looked like a man, except his skin was transparent; his muscles, arteries, veins, and bones, were all visible. His eyes did not appear to have a color and he looked directly at Allison very strangely as if he was sad. He didn’t appear to want to save himself or pursue Allison and he was sinking. He held eye contact with Allison until he disappeared into the darker water. Allison surfaced.
She swam to the boat quickly and hoisted herself up on the aft part of the ship. As quickly as she could, she prepared the boat to sail and within twenty-minutes she was on a backtrack course to the island where she hoped she would find Caitlyn again.
Her backtrack course required her to tack into the wind, which meant the zig-zag pattern she had to sail would increase her traveling time significantly. She began to devise a plan to sneak into the village. She thought she should find Henry. Maybe he would like to go with Allison, and she could use a friend.
If he had language, he could put a word to how he felt. He had no language, but he didn’t know that. When he looked out and across the water, he felt. When he heard the wind moving through the tops of the trees, he felt. When he tasted the sweet fruit that dropped on the ground, he felt. When he touched the stone pulled from the ground, he felt. When he smelled the air when he awoke, he felt.
His eye was true and he could turn an otherwise useless boulder into a perfect block of stone. And, all this by sight, by touch, but more importantly, by instinct. If he had language and a word for love he would attach that word to what he did; for it was a constant need to create these blocks and when he finished one, he felt whole and satisfied.
He had no word for the feeling of fulfillment. What he felt however, was that every block he created, he was more. But he never went into such concepts, because he had no language.
He also felt the same about the one smaller than himself. The smaller one brought his feelings into a narrow focus when present. Its shape, its smell, the sounds the smaller one made, the way the smaller one was softer than he. If he had language, he would think she.
She had caused his feeling to come into narrow focus seven times. Each time she would change shape, then there would be another, a tiny one. He felt more for these tiny ones than he did for the blocks, for he was once like these tiny ones. The four that never stopped moving, the four that did not grow cold and pale in the night were becoming like himself. And that also fulfilled him, but he still remembered the three that stopped moving in the night.
He lived with others, others that also had no language but loved to build. If he had a way to count he would count eight-thousand builders like he, each of them having tiny ones of their own. Not all made blocks like he, but each loved to make what was in their hearts to make.
And so, it was, they who loved to build would build. And they did it well. Except, rarely, there would be one who did not have a love to build and made nothing.
The sound of the sentinel was heard by all and each builder, by instinct, stopped and let the sentinel pass.
Each builder stopped, knowing the fate of the one who had no love of building and felt helpless. He whose eye is true stood still among the thousands of builders and thought about the one like him, the one who made the one who had no love to build. He remembered his own sorrow when the three tiny ones grew still and cold in the night. He knew the one who made the one who had no love to build felt that same feeling. That compounded sorrow and compassion he felt eroded his instinct and for the first time ever, his eyes followed the sentinel as he walked through the crowd of motionless builders.
The sentinel went to the one who had no love of building and with a fast and quick move, twisted the head around from his body. The one without love fell to the ground and grew cold and pale.
The one whose eye is true found the one who made him in the crowd and saw his face. The one who made the one without love wore on his face the feeling felt when his tiny ones grew cold and still in the night.
Then the one whose eye is true felt another thing. If he had language, he would call it rage. He broke his standstill and moved toward the sentinel. The sentinel turned to see the builder approaching but it was too late. The one whose eye is true had him firmly in his grasp. He looked at the sentinel who appeared confused by the breach of protocol. Then the sentinel’s mouth opened and he snarled at the one whose eye is true, but it did not last long. The sentinel grew cold and pale when the one whose eye is true removed his head, the same way he removed excess rock from the stones he loved to build.
The wind had died down which had made the journey back to Ara take longer than Allison expected. It was night and the moon cast its eerie glow above the cloud layer. She could see the outline of the island and she could make out some of the structures along the main road. She thought that it would be best to cast an anchor and swim the rest of the way.
When she slid onto the beach Allison checked for any signs of activity. There was none. She removed her rigging knife from the waterproof bag and made her way up the main road quietly ready to take cover the moment she saw someone. She was about half-way up the road when she heard a door slam. She quickly darted into the shadows. When she was hidden, she searched for where the sound had originated. She heard the door slam again. To her left, on one of the houses, she saw the front door open wide then slam shut. It appeared to be the wind causing its movement. She looked around for signs of activity but she saw nothing so she continued up the hill. There were no lights coming from any of the windows in the village.
A few minutes later she arrived at Henry’s house. It too was dark. After another check, Allison turned the doorknob and went inside. Inside, the house was dark and Allison could not hear anything. There was barely enough moonlight coming through a window to make out the shapes of the furniture. She went down the hallway and found Henry’s bedroom door was open. She stopped at the threshold and listened for the sound of a sleeping man.
“Henry?” Allison whispered loudly.
There was no answer and there was no sound. She walked into the room. The angle of the bedroom window let more moonlight in, but it was still too dark to see any details. She found a bed but she could not tell if anyone was in it. She reached out with her hand hoping to arouse Henry, but only felt the cool fabric of the bedding.
From outside, Allison heard a familiar noise. It was the same sound she heard at the dome. Her heart began to pound and her throat tightened. The sound passed by the house then grew softer. Then another sound passed the house. A moment later she heard a man scream in the distance, then the scream stopped abruptly. It was quiet. The only thing Allison heard was the blood pulsing through her eardrums. She felt trapped inside Henry’s house. She quietly made her way back out and after ensuring there was no one around she made her way to the building that she had found Caitlyn in the first time.
When she arrived, she crouched down and looked into the dark room where she had first heard Caitlyn’s voice.
“Caitlyn?” She whispered loudly.
There was no answer. There was no sign that anyone was inside the room. In fact, there was no indication there was anyone in the village at all. Wherever Caitlyn was, she wasn’t here. Allison decided that she should return to her boat.
She crept down the road quietly being careful to avoid anything that would cause her feet to make a sound. She came to a clearing and after checking the area was clear she made her way across the clearing when something she hadn’t seen before caught her eye. She stopped. It was the villagers. They were lying dead, but stacked, like logs. Allison saw Bill Tanner, Margret, the boys from the beach, Henry, and the other villagers she encountered all dead, all stacked like firewood. Some appeared bloodied, others mutilated, but all seemed to have died violently.
Without thinking she ran to the beach. As she got closer to the water she heard the sound from behind, and it was getting louder. She heard a scream, and she recognized it was Caitlyn. She could not tell where it was coming from. She tried to run faster. She was about ten-feet from the water when she felt something lift her off the ground. It was holding her foot while lifting her into the air. Then another sound echoed across the beachfront. It was like a foghorn but more intense. Allison felt the sound vibrate through her body. She dropped to the ground.
She felt dizzy and felt the arteries in her neck expand and contract with the blood pumping. Her breathing was fast and with each breath she felt her stomach cave deeply then expand. A few moments passed and the dizziness subsided. She got to one knee then managed to get to her feet. She was staring out at the water. She felt she was not alone, but too weak to make a run for it. She turned around slowly. There were about ten of them. They were dressed differently to the villagers. One of them stepped forward.
“Allison?” he asked.
Allison did not answer.
“My name is Hans. I work for your brother. You need to come with us,” he said. His tone was commanding.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Allison said, feeling the adrenaline still coursing through her body.
“Allison,” he began, “in a few hours this island won’t exist, it is scheduled to be rebuilt, everything and everyone on it will be destroyed.”
“I need to find-”
“The girl is with us. She’s safe. You need to come now,” he said. Several of them moved to seize her.
He moved closer and Allison caught a glimpse of his face when he shifted in the moonlight. She immediately recognized it. The one from the photograph, the one the cargo ship crew took. Her mind began to spin.
Every five seconds a large wiper blade cleared ocean spray from each of the twelve bridge windows. The easterly winds blew at forty-five knots creating four-foot waves which Second Officer, Naresh Raju could hardly feel as set his teacup on the console beside the navigational monitor. He turned off the audible alert with a mouse click then brought up the radar screen. Raju studied the radar map and noted a small dot about twelve kilometers directly ahead of the Indian flagged supercargo ship, The Samudra rānī. Raju lifted a telephone receiver, “captain to the bridge,” echoed over the ship’s intercom.
A few moments passed until Captain Vinay Deshpande opened the aft door, wiping his hands with a cloth. Naresh Raju was scanning the horizon with a pair of binoculars. “What is it, Śrī. Raju?”
“Radar has an object directly ahead, twelve kilometers, stationary.” The second officer reported in his normal calm tone.
Captain Deshpande studied the radar map then glanced over the cargo containers stacked on the bow toward the horizon. The stormy weather made the sea indistinguishable from the sky.
“Any distress signals?” The captain asked.
“What’s the visibility?”
“Less than two kilometers,” Raju reported.
Captain Deshpande brought up the helm control screen and altered the heading of the ship ten degrees to starboard then he reduced the speed of the ship from twenty-five to four knots.
“Śrī. Raju, I want you on conn, put us a kilometer off them,” the Captain picked up a telephone receiver, “Attention, ship-in-distress, make preparations for rescue,” he announced over the ship intercom.
“Captain, we don’t know if they are in distress. We won’t make Panama in time if we divert.” Raju protested.
“That’s the problem with you corporate-trained seaman,” the Captain said in disgust, “it’s only us out here, Śrī. Raju.”
“ Yes, Kaptāna,” Naresh said then brought up the helm-control screen at his station and the radar screen on a secondary monitor. A few moments later, Lal Fadnavis – The Chief Mate, Ranjan Sangha- Chief Engineer, and Chandra Pant- Chief Electrician arrived on the bridge with concerned faces.
“What is it, Kaptāna?” asked Lal Fadnavis.
“Radar shows a vessel stationary in the shipping lane. No distress signal.” The Captain informed the group who were now also scanning the radar screens on the various bridge consoles.
Chandra Pant moved over to an empty station and brought up a communications screen, which read GMDSS, for Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, and a small box under the word “receive” indicated a frequency of 2182 kHz. With a few mouse clicks he set the bridge speakers to broadcast any audio transmission but static was all that was audible. The bridge officers looked at each other hoping the other had an idea about what this might be. Pant then picked up a telephone receiver, “attention vessel at (gps coordinates) this is the Samudra rānī, you are directly in the southbound shipping lane, please respond,” Pant said in English with a heavy Indian accent. No response. He repeated the call and waited. No response.
“Śrī. Fadnavis, will you take some of the cadets and ready the tender?” said Captain Deshpande.
“Yes, Kaptāna,” the chief mate said. He retrieved four radios from a charging station and left the bridge.
“Śrī Pant, please make the report,” Captain Deshpande said.
Pant brought up another screen which read, NAVTEX. In a text box, Pant began typing a report which when completed would alert a maritime authority, although Pant wasn’t sure which one would arrive. The console at Naresh Raju’s station began the same audible alarm it made five minutes ago, which Naresh cancelled, then studied the radar map again, he turned to the captain in panic.
“Kaptāna! The vessel is again directly in our path!” Raju yelled over the chatter on the bridge.
Each officer again turned their attention toward the radar screen, which confirmed the ship was on a collision course.
“Thirty-degrees starboard, Śrī. Raju!” Captain Deshpande gave the order.
As Raju moved to make the course correction his screen flickered and went blank, along with every screen on the bridge. A moment after that, the lights illuminating the bridge room went out and the greyness from the storm bleached the color from everything. The ventilation system was next to shut off, which each officer realized was drowning out the sounds of the ship and sea. The hundreds of cargo containers were creaking and straining in their steel racks and the ocean pounded with the sound of a million drums against the ship’s hull each time it passed over a wave. The ocean spray stayed on the bridge windows and thousands of tiny droplets accumulating on the windows blinded the bridge crew to what was ahead. From below the bridge crew heard a winding-down sound, the unmistakable sound of the drive turbines stopping. The ship began to pitch up and down with every wave and Naresh Raju’s teacup slid off the console and cracked when it hit the bridge deck.
Captain Deshpande glanced over at the chief engineer who was struggling to keep his balance.
“Get those engines and lights back on!” the Captain said, trying to maintain his calm exterior despite the situation he found his ship in.
The engineer and electrician left the bridge through the port side door letting in the ocean spray while Naresh and the Captain flipped switches to try to restart the computers that managed the ship’s systems. A few seconds passed by when a brilliant flash momentarily lit up the bridge, but when the officers looked out the windows they could not tell where the light originated from, then the bridge darkened again and each man felt helpless. Captain Deshpande wondered if the vessel in their path was experiencing the same issues.
Outside on the outer walkway, Ranjan Sangha opened the door to the staircase leading down to deck one, the engine room. After closing the door behind him, he took a flashlight from an emergency kit hanging beside the hatch. He turned it on and made his way down several flights of stairs until he saw other flashlight beams.
“Emergency stations!” The engineer called out and he heard several men talking frantically, some giving orders. “Tarun!” he called out after entering the engine room.
“Yes, sir!” The assistant engineer spoke out in the unnerving silence.
“What happened?” Sanga said, after finding the assistant engineer near the port drive turbine.
“I don’t know, sir. First the lights went out then the turbines spooled down. Why aren’t the emergency generators working?”
“I know as much as you do,” Sanga said, “let’s get the backup crosshead fired up.”
“We’re already priming the cylinder heads, three minutes.”
“Okay,” he said then opened a panel on the gas turbine and began investigating the malfunction.
Three decks above them, Chandra Pant had made his way to the electrical control room where he began to open the housings to the circuit breakers. After a quick examination, he found that every breaker was in its normal position. He then began the procedure to transfer power from the battery backup into the main power grid, which took about a minute and partial illumination resumed.
On the bridge the lights above flickered on, along with two of the bridge consoles. The captain sat down at one and Naresh took the other. The captain picked up the receiver and rang the engine control room. As the chief engineer briefed the captain, the telephone receiver next to Naresh beeped. It was the Chief Mate who was looking for an update then reported that he was standing by with the four cadets ready to disembark on the tender. While Naresh was on the phone, the collision alert began to beep and Naresh checked the radar which indicated the ship was less than four kilometers from the unidentified vessel.
The captain brought up the helm control screen and watched the power levels rise. He then reversed thrust, which spun the four propeller pods 180 degrees and he applied full power. He then did the math in his head which was how long would it take a cargo ship with the same weight as a small skyscraper to stop, and he concluded the ship would stop approximately four kilometers after it collided with the vessel in its path. He then ordered the computer to throw the rudder full port, steering the ship starboard.
The bridge officers stood at their stations constantly changing their focus from the radar screen to across the bow full of cargo containers, anxiously eager for the radar blip to become an actual vessel. The captain guessed the vessel in their path was adrift, which would account for it being in their way despite the course corrections, as the winds were blowing it across the water.
Within a few moments, the vessel came into view. The Captain took out a camera and left the bridge.
It was a large yacht. And as the cargo ship neared, Captain Deshpande looked down. As his ship towered over the yacht, he could see several bodies lying on the deck. He began to take pictures. He zoomed his lens and saw they wore decent clothes and there were streams of blood running away from most of them. He snapped as many photos as he could. In his field of view a figure emerged and walked across the deck stepping over the bodies. He held a large knife. He looked up at the passing cargo ship then right into the lens of Captain Deshpande.
Fear left Allison and rage replaced it. She moved toward him.
“You murdered my family!”
“That’s right, Allison, I did. And now you’re coming with me,” he said, in the same tone of authority.
“I’ll kill you!” She screamed the words in his face.
“You already did,” he said, in an even, level tone.
Allison took another step toward him but she felt herself restrained. One of them came up from behind and slid a hood over Allison’s head. Everything went dark.
They were just rumors, but they might be true. No one really knew how to solve the freshwater problem. One rumor was the U.S. Government contracted with a company to harvest water from near earth objects, but it was just a rumor. And, even if it was true,it was too little, too late. The erosion of trust in the U.S. Government was only the beginning. But it was the beginning of the end. In the near future, the only thing worse than the brutality is the loneliness. Mankind's greatest achievement: the rule of law, no longer exists. Those who survive must kill or steal for water. The last of the major governments advised those who are too weak to fight to consider suicide or risk prolonged suffering. Episode One: Get the Girl... When Allison lost her family, she lost her protection, support, and more importantly; her will to live. She decides her suicide should be at sea where her family was murdered. She attempts to bleed herself out on the deck of her sailboat. Yet, she is robbed of death. She awakens alone in the middle of the ocean with her arm stitched up and a note pinned to her shirt that reads: "not yet." But what's more troubling than being robbed of death is Allison cannot account for the last twenty-years. And although the world seems to have calmed, all that's left of it are a handful of islands. And soon, all that will be left is water. Is the world really gone? Or is Allison unwittingly participating in an experiment like no other, with stakes that are unimaginable? Allison races against time to solve the mystery of the last-twenty years or risk losing what's left of her world. Moreover, those who desire to extinguish the last of the Pratt family are on her heels every step of the way.