Chapter 28:

You'll go far but you won't finish, not like that.

Castaway Isle

They had spent the whole morning at the shelter and had an early lunch there with what the airline had whipped up mixing in that morning's donated provisions with their rations.

At this point, even the plastic throwaway utensils and containers were precious things to store away and keep. People were beginning to make the best of their situation while they were stuck on this island. While they haven't lost hope of rescue yet but it was clear they couldn't stay this way.

With the siblings' donated additions to the morning meal, more and more people were beginning to forage and fish the local area. It could be done, some had realized.

The airline's handouts were shared among everyone as fairly as possible on a first come first serve basis. If they wanted better food, better anything, they had to do so themselves. If they wanted anything for themselves they would have to move.

Sophie has also subtly advised those in the shelter to move pack up and move further inland. They could go little by little but it would be best if they could get to the higher ground sooner, before it was too late. But she did not press it, especially not with the same urgency she did with the airline staff.

Once the planes move, people will follow.

She only wanted to plant the idea in some. Of course, it would be good if more people could survive overall but it wasn't really her concern. Sophie wasn't interested in carrying others, wasting resources or weighing themselves down.

Besides meeting Isko, she had also made her introductions to her old acquaintance, Mary Beth.

If there was anyone Sophie felt indebted to in this hell, it was this old woman.

Sophie thinks that maybe, just maybe, it was partly because of this elderly woman that helped her find the strength to get better. To finally wake up from her own mind, her self-dug insanity after her rescue.

Who would want to live after what she had seen, what she had lost?

When her cousins and friends had first rushed in and seen her, seen what she had become, they were rightfully horrified. As frightened of the scars and marks as they were, it was her state of mind that had them reeling.

She hadn't recognized them as real, hadn't recognized anything as real. It was all a dream, a drug-fueled nightmare of beeping and machinery. A sick joke her own mind had played on her.

But the nightmare kept stretching on and on, her meals were consistent, the presence of people solid. She wasn't dreaming, she had really been rescued off and away from the island, away from the others. Even if she didn't, couldn't understand, what was going around her she figured that much out, though it took longer to accept it.

Of all the words and voices that tried to reach her, it was the memories of Mary Beth deep in her subconscious that shook her awake from within.

"People don't just get over it child, you live constantly with the war inside you, you exist in a world of chaos. And you live- that's the best any folk can really do with that."

The old woman had survived more than her fair share of human suffering. She was a traveling minister's daughter, and from a young age she had been living among those who suffered.

Wherever God felt like calling her papa, that's where Mary Beth's family went to spread the word of God. Before she had turned into a teen she spent a good chunk of time living in Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, the Philippines and more, yet she never outgrew her Southern accent from her rural hometown.

She was a minister's daughter, she thought herself tougher than most and wise beyond her years. Perhaps she really way, but it mattered little in the face of war. She was smart, determined, and a minister's daughter- obviously that meant she was meant for more than life stuck in her little old town.

As soon as she got her nursing degree and first year experience, she signed up for the war. Mary Beth would serve in both Korea and Vietnam against the advice of her family and friends. She would serve in the Nurse Corps on and off for decades to come but she kept coming back. She had spent the most time in Vietnam, over a decade, as a combat and training nurse.

It cost her and her personal life dearly, but it was where she felt was her calling. Where she was best put to use in her prime, saving lives. She was truly a no-nonsense sort of woman who took life by the horns.

When the old woman had first crashed on the island, it was like she had gone back decades. Back to that tropical jungle of bullets, blood, and napalm. The emergency situation terrified her but she kept calmer than most. Her own trauma and strict training already settled deep into her bones.

When she had first seen June nearby, poor little girl bleeding and hurt, it truly was like she had gone back to the middle of the war. Old but she wasn't feeble and immediately took the teenager under her wing. Like how an old hen would adopt a duckling or kitten.

When Sophie and Mattie would come to 'rescue' June, instead of feeling relief Mary Beth only saw more baby faced kittens.

In the last life, Mary Beth had, in a strange way, forcibly adopted them all. Culture and race didn't matter and Sophie grew fondly close with the particular old woman. She half spoke Vietnamese but fluent Spanish, could shoot a bird with a mean slingshot and had skilled wrinkled hands capable of creating all sorts of crafts. There were many sorts of practical and life lessons Sophie learned from her.

Even secrets. Before she died, Mary Beth had whispered over the fire, part of the reason why she had attached to them siblings so quickly. In Vietnam, she had given birth to a black-haired brown-eyed child, and for no reason other than the complexity and cruelty of life, she had to leave her infant child behind.

Till her death she never found out the fate of that child. Dead probably. The guilt and regret never went away.

Maybe it was their ethnicity and appearance, or half-familiar foreign language the siblings would speak among themselves, or just how young and lost they really were but Mary Beth could almost pretend with them. Pretend that her child's father didn't disappear in battle, that she didn't have to go away or abandon her poor child to the fate of a war orphan. She could pretend that life ended up a little different, and she had become a grandmother to these three.

Sophie and her siblings didn't think any less of her for the truth she shared with them. In their own ways, they each returned the affection to this old woman who seemed to keep giving and giving. They were far closer with Mary Beth in this place than their own grandmother back home.

While her remaining years were harsh and hungry, at the very least the old woman was spared from a violent death. She finally succumbed to age and the elements, Mary Beth died peacefully in her sleep.

"Maybe this was my final calling- finding you kiddos. Do what I couldn't do alright now dearie, make it out of this place without regrets ya hear? An if ya'll can't- well that's alright too, that's just livin. Just make it out and be a big world out there' waitin for ya."

Those were one of her last words to Sophie, one of her last comforts.

When Sophie saw Mary Beth again, with her bottle thick glasses and old lady permed hair, it wasn't her Mary Beth exactly but she could feel something well up in her. She could feel! Fondness, sadness gratefulness or something else in the mix she didn't know. But this old woman was someone who was important in her life. Someone who made her who she was, helped to make her strong enough for this life.

Anyone else might have seen the senior citizen as a burden but Sophie wanted her, she wanted to bring Mary Beth with them. But she couldn't, not just yet.

Just bear with it a little longer, Sophie told herself as she softly thanked the old woman. For June, she had explained while chocked up. Sophie bit her lip and thanked the elder for looking after and saving June, when really she wanted to cry ugly tears in thanks for ultimately saving her.

She promised her grandmother figure she would live and she did. She actually did. She got out of the hospital and her rehabilitation center, did some freelance jobs, traveled and just lived. It wasn't easy and there were too many days she couldn't say she was happy, that she felt she deserved it, but damn it she lived.

In the near future, before the monsoons come and flood the valley, she would bring Mary Beth with them. Of course first she had to get the old woman to agree.

Part of Sophie was genuinely worried the old woman wouldn't want to, wouldn't come to care for them the way she had in the past. Sophie wasn't nearly as lost or innocent as she used to be, wasn't that why Mary Beth felt she had to take her under her wing as well in the first place?

But as she made her first bumbling words of gratitude and thanks the emotions of the past life seeping through, the old Southern woman had melted and hugged her immediately. Just another kitten, Mary Beth only saw another little girl desperate for love and support, even more so than the younger first one.

Before the rain, Sophie will bring her up before the rain gets bad. They'll come to visit again and again and when the time is right, she'll take Mary Beth away with them.

After lunch and sneaking some extra provisions, calorie mate bars and filtered water bottles, to the old woman, the siblings said their goodbyes for the day.

Even though it was getting hot, usually too hot to work, Sophie led them all back the way they came. Down the beach in the opposite direction of where they should be heading.

They passed by various campsites of different sizes and groups but didn't interact with any of them. If anyone was looking for any longer than a curious glance, there wasn't much to see as their packs and remaining baskets were empty. They had left a few behind, though woven baskets and floor mats shouldn't be in shortage after the people at the shelter started getting the hang of making them.

It was broad daylight but there wasn't much to see Sophie reasoned, it would be more suspicious to hide and she was right. For the most part, they were just passing people in a messy crowd. But at least one person was still watching. Still staring at the elusive group and the petite mysterious girl that led them, all the way until they were out of sight.

They didn't stop to speak to anyone, even if Sophie, unfortunately, recognized them. There were too many familiar faces, too many tragic stories, and casualties waiting to happen.

It wasn't her place to interfere, nor was she capable of doing so. Sophie had her priorities and she would keep them.

As the got further and further away, almost far away enough to re-enter the jungle, Sophie stopped them by the sea.

"Huh, there's someone out there? What is he doing?" raised Mattie, spying the figure of a gamer pale dark haired boy. His red shorts easy to spot in the middle of the shallow waters.

"Oh he's cute!" exclaimed June.

"How can you tell from this far away?!"

"My cute boy senses are tingling, duh. I mean you can just tell!"

"What in the crap are cute boy senses?! What the hell June?"

"Don't be jealous you're not a cute guy Mattie. You either got it or you don't, at least you're tall. Girls like that kind of thing I guess."

"Aaaaaand let's get out of here before June's teenaged thirst gets us in trouble."

"It is not thirsting! Cuties and hotties are just there, and I am pointing them out."

Sophie shook her head at their banter but made her decision to approach the boy, motioning for the others to follow her.

"Calm down June, he's only 14." she simply stated, not at all worried. June joked about such things a lot but as her elder sister, she knew June wasn't truly interested.

"What!? No way I thought he was at least my age. Thanks for the insider info, Sophie." June didn't question it at all, careful not to shout out any word of 'psychic'. If Sophie said so it must be true.

As they got closer they could see the boy was holding something of a handmade spear, diving with it into the ocean. He was spear fishing.

"You won't catch much in this close to shore at this time of day."

The boy shook and turned over at the sound of Sophie's voice. He was a 'cute boy' as June had guessed but he was truly young. His face closer to the age Sophie said he was then his thin but fit figure would lead others to believe.

Sophie put both her hands up in a show of peace, not at all mocking but kept her tone light.

"Just saying, the bigs ones don't feed at this time of day, but this isn't a bad spot. There's enough reefs for things to feed. Try diving with a rock and a trap if you want anything."


"There's not a bad haul being passed out at the planes today. Be sure to grab something and feed yourself properly before it's all gone."


The teenager kept silent, suspicious of the strangers. They didn't look dangerous but he knew better than to judge by appearances. Sophie didn't mind, she expected that much of a reaction while Mattie and June sat back to watch what their sister was up to.

She didn't talk to just anyone now, let alone initiate.

"Well good luck kid, I say try again in the early morning or swim deeper, might want to use a bag or something to store your catches."

"....Why is a kid calling me a kid? You have got to be shorter than me." he finally responded, a little quiet.

"I absolutely am, I'm like 5 feet but you're not even as old as my youngest sibling over there. Hey Mattie, pass me your pack." Sophie gestured.

While a little confused Mattie didn't question her and handed it over. Sophie rummaged through until she found a couple of protein bars.

"I'm going to leave this here, alright kid? Do with it what you will....and don't worry your brother too much."

"How did you-"

"He's doing his best but his boss is shit and you know it. It sucks but bear with it, for now, he'll see things your way soon enough. I don't recommend saving these for the others, they're yours since I'm giving them to you. Keep up your strength kiddo."

The boy was both shocked and suspicious. Why was this stranger giving him something as precious as this food? And why bring up brother? He knew better than to accept a free meal, nothing ever came free.

"Do you know Shawn?!" he shouted out before the strangers could fully turn and walk away.

Sophie turned and gave him a level look.

She met him but she didn't know Shawn, or Seo Jook as was his real non-work name. He died too soon to keep his younger half brother safe. Shawn was prepared to sacrifice himself, it's what his job as an elite bodyguard entailed. But given the choice between his client, his team or his brother, Sophie as no doubt the veteran would choose his younger brother time and time again. Just as Sophie would do.

"No, but I have eyes. I don't know what exactly that fattie can pay your brother and his men around here, coconuts? But it's still too soon to act out. Take care of yourself kid, don't get into unnecessary trouble before it's the right time to. "

"Hey! It's not kid! The name is Stefen!"

"I know!"

With that Sophie waves him off and head to the jungle where her own siblings were watching, waiting. Leaving the protein bars on a nearby rock, and leaving the boy in the red trucks in a mixed state of confusion and wary grafefullness.

"Soooooo what was that about?" asked June when they were far away enough.

"Nothing much." stated Sophie easily, it was nothing much yet.

It was funny though, seeing one of the island's best fighters and hunters nothing but a skinny kid going through the awkward stages of puberty. He kept quiet not only because of his shyness around strangers but because his voice was currently breaking. His hair was shaggy in the way a teen with an emo phase goes through. But it wasn't hard to imagine him growing into something more, into the young man he would become before he would sacrifice himself for someone else. Someone he felt was worth dying for.

Funny how life worked. Stefen Gyeong, arguably one of their strongest, would die in the same way his older half brother would. Maybe in those moments, he understood the thoughts and feelings his brother was going through.

"Isn't it obvious June? Sophie thinks he's useful."

"Ohhhhh, do we get to keep him? He actually was cute."


"Maybe Mattie, just maybe. And June, I didn't know you were into younger guys! Don't get your hopes up though." teased Sophie. It's hard to say, hard to predict people and their futures, but it couldn't hurt to plant a seed.

"I'm not! I'm just messing with Mattie!"

"Uh huh, sure."

Mattie rolled his eyes but took his sister's defenses where he could, ignoring June.

"Of course I'm right, you gave him my protein! I need that shit!"

Sophie shrugged and promised to feed them some protein in the form of fish that night. They trekked their way back for over half an hour, stopping only when they came across a low hanging banana tree. Sophie turned.

"By the way everyone, we're being followed."


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