Chapter 33:

Blink and it's gone. Savor it to pass.

Castaway Isle

Her siblings are asleep and she really should be too.

But she can't, not when Mattie hasn't woken from his venom-induced coma.

The island night is dark and a bit damp with humidity. The rain from that morning had given the surrounding air a bit of relief, a break from the humid fog. It was better deeper in their cave, cooler. A small kindling fire dries the air by the mouth of their cave.

Mattie sleep peacefully, like nothing is wrong, and that is what concerns her. This isn't how those who take the crude vaccine react. They run fevers, squirm and moan through their sleep.  They are still in pain.

Sophie wonders what Mattie saw, when he was sitting there watching her through the night and day she spent unconscious. Did she also sleep like this? It didn't hurt in her sleep, not after the initial period. It was so off, suspicious.

But so was this entire redo situation.

Sophie won't look a gift horse in the mouth. Won't attempt to understand that which shouldn't couldn't happen. She rolls a marble, one that shouldn't be with her, and counts the time that passes as she watches over her brother. The glass marble flies up in the air and back into her palm, back and forth.

The time on her phone showed it to be approaching 4am.

She had a nap earlier, in the evening when June was still awake. This was fine, she wasn't being her old insomniac self. She was getting sleep, she was staying healthy god damn it.

She needed to stay healthy, to stay all together there for them. For herself. No more self-destruction.

Sophie had cleaned and wrapped up the site where Mattie shot himself, above the elbow on his left hand side. The same spot as hers. After they let him bleed it out, she bandaged him up. The flesh stiff and swollen but otherwise undamaged, no burn or acidic rot in sight.

She had yet to take off her own bandage. It wasn't as if she was afraid of scarring, far from it. But she was afraid of repeats, afraid to see the same missing flesh map over her arm, afraid to be doomed to repeat everything all over again. Maybe she didn't really go back, maybe this was just a sick dream, maybe this was hell where she gets to watch everyone die again and again in a broken loop. There were a lot of maybes.

Nothing was going to make sense, it hasn't for a very long time now.

The marble flies a little too high, rolls a little to far out her grasp and rolls down her thigh from where she sits.

A boy silently opens his eyes.


Sophie's up and over him in a split instant, ready and waiting for this moment. Even without his immediate response, she's checking his pulse, his pupils, anything that would indicate his health. The boy quietly groans, sounding gruff and deep with sleep.

"Drink Mattie, you need water."

He blinks sleepily, dazedly and takes the cup as he slowly gets sits half up. Letting the liquid pour down his throat languidly, as if he hadn't spent over 20 hours unconscious. When he finishes, when he finally does speak, it's not what Sophie expects to hear.

"What was your greatest wish?"

" what now?"

Mattie lazily sets down the cup, his hand sweeping down and picking up the stray marble. His eyes slightly squint without his glasses to see the details of the small thing. He pulls Sophie's hand over and places the marble back into her palm as if he knew what it was, where it came from.

"Whenever you just wake up- those first days, you always had this pleading look on your face. Like you were begging for something. "

He reaches out, just barely given their proximity, to caress her face. The motion careful, gentle, and reminiscent in the same way Sophie would hesitantly reach out to Mattie or June. Like she couldn't believe they were really there and not rotting corpses, ash and sludge

"Mattie are you alright?" she tries.

"What is your greatest wish?" her little brother whispers in the dead of night.

Sophie stays still, wary and inquisitive. It's Mattie, it's still Matthew, she can see him cognitively. But what he's saying is nonsense. It almost doesn't sound like him. What unnerves her is how much she operates on nonsense, how much more sense it makes to her.

Her wish goes unspoken.

The warm hand over hers wraps her palms to a close.

"Then that is what you get."

Sophie both understands and doesn't all the same time, rather she doesn't want to. Doesn't know where it's coming from.

But then Mattie yawns and the moment, the spell almost, is broken.

"I want coffee later." he spits out, falling right back down asleep.


Sophie wants to shake him awake again, because what? What was that? What happened to him to speak what he did? Was it the venom?

What has he seen?

What has he dreamed?

But the snores that follow aren't faked, the boy is deeply asleep once more.

God how she always hated how easily her brother fell asleep. But he's fine, he's fine and he will stay fine. There were no negative effects on his body, no cries of pain. Mattie was ok.

And seemingly out of nowhere, she was tired. Or rather, she allowed herself to feel tired.

By his side, Sophie allows herself to catch a few more hours of rest. A few more hours before dawn and the day.


"Should we uh, like, wake her up?" questioned June, careful to keep her voice lower than usual lest she get snapped at again.

Normally she's quip back jut as good as she got but snake venom hungover Mattie was scarier than usual.

Somehow they figured out how to set up the hammocks into something of a lounge chair. Which was where Mattie reclined now, trying to recover from what felt like the worst hangover of his life. Glasses off, headphones plugged in, and two aspirins already downed.

In that pose, he looked like a lounging diva or some female celebrity in June's opinion.

Given he hasn't drunk much in his young age, being the mostly responsible young man that he was. It was still the worst hangover of his life. Not bad for snake venom though.

"....naaaaahhhh." Mattie drawled out to June's attempt at protesting.

"But like, Sophie said something about doing shit soon."

"Suuuure, so June, I feel like a frat party just took place in my head. Inside my damn head. Even if jie was actually up she's not getting me out of this cave room to dig, climb or gather shit any time soon. Nada."

"Uh...right...I'll over That sound good? off."

"June...shut up."


God this was not as easy as Sophie made it look during her turn but Mattie supposes it could be worse. He could be dead afterall.

It was June that surprisingly got up first that morning. Not too surprising given that it was late in the morning and that both her elder siblings were curled up and knocked out in some manner.

Mattie in a mostly dazed and very tried half sleep while Sophie completely knocked out.

That last part actually relieved the younger teenagers.

They hadn't seen their sister sleep in for what seemed like the entire time they've been on the island. A late riser Sophie was much more what they were used to. She was usually the worst out of all of them but lately, since the plane crash at least, she was the most active and first to get up. 

Rolling her up and tucking her sleeping log form back into their 'bed' was more much familiar than survivalist encyclopedia Sophie. This was normal. They were falling back closer to normal.

It was a good sign for them. It meant things were getting safer for them if Sophie was beginning to relax enough fall back. More comfortable.

Even as Sophie awoke with a sudden squirm and shock, jumping as if she were a student late for school again, it was a more familiar and calming scene to June.

"Sophie Jie- I broke into the rice supply to make congee. Hope that's ok!" June shouted across the room, not noticing at all the how Sophie trembled and stared at them.

"Shhhhhhh my head!" snapped half dozing boy. He really didn't want to get up, though he was tired of lying in bed. Thus the hammock area. It was comfortable now with all the bamboo supports and cushions.

"Oh oops sorry, anyways breakfast is almost ready, it's the leftover soup turned congee Soph. Dude, Matt you missed out on this creepy ass fish Sophie caught. I'll give you 5 bucks if you can guess what it's called."

"Your 5 is useless here you nitwit!"

"Oh yeeeaaaah."

At the scene, Sophie only stared silently in a manner that her siblings excused as sleepiness. But she was fully awake, shocked at how she could sleep through all the noise and far past her usual. Not when insomnia plagued her all these years, and time conditioned her to rise with the sun. How could her instincts fail her like this?

Unless she felt safe.

Safe enough to sleep in.

'What is you greatest wish' Mattie had asked her in the dead of night. Sophie didn't say it but she knows, every time she wakes up she fears the same thing. She fears that everything was an illusion, a sick fantasy she cooked up in her head. She fears it was never real.

That was her greatest wish.

That it's not a dream.

Every time she woke, she begged and prayed for this not to be a dream.

She begs all the gods she doesn't believe in that her siblings are real. That all this is real. She cries in an almost insane relief when her touch gives way to warm flesh and familiar smiles instead of a mirage image.

'Then that is what you get.' her brother's dazed voice repeats in her mind.

That's what you get.

It's not a dream. It's real. Touch it and it's real.

Sophie can't be sure of her theory yet, can't verify what her mind has connected. Not without dreaming something, and this morning she slept a peaceful but dreamless sleep.

"Mattie? Mattie how are you feeling?" she rises, making her way to check in on the still sick looking boy.

"Fuck a dee doo da fantastic, like I won a shitty drinking competition. How come you looked just fucking fine when you woke up from this shit? Or right, you didn't- you damn liar."

"....any pain? Anywhere?"

"Just my damn head, ahh this is worse than tequila."

"...Yes, yes I would think that's fair."

June set up an area on the floor like it was a dining table, side eyeing the scene as she placed out utensils.

"Well I think he sounds like he's juuuuuuust fine Soph, look he's already up and snapping."

"Just wait for your turn June! You're gonna looooooove this." snarled the boy.

The youngest blew a loud raspberry but didn't say anything further against the sick patient. Especially not with Sophie there, supporting him up to shuffle over to where breakfast sat.

"....Mattie, do you....remember anything?" Sophie whispered so only the person right by her side could hear.

"If you mean pain and being sick from the inside out- yes, perfectly clear on that."

"Do you remember waking up at all?"

At that Mattie graced her with a side glance, his eyes slightly squinting when she was so close.

"On and off, no idea when I was conscious and when I wasn't. It....didn't hurt the whole time...right now sucks but different than a hangover."

"So you don't remember waking up and talking to me at all?"

"Oh shit what the fuck did I say? How stupid was it?"

Sophie paused to consider it, consider if he needed to know or not. But she had resolved not to hide things from her siblings, especially Mattie. Right now he was her most trusted person, her closest support and ally.

"...You asked me...'What is your greatest wish?'."

At that, the taller boy stiffens. He quickly recovers, but it feels unnatural still.

"What? What did you remember Matt?"

"...It's nothing really....just shitty venom or whatever."

"Tell me."

She doesn't plead with him, it's an order and he knows it. His elder sister stares at him in the newly creepy way of hers until he relents.

"It' was weird. Like a whisper or something, really light and broken, no one I could identify. I just heard it repeating a few times, thought my subconscious just doing that thing you know."

"Repeating what?"

"That...that thing. 'What is your greatest wish?' bull..." he leaves off.

Mattie too, Sophie has an idea. An idea and a theory yet to be proven.

"Did you....did you dream anything?"

When her brother stays silent, she knows he did.

"How bad?" she prods.

Mattie closes his eyes and breathes harshly out of his nose. She can easily imagine how he must be gritting his teeth.  But he will answer her, he just needs a moment.

"I saw mom and dad...I saw that night...all over again. I saw everything hyper sped up all over again and fuck fuck fuck- I'm sorry fuck."

"Shhh ssshhhh it's alright, it's ok Mattie. I'm sorry, I'm sorry I brought it up like that."

"So fast, everything kept happening so fast- they're gone and then police, the damn relatives, the inheritance shit, all the business and school and god everything. I can't. I can't keep up, can't even catch my breath, can't-"

"Shhhhh, ssshhh breathe for me. It's okay, you don't have to-"

"I want to....jie I want....I don't know what I want. I just want it all to stop- or pause or something shit just-"

She keeps him breathing, keeps him from hyperventilating in his state. If June looked over, she would just see Mattie solidly leaning into her sister's embrace, face tired and hidden. After a while Sophie spoke up again, she had to be sure.

"....Was there a snake?"

Mattie stays still, but eventually shakes his head no.

"But there was that creepy head, to be fair it's kinda hard to forget what poisoned you in the damn first place. I saw its eyes, all white and shit, and then....then the world played back...yeah...."

"The voice..."

"-Sounded like a fucking snake yeah, yeah I see it now. The was a bad slithering sound."

They look at each other, dark brown, almost black, matching eyes and understood. They were on the same mindset.

"Sophie, that thing you can do? It's related, that's why you wanted me to take the snake bite right away." he reasoned out, piecing everything together.

Mattie was always good at reading her, good at understanding without words. Sophie missed it terribly, as annoying as it was back then in their youth. She can't lose him again, not this time.

"Did you answer it? Did you answer the voice?"

What did you wish for? It sounds silly but it matters now, it matters in the face of all that is impractical and impossible. Sophie was living proof of that.

The wishes mattered.

Mattie shook his head once more.

" I didn't. Did you?"

"No....but it doesn't matter.... It was heard anyways."

The marble, the coffee, herself back in time with her siblings all still alive. A chance to do this right, to live in reality and not in her own delusions. Her insanity.

Mattie took a hold of the hand she didn't even know was trembling, steadying it with his own.

"What was it?" he asked, though he had an idea. Something that made freaky psychic dreams come true, at least a part of them.

"I wished it wasn't a dream." Sophie gasped out.

And it wasn't. June was humming as she carried a pot of fish congee, cheerful and proud. Mattie was sitting right in front of her, hand in hers. She could touch them if she wanted to and they were real.

"So that's it." muttered Mattie, mind already calculating what that meant. For them and how they could use that.

"June's gonna rub this so hard in our faces," he concluded with a slight frown. But they weren't going to tell her this part, just like they discussed, not just yet.

"What about you?" Sophie continued. "What wish did you not answer?"

It was in their minds, whether they spoke it aloud or not. At least it was in Sophie's. It was on repeat, her own personal prayer.

And that's what she gets.

What did her brother pray for? They can't get their parents back, if that was even a possibility in this messed-up second chance, Sophie would have gone back much further in time. Not to this- this cursed island.

"This....might sound stupid." he bites his lip.

"Try me, I fucking time hopped and grab steaming coffee mugs out of dreams." she counters.

Mattie shrugs at that, seeing her point. He blinks, stealthily checking that even June wasn't listening before muttering.

"I wished everything would slow down."


This Novel Contains Mature Content

Show This Chapter?