Chapter 34:

Projection is a fantasy you can't afford, kindness is not

Castaway Isle

"To not give Mattie too much stress, today we're making some decent tools," announced Sophie as they were finishing slurping down their meal.

That was all the warning June and Mattie got before they were marched out to the river, collecting suitable rocks on the way.

"....didn't you buy a damn hatchet or some shit?" griped Mattie.

There was no way he misremembered the time his sister came home with loads of then ridiculous 'groceries. He remembered screaming over it.

"Yes, but we need something stronger than what we have right now. Not for when they'll finally pass put the luggage."

Sophie timed it out to the best of her memories. There was still the matter of moving the planes.

"'s a good cover. No one needs to know we have actual shit that can cut. I'm not saying we're making duds, because we aren't. But we need a cover, and we need tools now."

Up to this point, the most they've done is sharpen some handheld-sized rocks in place of knives. It was fine for small or soft items when you got used to holding it but anything further proved inconvenient. Knicking, snapping, and breaking down bamboo with them like they were log trees. Even without a knife they could still cut and work wood.

Still, the better tools they had, the faster everything would be.

Digging used thick sticks, stabbed and shoveled into the ground repeatedly. Sophie's modified spear was the most complicated thing they made that they had on hand.

"A cover for what? It's just us out here," responded June.

"Out here yes, but not down there. How are we settling, how are we clearing things or gathering supplies? People will ask questions."

Sophie worked as she talked, her hands busy pounding in the dull side of a medium-large pre- sharped stone into a particularly sturdy piece of wood. A semi-carved hole was burnt through and blacked in the center at one end.

The primitive-looking ax could work as it was but Sophie further secured it with vines and ties.

"And people will steal. Might as well give them some idea of what might be of use. Better than them sitting around for rescue that won't come."

"What do you mean by that?" further questioned June.

She no longer doubted how easy it was for people to resort to theft, by why would Sophie encourage it? Were their things not their own? Wasn't this why they had to hide their home camp so far away from others?

"Supplies aren't the only thing people can steal June. Ideas, work...a lot of shit really."

There were things June didn't have to know just yet. They didn't bother Sophie so much, not for a long time now. But there was a difference between preparing her sister for the better and traumatizing her unnecessarily. There was a time for shock therapy, there was a time for everything.

Sophie continued.

"Honestly, I'd prefer it if they stole them quickly. Not the tools exactly but the ideas, the plans. If they could make their own, and try making their own lives out of this, well the sooner the better. I guarantee you right now that down there is too much complaining and not enough getting done."

The others saw how plausible that was and agreed.

"So we make tools and when others see them, they might be inspired to do the same?" sounded out June.

"Something like that. "

"Then why didn't we just stay down there and help in the first place? Wouldn't it be faster? We could teach them tools, or well you can. No wait we all can, we have the videos! Just like we did the straw mats at the shelter! We could all weave and build and organize something of a town and-"

While June's statement was perfectly innocent, it still disappointed Sophie that her youngest sibling hadn't thought that far yet. She thought they were making faster progress than that. Still, it wouldn't do to be impatient.

Before she could respond, their brother took over with a snap.

"Because it sounds like a shitload of trouble" grumbled Mattie before continuing.

" This whole situation sucks. The fact that we're stuck out here on an uninhabited island in the middle of nowhere sucks. Yes, it could always be worse, we could have some bad movie cannibals chasing after us but it already sucks fucking hard and will only get worse from here."

"Of course I know that." huffed June.

"Do you now? Then so you know what fucking sitting ducks we are?"

"You should, you're the one that got stolen from Matt. Why are you ranting it out on me? "

"Because we can't have you play bleeding heart savior, this isn't a mobile RPG game! I am not ranting it out on you, I'm saying it out clearly as it is. You were there when we got just one backpack stolen. What do you think would happen if Sophie pulled out all our shit in front of people? The camping gear, the bedding, the food? Just think about it!"

June fumed, grinding a rock particularly too hard that it chipped. It couldn't be helped, she was young and hotblooded. What irked her even more was how Mattie didn't even bother continuing to look at her after that first sentence, continuing to work on his own ax and tools.

"Don't act as if I'm stupid Mattie. Yeah we have shit, and we have to be careful about it but it's Sophie who brought it so don't get all high and mighty!"

"I never did. I said to think about what you just proposed, staying down there and 'helping' people like it's key club. And I said to think about it, if we did. Not how many people we could help or how to build a little ' town'. Seriously think what would happen to 'us'. To Sophie or you!"

June's breath hitched, and she knew she didn't need Sophie's confirmation to know when her point was in the wrong. She just didn't appreciate the lecture nor the implications insulting her intelligence.

It was a perfectly good theory in her mind. Those at the shelter were always happy when Sophie and Mattie arrived.

They had brought food, taught weaving grass and leaves, and generally just made people's lives better. It wasn't much but right now, in a disaster like this, even the littlest thing is a major improvement.

They could do a lot of good, they could help people. God knows June prayed for any such help at the start of it all.

Scared, injured, and utterly powerless against what was happening to them. The crash, the sticky rain, just the fear and panic tainting every single moment. There was always a child crying, someone groaning in a low pain from their aches and pains. In that short time in the shelter, June couldn't ever sleep at night. Everyone was terrified and she could hear everything in the forcibly silent night along with her own agitated pulse.

Sure there were bad people out there like those thieves but for the most part, weren't they all unlucky people in the wrong place? Weren't they all innocent victims in the grand scheme of things?

"You were getting ahead of yourself."

Sophie's still too emotionless voice confirmed what June already knew happened. Mattie won, again. Someone was on his side, again.

"I know what you were trying to say, how much you want to help. You're always the one standing up to bullies or volunteering first. We know that best. That's why Mattie and I are so damn worried. " came Sophie's voice as she walked over to inspect Mattie's work.

"Bleeding heart, she's just screaming to get scammed if she stays like that."

"Rest now Mattie, you've done well."

After a nod of approval, Mattie took his hands off and cleaned them. Then he leaned back to close his eyes, to rest from this still lingering headache.

"He should have stayed back if he was feeling sick, god he's such a diva."

If Mattie heard his sister he made no motions to respond, seemingly knocked out in the shade of the rock. Sophie turned to deposit two whole celt axes and knapped somewhat polished stone daggers. All left untied and unwrapped for June to do. June stared at them in mild surprise before Sophie sat herself down, wrapping and unpeeling vines into a more workable state.

"You know how he is, kinda like Mom in that regard. Besides, he'll be fine with some proper rest and food. The venom is working its way out of him."

June bite her cheek, glancing at her now napping brother then back to Sophie before getting to tying things into place.

"Sometimes you're just like mom too. Always siding with Mattie because he's the boy of the family."

Mattie was their mom's favorite, always was. Life was hard when you're a daughter in an old-school Asian family. It just wasn't fair. Even though their parents weren't around anymore, Mattie was still the favored one. She would think Sophie would understand how shitty that was.

"I was siding against what you were saying. Was anything Mattie said wrong?"

"" grumbled June.

"Then don't blame it on that. You know I don't buy into that shit. Boy, girl, doesn't matter- ever. Besides, if he didn't call you out earlier I would have. You were talking about revealing our tech. That includes our tablets, or downloaded materials, our chargers. Then there are the other supplies I haven't gotten my hands on yet. "

"I didn't mean everything! Just the stuff that would help, we can help them."

"At what cost? At what cost June?"

"Nothing, we have the videos, the knowledge. We just need to share it and organize and-"

"Mattie was being nice calling you a bleeding heart. Do you know what I would call it?"

June was shocked silent by the question. No matter how much she thought, she wouldn't know what Sophie was thinking. Not anymore, not since this fiasco started. She could only solemnly shake her head.

"A savior complex. "

June was more confused than hurt. She knew the words were meant to hurt, could hear it from Sophie's tone. But she didn't understand enough for it to really hurt. The mild disappointment in Sophie's voice was enough for that. Made her feel like a crying kid again handing over her report card to her parents.

"What's wrong with being a good person?" asked the confused girl when she found her voice again.

A lot of things, Sophie could give her the whole damn list. She could start with the names of people who died, will die on this island. Or perhaps she should just say how they died. Tricked, bloody, beaten or worse. Then there were the fates much worse than death.

Those animals would eat up a world - dumb innocent teenager no problem. Sophie didn't believe June was stupid but definitely too naive and inexperienced. God, how did Sophie protect her for so long, all those years?

Leon always wondered it out loud and now Sophie truly saw where the astonishment came from. Pretty easy little thing like this would have been torn apart by the end of the first year. So young and so easy to break.

Sophie had to snap herself out of it. This was her June, her little sister, not a chess piece to be evaluated and used. Not another whore to trade-off. She was here to prevent that god damn it. But time was moving on the island and the peaceful grace period wouldn't last for long.

"There's nothing wrong with being a good person, there's nothing wrong with helping others but the first thing you should ask yourself before you do is- can you afford it?"


The word went unspoken between them. That was the correct answer, June knew it was the correct answer but she couldn't get the air in the lungs to speak it out.

How come Sophie was so scary lately? So damn quiet and scary. The other side to Mattie's snapping yelling scary.

No, dumb question.

Of course, June knew why, just as she knew the point both her siblings were trying to make to her today. She knows, crazy dreams and visions of the future all that jazz. It's just hard. Knowing and doing, let alone truly believing, are different things.

"You said so yourself earlier, June. All the things that can 'help' were brought by me. Some of them are Mattie's and yours, yes but I'm the one who forced Matt to bring them, to download them. They aren't yours to give away, so as you say 'don't get high and mighty. I don't think you realize how fucking arrogant you sound saying we could 'organize' things for them like all those people aren't vastly older or hold decades of jobs in doing such things. That's where I'm calling out your savior complex. You can't 'save" them when we're all in the same damn boat. "

Okay yeah, she deserved that one, that sting. June can admit that much to herself. But the lecture continued.

"It's not because we are suddenly 'bad' people. But we can't afford it - we can't afford to help people the way you're thinking. This isn't a charity or a key club, it's just us, it's just you, me, and Mattie. And fuck I want us to live ok? I want all of us to live through this."

And for a moment Sophie's voice cracked, for a moment she sounded...broken. Truly broken, far worse than June has ever heard her sister, not even when their parents died.

"Sophie, I'm sorry ok? I won't say stuff like this again."

"It's not the saying that scares me, us. It's when, not if, but when you get tricked and taken advantage of. Don't underestimate people, not here. Not in a place with no streetlights or police cars. What's going to happen to bad people here, caught or not? Do we make a little jail in our 'organized' jungle town?"

Well technically there were holdings, but again that information was irrelevant for now. Too far off and too complicated to explain, besides Sophie was trying not to traumatize her siblings with information.

June stayed silent, focusing on the matter, and Sophie let her. Didn't even remind her to keep her hands working.

"It's not just you, Mattie has just as much of a weak spot for a sob story. But he doesn't have your need, your savior complex. He doesn't need volunteer credits or immediate gratification to know when you've done something good for someone else. He's cautious, cynical even but I'm waiting for the day someone's out to scam him too."

Sophie wasn't keeping her voice quiet, if Mattie wanted to chime in he was welcome to anytime. But the boy seemed too deeply comfortable, asleep maybe, to bother.

"I need you to remember, who is the one who walks you home after school, after club activities, in the dark? I need you to think about if someone came after us, for any reason, who do you think they'll attack first? Who would they try to maim or kill first? If anyone brings trouble back we all fight it together, but who is most at physical risk here?"

There are things that June wants to argue but can't find the reasoning to back up. There were contradictions to her own thoughts.

As a young girl it was herself, she and Sophie we're most at risk of anything. But the way Sophie was phrasing everything pointed to Mattie. As if he were about to get mugged and stabbed at any moment.

"You keep saying savior complex at me, what does that even mean?" grumbled June. The only complaint she can put up.

Sophie looked at her long and hard. Looked at this lucky little girl and thought about what a world of pain she was going to be in within the near future if she didn't toughen up soon.

"If there were hundreds of people in a disaster. How many would you save?"

"Um ideally everyone?"

"And you honestly believe that?"

"You just said how many I would save? Of course, I would save everyone given the chance? Wouldn't anyone?"

The standard answer, the kind of hero in any show or movie would proudly say. Everything. Everyone. I would save them all. How sweet and innocent, it was almost funny.

"Great, how would you go about that."

"I'm sorry what?"

"How would you save them?"

"That wasn't the question, you just asked how many would you save? Not How's or why or even any details."

"You don't need me to tell you details, not when we're here. Now tell me how you, I mean just you as one single person-, would go about saving everyone? I'm not trying to belittle you, seriously tell me how you would do it? "

As much as Sophie waited June had no answer. Her previous ideas, her long-winded agreements to Mattie all sounded wrong in her head. The wrong answers to Sophie's question. She gave up.

"Stop beating around the bush ok? just tell me what is it I'm supposed to know."

"I can't tell you that June. I don't know that either. No one does. But I can tell you this, there's nothing wrong with wanting to help. But who is it you want to help?"

"The others? Those who are obviously suffering? Duh."

"Because we're not? We're somehow in a better position, one to 'help' relieve other people's problems?"

"I mean yeah?"

"You're always unsure in your answers....tell me again June, who is that you really want to help? Who? When you have nightmares at night, who is it for?"

It was summer but June felt cold, shaken even. She didn't like the implications in her mind, the answers deep inside her.

"Why are you so confusing Sophie? Why do you always have to speak like some damn teacher? If you want me to learn something just say it and not play all these stupid mind games! "

"Mind games? Is that what they are to you? Are they really all that complicated?" Sophie asked simply, still not even bothering to look at her.

"Fuck! Fine! Me ok! I'm scared and worried for me, for us. You don't know what it was like all alone out there! When the plane crashed and I was all scared and alone! If it weren't for people like Mary Beth I'd really be screwed! I couldn't even move! What the fuck is this shit? There's bugs everywhere, sand everywhere, it's too hot and everything hurts even when it shouldn't? It's too hot then it's too dark and scary and we're trapped with all this space. What the holy fuck? How are we supposed to last the next week let alone years of this? Why isn't rescue coming!? Don't they have the technology for this kind of thing! Why us? Why do people keep complaining and not doing fucking anything? Go fucking get food, get your damn water, stop fucking crying because no one is coming!....."

Fuck, thought June.

It was messed up and Sophie was finally looking at her, finally actually paying any attention and here she was crying like a little kid, Fuck fuck fuck, June kept repeating in her head. She was actually crying, little some dumb little brat. Is this really all she could do when the going got rough? Looks like it.

What's even more fucked up was how Sophie was smiling, actually openly smiling at her for breaking like that. June hiccuped, the hot tears just wouldn't stop coming. Out of nowhere, she felt a familiar looming figure collapse and annoyingly lean against her like she was a damn bean bag chair.

"That's more like it. That's a whole lot better than some save everyone bullshit."

"Fuck Mattie! Don't just pop out like that! SHit didn't even see you coming!"

The bespeckled boy gave a slight shrug and leaned even more of his weight onto his little sister, irritating her further.

"Don't let me stop you, please go on with how shitty things were."

"That's not positive or productive at all Matt!"

"I don't know, sounds a lot more productive than 'let's share our food and videos to make a town and save everyone! It can be like animal crossing, I'll be mayor! We can sing campfire songs!'"

"Shut the fuck up I did not fucking say that!"

Sophie laughed, honestly laughed from somewhere a little messed up but hopeful. At the sound of Sophie's unrestrained laughter both the bickering siblings had to stop and look over. June much more confusedly.

"I prefer this June, I prefer you being honest and focused on yourself. No one else to distract you or fulfill your ego." chuckled Sophie.

"Hey what's that supposed to mean!"

"It means-" Sophie started before Mattie could get a joke in, staring him down good-naturedly. There would be plenty of time for that, a whole 8 years of close proximity.

"It means, that you're not using anyone else to cover up your fear. You're scared, and you're angry. The world is shitty, it doesn't play fair, and we've been on the losing end more often than not huh?"

June sniffed, the tears still incoming, made worse by her angry burst out from earlier. Somehow the tears were made worse by Mattie's broad back against her good shoulder and Sophie's soothing voice. Like a teacher who talked too much shit but made an uncomfortable amount of sense.

"Mom and dad. It was unfair. Them leaving us was unfair. Those fucking vultures coming after us when we're grieving, after you kids, was unfair. And just when we thought we got it together, just when we tried to go enjoy ourselves, have a nice little trip- this disaster happens. Our lives are a whole fucking load of unfair and fucked up, right?"

June was hiccuping too much to respond but Sophie knew, Sophie always knew what she wanted to say.

What good was growing up, being 16 and going? What good was it when June felt more lost and alone than ever? She wanted to go home, she wanted to go home so bad.

But she couldn't because home fucking died. Their parents were her home, always were. The little shop, the space behind it, and the second floor. But it was gone, sold after the accident that took mom and dad away. It was all nothing now but memories.

"Look at you, crying so hard. It was stupid of you to try holding it back all this time, did you really think we didn't know? Didn't hurt too? Fuck yeah, we're scarred too, pissed off, and really fucking scared. You're not the only one." spoke Mattie like it were a complaint, disguising the comfort that he really meant.

Sophie leaned over to hold on to these two stubborn kids, both far bigger and taller than herself.

"Focus on yourself June, help and save yourself first. You don't need to make excuses or drive yourself to 'be a good person'. If there's only one person you can save in this world, it's okay if it's yourself." Sophie rocked and soothed the still sobbing girl, a silent Mattie on her other side, still leaning to cover June.

"*hic* I was wrong."

"Yeah we got that part," grumbled Mattie, reaching an arm over in his own awkward half hug.

"*hiccup* no *hic* I was wrong when I said *hic* no one was coming. You guys fucking came for me *hic*. You came and I was so fucking grateful and fuck I can't, I can't do anything by myself *hic*. I'm not strong enough, shit."

That was a familiar feeling, no matter how much the youngest thought it was only her. It was a too familiar feeling for everyone.

"No you're not." hummed Sophie truthfully. The bluntness of it even had Mattie wincing.

"But neither are any of us, especially if we were on our own. But we're not. Focus on yourself June, get better, get stronger, Mattie and I will have your back. And when it's our turn to be weak, because we will watch out for us back. That's all I ask."

They stayed that way for a long time, uncomfortable and close till June's sobbing died down. The girl was so wet with her own tears she didn't even notice her brother quickly and persistently wiping his own eyes. It was more annoying when one wore glasses.

"So what did I bother making all those tools for if June isn't tying or wrapping them, geez, I should have just done them myself." groaned Mattie, acting like his own voice was cracking. That suited June just fine.

"Shut up, you didn't do all these on your own! I gotta wrap both you guys' shit?!"

"Actually, it is all Mattie's. He made your share as well," explained Sophie, getting up to show her own ax was already tied and finished.

The sadness June felt from earlier wasn't gone but it faded in the presence of her siblings and the confusion which now took place again.

"Wait what! When did he make all that? Oh my god, there's no fucking way."

"Aaaaaand she's back to normal. Damn water fountain, you know that only works on dad right?" groaned Mattie in response.

The hangover-like effect in his brain wasn't gone either but it was getting better with that nap, one that felt much longer to him than it actually was.

"Don't worry June, it surprised me too just how fast Mattie is getting at things. " Sophie smiled pleasantly, the two older siblings sharing subtle looks among themselves.

Not bad progress today, not bad at all.


Down where the major encampments were, time had passed to the point that they weren't expecting recuse anytime soon. To those in charge, that, unfortunately, meant the messy drama of burying their dead. The ones from the initial crash, and those who would succumb since then.

"A young person huh?" spoke out a male attendant in his 30s. He shook his head at the unfortunate death.

"Allergic reaction to nuts, they had bad asthma too, their epi-pen was empty. Must have used it up." examined and finalized Ryo.

The young doctor was doing what he could but really, it couldn't be enough. Not out here, not without the proper tools and equipment.

The situation was getting worse the longer they were out here. So many insignificant, inconsequential things to their modern standards could be the difference between life and death out here. If not death then just falling health in general, not to mention people's stress rising.

"Thanks for helping us out Doc, you really didn't have to at this part." thanked another crewmate, flight crew from his partial uniform. He wasn't exactly young but nowhere near too old to do real heavy work.

"Can't say it's my pleasure but, no problem. Besides, I think it's important to note them, make sure they get a proper burial."

"Yeah- deserve that much at least." agreed the crewmate.

"I mean, if we bury them too shallowly or near some source of groundwater that would be detrimental to us. Sand is awful, would just wash up. Not to mention the scavenging wildlife. Honestly, I say we cremate the remains as the cleanest safest bet." further explained Ryo.

Whatever respectful impression the crewmate had towards the doctor didn't exactly plummet but it was what it was. It's not like what he was saying was wrong.

"And an elderly man right? You say he was found dead in his sleep?" asked Roy, expecting the second fresh corpse.

"That's right, a local group laid a towel on him so no one would have to see before we got to move him." answered the male attendant, tying his shirt to cool down from the physical exertion.

"Do you know who that group was? I have some questions for them." Ryo pulled out his phone, snapping photos close up and at various angles.

"Like what?"

"Like why this Mr. Jenkins has strangulation marks on his neck."


Author: are we back? Back to writing online? Who knows! Thanks for keeping up all this time and wait. 

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