Chapter 35:

Confusion now hath made his masterpiece

Castaway Isle

"Abraham J. Jenkins, age 61. Citizenship: United Kingdom. Cause of death, suffocation rather than strangulation. The marks were made antemortem but appeared more obvious after death. If the perpetrator did not get so violent with the victim beforehand, they might have actually gotten away with it. " confirmed an elderly doctor, the second opinion recorded on the case.

"Suffocation? With what?" asked a stern and serious looking security personnel, her assisting crew members taking note.

They all looked out of place but intimidating in their tactical vests, especially their leader, a grim looking woman of about 40 something. What stood out the most were their weapons, actual gun holsters on each of their persons.

This wasn't Francisca Cruz's department, not her territory exactly but in the situation they were in it made sense to keep order and help where they could. She was only riding a transfer flight with a small handful of her crew to a certain event held at another airport, they even had a training newbie with them. Right now her priority was keeping the flight crew safe and the passengers in order.

They were expecting something like this sooner or later.

The younger doctor, the one who made the first report, piped up from the sides.

"A towel, a pillow, we really can't say. It could be anything really. Wouldn't take much if his breathing was already compromised. There's signs of a struggle but our victim here doesn't show the healthiest conditions for a man his age. "

True, the dead man could be considered weak, feeble even.

The other doctor agreed, repeating and listing potential methods of death. Even if they got a 3rd opinion it would be the same results. Mr. Jenkins had gotten into a physical alternation where he was at least partially strangled, the marks new bruises under his skin. The assailant stopped for some reason and before Mr. Jenkins could recover he was restrained and suffocated momentarily.

Ryo zipped back up the body unaffected by the stench that was beginning to come off. A summertime tropical island wasn't the best place to store bodies. He hoped they could start cremating soon before the corpses really got too messy to deal with.

"Pretty straightforward case looking at the corpse. Now the question is, who did it and where are they? By the marks on his neck I'm guessing a male assailant, that or big hands. "

Cruz nodded and checked into her walkie talkie system at the men she had sent out earlier.

"Keep searching for the witnesses, do not let people leave the main area. Keep note of suspicious characters."

"Copy that."


"This is...a lot less than last time we brought stuff down?"

Mattie tested the weight of their packs, it certainly felt lighter to him. He wasn't just imagining it. There was a feeling he had, that it was related to the snake bite. That perhaps his strength had increased to this point but no, the packs were visibly less filled with ripe gourds and leafy vegetables. There weren't even bringing any of the root vegetables like before.

Even June confirmed it though she was now somewhat reluctant to speak out about the matter.

"Save room for water and essentials, pack the hammocks too. We'll be spending some time down there." instructed Sophie that very night.

They would make their way down to the main group early the next morning and needed to prepare.

"Even so there's plenty room left?" thought June aloud.

"So that just means we're up to something, or rather Sophie is."

This was standard procedure for Mattie, figuring out the not so hidden intentions behind his sister's actions. Sophie was always up to something. Nothing is ever is 'just because', no matter how much she might brush off the topic.

"We don't have to weigh ourselves down to full capacity every time. It's rather suspicious no? Like saying we always have food to spare? In fact, let's avoid anything near that from now on. It's not like the food just falls off the trees, we don't have the time or extras." spoke Sophie casually as she rearranged the seasonal ripe gourds.

"They kinda did though?" muttered June, dropping in rock sugar and stirring a bubbling pot of sweet squash, papaya and nuts.

"Technicalities, these things grow on vines." waved off Sophie, already unconsciously sniffing the air.

The squash and gourds came in various sizes and colors. Some were as watery and green as a zucchini while others resembled sweet kabocha and everything in between.

Only during summer would these things bloom and ripen in such quantities. Too much for three young people on their own. If they left them as they were it would fall and rot to feed the wildlife. These they could easily afford to offer to maintain good relations with the airline crew and the main group.

Even then it's not like they grew all over the island, jungles and all. Sophie had chosen to set their home base in this mountainous valley region for reasons.

The siblings preferred the modified traditional dessert chilled but there was no refrigeration out here. Nor were there all the ingredients but it was the best they could do. Having something sweet once in a while was important to their sanity and keeping the peace given that all three of them had sweet tooths. At best they could leave the pot covered in the running stream overnight.

Which was what they did after the packed and let the pot cool down. They needed more water for the trip down, filling their flasks and packs to full capacity.

"Nevermind about the vegetables,water weight will more than make up for it," observed Mattie as they filled every durable portable container.

Less food and lot more water. Were the people below facing a water shortage at this point in time? He didn't need to ask to see a pattern.

The night was dark but they had the seemingly unnatural light of the moon and their own flashlights. If they wanted to they could move and work through the night. But Sophie had them leave it at submerging and securing the pot before making their way back for the night. They weren't overworking themselves, nor risking any injuries to June.

Lately, they were getting more into cooking as they became more accustomed to the environment. Food preparation and meals became much more important and overall enjoyable in their new active lifestyle. Besides, there wasn't much else to do out here.

While they were each okay with their electronic devices for entertainment but the work never seemed to end. Not including the time they were cooped up as Mattie took the venom, each day left them physically worn out and read to sleep by nightfall.

It did wonders for Sophie's supposed insomnia, and her siblings were teenagers that could sleep 12 hours a day if you let them.

Still, Sophie set a morning alarm for a reasonable hour, no need to get up before dawn. They weren't planning on fishing or providing the main group with any more food.

"We're not? I mean not that I mind! Like omg yes sleep but like, we're really not?"

June was the only one who stayed at the shelter. From her time there she could feel first hand how the distribution and food supply was dwindling rather than getting better. Their last visit had only confirmed that trend.

Mattie agreed, the questions stacking up.

"Yeah what's up with that?."

Sophie indulged them as she zipped up an overnight bag, getting ready for bed as per Mattie's sanitary instructions.

"The additional food would bring some relief to the general yes but well, it's not their supply now is it? Except for those who venture into the forest or try fishing themselves, the rest are just waiting for handouts. It's not that they're all selfish or lazy, though plenty are too, but rather....they haven't come to terms with their new reality yet. "

"They haven't accepted the fact that they're in survivor essentially. Still waiting in lines and waiting for orders, right?" followed up Mattie, trying to understand the point beyond those facts.

"Right. They haven't comprehended the full picture, of just how bad it is and how bad it's going to get. Understandable of course, people are still in panic mode, denial maybe. Stages of grief and all that crap. Those in the crew have a better-prepared sort of mentality, they know they're not getting rescued and have some level of training but really, those in control always have it the hardest."

"I can imagine- it's like front register. But worse, like waaaaaay worse." shuddered June, already flashbacking to every unpleasant customer service experience she ever faced in her teen years working in their parent's shop.

"Uh yeah it's way worse. We never had to deal with hoards of sunburned and starving tourists....okay I take that back but never to this capacity. And what? Weeks of it by now? I'm surprised no one has resorted to murder yet." piped up Mattie with his own nightmare encounters behind the shop counter.

He'd take inventory or restocking duty, hell even clean up duty any day compared to working front counter. It was the main reason he was ok with having such a talkative little sister, as soon as she was old enough he threw those duties on her and ran to the back.

Sophie snorted a bit at Mattie's last comment.

"Don't be surprised then."

At this time, that cowardly woman should have offed her father already. Sophie could never bring herself to get along with her. She was just too annoying in her uselessness and crying victim. Couldn't even kill on her own grudge, had to get her shitty boyfriend to do the messy work.

It was for something trivial Sophie recalled. Overly controlling parental figure and an inheritance that no one would live long enough to enjoy.

For a moment Sophie considered it, should she be nice and end her suffering early? But who had time for mercy killings? She was annoying yes but it's not like they were enemies, nor was the other woman a threat to anyone but herself.

It's fine to leave her, but if she gets in their way Sophie wouldn't even blink. It was like crushing a garden pest.

"Oh my god. Sophie? What's that supposed to mean? Did people die already? Oh my god did we run up here to avoid murder time?"

June gaped, ears ready for the drama. She hasn't seen any of her shows, had access to internet forums or social media since they crashed. As a modern young girl, she was severely lacking entertainment.

"What the fuck June?"

"What? You're thinking it too Matt. Don't deny. I mean what else is that supposed to mean? "

"I mean yeah, but what the fuck? Murder time?"

Well, that's one way of putting thought Sophie with a shrug. The slightest action getting her immediate attention from her curious drama hungry siblings. Mattie was just as bad, he just didn't like to admit it.

"We're fine. There is no murder time, though that doesn't mean there won't be murder but- well. It's complicated. Anyways you all don't have to worry." Sophie tried.

"So no murder time?" the other girl raised her hand like a student.

"The fuck June stop calling it that? Sophie don't you dare encourage her."

"Calm down all of you. 1. June, we will not call it murder time in front of others okay? No one else is supposed to know about murder time. If possible, we shall keep away from murder time, especially you."

"Okay! But you gotta tell me when murder o' clock is otherwise how can I avoid it."

"Yes that's fine, I promise I will tell you two far ahead of time when it's murder o' clock.

"....Why are you two like this?" Mattie groaned at his sisters, already massaging his temple with one hand, glasses in the other.

He doesn't know how much of it was a joke and how much was the truth, at this point he's sure it's both.

Sophie patted the boy comfortingly, she'll make it up to him later. Best let them get used to it as odd as their language may be. Whatever helped them understand.

"No worries for the next couple of months. No one but those with previous personal grudges will partake in 'murder time'. Of course, we should all still be careful but we do not need to fear any senseless 'murder time' this year. If you see any murder mystery, there's a good chance it's from someone they already know."

"Well...that's good I guess." Mattie looked up.

"There will be plenty of natural deaths coming, no murder needed. Injuries, disease, even dehydration. Or well dysentery. Remember to be careful with water, boil and always carry the straws and tablets on you at all times."

"....never mind then. No good. There is no good thing here." groaned Mattie again. This time June patted his other shoulder, god he was such a diva sometimes. He must suffer so much.

"Back on the plan before someone distracted us all with 'murder time', still a valid question though. One for the future." chided Sophie, half-jokingly.

Sometimes it was easier to laugh through the ugly truth. Her tone may be light but the contents were serious. June and Mattie weren't innocent children anymore, they had seen movies, could reasonable see how humanity could turn out for the worse. Sophie's 'psychic' predictions weren't to be taken lightly.

"Its true, food is running out down there but the water supply is more detrimental at this point. There's nowhere near enough freshwater sources on the shore and the planes can't filter saltwater. The crew has been smart enough to set up rainwater catchers but it's only rained 2, maybe three times since the crashes. Rations are already in place I expect."

"Hmm, what about the coconuts?" asked Mattie, recalling their first night on the island.

"Not enough nor are all people willing to put in that extra work yet. Also, remember how many folks drank brown ones and got sick? It's a mess down there, just a lot of confusion and misinformation going around."

In the last life, the siblings were no better than them. Sophie remembers it clearly, how huddled and fearful they were. All just restlessly waiting for things to get better.

It didn't. Not really.

It would never get better.

They could wait for the rain to come. The could last through the monsoons and begin to try organizing a system to just survive. But it would never get better. This island was just one big downhill fall.

Sophie shook herself out of it immediately. She couldn't prevent that slippery slope, but she could jump out of the way of the worst of it. And she was taking Mattie and June with her to the safety of the sidelines.

"Things will get more desperate, maybe not right away but it's building up. Let's get this straight. Our first focus will be ourselves, the three of us. Anything, anyone comes after. Know that, no matter who comes along, or even who joins us, my first and main priority with always be you two and your best interests. "

Mattie nodded, sure as ever, because of course. Who else would his sister go so far for? Even if there was someone in her now mysterious past, she would never allow anything or anyone to harm them. Matt had more than enough trust to know that.

While June didn't doubt either, she gulped at the way the fire flickers over Sophie's face, her expression grim and almost stone. The light and shadows looking ominous and a little like burn marks.

But June would never, couldn't have, known how Sophie did have that very burnt face before. Something so scarred and scratched over so badly that no amount of skin grafts nor professional surgeons could recover.

" So we're a yes on people joining us? Allies?" June breathed out, confirming.

Sophie took a moment, a too harsh breath through her nose.

"Yes....But I have the final say in who, got it? I'm not trying to dominate or be harsh. For everyone's safety I get the last word on who joins us on anything. Absolutely anything. Still, try not to fall for any sob stories or pretty faces that easily."

No wasn't an option, Sophie wouldn't let them allow an enemy in. Wouldn't allow any of that bullshit.

She had considered the possibility that her sibling might resent her down the line but it didn't matter jack shit to her, not if it kept them alive.

"Then we'll call each other out. Keep a watch for anything or anyone suspicious. Just give us a heads up on those major characters?" yawned Mattie, as if it were a normal and natural thing to hand the metaphorical reigns over to Sophie.

"Yeah just tell us!" nodded June, as if she could show proof of her loyalty through enthusiasm alone.

A small overly worrying part in Sophie wasn't relieved just yet but she still let out a breath she had been holding. This much and more would probably still be fine. She didn't want to push them past their limits but she would do it if it meant saving them. Still for tonight, this much was fine.

"Go to sleep, we'll try to help direct and move with the planes tomorrow. Afterward, we can try to get some of our luggage. In between we can visit and stay at the shelter, I think Mary beth would enjoy the Chè if we scoop some in a thermos for her. Her appetite probably isn't great lately, especially in this heat."

June perked up at that, glad that she could still help that old woman who tended to her at the very least. This must mean that Sophie approved of her wholly. While June couldn't see the reason why it still relieved her.

She climbed into her side of bed and fell asleep first, easily with a load lightened. One that she didn't even know she held all this time.

Mattie stayed to help Sophie snuff out the fire and secure their 'gate' at the mouth of the cave. The grass weaved fence had grown again.

"Are you going to try to dream something tonight?" he whispered into the curling smoke, now dark. She nodded in response, unsure if he could even see it without his glasses.

"I'll try to yes. But I can't control what. Or if I'll even dream. Some nights there's nothing."

Those were the nights she was most thankful for. Night of restful sleep, no dream no nightmares to terrorize her. Just solid cycles of sleep. But if her theory is right, if it was to be tested out again she needed to dream something for this to work.

"Try then, but don't be pressured. With or without it, we got this." Mattie assured.

"Of course, I'm not going to try forcing something. And you? Any side effects." Sophie asked concernedly.

Mattie was easier to test, surprisingly easier.

When he wanted to he just did things faster, at least that was how it looked on her end. They timed and tested him in small ways without June suspecting a thing. How quickly he could do their shared tasks, dig a taro or walk to a certain bamboo grove? It's not like they had a recorded comparison but he was faster, Sophie could tell.

"It feels about the same but, I don't know yet. I don't know if it's the snake venom still in me or something but I get drowsy after a while, or the headache kinda just, makes a rebound. Like I still need to sleep it off."

That was the part that personally convinced Mattie, sleep.

Sophie could say he was faster at anything she liked but it was sleeping that really got him to believe in this freaky snake shit. He swore he had a full afternoon nap earlier, something long and lingering with Sophie's instructions to rest and sleep as he liked. He slept for what felt like hours only to wake up but less than half an hour later.

"Don't push it ok? I don't seem to have any side effects from pulling coffee out of thin air but you? Stop if you feel a headache coming."

"I know. We'll see....go to sleep now...and dream something good."

The next morning Sophie drowsily awoke with the beeping alarm and a groaning June, who quickly put the thing on snooze. The smell of coffee in the air was familiar but only from the instant packs of Mattie's preferred brand.

The boy already up and dressed, looking far better and well-rested.

"You slept well..." Sophie started.

"Hmmm anything?" he didn't answer to his own condition butraised an eyebrow knowingly, sipping his coffee. He held out a separate steaming mug as his sister shuffled her way to the fire, still sleepily draped in a blanket.

"Judging from the fact that I got nothing in my hands? Nada, not a single dream. No nightmare either but....yeah nothing."

It wouldn't do to be impatient on anything. That was the key to planning, to survival. But this, this bothered her. This was unreasonable and unknown but she couldn't do anything more to prompt it, to find out more. It was irritating.

Despite the full night's sleep, she was uneasy.

"Don't push it, you're already psychic enough."

Coffee was nice, but so was anything popping out of thin air. It would be a life-saving bonus of Sophie's strange theory proven correct. But she had prepared already for a life without it.

"....Yeah. Yeah okay."

It was enough, what they had.

It had to be enough as they were heading back into the fray.


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