Chapter 36:

We need to survive to go on, we must go on.

Castaway Isle

In the trees, a child hangs up in the shaded cover of the foliage. Up here he can climb back and forth faster than it would take some people to walk. Adults were weird in how damn clumsy they tend to be.

Clunky steps, heavy gaits, all the easier to sense them coming.

They think that just because they're so big or fat that they can move faster, overpower you. Women tended not to fall for it as much, being lighter and a little tougher to trick. But he was even lighter than any of them. Light and easy to doge, easy to hide. When he times it right, so damn easy to make them fall.

And hell do they fall.

In all honesty, it's not like he wanted to be so damn small. So fucking weak, so damn easy.

But you work with what you have, work them to your advantage. Not in the way that crack whore him taught him to. Not like she taught him much. Just how to use his face, the one she gave him before hers was busted up by drugs or some shit. Everything he learned was through the hard way. By watching, by stealing, or even good old-fashioned experience.

Watching was preferable. You don't need to burn yourself to know the stove is hot. Watching others was a hell lot less painful. Adults, no people- people tend to be so damn stupid. So ready to jump and burn themselves.

He's not stupid enough to believe when adults- people, praise him for fucking anything. He's not so naive to swoon it when they call him smart, mature, so fucking pretty so fucking anything. He already knows all those things doesn't need anyone telling him that. He doesn't burn himself where others do, not if he's in control.

Sit back somewhere you can't be seen, can't be heard or found. Sit back and watch the fire burn.

It's the same anywhere.

Same shitshow in Hawaii.

Same crap on repeat in Nevada.

Motherfucking freezing but just the damn same in Colorado.

And it will be the same here. This dumpster fire is the downed flight, 200-something people stranded. You don't need to be smart, to be an adult, to know things were going to get a whole freight load uglier real soon.

Too many of those people, he can almost sniff them out by now. It is second instinct to him.

So he booked it, grabbed his single worn down backpack containing every little thing he owns, and booked it away from those animals just waiting to burst. Rabid dogs in a fence, only they're all too stupid to realize the gate's been unlocked.

Fine by him, he's not going to complain about a head start. Time to run before people start figuring it out, the wolves probably already have. No way he's sticking around to get burned, even if that meant less food, less basic human comforts.

Screw that shit, he's out.

He's survived on worse than a shitty jungle. The trees and vines fell almost like home, easy to climb even after all those years in the system. Concrete jungles were no better than the wild, no more civilized, whatever the hell that word was supposed to mean. Not like the easy shit they make you regurgitate in school ever applied to real life, idiots.

He's been hiding out for while at this point. More than enough shit to know he's not stepping foot near people when it's lights out. When they can actually see him knicking food and stuff. No one's caught him yet, and that's the way it's going to stay for a damn long time.

Except for maybe one person.

If there's anything he knows for absolutely sure, it's how to tell when someone's god damn dangerous or messed the hell up. Like birds of a feather, it's too easy to sense. Too easy to tell to the boy. And that person reeks of both.

Dangerous and messed up.

Regular people don't know where to find him. Don't know where to look in the shadows and corners of alleyways and cabinets. Normal people never have to play hide and seek in their lives, don't need to. Only abusers or victims do.

And that shitty woman, barely young enough to not be called a shitty adult, found him too damn easy.

The first time could be a coincidence, a damn lucky chance on her part.

The second time guaranteed it, this person was potentially dangerous.

He expected to see her again if she didn't just fucking die out there. Off in the jungles, deeper than he ever bothered to venture, out of view out of sight. He expected her back to do whatever messed-up adults do when they're plotting something, which this person is clearly planning. Maybe waving some candies at him like an old lady shakes catnip to strays. Well fuck that, he's no pity case and she's no innocent old lady.

"I'm back! Have you been eating properly? Hmm, judging by the lack of fire ash I'd say no, you're not. Well, can't be helped. Damn kid."

Fuck off he eats just fine for what he manages to steal when everyone sleeping. What else is he supposed to do, go fish? Hell no. There's fruit and stuff in the trees.

"Don't be stubborn, I'm leaving you a thermos of porridge, eat that shit first. Your stomach will thank you for it."

The not shitty adult looked like a damn idiot, talking to herself like that. Talking into nothing but empty space and green leaves with nothing but the occasional rustling breeze to answer back. Like hell is he responding.

"Oh I get it." nodded the strange girl, unscrewing the lid to the thermos and taking a spoonful to her mouth. She made slow bites, savoring the food, and holding it in her mouth before swallowing without any difficulty.

"Rice and oatmeal boiled together. Salt, sesame seeds, wild ginger slices. Okay fine a little msg, it's whatever was in the seasoning packing. My whole family ate the same thing this morning so unless you're allergic to these basics, you're not getting poisoned. "

She was always so suspicious every time he saw her. Her actions were weird. Her clothes were oddly appropriate for the environment and she didn't look like a thing was out of place, ever. That was the strangest, and dare he fucking thinks it, scariest part. A normal person would be frustrated, tired, wary, or at least a little surprised and unsure.

The one that called herself "Sophie" was none of those things.

Every step of hers in this untamed land was confident. As if no fear of snakes, scorpions or any of the deadly unknown could hurt her. But she wasn't stupid, he's seen how she walks among the others. Seen the familiar deception, the carefully controlled avoidance from a distance. It's suspicious, he's learned the hard way to keep away from suspicious people.

Said suspicious person cleaned the area around the grass shelter that he didn't sleep in except for that one time it rained, leaving the thermos and spoon by the entrance on a clean large leaf.

"If you finish everything by the time I come back then I leave dessert, and it's not just chocolate this time. You cool with sweet soup right? It's not cakes or cookies but damn we used sugar in it so it tastes pretty damn good for what we have available, well you know."

Sophie is met with silence, as she always has thus.

There's nothing to indicate that Leon was here, no signs of him staying at this shabby encampment she quickly constructed days ago. But she fixes up the grass and palm thatchings to form a hut and unrolls fresh woven mats onto the floor inside.

There's no evidence of it but there's someone around, hidden somewhere safe.

Besides the porridge, she leaves a partially opened coconut and a bottle of water. He doesn't 'need' it, doesn't need her help to find his way to survive. Leon was a smart and resourceful if a dingy boy. He was a survivor. But that doesn't mean he should have to all on his own.

It made her sigh, this really did feel like leaving food and shelter out for a stray cat.

If Leon could hear that part of her thoughts she supposes he would hiss in rage and pettiness. But that boy was strangely meant for the spoiled and pampered life. He liked comfortable things and comfortable spaces even though he was great at making it out in the middle of nowhere, even here.

"At least hydrate. We'll be at the shelter or the planes, you get the gist of it. ...Take care of yourself."

She waved off, walking to rejoin her siblings who were waiting for her ahead. Taking a foraging break themselves as she went off to handle her personal business.

The shitty brat was her personal business whether he liked it or not. Sophie wasn't letting him caught again if she could help it. No one should have to go through what they did, not ever again. But she doesn't care about much anyone else, can't bring herself to.

She'll try for Leon though because the little brat was worth it.

Even if he did fight with and irk off June to no end in the past. Maybe that's a good thing, challenge her more than they could by themselves. Sophie will just have to bet see.

The leaves don't even rustle when a boy, not a damn pet, jumps out with well-practiced ease.

At least the food didn't taste that awful to him, must be the msg.


They arrive with an extra bundle of freshly cut-down bananas.

The hanging fruit still found on the trees told Sophie how far others had ventured into the jungle. If they went deep they sure didn't go in this direction. That was good, fewer people to chance upon their path. Besides, it was along the cliff's edge that they should be scouting and clearing to move, not here.

There were many paths to her secret bay but the fewer people around to accidentally stumble on it, the better.

Sophie herself only found it by chance after a near-death chase with a wild beast. The heavy horned creature breaking through the rock before tumbling down to its death in a roaring rage.

In all her time on this island, no one had ever found her hidden shortcut and it would stay that way.

The only exceptions were those she allowed, obviously her brother and sister.

When the siblings arrived to the main group it was still early enough that over half the survivors were still sleeping in whatever corner they claimed. With or without her advice, it seemed people were beginning to move closer inland rather than cook on sand and shore. Time had made them bolder. Not that it was devoid of risk but the edges of green were no longer as terrifying as before.

That's how it goes.

Time makes one bolder, braver, and reckless. Time will bring out desperation which can lead to either the very best or the very worst in people.

Sophie knows from hard experience now, which side won. This wasn't a blockbuster movie, there was no happy end even when it was seemingly all over. Every comfort, everything good ever to come out from this would be hard-earned and forged from the wreckage.

There will be more wreckage, sooner or later that second plane was going to blow.

Sophie wasn't so arrogant to think she could prevent that. Somewhere down the line, someone will try tinkering with that engine and it would go off like it was always meant to. Like a ticking time bomb.

At most she could delay it, give them more time. Give more people the chance to get away. She wasn't blindly trying to save lives no, she's not that good of a person.

But as she had told Mattie before, as she stressed to her siblings' heads in the darkness of the caves: it was detrimental if the captains and crew members died.

The longer they lived, the longer any sort of authority kept their presence, the better things would be.

Humans were not necessarily weak creatures but they were socially conditioned, not unlike a herd. Wasn't that what the majority of people were doing right now? Herding under some semblance of safety and order. This sort of behavior is what will kill them, the majority of survivors.

Docile sheep are good sheep. But if they're led down a cliff they will mutely jump to their deaths, one after another. A twisted game of following the leader.

History has shown the effects and response of humanity in dark times. The worst things were not the wolves, the faceless evils lurking in the dark ready to strike. The worst were humans themselves, all of them. Those that had beasts in their souls and those who let the monsters feast.

Passivity is deadlier than any disease, any villain. It is sheep to the slaughter. If they do not move they can only wait to bleed out and die. Those who died early and or of natural causes were the lucky ones.

Sophie does not volunteer to be the savior, a shepherd. That is not in her capabilities, nor what she wants. In all honesty, she would rather watch it all from the sidelines, watch the show, safe from harm.

But if one does not move, they will die.

It's how she survived in her last life and it will not be wasted again.

Like sheep, the majority of the people here will follow. And if they must follow, if there is no wakening beasts in their hearts and souls, then let them follow a decent person. Let them for some semblance of law and order of the old world back home on the mainland.

That first explosion as they tried starting the plane took away too many of those in command. Those who could have would have, been good leaders, or at least some decent competition for the beasts remaining. Too many crewmates died in that explosion along with those who willingly volunteered. Anyone with strength, experience, or technical engineering background.

Who knows maybe there was a worse kind of man or woman on that death list. Maybe she was going to accidentally save someone who was better off dead.

But it would be worth it if the captains and authority figures lived. If more men lived, in general, to balance things out, if only to threaten the ones remaining. There was still the matter of food, water, and shelter but that could be supplied by the island. Besides, death was natural and those who wouldn't be able to hold out should rest in peace early, with minimal suffering.

"You brats again, well at least you're all unharmed."

"Good morning to you too Mr. Allen."

"Good you got smarter about not showing off too much, still be careful out there."

"Will do sir."

Only this person scolded them each time they showed their faces. Don't stand out too much or don't strain yourselves he would admonish. To June's confusion, Sophie seemed to prefer this strange nagging?

It was honestly refreshing in Sophie's opinion. The scolding advice comes from a sincere concern for them rather than what they could provide.

But she no longer needs to wonder how a deceptively soft grump like Mr. Allen must have died, absent in her memories. He must have been one of the ones to be working on the site of the first engine explosion. A mess of fire and flying scraps, it took out dozens.

Easy to figure, easy to kill.

It didn't take much for the flight crew and attendants to welcome the siblings again, their previous impression solid and positive. These three Asian kids were sweet, polite, and provided substantial relief to the daily food supply each time they dropped by. Rather than being any drain on resources, they would help provide and with a good attitude.

What was not to like?

Though there was no fish this time the fruit and vegetables donated were nutritious and filling. The pumpkin squash and plantain like bananas especially would sustain some meals as a solid base. A little bit could go a long way.

While the other flight attendants thanked them ardently and tried asking about their time out of sight, Sophie kept the conversation light and cheery. Slowly worming her way into their circle while keeping them away from their own lives. Her demeanor much sweeter and more inviting than her current self. Every time Mattie saw the drastic switch it threw him for a loop, but he too knew a thing or two about business smiles.

June could just be herself, already so friendly and social. It was easy to bounce off their youngest sister, to play off as brave well adjusted young adults stepping up in a dire situation.

It was easy to play being a good person.

Maybe June was the only one that truly believed they were all good, especially her siblings. People were all good deep down, except for scary villains in fairytales and the 8 o clock news. They existed elsewhere.

Mattie was ambivalent. He neither saw himself as good nor bad, rather he was an average person. All people were just that, average and capable of making good or bad choices. And right now there were in a place where those choices were detrimental.

And Sophie? Sophie had jumped dived, fallen so far from the edge of good that it might as well be another universe. Maybe it was if you considered the time-traveling as a dimension.

She was everything society considered wrong.

Murderer. Suicidal. Crazed. Whore. Cannibal. Thief. Sadist. Disabled. Slut. Liar. Delusional. Better of dead. Better off locked up somewhere out of sight. Sick sick sick and wrong.

The list went on and on. It was funny how many accusations there were on paper, either in the courtroom or in her medical notes. Her file must have been very fun to work on.

Munchausen Syndrome, that's what the court tried to convince the jury. Complex PTSD, narcissism, and more, it really was a very fun file. Excessive trauma, starvation, and isolation had driven her insane, to the point she needed the attention, needed to create these obviously fake tragic stories. How could these people, these survivors be criminal to all that she spoke of in her crazed frenzy?

That is what saved those fuckers from their charges. A system of either blind, passive or worse.

She was so far from good, but she could play it. That's all the system needed, people who could play along. Walk the walk, talk the talk, and just look the part.

Fine then, pull the wool over their eyes and she's back in. Easy. People are so easy when you know how to play the game. That she could do, has learned damn hard to do through how many therapy sessions? She could play human.

Play along, play good- there are things needed to be done. Things we need to survive, to live.

This is what Mattie reads from Sophie's too-nice smile. Play along.

When she wanted to, his elder sister could smile and charm her way around anything. Bargaining for deals, dealing with unpleasant relatives, anything. So could their mother, and he had supposedly inherited the same trait. He would say otherwise, it was hard learned and practiced.

Right now Sophie was performing with terrifying grace and barely known intentions, even to him.

He'd best get used to it, better yet, he should try improving and brace himself. Brace for impact, brace himself for what he's going to have to do to live, to protect who he has left. They all needed to, whether they knew it or not.

So Mattie smiles and plays along in between his sisters. One still too naive to be trusted and the other so far off the deep end that he fears he can no longer see her, let alone save her. Could he even save himself? He doesn't know, doesn't know what to think with everything swirling around him like a deadly storm in anxious slow motion.

But Sophie's voice is still here, clear and crisp. She's here and will always be here for them, that much he knows even if he can't see.

"So what's happening around here? Any updates~"

The things they'll do to survive will only get worse, a little phony small talk is nothing.

This Novel Contains Mature Content

Show This Chapter?