"So this is why you picked today for us to come down?"
"Omg pork! Fresh meat! Oh shit it just needs some-"
"Shut up and just eat June."
Mattie licked his finger clean, pulling apart the steaming banana leaf cooked pork until it resembled an easy to eat slop. The plums and pumpkins cooked beautifully in the fatty juices, breaking down tough meat.
"I'll bring this portion to Mary Beth!" volunteered June, juices and grease still on her lip.
"Mattie...go with her."
"You sure Sophie?"
"Yeah, she's the one actually holding food. I'll be fine here. "
She could take care of herself. Besides, there wasn't much clean-up to do in their corner of the beach, close enough to where the boar was butchered. In the not-so-far distance, she could see how Isko still working away at the bones, his dog already gnawing on the cooked ears and skull.
Sophie worked efficiently to tie up and save a portion later, the steamed pulled pork would keep cooking longer wrapped up and stuffed in empty thermoses.
On a sweltering hot day, like a prelude before the bomb, a band of passengers exploring deeper into the edge of the jungle would find success in taking down a wild boar. Food, there was actually such a good source of food to be found.
It was a spring of hope. It wasn't water, which everyone sorely felt the lack of, nor was it the rescue off of this desolate place. With no word of the modern world, their world, coming for them, life had seemingly drained out of the survivors day by day. The heat, elements, and dwindling supply even further plummeting morale.
Humans were such funny creatures. They required mental in addition to physical sustenance to keep going. Luckily, in this case, some substantial food in the form of a wild boar carcass would do the trick.
Sophie could still remember the way everyone, herself included, lit up in joy. For the first time in a long while, they let go of their worries. After cooking and splitting the creature a fair amount, each person who wasn't involved in the hunt got but a few mouthfuls of overcooked meat. But the mood was infectious, the bits of food after days of near nothing invigorating.
The siblings weren't anywhere near as tired and hungry as they were before. Sure. They had done a lot more physical activity but they had also gained from it. Establishing their safe little den up high, securing a way for themselves to not only live but do so comfortably.
They had no intention of shutting themselves off entirely. It was far too early for that, there were still benefits that could be gained. Say a share of this meat for one.
Sophie wasn't as strong as she was in her last life. It would be faulty to call it her 'prime' but her body was conditioned to be stronger, faster even from all the damage the years of starvation had done her. On her own, she could hunt a boar of this size given a few days of preparation. Then came the draining and butchering into some lighter more manageable pieces. The venom had helped.
None of the reporters and experts back on the mainland truly believed in the venom, taking the detail as a bizarre but reasonably delusional attempt at building a resistant anti-venom. A case of spider-man delusions in a place without reason or rhyme.
No one here would believe in the venom right now, let alone what it's done for Mattie.
This impossible thing, there's no need to tell another soul. Right now she's the only one bit by a live snake, the right kind of snake, and lived another day. Right now she is the only one who knows the full truth. Mattie comes in at a close second and only because she allowed him in on the secret.
Yes, that's what this is, for now, their secret trump card.
If it weren't for Foster, the main group wouldn't have initially discovered what the snake venom could do to a person. In this life, she's stolen his advantage, the first vaccine. The first to gain the advantages of venom immunity and so much more.
There is a nagging fear in Sophie's head. A question of what if? One had to always consider all the factors, all the outliers.
Her little parlor trick, once in a dream, who else would get a little something extra in addition when exposed to venom?
There wasn't enough evidence yet, Mattie wasn't enough to say. But hell she wasn't sharing this, wasn't going to give up their advantage so easily.
Who knows when they would figure out the anti-venom without Foster's original incident? Would it only be a few months to a year like beforehand? Or will her actions, her silence, stall research for years to come?
Someone will figure out, more people will naturally be bitten over the course of time, just like how many more people would die. Dr. Parihar, would put it together first, but he wasn't the only expert on the island. They'll find uses and cures in the oddest things, they had to.
Sophie wasn't so cruel, nor stupid, to try to keep the anti-venom secret only to her. She could easily just kill anyone useful in this area. Nor was she so selfless to give out this life-saving information, no matter how many people could be saved from it.
If they died early from poison, venom, whatever- then it would be a merciful death. They weren't meant to last anyway, not if they got killed so easily.
Until then, until they figured it out, she needed to use their advantage to the fullest. Not just the snake venom, but every single future advantage she has in her head. Mattie may be far more successful in his gifts but she's the one with the knowledge of what happens. They have time, she has time to plan out what could be done.
"Are you a campfire? Because you're hot and I want S'more."
Well fuck, there goes her peaceful evening.
She quickly looked down to check her attire, simple but stripped down for the heat and butchering. Her athletic tank was strong and sweat-resistant, but hugging on the curves. Ah, that's why this guy even bothered, can't look like a kid with breasts.
Sophie gave a level gaze at the young man, someone she does not know. Not so far behind him, a group of what could pass as frat boys and friends cheered. From their volume, they may have had something to drink. The limited alcohol from a plane a sort of currency for good work from volunteers. She neither ignored nor acknowledged, her blank face souring whatever mood he was trying to initiate.
It didn't matter what he said next, Sophie barely acknowledged him, simply shrugging her windbreaker back on, her eyes scanning her immediate surroundings for any real threats. Taking into account her position versus any witnesses, her hatchet blade being her closest weapon.
"Haha why the long face? I bet you'd be prettier if you smiled?"
"Please don't come any closer to me. "
"AH come on sweet cheeks, I don't bite."
"I'm a girl that's alone and you're a much larger stranger that I don't know. You get it don't you?"
"Well yeah, but what perfect time to get to know one another?"
"I'm not interested. That's not an invitation for you to try to convince me."
"Eeeey, no need to be so bitchy bout it. Can't blame a guy for trying to be friendly."
Probably at the sight of him fumbling, a few of his friends came up to his rescue. Sophie counted 4, the rest remaining at their fire to watch the show. It was like an outdated sitcom of guys at the bar.
She could take them, could probably snap two of their necks using their lack of guard right at this very minute then take care of the rest. But she wasn't stupid enough to cause a ruckus where it wouldn't benefit her. None of these men were the ones she wanted to disembowel and bleed out at her feet. At most she half recognized a goon or two, more followers than anything.
Annoying, but not dangerous.
"Sorry bout my buddy there, Manny's ain't the smoothest and he's been getting over a bad break up for months. Could I offer you a cold one as an apology?"
Instead of the emotionless stare, she gave to the pickup artist earlier, her face her entire body changed tune. With her jacket on, she huddled into it, making herself look even smaller, her voice higher. She played to the crowd.
"Umm, I'm okay... I'm just waiting for my brother and sister to get back."
"Oh shit Manny-did you- nevermind. Hey sweetie, how old are you honey?"
"Um...I rather not say....um sorry, your friend was ...kinda scaring me earlier."
"Well, do you want to wait over with us till your family gets back? Little girls like you really shouldn't be alone, no offense."
"Eep, uh no-...they'll be back soon? Thank you for offering?"
"Shit- she wasn't all cute like that earlier, damn two faced - women are all fucking liars!"
But the first one, Manny, could do nothing but squirm and half cry in his friends' chokehold, one of them shaking his head to pull the rejected man away.
"Come on dude, you had too much tonight, let it go."
"-Candy, that two timing whore-shit, I paid her rent for months and and*hic*"
"Aaaaand there he goes again. There there."
"Good job on probably traumatizing a minor though."
"Hey, I'm real sorry about him, he's not normally like that."
Sophie made a show of slightly shivering despite the warm summer night, huddling slightly away like a frightened animal. The two college-aged youths that remained looked as awkward as they felt, one even had his hands high up in a surrender pose.
"Truly sorry about that, don't worry about him we got it."
"Got him? Yeah I think we gotta beat something in that broken skull of his."
"Hey so if you need anything or something comes up, we're just going to right over there, okay? I'm A.J. by the way and this is Brendon. We're so sorry about this."
"Yeah yeah, you can chill. We won't bother you anymore."
"But like just call if you need help or something? No pressure but-I got sisters so I get if-"
"Stop rambling and go- give her some air. Sorry again."
"Have a nice night and stay safe!"
Crisis averted, really Sophie wasn't ever worried. Went better than expected really, she didn't have to take out a weapon or threaten anyone.
Her unintimidating image useful for some things, not limited to just getting people to underestimate her before attacking full force.
Besides they were basically just kids to her. Overgrown kids that didn't know much and would probably die early. Shame, as a whole they needed all the muscle as grunt work early on in clearing uninhabitable land and building. Some of them didn't seem all that bad as people.
Physically they may be around the same age but mentally she was ...too old. Far older than merely 30-something as she last was. This island had aged her considerably, the drugs, and medication, that came after didn't help.
"Wow! What jerks right? Are you alright?"
Sophie felt like groaning. When she sent Mattie away it was to ward off creeps just like this from June. Obviously, she underestimated her own popularity for the night.
The frat boy could be called cringey with his try too hard pick up lines, a little too drunk but overall harmless. Just another dude at the bar. But this creep? Wilson? The repressed self-entitled rat who bothered both June and Sophie on and off for years with his...fetish. This was a problem.
"Please don't get so close to me either."
Unlike with the Manny kid, Sophie reached over for her spear, drawing a physical line as the tip scratched along the sandy ground below. Human rats she had no tolerance for.
The rodent gulped, holding his hands out in a disgustingly pandering way. His spine bending awkwardly as if he never knew what to do in the face of actual confrontation.
"Hehe, just wanted to say hi. You know, thanks from before- it's me? From the snakes. How are you doing?"
To get turned down by a girl is no big deal. It happens daily in watering holes and social spaces around the world. To that frat boy, she was only another face, a number, and tomorrow he'll wake up with a slight hangover and brush it off. A flirting game, it's how people in their society operated.
Wilson however, takes rejection personally. All the dateless school dances, the lonely nights with just his ego and computer. All the pretty girls at work in different departments, with their taunting giggles, probably making fun of him when in reality they didn't even notice him. Wilson lives on the fantasy of anime and some specific porn while raging at the world for passing him up. Creeps like Wilson were far more dangerous and annoying.
Sophie should call for the college boys back.
Instead, she plays dumb and scared, but nowhere near as small and cute as before.
"I don't like talking about it. Please go away, I don't want to talk to strangers."
"Hey hey I'm nothing like those brainless assholes. Besides we're not strangers, we met before- you saved me you know. Thanks so much for that."
The spear scratches unpleasantly against the ground, Sophie standing her ground as the awkward slimy man tries taking a seat.
"Hey hey hey no need to be so scared, I'm a nice guy. Yeah I'm Wilson, a pleasure to meet you for real. Couldn't find you or your brother around most days."
"I said please. Now go away. You're making me very uncomfortable. "
"Well I'm sorry you feel that way but I'm sure-"
"Hey! Hey what are you doing to my sister!?" comes a feminine screech.
June was never one for being subtle, she rushes in with enough noise and energy to draw in curious eyes if they weren't already watching from afar. She rushes till she stands but a step behind Sophie, glowering with her extra head of height.
Instead of feeling shame, Wilson can't help but appreciate the view. Long hair, long legs, cute face even when angry. An entirely different charm than the lovely little fairy he's been trying to approach but no less his type. Sisters eh? Both still teen lolis? That's hot.
"Hi there! I'm Wilson and-"
"Yeah, I remember you. You're one who was running like an idiot into the night and screamed for help when you hit snakes. Snakes we took care of, no thanks to you. Where's your big friend?"
The scrawny man jumps in fright, half turning at the sudden voice and presence right behind him. Surely the brother-san wasn't there before? When did he get so close?
Mattie smiles not too kindly, leaning a little too close into the stranger's personal space. The light of the fire flickering and glinting off his glasses in an ominous manner.
"Sorry about my attitude, my sister's still healing from her injury, you remember, from the snakes. And it worries me to see....some people trying to cozy up the moment she's alone. Was there anything you needed?"
"Err uh I just wanted to say hi and give my thanks. You must really have your hands full with..."
"Eyes on me if you're talking to me. Look I really don't want trouble, both of my sisters are injured and I really don't appreciate you staring at them like that. Please have some respect, if you have something to say then ok. But don't go approaching people, especially girls, like that at night, it's damn scary out here for anyone."
"I wasn't staring- hey don't take me wrong here. If anything it's your fault for leaving her all alone like that. These fucking muscleheads were all over-."
"So you really don't have anything else to say right? Great, can you let us rest now? "
In the near distance, a strong male voice calls out, one that sounds like one of the college boys from before, the one who kept apologizing.
"Hey! Everything ok over there?"
Mattie gives Sophie a quick questioning look, to which she confidently nods back. She's fine and that group over there was alright.
The older skinny man looks back and forth between Mattie and the two approaching youths, cussing all sorts of profanity under his breath as he storms away.
"Everything cool over here?" asked the concerned youth to her brother.
He was big, far thicker than Mattie everywhere, with naturally tanned skin and a short ponytail of sun-damaged hair. His build was that of a heavyweight athlete with some extra girth to spare, strong for real rather than just for show.
"Yeah, I sure hope so. Just this creep, gotta be honest, he approached my sis before. You know the type, with their staring." responded Mattie easily
"Oh I know, I got like 4 sisters at home and it's a pain but hey it's worse for them."
Maybe it was a jock thing. He felt ponytail over here was easy to talk to, also thankful for the backup he provided. His blonde friend was a tad slimmer but still a good couple of years older and stronger than Mattie.
"Yeah we got our own troublemaker" he snorted, pointing back at their bunch of friends "Manny over there got drunk and tried hitting on the little one. Sorry about that."
"Yeah, we felt really bad and kinda kept an eye out after? Because yeah it is scary out here with no lights and stuff, especially for a girl. I swear that skinny dude just came right out of nowhere."
"Thank you, it's okay about your friend. I was just uncomfortable talking to anyone alone out here...that Wilson guy was way worse" responded Sophie, indicating the frat boys were alright, at least for now.
June still didn't let go of her sister's arm, which she had started clinging to when Wilson started leering. That old dude gave the creeper vibes, checking them out like that. She was 16, which was sadly old enough to recognize the looks.
They all made their polite introductions with one another, the ponytail being A.J. while the blonde was Brendon. Even going over to the college kids to smooth things out and exchange names and some drinks, they had sodas with them, cooled by the sea. Sophie didn't so much mind with others around, especially with her siblings stuck with her. Besides it wasn't so bad, there were girls in the other group.
More importantly, it looked like Mattie was finally relaxing, even having fun talking with these guys. Like he was falling back into the motions with his old friends and teammates. Who knows, if he had started college, these guys would be the sort that would be his seniors. June could have fun with anyone from senior citizens to children but Mattie was more of the average guy.
It was good for him to socialize, as long as he wasn't picking up any terrible pick lines or relationship advice from that Manny kid.
That night, as everyone slept, Sophie silently trekked through the jungle. She still remembered the tree where she stashed the stolen clothes and goods for the thieves that robbed Mattie about a week before.
Among them, she took the smallest clothes, a shirt, a woman's tank top, some drawstring board shorts and a jacket.
Among the stolen items were their smartphones, with nothing particularly useful. But there were some games that could be played offline and the default apps and tools were all there. She picked an unlocked one that seemed to have the most amusing games, the phone charging on her portable battery.
If her memory served her right, it would rain in two days. The engine plane would blow in three, the rain coming too early to do anything.
She came across an empty little makeshift camp of her own making. One out of two of the thermos containers sat just as she left it from the doorway of the hut. She didn't need a flashlight to tell her it was empty, but she shined it on anyway.
"So you probably heard already but they caught a boar today. Wild, I know. Honestly, they were just lucky no one got trampled to death."
Hands worked as she made small talk with herself, her invisible companion. Soon a small fire was lit, making the space easier to see, improved night vision aside. Made it easier to fix up the little thatched hut. It would rain in two days.
"I'm pretty sure most of the boar would be inedible if you let people just cut it up anyways they wanted, the thing was pretty damaged from the outside too. We got this vet, do you like animals? Anyway, he's pretty good with his hands if you catch anything too big or tough I recommend going to him for help. Can't miss him- tribal tats, stupid look on his face, cute husky. Look for the black and white husky dog."
When she was satisfied with the thatched roof, she worked on the inside. The brat liked things comfy and complained like a princess about his sleeping quarters despite being able to knock out on anything. Leon relished being pampered. When he played his whore cards right without savagely cutting down whoever fucked him for the night, he would take all their comforts and little luxuries as they slept.
Fresh grassy straw for the flooring, and rearrange the palm mats a bit better. The not-so-fresh clothes, but it's something. At least it was sweat free from today's heatwave.
She filled up the water again, the flask bottle drained empty as was the thermos. Good, he ate it all. That or dumped it into the ground, if he thought it was poison.
Poison, the venom? Would Leon react well to the venom? Was he too young to handle it right now? Well, one thing at a time. That was a thought for another day.
They would get their luggage tomorrow or try too. It was a messy sort of day.
"So special treat today. I got you some pork and not the nasty burnt shit that I know you smelled, even from wherever you were. Want the ingredient list again?"
Silence. All she heard was silence, at most the chirping of insects.
"Boar- you know that much, the ribs are the best but, eh these are parts of the flank, still good and not as gamey. Eat your vegetables, we cooked them in with the meat with banana leaves so they're all soft. The green fruit were plums. No msg for tonight, you're safe there....and basically all seasoning really. "
The fire crackles lightly as she threw in more fuel, warming up the rolled-up leaves of food.
"I'm also leaving you a phone, not mine obviously. Yeah, it's charged, it's kinda a shit model but there are still some games on there. Whatever, you'll figure it out and stuff. Just don't let it get wet."
Sophie lounges for a bit, mentally going over her own short term plans as she lets the device charge as full as it will get. That should amuse the kid from wrecking too much havoc, it would be good if he kept calm the next following days. It would be hectic enough without his nightly pickpocketing. she didn't want him caught. Didn't want him seen.
That ponytailed youth was right, it is a dangerous time for someone to be alone. Leon wasn't a girl, he was something even worse. Leon was a child, smaller than his age and face too nice for his own good.
He can't be targeted again, not like that. Not like last time.
"Be good and leave it in the hut when it's low. I'm head back now so eat up and sleep well, whatever your weird sleeping hours are."
Sophie was expecting the silence, started walking away with it.
Yet she does not even twitch when something hard and metallic falls from the sky above. Catches it easily in fact.
Ah there was her second thermos, the empty container still smelling sweet from the dessert soup that it once held.
"Ah right, dessert. You caught me there."
Sophie doesn't mind the silence, she doesn't mind the maybe threat that comes from a sweet-toothed terror in the trees. Instead, her mood lightens just a bit, as she lightens her pockets of the little candy treats and a chocolate protein bar. She even allows herself a genuine grin. One that would raise the hairs on the back of Mattie's neck if he saw it.
Her little friend was communicating back.