Chapter 3:

You're the ghost and you haunt the halls

Castaway Isle

Sophie gives herself 20 minutes.

20 minutes of shower thoughts. The steaming hot water eased the tension she seemed to have brought back through time with her. It was easier to think in here, faster and far less stressful. What is it with showers and their effect on people's brains anyways?

She's not complaining though, there's a lot for her to think about. A lot to mentally categorize, a lot to process. She can compartmentalize a little too well. There's little time or choice right now, she needs to put making a short-term plan for the remaining hours, quickly.

After brushing her teeth and getting dressed into something casualm she went to evaluate the luggage.

The initial plan was the save money and only bring carry-on sized luggage and a personal bag, which the airline allowed without an add-on fee.

Now she was pulling out her parents' larger family travel cases from the closet. There were some whole sets packed inside one another, like Matryoshka dolls. She and Mattie had already pulled out the smallest of the sets to use as their carry on luggage in the plane. They weren't the most top-of-the-line luggage, they were even a little scratched or banged up form use here and there. That's what made them good, they were sturdy, weather-resistant and could last.

Her parents were extremely frugal but not necessarily cheap, quality things like these were meant to last a lifetime for the family of 5.

Sophie felt it was a terrible shame then, that they couldn't go on more trips together as a family. She had used her deceased parents as an excuse to get Mattie to listen to her earlier but a part of her would believe it if her parents really were watching over her, warning her from the beyond.

A part of her was already clinically insane though, so let's not take that too seriously. 

From the luggage, she selected the largest and sturdiest ones out of two matching sets, the biggest Russian nesting doll of them. Then checked and ensured they still had the included little locks and security features. Those would be for her and Mattie to check-in.

Then she chose the second largest of the luggage, one to pack more supplies and to bring personal items for her sister June.

Their plane may have crash-landed but the pilots did an excellent job with making the descent. It landed whole, mostly intact if not for the engines. Thus everyone's luggage was safe and could be returned to their owners. They all mostly survived the crash, that part was little to no issue. It's what would come after, that's when the death toll spiked.

In the early days, people still abided by common rules and laws. Order and humanity were still in place and as confused as people were, they made the best of things and worked hard to survive together until rescue could come.

How wonderful it would be if they had kept that up. But the sleeping monsters would come out to play, desperation and the lack of society's eyes on them made a perfect hunting ground. They would devolve into something worse than the feral animals that lived on the island.

But that's a thought for another time, she had to pack and prepare what she could now.

Rather than her own wardrobe, she started with her brother's first. She knows he doesn't believe her story and even though she had already paid him, she doubted he would pack appropriately.

In his room, she pulled out all his good sports clothes or useful items. The material of his athletic gear was light, sturdy, and sweat-resistant. Perfect for the tropical conditions and hot weather they would face.

In the years she spent on the island, some of her most useful and well-worn items once belonged to her brother. As a male, his clothes were just larger and contained more material. Thus was more valuable. 

She also selected larger durable clothing items such as jackets and quality pants for him. As well as what shoes would be appropriate.

In the military tight style, Sophie folded and rolled all of his clothes to save as much space as possible and secured them with twine. His good athletic shoes and sandals went into plastic bags while some of his underwear and socks, also tightly rolled, went into ziplock bags.

She worked fast, unnaturally efficient and only stopped packing for him when Matthew went looking for her to announce that breakfast was ready.

"Uh, I thought you said I was the one who had to redo my luggage?" he questioned. 

"You are, I was just helping. Fold and pack it in the way I did to save as much space as possible. Heck grab anything you want out of dad's closet, just trust me on that. "she waved off.

"Ummm, well okay." ne stated unsurely.

This was going to be the start of a string of odd excuses. 

"I have some things to do today but I'll check later. Do a good job and I'll pay you. Go settle everything you need to do, think of it as a long vacation and tying up loose ends." Sophie tried to smile but knew it came out too tired, too stiff. 

"Yeah yeah, I get it Sophie, end of the world game." her brother tried to joke, lightening the mood.

"Good, you better." she nodded. 

Sophie spoke through a mouthful of a loaded omelet. In the last couple of years, her appetite was never good, too saddened by her loss and made physically weak by years of malnutrition.

Right now not only was her body healthy, but everything tasted so damn delicious.

Today she would eat her fill and load up on the much-needed calories needed to survive. On the island, a stable source of food, protein, and other essential nutrients was always lacking. There were too many days and nights she went hungry, too weak to do anything.

There were even times she was desperate enough to trade what little she did have, including herself. Those were not proud moments in her life. Not ones she could recall without tasting bile and blood. But she couldn't regret it, not when it kept June fed enough to stay alive as long as she did.

There was no room for shame at the end of the world.

"Remember to eat a lot today okay Mattie? Just go wild, think of it as a cheat day or something. Seriously, eat whatever you want and dinner is on me tonight." she casually mentioned to her brother.

He was still a growing boy. One who played sports throughout high school. His physique could not be considered muscular but thankfully he was not too thin either. Still, she lamented that she could not bulk and fatten him up further.

"Then can we order Korean fried chicken tonight?" Mattie gleefully asked for his favorite cheat food.

She hadn't had Korean fried chicken in years, not since before the island. It wasn't a dish fit for a person as sick as her, nor was it very fun to eat alone. It reminded her too much of Mattie. It was perfect.

"Definitely, let's go all out tonight." she agreed, this time a lot more relazed. 


With that Sophie continues eating in earnest, enjoying just being in the moment and looking at her living breathing little brother. For the last decade she had been living on only memories of him, she could recall his entire life like the back of her hand. From the moment he was first brought home from the hospital to his bloody murder.

She looked for a long time and yet her heart was still not content. But it would have to do, she had to ensure he stayed alive till the end.

"So uh, I'm still dropping off Peanut right?" asked Matthew.

"Peanut, oh yes peanut!" she ran her hand through her hair, a bit in frustration. 

Her dog. The family's tiny beloved pooch had long passed away by the time she returned.

It was well taken care of by her cousins. They had dropped off the dog at their relative's house since they also owned a dog and did not mind the extra company.

That brought her to another train of thought, her cousins.

If not for them and their support, Sophie would have never recovered as quickly as she did. Some of the few honestly good people in the world. Who knows, maybe if she never ended up on that damn island, she could have believed herself to be just like them.

When she and her siblings were considered missing and dead, their relatives had split their assets and home fairly. Furniture and such were sold off but the sibling's personal items and sentimental trinkets were kept carefully in storage by some of her cousins or close friends.

When they heard that she was among the list of found survivors years later, they immediately rushed to visit her in the hospital, taking care of her where they could.

It definitely wasn't easy for them. 

For the first few years of her recovery, after she was released from the wards, she even lived with them. With regular mandatory check-ups of course, not that different from a criminal on probation.

Then there were her two old friends that held on to her things and helped her readjust in modern society. They would force her to the appointments, took her out when she rather sleep and waste away, even show her how to use the new technology that advanced by leaps and bound.

Reminded her she still had a life to live.

It's because of people like that, did Sophie remember to breathe again. Made her even want to. Because of them, she could regain something. 

Maybe not her faith in humanity or any of the bull, but maybe for them, maybe for herself.

It was hard to feel quite right anymore. But it would be safe to place these people among her precious priority. Not as much as Mattie or June, as certainly not in as pressing but a situation. But there were things she could do for them.

If it was them, she'd rather leave all her assets instead of having it split between all those old extended relatives. Whoever repeats the phrase, blood is thicker than water, did not read the full quote.

That's doable.

Sophie already had a will. She could contact the lawyer that worked on her parent's estate transfer at the time of their death. It would be adjusted, she had some time to settle matters.

After breakfast, she went to see her old dog for one last time. Peanut was not a young dog anymore and she knew after this she would not be able to see him again. It was already good enough she was allowed this goodbye that she missed last time.

The sight of its funny dotted eyebrows, fluffy fur, and happy enthusiasm to see her brought a rush of memories and emotions. How she has missed this sweet old creature! This little dog had grown up by her side as she did. Despite being absolutely tiny, yippy and another species, he was far better than any person.

Though the clock was ticking, she allowed herself a few minutes to embrace the little dog. It was hard to feel for anything anymore. Even harder, impossible, to get back the lost chance to say goodbye. 

Peanut did not know why its master was so tender and sad today but it happily nuzzled against her. The love of a dog was just that good and simple. 

"Goodbye Peanut, you'll be in good hands. Live happily for the rest of your natural life, you silly old thing." leaving him like this too, was an act of mercy.

"Geeze Sophie, Peanut isn't going away forever. We'll pick him up after we get back." Mattie snickered, making his way out.

Sophie gave the little furball one last kiss on the head, as if she were still a young girl that could afford to live in the moment. One last goodbye.

Then it was work mode. She ignored how Mattie rolled his eyes. It didn't matter if her younger brother couldn't believe her yet. He would have little to no choice soon.

"Didn't I say play along? Live today like it's D-day Mattie! Pack your shit and get your affairs in order by the time I get back ok! Pick up some spare glasses, I know you have time. We'll have all the Korean fried chicken you could possibly eat tonight." she offered sleazily, like the deal of a used car salesman.

"Well, I want cheese corn too." Mattie didn't even blink, more than ready to eat.  

"All of it, we'll order all the damn sides." she promised. 

It's the least she can do for him before damning him with her. 

"Deal." her brother cockily grinned, none the wise. 

Sophie handed over the old little dog, missing its soft warmth immediately. Playing a part, she allowed herself to give a soft little wave before heading out.

It was time to get Day 0 started.


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