Chapter 15:

You are still a ghost, do not think otherwise

Castaway Isle

A thin gangly man runs through the thicket of the jungle. His long limbs and already gaunt face makes look like a cryptid, a monster of urban legends.

In reality, he is just a person fleeing for himself.

He's the sort of person who in his teenage days you could imagine being stuffed into lockers by bullies. Though he is neither fast nor strong he is lanky and easily slips through leaves and gaps between the jungle trees. Not too far behind him comes a roar, not from a beast but another person.

The one chasing him is also a man, but much larger, wider and at least a decade older. Despite his balding head, he is strong with the thick build of an athlete. Perhaps in his youth, he was the sort of hot-headed bully who stuffed people in lockers.

"Wilson I'm going to skin your ass when I catch you! Stop fucking running!" roared the obviously angry man.

If it weren't for the darkness and trees that twist and turn, blocking his way he would have caught up to the younger man already. He may be older but there was no way Wilson from the damn I.T. department could even dream of outrunning him.

Wilson, the younger scrawnier man currently acting as prey in this jungle chase worked in the rapidly growing and prized developmental technology side. The other was called Foster and was once the top charismatic lead salesman.

The two were co-workers in the same technical outreach company but their personalities had clashed since day one. For work, they could bear to be civil but only for a limited time. Foster left a bad taste in Wilson's mouth, reminding him of the violent bullies, including his own father, that he left behind in his hometown. Meanwhile, Foster saw Wilson as an arrogant upstart that came to unthrone his sales department with the rising trend and reliance on technology. He was a privileged sort of man for most of his life and didn't like obstacles nor any threats. A weak-willed constantly complaining brat like Wilson being a threat was a huge hit to his pride.

Unfortunately, they were paired on a project together that required travel to a certain international country and the company booked them on the same flight.

Nothing was really stolen between the two on this particular night, it was a stress-induced misunderstanding. But the match had been lit and Foster was a bonfire stacked and ready to go. It was a long standing tension and fued between the two that did not suddenly come out of nowhere. Only that Foster was exactly as Wilson had read him to be, violent and quick to temper when others didn't bend over for him.

"Don't feel too bad for Wilson though, he's not a good man either."

That's what Sophie was explaining to her confused little brother as he followed her back through the darkness of the jungle.

"Have you been watching too much dramas again?" Mattie scratched his head, trying to take everything in without tripping over his own two feet.

"And please for the love of god why did we bring flashlights if we're not going to use them?!"

"It's a good night Mattie. The moon isn't full but it's nice and bright out here, we'll be fine. We'll use them but later, I have it all planned out. You especially will be fine, just follow everything I say okay?"

*Sigh* "Yeah yeah whatever, let's just get this drama over with."

Mattie shivered, for he had heard the man roar the name "Wilson" after his sister had told him of the fact. While he still had his sanity and common sense, he was getting closer and closer to the reality that his sister was painting for him. IT was either that or simply going with his psychic dreams theory. A good compromise, he'll stick to Sophie being suddenly psychic.

That would also explain why she seemed to walk so quickly and at ease in the darkness of this strange place.

"Don't worry too much Mattie, your eyes will adjust. You'll get used to it soon. For the really bad nights, I have night vision scopes in the luggage."

"Oh great, just what we need. Because I'm so ready to stalk the night in the wilds. I had almost forgotten you bought those."

Sophie simply smiled and patted his shoulder and she walked up ahead. She was not relying on the voices of the running men but rather a certain memory or a roundabout route to where she knew they would end up. That way they could avoid the two until the very end.

Sophie finally led them to something of a sharp rocky ledge. If one truly fell down there it would probably not be lethal but definitely painful. A broken bone or three and a concussion would not be unlikely if someone slipped and fell down there.

"Where are we Sophie?" asked Mattie with rising concern.

"Why the scene of a good show of course! Come on and help me set the stage up a bit. WE don't want anyone to fall so easily of the ledge would we?"

There was something wrong with his sister's sweet smile. The kind that he recognized from childhood when she was about to play a devious prank but only this time it was somehow even more terrifying.

True to her word though she was finding and setting large rocks against the ledge. It wasn't much but it provided a low and slight barrier. As he went off looking and delivering rocks however he realized it wasn't the most well-intentioned barrier. Instead, the placement of the rocks made it seem more like a tripping hazard than anything.

"Well, that should do it, come on Mattie best get comfy."

She left one last broken stick, a long easily rollable thing to the side of the ledge before leading them into a thicket of leaves. They searched a bit before selecting a suitable viewing spot.

"If you look over there, there's a gentler slope down the ledge. We'll take that path later." she pointed to something of a pathway behind them, barely visible in the shadows of the night.

While they waited Sophie told her brother something of a story.

"A dream you mean?"

"If that's what you want to believe."

She spoke softly, but not solemnly, of a story that could, maybe would, happen tonight. The game of cat and mouse would end when Wilson scrambles desperately to the ledge.

He's huffing and exhausted, failing to find a hiding spot with Foster always on his tail. While he was used to being beat as a child he did not want to relive any of it, nor would it be a favorable situation to be bloody and bruised in the lost environment they were currently in.

He cursed his luck and everyone else he could list out and blame.

Foster at this point, was near blind with rage. Seeing Wilson there, he would rush at him only to miss as Wilson suddenly ducked low and rolled into an evasive dodge. The result was obvious, Foster would go straight over the edge.

Thankfully thanks to his momentum he didn't roll and tumble against much or the direct rock against the little ledge but he certainly did get banged up and twists his ankle in a bad way. That, however, was not the worst of things.

At the bottom of the ledge was a small den of venomous snakes.

"This story is getting worse every passing second Sophie."

"Do you want to walk down and see for yourself?"

"No thanks, I'll stick to the story."

The falling 200 something pound man and the rubble rocks startled the snakes and even injured some of them. While he did not land on the snakes he was near enough to be a threat. Dazed and confused, he screamed at the sight of the squirming snakes but could not get away fast enough on his own.

Wilson, while not fond of Foster did not mean to literally push him off a ledge let alone have him attacked by snakes. At this point in time, they still had some compass of common decency. In the moonlight, he found an easier path and made his way down the ledge to drag the frantic Foster back to safety. It was a struggle with Foster's weight and the already weak and now exhausted Wilson. They hobbled away but not before Foster was bitten a few times.

It took them till dawn to hobble back to the plane and by then Foster was going through all the symptoms of a venomous bite. His entire body was swelling and beginning to look hardly human. The other airline staff broke out the emergency first aid kit. With the direction of passengers who were doctors and medical professionals stepping up, Foster was somehow miraculously stabilized.

He was a dead weight and in and out of painful consciousness for a long time but the airline and passengers could not just leave him to die. Even Wilson was horrified. Thus the immobile Foster along with a few children and elderly were allowed to stay on the plane as it drove the few miles north up the shore that day.

It would take Foster a month to recover but he miraculously did with minimal disfigurement, though his twisted untreated ankle healed in an odd way that gave him a permanent limp.

The strangest part was that from then on, he was mostly immune to many sources of venom and poison. His body had built up an immunity! It was a fact that no one, not even Foster would figure out till months later.

A few brave others would attempt the same thing but those who did not get bitten by this particular snake only perished. It must be this slightly yellow and gray snake with strange spines on its head! Only this snake had venom weak enough for a grown man to be bitten at least 3 times and yet survive to develop an anti-venom immunity. If it was this unknown snake, recipients of the bite would be poisoned but could still live with no permanent repercussions!

It was in a way a very painful vaccine with intense side effects lasting anywhere from a couple of days to weeks. Only Foster who had been bitten multiple times took the longest to recover.

"Wait, you called it a vaccine? Sophie did people just start taking snake bites voluntary? In your dream that is." Mattie coughed.

Sophie nodded, not minding the interruption.

"There wasn't that many of us that took the first bite. But when we didn't die and the result showed themselves, it became standard practice to every surviving adult. "

"We? Sophie what did you do!?!"

Sophie absently rubbed the area right above her left elbow, her non dominant hand. She chuckled at the memory, the fear she had felt then was so intense. Such a little thing like a decapitated snake's head terrified her so much. Honestly, the fear caused her more of a shock than the actual bite itself.

"First round volunteers got a little something extra for their was worth it."

"Fuck what could be worth sticking your hand into a venomous snake's mouth!?"


"What the fuck Sophie? What does that mean, what good is 'protection' when you could die right there and then!"

Sophie smiled fondly at her brother's anger, which was near the same reaction he had last time too. He was so concerned for her but they had drawn a bad lot. He was sick at the time and it was too risky for him to take her place. It was either her or June and she would rather sacrifice herself time again and again.

"There were a few other things but....well you'll understand later."

"I need you to know I hate this dream of yours."

"It's not so bad if you cut off the head and let it rest for over a day, the venom's effects weaken. Give it 3 or so days and it was even safe enough for children, the strong ones of course. "

She tossed a rock in her palm up and down as if it were a ball while casually stalking. The story wasn't over just yet.

In the beginning, after his initial recovery, Foster was a valuable team player. He was a big guy, not too old yet and strong. With his added immunity to snakes and other possibly poisonous creatures, he was a valuable asset to the hunting and exploration team. When need be he was also a good heavy lifter for the builders.

But Wilson was right in his first impression, the other man was a petty bully who thrived in positions of power. He was overly dominant and tried too hard to control things that were was none of his business. He constantly complained against the order of the community and the crew, breaking rules one by one over time. He hoarded supplies, hunts, and used them to bring other like minded sorts of folks his way. He wasn't that big of a threat in the long run but he was a terror, like a petty small time gangster.

His attitude toward women was also deplorable.

He liked them 'young and smoking hot' and more than a few women were either lured with his resources or simply tricked and forced. The worse part, in Sophie's eyes, was how he targetted June.

She was a minor and he was old enough to be her father but that only made him more excited. He was exactly that kind of mainstream predator, but it's like not like he was the only one on the island. It's a good thing his overall potential and IQ was so low and could not cause much more damage to the group.

"So what you're saying is Wilson should have left the guy to die?"

"If I was Wilson, yeah I would have."

"I know you said Wilson isn't all the great either but Foster is sounding pretty damn terrible so far."

Sophie simply shrugged and leaned back against the tree, glad Mattie was getting so involved whether he knew it or not.

"They both are absolute pieces of shit."

See on the other end of the spectrum was Wilson. Who, in his mind was always the victim, the poor underdog who was always trampled on in life. His dad was a rough and tough deadbeat, his small town was a close minded and very 80s movie stereotypical and he believed was simply meant for bigger and better things.

That was all fine and good but he was the sort of guy with a strange superiority complex. He honestly believed himself to be more intelligent than anyone else, that he was the sole thinking man in a group of sheep.

There was also a part of him, that given the chance, wanted to be a man like Foster. The head honcho in that small town. Strong, popular and without ever feeling like he wasn't enough. He couldn't make friends or get a girlfriend not because he was a misunderstood soul but rather his attitude and personality were terrible. There was a reason that a social charmer like Foster couldn't stand the younger guy. He was also not wrong in his evaluation of Wilson being arrogant and overbearing.

"Okay so Wilson also sucks, did he do anything though or just like you know? Kept to his own corner?" asked Mattie, fully into the story as if it were a television drama or gossip over tea that his sisters brought home to the dinner table.

"He's a fucking rat that's what a he. A damn good rat but a fucking delusion rat." sneered Sophie.

"Okay? Why do I get the impression you hate Wilson more than the gangster snake man?"

"Rats kill more than snakes do Mattie."

"Okay, that was ominous but also very vague. A rat? So either he gets rat immunity powers or was he like a spy? A carrier of disease? Does he bring the great plague to this humble old island?"

Sophie shook her head with a chuckle, not knowing where to start.

"Something like that, definitely on the spy part. Fucker was great at laying low and backstabbing. Whoever had him on their team was fucked when he felt like selling out, which was a lot."

"And this was worse than Foster?"

Mattie could see that after all a pig headed teammate was worse than a powerful enemy in many instances. It was like destroying a team from the inside, where they were most vulnerable. The 'Wilson' in Sophie's must have seriously sabotaged them.

"Who lives longer?"

"The rat does, which is why he caused more damage."

"Great great so we got a Donald Trump snake sort of guy and a 'woe is me' scummy molerat. Anything else I gotta know? Also, do we get rid of Foster before he bothers June or what?"

Ah yes, it was a good thing they were on the same page! Not that Sophie was too concerned about convincing her brother, he would come around to her side eventually. He always does, especially when it concerned their little sister.

"Foster isn't an issue, he'd try to fuck anything in a skirt and is easily distracted. He'll be easy to direct, Wilson however...well he's a god damn rat. "

Shame we have let him live, for now, thought Sophie.

A rat still has its uses, especially to pit people against one another. Why waste energy when others could finish off another with or without her help? She was just there to help push things along in their favor.

Mattie still looked worried and after some time to gather his words he awkwardly asked his sister.

"I know you said Foster would chase anything in a skirt, did he...did he bother you too?"

"Pfffffft hahaha ah yeah he tried flirting with every woman under the age of 35. Thought he was hot shit. Believe it or not it was Wilson that was more of a problem for me."


"He's a weeb Mattie, in the bad way. Dreams of his anime manic pixie girl falling from the sky and starting over as a harem protagonists. Calls himself a 'nice guy' too. "

"Ah, say no more."

Sophie had a good laugh at Mattie's horrified expression, it was fun to tease her brother again.

But she really wasn't joking and he knew that. They tended to cope with the shitty things in their lives with humor. The fetishization of a person's race, culture or well, anything...that was never ok. As the brother to two young attractive Asian girls, he knew that perfectly well. Yellow fever sucked. Hell, he even got it himself when someone cringely asks if he was Korean or knew kpop?

It was more than a little racist, to be honest.

"He tried to make June and I an offer for a threesome, actually said to my face that he's never been with a real Asian girl before."

"Oh god, I said say no more! I got it!"

"His favorite waifus are- "

"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!"

Sophie laughed, even though those memories weren't pleasant it really wasn't bad to be able to poke and tease her adorable younger brother again, no matter how grown up he gets. She missed this.

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