Chapter 21:

Sometimes there is no meaning - it just is

Castaway Isle

The sky rolls with clouds, unnaturally dark. It does no cover the entire expanse of the sky but it is enough. Just a quick shower of rain while the daytime sun is still shining high and bright. Some people call it the devil beating his wife when this natural phenomenon occurs.

Here in this green tropical paradise, it is just another quick morning rain, here and gone in a flash.

Sophie had always loved the rain. Loved the way the air smelled and how all the tension seemed to break and release with rainfall. In the jungle, though it was a major hassle. They would need to run and find shelter, the air was too humid sometimes, and it would waste so much of their precious time in doing anything. Injuries would get wet, possibly infected. Their tracks would be found if they weren't already hiding.

Then June died and it didn't matter anymore if it rained or not. It could drown her and she would no longer care. It didn't matter if she died, not anymore.

But she didn't and Sophie grew to love the rain again. She didn't have much else going for her.

Sophie can hazily hear the pitter-patter. Half in and out of sleep she knows somehow that she is dreaming, the last stage of the sleep cycle. For one she's not in a plane or the island or anywhere near that.

She's in a primary school classroom.

The children are gathered up in their seats even though it's recess time. It's a rainy day, the indoor games are going on. Sophie watches like an outsider, a ghost.

The teacher, a vaguely familiar one, announces something and the children are off to the board games and running up to their friends. One little girl with tiny pigtails, in hair ties with little red pompoms, pulls out a boxed game. Seemingly satisfied with her choice she runs up to a group of children waiting for her bring the goods.

"Hurry up Sophie I wanna pick already!"

"I'm coming I'm coming!"

The pigtails were her own, it's her again, from the far past. It's an old memory playing back in surprisingly technicolor details. Sophie watches like a ghost, haunting a space that is no longer hers. She comes up to watch her much smaller self and no one sees her, the innocent memory plays out intact.

The inconsistent pitter patter of the rain outside sounds too close to her ears. Sophie knows this is a dream half dipped. One she can easily slip out of if she focused, but she sees no reason to. There's no clear point to why her subconscious is playing out this memory, there never is. She has learned over the years not to fight it but to observe.

You always had to look at the situation, scout for risks and make a plan, then a backup plan all before attacking.

But there is nothing here, no threats and no hints of a nightmare in sight. Just an insignificant memory Sophie vaguely remembers.

A child nearby drops his game pieces with a clatter. The noise gets a few curious looks but most everyone goes back to their own games and playmates. A marble rolls towards Sophie and with a ghostly hand she impulsively picks it up.

She wakes up.

Suddenly the world is where it should be as she last knows it, in the plane in her sad excuse of a medical bed. It was just an innocent dream.

Sophie groans in that tired way where you wake up from a nap more tired than you were before it. Her arm has somewhat lost feeling from sleeping on it under the pillow but when she moves it, there is something in her hand. Something small and smooth.

"Sophie? Sophie oh god Mattie is she- Sophie are you awake?!"

That voice!

Sophie forces herself fully awake and looks up. She hasn't heard that voice in years, not except in her nightmares.

A slim teenaged girl with tears in her eyes throws herself into Sophie's lap. She's far too tall to be fitting herself in there but Sophie doesn't mind. She wouldn't mind if June stayed in her lap, her arms if she just stayed safe and alive this time.

"I was so scared. Sophie I was so scared!" sobs the young girl.

She looks like a child like this, not much better than Sophie herself. She feels helpless against her little sister's sudden presence, her tears, and strokes June's fluffy dyed brown hair more for herself than anything. To feel her baby sister as real and alive again.

While June looked like Mattie more than she did Sophie, there was still about a 70% resemblance to their facial features. June stood half a foot taller than Sophie did. She had a slimmer face, a slimmer neck, a longer everything with acne on her chin and she was just so lovely and awkward as a 16 year old child.

June was here. She was back and June was here well and alive!

"Oh gods, they said you were bitten by a poisonous snake!" sobbed the girl.

"Yep, that's her reputation now. Girl crazy enough to go fight snakes and live. Don't worry June, Sophie's juuuust fine."

Mattie would look almost bored sitting there in the side if it weren't for this tenseness in his posture. He looks both tired and relieved at the same time and Sophie already feels the guilt welling up for dragging him into this hell. The same guilt that's been with her since this all started.

But this was their best chance of making it all out alive, together.

"What time is it?" Sophie groaned, clearing the headache and the urge to go back to sleep.

"Still morning, it's not even noon yet. You were still asleep when we got here at like what 8 something? You're in the clear healthwise by the way, just take it easy for the nest week. That nice old doctor even took a look a June's shoulder! Isn't that great! But Sophie-jie, didn't I specifically say don't cause any trouble while I was gone?"

Sophie's brain was saying it was still too early to deal with her brother's anger, he always sounded overly cheerful. Like their mother did when any of the siblings got into trouble, it was just a bad lead up. But Sophie could take him, she'd gladly do so as long as he was there to nag her.

"You didn't respond to your texts." Sophie shrugged.

"Oh my god it really was you?" exclaimed June, still half laying in Sophie's lap.

Her shoulder was in a proper stint Sophie could see. Good. While her little sister looked oily and a little worse for wear, she was clean and smelled it too. Mattie must have taken care of their June the best he could while she was out. It was actually expected that he got her cleaned up and into fresh clothes, being the neat freak he was. She definitely wasn't in sweats and one of Sophie's T-shirts the first time they found her.

"Hmm, I don't know what you're talking about. Try not to lose your phone so easily next time, alright?"

"Yep, called it! See June, told you it was Sophie." He waved his precious phone in the air, his backpack back where the rest of their belongings sat.

"But it was stolen by those thugs and...oh my god really?"

June looked up and really looked at Sophie, but the sight felt off to her. For one her elder sister had chopped off all of her long silky hair. That wasn't right? Sophie was very picky about her hair products and how she styled herself. Mattie had warned her about how Sophie seemed changed, a little intense, but she was still taken off balance by the sight.

June chalked it up to the craziness of it all. Their emergency crash landing, this island and the stress from being exposed to the elements. But Mattie shot her down, this was all Sophie. And she was the one who got them their stuff back.

"I wouldn't know guys, I've been good while inside the plane the whole time. Information isn't great in here when I'm basically confined to bed. Tell me what happened and start from the beginning, last night. How did you get robbed Mattie?"

The teen boy sighed and leaned back in his seat. Honestly, there were other things he rather be talking about, say the incident that Sophie must have gotten into this morning. But he knew he would have to get this out of the way first.

"You were right, June was exactly where you said she would be. In a shelter made from yellow inflatables over some short trees. The place was packed, it looked like a disaster but hey this whole situation is a disaster. You know what, you tell it first June."

June has landed on the island a whole day before they had. She had seen the other plane coming diving to them in the distance. Everyong was hoping, desperate for rescue but things were not looking good as time went on. The other more whole plane and crew gave them hope though, they could contact for help.

Still, it was a harsh reality, being stuck on an uninhabited island by the masses. The first night was the worst. Her shoulder was in searing pain but the cabin was rushed to evacuate as quickly as they could after landing. There were casualties yes but the fear of fire and being caught in an explosion has them all messily make their escapes.

No one knew if it was a blessing or a disaster that the rain started pouring not but a few minutes after everyone left the aircraft. No more fire scares but they were not allowed back on in case something truly went wrong. Some took shelter by the rocks while others, including June, as run for the trees. Even through the leaves the rain still pelted and drenched them.

It was a cold and terrifying night, June couldn't even try to sleep between her fear and the pain in the shoulder. June was a shaking mess and had nothing but the clothes she was wearing which was nothing but a flimsy tank top, leggings, her underwear, and sneakers.

Luckily an old but stern woman took pity on her.

"Mary Beth, she was an army nurse. " Sophie remembered.

"What? Now she's like an old retired nurse but how did you know? Oh my god is this a prank guys? It's not funny."

"Just roll with it June, Sophie kinda gets psychic dreams now and likes scaring us to death. Well, she likes scaring me to death, don't know if that extends to you. "

"What? Mattie I said stop pulling my leg, this isn't funny."

"Arkansas. She's like in her upper 70s and has this smoker voice kind of Southern accent. Served as an army medic in the the 60s and 70s before going back to Little Rock, Arkansas. She was going to visit her grandson in Thailand but took a connecting flight. Bandaged up your shoulder before you got this sweet stint, nice."

June stared in a shocked sort of horror before getting mad.

"This isn't funny! Mattie did you text Sophie this?!"

"Couldn't have, the backpack was stolen then remember? I barely talked to that old lady before I figured my pack and phone were gone. You have message anyone without a phone which is great by the way, seriously walkie talkies that let you text off grid. Great impulse buy sis."

Sophie shrugged and motioned for them to continue their side of the story, especially Mattie. What good would buying all these things be if he just lets them get stolen and used by others? She didn't blame him but they had to learn this lesson early.

"Seriously what?" questioned June, lost in the confusion still.

"Ooookay how about I take over now?" Mattie started, trying to move on.

"Yes, please tell me how you lost all your stuff in the span of one evening."

"It wasn't his fault Soph!" June interrupted.

June, along with those who were deemed too elderly, weak and injured to really do much eventually formed a corner shelter for themselves with the repurposed inflatable emergency exit ramp. Food was limited but still provided from the plane in rations. Those who were healthy went to look for sources of fresh water and food.

While June felt rather useless, there wasn't anything she could do. It was much safer to stay behind, even though food and water were running low. At most, she could forage for washed up seafood or such in the early morning by the rocky side of the beach. Everyone was scared, tired and getting hungrier by the day while communication with the flight crew was a mess.

With the arrival of the other plane driving up they had renewed hope.

However, they didn't come with that many supplies and certainly not enough free food.

The night that Mattie arrived at their desolate shelter, June had cried and rushed up to him immediately. It was her brother, her big brother had come for her! As a normal teenager June was lost and fearful, following the crowd. With her family here she felt tethered again and regained her courage. While she was surprised and upset that it was her sibling's flight that also crashed, she was so thankful to have her big brother come and save her like when they were children.

He was welcomed into the shelter and introduced to Mary Beth and others. There the younger siblings caught each other up on what happened to each of them. It helped immensely that he had brought a bit of food and chocolate candies with him. The simple taste of granola bars and chocolate was heavenly in their situation and helped fill bellies and raise morale However the good mood wouldn't last.

A group of healthy adults came to the shelter and angrily confronted them. Why were the weak and useless ones get fresh goods from the plane?

Mattie held his ground that these were his personal items and not supplies to be distributed. He would share but they were for his sister June and the benefactors that took care of her in his absence. Not only did this other group gang up to threaten him, but they also started to mess up the shelter!

Outnumbered and with the very real risk of harm to June and the others in the shelter Mattie couldn't put up much of a fight even if he wanted to. He was the only healthy young person there and couldn't take them on as they made off with his backpack. He had initially wanted to chase after them but June and the others held him back. It was already late and far too dangerous. He should stay the night and settle anything in the morning.

While Mattie did not agree with letting the thieves get away with it, he was smart enough to know he was not a one man army. When it was light again, he would return to Sophie and inform the airline of the robbery to get his pack back.

It's just that Mattie didn't expect to see his backpack hanging right outside when he got up. Sure the food was gone but all his gear and most importantly the walkie talkies and his phone were in there. Inside were even items that shouldn't be there, things that he recognized from the gang of rowdy thieves from the night before!

Lesson learned though, phones and communication devices were to stay on his person at all times from now on.

His first reaction to finding the pack was shock. His first thought, however, was his eldest sister.

"Damn it Sophie I said don't do anything crazy while I was gone."

"Why do you assume it's me so quickly? Maybe they just returned your stuff with a little thanks?"

"Sophie not only do I know it was you, but we also found those people this morning. They were half naked and some were even tied up. It was a messed up but funny show before the airline folks untied them I have to admit. I got more than enough witnesses to say they stole from me and that I slept the whole night at the shelter so I'm good alibi wise but-"

"Oh really? How interesting. Must have been some good samaritan."

"They had nothing Sophie, just trash and wrappers in their camp. Not even their shoes. Whoever did it wiped them as clean as possible and they have no witnesses. Just screwed."

"I don't know Mattie, if they're thieves stealing candy off of kids and old people, I say this was pretty well deserved. I'm still mad they stole our food but hey at least you got your stuff back. Right June?"

"Oh my god.... it really was you?!"

Sophie smiled innocently, no one could prove anything and it wasn't traced or blamed on Mattie. Who could say? It was just a shame she couldn't have given the thieves a more thorough lesson. It was a little concerning how fast her siblings were to accept that it was her handiwork but she trusts them. The faster they learn about the harshness required to survive in this place, the better.

"Thieves are everywhere kids, have to be careful. I paid a lot of money for these walkie talkies so don't lose them so easily from now on alright? You should also come to me sooner, I was really worried all through the night you know? Things won't always be this easy to get back."

Her siblings stared at her with odd looks in their eyes, a mixture of confusion and the usual fear they had for the eldest sister.

"Oh my fucking god."

"June will you please shut it with the 'Oh my god!' I love you but I swear that's all you say since last night!"

"Oh my god Mattie, what happened to Sophie? She's gone full-crazy."

"Yes, yes I know but we're going to have to roll with it because yes she is crazy and has her head filled with snake venom side effects but she's been scarily right in too many things."

"I think I like it, it's kind of badass. Like when we were little and she beat up the kids bullying you. "

"Oh no no June no. No copying Sophie- Jie. Please no, I can't juggle the both of you."

"I'm right here you know?" spoke up Sophie amidst the chaotic banter.

She was feeling better already watching her siblings. Except for their parents, her family was back and whole. Something in her feels warm, content in this moment.

Sophie doesn't think too much further about the marble that's somehow still in her hand.

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