Chapter 23:

You meet the beast in mouth- you realize it was yourself

Castaway Isle

They are not fully in the sea.

Sophie does not intend to make them swim. This way around, however, walking or wading, through the water is much faster than trying to climb over the rocks. It's doable but inconvenient with their items. She also wanted them to have a bit of sunlight left to start setting up a camp for the night. A bit more time.

"I am so not dressed for this!" squeaked June.

The wetness of her socks and sneakers were uncomfortable. The young teen couldn't help but to jealously look between the waterproof boots donned by both Sophie and Mattie. They didn't have to deal with wet socks.

"Sorry June, bear with it a little longer okay?"

Sophie didn't bother mentioning it to June that she could have changed into sandals, she didn't want June to risk stepping into anything unprotected and the bulky boots she bought for her sister were in the other luggage. This would have to do.

Besides she herself had made this same walk barefoot many times in the past. Sometimes she would have stinging cuts or even worse afterward.

June would live, this much was nothing nor would it affect her later. Not like another injury.

They waded around the shore of rocks and tide pools, the water reaching as far as their calves. In Sophie's case it even splashed up to her knees but she kept moving as if it were no issue. To her it really wasn't. What's a little water to a healthy person?

It took them but a few minutes to reach a grotto the size of a garage door. A few feet in was a gradual incline of a small shore. Leading up, it was covered in small bits of rock, gravel and half-broken shells.

How many times had Sophie cut her feet on these things? Till the skin on her feet hardened to the point she no longer felt the sting of salt in open wounds? It was hard to say, hard to keep track.

Her wet boots made a satisfying crunch against the rocky shore. This was much better.

The air was instantly cooler inside the shade of the grotto, something that made both Mattie and June sigh in relief.

Sophie led them as far in, till the reached a wall and the back end of the grotto. The sunlight could still reach in this far, casting the small cavern in beautiful shades of reflective blue. It was the sort of spot that would make a nice photo if you could capture it right.

"Everyone still doing alright?" Sophie confirmed, checking back and inspecting how her siblings behind her were faring. Her own arms were beginning to feel the strain of carrying their items over water.

"My socks are wet!" shouted one voice.

"Wet but fine, is this it Sophie?" muttered another.

There were fine, a little tired but more to do with the entire hike than these last couple of minutes. Good, they were well on track then.

"Not yet Mattie, sorry June. You could change but they'll just get wet again in your shoes, do you want to change socks though?"

"Oh my god yes!"

They took a quick breather on the rocky shore, enough time for June to slip her wet socks for dry ones. But she needed to keep on the shoes, she would need the traction.

"Seriously Sophie, how much further can we go? The wall is right there. Not that this isn't a nice place, kinda fishy though." spouted off June.

"Yeah we're kinda right in the water, of course, it's fishy. Let's just go. Oh great mystic Sophie do make the waters part and reveal the secret passage." Mattie responded with a little more tired snark.

He would be inclined to agree with June, the wall was right there, this is where the grotto ended. But he knew Sophie even better and turned on the tactical flashlight attached to his person. She had to have given them the flashlights for a reason. Obviously, this wasn't over.

Turning on her own headlights Sophie led them up right up the end of the wall, and turned behind the rocks on the left. A path inclined where the sunlight couldn't reach, entirely hidden from view.

"Oh joy, there really is a secret passage. I am so surprised." deadpanned Mattie as he made sure June went ahead of him, following behind Sophie.

"Holy shit this is so cool. Sophie this is so awesome and I need you to know I am 100% on board with psychic Sophie. "

"She's not really psychic June, they were dreams."

"Yeah but uh hello, this is good enough."

June gestured to the grotto around them as they went deeper and further in, by now they were relying on their flashlights and headlights to see anything. How else would their sister lead them to this place as if she had traversed it themselves? There was no reasonable explanation.

Nothing realistic anyways.

"Let's not be yelling out if I'm maybe or maybe not psychic, don't make it a habit. You guys can talk among yourselves between yourself but keep moving." shouted out Sophie from ahead of them.

Sometimes the path would even out or branch out, or they would face an awkward part of rock they had to climb over but they followed Sophie as they steadily all went up. They could all feel it as they carried their luggage uphill.

Eventually, they reached a more spacious cavern. In the dark, they could still see semi shallow pools of water that might be pretty if better lit.

"When the tide comes up this far it leaves these pools. It's not often but in a bad storm, it can overflow and flood this whole area into a wave pool."

Sophie explained like a tour guide as she led them around the pool and up further twists and turns. Either way, they kept going up. Some parts were steep, while others gradual but there was an incline and they all felt the strain.

"This whole thing must have been full once and eroded, no stalagmites on the ceiling but it's not very high anyway. No fear of rocks falling on you as much as slipping on the floor below you so be careful."

"Got it, man I love psychic Sophie. Hey any chance for anything cool and supernatural?" commented June.

Both her siblings shot her down immediately.

"No, just no."

"You don't really want that and no."

Supernatural powers were not a play in this, this wasn't a comic book or an anime series. The most they got was the slight physical boost that came with the yellow gray snake bites. People killed and died as normal humans. That's what was so frightening, humans on their own were already capable of so much.

There was no room for that nonsense, not for Sophie. The others could dream though, that's up to them and whatever movies and shows Mattie downloaded.

They still needed dreams to keep them sane. Sophie was already a lost cause.

The rock got smoother, stabler as they moved forward. In return, some parts of the path Sophie led them on got narrower. Sophie had no qualms amount swinging around her luggage, not caring and even aiming to break inconvenient pieces of rock. This wasn't a nature preserve and the path wasn't as clear as she was used to. But it took time and work to clear it last time, just like it would this life. It was still passable though, that's what mattered.

"Okay not to be that guy but how are we still breathing? There should be reduced oxygen in here if there weren't some air vents running through. So please tell me there's an exit soon and we're not doomed to wander these dark caves."

Sophie turned around so he could see as she rolled her eyes.

"Yes Mattie there are exits and air, just keep going. You still doing alright June, not putting pressure on that shoulder?"

"Yeah but it's killing my other shoulder!"

"Good girl, use Mattie if you need too. Going up is harder than coming down."

It really was, especially against darkness and rock. Without a clear path or estimated time of arrival, time seemed to stretch on even longer. Just how long had they been walking? How far had they climbed up?

There were parts and pieces in the pathway that was just not meant for travel, not meant for humans with their long torsos and four limbs, definitely not meant for the luggage they were carrying. But they made it through, around or over following Sophie's instructions.

"We can break that part later." Sophie huffed over an annoying climb over a bend.

"If we're taking this road again yeah we better. How about some safety lights and handrails while we're at it" panted Mattie in return as he pushed June along.

"Stairs, I know an elevator is asking for too much but why can't we just have simple stairs?" the youngest moaned through tired breaths.

At this point, she gave over her luggage to her brother, the drag of it too much on her good shoulder along with her duffel. He used them to push along in front, copying the movements of Sophie who was in the lead.

"It will get easier guys, I promise. But you're welcome to carve your own stairs if you can."

"Got it, stairs are out then."

Eventually, the path's steepness evened out and it became something narrow but walkable.

Sophie led them to a wall.

"Dead end huh?" she muttered as she groped around.

"Is this it or did we make a wrong turn?" Mattie bit his lip, worrying the skin further.

He was already ill at ease about any of Sophie's plans after the snake incident. This time it lead them to somewhere deep in a labyrinth of a cave. While Sophie assured them of the oxygen quality, it was still a dark and unnerving place to be. Like they were trapped, buried alive.

Mattie didn't like this one bit and he couldn't wait to finally get out.

"Shine all the lights around here for me will you, it should be around here," Sophie instructed, tapping at the wall and listening carefully.

"Please tell we're not breaking through the solid rock wall," he complained but did as told.

Along with June, they provided a decent lighting spot until Sophie found the sound she was looking for. Something that knocked a particularly hollow way.


The younger ones barely got the warning before Sophie started heavily banging at a low part of the wall, first with a rock and then with her luggage like a battering ram.

"Holy shit," exclaimed June, watching the unbecoming brute force her sister was displaying.

This definitely wasn't the mature and reserved style her sister been adopting as of late. She didn't mind though, Sophie was Sophie and all of these were still sides of her.

"Ah yes once again my sarcastic prediction is correct. Maybe I'm a psychic too! Anyways move over, my turn to smash the wall."

He just wanted to get out of here faster.

How long would it take it they left it up to Sophie? She weighed like nothing to him and had little strength. Besides he could see her tiring out the entire time and remembered the old doctor's warnings for her to take it easy as the venom made its way out her system.

"Knock yourself out Mattie."

"Switch spots, and June water up Sophie."

Sophie really was already tiring out from the cavern hike and weight. She had exerted more energy than she thought by all the climbing and lugging and her pure strength wasn't all that high. She could throw a mean right hook but this current body of hers was still too weak.

It couldn't be helped though, she could only build her strength up over time. At least she had cracked the hollow weakened part of the wall, damaged with water over time. Cracks that further and further made themselves known until fresh air and the beginning trickle of sunlight managed to sleep through.

"Shit I see something!" shouted Mattie, adrenaline taking over as he increased the hits.

"Don't push yourself, it's not going anywhere," warned Sophie, getting back into the action herself.

She wishes she had a crowbar or something stronger, she wouldn't risk damaging their luggage any further. It was right there but it would take them a bit of time to get through without straining anything. Sophie doesn't want to risk them getting any sort of injury, even a simple strained or pulled muscle. It was too risky out here.

"Do I get a turn?" asked June

"It's not a pinata but yeah sure why not" huffed Mattie and he switched positions.

"Good arm only June," warned Sophie.

June took a few tentative scrapes to the cracks with a rock, loosening them further. Then pulled out a pile of thin slaps and pebbles.

She must have taken the time earlier to feel for and gather some small rocks. Carefully she nudged the slimmer rocks in the cracks that she could fit, and started hitting them in. Soon she abandoned those efforts to stomp and kick them in, the cracks appearing at a much wider space and frequency.

"Look guys, no hands!"

"Huh not bad at all."

It wasn't a rock and chisel but Sophie could see the useful concept behind it. She would use the same rock cracking technique to build things in straight lines but forgotten about their application in this setting. June had the right sort of idea.

"Well we loosened it for her" shot back Mattie.

June paused to stick her tongue out at home and went back to kicking the stones in further, effectively cracker a larger section of the wall.

In this manner, the siblings took turns at the wall for another full round until there was enough room for them to pass through.

Pass they did, out of the dark dampness and into the corner of a sunlit cavern.

"Light! There's really light," exclaimed June excitedly.

"Great, follow it out but be careful of the rocks." called out Sophie, clearing the way further for their small rolling luggage.

They traversed out of the mouth of a small cave hidden on the side of a steep hill. The blazing light was harsh and too bright for their eyes.

From up here it was a whole new scenery of greenery and tall leafy greens, lit in the orange glow of an approaching sunset.

"So this is it" gasped Mattie, taking in the panoramic view.

It was beautiful and maybe, just maybe, worth the hike. If they were in any other situation than this seemingly bleak one.

"Yeah, this is about it. Come on let's pick another cave to settle, this one gets drafty." breathed out Sophie.

To her, this view was nothing she hadn't seen before. Besides, it really was nothing in comparison to her view from the top.

But that place is still far away and not suitable for her nor siblings yet. They all weren't ready. But something like this was a good halfway point. Safe and sat away yet still traversable to connect back to the main group.

"Oh my God I think I see the planes!"

June pointed excitedly downwards to their left. Indeed the shore of the beach edge was visible. The two parked planes on the beach looked like little cars to them. Mattie and June awed in the sight, the distance. How far had they traveled?! It looked much higher and further away than the 2+ hours they had trekked and climbed.

"Oh my god is actually right for once. Hot damn Sophie how did we? I mean how were we able to get so much distance between here and there in like one afternoon?"

If Mattie wasn't gaping before he definitely was now.

Sophie waved them off as she led them up to a higher point, their luggage rolling much smoother on the outside ground. Her eyes already scouting and inspecting the best base camp for them.

"It's a little bit like Disneyland, the park looks large but it's split up oddly and forces you to take the long way. Given this place is a whole hell lot bigger than Disneyland or theme park, there are still some great short cuts if you know where they are. It would have taken us 4 maybe 5 days if we had walked up normally."

"And wild psychic dreams gave you the cheat map on this place?" sputtered Mattie.

It was hard to believe but wasn't the proof right there in front of him. His crazy sister really wasn't crazy, or at least her visions weren't. There's no way anyone would have known this pathway otherwise.

"Not exactly-" Sophie tried to clarify but was cut off by her younger sister.

"Who cares, it works. Praise the psychic Sophie!"

Ah yes, much simpler to convince than Mattie. This was nice in its own way. She was a tad concerned about her sister's IQ but it was fine if it was between them, in no way should she trusts someone else this much.

"Sure, let's go with that. Well, psychic Sophie says that this place will do."

The spot she chose was located about two or three stories up higher and further inland than the cavern they had just exited. If they looked out and down from to their left they could still see that general area along with that side of the beach shore. They would not see the entire island from here, far be it with the pure blockage of jungle forest to their right. But this was a good vantage point and didn't face the sun nor rain.

It wasn't so much a cave as it was a concave piece of rock, half of a large dome almost. The ground was near perfectly flat and there was no memory of this spot ever collapsing in all the 8 years Sophie has passed by it.

This was it then. At least for now, until they either had better prospects or were forced to move. This was going to be home.

"Start setting up, this is our first permanent base camp."

"Okay, but I got a question."

"Yes June."

"How do we even do that? Like seriously what? There's nothing here? And-"

Mattie was tiredly face palming again as June rambles on about the lack of anything and everything. This was going to be a struggle that's for sure. But Sophie wouldn't want to do this with anyone else, she wouldn't do this for anyone else.

This Novel Contains Mature Content

Show This Chapter?