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Six Little Doomed Survivors (part 2)
When the sun finally crested the waves, we found ourselves still in our huddle. Toni was the first to speak. “What was that thing?” Milo shook his head and I slowly replied,
“It looked sort of like a lizard.”
“Oh, right a lizard that eats humans.” Milo responded sarcastically.
“Hey. I’m just telling you what I saw. And there are some lizards that eat people.” Toni looked doubtful.
“Well, there’s the komodo dragon.” She said, “But, I thought they only lived in Indonesia and around there.” I didn’t answer. I know what I saw.
We didn’t talk to each other for the rest of the day until sometime after noon when Milo said suddenly,
“You know…this is just like that rhyme, about the ten little soldier boys.” We both stared at him blankly. “You know,” he said impatiently, “‘Ten little Soldier boys went out to dine; one choked his little self and then there were nine.’ It ends with there only being one left so he hangs himself because he’s lonely.” We both continued to stare at him. “How could you not know that rhyme? It’s pretty famous. One of the most famous murder mysteries of all time is based on it.” I still had no idea what he was talking about. “And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie?” I shrugged my shoulders as Toni shook her head no.
He heaved a great sigh as if just being near us less cultured being gave him pain. “Anyway,” he explained, “We are just like the ten soldier boys. Well, we started out with five, six if you count the pilot, but, we have already lost three. Now we are just waiting for the rest of us to die.” No one spoke for a while until I said softly,
“Real nice thought Milo. I’m glad to see you’re spending your time wisely.”
“Yeah,” Toni agreed, “And I’m not a boy anyway.”
“It was just a thought.” Milo muttered defensively. “And it doesn’t have to be soldier boys. It could be six little castaways or something.” Neither of us knew what the appropriate response would be so Milo got none. We continued sitting in silence but I couldn’t help thinking maybe there was some truth to Milo’s words.
I think a week went by, maybe more. All we did was sit on the beach as far from the trees as possible. Milo’s pocket knife had somehow survived this whole ordeal so we used it to sharpen some sticks into spear like weapons. Really pathetic spear like weapons.
Finally, we were forced to go into the jungle by the only thing that could have done so. We were out of food. We stood at the edge of the tree line, looking into the darkness. “Are you guys sure there isn’t food anywhere else?” Milo asked us for the third time.
“Well,” I said, “We didn’t check the hills on that side of the island.” I pointed towards the rocky slopes so much like the ones we had already traversed. It was a really dumb idea. Obviously there wouldn’t be food on the rocks but, none of us wanted to go into the trees so we headed towards the barren cliffs. We had almost made it to the opposite side of the island when we heard growling coming from the undergrowth.
We all froze into statues of fear and stared into the darkness. The part of the hills we were on was much closer to the trees than anywhere else. There was barely seven feet between the dark mass of jungle and the straight drop onto jagged rocks jutting out of the sea. Toni grabbed my hand and I grabbed onto Milo.
The growling turned into a roar and Toni gave a whimper of fear. My heels were almost hanging over the edge so I knew if something were to attack us, we had nowhere to run to. Milo murmured, “It’s right there…” I too could see the eyes glaring at us from the dense undergrowth. With another deep throated growl, whatever it was, leaped from the bushes. All three of us screamed and Toni stumbled backwards, dragging Milo and I with her. Over the edge. Of the cliff. Plummeting towards very pointy rocks. Needless to say, I continued to scream.
Only a daring little tree growing out of the rock and Milo’s quick hand saved us. We hung there like those plastic monkeys in a barrel; with Toni clutching my legs as hard as she could, me holding onto Milo’s good leg for dear life and Milo hugging the tree against his self for all it was worth. After the fear and shock passed, there was just the pain of having both my legs and arms being yanked out of their sockets.
“This is fun.” I muttered sarcastically. “I survived the fall only to get pulled in half.”
“Oh, shut up.” Milo muttered irritably from above me. We hung there for a good half hour before Toni asked,
“Is it gone yet?”
“I don’t hear anything. I think it’s gone.” Milo said quietly.
“Okay, swing us to the cliff face Milo, so we can start climbing up.” I ordered. He muttered something inaudible at me before starting to swing carefully back and forth. It took a lot of effort but, eventually, we were all pressed against the rock like flies on fly paper and holding on for dear life. “You sure you don’t hear anything?” I asked Milo who was already starting to climb up the rock face.
“I already said yes.” Wow. Milo was just not in such a good mood today.
“We are just making sure.” Toni apologized. I could hear her start climbing below me. Let me tell you, rock climbing up the side of a straight cliff without a harness or anything is not so easy. I wouldn’t recommend it as a leisurely activity, that’s for sure. It was probably one of the most stressful things I have ever done in my life; each time I moved a little higher up, I couldn’t help but think, “Will this be the time that I fall”?
Milo’s call of, “its fine up here! That thing’s gone!” made me come out of my stressful trance to look up. I was actually almost there. I had almost reached Milo’s waiting hand when Toni slipped. I didn’t see it so I guess she must have just misplaced her hands or something. All I know is that when I chanced a glance over my shoulder, I saw her terrified face as she stared falling back, away from the cliff face.
Time slowed down and it looked almost comical, Toni’s fall. She fell back from the wall until only her feet were still on and her arms were waving frantic cartwheels as she tried in vain to reach the cliff again. With her cry, time once again ran normally and she plummeted away from us, towards the vicious rocks below, leaving a trail of screams behind. I looked away before she hit. There was no way I needed to see that. I couldn’t help but here it though. The screams stopped with a sick thud and splat and I felt my stomach start to turn.
“Milo, don’t look.” I cautioned too late. I looked up at his chalk white face hanging over the edge. His hand that was reaching for me couldn’t stop shaking. He slowly backed away, leaving me to scramble up on my own. When I was finally safe and sound at the top, I couldn’t help myself. I glanced quickly over the drop off. The waves had washed away most evidence but there was still a certain jagged rock that was a lot redder then it was supposed to be. The body must have been claimed by the unforgiving sea.
I heard Milo muttering under his breath, “Three little soldier boys…walking in a zoo…a big bear hugged one…” He looked up at me and announced in an almost monotone voice, “And then there were two.”
We walked back to the beach in a heavy silence and then continued our regular routine of sitting by the water and doing nothing but thinking of the past and what the future held. Time passed. I’m not even sure how much. All I was aware of was the dryness in my mouth and the clanging emptiness of my stomach. We were lucky and it rained for almost two days straight. We pulled as many of the huge leaves as we could from the edge of the jungle and placed them all over the beach to collect water. Food was the big issue.
We were completely out of fruit and there was no way either of us was walking into that jungle to find more. I had tried my hand at fishing with our spear things but all I got was soaking wet and a lot of laughter from Milo. We did find some little snails that we fell upon ravenously but they did nothing at all to fill the ache in my stomach.
Milo and I barely talked anymore. We simple sat around waiting for the inevitable. I think in a way we were racing to die first. Neither of us wanted to be left alone on this stupid island of death and fear.
“Hey Charlie!” Milo called me over one day from where I was standing around aimlessly in the surf. I wandered up the beach to see him drawing in the sand with a stick. “Wanna here a poem I wrote?”
“Sure.” I agreed. He smiled a grim smile and said,
“It’s about us, I call it ‘Six Little Doomed Survivors’” He closed his eyes and recited from memory,
“Six little doomed survivors sitting in a bore;
Next the plane hit the water, and then there were four.
Four little doomed survivors who can’t agree;
One got himself all eaten up, and then there were three.
Three little doomed survivors feeling rather blue;
One fell right off a cliff, and then there were two.
Two little doomed survivors sitting in the sun;
Ones infection killed him, and then there was one.
One little doomed survivor living all alone;
He died of hunger, and then there was none.”
I stared at him in shock for a moment or two before trying to make a joke, “So you can see the future now, can you?” He gave a short, humor absent laugh before spitting out,
“What’s there to see? It doesn’t matter that my bone is back in place, the infection is still spreading. I can feel it. I’m going to be dead soon enough. And even if you are careful and smart and stay away from the jungle, you are going to die of hunger before too long.” I simply stared at him a little longer before saying,
“You scare me sometimes Milo.” He just shrugged his shoulders and went back to doodling in the sand. I made a point to not sit too close to him. I was pretty sure that he was crazy but at the same time, his words stuck with me. Is that all that was fated for me? Dying of starvation? Personally, I’d rather be eaten.
It was me who finally decided that we had no choice. The fruit trees that we had found were only a little inland anyway. “Get up.” I demanded of Milo from where he was spread out on the beach, looking much like a dead animal. He shaded his eyes to glance up at me,
“Why?” He questioned with indifference.
“You might be ready to curl up and die but I’m not. We are going into that jungle and we are finding food and we are going to survive this crusade.” I informed him. “We will bring all the spears we can and kill anything that comes near us. And you’re coming with me whether you want to or not.” He stared at me with astonishment before saying,
“Since when have you had a backbone Charlie?” Without waiting for an answer he continued, “Sure, I’ll come. It will be more fun to die in the jungle then on the beach anyway.” He pulled himself out of the sand and grabbed the nearest spear. “You ready?” I grinned at him before revealing my own spear. Side by side we trekked across the beach and into the sinister trees.
Immediately the raucous cawing of the birds increased in volume tenfold. I clutched the spear in my sweaty palms as we slowly made our way through the murky darkness of slimy vines and menacing trees. Each footfall seemed so much louder than it should have been and we found ourselves twitching at the slightest sound from the undergrowth. Thick roots reached up to trip us and the vines strived to capture us like giant bugs in a slimy green spider web.
Milo suddenly spoke up in a quiet voice, “Spooky isn’t it?” I hushed him immediately but he continued in a whisper. “You know, if we’re lucky, the thing didn’t eat all of Seth so we can find his remains.” I gagged and whispered back.
“Why in the world would we want his remains? To bury them?” He looked at me as if it was the dumbest question he had ever heard.
“To eat them, obviously. You can’t survive on just fruit you know.” I froze in my tracks and stared at him in disgust. He continued walking, oblivious to my gaze. How could he even think that? He really was crazy. I could feel the rift between us opening farther and farther apart as Milo sank deeper and deeper into his mind. Little did I know, we were about to be ripped apart by a force much stronger then Milo’s madness.
“Ugh.” I wrinkled my nose in disgust, pulling my foot out of the squishy pile of something that I had trodden in. The smell of rotten papaya wafted up at me. “Milo! We’re here!” I looked up to see leafy branches bearing a decent amount of orange fruit. He ambled on over to me and followed my gaze up.
“Huh. Looks like you are gunna be the one climbing.” He shook his injured leg pathetically in front of him. I rolled my eyes and jumped up to grab the lowest branch. It took a few attempts but, eventually, I was up in the tree. “Just toss them down!” Milo called up to me. Suddenly he froze.
“Milo? What’s wrong?” His face was a mask of fear and he turned his terrified eyes to me as a beast lunged from the bushes to hit him full on. He gave a single shriek as the lizard (for that’s what it was, I had a pretty good view from here) bit into his thigh before finding my eyes again. He let out a strangled cry.
“Run! Run Charlie!” I wasted no time following his last words. I scrambled to the end of my branch, leapt for the ground and took off running. Within seconds I heard it running behind me. Could almost feel its hot breath on the back of my legs and…
This is where you came in isn’t it? I burst from the jungle screaming and tripped flat onto my stomach. I looked up, expecting to see death staring me in the face. Instead I saw myself. Or, my reflection. In the shiny black boot of a tall man. Behind him I saw a few other people, stepping from a helicopter who’s still moving blades were whipping sand everywhere.
I couldn’t help myself. Tears started dripping down my face and I jumped up, the creature momentarily forgotten. I hugged this tall man with the shiny boots as hard as I could and felt his hands pat my back. “This one seems happy to see us.”
Four weeks, they later told us. Four weeks we had been stranded on that stupid island. Had it really only been that long? Us of course meaning Milo and me. They had found him, Corporal Arnold and his men. He was barely breathing but, still alive. I went to see him in the hospital, before we were going to be sent home. They had fixed his leg and the infection had almost gone. “I was wrong.” He told me in a weak voice. “Not all of us were doomed. Against all odds, some of us still managed to survive.” He grasped my hand and smiled at me. “We did it Charlie. We did it.”