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There it was, finally. Our island. Our very own island. It looked beautiful above the waves of fog, but there was still one question to be answered: why had they sold it to us for only five dollars?
The answer to that very question was far from being a dream come true. If only we had never taken the offer given to us by that pale, quiet young couple. If only we had seen the signs on their faces. If only our dream of an island hadn’t been so strong. So many if’s that still run through my mind. If only…and then we never would have landed on that forsaken place.
It was a clear, sunny morning when we departed. My little sister sat on the edge of the boat, her eyes mirroring my own sense of adventure.
“Hey Chloe.” She spoke rather suddenly. “What do you think? I think we might be able to live there all the time. Five bucks is a steal, it has to be pretty if it’s a private island.”
I sighed. For being a sixteen year old, sometimes she still had the childish ideals of her younger days. My twenty year old self had lower expectations. “I hope so too Ailee. But we won’t know until we get there.” I grinned. “And no matter what, we finally have our island!”
Ailee nodded as she looked out at the clear blue waters. “Then we’ll have kept our promise to Mom and Dad. Always fulfill your dreams.”
Arrival on the island was uneventful. We unpacked our things, and waved as the captain cruised away. Ailee shouldered her pack and started hiking into the thick jungle. “Sure doesn’t look like it’s been inhabited. You sure they weren’t lying?”
“They had to have somewhere to live.” I chuckled. The couple had told us there was already a house built at the center of the island. They had hurried away after giving us a simple scrawled map. I pulled it out of my pocket, carefully opening the fragile paper. “The house might be pretty old. Looks like they weren’t the first to get this map. It looks at least twenty years old…” I started muttering to myself as we plunged into the cool undergrowth.
After a few minutes Ailee piped up again. “Sure is quiet.” We stopped.
Absolute silence greeted my ears. Not a breeze to be felt, not a single rustle or chirp from wildlife. For a split second, an icy chill crept up my spine. It seemed…too still. As if even the breeze couldn’t muster life enough to blow.
My sister’s voice broke me out of my thoughts. “It’s kinda nice, no traffic noises. Right?” She smiled, a bit awkwardly. “We’re just not used to it, that’s why it seems strange.”
“Reading my mind again?” I chuckled my own nervousness away. “How do you know me so well?”
“I can’t imagine why. I’m only your sister.” Ailee left the sarcastic comment in her wake as she forged on.
I just smiled and followed.
We reached the house by afternoon. It was clean and simple, if a little overgrown in places. Ailee chose to have the attic as her own, and I decided on a sunny bedroom on the second floor. The rest of our afternoon flew by in a flurry of exploration. The island wasn’t large, and we walked every inch of it. It was pretty, right down to the aquamarine blue lake only a short walk away from our new home. It was the poster child of a tropical island.
Sunset cut our travels short, and we began to settle down for the night. After saying goodnight we went to our respective rooms. Lying in my soft bed, I could hear my sister’s creaking footsteps above. Eventually, even those small noises stopped, and I was greeted with the overwhelming silence of the place. This time I didn’t spare any thoughts on it, and slipped into a gentle sleep.
I wasn’t to sleep for long.
I opened my eyes instantly. A chilly breeze wafted through my window. Shivering, I sat up, sure I had heard Ailee call me seconds before.
Her voice met my ears again. Strange…it sounds so far away.
I was about to write it off as my imagination, when that icy chill crept up my spine once more.
This time I was sure. Her voice was louder, coming from somewhere below. I jumped out of bed and raced up the stairs to the attic, confirming my suspicion that she was not there. The covers were a tangled knot, and her favorite necklace lay broken on the floor.
“Ailee! Ailee!” I called her name at the top of my lungs as I arrived at the first floor. My heart was beginning to pound, whether from exertion or worry I didn’t know. After checking that floor, I made my way to the courtyard.
Where I froze in my tracks.
The island was alive. Not in the way any normal person would think…no.
Tree roots ripped themselves out of the ground, becoming flexible snakes weaving through the air. The soil beneath my feet churned and boiled, swiftly burying my feet up to the ankles.
“CHLOE!” Ailee’s scream reached me. I could barely see her in the distance, but I had no time to discern her situation.
Something hard hit the back of my neck with the force of a hammer, and soon I was screaming as well as I was suddenly hurled into the air.
Tree roots and vines entangled my arms, legs, and chest, leaving me almost immobile. The pain in my neck increased, growing into a burning, hot knife sensation.
“AH!” I cried out in pain and fought the vines to grasp my neck.
The thickest root of all was embedded in my flesh, pulsing as it sucked whatever it was looking for out of my body.
Ice crystalized around my heart, gripping me in the deepest sense of fear I had ever known. The island…no the plants…
Suddenly everything made sense. The stillness of the place during the day. The complete absence of anything else living, even bugs.
They’re all carnivorous. And they only feed at night.
My fear fueled my attempts to struggle, but I could only feel myself growing weaker. This place was sucking the life out of us- in a sense that could only be imagined in nightmares.
I only had a single sentence run through my mind over and over again.
Is there any way to survive this?
I was frantic. Ailee’s screams still rang in my ears. I have to save her! We have to get out of here!
The vines were strong, and I could only move my hands a few inches. I searched for ideas, now feeling dizzy and lightheaded. There has to be something….plants, plants, how do I escape a plant…
I had it. I always kept a small box of matches in a pocket. I can burn them. I just had to reach them now.
It took precious energy and willpower, but after what seemed like hours I had them in my grasp. I put the box in my mouth and pulled out a match, striking it in one motion. It burst into flame, singeing my hair and eyebrow as I thrust the burning head into the vines around me.
The inhuman, prehistoric scream deafened me as I fell to the ground. The roots writhed above me, that large root producing that horrendous sound from its toothed end. I pressed my hand to my bleeding nape momentarily, staggering to my feet and dashing for the figure of my little sister. I readied the next match, dodging cracked stones and debris flying through the air.
She was completely limp, only ragged breaths telling me that she was still alive. Ailee blinked her eyes open, weakly reaching a hand towards me. “Chloe…”
“Hang on Ailee!” I made another match flare to life, and set the vines to burning. Ailee fell in a heap.
All too aware of her pained groans, I pulled her up and put her on my back, her arms hanging limply around my neck.
All I could do now was run.
It was a frantic dash through that infested jungle, and for one sickening moment I thought I would lose Ailee as vines prodded at her. I thrust them away and ran on.
I burst out onto the beach, and a welcome sight met my eyes.
“Get on!” The captain who had brought us here waved hurriedly from his boat.
Although I wondered why he was even there, I wasn’t about to refuse his offer. I handed Ailee’s weak form up to him and hauled myself up as I pushed off. The captain turned on his motor and we sped away.
Looking back, the island looked like what it truly was- a bed of writhing snakes. Sickened, I turned away and tended to my sister. The color was slowly returning to her face, and she gave me an encouraging smile. “You okay Chloe?”
“I’m fine.” I gave her a small smile back, holding her hand tightly in my own.
“I was worried about you kids.” The old captain spoke up. “I took the last pair here, and all of a sudden I get this frantic phone call to get them off the island. I got there and they were really roughed up, but wouldn’t say a word.” He looked back only for a moment. “The island didn’t look like that at the time. I thought it was odd…so I just wanted to check up on you girls. Good thing I did.”
“I can’t thank you enough for that.” I sighed. “I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.” I felt weak thinking of the possibilities.
“It’s all over now, no need to worry.” he replied comfortingly.
“I was so scared…” Ailee whispered. “One of those things just grabbed me when I was sleeping…I thought you weren’t ever going to hear me.”
“How could I not? I’m supposed to protect you, remember? That’s what big sisters do.” I pulled her tight, and we stayed huddled together the whole way back to civilization.
It’s been a long time since that night now. I still feel as if it was just yesterday. Even as we think we are about to forget, Ailee and I can see the scars on each other’s necks and know that it’s impossible for us to truly do so.
I destroyed everything related to that place. Maps, everything. The captain agreed with us that the island shouldn’t be passed on any longer. I even tore up the deed. Now, we are the only three who know where it is. Looking back, it never really existed on any other maps. Whether that’s because it hadn’t been discovered, or it was meant to stay in obscurity I thought I’d never know.
But then by chance, while visiting a museum with Ailee, an exhibit caught my eye. It was the first and last time I ever saw another reference of that island. In it was a map of the surrounding waters. With a chill I saw the island in those painted waters, right where it had been on our maps. The legend identified it as an uncharted island. Interestingly enough, the cartographer had given the place a name. It was fitting.
The Beginning of the Prehistoric.