Stranded on an island...intrigue abounds.
The smell was distant, like smoke carried on a soft breeze. David could taste her sweat. Heady, aging and plentiful. She was running, that much was certain, but she couldn’t keep that pace for long. She hasn’t eaten for at least two days, he thought. He knew she would head to the highlands and try to lose him in the trees. He also knew that she was really only fooling herself, and she knew it too. David knew this place well. The trees had a pattern to them – subtle, but easily detectable if you knew what to look for. David knew. He’d known for some time. Since his banishment, since he was stripped of his honor and told to go or face punishment, he has lived there. The leaves and limbs were his army now and they would swallow up this lost lamb until he could come and see to her himself.
He continued on at a mild trot smelling the air and growing more complacent.
Lysa (pronounced Lie – suh, she would invariably tell anyone reading it as Leesa) was doing exactly what she told herself she wouldn’t do – she was panicking. She could hear her grandfather’s voice rumbling through her mind.
“Leelee, you’re gonna make your biggest goofs when you panic. Settle it on down and think it over. Save yourself a mess of fixin’ for later.” He would intone in his wizened old, almost southern drawl. He was talking about her trigonometry homework and cramming for her finals and she doubted seriously that he had envisioned her running for her life through the high grass of Remerica on no rest and having no conceivable plan of how to get back to the others. Still she pressed on. She kept her left hand outstretched in front of her to push her way through the nearly four-foot-high sage grass that grew here at the base of the wooded hills they called the “Highlands”. They were exactly that – high. They arced up steeply for a mile or so and then plateaued out into small shelves for another five before they fell away abruptly to the oceanfront. The drop was an easy thousand feet to the shoals below. The ascent was heavily covered with trees. Pines of all varieties, acacias, ironwoods, oaks and cypress trees grew in thick shocks straight to the top. They were dense and foreboding, but passable – if you had your wits.
She was hoping to reach them before the sundown and use the cover to rest while she worked out a plan. David was coming, damn him. He was taking his time – savoring the chase. He was going to kill her, or worse, leave her to be killed by something else. Something savage and uncaring whose only thought would be the sustenance gained from her meat. She tried to block out that image as she ran. Doing that only forced her to feel the growing pain in her side. How long had she been running? An hour? Two? She wasn’t sure, but she knew she had to keep going.
Marcus called to his brother, “Michael! Come here, look!” The younger boy, sixteen last week, trotted over. He was dark and thin and short for his age, but very graceful. In truth, he wasn’t Marcus’ brother at all, but island life and the path of the devout wrote new legacies for all the faithful. In the naming ceremony, he had chosen Marcus with a glance and they were forever joined as family.
Michael reached the spot where Marcus was surveying the ground. He wore a mottled gray cloth around his waist and a fraying white t-shirt. The item that had captured his interest was a shirt of the same style. The Brotherhood of the Green Isle all wore the white t-shirts as a symbol of purity and modesty. While the rest of the islanders had become increasingly less inclined towards clothing, they maintained their garb and it was seldom they were seen without it.
“Is it his?” Michael asked. Marcus turned the cloth over and saw the dried crimson stain on the bottom hem. His heart sank. He lifted the shirt and smelled it. “I think so.” He said. Marcus hadn’t developed the keen senses that many of the others had. He was very much still a “city kitty” Lysa would say. He couldn’t climb very well and despite his well-built frame, preferred more domestic tasks than manual labor. Many thought him to be gay and it was decided that he should take the brotherhood to curb his potential urges. The truth was that Marcus Cabbot was not gay. He was not clumsy either. He was an athlete in high school and considered by some to be the toughest kid in Allenburgh. That all changed for him two months before the trip. The trip that brought him here.
Marcus had come home from work (he worked as an intern at Goldkin Broach setting up complex die jobs on the boring mill). He was tired and just started up the stairs to take a shower when he heard a scream come from the neighbor’s yard. He had just pulled off his work shirt and he quickly tossed it aside. When he reached the back door, he heard another scream, closer – more insistent. When he looked over the fence, he saw his neighbor, Mr. Doogal (Mr. Doo Doo to him) holding his daughter by the hair. She was naked from the waist down and pleading hysterically with him to stop. With his other hand, Mr. Doo Doo was slapping at her bare buttocks and mostly missing. She had thick red welts that had begun to bleed. His hand was huge and relentless. The girl was named Amanda and she was nine (or so Marcus thought). As to why this was happening or whether or not he should get involved, Marcus didn’t care. Without thinking, he jumped down from the porch and vaulted the fence. Mr. Doo Doo had his back to him and was busily swinging his hand. Marcus reached him and caught his hand on the down stroke. Mr. Doo Doo turned in surprise and saw Marcus standing there holding his blood-smeared hand. Their eyes met and for a half an instant, there was uncertainty in Mr. Doo Doo’s expression. It was quickly replaced by rage and he released the girl and brought his right hand around in a wild punch that glanced off the top of Marcus’ head. Marcus released the man’s hand and took a step back.
“Mr. Doogal, calm down!” He started. Mr. Doogal was already advancing, turning his body to throw another fist. Marcus parried the wild punch and stepped away.
“You lousy nigger! I’ll show you respect!” Doogal spat.
Maybe it was that word, which he’d heard so many times before. Heck, even said it himself when he was razzing his teammates. Maybe it was the adrenaline. Either way, Marcus waited for the next wild punch, sidestepped it and threw a hard short left hand into Mr. Doogal’s upturned face catching him just under the jaw. The man toppled like a bag of potatoes. He lay there on the lawn with his head at an awkward angle and that’s when the screaming started again.
“You killed him! You killed my Daddy!” It was Amanda and she ran into the house.
As it turned out, Marcus hadn’t killed Mr. Doo Doo that day, but he had paralyzed him. The punch had caught Mr. Doo Doo just right and fractured two vertebrae in his neck. He was now a quadriplegic and had to be assisted to do most anything. Marcus swore that he wouldn’t use his strength again. He quit the team, despite the offer of money from the school alumni association and became a recluse.
Michael took the shirt from Marcus and sniffed it, ignoring the bloodstain.
“Smells like him.” The younger boy said.
“And the blood?” Marcus asked.
“We don’t know that it’s even his...” he replied.
“Michael.” Marcus was looking at him with a ‘c’mon man’ look on his face. No one else was hurt and Looter was the last one to see Lysa.
“I suppose it could be hers.” Marcus thought aloud.
“Don’t say that!” Michael threw the shirt back to Marcus. He was extremely fond of Lysa and the thought made him sick with anger.
“She’s smart. She’ll know what to do.” Marcus comforted.
“Yeah. We gotta go find her. David’s not gonna be so reckless. If he catches her, she’s in for it.” Michael said turning the last words over in his mind.
They gathered up their belongings and signaled to a group of boys standing eagerly a few yards away.
“Alou, Umbo, Iminey go with Marcus. Itch, Emo come with me.” Michael instructed.
The other boys divided and lined up behind their appointed leaders.
“Use your signal if you see anything.” Marcus offered and turned to head down to the beach with his followers in tow.
“Be careful, he’s not the David we remember. He’s…he’s…” Michael trailed off.
“I know. I know.” After a moment, Michael led Emo and Itch towards the path.
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|Reviewed by char lee