So, here we are again, faithful reader! This one will be slightly shorter as the two micro-chapters afterwards tend to flow together and it would just be too long to include them in this offering. So, hope you’re following along and enjoying! Here we go!
EARLY APRIL 1945
A CLEAR DAY,
AN UNKNOWN ISLAND
SHŌTŌ SAT UP and clasped his arms around his knees. That was one damn fine pilot. I wonder if he survived too? For the last month, Shōtō had only thought of just surviving day to day. Not once did he consider the idea of going through the island looking to see if the American pilot had survived as well. Likely he was able to leave and find his fleet. I wouldn’t doubt it. Their fighters are really something else. I cannot lie about that. Had it not been for that gully along that cliffside…
He frowned. Was there a point in looking for any survivors? Was there a point in looking for any inhabitants on the island? He was beginning to think it really didn’t matter. Just surviving day to day had taken his mind off of tense matters that had weighed on his soul for the last five years or more. He was happier than he’d been in quite some time. Of that he had no doubts. However, if the American had survived, maybe he could still surrender after all. There was a rumor back home. A rumor that said that the Americans didn’t really take prisoners. That they prepared for war by murdering and eating their grandmothers. He never actually believed that, of course. He just thought it one more action of propaganda by the war machine trying to convince the average person to fight for a lost cause.
But still… if the American survived… would it be better to find out? Perhaps negotiate a deal? If he lived, wouldn’t it be better to find him first than him finding me? If he found me first, would he kill me without hesitation? Shōtō stood up and stretched. The worry about such things he pushed to the back of his mind. Sure, it was always a potentiality. However, wouldn’t working together be a better solution in such a scenario? Either way, he imagined he was just dreaming of alternatives at that point. If the American had survived, he would have almost surely have found him by now. Providing he didn’t just leave the island, of course. Shōtō wasn’t sure of the fuel reserves of American aircraft. It was possible they were superior in that regard as well. How else to explain their ability to push so far across the Pacific Ocean in so little time? It couldn’t be because their technology was inferior to Nihon’s. That just didn’t seem rational.
Shōtō looked around making sure that the lizard creature wasn’t coming for him again and then dropped down into the marsh to wade towards his campsite on the cliffside. He could see the cliff from his position some three or four hundred meters away. Dinner wasn’t looking very likely now. At least not in regards to meat. It was looking increasingly like another one of those plant-based nights again.
Dried roots, here I come. He grimaced and worked his way slowly through the murk of the marsh. It wasn’t very high, just to the midway point of his calves. But it was enough for his feet to get suctioned into mud every now and again. And that was something he always found himself groaning at. He’d be glad to be back up on his cliff. Maybe he might look to finding a campsite more secure and further inland at some other time. But not today. Today, he was just going to sit and ruminate over the life he found himself living. All things considered, it wasn’t so bad considering he was no longer at war with anyone.
UNKNOWN PACIFIC ISLAND
THE STRANGE CREATURE defied any sense of logic. At least, in so much as Avery was concerned. Its face was very much that of a boar’s. With long, ivory white tusks stained brown along the edges heading to their tips. As if dried blood from a long ago quarrel. Along the nape of its thick neck, a mane of fur that was scraggly and golden brown. What eyes he could see, were nearly black and buried beneath bushy golden brown brows as well. The body was feline with legs that were muscular and ended in wide paws. Its tail swooshed through the air, batting away insects as its ample snout rooted through the forest floor vegetation. He could even hear its snorts as it moved through the foliage covering most of the ground from where he could see up in his perch in a forked tree branch barely eight feet higher up.
Everything on this island is a fucking nightmare… Avery ruminated watching the animal go about its business oblivious to his presence. He readjusted the serrated blade in his left hand, gripped it tighter in preparation for when the beast was just beneath his position. He was starting to lose track of the days and his focus becoming one of pure survival. Just another strange beast set loose on the unsuspecting wildlife of Vulcan’s purgatory, right?
The creature neared and he moved into assault posture as quietly as he could. So, what do we call you, my friend? Body of a lion, head of a boar. Nice furry mane. Matches your brown coat quite nicely, if I do say so myself. Hmm. Legendary boar? Mystic hellcat? Satan’s catpig? He smiled in spite of himself, the wind starting to pick up. He was glad he was downwind of the thing. Even being up in the trees, he wasn’t quite sure how good its sniffing really was. Lion boar. Loar. That’s it. I’ll call you ‘Loar’. Well, Loar, are you ready to be my dinner?
The loar was right beneath him and he dropped between the branches straight down, the blade gripped in both hands in a mad bid to plunge it straight into the animal’s back. At the last moment, the loar sensed his attack and tried to rear. The blade slashed through its ribcage and down along its side. It let loose a roaring squeal and reared around on Avery. He rolled to the side just narrowly avoiding a tusk to his face and lunged forward slashing at the creature’s neck. He managed to cut but it wasn’t deep enough as the loar twisted and howled out as it drove its head straight into his torso, both its tusks on either side of his ribs and coming out at the sides of his back.
Avery roared savagely and tried to drive his blade into the loar’s back. The blade ricocheted off its thick spine and twisted sending Avery sprawling down onto his back. The beast turned and turned down its tusks in a driving lunge. Avery brought up his feet kicking the thing’s face at the last second. Its head bounced up but its momentum carried it ontop of Avery and he seized on the opportunity to drive his blade into its belly and pulled upwards towards his own face. The loar howled indignantly and thrashed violently. Avery gripped its neck and held it close, preventing the long tusks from coming anywhere near his body. After several long excruciating moments, the creature finally stopped moving and collapsed on top of him.
Avery panted and gasped for breath as he pushed the loar off of him and onto its side. The beast’s blood was all over his nude torso and drenching his pants. He stood up and wipe away as much blood as he could and stared down at the creature.
“May you go to your ancestors, Loar. You were a worthy adversary,” he looked down at his pants. “But, you were hell on what little clothing I have left. Much more so than any of the other monstrosities around the island. I hope you taste as well as you fight.”
He bent down and examined Loar’s body. There was no further hint of life and he sighed. “Now, I just got to tote you across the jungle and along the beach. Yay.”
He searched for a grip on the beast. “They will sing great songs about this battle. How the great and powerful, noble even, Avery Wilkes conquered the ferocious Loar.”
He pulled the beast up and over his shoulders with a heaving grunt. Then came to his feet and looked around the area. Exotic bird calls came from every direction heedless of the commotion that most recently disturbed the island interior. The wind batted at long and moist vegetation. Leaves hanging from the tall trees rustled wetly against one another. Somewhere, another beast of some sort roared its disapproval.
“Or they’ll all call for my head.” He laughed into the din of the jungle and shook his head. “I suppose I’ll be the only one singing my praises then. But, that’s fine. That’s fine! You will know I was here!”
He laughed again and started his trek through the woods and back to his cave on the ocean edge. Fortunately, he never had to go quite as far into the island as he feared when tracking game. There was plenty hanging around the river shores and near one particular lake he discovered only a few weeks earlier. For now, he had a luscious Loar to roast.
EVENING CAME ALL too soon as the loar roasted on its open spit with Avery turning the makeshift crank every half an hour or so. The fire was a roaring pit a few feet beneath the beast, its heat almost overwhelming to Avery’s bare chest. Still, it felt good against the air as day gave way to night. He used his blade to carve a slice of meat from the animal’s backside and then walked back from the fire pit half a dozen feet to stare up into the sky. His bare feet sunk slightly into the cooling sand as he chewed on the tender flesh.
“You’re coming along nicely, my friend,” he uttered, a smile broadening across his face as he stared at the stars popping into existence across the eternal void.
A long cluster of stars, a strip even, was sliding across the sky in almost imperceptible movement courtesy of the earth’s slow roll. The domed sky over the vast ocean made him think of being inside of a ball looking outward. A slight shiver ran across his bones as he watched the sky darkening, the stars growing brighter and more numerous.
“I’ll say this,” Avery murmured taking another bite out of the meaty clump in his left hand, “you can’t get this sort of view back in the city. If there’s one benefit to having joined, Loar, old buddy, it’s the views.”
The ocean waves lapped at the shore line coming up only half way across the ends of the beach. He looked back at his cave some dozen feet behind his roasting campfire. The entrance there was pitch black. It should have unnerved him, he considered. But after being there over a month, he supposed it was becoming homey. So, to speak. And yet, even after said time, nobody had answered his SOS calls. He was starting to seriously consider that his time on the island wasn’t so limited after all.
Avery sighed and walked back towards his campfire to take a seat on a makeshift chair that was really only a tree stump he’d managed to cut down from a fallen log of wood using only his survival knife and a whole lot of determination. He leaned forward and pulled his radio towards him. He wound the charging handle up and went into his spiel. The same spiel he’d utilized since arriving unceremoniously upon the island the month before.
“Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is flight lieutenant Avery Wilkes. One hundred fifth fleet, South Pacific. United States Territory Alaska Division. Does anyone copy? Over.”
He waited a full minute before repeating the message. He did this five times over the next half hour, occasionally getting up to check the progress of his dinner. A dinner he’d been working on skinning, bleeding, and prepping since early morning when he’d hunted the loar to begin with.
“All day just for one meal…” he grumbled looking around.
Amazingly, no animals, predators or otherwise, had attempted to snag the roasting creature for themselves. Then again, he figured, maybe the fire was that much of a deterrent for their courage. The loar was getting close to perfection in his eyes and the next task would be trying to figure out where to store remains and keep the wild animals away from its leftovers. At least for a day or two. He could always start a fire inside the cave, but he was hesitant to do such a thing. The cave was small and had barely enough room to stand up inside (hunching over was a pain leading him to spend most of the time in a crouch when moving about within the little cavern) which meant any fire within would make the interior a smokehouse. Probably not the best idea for his health. He’d made a thin door of twigs, branches, and leaves, but he doubted that would deter really determined pests for very long. So far, he’d gotten lucky and only had to contend with a few of the sea birds that liked to buzz the head as they catcalled in their zooming retreats.
“Well, I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Avery said cutting off another slice after turning the crank on the spit a quarter twist. The fire spat upwards in a sudden spark as a drip of fat slopped into the pit. “Yes, I know that bridge is right there. You don’t have to be so lippy about it.”
He chuckled and returned to his seat to try another channel. By this point, he thought, he’d already made his plead over every channel imaginable multiple times, dozens of times, only to be ignored or not be heard. Many times, such as the current channel, his response was little more than static. Most times, it was just that eerie silence that comes from being stranded and alone. A light wind blew and the forest beyond the beach railed in response. Trees creaked, leaves rustled, and a few somethings squawked in annoyance. He let out a long sigh and pushed the radio aside.
“Eh, it was a boring conversation anyway,” he shook his head and took a bite of tender meat. “Really could use some veggies to go with this. Tomatoes, squash, asparagus… something other than seaweed and exotic roots. Oh, potatoes would be great. And a plate. Oh well. Gotta deal with what you’ve got, am I right, Loar?”
He was just putting the meat into his mouth again when a light far up in the distance caught his attention. He stood to his feet and walked down past the campfire. The light moved like a ball across the sky and along the ocean horizon line. A hope deep within was that this was a search craft prowling the islands trying to find him. Maybe, he considered, they’d heard his mayday after all and were elsewise unable to contact him in return. His right hand came up into a wave as the ball of light seemed to move across the sky and towards him and his island. Then, all at once, the light darted to his left and flew straight towards the northern point of the island. Over the edge of the island where his line of sight ceased, the light stopped in the dark sky and hovered. His hand remained in the air frozen in a half wave. Then, the light darted down and out of sight.
Avery lowered his hand and waited for the light to return. After several minutes, he realized his jaw was hanging open and closed his mouth. He stood transfixed on the spot where the strange light had just taken a dive into what seemed to be the ocean to the north but he hadn’t heard a sound. Not a propeller or buzz or even splash. It just darted downward and vanished.
“What the hell…?”
A humming, low at first, caught his attention. He twisted his head towards its source, his neck creaking in the effort. It was if ages passed as he performed this one simple motion. His eyes fell on his cave. A dim light was coming from within. Not quite illuminating the interior. But making a ghostly mirage of a hint of what it might look like lit up. He took a few steps backwards and away from the cavern further. A vacant emotion settled across his body. His head grew light. It was like some force was driving into his skull and pushing his consciousness away. The humming from way down in the bowels of that cave grew louder still and a panic was growing in his chest.
“No! Stop it!” Avery closed his eyes and put his fisted hands to his forehead and thought as hard as he could. There’s nothing there! Just some glowing eels and a subterranean lake! Nothing there! Nothing!
The humming stopped and after a minute, Avery dropped his hands. The cave was its normal pitch black interior once more. The sounds of the island returned. Animals deep within the interior, silent during this moment of surrealistic nightmare, once more cawing and howling at one another. Growling in their incessant way. Avery stared at the firepit and let out a held breath.
“I’ve gotta move,” he muttered and meandered over to his seat. However, his eyes never truly left the cave for the remainder of his time awake. It would be hours before he felt confident enough to move his leftovers, as well as himself, back into the cavern entrance.
Thanks for reading and see you all next weekend!
~Timothy S Purvis