Chapter 13: Down Under – but not for long
The minute we hit the dirt in Oz I felt wrong about it. I was the strongest of the group, in pretty much everything except the electronics stuff, and that wasn’t what was going to make the difference anyway. My head was telling me I needed to sit still and let them handle it, that my presence would only inflame things, especially in my current condition. But my heart was having an extremely difficult time resolving itself to what I knew was coming. I was conflicted as hell about walking away and hiding when I knew it was going to go bad, and that I could potentially help. Remember what I said earlier about being the cause of all this? Well, here is my culpability, raising its’ ugly head once again.
I knew I should have stayed where I was. Hope knew it too, and she came as close to screaming at me as our lines of communication would allow, but somehow it didn’t convince me. I was so sure I could save him. Them. OK, him. I dropped Jessie at the hotel near where we had popped in, got her settled in and told her I was going to take a shower then a nap. Of course, I did no such thing, and within minutes was suitably hidden in one of the large trees – which admittedly was not fucking easy! So much for never coming back here. I guess I had managed to delude myself into thinking that was possible. The island was so much a part of me that as long as we both exist there will never be a time I wouldn’t want to be here.
I sat looking down over the gathering that had coalesced a few minutes before. The division was clearly delineated. There was a strong “us vs. them” vibe, and the tension was palpable. I noticed Adam was there, as Shane had requested. He was all suited up, looking like the WSGF tool he apparently was. At that moment I couldn’t remember how I ever found him attractive, and I looked at Andie and practically heaved on her. Seeing her was worse than any semblance of morning sickness I had ever suffered. It felt wrong that just trying to make a friend had devolved into this whole clusterfuck.
Shane’s face was passive. It was a little unnerving, actually, as he was such a caring, emotional person, to see that look on his face actually broke my heart a little. He was forced to this place by my actions. (OK, yes, I get that I’m a little “me focused” in the last few paragraphs, but honestly, recalling all these details is playing havoc with my head and my heart right now, so cut me a little slack.) But I was incredibly proud of him, standing up for me and all of us like this.
The trees muffled the sound, so I didn’t get every word, but the gist of what I got was exactly what we had talked about. I watched and listened as Shane laid everything out calmly, and gave them the layout on paper of what we were requesting. It all sounded reasonable to me, and there was a moment that I thought they might actually agree to something. Everyone seemed to be smiling, but I guess the distance hid the fact that they were smug smiles, not friendly ones. In the end, Eric had been right. There was no way the WSGF was going to give up the primary reason for their existence. I only heard parts of the rest of the conversation from their side, but I have spent a few decades filling in the rest in my head. We were being “unrealistic”, we refused to produce the one member of the group they wanted (me!), we certainly couldn’t expect them to give us any kind of autonomy given the circumstances, and since we were acting like petulant children, in fact, they had decided that they were going to more strictly enforce security, there would be bed checks every night, they would insist that each of us submit to testing or be subject to lockdown (they didn’t know about the popping, so ha!), and they were classifying us as a threat to international security and we would not be welcome in any country in the world. In my own head, I heard “so how do you like them apples?”
I could sense the unease in the jungle. The tendrils were closing in on the helicopter that part of the group had arrived in, and little did they know, the boat that the remainder had travelled in was now a pile of rubble on the beach. The island hadn’t taken kindly to their tone, or to Shane’s and my agitation. I was pissed, so that meant the island was not happy either. I felt, rather than saw, the canopy increasing coverage slowly, like it was sneaking up. Even from the distance I was I could see the fire in Shane’s eyes. He wasn’t going down without a fight. His response was that that was unacceptable, and that while they didn’t want an adversarial relationship, they were left with no choice, and he turned to walk away.
I felt the shot more than heard it. It was like a thunderclap as I watched Shane’s head snap forward and then, well fuck, I guess explode is the only word. Not only had he never had a strong fade, since they shot him from the back, he was caught unaware. There was no way he would have had time to anyway. I don’t know how I did it, but I didn’t scream. Every molecule, every atom tensed and as I’m sure you can guess by now, the Island reacted with me. They had always known that the island responded to us, but I don’t think they expected it to open up and engulf them completely. Every single WSGF representative and anyone else they brought with them, as well as their helicopter were sucked into the ground, screaming and clawing to climb out as salt-water rushed in after them in wave after wave seemingly from nowhere since they weren’t even on the beach.
I watched the group of Enchanted as they ran to Shane, but we all knew there was no recovery from that. We were hard as fuck to kill, but it looked like once you succeeded there was nothing we could do about it. My head was spinning. Eric picked up his body and joined the others in running back to the housing complex. I had never experienced that level of situational awareness before. It was as if I could see every detail of what was happening around me, even when my eyes had not moved from the body of the man I loved.
I could sense that the occasional hand would reach above the water that had begun to create a giant mud pit, with people writhing and screaming, and not one Enchanted lifted a hand to help them. I felt a sickening sense of satisfaction. I saw what I knew to be Andie’s head rise above, a hand reached out to grab the side of the pit in an attempt to climb out. I popped down to the ground just inches from the pit and watched as a tendril from a nearby tree root wrapped around her head and squeezed. It popped like a ripe tomato. I took great satisfaction in the last second of terror I saw on her face as she saw me, a very pregnant me. The very last thing she ever saw, which was exactly how I wanted it.
To say that Hope was distressed was an understatement. The pain became too much and I backed away from the pit as I watched it slowly fill itself in, and re-forest itself as if nothing had ever happened. It was incredibly fast, efficient, and effective. I wondered at the time if it was a bit like a slow-motion version of what happened at the instant of “the Event” when all the adults had disappeared. I hoped not as I wouldn’t have wished that on my parents, or 99% of the others in the Zone at the time.
I backed up against a tree and slid down to my knees. It felt like my heart was going to squeeze out of my chest and fall on the ground in front of me. Had it not been for Hope, at that moment I would likely have chosen to simply fade away, become part of the earth, the island, and be done. I know it sounds crazy, but in the short time we had been together Shane and I had bonded on a level that the normals would never understand, and hell, most Enchanted wouldn’t either. Even though part of me knew it was going to go wrong, I hadn’t stopped it, once again I had managed to kill someone I loved, and I swore to myself I would spend whatever time I had left avenging them all.
At that moment I had a strong feeling that something was coming. Something very very bad. I sent a push to the rest of the Enchanted to get out. Get off the island as quickly as they could in whatever manner they could. I sent the coordinates of where Jessie was hiding and crossed my fingers that I was doing the right thing. Within a few moments I could see and feel the poppers transporting people. We had quite a few that were strong enough to take other people with them, and a few that were strong enough to take multiples. It looked like they were grabbing whatever items they could as they waited for their turns to be transported, and a few were gathering items for the poppers as well since they weren’t going to have time. It was an oddly well-oiled machine for something that had literally been only a thought 2 minutes ago.
Within 10 minutes there were only a very few Enchanted left on the island. The twins, Eric and about 10 others. Not counting me since I hadn’t come out of hiding. I had a feeling that those of our core group that remained somehow knew I was there, but didn’t seek me out. As I watched the last of the group dissipate, I heard the whine of the engines and the whup whup of the rotors. Their response time was better than I had expected, frankly, but there wasn’t much they were going to do since there wasn’t really anyone left for them to attack.
I sat, cross legged in a small clearing just outside the housing area and waited. I talked to the island. I apologized for what I knew was about to happen, and let the sorrow pour out of my soul into the ground. I watched as the trees reached for the skies. As branches extended, lengthening at alarming rates and the helicopters attempted evasive maneuvers as they tried to get lower, closer to the island, to no real avail. The machines were pulled from the sky and slammed into the ground or torn apart in the canopy. I have to admit I felt sorry for the pilots and crew members that flew them. I knew they were just doing a job, but such are the casualties of war. They did not hesitate to try to come after us, knowing nothing of the truth of who we were, just declaring us the enemy based on what they were told.
I saw at least 5 helo’s destroyed before I felt rather than saw the second wave. Much higher altitude aircraft, nothing to be done about them by the island itself, but the surrounding sea wanted in the act, and even the air, the atmosphere of the island was involved. The cloud cover become deep, heavy and gray. Water spouts spun into the sky taking out more than one aircraft, dropping them to the ocean. But there was no way to take them all out.
You know that sound you hear in the movies and TV when a bomb drops. That whistling sound. That’s real. Did you know that? The first one hit the far side of the island, maybe not even the island fully itself, but I felt the heaving, the horror of the land and the plants. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. A little more proof of my dad’s work, I guess, though I didn’t really think of it that way at the time.
Had it not been for Hope, again…I would have been perfectly content to sit where I was, and pass into oblivion with the island, as I had no question in my mind that utter destruction was the intent of the aircraft overhead. The second incoming whistle was a reminder that once again, my presence had caused the demise of something beautiful. It’s funny, I felt a sense of warmth, of being embraced, and a strong sense of affection. I knew, somehow, that the island didn’t blame me, but, I did.
In the split second before I was setting the pop destination in my head I felt hands on my shoulders, the twins, and was popped out whether I wanted it or not.