Chapter 21: Rogue
It took me a couple of weeks of watching, and following all the machinations I had put in place, and feeling less and less OK with all of it to realize that I needed to get away from everyone and deal with some things on my own. We had nearly toppled governments, we had bankrupted pretty much everyone we had been able to tie to the events of that day, and still I wanted more. There was an empty part of me that was craving retribution on a biblical scale. I knew if I did anything like that I would hate myself, but I wasn’t terribly fond of me at that moment anyway, so how could it get any worse.
Max had done a couple other interviews and it seemed like we were really gaining momentum in public sentiment. The WSGF as it stood really was no longer, there were daily calls on the various talk and news shows wanting us to go public, to stand up and “be counted”. I knew it was a stupid idea, but it was growing on a lot of our people. It was what we had started this fight for in the first place, and though I knew it was moving way too fast, and was way too unpredictable, I had a feeling the sentiment would win out soon.
In the midst of all the chaos, I had started seeing stories about once barren areas suddenly sprouting crops, deserts that were becoming verdant farmlands in only a period of weeks. I knew that was Hope’s doing, and I was proud of her for it. However, it seemed as if the general public thought it was us. Where ever this happened they mounted all out searches for us, never finding anything, of course. I knew now that this was why she selected this place for us instead of the Outback cattle ranch. Being on already workable farmland would make it easier for us to hide once she started her shenanigans.
I read about African villages where the HIV virus was suddenly eradicated, with no explanation, the water sources were inexplicably clean, farmland was producing extraordinary volumes and quality of foodstuffs, cattle grazing land was now acres of sweet grass and cattle were getting fat. The poppy fields in Afghanistan had withered and would not produce, the cocaine and heroin supply throughout the world was drying up, but interesting enough, the hemp crops, of all sorts, were flourishing. Hope was a busy little beaver, with apparently a soft spot for Island Prime! And all the while the Enchanted got the credit.
Looking back on it as I write this, I know it’s pretty sad that I was completely incapable of feeling good about all the things Hope was doing. She was giving us exactly what we had asked for – a way to live in harmony with everyone else. As it stood right now, we would be heralded as heroes wherever we went, no longer the enemy. But I just couldn’t let go of the nagging doubt that it was real. I was scared shitless that it would all come crashing back in on us. I knew I was holding everyone back from becoming part of society, so it was really me that needed to go.
I didn’t say anything to anyone, I just grabbed a big duffel bag, some camping equipment and bugged out. Yup, you guessed it, I headed straight for the Island. I knew I could do so safely even with all the satellite footage because the Island would protect me, and with a little instruction not to let anyone else in, including any of the Enchanted, so even if Eric found a way to track me, I knew I’d have a solitary spot for a while.
Finding myself on that Island was like going home. Or the closest thing I’d had to one since the “Event”. I’d lived there for over 40 years, and it felt like only weeks. Maybe that’s how we had tolerated it. Maybe time was different on the Island. Thinking back on it, I’m convinced it was. We spent nearly 40 years there while the world moved on around us, and while we got a little bored, we didn’t go stir crazy. Honestly, it seemed so much shorter than that, and we were, for the most part, happy. It was astounding to find the Island as I did. It reminded me of the Jurassic Park movie, so lush, so overgrown with these huge ferns, and other plants that Jessie would have known in a heartbeat, and had probably told me about at some point when I was pretending to listen. It was a riot of colorful flowers, enormous green leaves, variegated with yellows and reds, and even purples. Where there had once been modern buildings and all the things that made up the lives of over 1,000 individuals, there was no grass, and mushrooms growing in what my mom used to call fairy rings, the sun barely dappled the ground, the cover was complete enough that very little got through. The moss created almost lacy tracks along the floor, and flowed into beautiful patterns on the sides of trees and rocks. I imagined it like a Paleolithic rain forest. I could see this being the cradle of life, where living things evolved, and became.
It took me all of about 15 minutes to settle into life on the Island again. With a little encouragement, the trees created a shelter for me, covering the little popup tent I had brought with roots, leaves and branches to shield it from any view. A natural spring appeared about 20 feet to the right of my camp, and I used the hot springs about half a mile away for bathing and dug myself a nice hole for bathroom facilities. I didn’t build a fire, the weather just didn’t call for it. It may have been a few decades since I’d gone camping, and I definitely wasn’t a big fan of not having modern plumbing, but it was a small price to pay for peace and quiet.
To this day I don’t know if taking off like I did was a good idea or not. My reasoning had been completely selfish, and I was out of touch with everyone. I had no cell phone, no laptop, no communication of any kind, and apparently within a couple days of my departure everything went to hell in a handbasket pretty quickly. I had been letting the Island provide whatever I needed and I was comfortable, and finally feeling like there might be a chance for me to overcome all the anger when I started to get a bad gut feeling that something wasn’t right. Perhaps it would have all gone down exactly the same way if I had been in Montana, since, but then again, maybe with my influence, things would have gone differently. Once again, I will never know.
I guess I know why they chose the Island for their escape plan, but I can’t deny being completely surprised by the appearance of a group of 17 Enchanted who had managed to pop there – interestingly, in spite of my instructions, the Island welcomed them, and I’m certainly glad of that or I would never have known. I believe it somehow sensed their distress. Jeremy, Max and Jessie were the only ones of our group that were with them, and I hoped that more had made it out and were somewhere else, especially Josh and Ellie. None of those who arrived seemed to know for sure, and there was a great deal of grief and fear that permeated their presence.
I worked with the Island to get them settled in. Between Jessie and I, we got the plants to create additional shelters, Max popped out and grabbed some fast food and brought it back for everyone. They had managed to bring a surprising amount of stuff with them considering the urgency of their evacuation, and I was glad that they would have at least a few comfort items with them. We built a fire, not for heat, but more for the comfort of it. It seemed safe enough considering the significant cover we were being provided. Jessie was clearly uncomfortable, and she looked about ready to pop. I figured at this point she was about 14 weeks into her pregnancy, and it didn’t look like it was going to go 15. Luckily, I knew how to tell her what was coming and that it should be a pretty easy process. We’d have to send one of the boys after baby supplies though.
Sitting around the fire that night the story came out. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know the whole story, but I will tell you what they told me. . The rest story is probably at least a little colored by the trauma they experienced, but I’m inclined to believe them and I’ll do the best I can with the information I was given. About a week after I had taken off for my little sabbatical Max had decided that it was time to take the Enchanted public. He apparently felt there was no more danger, and it was safe for us to rejoin the human race. Max was always a bit of an idealist. Within 24 hours of sharing the location, the facility had been reduced to rubble by bunker buster bombs.
As Max started to speak I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. There was someone in the jungle. They weren’t trying to be stealthy, so I hoped that meant they were friendly. A couple of giant leaves parted and there stood Josh and 7 other Enchanted. Jeremy immediately embraced his brother and the others were engulfed by our little group. We tossed them some of the left-over food as they settled in around the fire, looking tired and defeated. Apparently they had gone to the movies that day. They had popped down to one of the theatres we’d gone to sometimes before the ‘big meeting’, just to spend the day. They had tried to come to the Island, but somehow were unable to pop in. I knew that was my doing. When they returned to the Montana Facility it was just a smoking heap, crawling with military, rows and rows of body bags lining the front of the building. They immediately popped back out, and tried the Island again, this time being more successful.
Max sighed, and his shoulders sagged. “I’m so sorry, to all of you, I’m so sorry.” He went on to talk about how he and his group had survived. They were all some distance away from the building, several in the gardens, and a few in Helena doing some shopping, so they avoided the bombing. They had searched the rubble as best they could under the circumstances, but couldn’t find any other survivors and had all gotten out when they saw the military vehicles approaching up the driveway. Apparently if you catch us by surprise, we are eminently killable. A lesson they learned from Shane, I guess.
Apparently Max sharing our location pissed Eric off. No one had any idea that he would do what he did, but Eric had decided that he was going to take matters into his own hands. I guess his plans were not any more satisfactory for him than they were for me. Unfortunately, he took the initiative to pop into the Oval office, and informed the President that he fully intended to take down anyone and everyone who had anything to do with persecuting us all those years. He made it clear that anyone who had anything to do with the WSGF, and especially with the ‘big meeting’ had all better watch their backs as he had the ability and the desire to wipe them off the planet.
I don’t think any of the rest of us really had realized what the isolation and abandonment had really done to him. He had been one of those who had family who had disowned him, called him a freak and claimed that our abilities were “of the devil” and that he was dead to them. These were people he had been close to as a child; aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. In addition, the girl he had fallen for before the Event dropped him like a hot stone, and married one of his cousins 2 years after we had been quarantined. He later found out that she was pregnant at the time and he had a kid out there, and he had been petitioning for visitation for years, but was told he didn’t have any rights.
He had been a seething cauldron for decades and we missed it. Hell, he had kept it so secret none of us were even aware of most of it. He was never going to be happy with being part of humanity any more, he wanted to either rule it or wipe it out. He had told Jessie that apparently the only thing that had been stopping him all this time was the fact that we were finite and it seemed less than realistic to focus on world domination of we were all going to eventually die out. If he was going to take over the world, he wanted it to be forever, and his lifespan of a few hundred years just wasn’t going to cut it. Once he found out we could make more of us, and once he saw Hope and all the things she was doing, he made up his mind. We were smarter, and had all these abilities, and it made no sense to him at all why we would be the ones under anyone’s thumb. As far as he was concerned we should be the thumbs.
He made a similar stop at the executive branch of a number of governments, including the UK, the French and the Australians. Needless to say none of them were too happy. Scared shitless would probably have been a better description. Suddenly we were all terrorists to be considered imminent threats and subject to extermination.
When he’d returned to the facility after his little jaunt, he filled Max in on his endeavors. Max immediately went into damage control mode, trying to contact every news outlet he could think of to let them know that Eric was a rogue and didn’t speak for the entire community. He got a few interviews in before he heard the high-pitched whine of the drones. Unfortunately, none of them thought to expect an aerial attack. Why not, I don’t know, because I certainly would have, but of course, I wasn’t there. Max ran toward the building screaming, all rational thought gone, just trying to warn everyone to get out of the building. He said it finally occurred to him to pop in and pop out with as many as he could. He got everyone who was in the kitchen, and that was it. Those that who had been in the garden also survived, and of course those who had been away at the time. In the course of under 4 hours from Eric’s little jaunts, our home had been bombed into oblivion and all but 31 of our entire race of just over 1,000 were obliterated. And there was every reason to believe, at this point, that Eric was among them.