Island, p.21
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       Island, p.21
 

           Richard Laymon

  ‘Me, too,’ I said.

  ‘Well, so have I,’ Connie admitted. Meeting Kimberly’s gaze, she said, ‘The difference is, you mean to do it.’

  ‘I don’t know,’ Kimberly said. ‘I guess we’ll see, won’t we?’ With that, she turned away and continued walking.

  Billie, Connie and I gave each other looks.

  Kimberly had spooked all three of us.

  None of us talked much, after that. Connie didn’t even raise any more complaints.

  Our silence must’ve bothered Kimberly. After a while, she frowned over her shoulder at us. ‘What’s the matter with you people?’

  Billie just shook her head.

  ‘Nothing,’ I said.

  ‘Nope,’ said Connie, ‘nothing wrong here.’

  Kimberly turned around and walked backward. ‘You people! For Godsake, I was kidding. Okay? Christ! You’d think I was foaming at the mouth! I’m not gonna cut off anybody’s head, okay? I didn’t mean it. I never should’ve said it. Now you all think I’ve flipped out. Anyway, as a matter of fact, so what if I wanta cut off his head? You think he hasn’t got it coming? He chopped Dad’s head in half. In my book, anything he gets is better than what he deserves. If we’re lucky enough to catch him alive, what we oughta do is skin him. We oughta spend a few days killing him a little bit at a time, make him scream till he’s hoarse, make him beg for death. If you think cutting his head off is extreme, just wait and see what I do to him before I take his head. He’s gonna pay big-time for murdering Dad and Keith. If you think I’m mad now, just wait and see. You’ve got no idea what I’m capable of.’

  The three of us gaped at her.

  She suddenly swung out an arm as if trying to bat away a trio of pesky flies. ‘Get out of here. Leave me alone. I’ll take care of Wesley and Thelma. I don’t need the three of you hanging around ... You’re all useless, anyway. None of you has got the stomach for what’s coming, so get outa my face. Go! Get outa here!’ She swung her arm again, then spun around and took off running.

  ‘Don’t!‘ Billie yelled. ’Hey! Wait up!‘

  ‘Ah, let her go,’ Connie said.

  ‘Kimberly!’ I shouted.

  She kept running.

  Billie took off after her.

  ‘Mom!’

  Billie didn’t stand a chance of catching up with Kimberly, so I joined the chase. Even lugging the ax with me, I was able to gain on Billie. But Kimberly, faster than both of us, kept drawing away. And I could tell that she wasn’t even running full tilt.

  Connie shouted at our backs, ‘Damn it! Come back! Are you all out of your fucking minds?’

  Billie, still slightly ahead of me, glanced over her shoulder.

  So did I.

  Connie just stood where she’d been. We were leaving her quite a distance behind us.

  Billie stopped running.

  I dodged to keep from crashing into her.

  ‘Leave the ax,’ she gasped at me. ‘Get her. This is ... gotta stop her.’

  I let the ax fall to the sand. Then I put on all the speed I could muster. As I dashed after Kimberly, I yelled, ‘Quit it! Come on! We’re with you! Slow down! You’re not crazy! Please! Stop running! Please! We wanta go with you!’

  A lot of good my shouting did.

  It was a waste of breath, so I quit yelling.

  Soon, I found myself gaining on her.

  She must’ve been allowing me to gain on her.

  Not to catch her, though.

  She let me approach to within about three strides behind her, but no closer.

  I watched the way her black hair streamed behind her. I watched how the seat of her bikini pants, visible under her flapping shirt tail, moved with the flexing mounds of her buttocks. And how her slender legs strode.

  As she ran, she held the spear low by her left hip, its shaft parallel to the sand, while her right hand held the tomahawk against her side to stop it from flinging about and pounding her right hip.

  Though she didn’t pump at all with her arms, she raced along swiftly enough to stay ahead of me.

  After a while, she said, ‘Give it up, Rupert. Go on back to them.’

  ‘I’m coming with you.’

  ‘Forget it.’

  ‘Just stop and wait,’ I gasped. ‘You’re the one ... always against us ... splitting up. We ... gotta stay... together.’

  ‘You’ll get in my way,’ she said.

  ‘No. Please.’

  ‘I’m gonna do Wesley my way. Don’t wanta hear you guys whining about it.’

  ‘We ... won’t whine.’

  ‘Forget it. You had your chance. Adios, amigo.’

  She started to pour it on. I made a dive for her.

  My fingertips brushed the flying tail of her shirt. Moments later, both my hands buried themselves in the sand. They shoved ditches into the beach as I flopped on my chest and skidded.

  The landing knocked my wind out.

  I lifted my head and watched Kimberly sprint up the beach. Spear raised high, she pumped it up and down as she dashed along like a Zulu on the attack.

  Missing People

  On my hands and knees, I watched Kimberly until she vanished around the point. Then I stood up, brushed the sand off my body, and started trudging back to Billie and Connie. Billie was a couple of hundred yards away from me, Connie another hundred yards or so behind her mother.

  The way we were separated, any one of us could’ve gotten picked off. Keeping an eye on the edge of the jungle, I quickened my pace.

  Connie made no attempt to join us. She just stood where she’d stopped, and watched.

  When I got within speaking range of Billie, I started shaking my head.

  ‘You almost had her,’ Billie said.

  ‘It only looked that way. She slowed down to let me get close.’

  ‘I can’t believe she just ran off and left us.’

  ‘She wants to go on by herself.’

  Billie handed the ax to me. ‘We can’t let her.’

  ‘We can’t stop her,’ I pointed out.

  ‘But we can join her.’

  ‘I guess so. If we can find her.’

  ‘She’s on her way to the lagoon,’ Billie said. ‘We’ll just go there.’

  We started walking toward Connie.

  ‘What route should we take?’ I asked.

  ‘What do you think?’ She wasn’t being sarcastic; she was asking my advice.

  ‘Well, we could circle around through the jungle, but that’s what Kimberly’s probably doing. I don’t think we’d have any luck intercepting her, either. It’d be too easy for her to sneak past us. So maybe we oughta just go ahead and make a direct approach to the lagoon.’

  ‘Go straight up the stream?’

  ‘Yeah. That’d be the quickest way to get there. We might even reach the lagoon ahead of her.’

  Billie made a rueful smile. ‘Ahead of her? Think we wanta do that?’

  ‘If we’re careful.’

  ‘I’d hate for us to get attacked without Kimberly around to help.’

  I shrugged. ‘We can probably handle it. I mean, we’re talking about Wesley and Thelma. Unless they take us completely by surprise ...’

  ‘What gives?’ Connie called to us.

  ‘Kimberly doesn’t want us in her way,’ I explained.

  ‘Is she still going to the lagoon?’

  ‘Guess so.’

  ‘Good. We can go back to camp now, right?’

  ‘Sort of,’ I said.

  ‘What do you mean, sort of?’

  ‘We’ll go back,’ Billie said, ‘but then we’re heading straight up the stream.’

  ‘Oh, really?’

  ‘That’s the idea,’ Billie told her.

  ‘I’ve got a better idea,’ Connie said. ‘Let’s not, and say we did.’

  We reached Connie. Then the three of us started walking back toward camp.

  ‘I mean,’ Connie said, ‘Kimberly obviously doesn’t want us with her. Shouldn’t we do what she wants, and sta
y out of it?’

  ‘She’d be outnumbered two to one,’ I pointed out.

  ‘That’s just assuming Wesley hasn’t already. bought the farm.’

  ‘Even if he has, what’s to stop Thelma from jumping her?’

  Connie smirked at me. ‘You think Kimberly can’t take Thelma?’

  ‘Sure, in a fair fight. But maybe she gets jumped from behind. Thelma almost nailed me. She isn’t that easy.’

  ‘Well, she knew which buttons to push on you, didn’t she?’

  ‘There’s no point arguing,’ Billie broke in. ‘We’re going up to the lagoon, and that’s final.’

  ‘Is it?’

  ‘Yeah, it is.’

  ‘We’ll see about that.’

  Billie gave her an annoyed glance, but said nothing. For a while after that, none of us spoke.

  We were nearly back to our camp when Connie said to her mother, ‘It sure is nice to know you care more about Kimberly than you do about me.’

  ‘Don’t give me that,’ Billie said.

  ‘I’ve got a splitting headache - and my shoulder’s killing me. I’m an absolute wreck, but you’re gonna make me hike all the way up to the lagoon just to help Kimberly - who doesn’t even want our help.’

  ‘But maybe she needs it.’

  ‘Shit, she ran away from us. Why should we wipe ourselves out when she doesn’t even ... ?’

  ‘You know why,’ Billie told her.

  ‘I do? Really? That’s news to me.’

  ‘She’s your sister, for one thing.’

  ‘My half-sister.’

  ‘Oh, that’s nice. Very nice. If your father could hear you say that ...’

  ‘Well, he can’t. And I don’t appreciate you throwing him in my face all the time.’

  ‘He’s your father and Kimberly’s.’

  ‘Big deal.’

  ‘If you don’t come with us,’ Billie said, ‘I can’t go. I’m not about to leave you by yourself.’

  ‘Fine.’

  ‘You have to do this for her.’

  ‘Yeah? Do I? And what’d she ever do for me?’

  They glowered at each other.

  ‘Practically raised you, maybe?’ Billie said.

  ‘Oh, for Godsake ...’

  ‘Stayed home instead of going away to college. Because of you.’

  ‘She didn’t have to do that.’

  ‘No, she didn’t have to. She wanted to.’

  ‘Didn’t wanta miss out on all those fine opportunities to boss me around.’

  I couldn’t help it. I asked, ‘Why didn’t Kimberly go away to college?‘

  ‘She wanted to stay with the family,’ Billie explained. ‘She never came straight out and said so, but that was the reason. We certainly could’ve afforded to send her anywhere, and she had the grades. I think it was almost entirely because of Connie.’

  ‘My fault.’ Connie raised her hand.

  ‘Not your “fault.” You were ... ten or eleven at the time. When Kimberly was just about your age, a year or two older, maybe - that’s when Thelma went off to college. Kimberly always ... She loved Thelma so much. It hurt her so much when Thelma left home.’ Billie’s eyes filled with tears. She sniffed, wiped her eyes, and said to Connie, ‘She just couldn’t ... put you through that. You two were so close. She knew how you would miss her.’

  Now, tears began to glimmer in Connie’s eyes. ‘So it was my fault.’

  ‘Don’t be silly. She loved you, that’s all. She didn’t want to leave you without your big sister. And she would’ve missed you too much.’ Billie looked at me and wiped her eyes. ‘That’s why,’ she said.

  I came out with a lame, ‘Oh. Just wondering.’

  Billie was done crying, but Connie kept it up for a few more minutes. When she finished, she sniffed and rubbed her eyes and said, ‘I still don’t think Kimberly needs any help from us, but I’ll go along. I mean, what choice do I have, anyway? It’s not like you’re gonna let me stay here by myself while you two run off to save her bacon. As if her bacon needs any saving. I just hope we don’t screw things up for her, that’s all.’

  The surprising thing is that, after all her complaints, Connie ended up taking the lead. She seemed to be in a hurry, too.

  Billie’s talk must’ve gotten through to her, somehow - reminded her that Kimberly was more than just a young woman put on this earth to annoy her, boss her around, and turn the heads of her boyfriends.

  Leading us upstream through the jungle, it was as if Connie had magically forgotten to be self-absorbed - as if all that mattered was the bond between her and Kimberly.

  She could be a wonderful human being for short periods of time.

  I’d seen it before. It wouldn’t last. But it was nice to see, on the rare occasions when it happened. I found myself actually liking Connie again.

  Not that I’d ever stopped liking her body. From the neck down, she’d always been really fine. Her face wasn’t bad, either. Behind her face is where the troubles lurked - inside her mouth, and in her brain. Her words and her thoughts. And, of course, the actions that came from the thoughts.

  I liked all of Connie, though, as she led us up the middle of the stream that day.

  And she actually did stay that way.

  She never got a chance to revert.

  The self-centered, whiny, pushy, obnoxious bitch had taken her last bow.

  In a way, I almost wish she hadn’t turned into a caring, decent person for her last hour or so. Might be easier. Maybe I wouldn’t miss her so much, now. On the other hand, it’s sort of nice - even wonderful - that she wasn’t being a shit toward the end of things.

  God, I miss her.

  I miss her almost as much as I miss Billie and Kimberly.

  No, not really. Who am I trying to kid?

  I miss Connie a lot, but I miss Billie and Kimberly worse. It kills me to think that I’ll never see them again.

  And yet, here I sit.

  Writing in my journal instead of going to find them.

  Why is that?

  Simple. If I go looking, I might get killed. God knows, I barely escaped with my life last time.

  I’m fairly safe here.

  Wesley and Thelma probably think I’m dead. At least for the time being.

  Also, there’s one other thing.

  I really do not want to find any of my women dead.

  Which is what might happen if I go looking.

  I’d hate that.

  It’s better, not knowing. This way, I can at least hang on to the possibility that they might not be dead.

  Or not all of them.

  If even just one of them is still alive ...

  If I had to choose one, I wonder which would it be? Not Connie, I’m afraid; she was a bitch too much of the time. Not nearly as attractive as her mother or half-sister, either. She was better than plain, but both of them were beautiful.

  So it’s between Billie and Kimberly.

  It would be sick for me to choose which of them should die. So let’s say this: which would I rather have living with me till we get rescued from here?

  (If we ever do get rescued, which is seeming less likely all the time. God, what if I have to live the rest of my life on this island without any of them? Just me. Never mind. I want to go on with my game of who to pick.)

  Kimberly or Billie?

  Not an easy choice.

  Kimberly is a hothead, sometimes. She can be awfully tough and scary, and would definitely take charge of everything. She would run my life. Which might not be such a bad thing.

  Billie is more easy-going and sensible. She’s sweet, cheerful and compassionate. She wouldn’t push me around. We’d be like great friends. We already are - were - awfully good friends, I think.

  Obviously, the smart pick is Billie. We’d be great together. Making love with her would be incredible, too. She has a fabulous body, and knows it, and would probably relish the chance to share it.

  I’d give anything, though, for just one time with Kimberly
.

  Who am I kidding? How about one time with anyone?

  Losers can’t be choosers.

  Speaking of losers, I should stop playing games and go out and try to find Kimberly, Billie and Connie.

  Not yet. I can’t go and look for them until I’ve caught up on my journal. It might be the only way anyone will ever be able to learn what has happened here.

  And it gives me an excuse to stay put.

  Also, the writing of it helps me to remember them. I describe what they did, what they said, what they wore and how they looked, and it’s almost as if they’re with me again.

  I have them with me whenever I write about them.

  Hey, here’s a thought. Maybe I’ll never stop writing about them. When I catch up to the present, I’ll just start making things up. Just to keep going.

  My journal can turn into the literary equivalent of the Winchester House. I just keep going, building more rooms for my ghosts.

  Not a bad idea, but I don’t have a hell of a lot of paper left.

  When I run out, I’ll start writing in the sand.

  Here lies one whose name was writ in sand.

  That was somebody’s epitaph, I think. Keats?

  This is far off the track, and getting weird. I’m too tired and way too depressed to go on any more right now. Anyway, it’s almost dark.

  I’m going to quit now.

  Tomorrow will be plenty soon enough to finish off what I can remember about how we got creamed. Then things will be up to date, and then I’ll have to figure out what to do next.

  Build a staircase to the ceiling, perhaps???

  Oh, God.

  I wonder if they are dead.

  If not, what the hell is happening to them - being done to them - while I sit here lonesome on the beach fucking around with this stupid journal???

  Night Journey

  This is the next day.

  Last night, I got brave. Or, more likely, just desperate.

  So this chapter won’t be about our ‘last stand,’ after all.

  Fine with me. I’m not exactly looking forward to the task. I will get to it, but not right now.

  Instead, this chapter will be about what happened last night.

  After dark, I snuck upstream for a look at the scene of the crime.

  It started out as a way to stop feeling like such a worthless loser. I was taking action. I would stalk the night, revisit the places that held such horrible memories, face what had happened to us, and search for answers.

 
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