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Paradise In Purgatory

by Jason Ray Morton 6 months ago in Short Story
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By: Jason Morton

Image by Katarzyna Tyl From Pixabay

Heat beat down on the Marakesh, raising the internal temperature of the rusted, broken hull to well over one hundred degrees. It sat adrift along the shore of an island in the south seas where it had sat for days. The Marakesh was on her last leg long before leaving port. The rusted old heap of metal, barely staying afloat, was torn along the bottom and, the hole in the side was from an attack by pirates. It was one of the last known acts of international piracy in the 20th century.

The island didn't show up on any of the navigational maps on the bridge. It rested in the middle of a near-constant anomaly in the magnetic field, keeping it from being found for a thousand years. As the magnetic field around the planet continued to weaken and fluctuate, the island began to appear more and more in the not-so-distant shipping lanes.

Nearly one hundred years later, Mark and Carrie Moss were traveling the world, celebrating their honeymoon. From a distance, the two love birds were surprised and excited to see the island. While Mark knew the sea, spending months a year on the ocean after striking it rich, he hired an experienced captain for the trip. He would be spending most of his time with his new wife, not captaining the boat.

By Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

"It's amazing," Mark told Carrie. "It's not even on the maps. It doesn't appear on radar."

The captain explained the bizarre anomaly to the owner of the Queens' Royalle, making notes in his logbook about their location, coordinates, and path. It was like nothing he had ever experienced.

"Quite frankly, sir, I don't understand how it's even possible," he explained.

"Possible or not, it's obviously real," said Mark. "We're going ashore."

The captain looked at Mark and Carrie, concerned that the Moss's were seriously contemplating venturing onto the island. After a lifetime on the ocean, seeing every corner of the globe, the captain knew the history of other unexplored territories and the dangerous conditions often encountered. Mark and Carrie Moss may be adventure buffs, travelers, and an exciting young couple, but this was beyond their expertise.

"Sir, it's not for me to say, but I wouldn't recommend going in there. The jungle appears to be very thick. Some jungles are so dense that once you're lost in there, you're just gone."

Mark looked at the captain and considered his warning. "Captain, I'd like to go around the island until we find a safer spot to go ashore."

As much as the captain didn't want to see them risk their lives for a beach trip, he was under their employ, and it was Mark's boat. He told his first mate to get a pack together, insistent that if they were going, they took precautions. When they agreed, the captain told them to get ready. The captain fired up the engines and started around the island, hunting for a friendlier section of beach.

Image by pixelRaw from Pixabay

Twenty minutes later, the Queen's Royale was on the south side of the tropical paradise, looking at a wrecked ship along a stretch of shore.

"Well?" Mark asked the captain.

"You should be able to put in there," said the captain as he pointed around the starboard side of the wreckage. "The Scarab is ready and loaded with plenty of provisions."

As Carrie climbed aboard the speed boat in the rear docking station, the captain stopped Mark.

"Look," he said, "I've done a lot of exploring, and I'd feel better about this if you took this with you."

The captain handed Mark a model 23 Glock pistol and two extra magazines. Mark tentatively took it from his hand. Mark had been to the range, gone through the training, and was able to carry a gun. It just wasn't his idea of something to keep on him during a vacation. Tucking it into his bag, Mark nodded to the captain that he understood.

"Well, alright, let's get this party started," said Mark. He turned to Carrie and the launch, stepping down from the Queen's Royale.

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

Mark piloted the launch toward the island, he and Carrie getting excited the closer they got to their destination. They passed by the wrecked hull of the old steamship, slowing down as they passed. Mark knew that they were getting into shallower waters and lowered his speed. They would have to be careful as they approached the shore. Carrie snapped pictures of the shipwreck, wondering what happened that drove the old ship aground.

"I wonder how they wound up so close to the island," she said.

Looking at the large hole in the hull, he knew that the ship had come under attack. The hole was from an explosion on the outer hull, pushing the metal inward.

"I'm betting it was adrift after a battle. That hole is from a shot from a cannon," he told Carrie. "After that, it just floated here, a ghost ship."

"Wow, all those people, just gone?" she wondered.

Mark put his arm around her, "Lost to the sea. It wasn't uncommon for pirates to board ships and kill every member of the crew. They'd dump the bodies that didn't cooperate with walking into the icy abyss."

**

The water was shallow enough that Mark anchored the launch a hundred feet from the shore. They could carry their packs and supplies to the beach. When they got their bags to the beach, Carrie couldn't wait to start taking pictures. This was the perfect place for her to grab tons of images for her Instagram page, even though there was no service on a lost island in the south Pacific.

Mark looked around the beach, realizing that he was on his honeymoon. This was the most romantic place he had ever imagined, and they had it all to themselves. Mark radioed the captain of the Queen's Royale. He was going to let the captain know they made it safely. Instead, he ordered the captain to drop anchor and prepare to stay overnight.

"Aye, aye, sir," the captain's voice answered.

Mark and Carrie started to walk the length of the beach until they found an opening that headed inland. There was a clear path that had formed over hundreds of years. As they made their way inland, Carrie quickly found that there was growth there that she'd never seen before. She snapped photo after photo, Mark watching her in awe.

This was why he fell so quickly in love with Carrie. She had a passion that was unbridled by fear or the unknowns. Carrie lived in the moment, never looking forward or behind.

By Kunal Shinde on Unsplash

As the intrepid explorers ventured further into the wild, Mark and Carrie were having the time of their life. They were so enthralled by their jungle adventure they missed the one detail in the jungle that mattered. Mark and Carrie, unbeknownst to them, were being watched.

From behind the thick brush, a stranger stood admiring the first two people he had laid eyes on in many years. His dark brown eyes locked onto them as they walked past, using the path through the jungle that took him years to clear. The slight scruff on his face itched, the heat of the island causing him to sweat. Rubbing his chin as he watched Carrie stop to take a picture of a Macaw, he admired her passion. He followed the two lovers as they hiked further into the center of the island.

Mark and Carrie found their way to the center of the island, stumbling upon a pond of water. The beauty of the clear blue water was astounding. Carrie stopped in her tracks as they cleared the jungle growth. She snapped dozens of pictures, back to back, as Mark stood smiling.

"What are you smiling about?" asked Carrie.

"I love it when you're so excited," he told her.

Carrie smiled at her new husband, turning and kissing him on the lips. They were on their honeymoon and there were few places in the world that they'd traveled to that were as romantic as the island.

"I've got an idea," she said to Mark.

Carrie turned toward the water, setting her bag and her camera down on the grassy edge. Reaching behind her, she unzipped the back of her shorts, slipping them down her shapely legs. She reached her hands behind her, unclipping her bra, then sliding it off her shoulders. Carrie looked playfully back at Mark, smiling at him as she threw it for him to catch.

With the wave of a finger, she motioned for Mark to join her in the water. Mark excitedly started getting his shirt unbuttoned as he prepared to join her. As Mark started to take his shirt off, he started to feel uneasy.

Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Looking around behind where he stood Mark locked eyes with the only resident of the island. The two men stared anxiously at each other, waiting for one or the other to react. Mark took Carrie's swimsuit top and threw it to her, telling her to put it on.

"I'm sorry I startled you," the man said, stepping out of the shadows of the jungle. "I just...haven't seen other humans in many years."

Carrie got out of the water, standing behind Mark as she got dressed. Mark nodded at the stranger, still leery of his presence. He wondered where he came from and how long he'd been watching them. Most of all, he wondered what the strangers' intentions were.

"Um, I'm Jax," said the stranger, introducing himself.

"I'm Mark, this is my wife Carrie," replied Mark.

Carrie was dressed and stepped out from behind her husband. She found the stranger interesting. Jax, to Carrie, was a mystery wrapped up in a puzzle box.

"We thought the island was uninhabited," she said.

"Right, how long have you been here?" asked Mark.

"I've sort of lost track," Jax told them. "What year is it?"

"It's 2021," answered Carrie.

"2021...I've been here years then," said Jax.

"Were you on that ship, the one that's beached on the south side of the island?" asked Mark.

"Yes, but it floated in nearly five months after I found my way here."

"What happened?" Carrie asked.

Jax remembered the battle, the night the ship was attacked. It was longer ago than he cared to admit. Pirates attacked the ship, looking to plunder its' cargo, rape, and murder the crew and passengers. When they came aboard, they started executing everyone in sight. Nobody was spared from the slaughter, nobody except Jax.

Mark didn't like the story. He recognized that the ship was far too old for that story to make sense. Riling a stranger on an island in the middle of nowhere didn't seem like a smart decision. He had Carrie to consider, and her safety was something he had to take seriously.

"When I was thrown off the ship, I started swimming towards a shadow in the night. It took several hours for me to wind up on the beachhead. I tried finding a way off the island for the first year or two. Eventually, I realized this was where I was going to die."

Photo by Erik Karits from Pexels

"It's a miracle you survived this long," said Mark.

"It really is," said Carrie, "How did you manage?"

Recalling his early days on the island, Jax told Mark and Carrie to story about how he started to build a shelter. He had hunted the island for other humans, finding that he was the only one there. Jax remembered thinking that he was going to starve until he started to hunt for sources of food. He swam out to the wreckage of the ship and brought back all the tools he could find, using them to fashion weapons for hunting.

"I learned to survive," Jax told them.

Jax knew he was lying to them. Much of his early days on the island were spent exploring. But, he'd never learned to hunt. There'd been days he fished, using a homemade bow and arrows he fashioned from bamboo sheaths. He couldn't tell the truth. He knew it would put them off and he still needed to get information from the two.

"So, you're boat that you anchored," Jax asked, "where did you come in from?"

"Oh," said Carrie, before Mark could stop her, "We've got a yacht about a mile and a half out from the south shoreline."

"Really," Jax said, pondering the possibilities.

"Yes," she said, "We could take you with us, get you off this island."

"Sure," sighed Mark, not wanting to seem rude.

Jax looked at them both, a wicked smile creeping out of him. Had entirely different ideas, ideas of his own. Getting off the island sounded great. It had been too long since he enjoyed a decent meal, fine clothes, or the company of others of his kind. Being stranded on an island, Jax had nearly gone insane. There were many times he contemplated suicide.

Image by Ponciano from Pixabay

It was getting dark, and Jax was getting hungry. He knew where the yacht was, and that he could get to the boat. Mark and Carrie had been all too kind as they told him everything he needed to know. He could now escape the desolation of the island, a place he'd come to know as purgatory. Finally, he thought, he could reintroduce himself to the world.

"You're right, it's getting late. Perhaps we should get back," suggested Mark.

"Oh," Jax answered, "I don't think you'll be going back."

Mark got instantly nervous, Jax's voice sounding different as he stood up. In an instant, like looking through a different lens Jax flew across to mark with a great speed. Carrie screamed as she watched the horror of Jax snapping Mark's neck in front of her.

"Why!" she screamed at him.

Jax circled her, reveling in her fear. It was enticing, seductive, and he was enthralled by her desperation. After all this time, he felt the urge to enjoy the hunt, but a greater, more powerful urge, overtook him. As he couldn't contain his excitement, Jax pushed her down to the ground and straddled her.

Carrie sobbed hysterically, looking up into the face of a killer. As Jax lost his control, he showed his true self to a human for the first time in over one hundred years. She watched as he opened his mouth, his elongated canines growing as she looked on in horror.

"W...what are you?"

"Don't you already know," he leaned in, whispering in her ear as he playfully licked her neck.

Carrie knew exactly what he was. She couldn't believe it, even as his elongated teeth pressed into her neck, trickles of crimson slowly forming lines down and into her hair. Carie struggled, all be it briefly. Her energy waned as she saw the world around her start to spin. She turned her head slightly, Jax allowing for her to take one last look at Mark before he finished her off and sent her on to be with him.

"Be together, lovebirds," Jax whispered, slowly getting into an upright position, wiping the blood from his mouth and chin.

"It's been a lovely dinner," he said, looking at the both of them as he draped her body of Mark's. "Regretfully, I have a boat to catch."

**********************************************************************

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Short Story

About the author

Jason Ray Morton

I have always enjoyed writing and exploring new ideas, new beliefs, and the dreams that rattle around inside my head. From the current state of the world to the fantastical ideas of science I've enjoyed exploring them. Time to share them.

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