Story 9-"Reunion"-Part 5
Octavian had been walking through thick forest for several days now.
Faith had told him this morning there were no more of the awesome ‘nest’ trees for him to stay in, and they’d have to start getting creative with his sleeping places.
After thirteen hours of cutting through thick brush and hanging vines with a machete, he didn’t care where he slept.
At sunset, he stood at the base of a large tree, watching vines and branches twist and intertwine, about twenty feet up, to become a sort of hammock.
As Faith’s magic worked to create his bed for the night, he found himself dreading the climb up to it.
His body wasn’t tired, never was. But his mind was a different story. A strange melancholy was starting to creep in, and he couldn’t figure out why.
He wondered if it was boredom. For days he had been waking up at sunrise, cutting brush and vines until sunset, and pushing through this forest to reach his target. A target he had been hunting for so long, he couldn’t remember what it was like to have another objective.
Now that he was this close, and getting ever closer each day, he felt down instead of elated.
His mind seemed too tired to figure out why. And, as he stood dreading this climb, he noticed it was beginning to show outwardly.
Instead of readying himself for the climb, he was just standing there. His arms hung by his sides, his head lazily tilted back, and his eyes staring blankly upward.
Suddenly, vines reached down to lift him into his nest of the night.
“Thanks.” He said through a drowsy smile.
The next thing he knew, he was waking up to another day of slashing through forest.
“Day ten.” He muttered as he sat up.
“Five more to go.” Faith messaged.
Octavian let out a long sigh. He somehow felt more exhausted than he had before he’d slept.
An energy bar suddenly appeared in his lap.
“Thanks.” He said. “But food has no effect on me.”
“This will.” Faith assured him.
“Magically enhanced power bar?” He jested.
“You know it.” She replied.
He took his time eating the flavorless treat. He didn’t feel like getting straight to work today.
Once the energy bar was gone and the wrapping had disappeared, Octavian noticed that he still felt the same.
“Oh well.” He sighed. “Thanks for trying.”
He pulled on his backpack and looked down.
“How am I supposed to get down from here?” he asked.
“Hold on tight.” Faith answered.
The hammock began to lower to the ground.
“Cool.” Octavian said.
Once on the ground, he sighed again, before starting his day’s work.
Halfway through the day, he came across a small oasis. There was a small pond of clean, fresh water, encircled by wisteria trees. Thick vines of ivy formed a kind of fence between each tree.
Octavian took in the scene. The blue tint of the water, the lilac purple of the wisteria and its bright green leaves, the pale pinks and yellows of wild flowers, all contrasted against the deep green of the ivy. It reminded him of the garden of his childhood home.
He turned as he heard the stretching of vines behind him. They were coming together to form a wall between him and the forest.
“Trapped.” He thought. But he didn’t react.
His watch vibrated to indicate that he should open the map.
“Relax. Take a break. Take a swim. Refill your canteen.” The screen said.
Octavian turned back around to look at the oasis again. “Yes.” He thought. “I can do that.”
He shrugged off his backpack and refilled his canteen. He gulped down half of the water in it before refilling it again and setting it aside.
The water was cool with a silky texture.
He stripped down and walked into the pond, letting the water envelop him. He bathed before laying back to float on the surface.
Memories of his childhood began flashing through his mind.
Chasing his sister through their garden, playing and laughing, dancing and singing.
He recalled their nightly adventures through their house after their parents had gone to bed. They would pretend their parents were sleeping ogres who would eat them up if they weren’t sneaky enough.
They would sneak into the kitchen for snacks then go into the library. His sister would read aloud and he would perform what she read.
He remembered how much he enjoyed making her laugh. They had been inseparable. Until she’d tried to kill him.
Octavian’s eyes shot open.
“What the hell am I doing?” he demanded as he stood up in the chest-high water. “What is this?” He looked around at the beautiful oasis. It hadn’t changed, but his feelings had.
He stormed out of the pond and as he was getting dressed, he remembered the magic power bar Faith had given him this morning.
“Faith!” He shouted.
His watch vibrated. He opened the screen.
“Told you it would have an effect.”
“You made me believe it would give me energy!” He yelled.
“There are different kinds of energy.” She replied.
Octavian growled. “You knew what I thought it was!”
“Yes. But that wasn’t the kind of energy you needed. Your body is practically a machine. No sustenance required. But your mind is overloaded. You needed a break.” She messaged.
He growled again, hating that she had that kind of insight.
“What’s in my head is my business alone!” he seethed.
“You let anger control your life. It is wearing you down and keeping you from your true objective.”
“Oh yeah? And what exactly do YOU think is my true objective?”
“Connection.” She replied simply.
Octavian scoffed. “Yeah. Right.”
He slammed his arm down, closing the screen angrily. He slung his backpack on and walked around the pond. He intended to cut through the vine fence and continue on, but the machete had no effect on the vine.
“Let me out!” he shouted.
His forearm burned. “Such a hothead.”
Then, the entire oasis disappeared suddenly, leaving him standing in the middle of the plain, silent forest. He was angry at her for tricking him and angry with himself for letting her trick him.
“A bit of niceness and I start to trust her.” He scolded himself. “Never again.”
“That’s your problem right there.” said the message on his arm.
He rolled his eyes as he continued to clear a path through the forest.
“Let things go.” She continued.
He ignored her again and continued on without saying a word.
“The silent treatment, huh? Mature.” She messaged.
Octavian worked the rest of the day in silence, willing himself not to think.
He was still mindlessly hacking away at brush and vines when he heard something running toward him from his right. Then his left.
He turned around when he heard the same noise from behind him. He could see the silhouette of something too big to be human, a short distance away in the waning light.
He had worked past sunset.
The thing stopped abruptly, as did the ones flanking him. He knew he was being surrounded and would have to fight all of them. In the dark.
The creatures started to charge forward, closing in on him. He readied his machete. Just when the creatures came within swinging distance, he was suddenly grabbed around the waist and swept up, into a tree.
Before he could fight back, a vine covered his mouth and his arm began to burn.
“Sshh.” The message read.
The creatures started going crazy on the ground below. They were jumping and running around like angry gorillas, making loud, deep shrieking sounds that made Octavian’s ears hurt.
“To disorient prey.” Faith messaged.
The vine around his waist lifted him again, as other vines were forming a new hammock under him. He sat in it, watching the vines continue to work, creating a cover that drowned out the sounds of the creatures below.
“Thanks.” He said.
“Rest now. You are safe.” She replied.
He awoke the next morning to sunlight on his face. The top of the hammock was gone and it was sunrise.
“Day eleven.” He said.
“Four more to go.” His arm read.
“Thank you for last night.” He said as the vines lowered him to the ground.
“You’re welcome.” She responded.
“What were those things?” he asked.
“You don’t want to know.” She said.
“I really do.” He said.
His watch vibrated. He opened the screen to find her reply there.
“Maybe later. I don’t have time to tell a story right now and you don’t have time to read one.”
He stopped in his tracks. He hadn’t considered that she might have other things to do.
“I do have my own life, you know.” She messaged.
“Okay. Later then.”
Octavian thought about their exchange for the rest of the day, and at sunset he asked -politely- which tree would be his bed tonight.
Once he was settled in, he asked Faith to tell him the story of those creatures. But again she replied that she didn’t have time and said goodnight.
He was surprised when a hint of worry shot through him. It was unlike her to not be chatty. Another surge of surprise hit him when he realized that he actually cared if she was alright. And that he felt he knew enough about her to realize when she wasn’t being herself.
He would ask her about it tomorrow, he told himself as he drifted into another night of dreamless sleep.
The next day came and went, and so did the next, and the next. Day fifteen was here, and he still hadn’t mustered up the nerve to ask how she was.
Ridiculous, he thought, to be cowardly in this. Something as simple as asking another if they were okay.
He had trekked on and she had continued to keep his clothes clean, provide him with fresh water that he didn’t even need, and create a safe, dry shelter for him every night. They had been polite to each other, but spoke no more than was necessary to be courteous.
By the end of this day, his journey would be over. He would reach his target before nightfall. Would he still be able to talk to Faith? Would she want him to?
The more he thought about it all, the more he realized that they could be friends. And he wanted them to be.
He froze in place as the truth hit him.
She had been right. He had thought more the past few days about their interactions than he had about his mission. He had allowed himself to get side-tracked and was surprisingly okay with that.
He'd been worrying about losing his connection with her.
Understanding this about himself made him feel suddenly braver.
“Faith?” he called.
“Yes.” His forearm read.
“You think you could whip up another oasis for me here?” he asked.
He blinked and instantly found himself in the serene oasis again.
“So cool.” He said. “Thank you.”
“Yep.” Was her reply.
Another short response, he thought.
He removed his backpack and walked to the edge of the pond. “How about a boat?”
A small paddle boat appeared at his feet.
He got into the boat and laid back, his hands interlaced behind his head. “How about a…”
A pillow was under his head before he even finished the request.
“Wow. You’re good.” He said.
He would have to turn on the charm. Wait. Did he even still have charm? How long since he had used it?
“You still got it, ya’ jerk.” Faith messaged.
“There you are.” Octavian smiled. “In my head again.”
“You know it.” She replied.
His watch vibrated. “Oh goody, a longer reply.” He teased through a grin.
“As good as a pleasant conversation sounds right now, I truly do not have the time.”
Octavian’s smile began to fade as disappointment crept up.
“Now, don’t do that.” She said. “You are still perfectly capable of ‘putting on the charm’ and all that. And we’re good, so stop worrying.”
Octavian shook his head. “Read all those thoughts too, huh?”
“Yes. And I was surprised to learn that you want us to be friends.”
“Pleasantly surprised?” He smiled and waggled his eyebrows.
She sent a laughing face. “Yes, Octavian. Pleasantly surprised.”
“Okay then. My work here is done.” He said. “Care to, uh…” he swirled his finger in the air and the oasis disappeared.
“No problem. Gotta go, friend.”- smiley face
Octavian smiled and got back to work, slashing through the forest, feeling lighter than he had in a long time.
That evening the brush became easier to clear and there were hardly any vines to cut. Octavian was able to hear occasional traffic in the distance.
Centuries of planning and tracking had finally brought him within grasp of his revenge. He would let nothing stand in his way.
While he cleared the remaining distance between himself and his target, he played the upcoming scene in his mind.
He would have to cover her mouth first. He’d have to sneak up, catch her off guard, and shackle her, fast.
Octavian could now see the forest’s edge and the road. He could hear seagulls and smell the salty sea air. He stopped to breathe it in.
“Ahh.” He said as he exhaled. “Smells like a good day for some payback.”
He took the bindings from his backpack and pushed them into his pockets, before moving to a vantage point behind a tree.
He shrugged his backpack on again and took in the scene.
Directly in front of him was an old paved road, with no painted lines on it. On the other side was an old roadside diner. Behind that, more forest. To the left was the ocean, and to his right the road stretched on through the dense forest, without visible breaks for buildings or other roads.
“Quiet and remote.” He smiled. “Just the way I like it.”
He brought up his map and saw that his target’s position was right in front of his, not in the cave but in the diner.
He closed the map and scoped the building. The front door was on the corner facing the ocean. He surmised there was only one other exit, most likely through the kitchen.
He glanced through the windows to see a sparse handful of patrons inside.
Octavian took a deep breath. He would get to her cave before her, scope it out, and set up an ambush.
Just as he stepped forward, the door to the diner opened. He stilled. It was just an old man and…
Octavian’s heart pounded in his chest. His teeth and fists clenched. This was the first time he’d seen her in ages. It was nearly impossible to hold himself in place.
“Stick to the plan.” He reminded himself.
He watched as his target and the old man walked to the pier, arm and arm, talking and laughing like old friends.
As they neared the ocean, Octavian wondered if they were about to try to leave. Faith had told him that people can’t leave the island.
He barely kept himself from rushing toward them. He wouldn’t lose her again. Then he saw the two saying their goodbyes. The old man got into a rowboat and she watched as he rowed away, disappearing into the fog.
She dropped her head, clearly sad about the man’s departure, then turned and walked back toward the diner.
“Sad, huh?” Octavian thought. “Just another advantage for me.”
He watched her go around the diner and into the forest, toward the cave.
He pulled up the map. “Anybody else in or around that cave?” He asked.
Little orange dots appeared. Most in the diner. None around the cave, though there was one moving away from it right then.
“Any other exits in there?”
The map showed the cave layout. Only one way in and out.
Octavian smiled as he watched the yellow circle that represented his target, move toward the cave.
The orange dot that had come from the cave, continued to move toward what appeared on the map to be a small recreation area down the road.
He would have to keep an eye on that dot to make sure it didn’t come back and interrupt his… meeting.
A twenty-minute hike later, he was standing outside the entrance.
He pulled up the map to see his target making her way toward the far, back corner of the cave. He closed the map and set his bag on the ground. It would hinder his movements if he wore it.
He took the gag from his pocket and checked that the bindings were there and ready. Then he made his way inside.
She was facing the back cave wall, reading a letter. She didn’t hear him creeping up behind her.
Just then, something came over him. He suddenly felt compelled to speak to her. To get her attention. To taunt her. To shock her. To see fear in her eyes.
He straightened his spine, lowered his chin, and put on his most sinister expression.
END of Story 9-"Reunion"-Part 5
End of Phantom Island-Season One-"Origins"
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About the Creator
Author Jennifer Treece
I’m Jennifer. I am an indie author. I write novels, short stories, and poems. My genres are mixed and include mystery, supernatural, and paranormal.
You can also find me on my website authorjennifertreece.com!
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