Read the original: Isabelle’s Island
The strength was leaving her hands. “No, no, no. Papa, help me!” Her hands slipped off the root and with a scream, she fell, down, down into the blackness. The last thing she remembered was the sensation of her body hitting water.
Isabelle opened her eyes to see colors and shifting patterns of light. She tried to move her limbs and found that she could move quite easily. Then she realized she was underwater.
She stood up and paddled her way frantically to the surface. The water was deep, but clear as glass. At the surface, she found that she was in steep-sided hole, like a well in the rock. It had vines trailing down its sides from far above, where the high sun made everything glow in shades of emerald and gold.
Isabelle remembered something about falling, although then it had been night. She pulled herself up by the vines, shaking off as much of the hideous water as she could. The very touch of it repulsed her now, as if it were a prison that was still reaching out to capture her.
Her body had become very light, or she had become strong, and she found herself climbing easily up the vines to the jungle floor. The air was still, with only the occasional birdcall breaking the silence.
The path through the jungle was so overgrown that it had entirely disappeared in places. She forced her way to the beach but more riddles were waiting for her there. There were two cabins there now in place of the lean-to but both looked abandoned and dilapidated, with their roof palms rotting and their sides sagging into the sand. On the edge of the forest, she found two graves, their rudely made crosses bleached and overgrown with weeds.
Isabelle tried to think, but her mind was not working properly. Where was her family? Had they just gone away and left her? Her father had promised he would come back for her, but now they were gone and she was alone.
“Papa?” she said. Then, in a scream of terror and despair, “Papa!” She collapsed on the beach, sobbing.
“You have to protect me from the monster, Papa. You said you would. It’s big, as big as a horse and has long fur and sharp claws and I saw it and it’s real you have to protect me you promised you promised you would come back for me please please papa please…”
She looked up, hoping to see her father—anyone—there on the beach. But no one was there. If the monster were real, her father would have to protect her. She could imagine it peering out of the underbrush at her. Then, as if it were perfectly natural, she saw it, just as she had described and just where she had imagined it. The monster.
It took a step out onto the beach, looking at her menacingly. It was real.
“Papa, you have to come save me. See, I wasn’t lying. There really is a monster. Papa, please.” But no one came and after a while, the monster disappeared back into the trees.
For Isabelle, days became a torture of loneliness as she wandered around the island, looking for any sign of her family. Sometimes she thought she heard their voices or saw a glimpse of one of them through the trees. Then the monster would appear and threaten her and she would cry out for help, but help never came and the monster would disappear again. She was terrified of water and spent the nights in the trees for fear of falling into it accidentally.
One day she went so far that she reached the far side of the island. Here she found a long, curving lagoon that formed a natural harbor. In the middle sat a small boat at anchor. Isabelle saw with a shudder that it resembled the rowboat that they had come to the island in, although this one was newer and cleaner. There was a man lying in it with his feet up, fishing. For a moment, Isabelle thought it was her father or one of her brothers and her heart gave a leap of hope. But it was someone else.
The man straightened up when he saw her and he put down the fishing pole. “What are you doing?” he called to her.
Isabelle hesitated. “I’m—I’m looking for my family. Have you seen them?”
The man nodded. “You won’t find them on that island though.”
“Do you live here?” she asked.
He shook his head.
“Then how do you know?”
He smiled. “Trust me.”
“You know, there’s a monster on this island,” Isabelle said. “It hunts me and I have to run away from it. Come be with me and protect me.” At that moment, there was a crashing in the trees and the monster appeared partway down the beach. “Please, come rescue me,” she said.
The man kept looking at her steadily. “You know,” he said, as if a thought had just hit him, “if you waded out here to my boat, it wouldn’t follow you. If you really want to get away from it, that is.”
“I can’t,” she said immediately. “I can’t go in the water. I’m afraid.”
“You’ll be fine,” the man said. “It’s not much above your waist, even out here. Come on, I’ll help you.”
“I can’t!” Isabelle cried. “I’ll never go in the water again. Who are you anyway? You don’t know anything about my family. I’m going to go find them.” She stormed off into the jungle, not even looking back to see the monster fade from view.
For a long while—days, weeks, she could not tell—she searched the island for any trace of her family. She secretly knew that they were not there, although where they had gone, she did not know. Still, she told herself that they could be on the move. It was a big island—they could be always missing each other. She walked the whole island again and again, except the sheltered lagoon on the far side. She did not want to see that strange man and his penetrating gaze and strange smile.
One day, just as the sun was going down, she caught sight of a figure on a rock across a narrow channel from the island. It looked like her father and her heart flamed with hope. He had come back for her. But as she approached, she saw that it was someone else. He was younger and wore strange clothing. Still, he could protect her and stay with her.
She crept closer to him, getting as close as she could without touching the water. His name was Louis, she found out, and he spoke French. Suddenly she was very glad of her tedious French lessons.
Louis said he would come to the island and protect her but he hesitated to. She made him promise he would come but still she was nervous. The sun was going down and she could not go over to him. What if he disappeared in the darkness, just as her family had done? He was so close, yet so far as well.
Just before the sun went down, the monster appeared, coming down the beach towards her. She screamed for Louis to protect her and he jumped into the water and started to swim. But then he sunk under the water and did not come back up. After a while, the monster disappeared from view.
Isabelle was crushed. Louis had been so close, but then he had escaped her too. Still, she felt hope. She had fallen into water and had come back out of it, so maybe there was hope for Louis. After all, he had promised. Every day, she went to the rocks and looked down into the churning water, hoping to catch some glimpse of him.
Time passed and other people came to the island. Some were groups of men, who sat and drank on the beach or crashed through the forest, making noise and cutting down trees. She hid from these sorts of people—they reminded her of the crew of the ship and she feared what they would do to her if they found her.
Sometimes, couples would come to curl up together on the beach, eating and drinking and kissing. They paid attention to no one but each other and they would never pay attention to her. Isabelle hated these people, especially the women.
But Isabelle discovered a very interesting thing: the monster hated what she hated. When these couples—or other people who made Isabelle feel uncomfortable—came to the island, the monster would crash through the trees or throw rocks into the water. It did this especially at night until the people got scared enough to leave.
But then one day, a man came to the island. He was about her father’s age and he came alone. She looked at him from the jungle and then, for the first time since she had talked to Louis, she decided to talk to him.
He was nice. He seemed kind and wanted to help her, but he had a boat and she knew he was going to leave her again soon. Suddenly, she wanted him to stay there, wanted it more than anything she had wanted since her family had left. She knew the monster wanted it too.
Just as the man was going for his boat, the monster rose out of the water and tore the boat to pieces. And just like that, the man was there with her on the island, just the two of them. Isabelle was overjoyed.
(to be continued)