Read the original: Isabelle’s Island
(This final installment picks up at the end of both “The Other Side: Isabelle’s Story (Part 3)” and the end of “Isabelle’s Island”)
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.
The man let out a cry of horror and rushed to the small boat he had taken up to the beach. The larger boat, the one with the sail, was lying mostly under the water a few hundred feet from the beach. The monster had disappeared back into the water.
“You can’t go now,” Isabelle said, leaping forward. “The monster just sank your boat. You have to stay here with me.”
The man whirled around and there was something strange about his eyes, as if he were seeing but not understanding what was happening. “Who are you anyway?” he asked.
“My name is Isabelle,” she said and gave him a small smile. “What’s your name?”
The man turned and jumped into the small boat, rowing it frantically out to the wrecked ship. “There’s a monster there, so be careful,” Isabelle said, but trailed off as he ignored her. “You have to protect me from it . . .”
Isabelle watched as the man dove into the water and began pulling up waterlogged bags and containers and throwing them into the inflatable boat. All afternoon, he worked, salvaging things and bringing them back to pile up on the beach. Isabelle watched him uncertainly. He looked like he was planning to stay, but still he wasn’t paying any attention to her.
As the sun was setting, the man built a fire and heated up something from a can. Isabelle approached the fire and sat down to one side, looking at him.
“What’s your name?” she asked softly.
He looked up. “Tom. Tom Nedimyer.” Then, indicating the pot over the fire, “You want some?”
“What is it?”
“It’s food—beans. Are you hungry?”
“I—I don’t know,” Isabelle said, in confusion. Tom shrugged and spooned some onto his plate.
“What was that thing, anyway—that thing that crushed my boat?” Tom asked. “I was afraid it would be waiting for me down there, but I didn’t see any sign of it.”
“That’s the monster,” Isabelle said. “It’s always around, threatening me. I’m glad you’re here to protect me from it.”
“Why would it sink my boat though?”
“It wanted you to stay here”
Tom gave her a sudden, hard look that startled Isabelle. “How the hell would you know what it wants? What is it anyway?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Isabelle said, thrown into confusion by his tone and language. “It’s just the monster. It wants to hurt me.”
“Does it? Has it ever hurt you?”
“No, but . . .” She didn’t know how to finish.
Tom began to eat. “Are you here alone? When I first saw you, I thought you were here with a cruise or something.”
“I live here,” Isabelle said. “I came with my family but I can’t find them now.”
“How long have you been here?” he asked. “I mean, just look at you.”
“Why? What about me?”
“Well, the clothes, the hair. How do you do it?” He saw her look of incomprehension and with a noise of irritation, he pulled a mirror of his survival kit. He held it up so she could see.
Isabelle looked into the small piece of glass and saw herself for the first time since she had been on the ship with her family. She looked just as she remembered herself, a thin, pale face with dark hair pulled back into a neat braid. It took her a moment to understand and then she felt a sudden sense of horror sweep over her. She looked so clean and neat—every hair was in place and her face and clothes looked as scrubbed and spotless as if she were on her way to church. Yet she had not touched water since the day she had climbed out the pool she had fallen into.
She turned away quickly and felt her hands trembling. “I don’t know, I don’t know.”
“How long have you been here?” he asked again. “Do you remember the date?”
She thought about it. The time on the ship, the time on the island—it was just time, with no demarcations to separate it out and make it countable. “I can only remember one date,” she said finally. “My birthday.”
“When is that?”
“July 26,” she said. “July 26, 1789.”
There was a silence as he stared at her. It made her afraid. “What’s wrong?”
“Today is August 14, 1996,” he said at last. He moved a little away.
“No . . .” she said. “No!” But she knew he was right. With rising terror, small details that she had not understood or had not thought about came back to her. Without another word, she got up and fled into the jungle.
That night was the worst that Isabelle could remember. It began to pour in the middle of the night. She hid under an outcropping of rock where she always did when it rained, shaking and trying to keep the rain off her. Now, though, her mind kept screaming at her and she could not quiet it.
I’m . . . I’m . . . She could not even bring herself to think the word. There was no other possibility though. Her appearance had not changed, she could not remember eating or drinking anything since she had fallen into the pool that night, not even sleeping for that matter. Why had she not thought of it before? Her mind was such muddle of fear and loneliness. And if what Tom had said was true, that it was over two hundred years after her birth . . .
I’m . . . dead.
The pain and fear welled up inside her until she broke down in sobs, covering her hands with her face. Then she stopped suddenly and pulled her hands away from her face. She had no tears. She felt hollow, a shell of the person she had been.
Her family was truly gone. Some part of her had known that when she had seen the graves and decaying houses, but she could not accept it. The rain pattered on the leaves all around her, embodying the ethereal prison she now felt trapped in.
Over the next few days, Isabelle watched from hiding as Tom hauled wood to the beach and built outriggers onto his small boat. She watched as he loaded it with fruit and coconuts and containers of water. She watched him prepare to go and leave her. She did not try to stop him. She did not really want him, or Louis for that matter. She wanted her father and he was gone.
She was worried about the monster though. She was worried that it did not want Tom to leave and that it would sink his small boat if he tried. For the first time, she wondered what the monster really was. She had always thought of it as her enemy, but then it had become her ally against the scary and annoying people who had come to the island. And it had kept Tom on the island. But now . . .
The next morning, before dawn, Isabelle watched as Tom pushed his boat out on the high tide. The full moon was sinking down towards the horizon and shone with a ghostly light on the water. Tom jumped into the boat and then looked back. Isabelle raised her hand in farewell and he returned the salute.
Tom turned back towards the open ocean and started to paddle. He was about a hundred feet from shore when Isabelle saw what she feared the most: the monster, rising out of the water just behind the boat. Tom did not see it; he was concentrating on paddling between the rocks near the shore. The monster was going to smash the boat and maybe drown Tom. It hated Tom for leaving Isabelle there alone.
She had to stop it, somehow. “No,” she said out loud. “Leave him alone!” She felt the monster hesitate and she said it again. For a while, she held it there, in the water just off shore, as Tom’s boat got further and further away.
Suddenly the monster gave a roar that echoed off the rocks near the beach. Isabelle had never heard it make a sound before. It turned and leaving the water, it charged up the beach straight for her. She could not control it now. It would not stop. She turned and ran into the jungle.
For the first time since she had seen the monster first step out of the jungle, she was truly terrified. She heard it crashing through trees and breaking rocks behind her as it pursued its furious course after her.
Whether by accident or unconscious desire, Isabelle realized that she was heading for the lagoon on the far side of the island. She reached it as the eastern sky was lightening with the dawn. The rowboat was still there, and the man as well, but he was not fishing now. Instead, he was sitting up, looking intently in her direction.
“Help!” Isabelle cried. “The monster is coming. You have to protect me from it.”
“I will,” he said, “but you must come here. It’s right behind you. Once you’re in the boat, you’ll be safe from it.”
Isabelle stopped at the water’s edge. “I can’t,” she cried. “Can you come up to the shore?”
“I’ve come as close as I can,” he said. “It may be uncomfortable, but the water will not hurt you.”
With a roar, the monster burst out of the forest and Isabelle stepped into the water. Instantly, she felt that same clutching panic that she had experienced in the deep pool, but she kept walking, looking straight ahead to the boat. The water rose to her knees and then her thighs and she bit her lip to keep from screaming. Then she reached the side of the boat.
The man put his hands under her arms and, as if she were a child, lifted her effortlessly into the boat. He smiled at her. “You’re free now. You’ll never see that thing again.”
Isabelle lay in the front of the boat, crying softly from exhaustion and relief. She reached up and felt real tears on her cheeks, which made her cry even harder.
“Where are we going?” she asked, as the man began to row.
“Away from here, first of all, then to somewhere better.”
“Will I see my family?”
“Soon enough. Now, just relax. I’ll do the work now.” He began to row, with strong, even strokes, out of the lagoon. They headed east, into the rising sun and slowly, the island disappeared from sight.