When HIRS Rules the World: Part II
John got up and walked towards the wall that I had examined just a moment ago. His hand hovered above the hanging pieces of paper, and then his finger landed on a small note. It was pinned right onto the map of a group of islands—certainly the Deep Isles. I approached to get a better look. Capital letters, red ink. The handwriting looked scary, menacing, even. The note said:
YOU ARE ON THE DEEP ISLES, WHERE RULES DO NOT APPLY AND WHERE THERE IS NO TRACE OF HUMAN ACTIVITY EXCEPT THE BUILDING THAT YOU FIND YOURSELVES IN. YOU CAN ONLY LEAVE ONCE YOU HAVE FULFILLED YOUR PURPOSE.
“What is that supposed to mean?” I couldn’t help but ask what sounded like the dumbest question ever.
John spoke: “Well, all we really understand is the part where they tell us where we are—whoever they are. But the part where it says there are no rules or signs of humanity, and that we have to fulfill our purpose…” He frowned, raised his eyebrows and lifted his arms slowly, emphasizing the eminent truth that no one knew what was going on.
Everyone had gathered around the canvas-like wall, and I spotted what looked like an improvised calendar. The twins, who had been completely silent so far, explained that this was how they had kept track of the number of days they had spent here. “A checkmark for every day we’ve been here,” they said.
It had been two weeks.
I turned to face the strangers, who obviously would shortly stop being strangers and become friends.
“Did you guys all come at the same time?” My voice shook a little at the end, afraid of the answer I might get. Antoine nodded, with what seemed like a worried smile plastered across his face.
“You came later, alone. It must mean something,” he announced, bringing to life the exact thought that went through my mind.
I walked away from the giant collage on the wall and sat down to process the hailstorm of information.
“We must have something in common. The six of us,” I blurted out, after a long pause. I didn’t really know where that idea had come from, but when I thought about it, it made sense.
My soon-to-be-friends looked at me, their faces expressing a mix of confusion and wonder.
They had never thought of that before.
Two days later, we still had no idea what the special characteristic we shared was, though the place was becoming much more familiar to me. Eddy and Johnny had walked me around the building. It was constructed in the shape of an ‘H.’ ‘H’ like ‘hope,’ I’d thought when then they first told me. How ironic! We were literally trapped on an unknown island, with no apparent way to escape.
The left aisle was the guys’ place; the right aisle was the place Syb, Louise and I called home. The center of the structure contained the storage room, the kitchen and the library—with pictures, maps and notes plastered all over its walls. It was the most important room by far (it contained every ounce of information that was collected about these isles), and it was where we spent most of our time as a group.
Antoine had taken the time to answer my questions. He went in detail through what had happened when he and the others had arrived. John had had a temporary loss of memory—he couldn’t recall his name, his address or his age. Syb and Louise’s memories were intact, but they were in a state of shock for two entire days; they had pronounced their first words on the Deep Isles only after the third day.
When their feelings of utter confusion had faded slightly, Eddy and Antoine had started organizing things. They explored the building and started digging for information in the books around them. And they had found the note written in red that day, along with five other notes, with the names, ages and addresses of each of them scratched across. And photos: They had found photos of everyone’s families and friends back home, and they started pinning them to the wall along with anything else that seemed important.
Antoine also explained that a note and picture of me and my family were found in an envelope that I clutched in my hands when I was still unconscious. He added that he honestly could not understand how I just appeared out of thin air, because the last time they had left the room where I’d been found, it was completely empty.
I learned that a new note was slipped under the main door every Wednesday, and that all kinds of supplies were delivered, too. Food, clothes, all kinds of utilities… How were they delivered exactly? That, no one knew.
Regardless of all the mystery of the situation, these guys had made sure I was okay. They all had treated me as if I were part of their families.
I felt comfortable in an isolated place.
I felt surrounded by family when I was thousands of miles away from home.
I woke up when the sun was bright enough to seep through the window across the room and slowly heat my skin. Louise and Syb were already awake—their beds were empty and neatly made. I sat up and stretched in the sunlight, then bounced towards the bathroom, feeling unexpectedly energetic. A few minutes later I entered what John called ‘the gas station,’ as in, the place where we eat and fuel our bodies, also simply known as the kitchen. Lame joke, but I had giggled when I had heard it for the first time.
Everyone was having breakfast—Syb and Louise slowly indulging very ordinary cereals, Antoine chewing a sandwich methodically and Eddy pouring some pancake mix into a pan while John stared with disappointment at a burned pancake, and scolded his friend for his “horrible breakfast-making skills.” They looked up at me and smiled.
“About time you woke up, missy,” observed John with an accusing tone. “It’s 11 AM.”
I suppressed a laugh, but couldn’t prevent the smirk that grew on my face. “How do you know what time it is anyway? I don’t see a clock anywhere… And my watch stopped working. The last time I checked was when I woke up the very first time.”
John pointed at the stove. I walked over to see that the oven clearly showed the time: 11:02. I raised my gaze to meet John’s eyes. “It’s the only indication of time that we have here”.
I wandered to the fridge where I found a selection of fresh fruit. I grabbed a bunch of grapes, a bright green apple and a few strawberries—the amount of energy I felt seemed to demand healthy food. I sat at the table, facing Eddy. He smiled and asked if I had a restful night. My furtive nodding must have successfully communicated that my night was indeed very restful—maybe too much.
“So, any plans for today?” I questioned between two bites of a delicious, juicy apple.
“We usually just spend time in the library, trying to uncover as much information we can,” replied Syb. She didn’t seem too excited as she spoke the words, and I wondered if that quest for information would ever lead to fruition.
“Why don’t we spend the day outside?” I suggested. I hadn’t realized until now that I hadn’t left the building in the past three days. I suddenly felt a bit claustrophobic, though the room was vast.
“We’ve never left the building,” stated Eddy bluntly.
“Do you think it’s worth it? Isn’t it risky?” questioned Louise, a flash of worry crossing her eyes.
Antoine, who had been silent so far, whispered in disbelief, shaking his head: “Why didn’t we think about that before? I feel so stupid…” He turned towards Louise. “Don’t worry, Louise, there’s obviously no one on this island but us. If there were any intruders, they’d have noticed the huge white building in the center, don’t you think?”
She pondered what he said, and her tense muscles slowly relaxed. “You’re right.”
An invisible wave of excitement swept through the room, and in a synchronized voice, Syb and Eddy exclaimed: “Let’s go, then!”
(TO BE CONTINUED)
Questions & Answers
© 2017 H Bakerley