I got the idea for this story from a really bizzare dream I had... I just gave it a beginning and an end and some amount of sense.
How did this happen?
They couldn't make me do this... They couldn't.
I didn't even know where I was, really. All I knew was I had to get out. This wasn't right. This wasn't fair. This was just... inhuman. How could anyone just throw a girl onto an island and give her one night to make a lifelong decision? They couldn't do that. To me or to the others. Nothing could be worse. This couldn't be real. It wasn't happening.
But it was. I was here. The others were here. I didn't even know any of their names. I hadn't even seen them yet. But I was sure they were just as panicked as I was. I could imagine each and every one of them, sitting in their tents, trying to find some means of escape. And maybe they could in the end. I hoped that they would. But me? I was essential to this. Huh. I never thought I'd say that before. But it was true. I was. And this was one time when I wished I wasn't. Everything depended on me. And I couldn't escape, or they would pay the price.
But I had to do something.
Who decided this was right? I could just see those horrible monsters, all gathered up in a room, and one just saying, "Wouldn't it be fun to pick a random girl and give her four boys to choose from? And just to spice things up, we'll seclude them all from the rest of the world, give no one any warning beforehand, have an hour time limit for them to meet each other, and then give her until the next morning to choose? And once she's chosen, she and her new lifelong companion can leave the island on a helicopter and the other four just get left there... And if she doesn't decide in time, or if she tries to escape, or if they try to plan anything, we kill all the boys and the girl can have that on her shoulders for the rest of her life! Yeah, that'd be great." Oh, wouldn't it. That was pretty much what they told me when I woke up here. No one answered when I asked how I got here. No one answered when I asked what happened after I chose. No one answered when I asked why they were doing this, or how many others had to be forced into this before me, or why they wanted me this time. I didn't know where this was coming from. I didn't know where it would go. All I knew was that I was here, and I couldn't get out. And my hour was coming.
For some ridiculous reason, I had to be made attractive for this. Even though I was the one making the "decision." And I'd spent the entire morning with a bunch of makeup artists and hair stylists and getting a fancy dress fitted and other pointless things. I'd pictured this kind of thing before. But this was as a professional actress, not as a contestant playing a sick twisted game.
Now I was in my tent alone. At least they had enough consideration to give me that before the nightmare continued. But that just meant they actually felt a little guilty for what they were doing. Or maybe they just wanted me to do all my crying and panicking before I went out there. Whatever it was, it justified nothing.
I looked in the mirror at what the stylists had created out of me. For one moment, I forced all these horrible things that were about to happen out of my mind. I wanted to spend just one moment as if I was back home, where everything made sense, and where I could give an honest look at myself. What I saw... What I saw may have been enough to make me feel like that. They'd somehow given my hair that special wave that was just between curly and straight, something like what happens after I take out a braid, but gentler than that, with half of it in a bun – the kind I'd never figured out how to do – and the rest simply hanging down to my waist. My dress looked like something out of a fairy tale – long and white, the torso perfectly fitting my shape, with what were technically sleeves, but were really just embroidered straps that hung delicately beside my shoulders. The skirt hung all the way to the floor, so full that it flowed and swished around every time I moved. The whole thing was trimmed with this light brown embroidering, almost signifying flowers on vines, but it was so small I could barely tell. Everything looked so fragile... I guessed it suited me right now.
I remembered drawing a princess running into the ocean at sunset, throwing her tiara into the water, chasing after something. It was just this image that came into my head, so I'd drawn it. It had some symbolism to it, but I didn't know what it was at the time. I just put it on paper – that was how my art worked. And when I looked at my reflection, I saw that princess. I looked just like that picture, like a sunset on a beach, like a footprint in the sand about to be swept away by the waves. I didn't know how to feel about it. It was all so unreal. I thought that maybe I should be managing a weak smile. But all I could do was fall to my knees, clutch my head, and sob. And after a while I figured out why. Any other time, I might be happy to look in the mirror and see who I'd always wanted to be. I may question myself, and I may cry a little, but I'd feel some worth in the end. At any other time. Not here. Not now.
I forced myself to stand. I had to do this. Whether I wanted to or not. Before I knew it, they were calling me outside. I couldn't let my fear show. I didn't know what they'd do to me if I did. The boys may feel better to know that I was just as scared as they were, but they didn't need to see it in my face. They'd know. I looked in the mirror and dried my eyes, trying my hardest to keep it that way. They were still red, though. My makeup was ruined, too. Like any of it mattered. No matter what, I'd look like a mess going out there. Everyone would know I'd been crying. But they couldn't hold it against me, could they? I didn't know. I fought back my trembling – to no avail – and walked outside.
This whole thing had such a tribal feel to it. I felt like we were all part of a ritual. We were fenced in, but the space was so big it barely had any effect. I could hear the drums pounding in my head, the chanting, the eerie woodwind instruments. The fact that no one was allowed to speak didn't help. The four of them were all just standing there, staring me down. I was so far away from them right now, I couldn't see their faces yet. But I knew they were staring, trying to figure me out, if I'd snap and run away, or if I'd focus on keeping them safe no matter what.
And that was what I would do. I didn't know how I was gong to choose. But I knew that whatever I did, whatever choice I made, it would be for their safety, not mine. I'd rather suffer at the hands of the ones who put me here than leave the others to something worse just because I was too afraid to save them.
As I finally approached them, their faces became as clear as daylight. I looked at them one by one, starting with the first. I gave myself five minutes each, looking at that person and no one else. I wasn't going to miss anyone and I wasn't going to get trapped in anyone's gaze. I was so scared right now that I was sure that someone's eyes would look so cold to me that I'd just freeze. Because at times like these, you see so much more than what's actually there. You don't know what's real and what's not.
The first one's looks were decent enough, I supposed. But that wasn't really a factor in this. My only questions were about who they were. How would they fare left with the other two on this island? Could they escape before then if they wanted to? And was there any chance that they could spend the rest of their lives with me? And looking at this one, I didn't know how I could answer anything. He seemed like he might last a week. And if he didn't find a way home by then – wherever home was - then he'd die of starvation. He was already wasting away, by the looks of it. But that was just looking at his face and his fitness. I didn't know how much skill he had. Or if I could choose him without regretting it.
The second one was just as scared as I was. He was trying his best to hide it, but I could see that, like me, he'd been crying. It was funny – I knew that boys my age had to cry, too, and this would definitely be a good reason for it. But I'd never seen a boy this way. It was so different. And I couldn't bear it. I could tell that he was being strong through this. That meant that he would last more than a day on his own out here. But I didn't know if anything on this island could hurt him. But the good thing about this was that he wouldn't be on his own. If the remaining two would stay by his side – and I knew they would – then he'd be fine, surely. I gave him a look that said I knew how he felt, one that promised him everything would be fine. I actually managed to stop shaking. He closed his eyes and hung his head, as if to be repeating the words I'd silently told him to himself.
As I made my way to 3, I lost my composure again. It wasn't him, but I had been focusing on how afraid 2 was, completely forgetting about my own fear. Now his was gone, and mine had returned. I had thought that by now I would be having hallucinations in these people, I was panicked enough as it was. And 3 was so empty-looking... No emotion in his face whatsoever. Just by looking at him, I had no idea what could be going on inside of him, or if there was anything there. But I knew that he was pushing everything back. He was succeeding, too. Somehow he, the one in danger of death, could keep his face blank. But as far as I knew, I wasn't in that kind of peril. And I couldn't stop trembling. It was becoming harder and harder to figure out any answers to the questions I'd had in mind. I knew what to look for. I knew how to find it. But all of a sudden, I just couldn't process anything. My sight had blurred, my palms were soaked in sweat, I was hyperventilating. It wasn't him, I knew that much. It was just this. I didn't know if I could last the rest of my hour in here. I had to snap out of this. I closed my eyes and concentrated.
What happened to me didn't matter. I had to keep them safe. I didn't need to be afraid. As long as I could save them.
As I opened my eyes, my vision was no longer clouded. But my 5 minutes were up. So I moved on to the last one. If I needed to, I had plenty of time to go back later.
As soon as I saw 4, it all came back again. But not right away. First there was that one second when everything else disappeared. I'd completely forgotten my situation, just for one second. I was lost for one second. And after that, everything was back, worse than before. I didn't know what I was doing anymore. And this time it was him. It wasn't the look in his eyes or the way he stood or anything I could discover in his appearance. But there was one little thing that threw me off. One little thing that made me wonder if I could do this anymore.
I knew him.
We'd gone to school together for two years now. We knew each other a little. He was a lot more outgoing than I was, so I knew him more than he knew me. We weren't really friends, but we certainly weren't enemies. We acknowledged each other, we respected each other. But we never really talked, so we were never really more than acquaintances. But still... Seeing a familiar face in the midst of a nightmare was... I didn't know. I felt like I should have been overjoyed. But I couldn't speak to him. I knew him enough to know that he was clever enough to get out of this on his own. If he was left here, anyway. Before then, I wasn't so sure. I didn't know if he could get caught. The way I understood it, they only had to die if I had a part in their escape. But that wasn't exactly clarified for me, and given the circumstances, probably not for him either.
This had to be some kind of mistake... Did they know that we knew each other? Was that even allowed? I thought the whole point of this - if there even was one - was that I had an hour to choose from four people I'd never seen before in my life. The decision was all based on first impressions. But then...This couldn't have been a coincidence, could it? If they knew, then this was all just to mock me. But how could they have known? Had they been watching me? Or watching him? Was this somehow fixed instead of at random like I thought? How long had they been watching me...?
Everything in my head was swimming around and around and around... I couldn't see. I couldn't breathe. There was something else about him that I was so desperately trying to push out of my mind. I couldn't think about that. It wasn't important to this situation. If I thought about that, then I would make the wrong decision. I just knew it. Me knowing him was an advantage. It could only make my choice easier. But only if I didn't think about that.
But it wasn't so simple. The way he looked at me... Somehow I knew what he wanted to say to me. Like me, he wanted to be happy to see someone he recognized. But he was just sorry that he couldn't help me. Never in my life had he or anyone looked so deeply into me as he was now. And it just made it impossible to forget that I was in love with him.
There it was. I'd thought it. All the control I'd had over my emotions had escaped me. Everything I'd previously figured out was gone. There was just me, about to be forced into forever with no means of escape, sobbing at the feet of my first crush who barely knew more than my name. But somehow that was enough for him to hold me as I cried with no hesitations.
Of all the times I'd wanted to cry on his shoulder, why did it have to be now? Just when I thought things couldn't get worse, he became a part of it. I'd wanted to tell him so many times, and now was the best chance I'd ever have. And I wanted to choose him. More than anything, I wanted to be with him.
It was best for me. But was it best for everyone else? Would the others be able to survive without him? And was it what he wanted? I was completely lost in an ocean of disarray, with no way to be certain that I could keep anyone safe, let alone everyone. I just sat there, weeping in his arms, because I didn't know what else to do. Time was running out. And I had nothing.
I couldn't do this.
I didn't know how it happened, or why it happened, but somehow I found myself running away from him, from everyone. I wasn't even aware it was possible for me to get so far this quickly, but in a matter of seconds, I was at least 50 feet away from them. The door to the fence was just beyond my reach.
I stopped. What was I doing? I had to pull myself together. I could do this... I had to do this.
A man walked up to the fence and glared at me. For a moment, I thought that was it, that I'd tried to escape, that I'd just killed them. But he said that because I stopped myself, they had a chance. If I gave up all the time I was going to have and chose now.
I slowly turned around and walked back to them. Time slowed down. This was it – no turning back.
I tried not to think of his name. Right now, he was just one of four. With slow and shaky breaths, I looked at all of them. 1, 2, 3, and... And 4. That was his name now. 4.
And yet, I couldn't stop my hand from taking 4's. And there we were – the choice had been made.
But then I remembered that I first had to speak to make it official. I still had time. But I wasn't sure of anything at all. I looked over to 1, 2, and 3. I expected some uncertainty in at least one of them. But they all looked at me and nodded, as if to say, "The choice is up to you – we can get out of this."
So I had their consent. All I needed was his.
I was so afraid to look him in the eyes. I had always been since I first realized how I felt about him. But now especially. Holding his hand was enough. I couldn't look him in the eyes. But I had to know if he could live with my decision. So I slowly forced my eyes to meet his.
I didn't know what to expect, honestly. If anything, it was the same thing that the others told me. Instead, his eyes closed. And he brought my hand to his face. For a few seconds, we stood there in silence. But it felt so much longer than that. Somehow I knew...
When you can't speak, everything becomes so much clearer. You see someone and you feel what they feel. And what I felt in him was something I had dreamed of feeling for so long. And that told me yes – I was making the right decision.
"I choose him," I said at last.
And that was that. We were all let back into our tents, but I was allowed to speak with him now. They told us that we would be back home the next morning. The rest would fall into place. I never knew what that meant.
After recovering from everything, I left my tent to go see him. I just wanted to talk to him about all this. About what we were going to do. Really, it was our time.
As I wandered around looking for him, I reached the edge of the island. The sun was setting. It seemed like everything was coming together now. But then I saw him.
He was on a boat, sailing away.
I chased after him as fast as I could, screaming his name. I couldn't go with him, or else they would die. But he couldn't leave me. Not when we were so close to finally being together... As soon as he heard me, he just went faster.
"Where are you going?" I called out in desperation, "Where are you going?"
But it was too late... He was gone. And with him, everything I knew.
I woke up the next morning back home. I didn't know how or when I ended up here. Perhaps it was a dream. But they'd told me that I would be here. And here I was. I saw him at school later that day, so if it was real, then he'd made it home. I wanted so much to ask him if he remembered, just to know if it was a dream or not, but I was so afraid that it wasn't... And he never looked at me twice. Just like before. A few times, I thought that I may have caught his gaze, and he'd looked as though he were trying to smile at me, but didn't know how anymore... And so I spent every minute of every day wondering. If his escape somehow saved us. If he shared my feelings. If they were still watching us, seeing if it was falling into place. If the other three made it. If someone else had woken up on that island, about to be forced into forever.
Yeah, an odd dream indeed. But it really stuck with me, I'd never really dreamt about that person before, at least no kind of interaction with him. And I suddenly got THIS thrown at me. The ending with him leaving seems kinda sudden when I read over it, but that was pretty much how it was in the dream. I added the whole "them" thing, how it's all some crazy conspiracy, all the circumstances that would have given me reason to be so freaked out. The way the dream went was basically me on island, game show, pick boy, crush is 4, try to pick 4, 4 brings my hand to his face, love love love, over, me go to find him, he run away, me all sad, wake up, WHAT THE HECK. But you know, less caveman-ish than that. I have no idea why I went into caveman mode just now. But it was bugging me for a while, it seemed to have some meaning behind it. I think I have it figured out, hmm.