We leave the camp behind and follow the beach until we find a quiet spot, just far enough away from the others so they can’t bother us, but close enough to still see them. I didn’t bring my piece of wood, I want to keep that sculpture separate, which means we have to find another piece. Or rather, two pieces, so Milan could make his own.
“So…” Milan nervously hops from one leg to another. “I guess we need wood?”
I laugh. “I guess that’s a good idea.”
“Should we find a piece in the forest?”
I think about that. “Mom told me to not go in there.”
“My mom didn’t.”
That doesn’t surprise me at all. I wouldn’t even be surprised if his mom warned his brother, but totally forgot about Milan. Of course, I don’t know them well enough to judge, but I don’t think it’s weird I came to the conclusion that the Bachmeier family like their younger son better? I make a mental note to ask about that later.
“Come on, let’s go. I don’t think anything bad will happen.”
I smile. “Well, that totally convinces me.”
Of course, whether I want to go in there or not doesn’t really matter, we need wood and we won’t find anything on the beach. We didn’t walk all the way out here to not carve any wood. Well, I would accept it if we decided to have hot sex now. Hey… I’m still a teenager, you know. And Milan is cute, so I’m sorry, the thought crossed my mind several times. Hehe.
Milan doesn’t even wait for me, he just enters the dense forest and expects me to follow him. I do, I can’t let him go there alone and risk him getting lost. How would I explain that back home. So we probably are the first of the camp to enter the forest, but of course we’ll never tell anyone.
We venture only ten meters into the wood and find a thick branch. It is too long, however, so we violently try to break it into pieces. He keeps one end of the branch up and I jump on the middle. It doesn't work, so we try again. And again.
By this time I'm sweating and panting. "This isn't working. I think we should head back to the beach. We can try to break it on those big rocks there."
"Yeah, maybe you're right."
Suddenly we hear a rustling behind us. A few seconds later we hear it again, but somewhere else. Milan and I look at each other, both with big, wide open eyes. We know this isn't the sound of the wind. It must be an animal. A big animal. My heart races., I tilt my head to hear where the sound is coming from. Slowly I move my arm and point towards the beach. Milan nods, we pick up the branch and carefully walk away, trying not to make any noise. We never went far into the woods and the moment we can see the white sand of the beach again, we both decide to do the exact same thing. We run. I drop the branch and make a dash for the seemingly safe sea. Only when my feet touch the cold water do I stop, panting.
"What was that?" Milan asks.
I shake my head. "I think it was an animal."
"But it sounded so… I don't know."
"I was so scared man. Now I know why my mom told me not to enter he forest."
Milan walks up to me and hugs me. "It's all good." He releases me. "Do you have the branch?"
I shake my head.
"Dude, we can't carve anything without it. Where did you drop it?"
"When we started running. Close to the edge of the forest."
Milan turns around and walks back to the forest.
"What are you going to do, man? Milan? You won't go back in there, right?"
He looks at me and smiles. "It's over there, I can see it. I'll just grab it and come back."
I watch him as he enters and disappears out of sight. I squint my eyes, as if somehow I'd still be able to see him.
Meanwhile, the bachelors arrived back in the camp. They were sweaty, exhausted and their bare torsos were covered with all kinds of scratches and cuts. The people from the camp surrounded them, and obviously worried, bombarded them with questions. "What happened? Did you find water? Where is Rick?".
One of the bachelors kneels down in the sand. "We don't know where Rick is. There were people. People on the island. They attacked us. We don't know what happened after that. We ran. Rick… we thought he was with us. I think… he should be here any minute."
Elisah put a hand on his shoulder. "We should search for him," she told the others.
"There are dangerous people here. He just told us," Oliver replies.
Elisah shrugs. "Rick is one of us. He would help any of us if needed."
"We don't know how many there are or what they want. Let's hear these guys out first. We need to know what exactly happened, where they were and so on." William, the nurse, finally speaks up, even though he tends to be quiet in these kind of situations. "People on the island, for fuck's sake. Were they… like… us? Or aboriginals. Well, you know what I mean."
"They wore weird clothes, had dark skin and carried some kind of spears," another bachelor says. "I guess this is their island."
"It’s as if we're stuck in some kind of fantasy story.!"
A fantasy story; that is exactly what it felt like on that island. Even when I'm trying to remember everything now, it still feels like I'm making it up. But I promise you, what I'm writing must be close to the truth. Of course, they are just my memories and, yes, I know they tend to change over the years, but the emotions that go with the memories are very real. And I know I should've trusted you, talked to you. You would have understood me, you could have helped. But I'm stupid, Tom, that's what the hard lesson called 'life' taught me. I just want you to know this story isn't an excuse for what I did to you. Whatever may have happened to me in the past is no reason to have treated you the way I did. This is merely an explanation. I don't want you back or anything, but I do want your memory of me to be positive. We had a great time together.
The way I keep explaining it to myself is: if someone else treated me the way I treated you, I would've left me too. Even though their story probably wouldn't be as weird as mine. I don't know what I'm trying to say. I guess if all this was reversed, I would try to forgive you. I can only hope you can do the same for me.
You already know nothing happened to Milan, I already told you he was one of the few survivors. So, here it goes.
All of a sudden Milan's head pops out of the dense forest. He wears a huge smile. "I got it!"
"Good, now get out of there before you get devoured by some fearsome animal."
He jumps out and runs towards me, dragging the branch behind him, leaving a trail in the sand. "You were genuinely worried, weren't you?"
"Of course I was. We just heard weird noises and you decide to go back in."
He smiles. "That's sweet."
Trying to keep from blushing, I say: "You're crazy." I kick some sand towards him. "Now give me the branch, I'll break it in two."
"Show me what you got, warrior." Milan laughs.
He shrugs. "My aunt used to call me warrior. I thought it was a nice nickname."
"She passed away last year. I was really close to her."
An aunt that called him warrior. I wonder if she was the only family member he was close to. "Well, let's honor her by making the most beautiful carving that ever existed." I smile and realise I want to ask him about his relationship with his family, but I also know this isn't the right time.
While trying to break the branch I keep thinking about something Milan said. I really was worried about him, wasn't I? I mean, more than I should've been with a random guy I met on an island we're both stranded on. My heart really raced when I couldn't see him. I don't want that. I want to care about him, but only as a friend.
At some point we decide to put one side of the branch against a large rock and jump on the middle together. That was enough to break the branch, launching one piece upwards and hitting Milan in the face.
"Ooph." He drops to the ground.
"Milan, are you alright?"
He laughs. "Kinda, I guess? I never expected to get injured while wood carving."
"I never said it was a safe sport." I help him get up and notice a small trace of blood on his left cheek. I take a tissue out of my pocket and wipe it away. In any other situation I would've thought it was inappropriate to get this close to someone who I've been secretly developing feelings for, but he was bleeding, so I guess I could make an exception. While cleaning his cheek and being so close to him, feeling his breath and seeing his pouting lips I almost feel an urge to kiss him.
But I don't, of course. I can control my emotions pretty well considering I'm a teenager.
"So, now teach me how to carve." He smiles.
"Yes. So… we have to cut away the bark first. I brought these tools. They aren't the best, but I think they will do." I show him the screwdriver, nails and sharp pieces of metal Paul found. "Make sure you don't cut yourself with these pieces of metal, as they are sharp on all edges. Push the metal away from you, so when you slip it won't, you know, stab you in the heart."
"Woah, you're afraid I might get injured all of a sudden. Don't you want to clean up any other wounds I get?" he teases.
I blush slightly. Of course I would want to, but I don't want him to get hurt in order to touch him. "Let's try to make it only one cut a day, okay?"
"Well then, let's get started."
Stripping the branch of its thick bark jacket takes longer than I expected. When we're finally done, the sun is diving towards the ocean. We decide to walk back to camp. As we're getting close, we notice someone approaching us carefully. It's Casey.
"Ryan! Milan! Oh, there you are. We've been looking for you!" she shouts.
I run the last part towards her, Milan following me closely. "Why? I told mom I was going to carve wood."
"Please, come with me. Everyone was worried." She puts her hands on our shoulders and pushes us back to the camp. Everyone looks at us as we enter the camp. I feel a little embarrassed by the concern. I hate to be that kid, the one wandering off. Especially as my mother looks like she has been through hell.
I hug her. "Mom. What happened?"
"It's the bachelors. They came back. But Rick is missing."
"There are other people on the island. Dangerous people!"
I glance at Milan and see we're thinking the same thing. That noise in the bushes. Could it have been… No. It wasn't the sound of a human, right? A shiver runs down my spine.
Everyone already had dinner, but there was some left for us. I'm eating it quietly while my mother tells me everything that has happened. She wanted to go look for me, but Elisah decided no one was allowed to leave the camp. Tomorrow we would look for things to use as weapons and we were going to have guards around the camp all day and night. Everyone is freaked out. And even though we have been stuck on the island for four days now, I never felt unsafe. Until now.
I'm sorry this was a short chapter. Next one will be longer!
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