islands (ii)

by ty

in islands (i) i stopped somewhere so i’m continuing and the link to the first part is here so go check it out if you’d like to!

I had begun a story without my much hated introductions yet I felt obliged to add this in the most cliché way possible, because that’s what I was (and at the most awkward position ever –  two chapters into the story). Perhaps this sounds ridiculous, but I wish to start by saying one mere fact about myself – my occupation was none other than being a chaser. Typically a chaser is defined as someone who goes forth and chases something. Indeed, the scale of my job did involve chasing things but one twist was that what I was seeking was not something tangible, neither was it to run on the steep path towards promotion – I chased emotions, I chased memories, I chases endings. My words sound like utter absurdity, yet I would nod and say that this is indeed a meaningful job, particularly due to its scarcity. Humans are all the same. They have their very own sets of distinct memories pieced together by things and events that stand out from the rest, at times even standing out due to its extreme ordinary traits. But they are greedy, unwilling to let any of these fluttering butterflies loose due to the heavy nostalgia strapped onto each of their frail backs, weighing them down with every passing second. Yet this hurts them, causing them to crackle to the ground gradually, before making their disappearing act permanently. This is definitely not the end people want, yet this is what they get for rash acting. Henceforth, I am useful in this case. I capture their memories for them, allowing them to open their yellowed windows to give the beautiful creatures some leeway into the nature while they can still call them back once in awhile when reminiscing the past is required. I do not call for repayment, neither do I expect returns for this job as learning about different people and their different opinions was enough. Along the way, I have met several notable individuals which teach me things as well.

The first time I met her, I watched her trudge confidently into my office on a sunny Monday clad in formal office wear, her boots giving off soothing thuds as they hit the carpet. I looked up from my computer screen to observe the unique hue of her eyes which I quickly recognised as metallic sapphire blue. As she plonked down onto the swivel chair before me with an adequate amount of grace the scent of lemongrass filled the cozy room. She flicked her bronze hair with her left hand as her accessories jingled before she spoke, “I need help.” I nodded in agreement; If she did not need help there was no reason why she would walk thus far, unless she was lost in the maze of monotonous offices. “What can I help you with then?” I twisted my fountain pen carefully in my right hand as it ached a tad bit. She shuffled uncomfortably in the seat, a gradual transition from a confident strong lady to a girl akin to a rose, though putting up a strong front, required sufficient care and attention. She ruffled her hair and slammed her palms on the table, breathing deeply. Her hair glimmered slightly under the fluorescent white light as she muttered, “Once upon an end, I learnt that I was no more than a puppet who was free for manipulation.” I asked for more details but she got u and left the room; A week later, she went missing. It was printed in block letters on the headlines of the newspapers that morning, leaving me to almost choke on my cup of coffee as I placed it on the table, wondering if there was a message waiting for me to decipher from the line she had spoken to me; or perhaps I had to consider the dejection I detected in her wavering voice; she was tired –  it remained a speculation for the moment.

The moss had grown over the entire paddle as the tint of green mixed with dark brown sifted its way through the clear water. It reminded me over and over again with the frequency of the slight water waves that through considerably atypical means, I had some sort of responsibility over the island – an island which people spoke of within a whisper, the island which I had totally no notion of whether it had been inhabited, and most of all, the reason why was it worth that little was still a little conundrum in the back of my head. The deal was made seemingly without any care with regards to the money he was receiving, almost as though he was in a hurry to wash his hands off this possession of his. Further probing into this thought brought perplexing situational possibilities which clouded my head and brought my concentration far away from the original activity I was doing for the boat jerked and I found myself staring into the dark woods which stood forcefully in a great contrast to the pale blue hue of the sand. I got off the boat and sank my feet in the sand – it was cold to touch, despite the humid weathers that hovered above the area and its fascinating colour was perchance, a striking essence of some sort of perfection. Holding the sand in my cupped hands I weighed it for no apparent reason and let them slip through my fingertips as I walked closer to the woods.

Something glimmered in the distance, as though coming from the vast field of sand. I crouched down to pick up the little bottle deeply depressed into the ground, leaving a yellowish hole beneath, where a lone little centipede crawled through – marking the first moving living creature I had seen on the island besides myself. I picked up the bottle an observed it in the sun. A cork had been fastened over the mouth of the palm-sized bottle which I later pulled out which much force. I flipped open the yellowed note – “Help; manipulation.” It had been chills, for I was reminded of everything she had said, and everything that happened that afternoon – her unique lemongrass fragrance, her pale peach button-up shirt which was paired carefully with the calmest hue of blue one could ever find on a chiffon skirt as she strutted in padding away with her brown boots; she was undoubtedly beautiful and her disappearance was too much of a mystery for me to handle. For a moment though, I could have sworn I heard faint echoes of her velvety voice in the quiet island, fighting against the sound of the woods and its wary inhabitants. Perhaps it took a few more steps about the island that I realized the entire surface of the beach had been embedded with similar glass bottles, each and every one containing notes with their own unique content. To the unknowing this might sound like one of the scenes out of an adventure book filled with tales of how a lonesome man got swept up an island after falling out of his own ship due to multiple reasons such as pirates or a storm, and how he managed to find a way to live in the most peculiar ways possible such as finding a genie in a teacup or making friends with a bunch of chimpanzees that threw random fruits at his back to catch attention. Yet the one thing that sent chills down my spine was that, after and afternoon of picking up all the bottles I could find, I noticed that the notes had an uncanny linkage to the people who came to me for help. Of course, being a chaser business is not as good as it might seem; for a month I could get no customers yet be happy with my job, doing follow-up cases for past clients. It seems like charity or free service but it made me satisfied, being the sole reason why I could get rid of my ugly cases of insomnia. Then again the next problem that came to mind was; why were these bottles here and why were they each things that my clients mentioned to me on their very first visit? It had to be somehow related to me yet never once in my memory had I stepped into this prepossessing heaven. Uncovering the last bottle sitting precariously near to the waves gave me a closer stepping stone to the answer, it bobbed slowly in the clear water and I reached down to pick it up. It was pretty obviously larger than the rest and it was by far the most delicate and intricate one for it had small jewels lying in its transparent abdomen with a pinkish yellow paper lying in it. It read ; ‘Hei was never a charitable man; but rather one who destroys souls, people who sought help, their only ending is imprisonment in this island of nightmares, of delusion, of despair.’ Well one thing for sure, yes my name was Hei.

I turned back and squinted intently at the shore back at home. I ruffled my hair and sighed in the distance; had it been a mistake to buy this island? Indeed it was alluring and I had fetched a good price yet the mysterious aura it had given out, plus the notes; they all spoke of unknown answers which did not seem the least bit pleasant. If it had been an island of nightmares delusions and despair, venturing into the forlorn woods did not seem like a wise plan to go for. I had considered looking for the old man for some assistance, a plead for at least simply the history of this island and the tales of its queer existence. Yet, he never returned – just like my clients did. They never once returned. Momentarily I felt a tee bit dejected, how everyone I came in contact with left in a jiffy, in a split second. At times I questioned my decisions in life, wondering why I had started such a foolish absurd job as a chaser, why I decided that probing into the lives of other humans interested me, why I cared for others; whoever it was, somebody out there felt that I was guilty of pushing people down the gutter into the pits of despair –  was what I was doing wrong?