Part I here.
I’ve left the island. It was a risk, but I had to do it. I spent a long time building this raft I’m sitting on, and my work has been rewarded with relatively calm seas so far. The little disheveled puppy cuddles up to me, sheltering himself from the cold of the sea breeze. I found him on the island while looking for food and couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him on that small, isolated place all alone.
I’d built this raft we’re both sitting on from logs I’d found in the undergrowth of the small jungle that had been on the island. I’d used my hunting knife to cut off any protruding branches from them and cut the larger ones down for a more uniform platform and tied them together with some rope I had in my pockets. The smaller logs make for less space on this raft, but I’ve been able to bring some fruit from the island’s trees and the puppy along with me, so it could have been worse.
I’m using an oar I made from a long tree branch and some leftover wood from the fires I’d built all throughout my time there. I push the oar into the water, groaning as the waves resist the force of the thrust. The raft gains some speed from this as I take a moment to look up at the weather.
It’s still sunny, but I can see storm clouds gathering at the edge of the horizon. I watch as they move over one another, keeping more or less together in a small, uniform mass. I gulp nervously and look down at the puppy.
“I hope it’s the thing that got me into this mess,” I say. “Then maybe I can give it a taste of its own medicine.”
The puppy whimpers and moves closer to me in response. I sit down.
“Don’t worry,” I tell him. “I’m not leaving you alone.”
I pet him, more to soothe my own anxieties than his. I find myself looking back at that uniform cloud mass. The dog can’t see the tears forming in my eyes, but I know he understands where my feelings have traveled in the calm. I feel his fur tickle my left leg, but I am too lost in my own memories to respond to it.
Going to college had been a strategy to move forward with my life. As I said, I’d hoped to learn more about myself, but the time during which I’d made that decision had been rough. I mean, how do you move past the disappearance of your own little brother?
Tyler had been the free spirit of the family, always getting into trouble, only to get out of it simply by falling back on his own jovial nature. Even when he got in trouble, it never affected him for long. I had just entered high school that last year, and I vividly remember playing ball with him in the backyard.
His baseball glove had been a gift from our dad, who always loved to take us to games and show us how the sport was played. I was always the weird kid who’d never really gotten into the game and preferred to stick his nose in a book, but Tyler loved sports of all kinds. I used to play ball with him on summer evenings when the sun was hot and bright, leaving us sweating through our shirts on the makeshift field we’d set up in the backyard. We would use cardboard cutouts as stand-ins for other players on the field, since neither of us were especially good at making friends and use towels as the bases. It was always a time of fun and laughs when we played on that field.
Then, one day, he arrived, robbing us of our fun times and me of my little brother.
I didn’t see what had happened beforehand. I don’t know if Tyler had tried to reason with him and, when that failed, tried to fight him off when he didn’t leave. All I remember is hearing muffled voices and then Tyler screaming for me as I played videogames in my room.
“HELP!” I can still hear his high-pitched prepubescent voice tearing through the house in the memory. “HELP! PLEASE!”
I got to the landing to see a tall man standing in the open doorway. The red glow I saw emanating from his eyes is imprinted on my memory now, and it’s hard now not to compare it to Zack’s eyes just moments before I’d been hurled into this mess. Tyler was struggling in his grasp, and I remember rushing him to try and get Tyler away. He backhanded me across the face before I could do anything, and the force of the strike knocked me to the floor. I remember him pointing at me, and then the feeling of ropes tying me down. I have no idea where they came from, but it doesn’t matter now. I was forced to watch as the stranger spirited away with my brother, helpless to do anything as his screams died away.
The tears are falling down my face now and I can’t stop myself from letting out choking sobs. It never occurred to me until now that what took me away from everything may have also taken my brother as well. Whatever this thing was, it clearly was able to wield an enormous amount of control over the people it chose to do its dirty work.
My parents don’t know exactly what’d happened the day Tyler disappeared. At the time, they’d been out running errands and left me in charge of him. We contacted the police, but in their search, they never found a trace of the man who had taken him. With the void having taken me, I now understand why.
I look down at the puppy. “I have to fix this,” I say.
I row on in silence, determined to reach dry land again – with people nearby. It’s a risk, but I am determined to find Tyler. It means I also have to find the void that sent me here. I just hope it’s not too late.