As the sun lowered itself to the horizon, little droplets of water started to moisten the air. A gust sifted through the leaves and rolled along the bodies of passed-out drunkards throughout the resort. Maybe it was just his head, but Burt felt that something was wrong.
He followed the older man who was walking now at a brisk pace a few feet ahead of him. The man muttered to himself. It wasn’t too long ago that Burt thought that the man was some sort of authority on the island, making sure that its patrons bent to the will of the island. But it was clearer now that he was just a strange old man and a prisoner like Burt. He wondered how long had he been here, and where he was taking him if he even knew.
“It’s around here somewhere…somewhere…always moving it…I remember things…everyone seems to forget things around here…but I remember things…”
Burt could only speculate what he meant by this. Perhaps, the occupants of this island experience amnesia and forget that they are prisoners. Then what does that mean for Burt? Was he able to somehow “remember”? And what about that long, long period of aloneness. He was alone on this island for quite a while before everyone just started to appear. None of this made sense. He was also getting tired of walking.
“What are you looking for,” Burt asked. “And what do you mean by ‘remember things’?” But the older man just grunted.
“They try to trick me. They make me think I’m the security of this island. Try to give me this power. But it’s not power,” he said. But this didn’t seem like a reply to Burt, but more mutterings to no one but himself. Burt was tempted to ditch him, but he was afraid of aggravating him. And he was still curious as to where he was leading him, if anywhere.
However, the rain started coming down harder, and the sky darkened. Pretty soon they will be cold and wet and unable to see. But his guide did not seem deterred by this, his mutterings getting louder and louder.
Meanwhile, Rachel, with the corner of her eye, watched the rain gather on the window. She thought about Cathy, her sister, he was probably all alone in bed, writhing in pain. Then she looked back at Gerald who was asleep. He looked so peaceful like a child. There were certain things she was liked about him, even admired, but she knew she never loved him. But he was there and was, for the most part, a positive part in her life. That was until her sister started getting sick again. Then it became a tug-of-war. Part of her knew it was silly, that she could just abandon both of them and live her own life. But she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do that. Cathy needed her, and she was still married to Gerald who she still liked somewhat.
All these things were interrupted though by something. She didn’t know what it was, but her mind caught it, if only for a brief moment. A snatch of something ineffable. She stood-up and walked to the window slowly. She didn’t know what it was. She tried to focus on it, but her mind would blur. It was as if her comprehension was unable to fill-in the details that were there. All she could say was that it seemed like a shadow. But even that was inaccurate. But whatever it was, it shook on the ground, writhing in the light just before disappearing. That’s when she started remembering.
In the distance, the older man yelled out, “Yes! Here it is! I knew it! I remembered!” He ran over to what appeared to be a metal door angled from the ground. His hands clasped for the latch and pulled. “Come! Help, you bastard!” Without thinking, Burt ran over and tried to help. The two pulled the latch, but it barely budged. The rain was now coming down hard. The wind was fierce. After a moment of struggle, Burt backed-off and watched as the older man continued.
“Gah!” Then he started banging on it. “I know you’re in there! I’ve been here before! Open up, you bastards!” The man pulled and punched at the door. But the door did not open. No one responded. Burt was tired and wet, and he couldn’t watch this any longer. Soon, the old man was all by himself, yelling and cursing at a door in the jungle.
Rachel sat by Gerald on the bed, watching him. Even in the dark glow of the night she was able to see his contented face. She knew he was dreaming of something, something he never had.
Rachel was starting to remember this island and everyone’s roles on it. And she remembered when Tom had, once or twice, explained that none of them were real. It was hard to believe, of course, but there was no escaping it. Rachel and Gerald and everyone else were merely parts of a program, designed with the memories of others. They were there to make this place seem more real for any “actual” human that visited. But this program was in the early stages and required constant reboots and updates. And with every reboot, she would forget everything Tom told her. Or almost everything. A memory, a word, may come here and there, which was strange since she was simply lines of code with a set pattern and behavior.
But she wasn’t angry about it. She remembered when she once was. How Gerald was angry. But then he laughed. She couldn’t believe that he would laugh. Now it made more sense. She looked-down at Gerald again, watched as his eyes moved underneath their lids, running to and fro through memories that weren’t his. She hoped Cathy, whoever she truly was or if she was even real, was okay.
Suddenly, the sun was back up and the resort was empty and clean. The rooms were empty except for one. Burt turned in his bed and noticed a platter of fruit on the table. He rolled out and grabbed the card. “Welcome,” the card said. He sighed and slowly shoved the platter off the table.
He wandered the resort. It was empty once again. Burt tried to find a new theory for all this, but his mind couldn’t grasp on anything. He felt like an animal, tired and confused, meandering in its large cage. Soon, he found himself at the service desk. He pressed his hand against the bell. Suddenly, a man entered. Burt was surprised by this.
“‘Sup,” Tom greeted.
Burt didn’t know how to respond. But, finally, he said, “I want to go home.”
Tom rubbed his nose. “But you’re already home.”
Burt’s eyes widened. His heart nearly stopped.
“Well, at least for a while longer,” he said. “It’s not finished yet.”
“…Is this an experiment?”
Tom shrugged. “I guess you could call it that. You may not remember this, but you participated and you can’t exit prematurely. Things will go awry.”
Burt rested his head on the counter. “I want to go home…”
“Sorry dude,” Tom said.
Meanwhile, in Burt’s room, the entity came, placed the platter back on the table, generated some fruit and slid off to another part of the island that needed tending to. For it had no other choice.
The final installment for the A-Z Challenge. Inspired by the song “Zoo Eyes” by Aldous Harding.