Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Writing Without a Net: Convergence, ch. 1

Remember how I said I was going to update this thing with my writing?  It goes a little something like this:  


For all that they didn’t want to admit it, news, especially gossip and rumors, spread quickly among the survivors of Oceanic flight 815.  It always seemed that someone was constantly getting into something here in this place.  Certainly, there seemed to be those whose hands were in just about everything, but I wasn’t one of those.  In fact, my fingers weren’t really in any pies, at least not for the time being.            
                Everyone here seems a little preoccupied by everyone else’s backgrounds, and I’ve certainly had plenty of time to think about my own, so I guess I could stand to share a little.  My name is Tristan Gardner.  I’m from Chicago.  Oceanic flight 815 was supposed to take me to a connecting flight in L.A.  Guess I missed my connection.  If you had seen me on the plane, I was the one blithely gluing rhinestones onto a shoe.  I was telling everyone that I was a competitive ballroom dancer, but that was before I knew I’d be stuck living with them for months.  If I’d have known that, I probably would have told them the truth to begin with.  I’m a burlesque dancer.  I flew to Australia to perform in my very first international burlesque festival.  My performance went really well, by the way.  Too bad my costume is probably now scattered across the entire island.  Every once in a while, I imagine someone (probably one of those Others) stumbling across my bejeweled panties dangling off some tree.  Quite frankly, I’d like to be there when it happens.  Well, maybe not if it’s one of the Others. 
                Speaking of Others, that brings me back to the beginning.  Gossip and rumors had been swirling around the margins of our little beach camp.  Dr. Jack and all the cool kids were trying their best to keep it quiet, and I understood why.  Only one of two things would happen if 40-odd people found out there was an Other trapped in the hatch.  They’d either kill it, angry-mob style, or they’d dissolve into anarchy at the proposition that certain individuals were withholding information, presumably for the good of the group.  Fortunately for me, I wasn’t terribly invested in either of those outcomes.  I knew enough to know that the Others were far from harmless, but my interest in this hushed headline had much more to do with curiosity and less with anger or revenge than most of my fellow survivors. 
                I had kept mostly to myself since the beginning, since I knew enough about myself to know that I process trauma and stress best alone.  I wasn’t as isolated and introverted as some, but while Kate and Sawyer and Jack did… Kate and Sawyer and Jack, I preferred to keep my own company.  I might not even be here to tell you this story, if it weren’t for the fact that Fate is a funny thing.  Maybe the Island had a plan for me after all.  As luck would have it, Claire and Charlie found themselves on the outs not long before my story began, and Charlie moved into a shelter barely within earshot of me.  Assuming I was clever and curious (which I was), and stealthy (which I… probably was not, if we’re honest), I could hear more than the strumming of his guitar at night.  Sometimes, I got advance notice of the juicy tidbits of news that wouldn’t filter down to the nobodies like myself for another few days. 
                It really began the day I found my shoe.  You remember I mentioned I was rhinestoning a shoe on the plane.  Well, in my desperation to get a death grip on that ever-so-useless seat-bottom-flotation-device they tout the merits of in every preflight announcement, I must have let go of the shoe at some point in our descent.  To be honest, I was too busy flirting with death to remember.  But I must have held onto that sucker for a good long time though, because I found it barely a half hour’s trek into the jungle, just dangling seductively from a stalk of bamboo.  It had glittered mockingly in the sunlight and I almost had a heart attack at first, convinced it was the glint in the eye of yet another inexplicable polar bear.  In truth, I don’t even know why I took it back to camp with me, it wasn’t like I was ever going to find the other one, and even if I did, what was I gonna do with them, perform USO shows at the coconut cantina?
                But I did take it with me, and that evening I slipped it out of my shelter and sat by the firelight, turning it over and over in my hands, letting the jet rhinestones flare and flicker in the setting sun.  That’s when I heard them.  Voices.  Charlie and Sayid, sitting barely on the other side of the sandy ridge that separated camp from the tide line.  Their timbre mingled with the crashing of the waves and was half lost, but as I strained to hear, I heard the unmistakable words drop from Sayid’s lips. 
                “There is a man down in the hatch…”
                My ears perked, begging whatever wild force that governed this island to still the waves that obscured their conversation. 
                “…He was one of them.  One of the Others.” 
                I don’t remember what else was said that evening, because I felt my whole self consumed with such intense curiosity.  I knew the gravity of the decision to imprison someone.  I knew that such a decision could shatter the fragile utopian society that we were still clinging to the illusion that we were creating.  But, more than anything, I was terribly curious about what this man, this Other looked like. 
                The only Other I had ever seen was Ethan, but, of course, I hadn’t known about his Otherness when I had seen him, spoken to him.  Even now, barely weeks after he had been outed and shot, I was hard pressed to remember what he looked like.  Hard pressed to remember if there was anything about him that I might have sensed, half-sensed, that might have marked his Otherness in hindsight.  I wanted to see this mysterious man to assure myself that there really was a difference between their savagery and our own. 
                I didn’t sleep that night, but sat up long into the darkness, watching the stars swirl in their most unusual trails across the night sky, formulating my desire to see this captive of ours, to judge his Otherness for myself. 
                By the time the bright shafts of island sunlight pierced the shabby walls of my shelter, I had realized the only thing for me to do was to find a way to get into the hatch.  Now, the first thing you should probably know about the hatch is that it’s about as easy to get into as Studio 54.  Dr. Jack and everybody else who sat at the cool kids’ table had all been there, and I knew of a select few besides who had successfully petitioned for a shower or clean laundry.  However even those requests were being swept aside now, rotation schedules changed, quietly reducing the number of personnel down to the bare minimum.  Still, I had to try. 
                I remembered someone mentioning coffee.  It had been just long enough that I had resigned myself to the reality that I would never again taste the sweet, sweet drug that was a Starbucks mocha, but the possibility of a real cup of strong coffee with fresh cream seemed like the perfect excuse to make the trip to the Hatch.  At first, I considered finding an escort, but thought better of it.  Dr. Jack and John Locke had been increasingly at odds, especially when it came to the hatch and it’s… contents, so I elected to obtain roundabout permission some other way. 
                “Hey Hurley.”  I sidled up to the camp kitchen, where Hurley was quietly slicing mangoes. 
                “Oh.  Hey.”
                “So… You got a bunch of these supplies from the Hatch, right?”  …Way to be subtle, Tris.
                “…Yeah.”  Great.  He was on to me. 
                “Well…” I wheedled, “I hear there might be some coffee down there.  Any idea who I  might have to bribe for a cup?”
                “I dunno, dude.”  Hurley said, suddenly uncertain.  “Mango?”
                “No thanks”
                “Listen, uh… there’s coffee down there, but I don’t really think you should go over there right now.  The, uh, washing machine is broken.  There’s… uh… water everywhere.”
                “Hurley, do you really think a little water is going to keep me away from the siren song of caffeine?”
                “If you say so, dude.”
                “Great.  Thanks!”  And with that, I took off.
                “Uh… Wait!” I heard him call, distantly.  I was already gone. 
                I was distantly familiar with the path to the Hatch, but I had never traveled it before.  It was longer than I had anticipated, winding and contemplative through the saw grass and underbrush.  As the rustling of the trees lulled my brain and dulled my urgency, it occurred to me that this whole idea was a fool’s errand.  Wasn’t the whole point that the Others looked just like us?  Could hide among us and pass as us at any time?  What did I need to see one for?  Yet, something urged me forward.  This same curiosity that tugged at me the night before, which whipped my brain into a frenzy of dreams, this singular, obsessive thought invaded me.  It was as if the hand of Fate itself was pushing me down the jungle path.  I had to put a face on the faceless enemy.  I was tired of fearing the rustling of leaves and the whispers that might lie behind them.  If I was going to continue to be as apprehensive as I was told I should be, I wanted to know why.  But the late-morning sun soon banished my distant but sudden fear of whispers in the jungle and I was mercifully spared running into either Dr. Jack or John Locke on the journey, narrowly avoiding awkwardly explaining why my taste for coffee had suddenly overpowered my disdain for human companionship. 
                I was greeted at first by what appeared to be a cold, concrete bunker.  Distantly, however, the merry sound of bubbly, 70’s pop music beckoned me onward into a warmly lit space.  As predicted, a pot of coffee was brewing on the countertop, cream and sugar laid out enticingly nearby.  The room was empty. 
                The golden light drew me back to Chicago, where I had spent innumerable afternoons huddled in some coffeeshop or other, wood-paneled or exposed-bricked and teeming with tiny tables or dated armchairs.  I helped myself to a cup and withdrew to the tiny booth at one end of the room.  The artificial sunlight was unexpectedly warm and inviting and I found myself basking in its glow.  In my haste to sink into caffeinated bliss, I almost entirely forgot the real purpose of my visit. 
                In fact, I might not have accomplished my actual goal at all, so lost was I in my illusion of home, were it not for the fact that the record on its turntable fell suddenly silent, the return arm swinging dutifully away and settling back into its cradle.  The silence jolted me back to the present and I rose, curious once more.  I approached the turntable, flipping the record and carefully resetting the needle.                            As the music once again blared to life, the door immediately to my right swung open with a bang, and I found myself face to face with John Locke, eyes blazing. 
                “What are you doing here?” he asked, after a beat.  He had drawn himself up to his full height, towering over me. 
                “I, uh… I heard there was coffee…” I sputtered, indicating the cup in my hands.  It wasn’t until that moment that I realized I had walked right into my opportunity.  Chancing a glance away from Locke’s imposing expression, I saw a glimpse of movement.  My eyes darted into the half-light beyond him, and my gaze was greeted by the intent stare of our unexpected houseguest. 
                He was far slighter than I had expected, small and thin and dirty, his face a patchwork of bruises and his hands bound to the floor.  But his eyes were unsettlingly blue, and they pierced into me such that, even if I had wanted to look away, I couldn’t have.  It was like being struck by lightning.  They were filled with confusion and, as time moved infinitely slowly, with each inch the door closed, an ever-increasing hunger.  He broke my gaze briefly, glancing up at Locke, then returned to my face.  Transfixed, I soon found myself looking at nothing but concrete, the only relief from the spell of those strange, insatiable blue eyes. 
“I think maybe you should go back to the beach.” Locke’s tone was firm. 
“So… I’m guessing the café is officially closed.”  I murmured.  Locke simply shifted, nodding imperceptibly toward the door. 
John Locke stared after her for a long time, emotions mingling between rage, terror, confusion.  This had not been part of the plan.
The man they called Henry Gale sat silently for a long moment after Locke had shut the door in his face.  He was still staring at her, even though all he could see now was dimly-lit steel.  He was flipping through his mental rolodex, flashing through names, passport photos, his nimble mind searching the manifest of Oceanic 815. 
                He heard the distant sound of the needle scratching off of a record suddenly, followed at length by a new song, now blaringly loud.
                “John?” He called, after a beat.  He was greeted only with silence.  After a moment, he allowed his shoulders to slump awkwardly.


You can also find Convergence archived here.

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