Note: * whee * The last chapter!! It had to end someday... trust me, it wasn't easy to let go (well, I don't have to let go of LOTF – we're watching the 63 movie and I still have fanfiction to read!). There might be an epilogue, but I'm not sure. I let some things open, because that's how I wanted them to remain, they're the questions I don't dare to answer, such as... well read it after the END!
16 First Light Of Morning
Ralph woke to a sight that was familiar, but he couldn't place it. Red-orange shapes dancing on a black, rough surface. The flickering shadows were dazing, as was the damp and exhausted feeling of his body, the material on which he was laying, the muted howling sounds.
The sparkling fire was casting long shadows on the walls and ceiling of the spacious cave. Ralph lay on his thin mattress of straw, as quietly as possible. It was like a nightmare when you have recognised it as one: you know it is not real, and yet you fear it.
Jack and Roger had returned together. They hadn't been alone though. The twins were with them. They prepared the meat for Roger and their chief, and then they ate together, talking excitedly about something... Ralph couldn't really concentrate on it.
"We'll see you tomorrow," one of the twins said. They stood up, but suddenly Roger pulled one of them back, so roughly he fell on his knees. The fallen one said nothing, but the one still standing made a move towards Roger.
"He stays here," Roger stated.
"Haven't you heard Roger?"
"He.. yes, my chief," the twin answered, and left reluctantly, grinding his teeth. Ralph saw all this through half closed lids. The left twin remained crouched on the ground.
"Good boy," Roger said. Jack snorted. Ralph wondered who was meant with that.
"See, I've trained him quite well," Roger said. They sniggered. Trained? Did they have a pet now? This island was madness. But Ralph was intrigued. He opened his eyes further.
"Why about him? Why don't you train him?"
"He's batty. Tried to, but it's no use."
"Well, you could let me.."
"I said no, Roger," Jack answered, sounding the least bit irritated.
"Then why keep him?"
Ralph understood. He was meant.
"I do what I want to do!" Jack said proudly.
"How sweet..," Roger teased. "You spare the little loony..."
"Shut up!" Jack barked.
"Your loss." Roger grabbed the kneeling boy by his neck and shook him roughly.
"Water," he snarled.
The twin staggered to the end of the cave to fetch some. He came close to Ralph, but didn't look at him. Ralph noticed purple bruises on him. Roger snatched the water from the twin and gulped it down.
"But he doesn't only fetch water. Want to see?"
"Sure," Jack said gruffly.
"Have you heard him, Eric? Your chief wants to be entertained by us. Why don't you show him something?" Roger's eyes darted around the room and Ralph wished to melt with the ground.
"Eric, take that coal. No, not that one. The red one."
"But I haven't –"
"It's burning!" Roger jumped to his feet and kicked the boy angrily.
"I told you to pick up that piece of coal! Why haven't you picked it up?" Jack sat in a comfortable sprawl, looking highly amused.
"Do it, Eric," Roger hissed. Eric complied. He reached out with a trembling hand, wincing when he came into contact with the still live coal. He started to sob and wail, but he lifted it out of the fire. Ralph lay frozen, his eyes wide.
Screaming. Roger grabbed Eric's hair and stared into his eyes. The boy made a sound that was so horrible that Ralph felt like his hart was ripped out of him. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried no to hear the laughing and these sickening screams.
Jack bent over him and lightly touched his shoulder. He was tired himself, but Ralph looked awful. His face was pallid and twisted by fear. He blinked slowly. Small droplets of sweat were running down his forehead.
"Wake up," Jack said as gently as possible. He wanted to make up for his earlier behaviour, wanted to thank Ralph and ask for his forgiveness. Ralph's words seemed right and very welcome now. He wanted to hear them again. You have to forget.
Slowly Ralph turned his head and looked at him. His eyes were voids. Then he shook his head lightly.
"Jack," he rasped and sat up. "We're at Castle Rock?" Jack nodded eagerly. Ralph looked around. He drew his knees to his chest and shivered.
"There's still that storm..."
A small fire was burning near them, Jack had lit it with the remains of the old fire that had burned here when this had been the Chief's residence during their early days. Ralph recalled the day's events and now understood the dull ache in many parts of his body, as well as Jack's uneasy looks. But these things seemed already faraway. Another memory was for more vivid now. Old images, suppressed for a long time, were floating at the edges of his consciousness. He rubbed his temples. He felt strange, glowing.
"Batty," he whispered. Jack looked concerned. Ralph gazed intently at him. There were things one had to forget... but some things you can't forget... you better not forget... He crawled over to the taller boy, who was sitting on his heels. Their faces were close.
When did he change so much? When did he learn to care? He touched Jacks cheek and let his hand sink down again.
"I had a dream, just now... did you know that I had forgotten a lot of these last four years? I just didn't want to know it. But here... I think I remembered an evening in this cave, with you, and Roger.. and Eric." Jack sucked in a noisy breath. Ralph's frown was pained. "How much did you know about Roger and Eric?"
Jack looked to the ground.
"You knew it all along.. from the very first night... you knew it continued? You knew and tolerated that Roger tormented Eric without any reason? You knew it all the years.. while we were together, you knew that.. you knew it when you beat up Roger... didn't you care? Or do you only care for me?"
Silence, the silence of rain and wind and cracking fire. They stared at each other.
"Please Jack. Don't you feel anything for Eric?"
The red hair fell into Jack's face as he dropped his head further. His cheeks burned hotly, as did his eyes.
"I didn't .." he choked. Then he raised his head stubbornly. His freckled face was tense and twisted.
"What about you? You knew it as well... but you were a madman, you didn't have to care! For you it's okay to just forget, but for me it's not?" He regretted the words even while he said them. Ralph blinked in shock.
"Are you saying I forgot because I'm a coward?" he asked hollowly. He stared into the half-light of the cave.
"I hate this. I'd like to hit you now, you know that?"
"Do it," Jack huffed.
"Do you feel bad for what you did then?" he asked quietly, ignoring the stupid request.
"Not for all of it," it came defiantly.
"For what, then?"
"For never listening to you. For hunting you."
"For killing Simon," he admitted.
"Nothing else?" Jack looked desperate.
"I don't feel sorry for killing Fatty, if that's what you want. I mean, I know it was wrong and I shouldn't have done it, but I didn't tell Roger to kill him. It wasn't me. And I didn't like him, no matter what happened." Ralph said nothing and looked to the ground. He hadn't forgotten his feelings. He hadn't liked Piggy as well, but in the end...
"But everything was different, then! We were all so... the longer we were here, the more it felt right to do what I did. The lesser I thought about what I did, the lesser I cared, the lesser I thought at all. Everything felt like dancing and singing and hunting, totally right, totally great. But with time these things became trivial. They have lost their glamour.. they seem stupid like children's play now. Other things began to matter... you...," Jack's gaze had become so intense Ralph couldn't avoid it any longer.
Jack found that Ralph looked almost old for his age, his face exhausted and worn out by years of strain and sorrow. Despite his youth and softness he seemed somehow jaded, as if his body was only carried by his will and not it's own strength. It made his own distress seem irrelevant, and he longed to just take him into his arms and hold him. He knew, in this moment, that he could never bear to loose Ralph's affection.
"But you couldn't bring myself to end it. You just couldn't. If you had done that, you would have admitted that you had been wrong. You'd have had to explain – to face them...You thought it was okay! You thought you all were okay the way it was, so why change it?" Jack nodded.
He felt still raw and bitter, still downcast. He knew he loved Jack, no matter what he was, but love didn't feel as stainless as it once had. It did feel quite real now. He put his arms around Jack's still body and kissed him on the lips. Jack didn't respond. They looked each other in the eyes.
"You've changed. I really hope so.. I believe it. You will not do such things again," Ralph said very softly, lips brushing against lips. A command, a question, a promise, an invocation. Slowly Jack put his arms around Ralph.
They slept like this for hours, pressed against each other, dreamless. The warmth of their bodies made the dampness and cold go away, their breathing slow and steady. The fire burned down and the storm ceased to blow. In the morning, before the first light silence was peaceful as ever.
They were already awake for some time, listening to the silence and twilight. Then Ralph sat up, freeing himself from the firm embrace and left the cave for some minutes. Jack got up as well.
"The storm is gone," remarked Ralph when he came back. "Hopefully nobody's been hurt. Do we have good shelters these days?" Jack nodded.
"Do you think Eric will be alright?" he asked and sounded almost anxious. Ralph would have liked to believe he was feeling bad for the twins, but he rather thought not. Probably it was a more selfish reason... but you often have selfish reasons for wishing others well. He shrugged and leaned against a rock.
"I don't know," he said thoughtfully. "He'll need some time, I guess. If he stays away from Roger... maybe he'll one day recover. But... I think what he lived through was worse than what I.. if you understand." He looked away, to the dead fire. "Eric's not as strong as I am." Was he strong? The words had slipped so easily.. But he wasn't. If he had been strong he would never have forgotten these things. If he had been strong, he would have helped Eric then and there.
"And if he doesn't?"
Ralph sighed and looked sadly at Jack. "You'll have to live with that. What we do... is forever. Some things are forgiven... some are not."
"We better get going and look for the others," Jack replied, not knowing what else to say. Ralph nodded. They left the cave and Castle Rock, and when they passed the place where Ralph and his few friends had once stood to face the tribe, Ralph stopped.
"There's something I've got to do," he said quietly. He looked around and then went for the forest and thickets. He picked flowers on his way, placing them solemnly in a bunch. A calming, soothing thing to do. He chose small one's, even some of the white buds that made him recall a light and excited voice, telling him that they looked like candles.. He returned with them, walking on until he reached small cliff where Piggy had fallen to death. He looked down at the square rock between the waves, trying not to picture the broken body on it. Then he raised his eyes to look at the horizon, at the splendid new sun that was spreading it's light on a clean washed sky. He still held the flowers in his hand, not yet willing to let them go.
Jack stayed silently behind. He knew that Ralph needed to be alone, that he had no right to take part in this. The fair boy stood very lonely on the edge of the cliff, tall and delicate. The remains of clothes were playing softly around his body in the morning breeze, his long hair dancing in the wind. Almost slowly the flowers descended into the ocean.After a long time he turned around. His face was glistening. He wiped the tears away, and walked back to Jack. Wordless they left the place behind, glad to leave it.
And in the first light of morning they made their way through the white sand, the shimmering waves stretching endlessly before them. Paradise was where they were, peaceful and radiant after the storm as it had never been before. Softly the palm trees were swinging in the breeze, a fresh smell of earth and plants came from the forest. Everything was full of promises.
Ralph was walking some feet before Jack, his face against the fresh current, breathing the day's beauty. His head was full of thoughts about good and evil, of sadness and joy. He felt incredibly alive, unable to believe in something like 'evil'. There was no such thing. Things were just what they were, neither good nor evil, but beautiful in their own right. He wanted to stay where he was.
I have come to a conclusion...This is the only reality I have. So I will live it...
Maybe it was not a bad one. Maybe it was not necessary to leave it, it was good to stay here. Because they had found their way..
Jack wanted to say something, but Ralph seemed so remote, so far away, as he walked on the beach. He seemed to be lost in thought, totally alone in the world. He just had bidden farewell to his killed friends, and maybe he was alone, totally alone in the entire world now. Jack wanted to be his friend. Not only to love him, but to be his friend. Ralph should never be lonely. For him he desperately wanted to undo what he had done. Around this person all the shining possessions lost their glamour. He was the only thing he really feared to lose. Suddenly the fair boy turned around. His eyes were bright and shining with life, looking directly into Jack's.
"We're saved," Ralph said. Jack blinked in confusion at this strange déjà-vu. He made a move to say something, but Ralph laughed lightly, freeing himself from the burden of his emotions. His voice sounded ever so clearly, unblemished like a child's voice, but steady like a man's. He danced in the sand, feeling ever so light, so relieved...
"We're saved, Jack," he repeated and flung himself into Jack's arms. "We've saved ourselves. We're finally saved...."
And in the brilliant morning sun the two boys walked along the beach, happy to be alive and alright with the world.
Well, that's it! The END. A happy one, of course. This ends where it begins.. As I said before, this story is somehow like an answer to the way the world was painted in LOTF. I don't know if there really is hope, myself, and I often doubt it. That's why I didn't tell what will happen to Eric, or if the prison will work for Roger. Things are never totally alright, but for Jack and Ralph they are, for now at least. Maybe one day I'll write another piece for LOTF. I was rather pleased with this one. It was still major angst (Am I able to write anything else??) but it had a plot and action.
Thanks everyone for reviewing! You're the BEST! J