TITLE: The Unknown
AUTHOR: Mnemosyne

Disclaimer: Not mine!
SUMMARY: When Charlie disappears, Claire starts to lose her mind…
RATING: PG-13, for just being CREEPY AS HELL
CHARACTERS: Charlie/Claire, Claire-centric, a smattering of the others
Okay, "I'm Impressed?" This is it's POLAR OPPOSITE. Seriously. I started this story as an answer to my "Tearjerker Challenge" at charlieclaire on LiveJournal, but it took a turn for the creepy along the way, and I freaked MYSELF out by the end. Seriously, I'm going to have to sleep with the light on tonight. LOL! Anyway, read and (try to) enjoy. It's a bit dark, and not very happy, so be forewarned.

You see, it was the NOT KNOWING that was the worst. If there had been a body, perhaps it would have been easier. She could have known how he died; if it had been quick and painless or … not. But the wondering was killing her, sure as slow poison. It was driving her over the edge.

He went for water. That was how it all started. Her back was hurting and she was cranky and thirsty, and to appease her, he'd offered to get her a bottle of water; because he was Charlie, and that was the kind of thing Charlie did. Claire didn't think she'd said thank you. On top of everything else, that gnawed at her like lye.

When he didn't come back she got curious, but not concerned. When she toddled away from the fire in search of him and he was nowhere to be found, she was puzzled. When she started calling his name and got no answer, she felt a momentary twinge of worry. When the sun set and they gathered for dinner and he still hadn't reappeared, she gave in and let herself panic.

No one had seen him. Not a soul. It was like he'd walked away from their shared campfire and disappeared, snuffed out like a candle. Surely SOMEONE had seen him. Claire questioned everyone between her fire and their primary watering hole, but no one remembered him passing their bedroll. She searched the jungle around the encampment, but didn't find so much as a footprint. She scrambled over rocks and down inclines and over roots and awkward terrain, pregnant belly a back-breaking obstacle, searching for some sign of him; but there was none.

Jack told her to stop, to rest, that the others would search. Kate told her they'd find him. Claire didn't care. Didn't they SEE? Their words didn't matter. What mattered was HIM.

They searched three days, in widening circles around the caves. Nobody found a thing. At Claire's frantic insistence they searched three days more, widening the radius even further. Still no sign was found. In a hysterical fit of panic, Claire spent a full day scouring the floor of the caves for hidden sinkholes, ignoring Jack's attempts to pull her away. But there was nothing. The ground was as sound as a fine British pound.

And he was gone.

After that, Claire shrank away completely from the rest of the castaways. She spent her days curled up on her blanket, rubbing her belly and picturing all the horrid ways Charlie could die on this island. There were the simple things, like being eaten by a bear or an invisible monster. Those were almost a treat compared to the other things that could kill a man here; the slower things. She spent one whole afternoon imagining him at the bottom of a ravine, skewered on a fallen branch, bleeding slowly to death with a punctured lung, unable to call for help. But oh, wouldn't it be worse if the ravine were a hole in the ground; a smelly, pitch black hole too narrow to lie down in, too deep to climb out of, with a round hole of hope at the top where sunshine could pierce the darkness and find his grimy face. He would have spent the first few hours calling for them. Guys! Hey guys, I'm in here! Bloody hell, guys, I'm RIGHT HERE, just follow your ears!

Then, when night fell, he would have started to worry. He would have stopped yelling, from exhaustion and futility. He would have tried to sleep; a tricky business, standing up. So he would have tired himself out even further by trying to climb the slick stone walls; but there were no handholds, and no escape. He would have fallen into a fitful, uncomfortable sleep, and come morning, he would have started again.

Really, guys, this is ridiculous. Locke, I thought you were a hunter! Track me down! Sayid! Come on, guys!

Another night, and this time, real panic, because they should have found him by now.

There hadn't been any rain of late, but maybe there was a trickle of black water on the rocks of his oubliette, and he licked that to stay alive, staring at the Hole of Hope and wondering why they weren't coming for him, and trying to ignore how hungry he was. She could see his face, round and cheerful, getting steadily more skeletal as time passed with still no rescue.

Eventually he would stop drinking the water, because even death was better than this.

It's cold down here, she heard him say. I'm cold, Claire. My back is sore and I miss you. I don't know why you stopped looking -- I'm just over here. If you just looked OVER HERE, you'd find me! Why did you STOP, Claire? Now I'm going to die. Now I'm going to die… Oh, Christ, I'm so scared…

She spent everyday in tears. No one heard her crying, because she didn't cry like that. Her tears were slow and tired and utterly, totally lost. Jack asked her daily if she was sleeping at night, and she lied and told him yes. She didn't tell him she couldn't close her eyes because HE was there, with his accusatory blue eyes sunk deep over skeletal cheekbones. She knew they'd think she was crazy. She knew they wouldn't understand. She knew they'd never licked dew off the lichen like Charlie had, just to stay ALIVE.

She closed her eyes and he scared her. He SCARED her. Charlie had never scared her; but then he disappeared, and became an unknown, and now, he SCARED HER.

When the baby was born she praised God it was a girl, because then she didn't have to name it Charlie, as she'd planned. She named her Annabel Lee.

Six months later, Claire disappeared.

The others thought it must have been planned. She'd waited until Annabel was eating soft food, so surely it must have been planned. Perhaps she'd gone off to finally answer the question of what had happened to Charlie. Or maybe something more nefarious had transpired, because some things were off that didn't add up. Like if she'd planned on leaving, why were her clothes still there? And if she planned on leaving, why had she left Annabel all alone? And if she planned on leaving, why did she leave a note scribbled in the dirt that said Oh, Christ, I'm so scared…

Some people thought she'd gone to find Charlie. But others thought Charlie had come to find her.