Title: Five Things That Probably Didn't Happen To Hugo Reyes

Author: Troll Princess

Fandom: Lost

Characters: Hurley

Rating: PG-13 (mostly for a little violence)

Disclaimer: Dear teacher, please excuse Troll Princess from gym class, as she sprained something while screwing with Lost canon that wasn't hers to play with her anyway. And she didn't even get any money out of it, either. Hmph. Sincerely, Troll Princess's doctor. )

Author's note: Obsessive? Moi? Whyever would you suggest such a thing? In any event, the title's "Probably Didn't Happen" rather than just "Never Happened" because ... well, when it comes to Lost, you can't really say 'never'. Also, some of these are crossovers, and some aren't.

Five Things That Probably Didn't Happen To Hugo Reyes

1. Better Things I Could Be Doing With My Spare Time

Sometimes, when all else fails, it's best to just bring a crossbow with you and let that be the end of it.

Hurley tightened his awkward grip on the cell phone stuffed between his shoulder and his crooked neck as he loaded the crossbow, the ancient park bench creaking under his weight. "Dude," he said with a sigh, "I like Sydney, seriously. I'm just saying that I'm more of the homebody type, you know? This sitting in a park with a loaded crossbow and waiting is not exactly my idea of a rocking Friday night."

The voice on the other end of the phone went muffled and distant for a moment, and Hurley paused with a frown. "Hey, what's up?"

"Sorry," a vaguely nasal voice suddenly said with a weak laugh. "I dropped my ... um, very important file. Yeah."

"FINISH HIM," a deep voice intoned in the background.

Hurley's frown deepened. "Oh, dude. That's not fair."

"What?" The voice on the other end of the phone tried to sound completely innocent, but Hurley's silent response seemed to be admonishment enough, and the guy said, "It's research. Extremely important research that needs to be done to ensure the survival of the human race --"

"You're playing 'Mortal Kombat'," Hurley muttered as he finally finished fiddling with the crossbow.

"Hey," the voice intoned in a deeply serious voice, "you have no idea the self-defense maneuvers you can learn from classic video games. For example, the first 'Super Mario Brothers' has taught me the intricate dance that is midget self-defense. I like to call it ... Luigi Fu."

Hurley shook his head as he surveyed the shadows in the park for any bit of movement and grabbed the phone from his shoulder with his free hand. "Whatever, dude," he said. "I'm still trying to figure out why I had to come down here."

"Because, Hurley, we couldn't spare any of the girls right now with another apocalypse on the horizon and you're highly skilled in the areas of --"

"Because I'm the only one in the chat room who believed you," Hurley blurted out.

A pause, then ... "I stand corrected."

Hurley couldn't resist a little smile at that one. The guy he'd met in the Star Wars chat room a year earlier has been friendly, knowledgeable in all things Jedi, and above all else, loonier than a ten-year-old fruitcake. Not much of what he said about anything other than Leia's gold bikini made much sense. Ask him why he lived in Italy and he gave some bogus story about being a world-famous pasta chef. Bring up how hot you thought Kate Beckinsale was in IVan Helsing/I and the guy spent half an hour "debunking" every vampire trait in the movie. Ask for pictures from your friends list, and get a photo of the guy dressed up like Doctor Who.

Weird was one thing. Living out the geek dream was another.

Then Hurley took a bus at night in a bad neighborhood in L.A.. A really bad neighborhood.

Suddenly, the guy's stories about things that go bump in the night didn't sound so much like gothically romanticized stories about his annoying roommate tripping over the coffee table after midnight. When the guy offered him a job and a plane ticket to Italy, Hurley thought about it for all of about five seconds before calling up his boss at Burger King and telling him to stuff his hash browns in a very uncomfortable place. Eloquent and far-thinking, Hurley wasn't.

And then a bunch of other things happened and he met a bunch of people not all that much weirder than the guy who'd lured him out of that chat room and now he was in Sydney sitting in a park at two in the morning with a crossbow and a cell phone. The end.

Okay, so not much the end. 'Cause, hey, look, something big and slimy with blood-stained fangs.

Hurley gaped for the appropriate amount of time, also known as one second longer than the exact amount of time the girls he'd been watching get trained for a year were allowed to gape, then muttered into the phone, "Dude, I have to go," and hung up on Andrew before he could even protest.

Oh, man, what he wouldn't do for a slayer right now.

Two days later, bruised, battered and just plain dog-tired, Hugo Reyes stepped up to the X-ray machine at the airport, took a deep breath, and slid his crossbow case (complete with supply of holy water, wooden stakes, and enough religious relics to start his own bogus cult) onto the belt.

Two seconds later, as it rolled through the machine, both security guards standing beside the machine turned to look at him as if he had come to the airport wearing a bunny suit with a rubber chicken glued to his forehead.

Hurley sighed. Oh, this was going to take a while.

It turns out that plane crashes come as a complete surprise.

No, really. There you are, sitting on a plane minding your own business and making good use of the beverage cart, and the next thing you know, the tail falls off and you drop to the ground like a badly constructed paper airplane.

If you're lucky, you come to on a deserted island in one piece. If you're unlucky, it comes complete with things that go bump in the night, and your crossbow case is somewhere at the bottom of the ocean.

Oh, man, what he wouldn't do for a weapon.

Hurley stood on the beach with the others, watching whatever it was stomp through the jungle and make a noise like an enraged subway train. As his mind had gotten used to in the past year, he flipped through a mental encyclopedia of the demons and monsters that had been pummeled into his brain, trying to figure what the hell this new development was, where it came from, and what (or who) it liked to eat.

And that was when he spotted it in the woods. A pair of yellow eyes, glowing menacingly in the shadows.

They darted away before Hurley could run after whoever it was -- damn the airplane for conveniently losing his vampire self-defense kit over the freakin' Pacific -- but Hurley couldn't help it when his gaze had darted towards the doctor. He knew he wasn't the only one in line who'd seen it, the doctor arguing with the gate attendant to get a coffin on board the plane.

A coffin that, given the yellow eyes Hurley had seen in the jungle, had contained something Hurley really didn't want to think about.

Hurley quietly sighed as he glanced around at the others. If he were a vampire, especially a newborn fledgling on a small island with a handful of survivors, he'd go for the biggest guy there. Tap the biggest keg, if you would. Of course, being the biggest, it'd help if he were defenseless, weak, harmless ... especially if he fainted at the sight of blood.

Hurley smiled.

And, in the next few weeks, he learned to wait patiently with a stake at the ready, just like Buffy and Andrew had taught him.

2. All Of My Best Friends Are Omniscient

Anthony showed up on the first day of fourth grade and, when no one was looking, turned a frog on the playground into a dancing cartoon toad. Hugo was the only kid on the playground who saw it and, when no one was looking, laughed until he threw up.

"Hugo's a stupid name," Anthony said later. "From now on, you have to be Hurley."

Hurley was better than Hugo every day of the week and twice on Christmas, so he wasn't about to complain about the sudden
name change. But it didn't stop him from getting snotty about Anthony's bossy attitude, and he blurted out, "Well, if I can't be Hugo anymore, you can't be Anthony anymore."

Anthony paused for a second, then when Hurley didn't stomp off in a huff, he shrugged and said, "Okay."

After they went back into the classroom after recess, the teacher and everybody else in the class started calling the new kid Ben. Just like that. The same went for Hurley, who even went home to find his mother calling him by his new nickname as if he'd always been Hurley and not chubby, easygoing Hugo.

Hurley never told. Not because he didn't think anyone would believe him, but because you didn't do that to your best friend.

The next day, as Hurley sat outside the school waiting for the bus, Anthony walked up to him with a great big smile on his face and asked, "Hey, Hurley, want to play a game?"

Anthony's mother used to be a teacher, and he was still Anthony at home, no matter what mojo he'd pulled on everybody else on the planet. Hurley realized this the day after he met Anthony, when the new kid dragged him over to his house to play video games and led him into the kitchen like a found puppy. Hey, Mom, this is Hurley. Can I keep him?

Okay, so that wasn't what he'd said. What Anthony had said, in an amazed tone of voice that made it sound like he'd never brought a friend home before in his life, was, "Look, Helen, I made a friend!"

Even at the ripe old age of ten, Hurley winced when Anthony called his mother by her first name, just knowing he was about to witness something bad. His cousin Carlos's stepdad had thrown a toaster at his head when he'd called him something other than Daddy once, not even bothering to notice that the kid had just been dropped off after a weekend with his real father. So Hurley was all ready to duck flying kitchen appliances when Helen simply smiled and said, "That's nice, Anthony. Will he be staying for dinner?"

Hurley pried his eyes open again, stared up at Helen, and couldn't help but smile back.

It turned out that Anthony's mother also made the best broccoli and cheese in the world. It doesn't have to be said outright that complimenting something as simple as a person's ability to douse vegetables in cheese was high praise even coming from a ten-year-old, but it couldn't hurt to point it out, either.

The next day in class, Anthony was back to being Anthony again. It was something Hurley got used to pretty fast.

When your best friend can do pretty much anything he wants, you find yourself tagging along whether you want to or not and just hope you make it out of the whole thing in the end with all of the limbs you started out with.

Hurley had once seen a quote somewhere that went something like, "Good friends will give you bail money, but a true friend will be sitting next to you in the cell saying, 'Dude, we fucked up.'" The amount of memories he had that sounded like that, with Anthony sighing heavily and Hurley sitting next to him shaking his head at yet another fine mess they'd gotten themselves into ... well, neither one of them really had the time to count them. And every one of them always seemed to end the same way, with Helen showing up to give them a piece of her mind before grounding Anthony for a month.

But of course, not before waving her hand at whatever destruction he'd caused and saying, "Well?" as she expected him to clean up his own mess. So Anthony would make a wish and everything would be different, with no one remembering but the three of them.

That would be why only the three of them remembered the day pigs really Idid/I fly.

When Anthony and Hurley both turned sixteen -- Anthony didn't really know his birthday but he figured sharing Hurley's was as good as any other day he might pick -- they looked around at all of the other sixteen-year-old boys driving junker cars around town and decided, as usual, to be different. So Anthony wished they could teleport. Somehow, being able to move from one place to another by the power of your own mind wasn't half as cool if girls couldn't stand around and be impressed by it.

When they graduated high school, Anthony got Hurley into Yale, Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, and just because he was feeling silly, the Ringling Brothers clown college.

When they turned twenty-one, Anthony made Hurley the king of his own magical dimension. Well, it was fun until the booze ran out.

They kept it up for years, Anthony throwing their lives into chaos and Hurley putting up with it because he was the only one mellow enough to play the sidekick. And everything was just fine and dandy for the both of them, until Anthony decided Hurley needed a vacation.

"But dude, I don't like planes," Hurley complained, glancing around the airport as if the entire place were covered in a thick layer of slime. "Can't you just do whatever the hell it is you normally do and wish me back to California? I trust your powers a hell of a lot more than I do some big hunk of metal hurtling through the sky."

Anthony's grin wouldn't go away as he gave Hurley a friendly pat on the arm. "Don't worry about it, Hurl. It won't crash."

"Yeah, says you. You won't be in it." Hurley shifted his bag on his shoulder and added, "Or near it, unless there's something you're not telling me."

His best friend's gaze darted to the windows, where the plane Hurley would be taking could be clearly seen parked near the terminal. "You know, if you want, I could go check the wing for gremlins --"

Hurley shuddered. "Thanks, man," he said. "That's probably about the least helpful thing you could say right now."

Anthony shook his head. "Just do me a favor and give it a chance. Try something new and different."

"You mean, something that doesn't involve shit just magically appearing out of thin air?"

"Okay," Anthony amended, "so maybe something a little less new and different."

Hurley sighed and looked over at the ticket counter, where a line was already starting to form. "You sure you're not coming?"

"Yeah, man, this is your problem," Anthony said, his grin widening in a way that made Hurley positive he was being set up for something. He gave Hurley another friendly tap on the arm and said, "Calm down, pal. You won't even miss me."

Somehow, after fifteen years of having Anthony not all that far away from him, Hurley sincerely doubted that last bit.

When he got off the damn island and ran into Anthony again, Hurley was going to sit the little bastard down and explain to him that "new and different" was not defined as "having your plane crash on an island with polar bears and nutjobs." Hell, he'd bring out the Merriam-Webster if he had to. He'd put money on that definition thing if he had to.

The first few days, Hurley would wait until he was all alone and thought he could get away with it, and then he'd just scream Anthony's name. If the cell phones weren't going to work, then maybe extremely vocal temper tantrums directed at omniscient, all-powerful best friends would work.

Turns out that, no ... no, it didn't. Mostly, they just made you look like an idiot, and that was even without the disadvantage of someone stumbling onto you.

Whatever the hell Anthony had set him up for, Hurley decided that even with all of the experience he had with Anthony's overly fortunate, superpowered ass, he was still going to owe Hurley big-time.

It was about this time that Walt walked up to Hurley, an innocent smile on his young face, and asked, "Hey, Hurley, want to play a game?"

3. Things I Didn't Learn In High School

Every cough he heard in the terminal made him flinch.

It shouldn't have. He'd had every vaccination possible and even a few others that were more of the "just-in-case" variety than usual. Either he'd been imagining it, or at least one of the needles he'd been stuck with was to protect him against the Black Plague.

You know, which would have been comforting, if he'd planned on making a side trip to 14th-century Europe. Hurley frowned and took another bite out of his chocolate bar. He couldn't get good chocolate back home if he tried, most of the good stuff long gone since before the plague. Hell, he'd packed enough chocolate bars to last him a year if he held out, but he was pretty sure he'd bid all of his luggage but his carry-on bag a fond farewell forever when he'd checked it.

Before he got on the plane, Hurley counted seven coughs, two loud sniffles, and at least one ominous throat-clearing. He couldn't get onto the plane fast enough.

And if the guy sitting across from him on the plane sneezed once ... well, Hurley couldn't be faulted for hoping he got sucked out of the the plane when the tail fell off. Now, could he?

The first time Hurley's mother had taken him to the museum, Hurley hadn't wanted to go to Rutherford Hall or the section on island medicine like everyone else. He wanted to go to the unmarked hall off to the side, the one the guards had hurried to shut the doors on the second he'd entered the building.

"I want to go in there," he'd whined, tugging at his mother's arm.

Before his mother could answer, a museum worker passing by in the direction of the hall blurted out, "That exhibit is closed for cleaning." She forced a smile for Hurley's sake and rushed away from the suspicious child. She looked over her shoulder at him once, and Hurley wondered from the expression on her face whether he had cooties or something.

Later on, after they'd made it halfway through the Pace exhibit, armed guards showed up to escort them out. Hurley's mother went pale when she saw them, but led him out of the building without an argument.

It took a while, during which his mother had about twenty phone calls in which she just screamed into the receiver about how unfair it was and that the kid needed to know, in just veiled enough language for Hurley to have no idea what she was talking about. But after a month or so, they finally got to go back to the museum.

Hurley bounded over the threshold happily, dragging his mother along behind him. Sure, half of the exhibits had now been draped in black dropcloths, and some sentences in the display case labels had been blacked out, but it didn't matter to Hurley. After all, he was finally getting to see all the fun stuff his friends had gotten to see ages ago. It was like going to see superheros in action, even if you had to wear sunglasses to do it.

Every time they went to the museum, other than that first time, they went alone and the museum stayed empty. Hurley just thought they were really lucky.

They must have gone to the museum a dozen times before his mother broke down and bought him a book on the subject. It was a thick, heavy volume on island life, and if Hurley had ever needed to hide from the police, all he would have had to do was hollow out the center and settle in.

The only problems were the missing pages, neatly ripped from the bindings as if he weren't supposed to notice, and the long strips of black ink covering entire sections of writing. Hurley had been grateful, but understandably disappointed. If Mom was going to buy him a present, the least she could have done was buy him a new one.

A few months later, she presented him with another book, this one neatly bound with no missing pages or black marks blocking out the information. If large chunks of the history seemed to be missing something, as if some other mysterious person were supposed to be on the island, he tried not to notice.

The library, it turned out, was even more hopeless. The lady at the desk always looked at him in something akin to terror and told him that all off the books on the island had been taken out. The Internet wasn't even worth it. He was the only person he knew who wasn't allowed to use it.

If he wanted to watch a documentary on the island, the effort ... well, hell, 'effort' was an understatement. No watching TV at his friends's houses. No watching the history networks at home. If his mother caught him watching movies about the island, she damn near had a heart attack.

Even with all of that -- and probably because of that -- Hurley decided when he was in the ninth grade that what he really wanted to do when he grew up was study the island. When he told his mother, she screamed for five minutes and then passed out for two hours.

Huh. Somehow, he'd thought that would turn out better.

The thing with studying the island was that for every necessary piece of information you needed to remember, there were five other equally unnecessary things you needed to know to get your degree.

For example, everyone knew that Sawyer had been the island's hoarder, the man to go to for all your island needs. But to get your island degree, you also needed to know that his birth name was Travis Lee Grady, that his favorite food was sausage jambalaya, that his parents had died when he was a young child in a murder-suicide, that the only real jobs he'd ever had had been as a bartender and a gravedigger, and that he'd been the father of Shannon Rutherford's first daughter, even though the records all drew a blank on that and they'd had to figure it out through genetic testing.

Later on, he wondered how he'd gotten through four years of college without ever noticing that everyone had been learning something he hadn't.

He wanted to work for the museum just like everybody else had right out of college, but unlike everybody else's interview, his had been intense, full of personal questions he wasn't sure he wanted to answer. Did he have a girlfriend? Any children? How old was he again? Finally, they got around to hiring him, and when they did, his boss said they wouldn't let him start work until after he got over it.

"Got over what?" he'd asked.

Then his boss had shown him the mysterious hallway he'd always wanted to see.

Hurley immediately went home and didn't come back for three months. His boss sent him paychecks the whole time. "Only fair, really," he'd said.

Hurley heard that and had to resist the urge to throw up.

Two years later, they showed him the machine.

They sent him back six months early with the best identification they could fake and about ten different sensors stuck under his skin in uncomfortable places that made him itch. Tiny little cameras and microphones lined the skin of his arms, neck and around his eyes, and a pair of DNA samplers had been stuck under the skin of his fingertips. He'd always wondered why the museum had so many pictures of the island and its inhabitants on display. Now he wasn't so sure he wanted to know anymore.

He spent the six months learning things he couldn't get from books or recordings ... slang and pop culture, whatever little references he needed to know to pass for normal. He bought chocolate like it was going out of style. He practiced casually lying about who he was. Hi, my name is Hurley. I watch a lot of old movies. I live with my parents. I work at a fast food joint.

Three months beforehand, he bought his ticket. It was on prominent display at the hotel room, and every once in a while, his gaze drifted over to it as if it were about to explode.

A month before the plane trip, he flew down to Sydney and sprawled on the beach for the month. Hey, considering what was coming up, he was going to need the vacation.

When you got right down to it, this must be what hanging out with movie stars would have been like.

It only took him a day or two to get over his awe. Jack wasn't a superhero, he was just a doctor in the wrong place at the wrong time, like the rest of them. Kate wasn't some goddess, she was a criminal, like it or not. And Locke wasn't so much a wise man as much as he was incredibly weird to be around.

It was the nights when they were sitting around the fire that he found himself thinking about the outside world. How many people had already caught the disease. How many were lying dead in the streets. Whether people were even thinking of the plane while everybody was dropping dead of the new plague.

Hurley knew who else on the island would get off, which ones would build themselves a boat and head back to civilization only to find it long gone by the time they arrive. He knew who'd get back and survive, because no one knew how, but a few years on the island boosted their immune systems past the point of catching the plague.

But Hurley didn't know whether he was going to escape, and that was the only thing that scared him.

4. Living Is Easier With Heart Valves Open

Like every good story, Hurley's story started with a girl. Unfortunately, she happened to be the girl who killed him.

It was a weird enough weekend in San Francisco even before the gorgeous girl with the mile-long legs sauntered up to him. He wasn't even supposed to be there that day, but his buddies Wes and Denny had gotten in a fight over who was better at Dance Dance Revolution. The next thing Hurley knew, he was down the block at a coffee joint waiting for Wes and Denny to finish up.

Then the girl walked into the room, sat down in his lap, and kissed him until he promptly developed amnesia.

The amnesia bit wasn't that much of a stretch -- hey, it had taken him a good five minutes to remember pertinent words in the English language. Later on, he blamed her hypnotic kissing technique on why he never questioned why a beautiful, athletic brunette would pick him over any of the other guys in the coffee place.

He simply trailed after her out the front door of the mall like an infatuated puppy. Hell, he hadn't even bothered to ask her name. After the whole thing was over, he couldn't help but smack himself over that one. No matter how a night ended, it was always a good idea to get the name of the woman who killed you. At the very least, it would have brought another one-night stand into the realm of possiblity.

What? She was a nutcase in the sack.

You know, aside from that whole stabbing thing of hers.

As much as Hurley had hated waking up with a knife in his chest, he'd liked it even less a few minutes later when the woman of his dreams had yanked it out of him and come at him with a big, pointy sword, wailing like a banshee.

Never let it be said that a big guy couldn't run, because even though he was only wearing his boxers and hadn't bothered to grab the rest of his clothes, Hurley made it out of the motel room and to Denny's apartment five blocks in record time. Considering it was two-thirty in the morning on a Monday and he was covered in blood, Hurley's surprise that he made it there in one piece was only surpassed by his surprise when Denny opened the front door to his apartment, saw the blood on Hurley's chest, and sighed heavily.

"Well, hell," he muttered. "You've got impeccable timing, you know that?"

Hurley could only gape. Even for Denny, that was a weird reaction.

It turned out that the whole knife-in-the-chest thing wasn't as serious as Hurley had thought it would be. Oh, sure, it was a knife in his chest, but as Denny pointed out after a very, very long discussion, Hurley really didn't have to worry about that anymore.

Which was nice and all, but Hurley really wanted his clothes back.

Hurley could complain all he wanted, but after talking the whole thing out with Denny, he found out that Denny had mostly befriended him because he knew that this sort of thing was going to happen someday and the poor kid was going to need a teacher. And Denny had put it that way, as "the poor kid," because according to Denny, he was over a hundred years old even though he looked about twenty-one.

That made it official. Hurley needed to get drunk.

So after the brunette showed up at their doorstep screaming for his head, and Denny went out and said there was no way she was coming anywhere near the "poor kid," and Denny fought her to the death and cut her head off, the two of them went out and got wasted. Really, really wasted.

The next day, Denny took Hurley to a gym he said he owned and handed him a battle axe. "Now we begin your training," Denny said.

Hurley wondered if it would be rude to ask that they go get drunk again instead.

It was amazing how easy to get around the place just casually lugging a battle axe when you looked like Hurley did, he realized after a while. The phrase "I just left a sci-fi convention" became a pretty reliable mantra, regardless of the fact that so far, he'd used it as an excuse outside of a small town in Mexico, in the middle of New York City, and on a farm in Nebraska. Usually, he just got a polite reprimand to put it away, because if he put on a friendly enough smile and looked about as awkward with the axe as possible, people tended to think he couldn't use it for anything other than looking cool to other geeks.

So far, he's decapitated four people with it. Somehow, he didn't think the airport security in Sydney would be happy to know that.

"I just left a sci-fi convention," he said, and put on a friendly smile.

Ten minutes later, he was sitting on the plane getting comfortable. See? Not a problem.

As traumatizing as the plane crash was, Hurley relaxed the minute he woke up on the island. Well, this wasn't so bad, he thought. Yeah, sure, plane crash. But on the bright side, nobody trying to cut his head off for a while. Surprisingly, he could live with that, even if it meant his axe was nowhere to be found..

Three weeks later, he was in the middle of tending the fire while Locke cooked some of the boar meat nearby, and that was when he fell into the flames.

It was a classic klutzy move out of Hurley, and Locke immediately yelled for Jack, a lost cause considering how far away the doctor and everybody else were at the moment. "Don't," Hurley said past clenched teeth, but whether he was saying that about Locke yelling for Jack or looking at the hand he'd shoved into the burning wood, he wasn't sure.

Locke knelt beside him and grabbed gently for his arm, but that was when he noticed the burned flesh sliding off and being replaced with healthy pink skin. Locke's gaze dart to Hurley's, and Hurley let out a sigh as he shook the rest of the useless flesh from his arm. Anybody looking at it now would think the worst injury he'd ever gotten on that hand would have been a paper cut.

Locke's eyes widened, and Hurley said, "Don't tell anyone."

Freezing for a second, Locke's jaw tightened, and he nodded.

Hurley frowned and went back to tending the fire as if nothing had ever happened. And, to be honest, nothing had happened ... had it?

5. If You've Seen This Movie Before, Turn To Page 29

When you were little, you used to breeze your way through Choose Your Own Adventure books like they were going out of style. (Which, by the time you hit about ninth grade, they kinda were.) You still have stacks of them lying around the attic of your parents's house in Pasadena, dog-eared and lovingly taped-up. "If you think the bakery fire was set by Mr. Wilcox, turn to page 39." "If you want to confront the man with the gun, turn to page 42."

There were tricks to reading them, of course. You could go to the end of the book and find out the good ending, then try to pick your way to it by going backwards. Then of course, there was always peeking at both options and picking the one that wasn't a paragraph long. A lone paragraph on a "turn to" page meant painful, embarrassing death, like passing out after drinking poison and falling into a vat of rabid sharks or something. Choose Your Own Adventure books were nothing if not a barren wasteland of subtlety.

You think about your worn collection of Choose Your Own Adventure books every time you wake up on the plane and the tail falls off.

What's left of the fuselage shudders and drops in an arc like a well-flung stone, the wind whipping through the cabin and sucking out any passenger stupid enough to get out of their seat.

If you undo your seatbelt to see what happened to the tail, turn to page 61. If you decide to stay in your seat and not look back to see where the tail went, turn to page 53.

You undid your seatbelt once and turn in your seat to look at the back of the plane, only to get sucked out into the sky to fall none-too-gracefully to the ocean. The end.

So this time, as with the times you've redone this day since then, you stay firmly belted into your seat. Better to stay right where you are, even knowing what comes later.

The problem with living your life like this is that you can't skip ahead to the last page and see the happy ending, then guess and guess and guess again until you reach it. Ethan hands you the matches, and Sayid knocks him unconscious while you reset the signal fire. As soon as it grows to an impressive level, Claire hands the baby to Charlie and points to the horizon. "Look, a ship!" she yells. An hour later, the fishing boat shows up and loads on the remaining survivors, and there's partying and booze and happy little baby bunnies. The end.

Somehow, you just haven't reached that point yet. Instead, you're once again trying to fish. This never ends well.

If you choose to fish, turn to page 13. If you choose to go hunting for boar with Mr. Locke, turn to page 75.

Hunting for boar inevitably ends with you being eaten by the jungle monster. Somehow, making an ass out of yourself while standing in seawater up to your waist doesn't seem so bad anymore.

You don't know how or why this started, but you do know how long. Somewhere in between kidnappings and polar bear attacks, you've done the math with weeks and days, hours and months. It started in your twenties -- when it started doesn't really matter -- but as of this minute, it's been exactly two hundred and twenty-three years, four months, eleven days, ten hours, and ten minutes exactly since the first time the tail fell off the plane. If you want to be precise, you've lived through this experience a little over a hundred and fifty times, over and over and over again.

Some days, you're tempted to look under rocks for Bill Murray and an angry groundhog.

Like, say, today.

If you choose to run and get Jack and Sayid, turn to page 56. If you choose to hit Ethan over the head with a log and kill him, turn to page 12.

If being through this experience has taught you anything, it's how to kill someone without flinching.

You're not getting off the island this century. Hell, you may never make it off the island at this rate. But there are worse things than staying on the island.

If you play golf with Michael later on, he breaks his leg getting his foot stuck in a sinkhole and dies from infection. In two days, you'll stumble on Boone and Shannon making out along one of the trails, and if you try to avoid it, one of them gets killed later on depending on whether or not you tell anyone else. In a week, Locke will start getting really creepy, and it's only a hint of the weirdness you can't stop anymore.

If you choose to walk up to where Danielle's place is -- The voices tell her she needs to make a sacrifice, and ... well, you are right there.

If you choose to tell everyone else what's happening to you -- They start turning to you as a leader, and events spiral downward until there's only a handful of survivors left alive.

If you choose to hang yourself and avoid having to go through all this again --

You go back to the plane and the tail drops off, like always.

The end.