All Through the Night

"There's one good thing about Ramoo still guarding us: it means that Gilligan made it through the night."

The Skipper, "The Hunter"

They had to do something. Anything.

Something bright and cheery and relaxing, suggested the Professor. Immediately the girls had suggested a picnic at the lagoon, and the Skipper and the Professor had hurried down early that morning to ensure that there were no reminders – not so much as a broken branch or an indentation in the sand – of the helicopter that had landed there and taken off again two weeks earlier.

They could not have chosen a better day. A butter yellow sun glowed in the sky and a soft breeze stirred little wavelets on the surface of the lagoon. Mary Ann and Ginger had outdone themselves. The wooden crates that formed a makeshift table were decked with pink hibiscus, white plum blossoms and purple wisteria. Bowls of succulent fruit, pyramids of nuts and a great platter of crab and lobster were spread out on the tapa bark tablecloth. The girls had even worn grass skirts and flower leis and Ginger had promised to teach everyone the hula.

And it was all going just as planned until Gilligan had gotten up to refill the jug of fresh water from the little waterfall that tumbled into the lagoon. Using a long pole attached to the handle, he held the jug under the glittering water until the bright bubbles rose to the surface, then pulled it back and walked back towards his friends. As he walked he tugged at the little vine knot that tied the handle to the pole. Almost freeing it, he gave the pole a mighty tug and it slid down between his ankles, tangling his feet. He tripped, spun, and the jug went flying.

A moment later it sent a great cold splash right across the Skipper's back.

More startled than angry, the Skipper spun 'round bellowing, "Gilligan, how many times can you—" and stopped dead, mentally cursing himself.

The others had all gone quite still, and all were staring down at Gilligan. He was crouched on the grass, motionless, paralyzed with fear. His great appalled blue eyes stared straight ahead and saw no one.

The Skipper started towards him but the Professor held up a hand. "Careful, Skipper. Gently! No sudden moves."

The Skipper nodded and approached his first mate slowly, his voice much gentler now. "Gilligan, little buddy, I'm sorry. I should have remembered how loud noises bother you."

Gilligan was still trembling in that feral crouch, oblivious to the presence of his friends. He looked ready to bolt at any second.

"That fiend!" whispered Mr. Howell, sotto voce. The millionaire had never looked so angry.

"Nobody move!" whispered the Professor. "If he runs, we'll never catch him!"

The castaways froze like statues and watched while the sunlight danced on the water and gleamed on the dazzling white sand. Gilligan's breathing gradually slowed and at last he picked himself up off of the ground, running his hand through his dark hair and squeezing his eyes shut as if to block out some dreadful vision. The wild glare in his eyes gave way to a haunted look of despair that was almost worse.

Everyone released a pent up breath. The Skipper laid a large, gentle hand on Gilligan's arm. "Little buddy, this has gone too far. You can't pretend it never happened. You can't even sleep at night. Please, Gilligan, you've got to talk about it!"

Gilligan shuddered. "I – I can't, Skipper. Please, don't ask me to. It's like a big black hole. If I go in, I might never get out." He looked at his friends who were still staring at him with sorrow and pity, and heaved a great, shivering sigh. "I'm going back to camp, Skipper. Suddenly I'm not hungry. I'm just tired. So tired." The Skipper's hand fell from Gilligan's red shirted arm as the young first mate turned and stumbled wearily up the trail towards the huts.

For a few moments no one spoke. Mary Ann looked disconsolately at the beautiful table and blinked back tears. "We were so hoping this might snap him out of it!"

The Skipper passed a hand over his eyes. "Oh, girls, this is all my fault!"

"No, Skipper, you mustn't blame yourself! No one's done more for him than you have." Mary Ann looked at the trail where Gilligan had disappeared. "At least he didn't run this time. The last time we didn't see him for two whole days. We couldn't find him anywhere!"

"When Gilligan doesn't want to be found, you don't find him," said Ginger. She bit her lip. "Well, we know it's true. That's the reason…" and she swallowed, "the reason he lived."

"You call this living?" cried the Skipper. "Two weeks. Two weeks it's been since that maniac Jonathan Kinkaid and his native goon Ramoo hunted Gilligan all over this island in that twisted game, and my little buddy's been like this ever since! I swear, if I ever get my hands on Kinkaid…" and he made a strangling motion with his powerful hands.

"By Jove, Captain, if my millions will help to track him down, you'll get that chance. That fiend!" Howell growled again. "I ask you - what kind of man tries to kill another human being for sport?"

"A madman, Mr. Howell," muttered the Professor. "And even though he failed to kill Gilligan, the harm he inflicted upon our young friend is immense."

"But why does the poor boy keep going into that dreadful trance?" said Mrs. Howell. "It's as though he were living the hunt all over again!"

The Professor shook his head sadly. "He is, Mrs. Howell. That ordeal overwhelmed Gilligan's psychological defenses. He can't seem to integrate the experience into his conscious memory. He hasn't been able to talk about it or think about it!"

"That's right," said the Skipper dejectedly. "You all heard Gilligan. He can't remember – or won't remember. He just goes back into that blind panic whenever there's a loud noise or a sudden movement. And he has nightmares – terrible ones. I have to wake him up, and he can't remember when he does wake up, but he's afraid to go back to sleep again!"

"I don't blame him," said the Professor. "What terrible memories those must be. But he has to face them, sooner or later, or his psyche will never heal and he may even make himself physically ill!"

"What do you mean, Professor?" cried Mary Ann.

"I mean that those awful memories are seething in his subconscious mind like the molten lava in a volcano. At this rate he's going to erupt, and whether he can survive the emotional upheaval is entirely uncertain."

The Skipper swallowed. "My little buddy's stronger than you think, Professor. Twenty-four hours straight that monster hunted him. Twelve of those hours were pitch black night. How did my little buddy survive that night alone, Professor? How did he do it?"

"I don't know. I truly don't. But we can see what it cost him. I – I just wish I knew what to do."