author's note. Ah, LotF. I've loved this book since I was like, nine years old, and yet it's taken me this long to stop being lazy and post fanfiction. Yeeeah. In all honesty, I'm not sure what possessed me to make this particular story my first fandom contribution, but anyway. Also, since my paragraph spacing failed, there are these ridiculous line breaks everywhere.
disclaimer. Thank god I don't own Lord of the Flies, that would be a such a disaster. The italicized quotes are from T.S. Eliot's "Four Quartets," and there's a Robert Frost reference stuck in there somewhere. Basically, anything that is both a) italicized and b) poetic is not mine.
The Dull Facade
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
It's not right anymore. The world, that is. Life. It's too big and too small, itches the skin over his ribcage, and it has so many pockets that he doesn't know where to put his hands. He thinks that it used to be different, that it used to fit better before he stretched and grew, back when he had things to keep in all those pockets. But he stops there, because he doesn't care enough to think further. All the same, someone gave it to him; it would be impolite to complain, and Jack Merridew has manners.
So instead of saying to hell with it, he pretends it's just fine, just fine, and eventually the itching and confusion are only minor thoughts scratching at his subconscious with dull fingernails. The thoughts have names and sometimes faces, but he tries not to say them, not to see their wide, sad eyes blinking out of the darkness in his mind. (Of course it's dark in there; there are no lightbulbs.) Maybe if he never calls them, he thinks, they'll go away for good.
He ignores them, but they keep tapping him on the shoulder when he's least expecting it, and it's only a matter of time before he turns around.
The houses are all gone under the sea.
The dancers are all gone under the hill.
The choir doesn't sound like it used to, in that faraway time before everything started squeezing around him and he got lost like this. For a long time, he isn't sure why, and then one day he looks down the row and realizes that it's because Simon is not there. That's funny, because he remembers how he used to hate it when Simon flopped to the ground in a faint and ruined their neat two-line arrangement, and yet it feels wrong that he isn't here.
Such a shame, someone had said at the funeral, those two boys falling off that cliff, and so young!
Yes. Really such a shame.
Ralph was at the funeral, too. He stared at the coffin with red-rimmed eyes like he was trying to make Simon sit up and climb out of it. Jack remembers that he thought this was ridiculous, because Simon was dead, not sleeping. And anyway, the casket was empty — his body floated away on the tide and it's probably dissolved into bone someplace beneath the waves.
There are times when Jack thinks they're still here, though. Sometimes, out of the corner of his eye, he sees shadows that take ragged human shapes, and he does not turn to look at them fully. He feels in a place deep in his chest that he must not look, even when he starts to hear Piggy's voice, jus' you wait, and feels Simon's dried blood still caked underneath his fingernails. He closes his eyes.
Where is there an end to the drifting wreckage,
The prayer of the bone on the beach, the unprayable
Prayer at the calamitous annunciation?
Once he thought to ask the rest of the choir if they felt it too, but something stopped him, a pressure, a weight that forced his lips closed and rendered his tongue useless. No, he can't speak of it either.
The beast is gone, isn't it? It has to be gone. He killed it twice, he saved them all after it came and took Simon and that prat Piggy, but it's true that he never got the chance to banish it for good; it was in Ralph, and just when Jack was about to end it once and for all, those people came and brought them back to this world that didn't fit. If he could've gotten rid of Ralph, cut and cut and scraped the evil off his bones, maybe this wouldn't be happening now.
Then again, maybe the beast can't be killed; maybe it would have come back anyway.
No, he thinks, no. He's done enough, given too much of himself away already. It can't be like that. Jack Merridew has sense, and he doesn't attack things if he can't kill them. (Like he killed the pigs that ran through the underbrush, or Piggy blind on the rocky cliffs, or small, frail Simon screaming about a dead man on the mountain.)
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
He remembers the way the cool, damp darkness of the forest felt on his skin (the woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep) and he wishes he could feel that again — shed this itchy life that clings so stubbornly to him, hear the crunch of leaves and twigs under his bare feet, taste freedom when he breathes.
He's done all he can to keep the beast away, and yet it still haunts him.
It would be the same, when you leave the rough road
And turn behind the pig-sty to the dull facade
And the tombstone. And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
Now the world is at once too big and too small, and he is drowning in its fissures. He scrambles for a foothold and finds nothing but the water (dark and deep), choking him as he thrashes around for air. There is no one here to save him from himself (but I have promises to keep). Who is he? He's tried his hardest to kill the beast — cut its throat, spill its blood — has he ever won?
Is he the beast?
(miles to go before I sleep—)
Nononono, he thinks. It can't be like that.
Out of the corner of his eye, he sees shadows flickering on the walls, and after a hesitant moment, he turns away. He can't look at them, can't watch when they start to pull and stretch and rend themselves into broken human forms, then rip themselves from the walls and come crawling towards him. He hides away, makes himself small. Jack Merridew is a hunter no longer. If he doesn't look at them, they'll go away.
He hears footsteps. Go, go, go, he thinks. If he can hide for long enough, he'll be safe. They refuse to leave him alone.
The end is where we start from.
Piggy is speaking to him, you and your blood, Jack Merridew, and he feels Simon's cold fingertips on his skin. He tries to shut his eyes and finds that he can't.
This life doesn't fit, and the choir doesn't sound the same, and he is drowning. He feels, a profound feeling of dread that he cannot explain, that if he looks at the shadows, there will be nothing left. If he sees Piggy, his shattered skull pieced together like a grotesque puzzle; if he sees Simon, his flesh half eaten away by creatures under the sea (dark and deep), painted with blood…
I said to my soul, be still—
He hears Piggy's voice. Simon's fingers on his shoulder are worn down to bone. The beast is in Jack now, and if he kills it, he wins. The world isn't right anymore.
It's just us, Simon whispers, and Jack turns around.