1.

ADRIFT

SEVEN YEARS BEFORE THE EVENTS IN KING KONG

He is drifting in a cruel open sea, hanging desperately to a barrel. His eyes are half opened, unfocused and whatever sanity once shone in them was long gone. He has not slept for four days, eaten in three and the only water he has had to drink is all around him.

Occasionally, he starts and a ragged scream slips from his dry cracked lips and he looks around twisting his head and neck around with a wild, crazed look. Hoping…pleading…praying that the thing from the island has not followed him. But all he sees is water, a great expanse of salty white capped water. No creature, no island…no rescue.

Night falls and clouds swell above him releasing a torrent of rain. He opens his mouth and drinks greedily. An hour later the rain lets up and the clouds part, letting in the moon light. A glint distracts him from staring at the horizon and he stares at his left hand. On one finger is a wedding ring and he is almost amazed to see it. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a memory arises. A memory of a beautiful young woman, with flowing red hair and deep green eyes, floats up and for a while brings him peace. He cannot remember her name, but he doesn't care. For a few wonderful minutes he will remember his wife before sinking back into his desperation and insanity.

He is lost in his mind, a swirling maelstrom of terror and lost hope and never sees the ship slowly sailing towards him until they hoist him up from the ocean.

His name is Zachary White, twenty-eight years old and was a seaman on a tramp steamer named Marjorie.

Farley 'Lumpy' Huddleston stirred his pot of soup and glanced over at the man stretched out on one of the tables in the galley. The man was a young, stocky chap who had the look of a man who had lost a lot of weight in a short time. He also looked like he had seen his worst nightmare come to life.

With his one good eye, Lumpy kept an eye on him as the ship's 'doctor', a ferrety looking man by the name of Reggie examined him. The man paid no attention to him, staring at the ceiling and moving his lips silently. Lumpy thought the man seemed harmless enough when they pulled him out of the water half naked and muttering, but so did the man in Oslo who had taken out Lumpy's right eye in a bar fight four years earlier. Lumpy kept his distance and stirred the soup, a thin potato concoction.

Reggie sighed and stood up straight, cracking his neck as the ship's captain, Lars Eriksson and a tall black man only known as Hayes, came walking into the galley.

"How's the rescue doing?" Eriksson asked. "Will he make it?"

Reggie shrugged. "Hard to say, he was severely dehydrated when we pulled him out and obviously has eaten in days. Lumpy got some water in him but he seemed to spew most of that back."

"I'm making him some potato soup, Captain," Lumpy said. "Fancy it's my best recipe. Poor lad could use some food in his belly."

"You want to make him spew again?" Hayes said.

"To hell with you, I'm a damn fine chef," Lump said irritated. Everyone on this damn boat was a critic.

Reggie ignored this exchange. Everyone on board had taken this issue up with Lumpy and the captain. "We have to get him to port and to a hospital, captain. Can we dock in Australia?"

Eriksson shook his head. "Too far out by now, has he even spoken?"

Lumpy stirred the pot and said, "Only to the ceiling and not a sound to us; his mind's gone and not coming back."

Captain Eriksson chewed his lip and then said, "Mr. Hayes, change course and make way for Sumatra. We'll take-"

The man screamed and sat up so violently, Lumpy thought the man was possessed. All four of them started and dove for the man who began twisting and screaming.

"NOT THE ISLAND! NOT THE ISLAND! NOT THE ISLAND!"

They all struggled with the man, as he fought them, screaming and looking about wildly. The man struck Lumpy in the mouth and he immediately tasted blood, spitting it out.

"To hell with this," Lumpy snarled and with one beefy hand slapped the young man hard across the face.

The young man fell still and silent, before breaking into sobs.

Eriksson, Lumpy, Hayes and Reggie all stared at one another in shock as the man on the table wept.

Eriksson turned the man's face to him, and asked, not unkindly, "What island?"

The man stared at him through watery eyes and slowly choking down his sobs, sputtered, "The i-i-island of the skulls. We ran aground. Big wall s-s-surrounded it, no one knew wh-who built it."

"To keep you out?"

The man shook his head and a terrifying crazed smile crossed his face. Lumpy almost had a mind to kill the man on the spot.

"To keep it in, a creature not man or beast, but a hulking terror."

The man's eyes rolled back in his head and he passed out.