author: Keren Ziv
spoilers: Deus Ex Machina.
summary: And now imagine that the beach is on an island.
Boone told me this yesterday: he would have died a long time ago had he realized that it was the only way off the island.
Could one be so selfish as to beg to return to hell?
One could, and he was.)
"My friends, my sister," he told us as we stuck needles into him and taped him up, desperate to find a vein and a spot clean enough to end the bandage, or maybe just one of the two. "My sister is still there."
We didn't pay attention, but now I wonder if we should have. After all, it never hurts to comfort a man delirious, does it?
When he felt like talking later, he started to tell people things. At first, they were just little views of his life before the crash. He used to work in business, he said, but he never expanded upon that one comment. Another time, he laughed as he looked at his fingers, blackened from trying to extinguish the fire. His fingerprints on file in Des Moines were useless now.
I worked with him most, and he got real comfortable with me. I guess that's why he started telling me more. After home, he started telling me about then. He never started out talking about the island, but he always found his way back to it. It is an oasis, he told me once, and the paths all lead back to it, like arms for an embrace.
If you can't tell, he was always sort of a New Testament guy. Me knowing more about the Old, I always thought his island sounded dangerous. Each to his own though, because he always seemed to find true relief in the island.
But, like I said, it always started out with his rescue from the raft. I wasn't there of course. It was all the way out in the Atlantic Ocean, and I've never seen any but the Pacific. I think that I knew the story better than he did though, so I'm going to tell you it in my own words.
After Flight 815 disappeared from radar but before its estimated crash date (that part I got from reading the paper), there were reports from an orbiting satellite about three freak storms in its approximate area. Three. Crazy, right? I mean, one freak storm is enough for me.
Here's where it gets a little shaky, because none of the passengers give the same story. Half swear that they were dead -- saw a big white light and everything -- and the other half promise their souls to the Devil that they were plucked from the sky by the hand of God himself. Maybe the two halves were really swearing to the same thing.
It was a very religious flight, you see. What with the Testaments and the testimonials.
What they've pieced together from the little black box is that the storms interfered with the navigational systems on the plane, it got lost, and wandered directly into the path of the largest storm. At least, the wreckage was found near where the largest storm had been located. Think of it like this: it rained, your glasses got fogged, and you stepped into the street where you were swept into a gutter and drowned.
Only imagine that you didn't drown. That's what happened to them.
He told me how his skin had felt warm at first. Like a bath, he said. It felt like a bath. As he woke more and more though, it was like he turned on the hot tap. The water washed over him, boiling and making him pant with the heat of it.
Just talking about it, his face got a funny look, and his voice sounded stretched, like a balloon is carrying it and couldn't fit it all inside easily. This is where the island first came in, though I didn't know it at the time. He said that he had not felt that way for days upon days (upon days) -- not since just a short while after the crash.
I waited for more news on his crash, imagines of burning water and reek of oil in my mind, but he doesn't elaborate on that. Instead he told me about how his complexion had reddened, peeled a bit even, then faded into a comfortable brown. Just dark enough to be more than a tan. He had felt fit. He had even thought himself manly.
"The first good tan of my life." He raised his arms and looked at the white of his bandages. There was nothing to signify a more ill health than to go from brown of his dreams to the pale gauze that encased both arms and a great portion of his chest.
Unless you wanted to unwrap those bandages and look at the black flesh underneath. That wasn't my job yet, but I'd watched the residents and interns do it enough times that I almost didn't flinch.
Ever burn a ham?
There is nothing machismo in the way he handled the pain:
He tried to open his eyes; he found the meaning of agony written in his half-close lids. He said that it was as if golf balls with lava fillings were placed at the corner of either eye. If he applied too much pressure, they would burst and spread over his face, taking over him. He would become ablaze and become tinder, catching the fire with his hands and chest, giving it to the bedclothes engulfing him (but even they would not be able to smother the flames, he said).
"Oh God, save me," he moaned. "Save me from this."
This is all ridiculous, of course, because (no matter how badly he was burned) he could not have caught his bed sheets on fire. Another trick that his pain had played on him, this supposed ability of his to burst things into flame. Pyrokinetics or something.
"That's what it felt like," he told me later sullenly. His fancy words and pretty phrases never did catch with my more practical mind. "Dullard."
I take things like that, because for weeks we threw words like delirious at him, and he held them in his cinder-hands and made them into some semblance of reality. Boone said he cradled them, painted with them a picture of what was. As he told it, this was a different sort of hurt, the sort when he began to discover that it wasn't real, not any of it.
And, anyway, he was close enough in describing his burns. Oil is a damning liquid. How he survived is another of those miracles that the television newscasters like to talk about.
This is the time when we began to suspect that he was crazy. He began to scream for the island and for people we knew to be long lost. His sister, mostly, but he also called out for others. Locke, but at first we thought he meant a lock, because there was a hatch mentioned first. A locked hatch, maybe. I thought that the emergency exit of the plane hadn't worked.
Only someone had the bright idea to look at the manifest, and there he was. John Locke, like the philosopher, but they tell me that this one was in a chair for life.
How did he know him? Had he sat next to John Locke on the plane?
If it was survivor's guilt manifesting in any way it could manage, I couldn't have told you. I hadn't had psych rotation; I didn't know what to do with his insanity, so I grabbed at it and tried to stuff it back in him. How was I to know that they can't take it back after they give it up?
"Sayid," he said, another name from the manifest. "Sayid, help Shannon."
His return: a miracle. Barbara Walters did a Primetime special; Katie Curic interviewed him for the Today Show; Letterman had him deliver the Top Ten List. Everybody wanted a piece of the last found survivor of Flight 815. He was a veritable St. Jude's case.
To him, it was only a depressing mistake on the part of some higher being (God disappeared for a while here).
"Take it back," he would order us (eyes locked with mine; an extra pleading here). He varied it a little sometimes. "Give me back."
He stopped talking like that when his mother started visiting. She didn't come until the blisters on his face healed (there, luckily, it had only been the sun to burn). He told me aside that it was because she wouldn't have been able to look at him. I'm still not sure if he were sad or amused by this.
Or perhaps he was just telling me a fact.
Here are some more facts about his case that you ought to know.
Of all the people he mentioned, only a few were survivors like himself. A woman named Janine; an old gentleman doctor; some lost soul named Steve (you hear rumors, but you're never convinced, of a law man who had also been in the middle section of the plane)
John Locke had worked at a box company. The other had been a terrorist. Most importantly, to me, there was no Danielle on the flight manifest.
For last: his sister had been blonde.
I liked to sometimes take him on walks during my lunch breaks. It wasn't as if I hadn't learned the art of scarfing down all my meals, but it never hurt to take a noon off from studying now and then. I think he enjoyed them.
I always picked a sunny day. There would be enough clouds to make shapes in the sky. The garden was the best direction, but he sometimes persuaded me to the lake. He would watch the water for our entire time there, eyes tracing the path of the tides.
The lake reminded him of something -- or maybe someone, it's not like I have any real knowledge of it. It's just that, when we'd reach the crest of the path that gave us our first view of the lake, his eyes would change, would become another meaning than they'd ever been before. A new thought every time but with the same theme.
I always wondered to what that thought was facing. It would seem to me at times that it meant something true and secret about love, and I leaned into it and tried to coat myself in the mud that it made. I smelled of trial and tenderness when I came through. Other times, it held for me a bitter, beautiful death. My skin tasted of marigold, and my thoughts smelled of fragrant lilies.
I always seemed to find a nice day after group sessions with the others from the middle section. On those days, he was especially forlorn, and I liked to give him a little something special after the grueling recounting of his rescue.
His voice never wavers as he tells his story:
By far the most exciting rescue. They use it and his condition as a sort of belated Hail Mary ("Thank God!" when the abridged version. "Thank God it didn't happen to us!"). Look at how terrible his rescue was: how they almost lost him before he was even in the chopper; how they couldn't see anything on his arms and upper torso other than white bandages and bath robe; how badly oil burns stunk.
It was nice to see the sky after that, maybe with the sun, maybe with the lake.
Once, I was impatient and hurried him from the lake point. It was like as his soul was breaking to lead on back to the hospital. He couldn't trudge in a wheelchair, but I sure could pushing one, feeling like I was doing so with the soil of his island on my loafers.
"Your rotation changes next week. Another third year told me."
I didn't talk to him at all for the next six days. I got assigned to help cover another department in which I had previously been stationed, and he had calm enough days that my teachers did not think he needed my extra attention.
But the sixth day, I saw him. I was charged with changing his catheter; he winced, like he always did, throughout the entire procedure. I kept up conversation with him on this, probably our last moment to bond over the other banana bag. Maybe my mind isn't so practical as to not like his pretty words.
"So... is there more?"
"There's always more to the island."
He managed to get his island before it all ended.
Boone told me yesterday that the best ideas came to him when an airplane passed overhead. He couldn't think properly unless there was that big, thundering presence in his mind, blowing away other thoughts. No, what he said was blasting -- blasting away other thoughts. He told me that it would sooth and sunder in quick succession.
Funny thing was, we had a tiny little local airport about a mile away from us (it was round where we kept the emergency vehicles). We rented the copter space from them about once a quarter, and they were allowed to keep the airspace so near the hospital. He'd been listening to those planes for months.
There was an air show that four days previous, I should mention. Apparently, he did a lot of thinking.
And so yesterday he gave me his gave me his good-byes, though I didn't know it. He told me about the island, and in between he gave me his opinion on where thoughts were born. What he did was try to give me his truest self and the biggest picture of that truth.
So, I got to tell you now, this isn't the story behind why I called you. I called you because of another story. It's more honest than this one, because this one is mine. The other one is Boone's story, and I had to pick the truth from him only as hard as you have to think to breathe. It's the best sort of story, don't you think?
(Breathe and) imagine that you didn't drown. Picture the most amount of pain that you can be in. You get pills and shots, and you tongue the pills (thank God for the shots, and you've found Him again in light of your sin). After many days, after more pain than you had ever felt were possible in the world, you take your pills.
All those pills at once is a bad thing (and let's just say that you manage to save up enough to kill yourself if you think you're a pussy).
Or maybe --
Okay, so, you didn't drown. When you wake up, you and forty-seven others are the only known survivors of a plane crash. But, no, I went to fast. Imagine ... feel heat like it's boiling your skin off. Burn like that, and then hear the engine of a plane exploding on the beach that you were walking on.
Just think if that happened. And then you turn around, and there are forty-seven other people scared, and some are even dying. You've discovered hell.
Those are the first. And now imagine that the beach is on an island.