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Chapter 13: Tales from the Others (Part Three)
“Ellie!” I shouted again, “Where are you? ELLIE!” My throat hurt like being cut.
The jungle was dark and creepy. I walked alone in the empty forest. My followers were either afraid of this dark territory or too tired to continue. Only I remained in that three days search.
That island was not that big. We covered a lot of grounds in those 3 days, but we just couldn’t find her.
Where are you Ellie? Why you left me without a word? Do you know I will be so worried?
“Ellie…” I tried to yell, but only a fainted sound came out. A strong fatigue took control of my body, and I fell down to the glass.
Lying down and breathing heavily, I couldn’t move a bit, but my mind was still active. All I could think of was the first time I met her.
It was February, 1945. When I stepped in the transport ship with a hundred of my fellow soldiers, I saw her directing the troops to their quarters.
“Coyote Company of 2nd? You are in sub-level 1, area 5. Follow the red marks to the right and go down the stairs. If you are not sure, look at the maps on the way.” She talked aloud to the company leader ahead of us.
I noticed something immediately. Though she looked exactly like a young boy, and had a deep voice. Something was odd about her. I was born with 4 sisters who were older than me. I knew women well because I had to live with 5 of them until I joined the army. People said I had an eye for women, which was quite true. My sisters played all kind of tricks on me. Pretending to be a man was the plank they did the most. So over the year I developed a way to tell the trick. Therefore, the moment I saw her at the first sight, she just rang a big bell inside me.
It was my company’s turn. I came up and looked at her more carefully. My gosh, she was the best man-pretender I had ever seen. The clues were too subtle to tell. She looked even more “man” than some pretty boys in my company.
She frowned, “Sir. Name of the company?”
I replied, “Dharma company of the 3rd.”
She looked it up in the sheet, “OK, you are assigned to the Area 6 in sub-level 2. Follow the yellow marks to the left and you will see the stairs, Sir.”
By listening to her voice, I finally confirmed that she was a girl in a man’s skin. Well, it was a very interesting thing to see. What was she doing in the army transportation ship with a thousand men? I smiled at her. She frowned deeper.
Finally I said, “Very good. Area 6, sub-level 2, right?”
“You are not the dispatch officer, aren’t you?” I noticed more strange things about her, “Usually it’s not done by a sergeant.”
“No, Sir. I am not.”She replied, “I am Eli from the Mulan company of the 1st. The officer was sick. He assigned us the wrong quarters two days ago. So I took over the job.”
“So you are here because he was sick, or you don’t want him to make a mistake again?”
“Both, sir.” She replied without any reserve.
That was the moment I started to like her.
Crackling sound rose up. I struggled to the ground and started my desperate running. The monster was coming. Once he caught up with you, you were dead. I had lived in this island for 25 years. I knew the danger of coming to this area. It was exactly the fear that the monster had got Ellie brought me here to find out.
The sound was getting louder. I saw a black hole under a tree. Without much thinking, I jumped into it.
The hole was much deeper than I had thought. I kept diving down head first for about 20 feet until I grabbed some roots on the way down and stopped the falling. Just when I thought it was safe, through the fainted moon light I saw the smoky monster coming down straight at me. I screamed and lose my holding.
The next moment was all a blur. I think it was the extreme terror which erased my memory of what actually happened.
The strange thing is, I still remember the dream I had right after that. It was a dream about Ellie again, or maybe it was more like memories being replayed in my dream.
1945. It was in the transportation ship on the way to New Guinea.
Matt was the only recruit from the same town of mine. I didn’t know him well before but once we saw each other we were buddies. In my impression he was a tough guy to crack. So it was surprising that I saw him wiping tears in his radio station.
I asked him in a low voice, “Hey, Matt. Why you send Tom to get me here? You know it’s a little late, right? I have a lot of drilling for my company tomorrow. So…”
“It’s about Ellie.” He said.
“Who?” I didn’t understand.
“Her name is Eloise Hawking. Here is her file.” He handed me a piece of paper, which had a title “Classified” on it.
Reading the paper, instantly I was in shock.
Before that, we only knew her as “Eli”, who was the best from the Mulan company. She was a fierce fighter, who was never afraid of taking two guys at the same time. She was a sharp shooter, who got a much better score than me. And finally, she was also a leader, who was also better than me. The whole Mulan company actually listened only to her, not the Major. It really made me envy because I could never achieve that when I was only a sergeant. Too bad her rank was stripped away, and she was waiting in the cell for her trail. Life was so unfair.
After I read the short description of her life story, her image in my mind had changed from an idol to a goddess. I couldn’t believe how strong she was, how she fought off the misery of her family tragedy and became one of us, despite all the obstacles she must have gone through.
“Oh, my gosh!” I finished the paper and slowly sat down at the steel chair. I was overwhelmed by a strong emotion, which made me want to cry like Matt. I tried my best holding back my tears and think of something to talk.
“Don’t mess up the paper.” Matt took it away carefully, “I still need to give it to the captain.”
“So she lost two brothers and her father, and she still wants to come here to fight. What was she thinking?” I finally managed to say.
“Revenge, maybe.” Matt had his index finger circling his head, “She must be crazy.”
“Probably, but you know what,” I said, “I am in love with her now.”
“What? You are in love with Ellie? Are you gay?”
“No, it’s not about her look. It’s about her heart. I never met a woman as strong as her. She’s really my type of woman.”
“But she treats you like dirt.”
“I don’t care. I can see through her. Believe it or not, inside, she was just as gentle as any lady. She just won’t show.”
“Ha, good luck with that!” Matt shook his head, “Remember that the information I show you tonight was classified. Please don’t spread this around the ship. Otherwise I will be court-martialed too. You know.”
I said, “I won’t, but at the same time I won’t allow her to be trailed as a criminal. She deserves better than that. I will find a way to get her out. Maybe I should give my father a call.”
“Oh, it’s so romantic! I am touched.” Matt said, “But please don’t forget that I still want to keep my job as a radio operator. I took a big risk for you tonight, so do me the favor of not telling. OK?”
“I promise I won’t tell the story of Eli.” I said, but at the same time I was already planning on how to let everyone onboard know about her.
My promise only applied to Eli. So if I told a story about Ellie, it was not a violation, right? Yeah, you can call me sneaky, but I am a man who will do anything for my goal. Rescuing Ellie was the No.1 priority at that time. Comparing to it, breaking a little promise, or pissing off my buddy was nothing.
Therefore, before long everyone in the whole battalion heard the “rumor” about a girl called Ellie. We all knew who she was, and we all became her fans.
Days before we entered the warzone, we had plotted a plan in detailed to rescue her. The moment the air-alarm sounded, we would knock out some guys and open the cell for her. Then we used a motor boat to transport her to a battle ship nearby. There she could hide in different quarters every day until we figured out a way to send her somewhere safer.
All the contacts were made. The officers from the battleship had the new uniform and name tags ready for the secret operation. Even a few cell guards voluntarily wished to be the one who was “knocked out”.
I just didn’t know it could go so wrong that day.
It was not because my plan was not perfect. How could I expect that the moment I opened the door, she would kiss me in my mouth? It just came too fast. I was dizzy for a while when it happened. Then she disappeared on me. In just a few seconds, all my planning was in vain. The moment she reached the upper deck and let everyone know that she was at large, my plan was doom and I would be a criminal just like her. It was all because she never acted as she was supposed to. What could I have possibly done to prevent that? At that time I could only follow her to the upper deck and try not to get her killed.
It turned out that she almost got me killed. No, she almost got all of us killed. She seriously pissed off a Japanese ace pilot, and the pilot punished us by dropping a bomb and shooting the hell of the ship. We lost many good soldiers that day. She became a heroin while I was demoted to a lieutenant.
None of us complained about that. After all, she was doing a very brave thing, and we were just the gun-powder. But I had a mixed feeling of her since then. I still loved her very much, but her reckless action made me really uncomfortable.
Therefore, I was happy to know that our transport ship had to be towed back to Hawaii, and we had to stay there for a while, until the ship was repaired. I hoped during this time I could talk some sense into her, and persuade her not be such a hero again.
A friend of my father, who was high up in the pentagon, came up with an excellent idea of getting her back to America. She would be set up as the first heroin of the army, and she would become the most popular lady in the U.S.
We all agreed that after going through all the arrangements she would be busy selling war bonds, and no time to do anything suicidal.
I was way wrong again.
The moment I heard that “Eloise Hawking was dead”. It caught me completely by surprise. I was just standing there, mouth opened and not able to move a bit. All I could think of was “how was that possible?” After that I just fainted.
Before that I never fainted for anything, not the high school wrestling contests, not the intense military training, only her fake death had knocked me out unconsciously.
I woke up the next day in a hospital, and I saw Ellie again in a girl’s dress. It was so unreal, like I was still dreaming.
“Hi, you silly boy.” She poured me a glass of water and smiled. My goodness! She looked so pretty in a girl’s dress! For a while, I couldn’t tell that was the Ellie that I knew and fell in love with. I couldn’t help but loving her even more at that sight.
“They told me that you fainted after hearing my ‘death’” She laughed a little, “That’s too dramatic, isn’t it?”
“I … I …” I really wanted to tell her what I felt, but my whole nerve system was completely malfunctioning; my brain was fried by the mere presence of a goddess like her. Her unparallel beauty choked me to death.
“What do you want to say?” She put down the glass, turned her ear toward me, “Tell me.”
She was so close to me. My heart beat fast like exploding. It took all my strength and my courage to say my simple 3 words:
“I LOVE YOU!”
“Ha!” She was obviously disappointed to hear that, “I thought it would be something else.”
I calmed down after seeing her reaction. Frankly I was disappointed too, “Do you?”
“No, I don’t.” She replied plainly, “You are too much like my brother James.”
“James?” then I remembered, she had two brothers, Charles and James, who died in the war. James was the one who was awarded a Bronze Medal. “You don’t like heroes?”
“James? Hero?” She felt funny, “It was interesting to put him and hero in the same sentence.”
“But he got a medal.”
“No, he was always a coward to me.” She said, “I knew him. He always tried to get the pretty girls into his bed, but he never considered the consequences. There were once that my brother Charles had to settle down a love affair for him, because he was too afraid to do it himself.”
“Charles?” I remembered more now, “He was the one who died in Guadalcanal.”
“Yes, he was.” Ellie had tear in her eyes. It was hard for me to believe that the mere mentioning of his name had made the strong Ellie so emotional. “I believed that he was a hero when he died. There was just nobody survived to prove that. He was the one who really deserved a medal.”
“But James was …”I tried to say something to defend him.
“Yeah, yeah, I know.” She nodded, “He was trying to strangle a German before he died. Things like that. The way I see it: my father was with him in that hill. He was hit by a cannon shell in his foxhole, and James watched him exploded. It’s enough to make anyone with warm blood jump out and do stupid things. He did some stupid things and got himself killed, and vola! A medal for that! It was really ironic, don’t you think?”
“Uh…” I couldn’t think of anything to say. My mind was still a mess anyway.
“So here you take a good rest. Forget about me, ok? I will die soon anyway. I am not the one you should love.”
“What do you mean ‘die soon’?” I asked, “Didn’t they send you back home?”
“Silly boy!” She tapped on my head and said, “Don’t you forget? I was ‘dead’ already. Now the only thing left to do is to go to the front and kill some Nazis. I will be the first one to charge them. I will die but I don’t care.”
“No, no, no.” I sat up immediately, “Please don’t do that. I love you, I really really do!”
“You really didn’t hear me, right?” she shook her head, “You are such a sweet but silly boy! It’s too bad that I won’t love you. You have nothing like Charles.”
I insisted, “I will be a Charles for you! My name is Charles, for Christ’s sake.”
“But you will never be my Charles.” She said with a pity, “Sleep tight, silly boy. Bye bye.” She walked out.
I tried to get up and find her, but then I found out one of my legs was tied. By the time I loosened the knot, she had long gone.
I almost fainted again when I saw her two months later. Only this time she was back to be a marine, a male soldier in full uniform.
“Private Eli Manning reports to the duty, sir!” She used her male voice again, loud and clear.
I watched her with tears in my eyes. It really took all my mental power to control myself not to hug her at the spot in front of my entire platoon. It was one of my subordinates finally gave out the orders, “Fall in, private!”
“Yes, Sir!” She acknowledged, again, loud and clear.
After the drilling I stopped her in the mess hall. “What are you doing here?” I asked, with a raging voice.
“To serve my country, Sir!” she replied, loud and clear.
“No, I am asking why you chose my platoon.” I seized her hand, “Why you come back in my life again?”
She quickly moved around, got out of my hold and twisted my arms, while at the same time put down her plastic plate on the table. She did all of them in an unbelievably smooth manner.
After making sure I couldn’t get out of her hold, she said, “I chose your platoon because I knew that you would always cover me. Isn’t that right?”
I knew what she meant, but I was still angry. I jumped on the table and made a 360 degree summersault. Her hands couldn’t hold me anymore, and I made a quick dash to take her down.
On the floor, I sat on her waist and controlled her hands, then I said, “You left me alone in the hospital, thinking you were somewhere in the Pacific, dying. You almost killed me!”
She struggled and said, “But I did say goodbye, right?”
“No, don’t say that again. It was horrible!” I said, “Don’t you ever leave me like that.”
She used the opportunity of my emotional speaking and pulled me down to the ground, at the same time she opened her legs and locked my neck between her legs, then she said, “I won’t go anywhere now. I chose to join your platoon, remember? Besides, I want to give you a chance to be Charles.”
I was locked down by her scissoring legs. It choked me tight to a point that I couldn’t breathe at all. After hearing her words, I was so happy that I forgot I was out of air for a while. Halleluiah! She wanted to give me a chance to be her Charles! Thank you almighty God! Thank you…
Then I fainted again, by the deprivation of oxygen.
Back to the 1970.
I woke up in a strange place. It looked more like the inside of an Egyptian Temple. Strange hieroglyphs were all over the stone walls. I was lying in a large stone coffin which should be reserved for pharaohs. Two torches burned in the walls, which lighted up the whole room.
I sat up from the coffin and looked around. My head felt so much pain that I couldn’t remember how I ended up here, or why I was brought here.
Well, the answer revealed itself. A man came in. He half-kneeled down and looked at me with curiosity.
I kept my calm and asked, “Who are you?”
“I had no real name.” He said, “My mother didn’t give me a name before she died. You can call me Samuel, if you like.”
“OK, Samuel.” I said, “Where am I?”
“Well, I just answered your question honestly. It’s your turn to answer my question.”
It seemed fair to me, “Alright, ask me then.”
“Where is Ellie?” he asked.
The question was more troublesome than the answer. How did this guy know about Ellie? What did he want with her? Did she disappear because of him?
“Well, the answer is …” he asked again.
“I don’t know.”
“I believe you.” He looked at me in a strange way, “Now I answer your second question. This is an underground palace for Egyptian princes. They came here to be blessed by the island.” He pointed to some graph on the wall, “The Sun on that drawing is actually the island. The pharaohs below were all blessed by it.”
I took a good look at the wall. To me, the graph was more like the Sun was radiating her lights to the people below. However, having lived in this island for so long, I knew he might be telling the truth.
“Now it’s my turn to ask you again.” He said, “Why the scientist wanted to protect Ellie? They are enemies, right?”
“What?” I was surprised too, “What scientist?”
“Too bad. It seems you don’t know anything either.” He said, “You have no use to me. Now you got to give me some reasons not to kill you.”
At that time I finally understood, “You are the monster, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am, but I prefer you calling me ‘Samuel’.”
“Okay, then. Samuel, before I die, can I ask you a question?”
“Obviously you didn’t get Ellie again. But why over the years you always went after her? Did she do anything wrong to you?”
“She did nothing wrong with me.”
“Then why you chased her every chance you got? She got so many close calls.”
“Because she has a bad soul. I could feel that she has killed people without any mercy before. For more than three times I demanded her to repent her sins, she refused and continued the way she was. So I had no choice but to kill her.”
I looked at the man. Strangely I was not afraid at all. He didn’t seem like a bad guy. It was even stranger that he took his time answering all my questions. It was not the monster I had pictured for the last 25 years. So I took my chances and tried to talk him out of killing Ellie.
“As a husband of her for 14 years, I can tell you that Ellie is not the evil woman you are thinking.”
“Really? I seriously doubt it.” He said, “When I looked at her soul, all I could see was mostly darkness.”
“Yes, she killed people. Sometimes she could execute a whole boat of innocent men without mercy. But I know how she thinks. She was tricked by Jacob and thinking she was fighting the evil. In her mind, she was just doing her job.”
“You see.” Samuel said, “That’s why I have to keep killing you guys. Under Jacob’s command, you guys had done terrible things to the outsiders. Killing adults, kidnapped children and looting ships, which one you guys haven’t done?”
“I didn’t do any of those.” I said.
“You didn’t, but they did a lot before you came here. What do you think where those villagers were from? In this island, most of them died before they could make babies. So the new bloods were actually stolen from other ships when they were children. You and your team are the only exception.”
I said, “Yes, I knew that already. I am not stupid. As the leader of the village, I got the special abilities of knowing what other ones were thinking. It was really a curse, but it also allowed me to know a lot of secrets of the past.”
Samuel said, “Bingo! Now I understand why you didn’t do any of that. And that’s why I didn’t kill you, yet.”
“Well. Then here is the reason 1 you don’t want to kill me. I know the secrets of Jacob. One day I can tell everyone those secrets and persuade them to leave.”
“That’s a good point, but I need more.”
“Reason 2. I am the only one who can get Ellie out of the island. You can keep trying to kill her. Good luck with that. You have been doing that for 25 years.”
The man who dressed in black nodded slowly. It seemed that he had accepted his failure gracefully. A reasonable monster! I was really lucky!
“Reason 3. There are new comers to this island. They called themselves Dharma Initiatives. We had been monitoring them ever since they landed. They are good scientists, but the sponsor behind them must have their own agenda. I know you want to drive them out without killing too many people. But I have to tell you that you should have killed them all.”
“Why should I do such a terrible thing?”
“It’s because that scientists had the ultimate weapon: science. They already figured out how to stop you from getting in their area using those strange poles. One day they will find a way to kill you. So you need me to drive them away. Your power alone cannot achieve that.”
“Then what’s your plan to get them out of the island?”
“From outside. I will do it from outside.”
“What do you mean?”
“That kind of operation needs a lot of money. I can send Ellie to the outside world. There with her special ability she can accumulate a lot of money in a short time. Then I can use that kind of money to bankrupt the corporation which is sponsoring the Dharma Initiative. Without the money supply, DI will just faint away.”
The man in black dress looked at me like he was just recently discovered me, “For 25 years, I thought you were nothing but a pawn.”
“I am glad that now we really know each other.” I said sincerely, “For 25 years I thought you were nothing but a monster.”
He even laughed, “Okay. We’re even then.”
I extended my palm to him. He shook it and said, “Alright, you have 3 months to get her out. During this time I won’t bother her.”
“Thank you! I will do everything I can to realize my promise.” I said, “But first thing first, where did you see Ellie and the scientist last time?”
I found Ellie easily. She was calling out for someone, “Gerald! Gerald! Dr. DeGroot!” The whole mountain could hear her.
When I approached her, she was eager to run toward me, but her leg gave way and she fell down.
I rushed to her and gave her some water to drink. Her voice was as bad as mine.
“I miss you.” I said, “Don’t you ever leave me again!”
“Silly boy!” She said, “You should never come for me. I will get you killed.”
At that time I couldn’t say anything more but to hold her tight in my arms.
“No, I won’t leave the island.” She said with determination, “You cannot order me, Charles.”
We actually were not talking in a regular way. Because I can read her mind, so she would just think of the answer without saying. I, on the other hand, had to speak out.
For other villagers, I never let them know I could read minds. So I kept talking to them the normal way. To Ellie, I had nothing to hide, neither did her.
“I am not ordering you.” I said, “I am begging you, Ellie. For the sake of our 14 years of marriage, for our love, please leave the island.”
She stopped pacing in the tent and looked at me. Our gaze met and we kept looking at each other for a long time. We were both silent. All I could hear was the wood-cracking in the bonfire.
Finally she said in her mind, “At least you need to tell me why I have to go.”
I looked around. There was no body awake now, but I still didn’t want to risk it, “Sorry, I cannot tell you.”
She got close to me, held my hands and asked in her mind, “Is that because of my visions?”
I shook my head.
“Is that because I knew Jacob’s secret?” She asked.
My eyes were open. She caught it and nodded, “I saw a vision. In that vision, Jacob killed everyone in the Dharma Initiative. He was laughing in a very evil way. Then I saw Jacob outside the tent, he looked at me like he knew I saw that vision. I was so afraid that I ran away.”
I said, “I didn’t know you would be afraid of anything.”
She said in her mind, “Now I do. Do you know that you are going to be a father?”
My mind was blank for a while. I, a father? I just made a deal with the monster, my life and my wife’s life were both in grave danger of being killed by Jacob or villagers if they find out. Just right in the middle of all the life threatening events, I am a father?
“Oh, no.” I said, “I got to get you out of here.”
She spoke in her mind, “Again, I am not going! I was too afraid and lose my visions temporarily, and the monster almost got me. But now I am not afraid anymore, I will stay here to protect you. You know how useful my visions are. We will stay together and fight, like we always did.”
I sighed, “I already had the perfect plan to get you out. Why you always not follow it?”
She laughed, “Because your plans were always back-fired. Last time you tried to get me out resulted in a disaster. Remember?”
I gently brushed her hair, “Yeah, I remembered. You became a heroin and I got the blame of letting you out.”
She smiled. Over the years, her smile still could melt my heart, “Then don’t get me out this time. Let’s see what will happen. No matter what, we will be together, and it’s enough.”
I kissed her, with all my heart.