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Lost and Found
Clarke could not tell if he was awake or if he was dreaming. He stared into the back of his eyelids. He rolled his body to the left, brushing against the side of the lean-to. The jungle was growing noisier. He heard twigs snapping and leaves rustling. He could not tell if the sounds came from the inside or the outside of his head. He wasn’t sure it mattered as the result was the same. After each crack of a branch he imagined the yellow eyed, mud covered faces from the field floating in the darkness that encircled his camp.
He opened his eyes and stared into the ceiling of his shelter. The noises ceased. He mustered the courage to peak out of the lean-to. Waves fell lazily onto the sand. A cool breeze followed them. He crawled out of his lean-to, stood up and walked a circle around the camp. He must have been dreaming.
He made his way onto the beach. His head twitched around and he looked into the jungle, studying every dark corner and expecting to see the faces studying him. He saw only shadows. No yellow eyes. But still he thought he could feel the pressure of their gazes pressing against him as he turned back towards the ocean.
He lost himself in the push and pull of the water and in the soft rush of wind rolling off his face. He thought of home. He thought of his work. He almost made the connection then, almost thought of his journal. But another thought forced its way to the front of the line.
He cast his eyes behind him, finding the volcano at the foreground of a star filled sky. Smoke drifted out from its crater and, this time, there was no mist to hide the plumes of grey. The breeze eased out of existence and the sounds of the ocean were put on mute.
First they were low, the voices, more like murmurs than chants. But they steadily rose in volume. They were coming from far within the island almost as if they were accompanying the smoke on its way forth from the volcano. Their volume leveled and though they were not loud Clarke could hear them clearly. Chanting in a tongue he did not understand. A tongue he’d never heard before.
The chant consisted of the same phrases being repeated over and over again. Soon their words were all Clarke could hear and even his inner voice was drowned by the chorus. Slowly, the volume began to reduce again. The number of voices diminishing until it seemed like there was only one left chanting. The voice dropped to a whisper. The last words it spoke came from over Clarke’s shoulder. He spun wildly towards the voice but he saw only the beach and the sea and a strong breeze brought the sounds of the ocean rushing into his ears and his inner monologue founds its own voice again.
Clarke stood in the same spot for some time, listening to himself try and explain away what had just occurred. Facing away from the jungle he was reminded again of the feeling of eyes on the back of his head . He placed his gaze on his feet, walked up the beach to his camp, and crawled into the lean-to. He finally fell asleep. The next morning he could not tell what had been dream and what had not.
The white hot sun was well into the sky by the time he managed to get himself going. The first thing he did was stoke the bonfire. The second was take stock of his remaining food and water. He saw he’d need to make another trip to the stream. He was not very eager to do so. His food was low too and he was forced to finish the last of it for breakfast.
He could not shake his feeling of idleness, hesitation, dread. He put off getting water and sat on the beach and listened to motion of the waves. He mulled over the appearance of the faces in the jungle and the experience he’d had the previous night. Two possibilities revealed themselves to him. One, he was hallucinating. He believed that this was a decent possibility. He was malnourished and dehydrated. The face he’d seen and the voice he’d heard fit this diagnosis nicely. Despite that, he could not ignore the second possibility. There were others on the island. This brought to mind many questions. How could they survive without a substantial source of food? Why did they not make themselves known to him? Where did they…
He remembered his journal.
Clarke rushed to the lean-to, reached in, and pulled out his satchel. Inside was a full bottle of water he’d filled the day before, the wrappers from his granola bars, his box of matches, and the water purification tablets he hadn’t bothered to use. He poured these items out and found the zipper for the inner pocket. Once opened, he found the pocket empty.
He swept through the backlogs of his jumbled and chaotic memories. None of them included a report on him removing the journal. Not since the first day he awoke on the beach. Had he removed it from the satchel and forgotten? The last twenty-four hours had been less than clear to him. But there was something there. He could have dropped it in the jungle the previous day at the stream. In his excitement at finding water or during his panicked run back to camp it could’ve easily tumbled from his pack. In fact, he did not remembering closing the satchel after placing his water bottles inside.
Now that he remembered the existence of his journal he felt an insatiable need to discover the answers to his questions. The journal itself was where he recorded all of his research in preparation for any expedition. It may not explain some of the stranger events he’d experienced but it would tell all he needed to know about the island. Including whether or not it was inhabited.
After sweeping the area around his camp, just to be sure, he decided he would retrace his steps along the ravine. He needed to refill his water bottles anyway and it only made sense to keep an eye out for the journal on the way.
He used the same entrance he’d escaped from the day before. The vines were still parted where he’d exited onto the beach. It took him longer than he expected to find the beginning of the stream. As he followed the water, the ravine began to grow on either side of him and he soon found himself walking at the bottom of a ten foot deep ditch. The geographical feature was curious to him. It may have, at one time, been the bed of a large river but that seemed unlikely as it would have to flow from a significantly large body of water. It was almost like the ravine was man made. Dug to help create the stream, maybe.
By mid-day he reached the spot he’d been in the day before. So far, there was no sign of his journal. He filled his bottles, thinking over what to do next. He thought he would walk back to camp on the top of the ravine. The high vantage point would help make the brown, moleskin book easier to spot. He climbed the steep incline and recognized the gnarled, twisted tree from the last time he’d seen it. He changed his course of action. Instead of following the stream he chose to follow the path he’d walked through the jungle a day earlier.
When he was within a few yards of the tree he saw something fluttering against the bark on the opposite side of a particularly deformed limb. He rounded the trunk and realized it was a piece of paper tacked to the tree with an arrow head. It was a page from his journal.
Myths and Sentinels
Dr. Clarke Wilson: Expeditionary Journal. Island of Libris.
The Island of Libris, located off the coast of XXXXX, has been a subject of interest for me for quite some time. A few of my peers, namely Dr. Jasmine Croft, have also expressed a curiosity towards the mysterious location and, as such, some research has already been done on the matter. From what I’ve gathered, it seems no one from the outside world has stepped foot on the beaches of Libris for hundreds of years. The natives of the mainland, mostly composed of fisherman, refuse to go anywhere near the place. They’ve said this is because there are no fish in the area but their extravagant myths suggest otherwise.
Over the years (the records go back only as far as the late 19th century and are inconsistent at best) there have been multiple ship wrecks in the area. Two expeditions meant to explore the island, a number of merchant vessels, and one or two desperate fisherman have all met their fates in the water surrounding Libris. The locals attribute these wrecks to the nature of the island as well as its inhabitants.
One major aspect of the legend regards the volcano that rises from the center of the island. It has no official name but amongst the fisherman of the region it is known as the Northern Sentinel. The myths appear to claim that there is some kind of magnetic force that is expelled from the volcano which draws all forms of life towards its crater. To those who believe these fairytales, this explains the ship wrecks that occur near the island as well as the lack of fish in the ocean off its coasts. Multiple witness accounts have been discovered detailing the experiences of fisherman who have come within eyesight of the shore. Many of them claim to have seen fish, who have washed or leaped ashore, lining the beach where the tribe that inhabits Libris gathers them in baskets.
It is stated that the tribe on the island, who have garnered the name of Terra Tribus (or Terra Homines which roughly translates to tribe/men of the earth), paints their body with mud so as to maintain their connection with the power of the Northern Sentinel. While these accounts cannot be confirmed, they claim that the few souls to have seen members of the tribe on the shore of the island believed them to be covered in a dark brown substance they assume is mud, dirt, or sand.
However, besides these misguided myths and unsubstantiated accounts there is little, if any, real information regarding the Island of Libris and the Tribe of the Earth. I will continue to search for any sources containing information on Libris though I doubt I will find anything substantial. Regardless, my team and I have already begun to plan our expedition and we hope to launch sometime next year. If we take any longer I fear Jasmine may have the chance to launch her own expedition first.
Post Script: Precautions have been set against the possibility of outsiders visiting the island due to the risk of spreading disease to the inhabitants. This will make visiting the shores of the island quite difficult. Yet, I will do all I can to ensure that my team and I are the first to step foot on Libris. In the end, it is clear that contact with the outside world can only serve to help this isolated tribe.
Images, feelings, and sounds bombarded Clarke’s mind. He saw the boat again and the fisherman who captained it. A small, dark skinned man who took payment readily but, as they approached the island, wanted nothing more than to turn back. Clarke could hear the warnings the man had given in broken english, “we go too close, we not come back.”When the storm began, the captain had begged to return but Clarke had threatened to take his money back from him. He should have listened to the man.
Memories he’d already uncovered passed before him, as well. Only now they were clearer, more like film than images. The boat jolting in every direction, being thrown up and down by the waves. Lightning splitting the sky overhead and thunder shaking his skull. Grasping for the rail of the boat and sliding overboard as the ship flipped on top of him. Suffocating pressure, salt stinging his eyes, the ship disappearing beneath the surface.
Clarke was convinced their goal had only been to observe the island from the boat. To get close but not disembark onto the beaches. He believed he would not have set foot on the island without proper approval and preparation.
He folded the sheet of journal paper and placed it into the pocket of his satchel the journal used to occupy. He could see the basis for the myths the locals held about the island. In a way, they made sense. It explained the lack of wildlife on the island, the lack of fish in the ocean, and the faces he’d seen in the jungle but that did not make the fairytales of the mainland culture true. They were right on one count though as there were certainly people on the island. And they clearly knew he was there. They’d seen him, possibly well before he’d seen them. They’d taken his journal.
He wondered why, out of all his supplies, broken GPS included, they had taken his journal. Clarke was certain they could not understand it. He wondered if their culture had even developed a written language. Yet, they seemed to understand what the book represented. The strange way they had tacked a single page to the tree seemed to confirmed that. It was not even the first page of the journal. Though it was the first page in which he specifically mentioned his research and desire to visit Libris.
He halted the path of his thoughts. Of course they did not comprehend what was written on the page. They had chosen it at random. They were using it to make contact. Now it was up to Clarke to figure out how to do the same.
He glanced past the tree, across the ravine, and towards the field where he’d seen the faces of two Terra Homines, men of the earth. He figured that would be the best place to find any of the tribesmen. But he’d have to prepare first. He had no clue as to the nature of the tribe or their customs. He wished they’d return his whole journal so he could go through all of the research he’d done.
For the time being, there was nothing he could do. So he tracked his way through the jungle, heading back to camp. The feeling of being watched returned to him and he was afraid that, if he looked back, he’d see yellow eyes staring back at him. Their apparent friendliness made them no less scary to look at. He arrived at his base camp well after the sun had peaked in the sky. He went to drop his satchel, but decided against it and kept it on his shoulder.
His fire was burning low and he went to place more kindling onto it and his eye caught a dark form laying on the edge of the pit. It was furry and covered in blood. Just out reach of the flames, the dead squirrel had been placed on a rock. It was quite plump for living on an island that seemed to hold no real sustenance for it.