Ralph suddenly became aware of the coarse sand beneath his sunburned, bare feet. He dug them in deeper; the scorching heat of the sun-warmed sand finally convinced him that he was indeed not dreaming. All the boys wandered towards the officer a hypnotic daze. As they got in line Jack glared at Ralph. His hand lingered on his knife, and it took all his strength to unclench it and put it by his side. He wouldn’t be doing himself any favors by offing him now. A spell had come upon this rugged group of boys. No one spoke, in fear of ruining this fantasy that none of them really truly believed was unfolding in front of them.
They entered the ship, and with a cheery smile from one of the crew, they were directed to a bed with several small bunks. Instinctively they all sat on the floor, ignoring the bunks. They looked out of the small porthole at their last glimpses of the island. The raging flames engulfed their past.
“It’s like hell there now. You know-”
“We are so lucky to be out of there we would have died for-”
“It’s fate... the beast re-paid-”
“God has saved-”
The voices of the boys overlapped each other in childish amusement. They loved to see things destroyed. It made it so much sweeter that they had caused this bright inferno. Only Ralph was silent. His eyes glared out to the island. There on the shore was Piggy and Simon waving to them. The flames licked their backs, but they stood still, carrying wide smiles, and without knowledge of the beast that was about to swallow them whole. Then without warning, the flames reached them and they sunk to their knees, unable to move, but still smiling. Ralph tried to scream, but only a raspy whisper came out. Finally, the boys stopped their gleeful chatter and turned their attention to Ralph, then to the island. They saw Piggy and Simon and watched transfixed as their skin dripped down, as would candle wax, until a smiling skeleton was all that remained.
"Here's your damned fire, Piggy. Sucks to-”, Ralph’s voice cracked as a bloody tear ran down his cheek.
The tinkling of a bell filled the tense atmosphere. Instinctually they followed the noise. It led to food. Tables. Chairs. Forks. Knives. The boys were ravenous. They sat. The chill of the metal chairs was numbing on their sore aching back. All but Ralph were covered in mud. They refused a crewmember’s offer to go clean up. Even Jack knew that his times of savagery were over, but none of them were the same little boy that they had started the journey as. They had seen death and the evils in themselves that can never be unseen. They couldn’t go back to being their old self. It seemed dishonorable and would be violating the sacredness of their time on the island. All the boys had the same fear, that no one would believe them and respect the horrors they’d been through.
They ate. Their fingers run across the utensils with wary fingers. Their mouths were open and as a result food was dripping down their already nasty chins, leaving them cleaner that before.
“What now Chief?”, asked one of the littluns.
Both Jack and Ralph turned around and their eyes met. The hatred was definitely still there, but it had changed form. Just as the savages had become boys in the blink of an eye; threats became games in the face of civilization. Neither was ready to forgive as they turned away from each other, littun’s question left unanswered.
The next couple of days passed in a daze. New clothes were put on. They were identical uniforms not too different than those they had worn several months previously. The conch had passed hands and they were no longer in control. Bells called them to meals, woke them, and formed the framework of their lives.
At night the littlun’s cries could be heard, but one could be heard above the others. The voice screamed in agony and then sobbed, as if a limb had been cut off, or a brother had died. This voice belonged to Ralph. He had aged thirty years in a week of being on the ship. The life was draining from him and no one seemed to notice. Or maybe they were too preoccupied with their own too-real nightmares haunting them until the wee hours of the morning.
One night, during a particularly ferocious storm, Sam lay awake. He watched the rising and falling of his brother’s chest in the bunk besides him. To the right of him he heard a violent sob. His heart ached and he slowly tiptoed out of bed, making sure not to wake up Eric. Sam walked over to Ralph’s bunk and carefully sat down, all while glaring into Ralph’s stone black eyes.
“We wanted this, right?” whispered Ralph, a remaining tear still making its way down his prominent cheekbone.
“Of course, we don’t have to worry anymore. They got us.” Sam said reassuringly, but really he wasn’t so sure.
“I feel-”, his voice faltered for a few seconds as he held back a tear, “Broken.
Like that pig I stabbed. It ran away and survived, but it will never be the same again. It will always be hurting.”
Ralph interrupted Sam, his voice rising in intensity, “You know.... I feel helpless. Like there is no way for me to go on. I thought I was being the selfless one!”
Sam pulled his knees up and continued to look at Ralph. His eyes softened and he rested his chin back on his knees. He understood exactly. He could trust no one. None of their problems had been resolved. Mentally, the boys were still at the island, hunting each other down as savages. However, their bodies told them otherwise in prim proper clothes and trimmed hair. They weren't ready to go back yet. It seemed as if they had never gotten to say a proper goodbye to the island and to that image that made them feel so empowered.
After some more heart to heart conversation they both felt at ease enough to return to their bunks and fall into a fitful sleep. That night Ralph had a horrible dream. He was staring at a knife like the future of the world depended on it. How could something that held all of his problems provide the inevitable solution as well? He gripped the knife so hard that his knuckles turned blue and he started to sweat. Suddenly Sam came up from behind him. He pointed the knife away, but somehow Simon still managed to walk into it. Sam and Simon joined as one. They were god. They were all powerful. But even they didn’t have control. Ralph woke up screaming.
The boys docked in England later that same day. Parents welcomed children with open arms. The children wanted nothing but to go back to life how they knew it. But they couldn’t. Every night Jack would replay the boulder hitting Piggy in his head. Then he would cry softly as he remembered Piggy’s aunt’s screams when Ralph gently told her that Piggy hadn’t made it. Ralph told her that he had died in the crash. He said it was better that way. Jack had almost wished that Ralph would have said the truth. He would feel a lot less guilty if everyone hated him. Right now he just felt like a monster. Every time he was having fun, whether it be on the beach or at the fair, he would stop, go to the bathroom and cut himself. That blood oozing out of an open wound gave him power. His eyes would go black and he would imagine he was dying, being slaughtered as would a pig. He would start laughing uncontrollably and eventually would blackout, never remembering what had occurred. It made him feel like he had a purpose in life. To cause himself as much pain has he had caused those that he loved. Even if the only person he could make feel better was himself.
Simon’s parents were absent at the dock. After a lot of research, Ralph found that Simon had been in an orphanage since he was six months old. He was heartbroken that the only love that Simon had ever experienced came from the monsters that brutally murdered him.
The other boys continued living their lives. The littlun’s were coaxed by their parents to believe that it was really just a dream. And for the rest of them, their lives were spent pushing the beast that dwelled inside of them as deep as they could into the past.
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