Apologies and Blame on Pirate Desert Island (Chapter Sixteen)
Updated: Oct 26
So this is unexpected. But, you know, whatever. I think I left “expected” somewhere in Doug’s car the first day. The moment we stopped in front of that big, absolutely definitely haunted O.C.E.A.N mansion, I knew somewhere deep inside that my life would never be the same.
Or, in this case, my afterlife.
But this is really unexpected.
I mean, a murdered pirate riding an albino giraffe on a deserted island inside what is definitely probably a collective hallucination. Or, er, nightmare. I don’t know. The verdict is still out on that. You know what—the important thing is that we’re in this together.
I cut a sideways glance at Ted. He’s looking decidedly less ghostly than usual. I guess that means I am, too. But why?
“Is she paying attention? Is she daydreaming?” Beige Alice’s creepy voice cuts through my distracted thoughts. “Is she daydreaming inside this nightmare? I worked really hard on this.”
Boy, she sounds pissed off.
“What? I, uh, no. I’m not daydreaming.”
“Sunny—pay attention,” Doug says. He’s sweating, and not because it’s one million degrees on this probably fake island.
“She’s dead, though.” Gabe says, sounding like he’s choking on his own tongue. “But I can see her.”
“So can I,” says Jacinta.
“Yes, we can all see the terrifying pirate ghost,” I say. “Ted, can you see her?”
Instead of answering, Ted walks up to Gabe and puts his hand on his shoulder.
Gabe does one of those slow-motion double takes that would be funny if it wasn’t for the fact that we’re all caught in a collective hallucination on a desert island, having a showdown with the ghost of a murdered pirate. (Who’s getting increasingly impatient, but she’s just going to have to wait, because we—apparently—have some issues to work through first. Besides, if she built this hallucination, then she needs to sleep in the bed she made . . . or however that expression goes.)
Gabe leaps away from Ted, gaping, and then he points at me. “Sunny! I can see you! And hear you! When did that happen? Are you alive?”
“Not the last time I checked.” But I do check, because obviously. I pat down my arms and slap my cheeks a few times. The thing is, though, I could always feel myself as a ghost, so this isn’t a good indicator of proof of life.
A better indicator is Gabe, who marches straight up to me, takes both my hands, and says, “I’m so, so sorry for what happened. It’s been eating me up ever since the accident. How do I even begin to make amends for something like that?” He bends his perfect head over my knuckles, his perfect hair falling in a tragic arc.
“Uh . . .” My heart wants to flip and flop, but beyond Gabe, Ted looks like he’s swallowed a cockroach and Doug is massaging the crease between his eyes like we are his biggest problem and not the enraged ghost pirate. So I just say, “It’s fine, really, Gabe. It was an accident. I’m not mad at you or anything.”
Beige Alice hisses. She actually hisses. Somehow the sound cuts through the cacophony of screaming birds or monkeys or whatever lives on this not-real island.
Gabe stands up straight and whirls to face her, pushing me behind him like he wants to be chivalrous or something. I get the urge to remind him that I’m already dead, but now that my body is suddenly very solid, I’m just not sure what’s real and what’s not anymore.
“From now on, no more emotional displays,” Alice says. “They make me sick.”
The giraffe lurches forward, carrying her toward Jacinta, who is quaking. “The centaur,” Alice says, reaching out. “Now.”
“I . . .” Jacinta shoots Doug a terrified look.
“It’s okay,” he says. “This isn’t real.”
Alice’s hell-fire eye brightens as he says that, but a moment later Jacinta has handed her the centaur, which she cradles to her chest like a golden baby.
“Oh, this is very real,” Alice says. “Just because it’s a nightmare doesn’t mean it’s not real.”
“He means it’s a hallucination,” I say, stepping out from behind Gabe. I cross my arms. “We don’t know how you’re doing this, but we’re going to wake up eventually.”
“Are you though?” Alice wrinkles her nose. She snaps a finger and the screaming of the animals grows louder. “Theseus and I—we’re linked by the curse on this centaur, and by the blood shed to get it. He has his mansion and his ship. But I? I have this island—it was my favorite hideout, when I was alive. My retirement plan.”
Doug turns a slow circle as if seeing it for the first time as Gabe says in a loud voice, “I never read anything about this place—or any island connected to the curse.”
“Theseus wouldn’t have written about it, would he? And the victors get to tell the stories the rest of the world hears. But I’m a victor now, and since you were foolish enough to take this centaur back out to sea, I drew you here.” Her smile widens. “This island is my kingdom, and I make the rules here.”
“The island may be real, but this is partially illusion,” Ted says. He holds up his arms. “We may be solid now, but we’re no more alive than you are.”
He’s right, and I know it. Also—I glance at the sky, at the unrelenting noon-sun. It hasn’t stopped being noon for hours on end.
Alice merely chuckles. “Your companions will perish here, as will everyone on your ship, locked in a place of in-between. By insisting on this journey, Sunny and Ted, you’ve condemned them to be like you for all eternity. And now that I have my centaur here on my island, I can finally hide it where no one will ever find it.” With a snap and a whiff of sulfur, she disappears, giraffe and all.
“As evil villain monologues go, I’d give that a six out of ten,” Ted says. “It was a little brief and short on motivation—”
“Ted.” Doug mops his brow and sits down hard. “For once, just shut up.”
Project CoNarrative is an ongoing multimedia experiment in collaborative storytelling from two award-winning authors. We're taking turns writing chapters and building on each other's work, improv-style. You can read them for free, here on the internet, as we write them.
If you're enjoying Project CoNarrative, please consider supporting us via Patreon. Supporters get early access to chapters, along with a monthly podcast, a quarterly newsletter, a print edition of the finished book, and more. Click here to support us for as little as $3 a month.