See Previous Chapter: Stranded: Part VII
The Final Chapter
It felt like they had been running for miles. Despite having no strength and no breath, their will to live carried Kellen and Katrina deeper in to the dense jungle of the tropical island. They couldn’t quite tell if the snake was chasing after them but they refused to start taking chances. Kellen had Katrina by the wrist dragging her along as she struggled to maintain her footing along the forest floor. In between each shallow breath she would let out a loud whimper. She couldn’t keep up with her newfound friend and her husband had just been eaten by the same snake that took the lives of her two children.
“You have to stop.” She cried out in an exhausted voice.
“You know we can’t do that! We have to keep pushing on.”
“I can’t breathe! I can’t keep going! We’ve been running for miles. The snake is nowhere to be seen. We have to stop!” Katrina began to experience some frustration towards Kellen.
“We’re not stopping here. We can’t risk…”
Before he could finish his sentence Katrina tore loose from his grip and bent over gasping for air.
“We stop here or you go on alone. I’m not taking another step.”
Kellen then began to realize that he too was out of breath and exhausted. He also couldn’t reason within himself to leave this distraught woman alone on a deserted (or at least they used to think) island. He stubbornly agreed to make camp for the rest of the night.
The gravity of the situation they were in began to settle upon the hearts of the only survivors. Katrina spent the evening curled in a ball weeping over her lost loved ones. Kellen stared blankly into the deep forest, numb to his surroundings. He couldn’t tell what was reality and what was hallucination? Was he really being chased by a monstrous snake, a demon, and the ghost of his father? Was he really stuck here in this island with a woman who is in complete shock? He couldn’t help but weep.
He was supposed to be home with his beautiful wife and daughter. He was supposed to be sitting in a church on Christmas Eve singing carols of the season with his close family. He was supposed to be wrapping gifts for his baby girl; yet here he was. A shell of the man he once was, haunted by his past and terrorized by the unknown of the future. What purpose did hope serve him anymore? Every turn he found the face of death stalking him. Every chance he had to hope in being found was dashed quickly by the unfathomable. He just witnessed a man become an animal’s dinner. He watched his family die in a nightmare. He had no reason to hope anymore. Death was inevitable.
The night passed, day came, and still they did not move. Katrina had been weeping for the last eight hours. Kellen had some compassion left in his bones but he was getting weary of the constant sobs.
“Can you just stop…please?”
The sobbing paused only for a moment. Katrina looked up from her forest bed and into Kellen’s eyes.
“Stop? You want me to stop? Stop crying over the loss of my husband and two children? You want me to stop crying over the fact that we’re stuck on this god forsaken island with no way home?” Katrina began to get angry. “Is that what you really want?”
“You do understand that you’re not the only one to lose something, right? It’s not just you stuck on this island. I’m here too. I have a family to go home to. I have a wife to love and a daughter to raise. I’m sad too you know? But you don’t see me crying all the night long.”
“I knew we should have left you for dead.”
Quite frankly, in Kellen’s mind, they would have done him a favor by doing so. They would have rid him of this hell. Despite this fact he found himself angry with her over the sentiment. It was then that Katrina followed up with something he never expected her to say.
“I mean, that’s what you did with your dad, right?”
Kellen’s eyes grew wide and he slowly began to stand up.
“Oh, caught your attention did I? Well, you did leave him for dead, right?”
“How…how do you know about that?”
Kellen began taking a few steps back away from Katrina. She, on the other hand stood up. Her face now began to twist and morph into the blankness, lifeless face of the demon he encountered a few days back.
“We know everything Kellen. We know your terror. We are your worst nightmares.”
Kellen wasted no time in turning and sprinting as fast as he could in the opposite direction. This was no nightmare anymore. He was sure that he had died and ended up in purgatory. There was no escape. He ran over fallen trees, cut through thick vines. Thorns reached out and latched on to the remnants of his clothing tearing his flesh. The pain didn’t phase him anymore. The only thing he knew was that he needed to run.
His surroundings flashed in his peripherals. At one moment he saw his father standing off in the distance laughing while blood poured from his mouth. The next moment he saw the bodies of his wife and daughter hanging lifeless from a tree limb. Then in front of him stood the demon. Kellen, in shock, slipped into the cold, hard ground but then recovered and took off running in the other direction.
“You can’t run from me Kellen. I’ve been waiting for you.”
The skies once again turned a shade of black. Lightning flashed in the sky. The forest was lit on fire and blazed more furious than any fire before it. Every turn he took resulted in a dead end. The demon was trapping him in his hellish playground. Kellen knew that the end was near but he wasn’t going to give up.
He surveyed the area and found a weak spot in the flames. Looking back he saw the demon slithering his way towards him. He decided that a little fire couldn’t do much more than what had already been done. He tore through the wall of flames and landed on the other side. The inferno caught on to a small part of his pants but he was able to put it out before it spread. Meanwhile the demon inched closer and closer.
Kellen once again stood up and took off in the direction away from his death. The woods began to clear and he quickly found himself trudging through the sandy beach. Somehow he made it back to where he started. The remnants of the explosion lay to his right and his destroyed camp was not too far from there either. Despite knowing where he was it did nothing to deter the presence of his past haunting him from behind. The forest was engulfed in white fire, the sky was as black as the night, and the ocean raged with intensity.
Out of the furnace stepped the demon along with the mutilated corpses of Kellen’s father, wife, and daughter. The demon carried them along by a chain wrapped around their necks. They were his slaves.
“Let them go!” Kellen screamed over the roar of the storm.
“Why would I do such a thing? Do you think you can take care of them better than me? You left your father for dead, you haven’t been around to love your wife, and you haven’t been present to raise your own daughter. Why would I give them to you?” The demon hissed. His sarcastic, patronizing tone filled Kellen with rage.
“They’re my family and they belong to me! Unchain them!”
“The only way they go anywhere is if you take their place. Turn around boy and see that rescue is nearby.”
Kellen turned and there in the distance he could see a boat approaching.
“Either you choose to swim out yourself leaving your family with me or you allow them to leave and you stay here by my side.”
Kellen’s mind swirled. He knew this couldn’t be real but how could it not? Life around him was so visceral. He could taste the embers of the flame engulfing the forest. He couldn’t just leave his family. He couldn’t sacrifice them to this demon. Something in his mind screamed “They’re not real!” He couldn’t bring himself to swim out into the ferocious ocean.
“I’ll take their place!”
“Fool.” The demon whispered under his breath, a grin spreading on his twisted face.
In the blink of an eye Kellen found himself wrapped in the chains of his failures, a slave to the demon that haunted him; his family was nowhere to be seen.
“Where did they go?” Kellen screamed.
“Oh…they’re safe.” It replied chuckling and pointing to the fire.
There in the midst of the flames stood his father, wife, and daughter being burned alive.
“No!” Kellen kicked, screamed, and thrashed against his captor. Nothing freed him from his chains.
“There is no escape boy. You’ve sold your soul to the devil and I’ve taken away your hope. It’s time to wake up and live in my hell.”
The demon reached down with his mangy fingers and wrapped them around his throat yet again, squeezing the life out Kellen’s lungs.
“It’s time to wake up boy.”
The world around him began to fade.
“It’s time to wake up.”
His eyes were shutting, life was coming to a close.
“It’s time to wake up.”
The voices were but a distant memory now as all of the world faded to black.
“Sir, it’s time to wake up.”
Kellen snapped awake and took in his surroundings. Above him stood a woman no more than five feet four wearing a smile and a flight attendant uniform.
“Sir, I didn’t mean to wake you. It just seemed as though you were having a bad dream. We’ve landed safely in America and are ready for you to disembark.”