RR #20: Down the Rabbit Hole

Carter (Gil) Gillespie, Gideon Sterling and Roofie

with mentions of Miles Sutherland and Lyle Tate

_____________________________________________

Midday, 26th January, Mystery Island

The damage really was extensive.  Gil picked his way over the debris, passing the remains of a besser block building with half its roof gone. The corrugated iron sheet was buckled out of shape and lying jammed and useless between two trees about twenty yards away. He peered in through the tiny broken window, seeing the remains of a workbench and little else. One less place for Miles to be lying injured in.

@—}–}—–

That morning, Carter ‘Gil’ Gillespie had woken up alone in their makeshift bunkhouse. Aiden had gone. There was no sign of Miles or Lyle either. Let’s face it, Gil thought gloomily, the storm prevented Aiden leaving last night, not you. Nothing you said did any good at all. He felt suddenly helpless and bereft, trapped on this storm-wrecked island in the middle of nowhere, a long way from home. He tried to shove the wave of homesickness away, but it just wouldn’t go. He rolled over and pulled the blanket back over his head. The bed was hard and uncomfortable, and last night he’d been too hot and too upset by his failure to get through to Aiden to allow either his mind or his body to properly rest.

He felt defeated by everything.  Face it, he repeated to himself, Miles has hardly spoken to you after Lance kissed you, has he? He avoided you on the plane… So why was he so worried about Miles’ whereabouts? Because somebody has to be, Gil considered. Who else would? Sutherland had been gone almost since they landed. He had tried speaking to Gideon but had been stonewalled. Thoughts chased through Gil’s head, and he closed his eyes, willing himself to rest, to forget it all for a while. Negative projection wouldn’t get him anywhere. He failed dismally.

Lyle was obviously not talking to him either—he’d been snippy with him on the plane, but Gil had put it down to nerves, tiredness or the long flight—but apparently he was still not communicating.  Did he see us kissing in his kitchen? How? Hidden cameras? Gil wouldn’t have put it past Lyle, he was under witness protection after all. Yet, Gil hadn’t made Lyle any promises… As far as he knew, he’d been up front with him from the first. Where Miles was concerned, though, Gil had done the first and only thing that had come into his head to stop the doctor leaving.  He had felt sick at the thought of Miles not being there… Gil sighed. But he isn’t, is he? For all the interaction they had shared since leaving Haven Falls, Gil might as well not have bothered trying to change Miles’ mind about the island…

Gil was at a complete loss. Helplessness washed over him again, and it was a hateful feeling. He felt out of control in this looking-glass world. Nothing seemed real. He screwed his eyes shut on it all.

He must have slept—more like a comatose exhaustion—because the sun was high by the time he next opened his eyes. He felt awful: tired and aching. He dragged himself up, showered and dressed and went in search of Gideon again. He had to do something, say something.

@—}–}—–

Gil tracked Gideon Sterling and his men down to the rear of the building, enjoying an impromptu cricket match after lunch on the scrubby ground outside the garage. Gil’s hackles rose immediately. They were enjoying a rest while God knew what might have happened to Miles…

“Clarky, you twat, what the fuck was that?” The speaker was a broad-shouldered young man in lurid green hawaiian shorts and a black baseball cap turned backwards over a dark crewcut.  The ball had sailed over his head and landed on the garage roof.

“Wasn’t my fault… this bloody bat is warped. Like your mind, you fucker,” the one called Clarky shot back cheerfully.

Gil could see Gideon watching the exchange intently as his men played cricket—or attempted to. The ‘bat’ was a broken piece of wood, the ball a hacky sack.

“Well, you know what to do, Garvey,” Gideon said reasonably from his position as the umpire of the game, stationed as he was just behind the wicket–a pyramid of empty tin cans. “Go get it back.”

Garvey shot the man an exasperated look, then stalked over to the garage, muttering under his breath. He jumped up and caught the edge of the roof with his fingers and hauled himself up. Moments later, the brightly-coloured ball soared through the air to land with a thud in the dust and there was a scramble as three people all tried to get to it first.  A big blond man–Scandinavian to go by his accent–won and rolled to his feet, lobbing it toward the wicket before Clarke could react. The cans exploded in a clatter which shattered the calm and raised an outcry from Garvey who was still on the roof.

“Oi! You bastards, wait for me…”

“Mr Sterling…” Gideon looked up on hearing Gil and frowned.

“Mr Gillespie, and what can I do for you?”

Gil took a deep breath and launched into his request. “We have to mount a search for Dr Sutherland, he’s been gone since we arrived, and nobody seems to give a shit. I still say that Miles might be lying injured somewhere. Don’t you care?” Around them, Gideon’s men stood idly, casually watching the exchange. One of them picked up the cans and rebuilt the wicket.  Gil ignored them all, maintaining his focus on their leader.

“Mr Gillespie, right now, I don’t have the manpower to mount a piece of paper on the wall, much less a search of this whole island. It would take more than just me and my men here to complete a thorough search. Dr Sutherland is a grown man, he obviously needed some time to himself–,”

“Bollocks!” Gil retorted inelegantly. “You know nothing about him…”

“Actually, Mr Gillespie, you’re wrong there. I know all about him, and about you and Messrs Tate, Parker and Archer as well. I’ve read all your files and I’ve talked to Breslaw. Your Doc Sutherland is an interesting man, but—,” He checked his watch, then turned to the others, choosing to drop whatever line of thought had been in his mind. “Right, break’s over, lads. Get your gear and resume your duties. Mr Gillespie, I have a meeting soon.  After that, we’ll see where we stand. The doctor might have come back by then…”

“By then it might be too late.”

“We’ll have to hope not, won’t we? Look, I have my orders and I can’t ignore them.  We have equipment we have to sort out, jobs that take priority. I suggest you take the chance to relax and rest up. There’ll be plenty to do once the equipment is sorted.”

“I’ve rested enough!  It’s about time someone did something! Well, if you won’t do anything…” Gil walked away, back toward the building, “…I will.” Somehow, he had to take back some control, do something, anything.

@—}–}—–

It felt like he had been walking and searching for hours. Gil was coming back along the beach, half-listening to the sound of the surf crashing against the reef in the distance. The wind was getting up again, blowing the water of the lagoon into small wavelets. He stopped and looked out across the lagoon toward the main island with its high peak. What the hell is out there, he wondered. Does anyone live there? Or are we the only beings for thousands of miles…? What the fuck am I doing here? The sun was setting and a few stars winked in the blue. He turned back, quickening his pace to reach shelter before night fell, following the margins of the beach instead of risking his neck by trying to go through the trees.  The last thing he wanted to do was trip over something.

The wind had dropped. The surf broke against the sand with a soft susurration. Gil was startled by a loud bark that broke the peacefulness.

“Roofie?” Gil followed the sound inland, picking his way carefully though the trees. The ground here was covered in a mass of leaves and broken branches. Negotiating it would have been difficult enough in daytime, but in the dusk, it was treacherous. Gil called to mind the first rule of rescue—don’t put yourself in danger—and shook his head at the irony. The undergrowth seemed to be much denser than other parts of the island he’d been in so far. The leaves looked different too, although his knowledge of botany was sketchy. He had no idea what the plants were–he sometimes had trouble telling salad vegetables apart–but the leaf shape looked unlike anything he’d seen to date.

There it was again, a bark followed by a whimper, definitely Roofie.

“Where are you, boy?” As Gil moved through the trees, what little light was left grew even dimmer as the canopy closed in overhead. He was stumbling about in darkness. “Roofie?” Again, the answering bark, closer this time. “Come on, lad, keep talking…” Gil took a step, then another, trying to test the ground under his feet. The ground was littered with fallen branches, slippery fronds, broken stems. His foot slid and he froze, breathing hard, one hand gripping onto a nearby tree. Nearly. A whine from Roofie made him pause, that sounded almost as if it were beneath where I’m stood, Gil thought.

He turned his head, trying to get his bearings. He let go the tree, took another step. Without warning, the ground moved under his feet, the world tilted and he lost his balance. With a startled shout, he made a grab for the tree again, but this time he missed. Debris tumbled around him, over him, he was falling, like Alice down the bloody rabbit hole.

@—}–}—–

A warm wet tongue on his face roused Gil sufficiently to realise he was in deep shit. What little light he could see was well above his present position. Which was where exactly? He reached out to the right and touched cold earth, reached out to the left and didn’t manage to touch anything before a searing pain shot through his arm. Crap, that isn’t good. Roofie snuffled his face again. The dog was close and yet Gil could only just make him out. Okay, let’s stay calm, let’s assess the situation as you would normally. Normally? Is anything about this normal? Gil tried to calm his breathing, although it was proving difficult. He was in a hole, in darkness, on a tropical island. God knew what else he was sharing it with… Roofie isn’t worried, he thought. That was something to hold on to. A sudden wave of dizziness hit him. Fuck, did I hit my head? He really didn’t know.

Gil braced himself and tried to roll over, aiming to get to his feet, but a fresh stab of pain shot up his left leg as he tried. Oh, fucking fantastic… The light-headedness was getting worse. He felt along his left arm and came up against resistance. His fingers came away sticky. Blood. Something had stabbed right through his arm… Leave it, his training kicked in through the daze, leave it in there. It’s plugging the hole.

“Roofie, you need…to go for help…” Lassie, come home, he thought sourly, imagining Roofie tugging on Lyle’s shorts until the man followed him. But knowing Roofie, he would probably fuck off into the undergrowth again as soon as he was out and disappear after something that interested him, just like his owner.

Roofie was licking his face again. He was drifting, thinking was difficult. Damn, he had to get the dog out. There was a chance he would find his way home… Home? Not bloody likely. Where was home anyway…?

“Roofie, you need to get out of here…” He got his good hand under the dog’s backside and pushed him upward. Roofie got the message and began to scrabble his way upwards, the downside being that Gil was showered in dirt. He kept pushing, though, digging the heel of his good leg into the ground and levering himself as far up as he could. Suddenly Roofie’s weight left his hand. He slid back, panting, muscles shaking. There was no way he was going to be able to climb out himself. He hadn’t the strength. He was alone and in the dark, injured and trying to keep a lid on the panic he felt bubbling just below the surface.

Ignorance is bliss… The problem with being a rescuer is that you know how vulnerable you are, you know what happens next. Shock sets in, the body begins to shut down. Gil had seen it so many times, he had lost count. Like that kid…

In his mind’s eye, the faces of his own parents overlaid those of the kid’s parents, anxiously waiting. He shivered. Not a good sign, Gil. His eyes drifted shut. Awareness dimmed. His breathing slowed. And nothing matters any more…

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