~Olive froze. Her head went white at such a small turn of events. For a while, she just sat there, eyes wide open, not knowing what to do. Meanwhile, Ilana just frowned and carried on.
“Hello? This is Ilana Charbon, from the supply office? Aren’t you the head of the ration station keepers? Did you call for more canned fruit?”
A thousand thoughts ran through Olive’s mind. What? Who was this? Was this a Prank? Should she even answer? What was Charbon? Why is this… girl so young? Could it be that she’s actually the head of the fruit production grounds? This is some misunderstanding, right? What should I do? What was happening? Did she just ask if I’m from the ration station? Do I know someone who’s called Ilana? Is this some kind of machinery problem? But how do machines make mistakes? Then all her questions summed up into one clear explanation: there must have been a line cross, like Sandra explained could happen.
She was about to apologize and hang up, but there was something that kept holding her back from ending the call. This was something that’s never happened before, the first unusual thing in her life. And this stuff that the person on the other line was talking about… She could ask about this person, and then hang up later, right? Curiosity got the better of Olive. She took a deep breath and asked the most important questions.
“First of all, I apologize but who is this again? Is this a prank? What is Charbon? Are you not the head of the fruit production grounds? I’m Olive, I mean Olivia Mayfield, from the supply office, and I take care of canned fruit. I take it that our lines crossed.”
There was a long pause at the other end. Then Ilana answered, quietly but firmly.
“It’s clear that you are either a prankster, or a person at the ration station with a very wild sense of humor. But as a matter of fact, I’m Ilana Charbon. This is not a prank. I’m not the head of the fruit production grounds. I hoped I didn’t have to explain what Charbon is, but apparently you seem to be pretending you don’t know the name of our island. You’re not a very good liar, are you? You just told the person who’s responsible for canned fruit that you’re responsible for the canned fruit. Now, who are you, really?”
This was not the sort of answer that Olive expected, and instead of logically thinking it through like she usually did, she spoke the first thing that came to her mind.
“Mayfield, not Charbon. Our island, spelled em-ei-why-ef-ai-ee-el-dee.” Sarcasm was buttered into her words.
You’re a very convincing liar, unlike me, who isn’t really capable at telling a lie. And this isn’t a lie.”
“Mayfield? Where did you make that name up? It’s a really weird name! Let’s just stick with Charbon, okay? The real name of the real island that produces coal!”
“Charbon? What kind of a name is that?”
Ilana had doubted it at first, but her suspicions were growing with every word she heard that this was not a prank. Hadn’t she always thought that there was something, some hidden reality? How does she even know that the island ‘em-ei-why-ef-ai-ee-el-dee’ doesn’t exist? And by the way that this girl is talking, about an island called Mayfield that produces oil rather than coal but otherwise seems to be living in a similar way, that this was not a lie. Ilana decided, for the moment, to play along for the right timing to end the show and get serious.
“Yeah…. I’m sorry, I was joking. This is Ilana- I mean, Leslie Mayfield. I’m from…” where was she supposed to be from?
Olive felt all her tension drain away and felt relief –or was it disappointment? - slide back into her. She returned to her calm self and spoke with easiness.
` “The fruit production grounds! I knew it! Oh, Please send 50 boxes of canned fruit to the ration station. Besides, you surprised me a lot! But I thought the head was going to answer?”
Ilana thought quickly.
“I, uh, she was hurt and is away at the medical center for now. I’m taking the call instead.”
“I thought the head was a he, not a she?”
“Yeah, I mean, he. Sorry.”
“It’s okay! Besides, you’re such a great actor; I almost fell for the trick! How do you make up such great lies? I can never lie so smoothly!”
Ilana’s suspicion was confirmed. She wasn’t lying, after all! Her curiosity grew, and she kept talking to find out more.
“Really? Well, I have loved playing pranks since when I was in stage 1 learning! I always hoped I’d get a more creative job!”
“Yeah, I wanted a more sophisticated job, too.”
So this girl’s island also picks jobs!
“But, oh well, what else would we do but obey the leader?
“Leader? Do you mean General Harris?”
Oh. So they have a general, not a leader. Ilana gave a fake laugh.
“Yeah, General Harrison.”
“You mean Harris.”
Ilana was getting angry at herself for making such a mistake.
“What’s gotten into me today? Yes, Harris.” She giggled.
“I still don’t get what Charbon was supposed to be in your story, though. Could you possibly explain?”
Ilana sighed. The call was getting long; she ought to indulge. She lowered her voice to the most serious tone she could ever make.
“Leslie?” A worried voice came from the other end at the long pause she was taking.
“Listen, Olivia. What I say from now on will be shocking and you probably won’t believe it, but… Well, try. Charbon is real. It’s another island. I think. You’re living on island Mayfield, right? And you probably thought it was the only one. I thought Charbon was the only one. But I think there’s something to it. I think you and I… live on different islands. Yours produces oil, you said, and ours produces coal. You have a General Harris, but we have a Leader Rebecca. But apart from that though, I think we live the same lives. Maybe, just maybe, we just discovered there’s more to this world than it seems.”
Olive turned white again and was confused even more. She understood what this girl just said, but her mind blocked herself from believing it. She couldn’t be more stupid if she were to believe…this! And so she ignored it.
“Leslie? Wha…What are you talking about?”
“Sorry. I lied. I’m not Leslie. I’m Ilana. I live on Charbon; you live on Mayfield. Everyone thinks they’re the only people left in the world. But we just discovered each other.”
Olive’s hands shook. This was definitely a prank…right? It had to be! Her head, swirling with truths, lies, the unknowns, was too confused it couldn’t think anymore. She tried doing what she had always done when in confusion. Olive took in a deep breath, logically listed the questions and tried to answer what she could, but she couldn’t answer anything. It didn’t work. There was a storm in her mind, a war between taking the information in and ignoring it. What should she do? She didn’t even want to think about it. Her mind, her brain, was too tired. She shut her eyes to tightest they would go, and put her finger on the button to hang up on the radio.
Ilana thought it, felt it, knew it. This girl would hang up. In desperation, she called out,
“Wait! Let’s at least talk again, next week, this time, and-”
That was the last thing Olivia heard as she pressed the button with a sharp inhale.
The line buzzed a while, and cut off altogether.