The Fire On The Island

[ fanfiction ]

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1. The Fire On The Island

 

There was a roaring in Ralph's ears as he ran blindly, cool reeds and the sloping touch of palm leaves slashing against his face. His heart was beating in front of his eyes and in his head; a hot, dizzying pulse that put time out of focus. From behind, he heard the witchlike cries of humans splashed in red and yellow, and the thumping as bare feet hit the earth in a pace that rhymed with Ralph's fear.

They were so close: so close that he could almost feel their scorching breathe on the back of his neck, so close he could almost feel their bony fingers grasping at his ankles so he fell and they could pounce. Blood was running like fresh water down the steps of his ribcage, and for just a second, it was as if Ralph was back home.

He was hungry, he used to say. Starving. And he used to be thirsty, sometimes. And he even used to be afraid and angry and worried and confused but- what were any of those feelings, now? What did they mean? They were nothing compared to the hunger that ravaged his insides and the thirst that clawed at his throat and the fear that forced him inside-out until he was mad.

Mad.

Was he? Or was it just them? Jack and his hunting. Jack and his bloody, bloody hunting. And Roger. Could he ever have been the quiet, brooding boy that hid behind Jack's fire? In his eyes - Ralph had looked into his eyes - when he dropped the rock. Ralph had expected anger, remorse, regret, maybe fear. But there had been a kind of bitter emptiness, as if Roger hadn't thought death had been enough. As if he'd only be satisfied ripping Piggy apart bit by bit.

And that was another thing. Piggy. His name: Ralph didn't even know his name. Years - or what seemed like years - ago, and Ralph had blurted out better Piggy than Fatty. Had he been serious? Had he really pushed Piggy away so carelessly - shut him up like a whining dog? Like an animal?

Ralph's tears were whipped away by the wind, salt and water streaking the brown tan of the boy's face. Sunburn skidded over his cheekbones, and there was a ribbon of red on his forehead - a thread of a cut, probably made by long grass. And red seemed to stain everything. Ralph. The burning, burning forest. Jack. Red had always stained Jack, Ralph thought bitterly. Always.

The shouts raised to a crescendo, and Ralph felt heat slam in his head. He was on the ground, sprawled out, limbs splayed and mass of blonde-white hair stark against the green and grey of the forest. And they were on him, the dirty colour of the savages circling him, a pack of wolves illuminated by the sunrise.

Ralph's tears stopped, all of a sudden, like tears no longer described what still raged inside of him. The blonde-haired boy could feel eyes staring him down, keeping him pinned against the floor as if he were some exhibit. Jack's eyes, most of all, burned holes through his bare back. Ralph knew he was finding his words - finding something biting and cruel to say to keep Ralph on his knees forever.

The words didn't seem to come. There was just a silence, weighing down the island. Pushing down on them, like smoke weighed tonnes and had come alive against them. Ralph vaguely wondered if smoke would care who started the fire, and who tried to put it out. It didn't seem to matter.

Then words came alive. Jack knew what he was going to say. The redhead grasped a chunk of Ralph's hair and turned the slightly younger boy over, so could Ralph could see him when Jack spoke to him. Their eyes locked as they had done when Ralph held the conch high, and Jack's gold badge glinted on his shadowed cap.

"See," Jack growled. "You wanted fire, didn't you? Well look! We've given you fire, haven't we?"

Some of the littluns snickered, but Ralph didn't say a word. He'd expected it.

Jack's face lit up with frustration. "We've given you fire, haven't we?" His red hair fell over his pale eyes as he forced a reaction out of Ralph, shaking his bloodied body as if it were nothing but a corpse. "We gave you fire!"

Ralph coughed, and blood splattered the corners of his mouth. "You let the fire out, Jack."

Jack's face crumpled, but then hardened again in a rush of new fury. "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!"

"And you danced. And you hunted. And you murdered- But you're still not happy, are you?"

"I'm chief!" Jack raised all his defences, and clenched Ralph's hair like it might save what was burning. "I'm chief and I say- I say-"

"No. I'm chief," Ralph whispered, red pooling at the corners of his mouth. "And I say, you know nothing, Jack Merridew."

Jack shook with silence, drained of anger, drained of fear, drained of the purpose he'd hunted with before. Why was he here? He was here for Ralph. To kill Ralph, cut his throat, spill his blood. He was the beast: the monster that had been inside Simon and Piggy- Ralph was-

Roger knelt down beside Jack, and pushed his spear against the blonde boy's throat. "And we say we're going to kill you, Ralph." Roger snarled, his face a mess of paint and blood and sweat. "And you can't do nothing about it."

Roger raised his spear high above his head, and like some kind of ritual, whispered a chant under his breathe. It was a chant they all knew well: one that bounced off the cliffs and hovered by the sea, a chant that drifted with Simon's body in rolling waves and lay, covered, like a coffin, Piggy's body. Killl the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood. Kill the pig. Cut her throat, Spill her blood.

And then they were all chanting it, the words sliding off their tongues as easy as breathing. It rang in all their ears, and the light from the dying sun shivered over their faces, a golden torch in a shaking hand. The lines and curves of all the hunter's faces were burning with fire, and the darkness lingered around the silhouetted spear as if the whole island knew the evil that dwelled at its tip.

Sound, too loud. Light, blending into dark. Just boys, just a beast.

Spill her blood

 

"Stop."

Roger dropped the spear all too quickly, and then sun was alight again, drenching the ugly scene in light. "What do you-?"

Jack was shivering. "Stop it. Stop it- I-"

"Jack- We need to kill-"

"Its the beast-"

Jack spoke again, this time even quieter, but somehow filled with a authority. "No- I- Ralph-" A hurried pause. "I'm- Just join us, Ralph. You could be a hunter- you could hunt with us- We can kill the beast together. Please! Remember- Remember when we hunted, at the beginning, and you helped kill it- the pig. And you- you wanted it. You wanted to hunt," Jack's fingers loosened their grip on Ralph. "Please. Please, I want you in my tribe."

Ralph's face was blank.

"I can't- I need you. The littluns need you. We can be leaders together. I- You're not the beast, Ralph. I- Please."

A littlun burst into tears, and Roger jumped to his feet. "Jack! This is mad! Ralph is the beast-"

"Shut up!" Jack jumped up, and shoved the smaller, thinner boy over. "You don't know anything. Just go away. Just go away, all of you!"

When no-one moved, the fiery boy shouted louder. "Go away! Everyone!"

The crowd began to move, slowly at first, away from the patch of reddened grass. The littluns began to run, some grasping at each other's hands, suddenly lost. Roger staggered away, a gash of crimson dribbling past his eye and into his mouth. And the others, the hunters, blurred into one beast, scattered away from each other other until they were nothing but choir boys.

Jack crouched further, huddling himself into a ball by Ralph, who was barely conscious.

"Why couldn't you just join my tribe, Ralph?" he whispered, his light blue eyes glassy with tears.

A splutter of blood. "Because there never should have been a tribe. There was only us."

"We could've hunted-"

"Stop it. We should never have hunted."

"We needed pig-"

"We needed each other."

"You knew I couldn't run them by myself! They all liked you, even when they followed me. They trusted you," Jack's face split with something near confusion, but more like remorse. "They only ever feared me. We could've ruled together though. Two kings."

"Its not our island. We couldn't be king."

Jack placed both hands on either of Ralph's shoulders. "I just wanted-"

"To be chief?" Ralph squirmed slightly, trying to push away the pain that enveloped his stomach and his head.

"No. I wanted to be like you. Just-  How could they choose you? How could you be chief when I should've been? You should've seen me back home, Ralph, when I was head of the choir- Maybe, maybe we could've been friends."

"Maybe."

Ralph's eyes were half-lidded, and darkness was seeping in like ink.

"Ralph- please," Jack began to sob, and pressed his head against his enemy's. "Tell me how to be chief. Tell me how to be like you."

"Light the fire, Jack."

 

 

 

 

 

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