Write about being stranded on an island with someone. Write a scene for each of the following: 3 hours after the shipwreck/plane crash, 3 weeks after the shipwreck/plane crash and 3 months after the shipwreck/plane crash.Carlyle has used the same prompt as Jean Booth, but their stories have turned out completely different. Pulse is 4,894 words.
Pulse quickening, heart racing, feet pounding, sweat dripping, my throat burning until I can’t run anymore - I have to get away! I turn one last time before I head into the thick of the forest. Slowly my feet carry me to the blue-gray shrub on the brim of the forest. I brush away the thick branches with one hand so I can watch intently from a vantage point as the bow of the ship is swallowed by the fierce waves. I reinforce myself with one single thought – I can never go back. I start to shake at the revelation that it is real; that it is really happening. I have escaped. My face drains of all color as my next thought is one of dread. Because of my selfish act I had done so at the cost of other lives. It is not usual for me have these thoughts. Staring down at the white sand scrunching between my toes I wonder if I truly know where I am heading. All I want is to be left alone. I am sure my disease will keep my company for the remainder of my life.
3 hours after
My eyes rake the edge of the beach - I have to make sure no one is following me, and if there are any survivors I have to know, who my hunter will be this time. Satisfied there is no one else, I walk out onto the beach; my legs stumble toward the shore, where the cool water soaks up my feet. I look to the sky, sunset should be within the next few hours, so I risk being seen to start searching through the clutter and debris, for this will be me for the rest of my life – Scattered and alone. After a few minutes my arm starts to ache as the blood empties from the wound where I had cut the mechanical device from. I smile to myself, I bet they never anitcipated that I had knowledge of their devices. I find all kinds of useful things, mostly weapons and first aid boxes. High-jacking a military cruiser was the best thing for me if I am to survive out here. I gather anything that could build a shelter, any tools I can use to hunt, to cook, to protect myself. I have never hunted before, but I was designed for a purpose and that purpose will show its ugly head very soon.
I run back and forth between my-soon-to-be dwelling and the beachfront with timber, ropes, metal canisters, tin bowls, cloth, clothes, knives, med aid boxes, guns, amo and something called liquid fire. Once I am satisfied I have everything I need for now, my eyes scan the debris floating in the distant waves, drifting to a cave opposite the island, then the panic quickly sets in - I have not seen a sign of the silver bottle that will save my life. I squint into the bright glow of the sun’s glaring reflection. I search every rock, under each piece of wood, dig through loads of debris and still I come up empty. My disease makes it hard for me to focus on anything anymore. My mind is drifting already, my skin tingles. I put my hands in my pockets, but they touch nothing but sand filled lining. Still shocked I had dropped it in the first place, I slump to the ground - I am a mess. Any kind of focus I had left drains from me. A lump threatens to burn its way through my throat as my mind starts to lose control and stability. It's only been a few hours and I have started shaking already. I want to burst out in tears, and I know these are symptoms of my disease. Things had happened so unexpectedly, I had lost my silver bottle with my monthly dose somewhere out there, beneath the ocean. I had to shoot my way to the control room – that was never part of the plan. I had lost my cool and my only defense was attack. I stare into the surf with dismay and anger. If some fish had mistaken the silver shine for food and swallowed it whole, I can spend my entire life searching for it. That’s if my mind isn’t lost to the disease first, or if I don’t kill myself before the end. My hands start to shake uncontrollably now, how long can I go without my meds before I lose it completely? The stages of my disease recently doubled in severity, my dose had been increased, and other than those few times I had tried to wean myself off of as an experiment, I have never been without my meds, but that was months ago, and I am afraid I cannot remember how to slow my pulse or how to keep the shift at bay. The shift is my name for the disease. I had been close once, close to breaking down. I felt my mind shift, my soul shift. I had raged out and was punished severely for it. All I can do is lock myself in this moment. Because this is the moment I will find out what I really am?
"Looking for this?" A voice brings me back.
From the corner of my eye I can see the glint of silver. Firmly I grasp onto my make-shift spear, ready to aim the sharp edge at his heart, but when I turn I can only gasp, and all I can do is stare at him. He, who holds me captive with the only thing that can free me, is the very person who drove me to the measures I have taken to escape.
3 weeks later
"Would you stop that!" He groans through the darkness. His irritation with me has reached a new level, because we have hardly said two words to each other since we found ourselves stranded together. I hold onto the fury that got me in this mess. The one he caused. I won’t let him win. My eyes search the dark for a way out, it’s been a stormy few days and the cloud cover is making it near impossible for me to see his face. Without the visibility of the three moons, my eyes can’t use the light from the beams to see through the dark, and I can’t read his intentions without looking in his eyes, this makes it hard for me to gain the upper hand. My emotions surface as the next best way of self-defense
"I can’t sleep." I huff, and then start biting on my already swollen lip, one I have been gnawing at for days.
"You have been pacing the entire night," I hear him sit up as his shirt scrapes against the edge of the course timber hut, and to be honest I’d live in a shack my entire prologue existence if it means to never go back.
“In fact you have been pacing for a couple of nights." He says through a yawn.
"I need my meds." I keep saying.
"Their finished." I can hear the smirk in his voice. "I told you to ration them."
I flush. "You can't ration meds, they don’t work that way!"
He chuckles. "Have you ever tried?"
“Yes!” I shout. He is the only one who knows this, and he knows I failed at it, now his arrogance is making me furious.
“Well this time maybe you will truly try, because now you have no choice but to survive without it, and as you know you won’t die, even if at times you feel you might. You are designed to survive.”
I growl. "Leave me alone." Tell me something I don’t know.
"Fine, but go somewhere else, somewhere far away where I can’t hear you."
“I hate you!” I mumble, turning my back on him. That was emotion again. Because at that moment, I do hate him. He made me aware of what I am; he who once tricked me into thinking everything will be okay, that I could trust him. That he cared for me.
“So you say.” His voice carries the arrogance of his betrayal.
This only infuriates me even more. I stomp off in the opposite direction with haste, to get us much distance between us before I rip his head off. My mind reals the faster my feet carry my past the hushed waves. It’s a quite night, and I should know this as a warning sign. I have walked the path many a night without so much as an ember of light to guide me. There is no dry wood left, we have run out of liquid fire - Clearly my informant had been misinformed of the cargo on that cruiser I remind myself, and now I am mad at him as well. I feel the anger rise – and this emotion is almost new to me. Of all the people who I possibly could be stranded with, I find myself with him! When it comes to him, my emotions are heightened, and I fear I know why. He was one of the reasons I decided to take off in the first place, but I should have seen this coming, he was after all military, and what were the odds that he would be on the exact ship I decided to highjack? He taught me the very thing as ‘there are no coincidences’. My nostrils flare as my pulse quickens with hurt and anger. I had planned my escape for months, pulled all- nighters to study maps, and gather knowledge, even managed somehow to keep my vital signs steady for weekly tests. All that hard work and this, this is what I have to be stuck with for the rest of my life! I am sure he is enjoying every torturous minute of it, him getting his revenge on me for breaking up with him – Ego was a big thing around our parts. And so was competition. My hands are shaking, breathing becomes difficult, and anxiety is setting in. Without my meds I don’t know how to keep it at bay, this too is new to me. I take a deep breath to steady my pulse; I let it guide me to a quiet place inside of me. I smile at the irony, because when Troy had first told me the conspiracy of the meds, of my ‘disease’ – he was the one who had shown me to calm the storm within, thereby keeping the shift at bay. But it’s been days and I have never been without my meds for so long. My mouth is dry and no amount of water quenches the thirst. My bones ache, and the damp is making it worse. I’ve chewed my nails to the pinky flesh, scratched my scalp to one solid bloody scab. My hunger never goes away. No amount of food, walking, swimming, hunting, fishing or building has subdued the ache inside of me. I cannot begin to explain how it feels when the disease threatens my sanity like this. There is nothing in the early hours of this morning to keep my mind occupied but the thought of what their plans were for me? The black sky fades to a gray mist as the sun starts to rise on yet another uneventful day. But still I will not go back to the former. I will not be controlled ever again. They have taken everything from me in order to do so, now they must do without me. Their precious society can burn to nothing but ashes, but never will I go back. I’ve walked too far off this time, and I don’t recognize the scent of my surrounding, I can’t feel the soft sand beneath my feet any longer. I have found myself on the rocky side of the island, and I struggle to keep my chest from exploding with anger for the situation I have found myself in. Troy had warned me before, and I have ignored him. I stand anchored to the ground by what I see before me - the dark shiny coat of the feline panther as she arches her back, the golden glow in her eyes, the hiss that sends shivers down my spine. If it were not for my disease I would not have sensed her, but this time it seems my disease is working for me. She stares back; I am her next meal. My pulse is racing again, sweat beads my chest as I try to compose myself, to steady my rage. I should retreat I know that, but my mind is telling me I have to eliminate the threat. I am fighting the urge to attack as my only way of defense.
This is my design.
I bear my teeth but this only infuriates her, she comes at me, and everything inside of me comes alive for the first time. I lunge at her with one thing in my mind – kill or be killed.
Someone shouts and my concentration is shattered. I fall to the rocky ground and the panther slices my arm as she flies over me. My arm is instantly on fire and I turn to my stomach, ready to pounce, to hurt her back, and possibly execute her. But she is just standing there watching Troy as he comes closer, arms raised in defense between the two of us. What is he doing?
“She is just protecting her cubs.” He says to me without looking at me.
“Now get up and leave.” He says slowly, keeping his eyes steady on hers.
But I still feel mad enough to destroy her and at that, that stands in my way.
“First you need to slow your pulse, it’s a trigger.” He says, and I hear him, but I also hear cubs for the first time, moaning and pawing their way over the gray rocks. Mist rolls over the shore, I hardly saw them. What is wrong with me? I am not this, this monster. They had turned me into this. I keep my eyes on Troy as I slowly stand one limb at a time, blood dripping from the gash in my arm. I tear a piece from my white cotton shirt, with my free hand and my teeth I wrap it around my upper arm with to cut the blood-flow. The texture between my teeth grates me, I almost gag. Instead I limp away, bloody and in a state of horror at how quickly I had turned. I understand that with the adrenaline a few moments ago I almost felt the power surge of my shift as my instinct came alive. I have never gone so far into my triggers, to feel this before, but I am lying to myself because it is the third time I almost succumbed to it.
3 Months later
Troy has told me everything I need to know about my ‘disease’. But still it has not helped in any way to keep the shift at bay, I have almost shifted a few times and the shift has not been mastered yet, which could only lead to our imminent deaths. I’m lying curled up in the safe of his arms, shivering uncontrollably although it is scorching hot on the island. My hands and feet are bloodied from all the training, it is the only way we know how to keep my symptom’s at bay. Tears flood my eyes, as I try to differentiate truth from reality. The shift is a mind thing, and a life of living under the meds, only subdued the shift, and now I have to learn the hard way to control it, if I don’t, it will kill us both. My silent tears turn into sobs as the fire inside of me grows stronger with each passing minute. I have leant to control my rage and anger as those are my strongest triggers, but it’s the confusion for what I feel for Troy, that threatens my shift this time. I’m clawing at the long scab over my arm, my skin tears open and I look at the odd color of my blood that only confirms everything that Troy has told me, about what I am, who I am, and why I was subdued by the Program and controlled by them my entire life. I bite down on my tongue, my teeth pierce the meat, my mouth fills with the coppery taste of blood, the pain distracts me from screaming out in frustration as the shift comes and goes through my body, through my mind. Without anything to focus the shift on, it’s consuming me from the inside out. Troy is shaking me as my skin stars to burn and it gives off a bright golden glow. It’s happening, the shift is coming. It’s not long before he can’t touch me anymore. Why is he doing this? Why does he stay by me when I am likely to kill him at any moment? Why if he cares did he cheat on me?
“You need to stop! Turn your mind off!” He shouts at me from a few feet away, the golden burn of my skin is growing like an orb of disaster around me.
I scream– I am on fire.
“Head for the water!” He screams.
“Stay away from me!”
And I listen to Troy because he is right. This only confuses me more, because how does he know so much about me and it? I sprint for the water, I can’t feel my legs, my arms anymore, I’m not sure if I am breathing at all. I smell singed hair and burned flesh, my body is not healing itself – I need my meds! I stumble through the waves and then submerge my entire being under the waves. I swim out deeper and deeper until there is nothing but me and the fish. The water soothes the ache inside and out. But the shift is not gone, I was designed to be a weapon and the weapon needs to go off. Images of Troy kissing that girl, boils my shift to overload, its drawing these images to my mind as its only way to survive. I know my design is not to survive right now as much as it is the shift’s need to survive. So I release all of its strength in the debts of the ocean.
Troy is laughing at me, I don’t think it is funny, but I smile anyway. We spent weeks trying to catch the load of seafood I had managed to kill in the wake of my pulse-explosion. We stuff our bellies with exotic fish that are hard to trap. I fall into the soft sand beneath the shadows of the palm trees. Troy comes to lie beside me. I feel myself flinch as he holds onto my hand; he has held me many times, but it feels different when he touches me now. I see him differently somehow.
“I told you, you wouldn’t die.” He smiles.
I roll my eyes at him, “No but my shift harms everything near me.” I look at him, and the truth comes out. “How can I live like this?”
“At least you’re not dead.” He says.
And he is right the shift had not killed me, but still I need to know when to keep it at bay or it might get out of control. I understand little of its power, only that it is equivalent to the force of a massive pulse-bomb that flattens everything in its path. I stare up at the twinkle of the early afternoon sunset thought the huge palm tree leaves above. I think I am happy right now. I do feel relieved, but I don’t know for how long this feeling will last. It’s not easy to shift; in fact it nearly destroys my sanity.
Out of nowhere he says, “I did it for your own good you know.”
I turn my face to stare into the green of his hazel eyes. I expect a smug smile from him, but there is only sorrow as he stares back.
I sit up; pull my legs to my chest. “You hurt me.”
“I realize that now.”
“Asshole.” I spit back.
He sits up next to me; his fingers lightly trail the wounds on my arms, my hands.
“Why?” I bite back tears.
“I made a mess of things, didn’t I?” He draws circles into to sand between his feet, he won’t look at me.
I shrug my shoulders.
“I was trying to help you.” He stares into the surf.
“I don’t understand.” I try to be honest, although my entire life I have never been honest with anyone. It feels good; I feel some pressure lift off me. So I continue.
“I loved you.” I want to smack myself over my head for saying that. But it’s hard now to stop emotions that I have been trained to curb my entire life. Without Kim, my keeper here to watch over me – I let them all spill out.
He hangs his head between his knees. “I didn’t expect that.”
“It was the first thing I felt when you rationed me from my meds.” I swallow the pain. “My very first emotion was loving you, and you ruined it.” I spit through clenched teeth and white knuckles. Something inside of me likes to get mad.
I can sense he is biting on his tongue. I’m not sure if he loves me that way I love him?
“You need to tell me everything, or I cannot guarantee my shift’s wrath.” I give off a small giggle, although it is true.
“I needed you to be angry, as I knew anger would trigger your shift and you would finally accept what you are, who your keepers are. I wanted you to be free from their control.”
He only stares back with hollow eyes. Whatever, I am fine with that, people have kept things from me my entire life.
“How long will it take before I can control this?”
He turns to me, and in his eyes it’s as dark as midnight. “We need to go back.”
I only stare, because I know he is right - again. Only my creators know what I am for sure, and only they know how I can control it.
We are silent for a while, just staring into the ocean, the breeze picking up all kinds of smells. I can’t believe I am actually considering going back there.
“Why are you here?” I finally say.”
Troy takes a deep breath. “There is something I need to tell you.”
I listen in horror as he tells me about things I never knew existed. I had found out the hard way that our human settlement on this planet are part of a genetic experiment to create a super army. But it is not that, that angers me, it only confuses me. It’s the fact that he is telling me of things of fantasies. How I have a destiny, how I am part of an elite circle, one that the Program Keepers has no idea about, or that it even exists. That he is my guide and has sworn to protect me. That he had hoped we could escape my fate by driving me to flee, and had failed me and him as he never understood how my shift works until now. I swallow back the disappointment, the confusion, the regret, the hurt.
“I don’t want to go back.” I say to him, my voice is shaky now. I don’t want it to be true.
“Well at least we know what all your triggers are now, and you know how it feels to unleash it. So you better understand it. But I am afraid it’s only a ripple of the power you carry inside of you. I am at loss, I need more time, but we have no more time.”
He stands pulling me to my feet; tucks me into the circle of his strong arms. I take in his scent and my body flushes with desire. I never stopped loving him. But when he speaks the words I have been dreading for so long, I can’t help but welcome the shift to protect against the pain.
“They are coming.”
I try to pull away from him, he had given our position away, betrayed me to the keepers. I am not ready to go back yet. But he is stronger than I am – for now, and keeps me pinned to his strong chest. I want to stay in his arms when my instinct is to destroy. I have not the words to hurt him back, to let him release me. My fear and disappointment, the devastation of realizing he is right in sending me back has weakened my ability to call upon the shift. But, when I hear the droning of the hovercraft engines in the distance, my instinct to survive overpowers my ability to control my shift with fear - Because I am not afraid of them. I am afraid of me. I have fought the onslaught of the shift for weeks now, and nothing I do now can keep it at bay. He is right once again – I need to go back to be able to know of its true abilities, of its ‘off button’.
“It’s the only way I know how to protect you.” He kissed my forehead.
I savor his warm lips on my skin to block out the anger. It is like a strategic battle beginning to unfold within my mind. Using one emotion, to override the other, all to keep the shift back.
I know this is the only answer for now, but I also know that once the keepers have me, I will be their slave once more, and this time my punishment will be pitiless for my crimes. I cannot hold my emotions in, they come so easily now. I am crying, shaking, and feeling dread and gloom set in. I override that with the desire I felt moments ago. It eases the pulse. I swallow my emotions, for they cannot see me act the way I have for the past few months. The war in my head will forever be a part of me.
“I won’t let them hurt you.” He takes my face in his hands; a wide smile grows across his face. “I have a plan.”
His eyes search mine; I feel nothing but disappointment at the full circle I have come.
The sound of the hovercraft becomes louder, it is near and it brings on my anger again. I never want to go back. Troy sees the look on my face. The hate, I am sure he can taste it’s bitterness as my skin starts to burn once more. This time the shift comes with ease. I watch in dismay as the ropes come down from the craft and I close my eyes because one - I want to run, and two - I want to explode. But I know it would only harm everything in its path. But it’s coming so fast I can’t control it. Troy leans in and kisses me, his hands cup my face, and my mouth parts to take all of him in. His kiss drowns out the hate and anger, the shift is at bay – for now.
He places his hand on my chest, above my heart. “Silence the pulse. You have to control it, under no circumstances let them know you can shift.”
I only nod; he is absolutely right, and against all logic I have to trust him. The sentinels drop onto the beach, I want to kill them.
Troy shakes his head. “They will kill you.”
But I don’t care, and I feel ready to take them on. They have taken everything from me already. I will not go back without a fight.
But then he whispers “They will kill me.”
Now I have to change my strategy, block out the shift, for it was designed for the purpose of survival and right now I have to turn my mind quickly to guarantee our survival. He was all I had left, even if it was not the best of circumstances between us.And I let them come, push my face into the sand, and force me into their custody. I will not shed a tear, or show them fear. I look them straight in the eye as they lift me from the ground. Then as they drag me off, gagged and bound, I keep my eyes on Troy with every passing moment. I think only of our kiss, of his arms around me each night for the past few months while I freaked out. Of him taking my beatings while I lash out. I will let his kiss linger forever, and that will be my salvation from them. We are banned to feel emotion and what I felt with Troy this entire time - they will never take that from me. None of my kind have felt desire or loved. I grin - I have already won.
What did you think of this story? Did you like the cover Carlyle made for Pulse?