A man reaches into his wallet with large, frail hands. He gives the woman before him a twenty dollar bill and, with a slight dinging sound, she places it into the drawer and collects his change. She hands it back to him, the tall, skinny man she has seen every Wednesday and Saturday for years, the one whose name she still does not know, and he places it in his wallet, walking out with a grocery bag in hand.
Nearly to the exit, he runs his fingers through his dirty but fair hair. The flood of florescent lights from the ceiling above still makes him dizzy, even after all these years visiting the grocery twice a week. He walks past the holiday candies, all carefully erected by the doors to entice the visitors as soon as they approach, and suddenly, he cannot move. He stares at the figure on the other side of the brightly decorated boxes, just inches shorter than he; his dark hair combed over precisely, elegant suit pressed. Ralph’s mouth trembles imperceptibly, he watches as the man as he compares the prices of chocolates, and he is afraid. When their eyes meet, Ralph lets out a small, pained sound and drops his groceries before rushing out into the night.
The stale air freezes in his lungs and he wishes he had driven, just this once, but he knew that never would happen, even after this. He has always walked and always will. As Ralph’s mind continues to rattle on, his eyes concentrate on his shoes, the trees, the cracks in the sidewalk, anything but the mental image of the face he has just seen, burned into his subconscious. But his mind is hardly able to rid itself of this before a small, strong hand grabs him by his shoulder and turns him around. For a moment, the entire world holds its breath as the two men watch each other, Ralph’s large blue eyes staring into this man’s, whose seem to be void of color completely, neither green nor brown, blue nor gray. Just eyes.
“Hey, buddy. You dropped your bag.” The hand that once gripped Ralph’s shoulder was now put forward, holding a bag containing milk, bread, and broken eggs. Ralph watched steadily as the man that looked years old than he in his expensive clothes smiled awkwardly, almost grinning, and held the plastic bag out for him. He searched his colorless eyes for a sign of recognition, something to tell himself that he wasn’t going crazy, that he knew this man, that this man knew him. Instantly he thought this was a joke, that he was being had, but the gentle slump of the man’s shoulders showed nothing but weariness from a hard day’s work, though by the look of him Ralph knew his job couldn’t be too hard.
“Oh, thank you. I don’t know what came over me.” Ralph took the bag and, as his hand grazed over the man’s, his face twitched slightly from a sudden stinging pain in his chest. He stood as the man smiled his clumsy smile, waiting for the punch line in the cruel joke. Had he searched for him? Had he hunted him down like a pig? This couldn’t be handed to coincidence.
“Where are my manners? Hi, name’s Jack. Um, this may sound a little odd, but do I know you?” He looked Ralph in the eye without blinking, not even comprehending the turmoil that was running through Ralph’s mind. He really doesn’t know, Ralph thought. Do I tell him? Do I remind him of the things that ruined my life? Do I let him go on not knowing? Not caring? What do I do? Ralph took a deep breath. Steadying himself, he put out his hand for the man before him. “Ralph. My name is Ralph.”
And that is when it happened. Jack’s eyes widened, flashed another nameless color. His mouth opened and he choked on the words he didn’t speak. Then, he took a deep breath, wiped his face with his boy’s hands. “Ralph from the… the…”
“Yes,” Ralph said. “From the island.”
After Jack had calmed himself, he sat on the curb. Ralph hesitated, sure he had made the wrong decision, but feeling responsible for Jack’s state he quietly sat next to him. Jack’s head hung between his raised knees, his dark hair fell from the hold of the gel. Ralph’s hand hovered for a moment above Jack’s shoulder, shook, and then fell back into Ralph’s lap. How could he comfort him? Years later and Jack was still the same savage that hunted down boys like pigs. Ralph could see it in his eyes.
“You know,” Jack ran a hand through his hair, looked at Ralph with red eyes. “When I came back, everything was different. It was as if my perception was altered. My parents put me in a facility where I was counseled and fed pills and doctors tried to help me “adjust.”” Jack grinned and laughed a little at the last word, though his eyes showed little comedy. “When I came back, it still wasn’t the same. I wasn’t happy doing the things I used to, my parents didn’t look at me the same way. I was back for a week. A week. Then they sent me to boarding school.
“I never saw my parents after that. I graduated and left. I never went back. All because I got on the wrong plane.” Jack stared out into the night at something Ralph couldn’t see. “And you know what? I’m glad. I’m not saying I made the right choices but if I had known, if I had even the slightest idea of what was to happen, I would have got on the that plane same as I did. I found a new part of myself on that island, a part I never would have known, and I can use it now. I can benefit from it.”
Jack returned his gaze to Ralph, his eyes were lit. It was the same face that had stared at Ralph all those times on the island; Ralph could almost see the colored clay seeping through his skin. Suddenly, Ralph wanted to hit him. He wanted to punch him and kick him and make him feel sorry for the things he did, for the things he would have done. Ralph wanted Jack to hurt like he did. He wanted him to pay for the lives he ruined.
“You killed people, Jack! You killed boys!” Ralph leapt to his feet, his voice trembled. He hadn’t spoken above a soft tone in years; screams always reminded him of the ululations. But now his voice was so loud he could feel his face turning red, but this time, the haunting sounds of the boys’ cries did not return and he continued to yell. “What about Simon and Piggy, Jack? What about them? Don’t you care that you hurt them? Don’t you care that they are dead? They’re dead because of you!”
“No, Ralph. That is where you are wrong.” Jack stood up and leaned against a nearby light post, his legs crossed at the ankles. He watched Ralph’s upturned face intently, flicked his dark hair out of his face. “Those boys didn’t kill because I made them, they killed because it was in their nature; it was what they were born to do. I allowed them to find themselves on that island. I gave them freedom.”
Ralph was standing then. He moved much faster than Jack thought his tall, slim body could. Jack hardly had time to notice Ralph was no longer sitting on the curb. Suddenly, he was laying on the floor, Ralph hovered above him throwing sloppy punches. Pain echoed through Jack’s face and down his neck; he could feel blood spouting from his nose. Finally he caught Ralph’s arm just before it connected, and as he held it suspended between his face and Ralph’s, he grinned the familiar savage grin, blood coating his teeth, and Ralph began to cry raw, angry tears.
And then Jack let go of Ralph’s arm and it hit him in the side of his face as if it had never been stopped. Again and again, Ralph hit him as he stared into Jack’s colorless eyes. His vision blurred from the hot, salty tears that ran down his face. Then, Jack began to shout.
“Kill the beast, Ralph! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” Over and over, Jack’s voice pierced the still night; his words vibrated through Ralph’s head. As Jack’s chanting increased, Ralph hit him harder and faster. Ralph lost control of his fists, lost control of the world, and he was back on that island and they were dancing and chanting once again.
Then, just as abruptly, the chanting stopped and all Ralph could hear was his panting, his sobs. He stared at the motionless figure below him, at his bloody hands, and the world trembled around him. “Kill the beast,” he whispered. “Piggy, I killed the beast.”
As Ralph began to run down the sidewalk, he realized for the first time that there was a young girl staring at him from a car parked a little ways down the road. When he ran by her, she began to scream terrified, childish shrieks. But Ralph paid no attention to her. Instead, he continued to run until he came to the small apartment he had lived in for years, ran to his room, and locked himself in the closet. He cried and he screamed as he tried to wipe the blood from his hands, but it wouldn’t come off and soon he was scrubbing them raw on the carpet and more blood began to flow.
By the time the police found Jack’s body, put all the pieces together, and hunted down the apartment with the blood stained closet, they were too late. The body inside was already cold and sticky, barely recognizable through all of the burgundy paint. His face was covered in such a way that the police thought he had purposely smeared it, as if he planned to go out and play a child’s game of cowboys and Indians. And he was an Indian.
They took the body to the morgue and searched his records for relatives to release the body to. The only results they found were “Mr. and Mrs. Michael F. Ellington,” the parents of the late Ralph Ellington. Mister Ellington had died while serving in the war and his wife had gone soon after from “unknown causes” the doctors assumed had something to do with the stress of losing her son and her husband in such a small period of time. With no one to send the body to, the police released it to a funeral home and arranged for a public funeral. The priest and the officers who found Ralph’s body were the only ones to attend.