The three vacationers had tried to build a makeshift tent with beach towels and sticks under the cover of the forest’s trees, but no one could stand the eerie sights and sounds of the island at night, and they all found themselves sleeping on the beach. They were one young couple from the States and a lone Japanese tourist, a woman in her mid-thirties with an irrational fear of the sun, who wore long sleeves and pants despite the grueling sun. They fell asleep that night with the hope that this freak accident would correct itself by morning, that the boat which they watched drift off without them had an emergency of some kind and would no doubt return for them the next day.
But the boat didn’t return. The only solace that came during the second day on the island was when the Japanese woman proved herself to be a surprisingly adept survivalist. She guided the young couple around the island, which had reverted back to its good form during the day, and showed them what fruits and berries could be foraged for food. She caught frogs with a spear she’d carved from a stick and cooked them over a fire she’d prepared with little more than friction and wood dust. The young couple watched her in awe, unable to ask the woman how she became so skilled for she spoke hardly a word of English. They learned her name was Miho by repeating their own names a few times, Laura and Rob, but their communication went no further than that.
It was during that time while the three sat silently around the fire that the first bottle showed up. The reflection of the moon on the glass bottle caught Laura’s eye, who alerted the rest. Laura and Rob rushed to meet the bottle in the water while Miho watched from her place by the fire. Rob held the bottle up to the moonlight but couldn’t make out its contents.
“What’s in it?” Laura asked.
“I think it’s pictures, but I can’t be sure. Come on,” Rob motioned for them to head back towards Miho and the fire.
Rob shook the contents free from the bottle like the final remnants of ketchup determined to stick to the sides. Several photographs fell from the bottle and landed in the sand. Simultaneously, they each reached down and grabbed a photograph. What they saw immediately put Rob into a rage, who roughly snatched the other photos from both Miho and Laura, the latter placed one hand over her mouth and began welling up with tears.
“What the fuck is this,” Rob shouted as he grabbed onto Laura’s arm, fingers digging bruises into her skin.
“Calm down, Rob! I can explain,” she pleaded while trying to pry her arm from his grasp, which only caused him to dig in deeper. “You’re hurting me, Rob!”
Rob stared daggers into Laura’s eyes, his nostrils flared and his eyes quickly flashed between fury and pain. The bottle he’d been holding in his hands finally shattered, causing both Miho and Laura to scream out. He tossed the pictures in Laura’s face and turned to walk off into the darkness, pausing only to tell Laura not to follow. The two women watched as he walked away before Miho knelt down in the sand by the photos and pointed to a dark spot in the sand. Laura, realizing it was a rather large spot of blood began to rush after Rob before Miho stopped her. She placed a comforting hand on Laura’s shoulder and simply shook her head, then unwound a silk scarf from her waist and hurried off. Laura sat by the fire, looking once more at the evidence of her infidelity before tossing it into the fire.
When Miho caught up with Rob, he tried to brush her off to be left alone, but she was persistent. Her use of the English word “sit” caught him by surprise, enough so to make him comply. They sat crossed legged in the sand as she took his wounded hand in hers and poured a small amount of water from their very limited supply of bottled water. The water revealed several small shards imbedded in his hand, which Miho went to work on. He winced and cried out, noticing that the woman had an odd smile on her face as she worked. He suddenly noticed just how beautiful she was. Their eyes met while she pulled free the last shard and he let out a slew of curses. After she wrapped his wound tightly with her scarf, she made a motion to leave but was stopped by Rob pulling her in for a kiss. Her hand met his face with a fierce sound that echoed all throughout the island, muting the gasp which had escaped from Laura who had followed behind and now watched on.
The three of them slept on opposite sides of the island that night and didn’t speak a word to each other the following day. Miho went about her hunting and gathering while Rob gathered stones to make an “SOS” sign in the sand. Laura napped and cried the day away. Nobody spoke a word until that evening when another bottle appeared. The sight of it created a lump in Laura’s chest and she found herself unable to move, so Rob reluctantly went for it. Miho and Laura watched silently as he waded out to the bottle. He opened it while still in the ocean waters and the girls were surprised to see him toss the bottle as far into the ocean as he could. He walked out of the waters but instead of heading back towards the women he began walking towards his sleeping place from the previous night.
“Wait a minute! What was that,” Laura’s curiosity peaked.
Rob walked on, ignoring Laura’s cries to stop. She insisted it was time they talked about the pictures, she needed to explain herself. Desperately, she clung to his arms and begged him to stop. Rob finally stopped and looked at Laura with a terrifying look of anger and resentment. He forcefully freed his arms from her and reached into his pocket and produced a small pill bottle. Like with the pictures the night before, he held the bottle close to her face with a clenched fist before tossing it at her feet. She knelt down to pick up the bottle and in the moonlight made out the name of the prescription and immediately recognized it: angelica sinensis, Female Ginseng.
“This is what you got to help me with my morning sickness when I was…” she couldn’t continue because the wounds were still fresh from the miscarriage. She turned the bottle over in her hand, confusion as to why this had shown up setting in. When she saw the bold warning label she dropped the bottle and stared at Rob in disgust.
“Well, it stopped the morning sickness, didn’t it?”
For the second night in a row, Rob was on the receiving end of a female’s slap, but this time it didn’t end. Laura lashed out with claws, fists and tears in a vengeful fury. The two eventually made it to the ground where they wrestled and shouted heartbreaking insults at each other. Having pinned Laura to the ground, Rob finally had a moment to look up and notice that strange smile on Miho’s face, which now appeared quite sinister while illuminated by the fire.
“It’s her,” he whispered, seemingly out of nowhere, while Laura thrashed beneath him. “She’s behind all this…this is her fault…”
Laura finally calmed down enough to look back at Miho and the look did send shivers down Laura’s spine but her rage returned. Her forehead smashed into his nose with all her might and he fell to his side holding his face.
“Don’t ever come near me again, you hear me?” she kicked a bit of sand in his face and walked off to be alone, a strange fear preventing her from looking once more at Miho.
The next day, while Miho went about her foraging, Rob attempted to appeal to Laura, who wanted nothing to do with him.
“I didn’t take those pictures, Laura, so who did, huh? It was her! Who else would do this to us?” He was severely sun burnt and had a broken nose; he looked and sounded very much like a madman.
“If it wasn’t for her, we’d be dead right now,” she scoffed and tried to walk away from him.
“I’ll prove it! I know she’s hiding something.”
He ran over to her bags and began riffling through them. Laura ran after him in an attempt to stop him but was immediately stopped herself when he withdrew a flare gun from her bag. They stared at it in disbelief for a moment before continuing his search. They found a newspaper article and he began reading aloud:
“Man kills self and son in fire. A former CEO for an investment firm fatally wounded self and 8 year old son, in what officials are deeming a murder/suicide. The man’s wife was also in the house at the time, but is currently recovering from non-life-threatening burns and smoke inhalation at Tokyo’s No. 13 hospital. Authorities suspect the incident is related to the businessman’s firm going under after a fraudulent investment left him and dozens of others unemployed and bankrupt. Suspects from the fraud case have fled their native country in the U.S., and officials say they have no further leads.”
As if on cue, Miho returned from the forest at that very moment. Despite the fact that they were holding all her secrets in their hands, she didn’t seem perturbed one bit. She calmly tossed the carcass of some island bird next to her fire pit and made a show of wiping its blood from a blade they’d not known she had.
“Do you know what it’s like to lose something you really love?” she asked in perfect English
“We never meant for anyone to get hurt!” Laura screamed out, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“He wasn’t supposed to be in the house, you know,” she was now kneeling by the bird while Rob aimed the flare gun in her direction. “I was watching the flames from outside when I noticed his bike laying in the grass.” She used her knife to separate the bird’s head from its body and tossed it towards the couple, with that horrifying smile they’d both seen before. Laura let out another terrified scream. “The insurance money would’ve been plenty to ensure my son had a good life, went to college, had a family, gave me grandchildren…” The smile finally fell from her face as did a single tear.
“You killed your own son?” Rob asked horror-struck.
“He wasn’t supposed to be home!” she cried out. “I tried to go in after him, but it was too late…I…I didn’t…no…it wasn’t me…it was you…you killed him!”
Finally, she lunged at them both with the knife. Rob, startled, shot off the flare gun at her but missed by a long shot. All three watched as the flare landed squarely in the center of the forest area. Miho laughed and cheered.
“This island will be our grave!”
* * *
The next day search and rescue efforts recovered three bodies from an island decimated by a fire. While being airlifted by helicopter, one of the three bodies began to show signs of life.
“Ma’am, judging from the burns on your body, it appears you’ve just survived a second fire…you might just be the luckiest woman on earth.”
Miho rolled over to see two bodies with sheets covering their faces and she began to cry.