I need air... I need to breathe, or I'll die...
Helena coughed uncontrollably, her chest felt like it was on fire, and she kept throwing up salty water. Her hands were just as numb as the rest of her body, sunk into the black and rocky sand, mixed with a couple of seashells.
"Are you all right?" She hears a man's raspy voice in the distance, but she was still very dazed and gasping for air.
Helena tried to move but felt like she was made out of ice.
"Can you hear me?" the voice said again, and it sounded as if the excess of tobacco mistreated his throat.
She only nodded slightly, unable to even feel the man's arms trying to make her stand. She felt that her legs were disconnected from her brain, unable to move, to the point where the man had to carry her entirely.
The man wore a thick black jacket with a sheriff's badge on his left side, and his white mustache had traces of sea sand on it. His blue eyes were focusing on the cabin that was a few feet away, which had a chimney that expelled a dense smoke that was getting lost in the fog surrounding the place.
"Easy, you'll be fine," he said, trying to hold her weight.
She was not heavy precisely, but her height complicated the man's intent to lift her off the ground easily. Helena wanted to ask him to stop even for a few moments; she needed to orientate herself and needed to know what was going on. Figure out how she got there and, most important of all, where she was?
"What happened?" a woman's voice asked once they entered inside the cabin.
The man left Helena on the floor of the living room, just in front of the warm and cozy fireplace, where she began to tremble non-stop. The woman tucked her with a wool blanket that she could barely feel.
"I found her on the shore of the beach; I have no idea how she got there," the man said.
Helena looked at his jacket again while the man was talking; it had the name "Earl" embroidered under the sheriff's badge.
"Do you think there's been a shipwreck?" the woman asked, looking at the ocean through the window, narrowing her round eyes and trying to distinguish something in the distance.
"It may be, though, but we are not expecting the freighter for another few days," Earl replied.
"Maybe it came early."
Helena closed her eyes and felt her body trembling uncontrollably, as if it had a life of its own or as if she was having a seizure.
"My God! You're shaking, girl! I'll bring you some dry clothes!" the woman said, rushing into one of the rooms in the back.
"Anne-Marie, I'm going to go and organize a search party with Bernie and the others; maybe there are more castaways."
"All right, but hurry up because it's already darkening!" she said.
"Well, then let me go, woman!" Earl said, walking out of the cabin and leaving Helena in front of the fire alone.
She felt that cold, that wanted to get inside the chimney completely. Her fingers were all wrinkled, indicating that she was in the water for a long time, but her mind was completely blank as if someone had pressed the delete button, and all her memories were gone. She was lucky that at least she could remember her name.
"Darling, take off those clothes, it's urgent that you get dry or you're going to get sick," Anne-Marie said, taking the blanket off her shoulders.
Helena's trembling hands slipped the zipper down of her navy-blue jacket, which was soaking wet. When she threw it on the ground, it made a jingly sound that indicated that there were some keys in her pockets and, hopefully, something else to help her to remember.
Anne-Marie helped Helena take off her long-sleeved blouse and gave her a very thick red sweater to put on and then wrapped her with a long poncho.
"Keep changing, darling; I'll get you a hot chocolate!".
Once Helena was tucked in, lying under a pile of duvets and finishing her second hot chocolate, Anne-Marie sat next to her in one of the light blue color chairs.
"Are you feeling better?" she asked.
"Yes," Helena answered with her sore throat.
"What happened to you?"
"I don't remember… I don't remember anything, just... that I was on a boat and then... just confusion... something happened, and I ended up in the sea."
"Don't you remember if you came here with someone else? Or if more people fell into the sea with you?"
Helena sighed with frustration, wishing that everything that she was living was just a strange and horrible nightmare.
"Don't you worry so much dear, I'm sure that the memories will come back to you, I think you're in shock for now, tomorrow we'll take you to the doctor and check that you don't have any concussions."
"I feel good, only... a little bit sore."
"You need to rest for now, but if you have any other discomfort, please tell me right away so I can call the doctor."
She just nodded, exhausted, and feeling as if her body had swum a marathon in glacial waters. She closed her eyes and let herself be carried away almost against her will, wrapping herself into a cloud of strange dreams that could well be called nightmares, but they were just small flashes of memories of her walking onto a boat and then the sound of horrified screams.
She woke up the next morning to the sound of the boiling kettle and the smell of fried eggs. Anne-Marie saw Helena coming out from the pile of duvets where she slept all night long.
"Good morning," Helena said with a recovered voice.
"I apologize if I woke you up dear, I'm making breakfast for Earl; he usually gets up very early and does his rounds to check that everything is in order."
"Don't worry, I feel like I've slept for days," she said, rubbing her swallowed eyes until she cleared her blurred eyesight.
"It's normal; you were very tired."
"Has he found any other castaways or any sign of a shipwreck?"
"Not at all, Earl told me that no one found anything, but they will keep looking today as well."
"It's too strange, I don't understand how I got here."
"Neither do we, but you need to relax, for now, Earl is in charge of the investigation, if there is someone else out there, he will find them."
"Do you have an internet connection here?" Helena asked.
She looked around discretely and noticed all the old furniture, the multiple portrait holders with black-and-white photographs displayed along the walls, the embroidered tablecloths, and the small ceramic decorations. She bit her lips as she realized that, most likely, Anne-Marie didn't know what Wi-Fi was, let alone how to use Facebook or Google Maps.
"There's only one internet café on the island, dear. We're all used to live free of technology, even though young people sometimes gather there. I can take you to the café if you want," she said and put a cup of coffee in front of Helena.
"It would be perfect... I wish I could access one of the computers and investigate if there were any shipwrecks or if any boats disappeared recently."
"That's a very good idea. We'll go after breakfast and visiting the doctor," she said at the same time that she pushed the coffee mug slightly towards her.
A couple of hours later, Helena and Anne-Marie walked around the island among the picturesque little huts. There was a pleasant smell of wet trees and flowers in the air. The inhabitants were walking over the green grass that looked like an endless cozy carpet. The people greeted them with a warm smile and seemed to be carrying out their daily routine. From a high point, the island looked like it had the shape of the letter "C" and the population was scattered all around it. Behind it, there was a giant volcanic mountain, so high that the top was completely lost into the dense fog of the place.
Helena hugged herself, trying to get a little warm, but the horrible cold seemed like it never wanted to abandon her body.
"We will arrive in a moment, the island is very cold at this time of the year," Anne-Marie said.
"It is, but it's also beautiful, I don't think I've ever been to an island like this, even though... it's not like I can remember anything about my life right now."
"It will return dear," she replied, with optimism in her voice and continued to talk with a warm smile. "When the community on this island was founded, many years ago, it had only 48 inhabitants, as it is very remote. It's perhaps one of the most remote islands in the world, but it gradually has grown to reach 300 inhabitants."
Her olive eyes shone with pride, and she passed a strand of her ash hair behind the ear.
"I'm glad," Helena said.
Her eyes gazed again at the rustic decoration of the place and she imagined that, perhaps, everything had been in the same way for years, as if time didn't pass there in the same way it does everywhere else.
"And… if the island is so remote, isn't it hard to get food and other products over here?"
"It is, but we are used to sorting our food lists once a month and preparing ourselves enough to be safe in case the freighter ship that brings us food is delayed."
"And it delays often?"
"Not much, but the only way to get on the island is by boat, and the journey here is almost six days, so sometimes they can't do it when the weather isn't cooperating much."
Helena looked at the woman next to her, she had few wrinkles for her age, and the way that she dressed, colored in beige and brown tones, gave her a very elegant touch.
"Here we are," Anne-Marie said, pointing to a small office with a very large sign that said "Internet Cafe" as if it were necessary for no one to lose sight of it.
Inside the place, everything was mahogany wood, with walnut-colored rugs and small desks with the oldest computers that Helena had ever seen. In the back, there was a man resting on a chair, reading a magazine and placing his long legs over the desk in front of him.
"Hello, Logan," said Anne-Marie.
The man flinched and almost fell to the ground.
"Hey," he said, trying to regain his composure and clearing his throat.
"Logan, this is Helena," she said and touched her shoulder. "Helena, this is Logan, he and April run this business."
"Hello, Helena," he said in confusion. "She is...?"
"New on the island," Anne-Marie replied.
"We haven't had any new inhabitants on this island since... I can't even remember when…" he said, scratching his head.
"Well, it's better to make her feel welcome," Anne-Marie said. "And at the moment, she needs to use the internet."
"Right away," Logan said.
"I'll be leaving you here, dear. I have to run some errands, do you know how to get back to the cabin?"
"Yes..." Helena answered, trying to remember the route.
"And if not, ask Logan or April for help," she said and was distracted by a thin and small girl entering the office. "Oh good, she's here."
April had white porcelain skin and bubblegum pink hair short to her shoulders.
"Hello Marie," she said in a melodious voice and gave her a short hug. "How are you today?"
"Fine, dear, about to go with Mrs. Quinn, you know how she is…", Anne-Marie said, taking April by her arm and guiding her out of the office, where they chatted for a few minutes.
"And... if you don't mind me asking, what brings you to this remote and almost deserted island?", Logan asked.
"I... I don't remember," Helena replied, somewhat embarrassed.
Logan's eyes fell on her, and she couldn't help but smile, with the strange feeling that Logan reminded her of someone, maybe an artist or an actor, she couldn't remember. He was handsome, she could not deny it; he had a slightly longer beard for her taste and dark gray circles under his honey eyes, but he seemed sincere, and judging by his frown, she suspected that he always said what he was thinking straight out of his mind.
"You don't remember?" Logan asked without understanding.
"Honey... ", April said, entering in the café again and climbing nimbly over the desk. "Let's stop to make Helena dizzy with questions and better help her connect to the internet."
She was wearing thin purple yoga pants and had just removed her long jacket. Helena could tell that April was more than used to the temperature on that island.
"Let's see," Logan said, sitting in front of the computer and starting to type.
"By the way, can you tell me what is the name of this island?" Helena asked.
"It is..." April looked at Logan, and they both smiled. "Difficult to pronounce, I'll write it for you on Google maps, so you have an idea of where you are."
"Ok..." Helena said, without understanding why they were laughing.
"When Logan came to the island, it took him days to be able to pronounce it, and that is almost the reason we are together now," April said with a smile from ear to ear and putting her hair into a quick but stylized bun on the top of her head.
"Why he couldn't pronounce it?"
"Because it has so many h's, and it's an old name," she answered and turned to look at Logan with complicity in her eyes.
"Have you been together for a long time?"
"Well... Yes, we have been together for a while, but we are not celebrating dates. We are more about living in the moment," she replied.
"And speaking about living in the moment, the internet doesn't work at the moment," Logan announced.
"Again?" April asked, getting off the desk.
Both started testing and trying to fix the problem, but the more they tried, the more they got frustrated at not being able to fix it.
"This definitely doesn't work. I think it's for the best to wait until tomorrow," Logan said.
"Oh, wow..." Helena said with disappointment. "I think I attract bad luck."
"Don't say that, tomorrow it will be alright, the internet sometimes fails on this island," April said. "Let us compensate you for the inconvenience with a luxury dinner cooked by Logan."
"By me?" Logan asked in confusion.
"That's right, you're the master chef," she said with a spoiled voice.
"I don't want to bother you both, I'm alright," Helena said.
"Nonsenses, you don't bother us, we haven't had a new visitor on this island for a long time, so it's going to be fun."
"Helena and I will go to do some shopping so that I can show her the place a little bit more," April said and then walked to Logan to kiss him on the lips. "See you home, honey, close the office, there's no point for you to be here if there's no internet."
"I'll put the sign," Logan said.
Both girls walked along the picturesque pathway, accompanied by the cold wind that seemed to whisper in their ears. They chatted animatedly despite the cold. Helena felt as if some sort of liquid caressed her exposed skin with every step that she took, but it was only the dense fog that engulfed the whole island. Despite smiling, she had the strange need to cry, to get under the bedsheets, and stay there until that confusing pain in her chest disappeared. That pain reminds her that she had lost something, but she had forgotten what it was.
"Hey! Cheer up!" April said when she realized that Helena was quiet for a while. "Marie told me what happened to you. That you don't seem to remember anything, but I'm sure that you will soon! Just try to relax and enjoy the tour."
She winked at her, and Helena swore that April's gray eyes were so clear, that she could get lost into them.
"I hope so."
"At least, for now, we have to celebrate that you are alive, that you came out unharmed from something that could have been fatal, and now you're here, breathing the smell of cotton candy."
She sniffed and realized that April was right; there was a delicious sweet smell in the air. The view of the colorful center of the island was outstanding. A bunch of small businesses surrounded it and there was a beautiful park on the side where the children were running while their mothers were socializing amongst them. A group of people was hanging a huge sign that said "Happy Valentine's Day", making Helena realize that it was the middle of February.
"Do you drink?" April asked once they entered a shop painted in yellow color.
"I don't know... I think so…".
"And do you remember at least how old are you?"
She looked at herself in the reflection of the fridge, where the soft drinks were. She tried to put in order the disastrous hair that she had and recognized herself little by little; from her dark chocolate hair, her light skin with a caramel touch to her hazel eyes larger than she remembered.
"I think I'm about 26. ...28?"
"You look like you are about 25," April said. "And you look kind of European, like from Hungary or some other exotic place like that."
Helena shrugged her shoulders slightly with a confused face.
"It's all blurry in my mind. The memories appear without me controlling them".
"Oh well...you don't need to obsess yourself over that right now, okay? Just try to remember… Have you ever tried Lambrusco?"
She smiled at her, unsure of what to answer. Both girls went on with their shopping and kept talking and laughing. Helena knew that she was supposed to be in shock, to show fear for not knowing where she was or with whom she was, but with all the bad things that were happening to her, not being able to remember anything was the only thing that kept her calm.
Once at dinner, the couple spent the night telling Helena funny stories about each other. At some point, it seemed like they had a competition over who could ridicule the other even more, not in an offensive way, but a cute one. Helena couldn't help but wonder if she had someone waiting for her somewhere in the world, perhaps in her hometown or anywhere else that she called home.
"Look at me," April said. "How flexible do you think I am?"
"What?!" Helena asked.
She had been so immersed in her thoughts and completely lost the thread of the conversation. At that moment, she could only laugh with her cheeks flushed by the excess of wine.
"I can stretch backward completely," April said.
"Show her baby," Logan said.
"Alright," she said, standing up and momentarily losing her balance. "Ups."
Helena laughed at her cute stumble.
"Are you alright to contort yourself like that?"
"Yes, I'm going to show you that I'm more amazing than Logan and his ability to almost lick his elbow," April said to Helena, pointing to a red and gold carpet. "Get down on the floor, please."
"Come on! I'll show you!" she said with a squeaky voice.
Helena laid down on the floor while laughing, feeling like her head was spinning, and the things didn't make much sense anymore. April placed both her bare feet on each side of Helena's hips, looking towards her legs and shook her body a little before beginning to contort herself backward. Gradually her back arched, and her hands slowly descended until the tip of her fingers touched the floor.
"Hello," April said completely twisted in an almost unnatural way.
"Hey... ", she answered, impressed that April was touching her chin with her forehead.
She smiled and very slowly went closer and closer to Helena's lips; she stood still, not really realizing what was going on, but the soft and warm sensation of Aprils touch took her by surprise. The pink-haired girl regained her natural form again and stretched her perfect and fit body, causing some bones to pop. Afterward, she laid on the ground next to Helena, hugging her playfully and almost innocently, not realizing that she was staring at her.
Helena could still feel the ghost of that pleasant caress that April had left on her lips. Since she arrived in that place, all that she could feel in her body was a coldness. That girl provided her, even for a moment, the warmth that she needed.
"You smell like cinnamon with sugar," April said, surrounding Helena's neck with her delicate arms and letting her feel the delicious touch of her skin.
"It must be some perfume in Anne-Marie's clothes," she answered full of shivers.
She felt flooded with the warmness of April's body and gazed at her, licking her lips in the desire of another kiss.
"Well, you should ask her what she is using and use it yourself, it matches perfectly with your exotic features…makes me want to lick you all…" April said, pulling her tongue out and passing it over Helena's cheek.
"Do it," she whispered without thinking.
Helena was surprised at what she felt, maybe she could not remember a lot about her life, but one thing was clear for her at that moment… she never wanted a girl before. Let alone one who had her partner amused while watching them from his chair.
"Wow, I see that this Lambrusco made you playful," Logan said with a calm voice before taking a sip of his beer.
"I want to lick her, baby," April said, crawling towards him on all fours, like a playful kitten approaching its master. "Let me lick her…Yes?"
Logan grabbed April's chin with his right hand, looked at her for a few seconds, and then crouched down to kiss her passionately, stroking her curved back with his other hand and reaching her perfect and round ass that reflected the constant yoga classes. Helena looked at Logan, getting distracted by how masculine his arms were, his gestures, and the way he kissed. She couldn't help but feel that familiarity that she felt before, she knew that he reminded her of someone, but she couldn't access that lost memory in her mind.
"All right, but... I want you to tell me what she tastes like..." Logan said to April in a hoarse voice.
"You can taste me too if you want," Helena told him, looking at his eyes.
At that point, even when everything was confusing for her, she could only be totally sure of one thing... the wine made her sassy.
"We'll see..." Logan said with a crooked smile as if he were in full control of the situation.
April crawled slowly in front of her and began licking her mouth, giving her the taste of her saliva mixed with Lambrusco, making her feel again those fleshy lips that got tangled with hers. Helena couldn't help but take her cheeks and suck and bite her lips as if she were devouring the most delicious feast.
"Mmmmm, God... she tastes delicious, my love... do you want to try her?" April asked Logan when Helena was licking her neck.
"Yes, I want... " Logan said, with a look full of desire.
The next morning the three of them were on a bed, entangled between the sheets and each other's legs. Helena opened her eyes with some heaviness; the daylight was sneaking through the window but it seemed like outside was cloudy and foggy as always. Suddenly, her mind was struck with a couple of memories; a marriage ring with a beautiful pearl on her finger, a wooden porch with a hanging swing moving with the air, and laughter fading away.
Am I married?
"Damn… what's wrong with you? You look pale," April asked, who had just woken up in front of her.
"I... have to go to get my things from Anne's house."
"Are you sure? Don't you want to stay for breakfast?"
"No, my stomach is kind of sick, I'll see you later," she answered, getting out of bed carefully. "Where are my clothes?"
"I have no idea; we were running naked outside…so they're probably lying in the backyard."
"Oh my God..." she said, remembering herself running naked on an island that she didn't even know.
"You can use some of my clothes, the closet is right behind you," April said with a sleepy voice.
Helena took a couple of garments from the closet, which were tight because her curves and height were different from April's small figure. Afterward, she made her way to Anne-Marie's home to look for the clothes that were left there.
If she was married, maybe the ring could be in her pockets or some other clue of her identity. Helena felt stupid and ridiculous by not having checked that before, but there was something on that island that invited her to relax and just get carried away with the moment.
She arrived at the entrance of Anne-Marie's cabin, who was watering some colorful flowers that were ready to open for the spring. The woman gave her a warm smile and guided her to the laundry room, where she had folded Helena's clothes.
When she dug into her pockets, she couldn't find anything.
"But there were some things in here! I heard them when I threw the jacket on the ground!" she said with indignation, unable to believe it was empty.
"It must have been the sound of the buttons against some piece of furniture, dear; there was nothing in here."
She looked at her with her eyes wide open, clearly remembering the sound of the keys resonating in the room.
"Maybe they fell under the couch," Helena said, trying to find some explanation.
Both women moved the furniture around the room, trying to find the missing items, but they did not appear. Helena's internal alarm was triggered almost immediately. She was sure of what she had heard. Why was Anne-Marie hiding her things?
"I'll go with April. Maybe the internet will work today," she said, trying to get away from there and think.
"Good morning, young lady," Earl said, entering into the room with his Sheriff's jacket and a hat in his hand.
"The breakfast is ready, love," said Anne-Marie, rushing to the kitchen.
"Have you been enjoying the island?" Earl asked with a friendly tone.
"Yes," Helena answered roughly, with her jaw tight.
She wanted to shout "Give me my things back!" but she knew that it was better not to do it.
"She's going back to April's office, the internet didn't work yesterday," Anne-Marie said, placing in front of Earl a breakfast that seemed ready to be photographed and uploaded to Instagram.
"Young lady, if you allow me to give you some advice... enjoy the moment! Take these days as a vacation," he said. "You can't often vacation on an island like this."
"The island is beautiful, I know there aren't many things to entertain yourself with like in the big cities, but there's a lot of people to meet," Anne-Marie said.
"What I really need is to get out of here," Helena said without much patience.
Both went silent, staring at her with disapproval, creating an awkward and confusing moment from which Helena wished to escape.
"I'll go to April," she announced.
Unexpectedly, Earl stood up without saying a single word, taking heavy steps towards the door, where he laid his hand on the knob. For a moment, Helena felt that he would not let her out and that she was captive in that place. As soon as she began to look around in search of something to defend herself with, he opened the door and let her out.
She walked away from there with a racing heart, almost running to the internet café where she found April, chatting with two women who carried yoga carpets, which looked at her up and down with curiosity. Helena was the new girl, the one who everyone wanted to know, and probably by then, the one that everyone knew that appeared on the shore of the beach without remembering anything.
Once the women left, April made her way to Helena, who seemed to be full of anxiety.
"What's the matter?"
"I don't know... I don't even know what happened back there. I'm so confused," Helena replied and hugged herself unconsciously.
"Breathe... let's go for a coffee, and we will talk, okay?"
"Honestly, I just want to check if there's internet."
"It isn't working yet, sweetheart. Give it a couple of hours," April said, passing her delicate hands over her back. "Plus... If it was working, who are you going to call? Do you remember your full name? Facebook? Skype? Or… something?"
"You have to remember first; then we'll find out how to contact your family."
"Have you ever felt that you are being held on this island?" Helena asked, feeling that April was the only one that she could trust.
"What do you mean?"
She told her what happened with Anne-Marie and how her items disappeared mysteriously.
"But why would they want to hide that from you?" April asked, with a wrinkled nose.
"I don't know. I just know that this is what it feels like."
"Well, if I can be honest with you, I felt in the same way, but with my parents. They never wanted me to leave the island."
"You never left this place?"
"No, my whole family is here, we're one of the founding families. My grandparents and my parents own almost half the businesses here."
"For a while, I wanted to leave this island, and they started acting very weird, just like you said that the sheriff and Marie acted with you. Then I got over it when I hooked up with a girl that they hated and after that didn't work out, I met Logan, whom they adored."
"Oh... I understand."
"By the way... about yesterday…"
"I know... It was crazy," Helena said with a shy smile.
"It was crazy…but fun," April replied with that playful personality so typical of her. "It's so bad that you want to leave the island, I would have been willing to share Logan with you, he seemed very happy to have two women in his bed all night long."
"Yes, I know," she answered, flushed with the memories of the night before. "And also… by the way... I'm married."
"What?!" April asked with her eyes wide open.
"I know… it's a bit confusing even for me... I just remembered it."
"Well, don't let your husband show up here and kill me for licking his woman from head to toe."
"I don't think so..." she said somewhat mortified, but smiling at her. "Let's get that coffee, shall we? I need to think."
"Okay, let's go."
Both walked out of the office; the day seemed to be beautiful and sunny, but the excess of mist, even if it was light, ruined everything. Suddenly, a flash of sunshine snuck out between the small droplets of water suspended in the air, and Helena was able to distinguish a ship docked close to the beach. It was big enough to sail into the open sea, but not big enough to be a freighter. It wasn't like she had some knowledge of boats, but the idea of making contact with someone who came from outside of the island excited her.
"There's a boat near the beach!!" Helena said, trying to distinguish something else about it.
"Oh...That? It's an old boat that has been there for a long time... someone was supposed to bring some pieces from outside to fix it, but so far, no one has done it."
"And what if it's a lie? What if it is some kind of emergency boat to get off the island in case of contingency? Maybe they didn't tell you, so you weren't thinking about going out again."
April's glacial eyes enlarged and her eyebrows contracted strangely.
"That would make a lot of sense; my parents would do anything to stop me from leaving this place," April said with her voice somehow off. "You have no idea how much time I spent watching the ocean and looking for boats to escape from here."
"We have to get there and see if it works. If it does, we should try to contact the outside," Helena said.
"Do you know that Logan can sail those things?"
"Really?" she asked with exorbitant eyes.
"Yes, not professionally, but he has some knowledge. I never paid attention to that because since he got here, I decided to give up on my dreams and stay on the island."
"Maybe we can convince him to help us..."
"Hmmm... I don't know, my parents love him, and he doesn't want to disappoint them."
"Well, we'll have to convince him," she said, winking at April.
* * *
A couple of days passed in which Helena preferred to sleep in April's and Logan's house, she felt safer there, and they made her feel comfortable at all times. But unfortunately, the internet still didn't work, and the rest of the people on the island started to act strangely around Helena. They looked at her with hate and disapproval every time she said that she wanted to leave the place as if that were an insult to their way of life.
One day, when she and April arrived at the internet cafe in the morning, they found that the windows were broken and all the internet wiring ripped out. It was clear that more than one person on that island was against anyone trying to connect with the outside world. Helena began to have a strange feeling that someone was watching her every step, and no matter how much she tried, it was impossible to shake that idea out of her head. It was as if there were several pairs of eyes hidden inside the permanent and dense fog, muttering things that she couldn't understand. Helena had chills every time that was left alone, and the fact that she was not able to remember anything made it worse.
"What's the matter?" April asked Logan, who seemed thoughtful.
"The food cargo is delayed, and they don't know how long it's going to take to get here," he said.
"This is strange," April replied.
"And if we add up the wiring incident..." Helena added.
"It's even weirder," she continued.
"Calm down; we've got plenty of food in the basement, we can last without any problem until the cargo ship comes," Logan said.
"It's not about food. It's about all the strange things that are happening on this island, and the fact that I've been waiting for that cargo ship to come here and now it's delayed!" Helena fumed.
"Logan... we have to ask you something," April said, holding his hands.
Both girls told him what they thought and how important it was that they get into the boat on the beach to check if they could contact the outside world.
"This doesn't make sense. We don't need anything from outside, why would we want to leave?" Logan asked.
"I want to know what happened with my husband, Logan."
"Are you married?" he asked, surprised.
"Yes, I'm sorry I haven't told you before, but I have no idea if he's alive or died in the shipwreck, I just can't remember... but I'm sure that he exists."
"Marie and the sheriff took away Helena's things, the ones that she had when she got here," April said.
"Why would they?" Logan questioned.
"I don't know...maybe; they don't want on the island the people that came with me on that boat," Helena said. "Or maybe they wish I'd stay here so I can become one more inhabitant of this place."
"I don't know," he answered. "It doesn't sound coherent."
"Love, remember when you came to the island, you also wanted to leave, and now you have become one of its inhabitants," April stated.
"I've done it for you," he said.
"And I appreciate it very much, but I'm just saying it's not so far-fetched from what Helena says."
"Why do you want to go to that boat, April?" Logan asked, looking at her with curiosity.
"Because I want to get out of here, I've always wanted that. I want to stop feeling like I am a prisoner on this island. It's not like we can't come back later," she replied, putting her arms around his neck. "We should take some vacations to an exotic place, perhaps where Helena was born... I want to feel the sun on my skin and tan myself for the first time in my life."
"Okay, but we'll have to hide from the Sheriff, if he sees us climbing on a boat, he's going to put us in jail all night and force us to pick up trash for a month like he made those kids that broke our office windows," Logan stated.
"I never saw anyone picking up trash," April said.
"The sheriff said he had forced them," Logan replied.
"Neither did I... but it's not that I know a lot of people here", Helena commented.
"Okay, I won't deny it, all this is strange, but if we decide to poke around, we have to be careful; we don't know what we're dealing with," Logan said.
"Is there any night of the week when Anne and the Sheriff are busy?"
"Yes, on tango night," April said.
"On what?" Helena asked, unable to imagine the couple dancing the tango.
"Oh, you don't have any idea how many activities these people have organized here to make up for the lack of internet," April smirked.
* * *
A couple of nights later, on tango night, the three of them were ready to slip through the beach and reach the port, but as if the island itself was offended by the fact that they wanted to leave, it threatened to release a ferocious downpour.
"Maybe it's better not to do it today," Logan said.
"And wait until when? Until next week? I'm going to go crazy by then!" Helena replied, covering herself with a hoodie.
"Let's wait for a while. Maybe it won't rain for long," April suggested.
"Or maybe we will lose the opportunity to do anything! I'm sorry but I can't wait any longer, with or without you, I need to get to the boat. I need to get my life back," Helena said with determination.
The couple looked at each other as if they were talking telepathically. After a few seconds, they both nodded and followed Helena, hiding themselves from being spotted by other people. When they finally reached the boat that they were planning to hijack, in order to get to the bigger ship, April stopped a few seconds before climbing on it.
She was standing still like a statue, looking at the tide rising up and down.
"I... I don't like this…there's something wrong," April stammered and took a few steps back.
"What's wrong?" Logan asked.
"I don't know," she whispered.
"You don't have to come if this scares you," Helena told April under the first raindrops. "You both don't have to come. I will manage somehow on my own."
"The waves… I'm scared of the waves," April said, completely out of her mind. "Looks like the sea will swallow us."
"Honey, stay here, wait for us in the little house on the shore, we'll be back soon," Logan said.
"The waves... " she repeated, again and again, unable to realize what was happening around her.
Logan got out of the boat and took April by her hand; she couldn't take her eyes off the sea. Helena felt remorse when she saw this and realized that she was acting impulsively, and she was putting in danger the lives of those two people who had helped and protected her.
"Guys, we'll wait until next week," Helena said, coming out of the boat and walking after them. "Let's not take any chances today."
Logan looked relieved, even though he was trying to pretend that he was alright. April didn't even listen; she seemed to be in a catatonic state at that point. Suddenly, Earl, with a couple of men, threw the lights from their lanterns over the three of them.
"Shit!" Logan exclaimed.
"Fuck, we got caught!" Helena told him.
"We won't be able to do this next week. They'll reinforce the surveillance and keep us under control," Logan stated, staring at Helena.
His eyes gave her all the support that she needed at that moment.
"April, stay here," Logan said before kissing her on the forehead. "Earl's coming this way and he'll take you home."
Logan and Helena ran to the boat, he turned it on deftly, sailing away from the harbor just before Earl and the others arrived. They doubted whether to follow them or not, as the rain was picking up. In the end, they just stood still on the dock, watching them, as if they knew that something inevitable was about to happen.
Suddenly, one of the waves hit the little boat so violently that it made it wobble, and Helena almost fell into the water.
"Hold on tight!" Logan yelled.
At that moment, she felt a horrible headache, and a bunch of memory flashes flooded her mind. Gradually, she remembered how the waves of the intimidating ocean hit the big and powerful boat on which she was when she arrived on the island, making it look just like a toy in comparison with the dangerous tide.
"Everyone hold on! A big one is coming!" shouted the ship's captain, who had a grey beard, a crooked captain's cap, and his pupils were dilated." Mayday! Mayday! We request support. We are going through a nasty storm!"
"Ahhhhhh!" she heard screams on the boat as they were lifted by an even bigger wave than the previous one, causing the ship to fall suddenly until all the deck was flooded.
"What are you doing out here, Helena? You are putting yourself at risk!" a sturdy man said, coming out from inside of the ship.
Helena immediately recognized him as Pete, her husband's best friend, who had agreed to help her in her desperate quest to find him when he went missing.
My husband disappeared... he got lost at sea along with his entire crew.
Helena's mind was working at a thousand miles per hour, recalling details that left her breathless.
"No!" Helena yelled at Pete. "I will stay here; these are the exact coordinates where he last asked for help!"
Her words were lost with the sound of the ocean itself roaring in the background.
"He's not here! Just as that stupid island!" Pete screamed with a hectic voice.
One of the crew members yelled in an incomprehensible way from outside the cockpit, indicating that they were finally about to escape the storm, pointing towards some sun rays leaking between the black clouds.
"The sky is clearing! We will have better visibility now!" Helena exclaimed full of joy, stepping out and leaving the cockpit, holding onto the overboard while she walked on the wet deck, hoping to see any sign of a boat.
"Are you crazy?!" Pete roared at her without letting go of the cabin door.
"I am, Pete! I'm crazy to find my husband! Or at least to know what happened to him! I don't care if I need to sail the whole ocean for that!"
"I'll tell you what happened! Logan decided to lead an expedition destined to fail! We both know that looking for that fucking island was pointless! It vanished mysteriously and that's it! People have to accept it and move on!"
"I will never accept it! As long as I'm still breathing, I will..."
The ship suddenly crashed into something invisible, something that made the entire crew scream in terror, some of them slipped onto the deck as if they were puppets and one, in particular, crashed into the cabin glass and breaking his neck instantly. Helena wanted to run to help him, without even noticing that her body was being thrown into the air. Her grip had come loose, and she was falling on her back into the open sea, which was ready to swallow her alive.
Her body fell into the freezing water and made a loud splash. For her, it felt as if she had fallen against concrete, taking the air out of her lungs instantly, causing her to involuntary inhale seawater and start drowning. Helena lost consciousness for a few seconds; she could only feel pain as if there were millions of needles sticking into her skin. In the moment that she realized what was going on, she went straight into a panic, making things even worse. Helena needed to conserve her energy to get to the surface, but at that point, it was so far away that she knew well what was going to happen.
The last ray of light reflected in her gaze, which was focused on what had caused the ship to collide. It was the peak of a mountain, a very high one. As her body was sunken into the deep and dark abyss of the sea, Helena realized that she was on the island…literally.
She could even distinguish in the darkness the "C" shape of the island almost intact, but all the small huts where gone. The souls of the nearly 300 inhabitants were waiting for her down there, silently witnessing how one more victim was swallowed by the same thing that had swallowed them all… the sea. As her eyes closed, she listened to the island sinking deeper and deeper, as if it were holding her hand towards her death.
When she opened her eyes, Logan was in front of her with the same disturbing look that she had, as if he was remembering what he had lived. Even though Helena did not know what was going through his mind, she could guess that it had been terrifying.
"Helena..." he said, looking at her eyes in the middle of the storm and the furious waves.
"Logan!" she said, wanting to hug him.
But before their hands reached each other, the sea showed them who was in charge of the situation and flipped the little boat where they were on, causing them to fall and sunk back into the dark depth of the ocean. This time, Helena was aware of what was going on, aware that it was not worth panicking because the worst had already happened.
Once they both reached the shore of the same beach where Helena had arrived on the island, they sat on the sand, looking towards the immense sea to return to its usual calm. They were accompanied by the light of the huge full moon in the sky, and she realized that things had completely changed.
"That's my boat," he said, pointing to the big ship that they wanted to reach without any success. "We all died…"
"I'm so sorry," Helena muttered, grabbing his cold hands.
"I don't know how I could forget it, how I could forget you," he said with remorse in his voice.
"That is what this place does," Earl said, coming to them along with April, who was still in the same state that they left her. "It makes you forget, and your memories get lost in the dense fog that surrounds us."
"But you can remember," Helena stated.
"A few of us do, I guess depending on the role that you're meant to play here, but the others... they just live their lives like they once did and that's what we want for everyone…to spare them from the pain of the cruel reality."
"But we're all dead, that's something that we all should face," Logan said.
"We are dead…it's true…but at least we're together," Earl said, looking towards Helena.
"The earth trembled... The waves were swallowing all..." April mumbled, without even looking at them.
"Calm down, girl," Earl told April. "I'll take you to your parents. They'll know what to do."
"Will she be all right?" Helena asked.
"She will be, just give her a few days. She's been through this several times already," Earl said. "Also, I have something that belongs to you."
Earl gave Helena a small transparent bag from which she could see her wedding ring, the keys that she heard jingling on the floor before, and a wallet, which had a photo of her and Logan sitting on a swing on a wooden porch.
* * *
Hours later, Helena and Logan laid in bed, wrapped under the warm and comfortable blankets.
"It's creepy," Helena said, looking into nothingness. "I know that I'm dead, and none of this is real…if I really focus I can feel it... I can really feel it."
"I know…" he said calmly.
They both fell into silence for a while.
"I don't feel anything…it's like being submerged inside a void, one that has taken away every sensation that made me feel... alive," Helena whispered as if she didn't want to hear herself. "My mind tells me I'm fine, that I'm comfortable, but I don't really feel anything..."
"Hey... don't do that," Logan said, pulling her towards him and staring at her eyes firmly. "Do you think that it's a good idea being miserable on this plane of existence? Here, we do not need to worry about anything anymore…"
"And you think that it's better to forget as everyone else does?"
"I did it, and I was fine... although I regret forgetting you, forgetting our lives; our morning coffees, our hot water baths in the tub after a long day, and how adorable you look when you are completely asleep..."
"I'm afraid to forget, I'm afraid to fall into oblivion," she said, feeling like she wanted to cry.
"Don't be, because this time we'll be together. If we forget what it was...we will build a new life together, one that would last forever," he said, caressing her cheek.
"What about April?"
"I'll talk to her," he answered.
"I like to have her around..."
"We'll do whatever you want as long as we're together," Logan said, grabbing her cheeks and giving her a sweet kiss.
When he separated from her lips, Helena gave him a shy smile.
"Okay…" she said.
"Let me make you happy the only way I can... and this time, death will no longer separate us."
"If it's like that… I'm ready…I'm ready to forget."