358: Island Life

You win some, you lose some. Afterwards, you say GG. Good Game. And what do you mean? Well played and take care? No, you mean a lot of different things. It’s amazing how nuanced a couple of letters can be.

Sure, after the game, shake hands, GG, it is a polite acknowledgement of sportsmanlike behaviour. You don’t see it used like that very often. You may think you do, but no.

Say it before the end and it means game over, but that could be good or bad. Say it to yourself and it means you’re fucked, and screw everyone for allowing this travesty. Say it to your opponent, and it means they’re fucked, and hahaha, screw you. Say it when you should have won but choked, and it’s a bitter sign off filled with regret and self-loathing. Say it when they should have won and blew it, and it’s the smuggest of salutes, a poor winner sticking in the knife.

Victory or loss, celebration or commiseration. Same two letters.

They were going to eat Maurice. Eat him and take his power for themselves, just like they’d done with the fish poison. I didn’t know what the effect would be, but I was fairly sure it meant GG for me.

Once you’re dead, I don’t really think the body left behind is anything more than meat and bones, but deep inside the idea of eating him made my head buzz and left me unwilling to let it happen. Not for moral or ethical reason. It was because the idea annoyed me.

It was Richina, more than anything. There was something very annoying about her. There was generally something annoying about everyone, I understand and reluctantly accept that as the way life is, but in her case it was very specific.

I believed my attitude towards her stemmed from her disregard for death. She had total and complete confidence that she couldn’t be interfered with no matter how hard I tried. I wouldn’t be able to stop her, and she would be able to grind me down.

It wasn’t even that she had some great ability to get the job done, she just couldn’t be stopped. It was a very passive-aggressive way to claim victory.

“Eventually, you will die, and I won’t. I’m happy to wait.”

The smug look on her face didn’t help, either. I was willing to kill her, even if it served no real purpose, just for the momentary respite from having to look at her face.

I know that will come across as misogynistic. You can’t take against a woman for having a provocative face. Once you start down that road… well, where do you draw the line? But in this case, there was more to it.

She took no steps to defend herself, didn’t fight back, didn’t have an ambush waiting, no traps to catch you unawares. I could kill her as many times as I wanted and she wouldn’t lift a finger.

At least the Terminator keeps coming, keeps trying to rip your head off your shoulders. You are considered a threat and must be terminated. Richina’s approach to removing you from the timeline wasn’t to travel back to 1984, she just acted like you didn’t exist. It was incredibly condescending and frankly quite hurtful. We all want to feel like we affect the timeline.

“I want Maurice’s body,” I said, mainly because it was awkward just standing there, neither of speaking.

“How will you get it?” she asked me like she genuinely wanted to know, maybe even offer me helpful tips.

The galling part was that I had no answer. She would probably offer me suggestions if I asked.

“Is this Arthur’s idea? This is him deciding to take control of matters himself? The Council aren’t going to just sit back and let him take over.” I looked up at the sky. “Feel free to step in, any time.”

The problem with this line of second-hand threat was that so far the Council had done exactly nothing. They were these immensely powerful beings, capable of far more than me, and there was a distinct absence of fire and brimstone coming to my aid. They took the whole Prime Directive thing very seriously.

“There’s no need for alarm,” said Richina. “I’m sure things will get sorted out for the best.”

The calmness, the smile, the twinkle in the eyes — it was getting right on my tits.

“And Peter?” I said. “You think he’ll be happy to let Arthur rule the world.” I looked up again. “You might want to go check on the body you were so sure was deceased. I think you’ll find he is not as dead as you thought.” Still no reply.

“I don’t think anyone cares about Peter,” said Richina. “Do you?”

Clearly, this wasn’t getting me anywhere. I could have gone in, all guns blazing, but the problem was I didn’t know where to go. Where had they taken Maurice? Why hadn’t Biadet intervened? Why hadn’t Wesley taken possession of the body like she was supposed to?

Arthur pulling a fast one came as no surprise, but I had thought Wesley would have stayed true to her word. It could still be the case. She might be trapped inside with Arthur with no idea what was going on out here, or so I’d like to think.

I, like most people, considered myself to be a pretty good judge of character.

I, like most people, had no actual reason to believe I was right.

We all base our faith in people on how we feel about them. Most of the time, it isn’t an evidence-based verdict. It comes from the lizard brain, gut-instinct part of us which we assume has developed a way to correctly interpret these matters due to evolution, or something.

When the person we thought was an upstanding and reliable friend turns out to be a prick, we feel betrayed and misled. But if a duplicitous git acts in an underhand manner, are they being dishonest? They’re being true to their core principles, if you look at it from their perspective. The thing that betrayed you was your belief in them.

“What about all of you?” I said to the islanders surrounding me. “Does being president mean nothing?” It was a weak attempt at getting them on my side. They probably knew where Maurice’s body was. You don’t ask, you don’t get.

They remained wrapped in a stony silence, as still as the trees next to them.

“You aren’t president anymore,” said Richina. The first light of a new day was filling up the sky, signalling the end of my time in office.

“Who is?” I asked.

“Me,” said Richina. She smiled and waved in a presidential manner.

Richina was one person — I could probably deal with her on my own — but there were dozens of islanders around me. If I was going defeat them and force them to hand over Maurice, I would need some help. The Council were the only real alternative, as far as I could see, I just wasn’t keen on asking them for favours. I had a feeling they’d expect something in return.

“Worry not!” called out a shrill voice. “I have come to save you.” Laney came running into the clearing, barging past islanders like they were swing-doors in a saloon bar.

“Glad to see you,” I said. “Do you think you can kill all these people without letting them touch you? Their skin is poisonous.”

Laney smiled. “Is that all?” She drew her sword. “How many do you want me to leave alive? I assume you’ll wish to interrogate a few.”

As overconfident as she was, you had to admire the girl. Preferably from a distance.

The islanders didn’t take the threat of the redhead lightly. They were well aware of what she was capable of, and you could feel the tension pass through them.

“Can I kill the doll first?” shouted Laney as she switched directions and slashed at Richina.

Richina ducked and jumped back. Getting killed was okay, but not by Laney, apparently. The princess chased after her. The islanders didn’t move. They had the look of bystanders who didn’t really want to get involved.

“Stand still, will you! You’re worse than the midget.”

Damicar came running in, huffing and puffing. “Ah, there you are.” He bent over to catch his breath. “I… found it.”

“Found what?”

There was a lot of air being sucked in and loudly expelled, so I had to wait for part two of the Damicar Saga.

“Godsbane. The plant. I found it.”

Damicar, as always, was more concerned with the important matters, like herbs and spices. We all know the story of the princess who told her father she loved him more than salt, and was banished from the castle. Then she came back in disguise and cooked the king a saltless meat dish, and he burst into tears when he realised what she had meant. Either that, or his blood pressure dropped to normal levels and he made her the kingdom’s first dietitian — I’m not entirely sure what the moral of the story was. Probably the sugar farmers trying to discredit the salt miners.

It felt a bit out of place to be talking about a flower when everything was falling around my ears, but when was that ever going to stop happening? Might as well go with the flow.

“Okay. Where is it?”

“Everywhere.” Damicar beamed at me. Then he looked around, eyes wide, hinting heavily that I only had to look.

I did look. I couldn’t see anything other than the shrine, some trees, and a bunch of people I didn’t much like the look of.

It’s always odd to me when people say, “You’ll never guess what happened. Go on, guess.” Where is this conversation meant to go? If you guess correctly, the person is horribly disappointed. If you don’t have a clue, you could be guessing for years. There is no good way out of that predicament other than to refuse and make them tell you. Maybe that’s what they want, to feel necessary.

“What am I supposed to be looking for?” I asked.

“The powder, you remember the powder?”

“The one the islanders have been taking? Yes, what about it?”

Damicar had stumbled across a bottle of this supposedly mythical plant in powder form, which made the islanders immune to harmful substances, junk food and UV rays, probably. He claimed to need the original plant to get a better understanding of how it worked. If he’d found it, I would have thought it would be the start of a long process that would eventually end up with a patent for a calorie-free sweetener that would get blocked by the local sugar cane guild. Bloody sugar farmers.

Damicar leaned a bit closer to me, but his voice was just as loud so I don’t know why he bothered, to be honest. “I slow cooked one of the islanders to see why they don’t just eat each other.”

He said it like this was a normal thing to do. Considering where we were, it wasn’t exactly outrageous.

“You put one of their bodies in the oven?”

“Slow cooked, it’s different. It helps tenderise the lower quality cuts of meat. No offence.”

The islanders were listening with blank expressions. Even Richina wasn’t saying anything, but then, she was halfway up a tree trying to not get her toes sliced off.

“And? They had a lot of the powder in their system?”

“No, no,” said Damicar. Doesn’t matter what the topic is, there’s always someone who loves knowing more about it than you, and making sure you know it. The Nerd Reich goes marching on. “The island people are the same as the powder, exactly the same. The islanders are in fact the source of the powder. They are godsbane.”

It took a moment, but then what he was saying dawned on me. “They’re plants?”

“Yes! They are walking, talking plants. Godsbane is supposed to be one giant organism split into smaller parts, the whole island is probably godsbane. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

I had, and so had he. The islanders were like the druids, only more advanced and not so keen on lentils. In fact, the druids were technically the cannibals.  

If Arthur had created the druids, they might have been the prototype for this lot. It explained why I hadn’t seen any vines on them. They weren’t untouchable, they were one single entity. You didn’t need connections to yourself.

“So, you’re a bunch of vegetables,” I said to the islanders. “I think Arthur made you to keep himself safe, that’s what I’m betting, so getting rid of you will leave him fucked. I just need to commit mass herbicide.” the United Nations gardening council would probably impose sanctions.

“There is no need for any of this,” said Richina from her perch. “It makes no difference to the eventual outcome. We aren’t enemies, here. We would do better to work together, towards a common goal. We are all one under the soil.”

“No, love, we aren’t. That’s the problem with you hive mind types, your fascist mindset makes you think there’s strength in numbers. But wood burns better the more you throw on the fire.”

I had a pretty good record when it came to set fire to plants, but there was a whole island of them, and very moist at that. I would need some help, and I knew where to get it.

“Laney, you said you could get in touch with Flossie.”


“The chubby ginger.”

“Oh, yes. You wish me to deliver a message?”

“Yes, I need her dragons. All of them.” I’d seen what the dragon acid could do to an innocent patch of vegetation. It wouldn’t take them very long to give this place a trim. “And make sure they’re hungry.”

Plants versus dragons. GG.

Subscribe to this content and receive updates directly in your inbox.