Erin glanced back at the white house on the hill. She considered the easy walk up the path, but was drawn to the snake leading her to the growing shadows of the jungle.
She knew it would be pitch dark under the tropical canopy, but could not turn away. She knew she would find someone, or something, in the darkness that would explain why she felt she had to be there. Someone who would tell her why she needed to follow a snake into the blackness.
She stepped quietly on the jungle floor listening to the snake slide over and under the leaves and sticks. The simmering blue flecks of light emitting from her feet gave subtle hints of the jungle floor. Occasionally the light would flicker from her body illuminating the brush around her.
Seconds before the light would appear she noticed a feeling of static-like energy building inside her, then a flicker of light would show itself under her skin. Erin recognized this was now a part of her, and felt the power build in her from its energy. She could feel unrecognizable vibrations in the vines, trees, leaves, and especially the ground. She could smell things, but had no idea what they were. Some smelled animal-like while others were more organic. Bark plants, rotting leaves, the air had a thick, heavy odor as if it carried all that was around it.
She had no idea how long she had been walking, but by the darkness surrounding her she thought a couple of hours must have past. She heard the snake stop abruptly. She waited, listening and feeling the jungle around her. The vibrations faded, and the sounds of the jungle disappeared. Erin reached slowly to touch anything in front of her. As her hand moved a large leaf she could see a peculiar distant fire light. The jungle remained still. She listened for the snake, but it too was still. She took a thoughtful step forward, listening and feeling, the cracking sticks and leaves beneath her feet. She was grateful, although still unnerved, by the flickering blue light that illuminated her way. It was at least one thing that had not left her in the darkness.
Walking through the thick brush was difficult, and made her curiosity seem never-ending. There was no moon light or stars to be seen, and the air was consistently thick and heavy. She stopped to listen to the sound of distant rushing water. She thought it was a stream near by, but as she stood quietly she realized it was rain making its was toward her. She was not far from the light ahead of her, if it rained she would lose it, and whoever started it. She began to rush through the vegetation hoping to beat the downpour, but it was quickly upon her, drenching her and turning the jungle floor to a thick, soggy ooze. She miss-stepped and fell sliding in the mud. Frustrated and determined she tried to make her way closer to the flame, but continued to slide on the muddy, leaf-filled floor. She reached for a thick vine to pull herself up and watched her arm wind around it, gripping it not just with her hand, but with all of her that touched it's smooth surface. She reached for another vine, and her other arm instinctively wrapped around it. She kept her balance by grabbing the limbs and vines, one after another as quickly as she could, making her way to the flames ahead. The closer she got the harder the water fell, almost blocking out the light completely.
She could see the light in a very dry clearing. A figure was sitting by the fire, completely dry. She stood in the pouring rain at the edge of the clearing, that seemed to be in the shape of an X. She looked around for signs of anything, or anyone else, but saw nothing but a man sitting by the unusually colored flames. From a distance in the jungle it appeared to her as a normal colored fire, but being only a few yards away it was the same color blue as the flecks that showed themselves in her skin. She stared at the figure as he sat perfectly still looking into the flames. She knew him. What was he doing here? She wondered if she was still in an awful nightmare, but the rain soaking her body told her otherwise. It began to pour harder, the air became thick, and an unnatural bitter cold crept over her. The plants and trees began to spin wildly in the wind. She thought she could hear screaming creeping closer from all directions, and began to see contorted shadows weaving through the darkness.
The man turned his head and she felt him stare right through her:
It would be a complete waste of your effort to get all this way if you're just
going to stand in the rain. You should come sit and I will answer your questions.
Erin felt her breath taken away, she felt the coldness of the rain, and wanted nothing more than to understand what she was going through. But how could this man be here, in the middle of the jungle, with the answers she desperately needed? She cautiously took a step into the warm, dry, oddly shaped clearing. Just one step, she felt the warmth and noticed her foot was instantly dry.
The man was staring intently at her: You must make a choice.
She felt drawn to the warmth for obvious reasons, but a force in her pulled her into the light. It made the choice for her, she slowly raised her other foot and entered the quiet light of the clearing. The littered jungle floor gave way to soft sand making it so easy to walk to the blue flame, and sit across from this man she had known forever.
Ana woke up and stretched on the couch as she heard the torrential downpour through the open doors. She looked at the muted TV, and laughed as she saw the two women poorly fighting over a scrawny looking man standing to the side.
Ana: "Idiots, just kill each other. Kill him first though."
She sat up and looked at the clock on the wall, 7:30. She stretched reaching for the bottle of champagne on the end table. She took a long drink.
Ana: "Time to call Detective what's-his-name." "Where's, on there's the card."
She dialed the number.
SGT. Walton: "Sgt. Walton, Island Police Department. How may I direct your call?"
Ana: "Oh, I need to talk to Det. Bryan please."
SGT. Walton: "What is this concerning please?"
Ana: "He told me to call him if Erin Thorne....(she rolled her eyes)......didn't return."
SGT. Walton: "So she hasn't returned?"
Ana: "That would be why I'm calling wouldn't it?"
SGT. Walton: "I'm just trying to help you, what is your name please?"
Ana: "I'm just upset....(changing the channel on the tv).......sorry. My name is Ana,
Ana Hermon. He came by to see me this afternoon."
SGT. Walton: "He stepped out for a moment, but I'm going to put you on brief hold
and page him."
Ana: "Okay, but hurry, I'm getting worried about Erin." She took a piece of fruit,
stuffed it in the champagne bottle, and took another drink.
SGT. Walton: "Hold please." She walked around the desk, went to the door of the
men's room, and knocked as she walked in. "Hey, one of your strippers is on
the phone. Can't say I didn't knock."
Detective Bryan zipped his pants: "No I guess not, but the knock-walk-in does not
apply to the restroom, only office and closets. Thank you, I'll just wash my
hands and be right there."
SGT. Walton: Now why would I have to knock on a closet door ? What are you doing
in a closet that you have to shut the door for? Sounds safer walking in on
you in the bathroom.
DET. Bryan was drying his hands: Just tell her I'll be right there. Is nothing sacred
anymore? He looked in the mirror to fix his already perfect hair, and fixed his
tie before heading to his desk. He sat in his expensive, ergonomically correct
chair, touched the sides of his hair, and cleared his throat.
SGT. Walton watched this process in disbelief: What are you doing? She can't see
you through the phone! A stripper calls you and you have to adjust your look?
You don't get out much do you? Just pick up the phone, she's gotta tell you
the missing stripper, we'll call her stripper number one, hasn't shown up yet.
DET. Bryan: This isn't Erin Thorne? It's Ana Hermon?
SGT. Walton: That's right.
DET. Bryan: Oh, well who cares? Doesn't matter what...
SGT. Walton walked over to his desk, picked up the receiver, pushed the
blinking button, and handed him the phone before he could finish his sentence.
DET. Bryan: Oh, uh, yes Ms. Hermon have you heard from Ms. Thorne?
Ana: It's about time. I mean, we're wasting time aren't we? Erin isn't back, and I
haven't heard anything from her. It's pouring rain, dark, and she hasn't called.
Have your men found anything yet?
DET. Bryan: What's that crunching noise?
Ana: Crunching? Nothing, she threw a bag of chips on the coffee table, must be a
bad connection from the weather.
DET. Bryan: Well, as it has been quite a while. I'll send some officers to patrol the
bars and hotels to see if anyone has seen her. I'm sure she's not too far,
probably having too good of a time.
Ana: You're saying she'd rather be at a bar, or a hotel, than with me? I'm a pretty
good time Det. Bryan.
DET. Bryan: Well, I'm just saying she probably lost track of time, and that's all.
Ana: Probably. Will you call Sal?
DET. Bryan: I don't know if we need to call him at this point as we have no new
information to give him. After a couple men and patrol cars send back news,
then we'll inform Mr. Manana. You will call us if she shows up, or anything?
Ana: I will. She hung up the phone without a thank you, or a good bye. She went
outside and stood in the rain. What an island full of idiots she thought, and
jumped in the pool.
SGT. Walton: Didn't you already drive by the bars?
DET. Bryan: Yeah I did, but I could've missed her. Send a couple cars around to the
hotels and bars. We'll make sure she's not throwing an indoor party
somewhere. Also have a patrol check the beaches please.
SGT. Walton: Do you actually think there's any merit to her not showing up?
DET. Bryan: I don't know, but I am beginning to wonder how much sense it makes.
SGT. Walton: What do you mean? They're strippers, how much sense can they
make? It's all about where the party is right?
DET. Bryan: I guess. However, Ms. Thorne isn't your average stripper.
SGT. Walton: No?
DET. Bryan: No. She built a stripping empire, redefined the whole industry. Besides
that, how much sense does it make for her to come all this way, with Ms.
Hermon, take a walk, and disappear? Plus, there is an indifference in Ms.
Hermon that doesn't add up. We can assume they are more than friends right?
Did they have a fight and that's why Ms. Thorne left, or was Ms. Hermon just
so obnoxious Ms. Thorne couldn't stand it anymore and went off to get drunk
or whatever? Ms. Hermon is very high maintenance, she can't be left alone for
long or there will be hell to pay.
SGT. Walton: So you think this is an actual missing person? Stripper?
DET. Bryan: Not necessarily, but we can't rule it out.
SGT. Walton: May be Ms. Hermon did her in.
DET. Bryan: Did her in? Did her in? Who talks like that? But I don't know that either.
SGT. Walton: All sarcasm aside, do you seriously think something may have
genuinely happened to her?
DET. Bryan: She came a long way with a companion. She went for a really long walk
without her cell phone, and she hasn't in any way tried to contact Ms.
Hermon. No come have a beer, I'm on the beach, there's a party, nothing. Just
a scribbled note. Either they are the most self-centered, egotistical,
inconsiderate friends I've ever seen, or she wasn't planning on being gone
long. I'm not saying Ms. Hermon did anything with malicious intent, possibly
Ms. Thorne just had an accident and can't get to a phone. Whatever the case,
it does have me quite curious.
SGT. Walton: You put it that way and I'm curious too. It would be interesting if we
had an actual missing person on such a small island. Not too many places to
hide, or be dumped.
DET. Bryan: That's the thing, there doesn't have to be a lot of space. If I wanted to
dispose of a body I would leave it in the jungle. The vermin in there would take
the parts away so fast and into the dense brush, finding anything would be
next to impossible. You might want to dust off the crime scene manual.
SGT. Walton: That's a lot of dust.
DET. Bryan: I'm going to drive around, see what I can find.
SGT. Walton: You mean dumpsters, bottom of cliffs, plastic bags on the side of the
DET. Bryan: You're really morbid sometimes, but yes, we have to consider that.
SGT. Walton: Kind of creepy, yet cool at the same time. We may actually get to use
our policing skills. Draw graphs on the board with their pictures taped up there,
and a time line. We always need a time line.
DET. Bryan walking toward the front door: I think you're kinda creepy and getting a
little ahead of the situation, but go ahead and work on that. I'm going to go
out here in the torrential downpour, and look for a missing stripper.
He turned to the SGT. expecting a sarcastic response, but saw her already
clearing off the hangman game from the board on the wall of the squad room.
He was about to say something jokingly to her, but realized there was going to
be a need to be prepared for what he would find, or not find. He ran through
the thick rain to his SUV, and drove into the darkness.