The Island

There was an island off the coast. Sometimes the military used it for training. But they had to be
careful when they trained on it. The island became inaccessible for weeks at a time due to the
severe weather. Neither a plane nor a boat could reach it. The military had built a small bunker and
stocked it with enough food to last for a few weeks.

There had never been an incident where soldiers got stuck on the island, until the last training
event of the War.
A platoon took a boat out to the island for some, by now, routine training. They planned to stay
one night and leave the next morning before the storms hit. The platoon had barely been on the
island a few hours before the required hourly contact stopped.

An unexpected storm struck the island like a hammer. The island was ravaged by the storm for
three long days…
It was a normal day when I awoke this morning. I got dressed, ate, and left for work. I was part of
a civilian medical detachment that supported a nondescript part of the Army. I was a doctor; just
an average run of the mill doctor. I was very good at what I did. I had a bunch of commendations
for everything I did for the Army during the War. I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. I just
thought of it as doing my job.
When I arrived at work, I noticed something was different. Nurses and PA’s were all looking at me
with some degree of anxiousness. I was a little puzzled, but shrugged it off. There was a person
waiting for me in my office; a general to be exact. I stood awkwardly in the doorway. The office
was tiny with only one chair. 
The general told me what I was going to do that day. It involved a plane, an island, and danger.
I didn’t want any part of it. The general insisted, so I boarded the plane.
We flew over the ocean for several hours. The pilot informed me that we had to use a tiny rickety
plane to get to the island because it wasn’t very long. With this plane we had just enough length
on the island to land; provided the runway hadn’t been damaged in the last storm. I asked him
what would happen if the runway was damaged. He assured me I didn’t want to know.
I looked out the window and could see this tiny island in the distance. It looked like something
the ocean just spit out as an afterthought. It didn’t get much bigger when we were getting
ready to land. My partner in this expedition was rummaging in his gear. He was the muscle
and I was the brain.

When he slung his rifle over his shoulder my anxiety level rose. I asked him why he needed to
bring it. He shrugged and said it was for protection. 
The plane dove toward the island. It angled around to face the long wise part. At break neck
speeds the pilot took it in for a landing. The plane rolled to a hideous stop. I sat there for a
moment and couldn’t move. It was all I could do to breath.
My partner opened the ramp off the back of the plane and exited. He held his rifle at the ready.
He left for a few minutes and came back gesturing it was all clear. The pilot stayed with the plane
while we went out to look for survivors. 
The island was a mess. Every tree rested in its bed of leaves; like a grave. The only sound was the
hungry crash of the ocean as it chipped away at the island. My partner headed towards the low
silhouette of the bunker. It looked intact. The hefty steal door was pulled out of the way by the
burliness of my partner.

I took the flashlight I was offered and shined it into the dim interior. Everything was covered in
a fine layer of sand. One item was indistinguishable from another. At first I despaired that no one
was here. Then I noticed another door. This was where the three men were hiding.
The soldiers lived no more. What life they may have lived was cut short by the brutality of this
island. A mere three days had left these men mummified in sand. One man was missing his legs.
There was no smell despite the horrid conditions in the interior. I glanced at my partner. He looked
as stunned as I felt. Three days should not do this to a man.
There were supposed to be provisions. I checked. M.R.E.’s were stored in a chest. None of them had
been touched. The barrels of water were also untouched. I checked to see if the water was potable.
It tasted clean and pure. Baffled, I looked at my partner again. He shrugged. We came here to get
the trainees, so let’s get the trainees.
Together we picked up one of the mummies and hauled him back to the plane. The pilot watched
silently. He had heard rumors of possibilities if someone was trapped on this island. Now he knew.
We set the first mummy on the floor of the plane. My partner went to get another mummy. There
was one he could carry without any assistance. I sat down in the plane and examined the mummy
curiously. The only thing I knew of that could do this to a human was time; lots and lots of time.
Yet these men had only been here for three days. The man’s eyes were closed. He could be sleeping
save for his shriveled sunken face. Despite brushing at his clothes, the sand would not leave. 
My partner came back with the other mummy. I looked around at the space in the tiny plane. There
was room for one man to lie on a stretcher and the rest had to be sitting. I realized that we would
not all fit in the plane. I made a split second decision and elected to wait on the island for the
next trip. My partner shrugged and took his seat. I watched the plane leave from the shore and
began counting the seconds when it would return for me. 
The horizon was clear of any clouds in all directions. That didn’t mean anything. A storm could
appear at any moment. There was not supposed to be another storm for a few more days. The
three men were supposed to only spend one night on the island. They were supposed to be alive
and happy to be rescued. Nothing was supposed to turn out like this.
The general sent me, a doctor, to this island. I meant to find out why. I returned to the bunker and
began a close examination. The soldier was in perfect health when he came to the island. Now he
was a mummy in a matter of days. It didn’t make sense. My examination yielded more questions
than answers. Food and water were in the same room. Why didn’t they eat? Or at least drink
something? How did they die? Without any tools or equipment, those questions remained
unanswered. I checked their bags and found no answers there.
The plane came back for me in due time. My partner and I loaded the last mummy. I looked out
at the island one last time and noticed my partner hammering a sign in the beach: Quarantined.
I buckled myself into a seat on the plane. The plane took off and soared away from the island for
the last time.
We landed in the rain. The pilot refused to land any closer to the base. He said the roads would
flip mud into his props and damage them. Fortunately, by the time the ramp was dropped I
could see the headlights of a jeep coming our way. It was dark already. I hadn’t realized. This
trip had drained me. I felt light headed, incoherent.
My partner and the jeep driver put the last mummy in the trailer the jeep pulled. I barely noticed
that the sand didn’t wash off in the rain. The mummy was covered with a tarp. The driver looked
at me. I didn’t move. My partner shrugged and got in the jeep. The driver hesitated and followed
suit. The pilot wanted to leave.
Finally I dragged myself out of the plane. I was asked if I wanted a ride. I don’t know if I even gave
a response. I just started trudging toward the base. The mud splashed onto my shoes and washed
off in the rain only to repeat again. Why didn’t the sand wash off?
I finally passed the gates of the base. I couldn’t go any further and sat down in the middle of
some street. A large group of soldiers were running by calling cadences and staying in step. I
didn’t move. They flowed around me like a stream around a rock. I don’t know how long I sat there
in the rain, shivering.
Another jeep drove up. This time it was the general. He picked me up and put me in the jeep. He
was angry. My partner wasn’t supposed to leave me. At least this jeep had a roof. I wasn’t getting
rained on but I still shivered. The mud washed off, but the sand didn’t.
The general drove me to the hospital. This was where I worked. I was supposed to be working
there today. But I had to go somewhere else. The general was talking to me. I couldn’t hear him.
Why didn’t the sand wash off?


The same nurses who stared at me this morning rushed to take me from the arms of the general.
He had carried me inside. I was taken to a room. I think I was changed into some dry clothes
because I stopped shivering. I was washed clean of the mud. My clothes were set beside the bed.
I wore a hospital gown, the kind where the back doesn’t close all the way. I had a lot of visitors
yammering for my attention. I rolled over and ignored them. Eventually they all left.

I noticed my shoes sitting on the floor. The mud had been washed off, but the sand from the island
remained. 

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