Ryan Morgan, an injured veteran and recently divorced takes a luxury cruise with his last savings. His life held nothing more for him and felt this might be the perfect way to end his life. While on the cruise he meets a young woman that he is immediately drawn to but her own wounds only allow them to be friends. When her life is threatened during a shipwreck Ryan decides to risk his own life to save hers only to find himself on death’s door on a remote island. When they finally think they might have found help and Ryan’s desire to live has returned, things take a dramatic turn for the pair when the owner of the island uses Ryan to reanimate his long dead daughter.
Inhaling deeply I smelled the crisp, humid, salty air. I watched the sun drop quickly into the Indian Ocean leaving a telltale green flash in its wake. Call me sentimental but I never tire of watching a sunset at sea. Turning around I leaned up against the thickly painted white railing and watched as the ships exterior lights turned on; their light reflected off the polished teak decks like a hazy mirror and created a feeling of ageless design. Modelled after luxury steamships of the 1930s, this modern day cruise ship carried no more than five hundred guests as it made its way from Sri Lanka to the Maldives, Seychelles, and Madagascar.
Limping slightly I made my way into the dining room and stood awaiting my turn to be seated. Tonight I chose a group table believing the random conversations of strangers would be preferable to dining alone. Off to my right a man in a tuxedo created delicate and soothing sounds from a grand piano. Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling and enormous windows provided excellent views of the rolling waves and slowly darkening sky. Hints of purple twilight and stars began appearing in the east. If I closed my eyes I could isolate the intoxicating smells of filet mignon, Alaskan king crab, and subtle perfumes of the elegantly dressed ladies standing near me.
“I can seat you now, Mr. Morgan.”
“Thank you.” Unbuttoning my suit jacket I followed the pretty hostess that wore a tight black skirt and white button down blouse. No expense is spared on this cruise line. The food and drink are as good as any five-star restaurant and most of the staff could easily find work as models.
“Here you are, Mr. Morgan.”
The table was set up for eight guests and I was the second to arrive. A lovely blonde-haired young woman glanced up and smiled softly at my arrival. The hostess pointed to a chair next to the woman. Thanking her, I took my seat. Turning to my dinner companion for the evening she looked a little out of place and out of sorts. Her beautiful brown eyes glinted in the candlelight and offered hints of her intelligence yet there was a sadness hidden there as well. Her manicured fingers rolled a black metal ring that dangled on a thin gold necklace.
Extending a hand I could feel her hesitation. “Why do I get the feeling neither of us normally frequent cruises like this one? I’m Ryan. Ryan Morgan.”
For a brief moment there was a glimmer of a dazzling smile accompanied by a mischievous glint in her eye. “Obviously my choice of not wearing my million dollar earrings along with my Christian Dior dress might make it appear I should be serving dinner tonight rather than eating it. Perhaps I’m just the daughter of a billionaire choosing to waste my father’s money.” She took my extended hand in hers. “Beth Hendrix.”
“Forgive me if I overstepped my observation.”
“No forgiveness necessary, Mr. Morgan. My stepfather has a lot of money and he was sick of seeing me mope around the house wearing sweats. He thought hobnobbing with the rich elite for a few weeks might revive my wounded spirit. So your observation was accurate. I’m not remotely accustomed to this lifestyle.”
“You look too young to have a wounded spirit.”
“I’m twenty-three, but lost love is no respecter of age. What’s your story? How did you arrive on the lacquered decks of the S.S. Allegra? Certainly the military didn’t send you.”
“You’re favoring your left leg. You have a scar on your cheek and a wandering left eye. Your posture is formal and you have closely cropped hair. If I’m not mistaken I’d say you’re military.”
“You’re pretty observant for a…”
Laughing I realized this was someone that would be a good match had I not been twelve years older than her. “I was going to say beautiful young woman.” Her smile quickly faded and I knew I struck a nerve. “I’m sorry if I offended you, Miss Hendrix.”
“It’s not an offense. It’s very sweet but I’m just not interested.”
“I wasn’t trying to… It was merely a compliment. Obviously I’m older than you and I would never…”
Her smile returned. “You know you’re actually kind of cute when you get tongue-tied and I’m sure any one of these shallow rich women would find you adorable.”
“So your saying only a shallow woman would find me interesting?”
“I didn’t mean…”
I started laughing again. How long has it been since I really laughed? “I may be old and damaged but I can still verbally spar with the best of them.”
“You’re not that old and you’re obviously not that damaged. You’re quite handsome. You never told me how you came to be on this cruise.”
“You’re right about the military. I was an Army Ranger on my second deployment in Afghanistan when my vehicle was hit by an IED. My leg was shattered, I lost hearing in my left ear, and my sight from my left eye. I left the army shortly after that as I was no longer any use to them in the field and I struggled with the work they wanted me to do. I went into financial planning and this year I won the most sales. This trip is what I won. I even had to go to Men’s Wearhouse to buy a suit. Pretty lame, huh?”
“My dad served and was killed in Iraq. I never could quite grasp the whole duty to your country thing, but I do thank you for your service and the incredible perseverance it must have taken to overcome your injuries and move into civilian life.”
We were interrupted by several elderly couples, a very obese woman, and a young man that seemed to have more money than brains. After introductions we ordered our food. I sat back and listened to the conversations. The young man, Austin McGowan the Third, turned out to be handsome, young, and rich with a slight Texan accent. His pretentious nature seemed to be an acquired trait from not having worked a day in his life. He had his eye and conversation focused on Beth the entire dinner. I interjected several times hoping to rescue the poor girl as I could see she practically wilted under his advances.
When dinner was winding down and Austin was working on his fourth round of expensive scotch I pushed my chair back and stood. “It was a pleasure meeting you all tonight.” Turning to Beth she looked like she needed an escape. “Perhaps you would care to take me up on my backgammon challenge sometime, Miss Hendrix?”
A glimmer of hope and a smile appeared. “Why not now? I’m finished here and an exciting and robust game of backgammon will be a great way to finish the evening. Good night to you all.”
We were only a dozen steps away from the table when she leaned over and whispered to me. “Oh my God. Thank you!”
“I’m always at your service should you ever need rescuing. It truly has been a pleasure. Good night, Miss Hendrix. I hope you have a pleasant rest of your cruise.”
Her fingers drifted to her ring necklace again. “The pleasure is all mine, Mr. Morgan.”
It was several evenings later that I ran into Beth again during the formal dance event. She was a spectacular beauty and looked flawless in her body-hugging white dress that dropped in soft waves down to the floor. Austin, who I’d run into several times on the cruise already, appeared drunk once again and was holding onto Beth’s wrist. I wandered over a little closer.
“I told you I don’t want to dance. Now let me go!”
“If you didn’t want to dance, then why come tonight?”
That’s all I needed to hear. “Let her go, Austin.”
“It’s the old man. I’ve seen some nice blue-haired old ladies around that might need your services tonight.”
Beth looked pleadingly at me. “She said she doesn’t want to dance. Let her go.”
“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get lost! This is between Beth and me.”
Turning around I scanned the crowd to see if anyone was looking our way. I despise guys like this. With the coast clear I turned and slugged Austin in his stomach and then helped him to sit on a stool as he doubled over. I extended an arm to Beth. “Shall we?”
Beth pulled us both deep into the dance floor before taking my hand in hers to dance. “Thank you, Mr. Morgan. You really are a knight in shining armor.”
“Please, call me Ryan.”
“And you can call me Beth. It’s short for Bethany.”
“How’s your cruise so far? Is your wounded spirit recovering?”
“If anything it’s getting worse.”
“For the life of me I can’t imagine how stupid a guy must be to mess things up with you.”
“That’s very sweet of you to say, Ryan. You’re a very nice man; I consider you a man of honor and I feel safe with you. That said you should know that we can only be friends.”
“I’m a bit old fashioned, Beth. I wouldn’t even consider anything other than friendship unless you indicated you wanted otherwise. I’m happy with just being friends and, if the truth be known, you’re the best conversationalist on the ship.”
“I’m so glad to hear you say that. This cruise would be insufferable without your wit and charm. Now that we can put all of this behind us, may I ask why I see no ring on your finger? Certainly there’s a story there.”
Pausing our dancing for a moment I tried to not let the hurt that rose within me affect the tone of my voice. “I told you about how I got wounded. I was married for six years and during my deployment to Afghanistan my wife strayed and finally sought a divorce. It was only a few weeks after that was settled that I was injured.”
“Oh… I’m so sorry, Ryan. If you ask me it was her loss.”
“That’s nice of you to say but the life of a military spouse isn’t an easy one.”
“Don’t make excuses for her. She strayed and betrayed your trust while you were doing your job. I take marriage and vows seriously and would never… never ever… cheat on my spouse.” Her finger went to her ring again.
“May I ask what happened?”
“I see how often your fingers find the ring on your necklace. What happened?”
“I’m almost too embarrassed to say.”
“I know it’s hard to talk about these things but even just this brief conversation we’re having has helped me. Perhaps sharing a little will help you as well.”
“All right, but let’s walk outside as I tell you my story.” I felt her arm slip into mine as I led her to the lee side of the ship. We stood in silence for a long while before she spoke again. “I was nine when friends of my parents were visiting us for a weekend. On the first night the husband snuck into my room and…”
Clenching my fists at my side all I wanted to do was hit something. “There’s nothing that makes me as angry as this. I’m sorry, Beth.”
Her hands wrapped around my fist and the warmth of them caused me to let them relax. “They say all things work together for good and yet I’ve not seen this to be the case in my life. It was so bad I had to be taken to the hospital. My mom never forgave dad for allowing this to happen to me. A year later they got divorced and I lived with my mom.”
We walked along the deck for a few more minutes in silence. I noted flickers of light on the dark horizon and a change in the wind. Taking my jacket off I wrapped it over Beth’s shoulders.
“I want you to know that when I said we could only be friends it all ties back to when I was nine. You’re a wonderful and kind person, Ryan, but I could never be with a man. Deep inside me my fear is so great but all my life I’ve yearned for love. It was in high school that I realized there might be another way for me to find fulfillment and happiness. It all happened when a girl kissed me at a sleepover. There was just something about the soft tenderness of her lips that unlocked a heartfelt longing within me.” She paused for a moment. “Two years ago I met Alice. It was love at first sight. We were inseparable. She gave me this ring and promised her undying love and devotion and once we were settled and out of college, we’d find a way to be together always.”
We stopped and stared for a few moments into the waves. The wind continued to pick up and the waves were increasing in size.
“Three months ago I came home early after visiting my mom and stepdad. I wanted so badly to be with Alice and to surprise her. It was me that was surprised. I caught her with another woman. She’d even given her a ring just like this one.”
Cautiously and protectively I placed my arm around her shoulders. “Is it possible two wounded souls like ours will ever find happiness?”
She began frantically pulling at her necklace to free the ring. She stared at it in her hand and her fingers wrapped tightly around it before flinging it out to sea. Her tears were clearly visible as she turned and took my jacket off her shoulders. “I should go to bed, Ryan.”
“Let me at least walk you to your room if for no other reason than Austin doesn’t appear to be a man that will give up easily.”
“I appreciate that.” We turned and walked inside just as a large wave hit the side sending a slight shudder through the ship. “Looks like we’re going to have a rough night.”
When we got to her stateroom I paused. “You’re an extraordinary young woman, Bethany. You’ll find something lasting. I know it.”
“You used my full name.”
“It seems fitting. Almost as if using your full name helps you start your life anew.”
“I hope I don’t regret my actions tonight by throwing my ring into the ocean, but somehow I feel like I’ve turned a corner. Goodnight, Ryan. Thank you.”
Another wave crashed into the ship sending a bigger shudder through it and causing the glass light fixtures to tinkle softly. “Goodnight, Bethany. Don’t worry about the storm.”
“Storms are a way of life but there’s always something special after a storm.”
Tipping my head I headed back towards the lounge. A stiff drink would give me courage for what I was about to do next.
Standing at the back of the ship I looked down at the churning waters. The wind drove the rain so hard that it stung as it hit my face. It’s as if God himself is laughing at me. Gripping the rail with both hands I hesitated. Just do it!
I raised my head and yelled defiantly into the storm as my knuckles turned white. The ships horn blasted three times. Turning around I saw it; a rogue wave raced towards the ship from the starboard side and white water was roiling against dark rocks on the port side. Bethany!
Running to get inside I had almost made it to the door when the wave hit. The ship rose up and tilted sending me careening towards the port railing. This is it. I’m going to die. Slamming into the railing I felt my ribs shatter just as the wave crested over the ship. With a sickening crunch of metal the ship ripped open as it crashed upon the rocks before slowly righting itself partway and coming to rest.
The ship’s horn sounded again and again as the call to abandon ship came over the speakers. Wincing in pain I pulled myself up to the door in into the sloping hallway. People were running all over the place screaming. I ran as quickly as I could and made my way down two floors to Bethany’s stateroom. Banging on the door I called for her.
“Bethany! Are you in there?”
“I’m trapped! The bed is against the door!”
“Hang on, Bethany! I’ll get you out of there.”
Grabbing a fire axe I cut into the door but the ship kept getting pummeled by the waves throwing off my balance making my efforts slow and cumbersome. Water began seeping in around my ankles. Frantically I smashed at the door until I created a small hole. Leaning in close I yelled into the room. “Bethany! Are you hurt?”
“I’m fine, Ryan. Help me get out of here. Water is coming into the room!”
“I won’t leave you, Bethany! Look for life jackets.”
I hammered at the door over and over again until the hole was large enough to pull Bethany from the room. She was wearing a silver nightgown and was shaking badly. Bethany had found two life jackets and I secured one on Bethany. I tried to put mine on but needed Bethany’s help as the twisting motion made it incredibly painful.
“We’ll be worse than injured if we can’t get off this ship.”
Grabbing her hand we ran through the hallway and up onto the outside deck. The lifeboats on the starboard side were useless with the lean of the ship and all the boats on the port side had been dropped. The front of the ship extended past the rocks and into turbulent but safer waters. Taking Bethany’s hand we ran towards the bow. We didn’t see anyone left on board. We were halfway towards the front when another huge wave smashed into the starboard side of the ship. Metal screeched and groaned and the lights flickered.
From deep inside the ship we could feel the vibrations growing and just as we arrived at the bow deck the ship groaned and began breaking into two pieces. Large smokestacks fell away and guidelines snapped whipping through the air. “Help me with this table!” Bethany grabbed a large wooden table and together we tossed it over the railing into the water below. “Jump!”
Grabbing Bethany I tossed her over the rail thirty feet to the water below. The ship lurched again as it tore apart. Debris was falling all around me. I don’t want to die. Leaping over the rail I plunged deep into the water and just surfaced when a section of the ship sheered away. Large chunks of metal ripped from the decks and rained down upon where I was.
With my ribs broken I was having a hard time with all the exertion of getting Bethany off the ship. I could barely move when a pole of metal skewered me through my side and dragged me below the surface. Fighting against the darkness I used my remaining strength to pull the metal shaft from my side; my life jacket rocketing me up to the surface.
Gasping for air I felt a hand grab the back of my life jacket and pull me on top of a wooden table. There Bethany and I lay back in utter exhaustion as we watched the ship lights flicker and go out and the wind and waves pushed us well away from the wreckage.
We’d tied ourselves to the table and weathered the wind, waves, and storm and as dawn broke, the seas finally calmed. There was no land in sight, no lifeboats, and no people.
“You saved my life, Ryan.”
“We’re alive, Bethany, but not safe. The ship will have sent out a distress signal and the lifeboats will all stay close to the ship. It will be weeks before they tally the losses. Our only hope is if we find land or another ship spots us.”
“Don’t talk like that.”
“Bethany, I’m done for. I can barely move. My ribs are broken and I’ve been bleeding out all night. Promise me when the time comes…”
That was the end of the conversation and for the rest of the day we floated in the intense heat of the sun.
“Ryan!” Bethany’s voice was raspy and raw as she shook me. “Ryan! There’s land!”
Loss of blood and lack of water had severely impacted me. I lapsed into unconsciousness until I had a feeling of intense pain as Bethany dragged me from the table and onto the beach. Pain that brought me to my senses and woke me from the delicious darkness that had enfolded me. Moments later a trickle of water passed by my lips.
Coughing and sputtering I opened my crusted eyes. Bethany was running back and forth to a stream, holding water in her hands and bringing it back to me. “Help me over to the creek.” My voice was as coarse as sandpaper.
It was a struggle just getting to my knees as the blood rushed from my head threatening to cause me to faint. Slowly Bethany slipped her arm under me and we staggered towards the water. Falling into the water I drank and became refreshed but I was still far from recovered. Funny how I wanted to kill myself just hours before and now that I’m on death’s door I want to live.
Catching a glimpse of something reflective in the sunset light I pointed into the jungle. “What’s that?”
“It looks like some kind of building. Do you think you can make it?”
“If there’s steak at the other end I’m all in. I’ll need your help though.”
“That’s the Ryan I know!”
I limped and hobbled slowly with Bethany’s help as darkness quickly descended upon us. There was light coming from the building but it seemed to be so far away. We had to rest several times but quickly began moving again as strange sounds emanated from the jungle all around us; sounds of hideous screeching beasts.
As we got closer we realized there were two buildings. One appeared to be a large modern home and the second was a dark bunker-like building. The two buildings were connected via a glass causeway. The gray cement building had no windows but we did find a door and were thrilled that the heavy steel door opened easily into a dimly lit room.
“What is this place, Ryan?”
“It looks like a laboratory. Get me to that table and see if you can find anything we can use to bandage my side.”
It took all my effort to position myself on my back on the sterile stainless steel table as Bethany rummaged through the lab. “I found bandages and gauze. There’s even stuff for sutures but I’m not sure I know how to use that.”
“Unless things are closed on the inside of the wound I won’t be out of the woods yet. The gauze is good enough for now. I’ll hold it while you see if you can find help.”
Pressing the gauze against the wound I heard Bethany running from room to room. Suddenly she screamed. “Ryan! There’s a young woman here in a glass case.”
“That’s my daughter, Amelia. Who are you and what are you doing in my home?” An elderly man wearing a lab coat and sporting a white beard stood nearby. His accent sounded German.
“There was a shipwreck. We washed ashore. Please, can you help Ryan? He’s badly injured.”
“Of course. Let me look at him.”
The man leaned over me, pulled a flashlight from his pockets and flicked it into my eyes. His fingers probed my side and he examined my wound. “He’s going into shock and has lost much blood. What blood type are you?”
“I’m B. Will that help him? He saved my life!”
“And yours?” The man looked at me.
“That won’t do. I have no O blood on the island.”
Pulling a syringe from his lab coat I watched helplessly as he turned away from me and quickly plunging it into Bethany. Trying to get myself off the table I was in no shape to help her as I watched her slip to the floor.
“What are you doing?”
Moving to another table the man produced another syringe. “I’m saving my daughter.” Sticking the needle into my arm he quickly stepped away. “I’ve been waiting for someone just like you.”
Not able to keep my eyes open I drifted into oblivion.
“Amelia… Amelia. Wake up.”
I recognized my name and yet I knew I wasn’t Amelia. There were pieces of two lives; Ryan and Amelia, but I’m not Amelia.
I can hear so well. The shipwreck… The man… Bethany! I forced my eyes to open and found myself staring into the eyes of my father and yet he wasn’t. He was the man that injected Bethany. He hurt me, Amelia. He hit me and I fell. There was a girl; a servant. Her name was Joy.
“Amelia. You’re back. I’ve saved you.”
He’s insane; a scientist that harvests people. I’m not Amelia. I’m Ryan. Moving my hand towards my face I saw how feminine my fingers were. What did he do?
“It might be hard for you to speak. It’s been ten years. I maintained your muscle tone and body by putting you in stasis. You haven’t aged a day. Rest now. I’ll be back soon.” There were tears in his eyes but it felt to me like they weren’t tears of happiness.
I watched as the man left and I continued to stare at my hand. Lifting my head I looked down to see two large bumps, breasts under a sheet but also hiding much of my view. Crying alerted me to someone nearby. Turning my head I could see Bethany. She was still in her tattered nightgown but she was locked in a cage. “B… Be…” My voice is so hard to get out. “Betha… ny?”
“Who are you? How do you know my name?”
“Ry… Ryan. I’m Ryan…” It’s getting easier to speak.
“That can’t be! Ryan’s dead. That man dug into his brain and body. He’s dead!”
“It’s me… Ryan… but al… also Amelia. Amelia’s mem… memories, but I’m Ryan.”
“That’s not possible.”
“How else… would I know about the ship… wreck? About Alice?”
“Ryan? Is it really you?”
“Yes… but I’m a wo… woman.”
“The man, his name is…”
“Gustaff. Amelia’s father.” My voice was coming much easier now. “My body?”
“Gone. Dead. I’m so sorry, Ryan. I woke up in this cage and couldn’t help you. He drilled into your brain, heart, and other parts of your body. It was as if he was taking pieces; what he called the sparks of life. He then brought his daughter out of stasis and inserted your parts into her. With electrical shock his daughter’s heart started. Your heart…”
“I’m feeling very weak and confused, Bethany. Gustaff is insane. We must escape here. I must play the part of his daughter… It’s our only chance.”
“Shhh. He’s coming!”
Closing my eyes I laid my head back down on the pillow. A few moments later Gustaff walked in. “Amelia. I can’t believe after all this time you’re back with me.”
Opening my eyes I saw Gustaff holding a nightgown and a glass of water. “Father…”
The joy in his eyes sparkled but behind the joy I could see into his demented mind. “Your color is better. This water has special ingredients in it to help restore your energy and flush the stasis chemicals from your body. Let me help you sit up.”
Amelia was a very feminine girl and prided herself on protecting her vanity. My arm crossed over my chest and held the sheet almost instinctively. I’m feeling very vulnerable right now. Gustaff supported my head and shoulders as I sat up and he placed pillows behind my back before tipping the glass of water to my lips; lips that felt astonishingly sensitive and full. The water tasted foul and I spit a little of it out.
“You need to drink it all. I know it tastes terrible but you need it to fully recover.”
I had nothing to lose and I suspect he wouldn’t go to all the trouble to reanimate his daughter only to do her harm. I drank the foul liquid and it made my throat instantly feel better.
“What happened to me, father? Why am I in your lab?”
“You had an accident.” He hit me and I fell from the balcony. “Do you not remember?”
Best not to say. “No. How… how long?”
“It’s been ten years. Your brain was damaged and your heart stopped. I didn’t have the technology or the skills to bring you back so I immediately put you into stasis. It has taken me ten years to find a way to bring you back to me.”
“I’ve lost ten years? I’m thirty years old now?”
“No. You’re still twenty. You’ve not aged a day. Would you like to go to your room? I can help you.”
“I’m still weak, father. Is Joy still here to help me dress?”
His eyes darkened. “No. Joy is no longer with us but I have a new servant girl.” He turned to look at Bethany. He went to her cage and whispered to her. I saw Bethany nod and he unlocked the cage door. “This is Bethany. She has agreed to help you.”
“Thank you, father.”
“I’ll be back in a few minutes. I’ve found one of your old nightgowns you can wear.” Turning he left us and Bethany rushed to my side.
“Let’s get you up. Do you think you can stand?”
“I feel very strange, Bethany. I can’t believe he let you out to help me.”
Bethany’s hands guided my legs over the edge of the bed. “He told me that there’s not another person within five hundred miles and that if I’m to live my only choice is to be a servant here. There were more threats that made his case very convincing.”
Glancing down at my bare legs I realized I had memories of what Amelia looked like but my mind couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing. Bethany slipped the nightgown over my head and let it fall over the sheet I was still holding. Letting go of the sheet I slipped my hand through the shoulder string and with Bethany’s help stood on my feet. I was immediately dizzy and held onto Bethany to keep from falling over.
When I steadied myself I had to look up slightly into Bethany’s eyes. “This is a switch.”
“I used to be so much taller than you.”
Bethany smiled weakly.
“Are you decent, Amelia?”
He came around the corner with a wheelchair. “Let’s get you back into your old room. You still need rest and it might be a day or two before you can eat anything solid. Bethany, follow along.”
Sitting in the chair I memorized the path to my room. There was an elevator that took us up two stories to the glass causeway. The sun was blinding but from this vantage point we could see much of the island and the jungle below. We entered an open and spacious home and as we passed through the main living area a misshaped man appeared. His right arm was longer than his left arm and his face looked strangely out of place.
“Joel, this is my daughter, Amelia. She is to be treated with the utmost respect. This is Bethany. She is not to leave this house under any circumstances.” Joel’s face grimaced as he looked at Bethany and nodded without saying a word. Turning to me Gustaff stroked my head which I realized had a bandage on it. “He can’t speak but he takes care of things around the house.”
We moved through the large house until we came to a room on what I assumed was the southeast corner of the building. Floor to ceiling glass windows framed the room on two sides and there was a huge bathroom and closet. Wheeling me in front of a mirror I looked upon myself for the first time. With the exception of bandages on my head and on different places around my body, I was beautiful.
Gustaff reached up and started removing the bandages. I was afraid of what I might see underneath but with the last piece unwrapped long brunette hair fell around my shoulders. Only a single bandage remained on my right temple.
“I think we can do without the full head bandage now. Be careful of the bandage locations on your temple, over your heart, stomach, and kidneys. These are where the sparks of life were placed into your body. With luck, you won’t have a single scar.”
Alarms sounded and lights began flashing until Gustaff tapped something on a tablet shutting them down. He frowned and looked outside. “I must go for now. Bethany I expect you to help Amelia get into bed. You look terrible. There is a room across the hallway. You should have a bath and change into some clothes there. Ask Joel to provide you with food and water. I will return tonight.” He turned and whispered something to Bethany before leaving and closing the door behind him.
Looking back at the mirror I pushed myself unsteadily to my feet. I stood a few inches shorter than Bethany making me around five foot seven. My blue eyes sparkled with life and if I looked closely I could see a smattering of light freckles across my nose. My lips were full and red and my teeth perfect. My hair fell in long waves just below my shoulder blades; the dark brown color framing my beautiful face.
My fingers traced my lips as I glanced downwards to my new body. When I looked upon my breasts they appeared large but when I looked in the mirror they seemed be much more in balance to my body. They were large but truly in perfect proportion to create a lean hourglass figure. My waist was so slight and my hips wide but there was no excess.
“You’re beautiful, Ryan. If that’s any consolation.”
“I’m Ryan inside, Bethany. It really is me but you should use the name Amelia. If Gustaff finds out I’m not really his daughter things could go very badly for us. I have her memories… Some of them anyways. He caught her with Joy, a servant girl. He was so angry he hit Amelia. I remember the pain and falling off a balcony into the jungle below.”
“I didn’t even know something like this was even possible. How can you be in her body? Are you going to be all right?”
Taking Bethany’s hand to keep me from falling over we slowly walked over to the bed and sat down. I’m still very weak. “It’s hard to grasp what happened and in some ways I almost feel like I have a new chance at life. The night of the dance, I left you and was going to jump overboard. I was standing at the rail knowing my life was over. I’d lost my wife, my eye, my hearing, and I had titanium rods in my left leg. I lied to you Bethany. I didn’t win the cruise. I spent what remained of my savings and bought the trip knowing somewhere along the way I’d end my life.”
“But you had so much going for you.”
“I was at the end of my rope. When the ship ran aground my only thought was your safety. You’re a wonderful person, Bethany. You deserve so much more. I couldn’t…”
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about ending my life and how close I came. I’m glad I didn’t. Don’t ever give up. Even though you’re in a strange situation we’re going to find a way off this island together.”
“If I’m honest, Bethany, I feel more alive than I have in a long time. I know I wasn’t going to make it. I’d lost too much blood and I suspect I had numerous internal injuries. My body was done for and while I know little about being a young woman, I’m at least alive. I don’t want to die anymore.”
Bethany smiled. “Let’s get you into bed then before Gustaff sends Joel after me. He told me Joel may be mute, but he will not hesitate to rip my arms off if I take one step out of line. I get the feeling that he could actually do that without hesitation. For now we both need to rebuild our strength and learn the lay of the land around here. I’m famished and I need to find a change of clothes and shower. Between the two of us we’ll find a way out of here.” I really was exhausted and Bethany helped me slip under the covers. “Rest up, Amelia.”
I woke feeling much better. I can’t remember the last time I woke without pain but waking with long hair, a small lean body, nothing between my legs, and heavy breasts that shifted with the slightest movements was somewhat disconcerting. Looking to my side I saw Bethany had showered and changed into a dress. She was sleeping in a chair next to my bed and looked absolutely beautiful to me. I sought my feelings and found that Amelia’s preferences were equally strong for men or women. I, on the other hand, shuddered at the thought of being with a man and yet was somewhat curious at the same time.
Bethany’s eyes fluttered open. “I must have dozed off. Gustaff would have a fit if he knew I wasn’t waiting patiently for you to wake. What are you staring at?”
“I was musing how beautiful you are.”
“You’re not going to read me the riot act?”
“You mean me telling you to keep your distance?” I nodded. “It’s a bit of a different situation now isn’t it? You’re not a man anymore and thus I have no fear of you. I can’t even imagine what must be going through your head.”
“You probably wouldn’t want to know.”
Bethany frowned. “Things could have been a lot worse.”
“You could have been reanimated into Gustaff’s three hundred pound sixty-year old wife.”
“You’ve seen her?”
“No, just imagining.”
“I’m feeling much better and I’m actually hungry, but I really need to go to the bathroom first.”
“Let me help you up.”
I felt her warm hand slip behind my head to my back. Her other hand took mine as she guided me to a standing position.
“Thank you.” We walked over to the bathroom and I paused at the mirror again. “I’m not sure I’ll ever get over seeing the new me in a mirror.”
“I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the fact it’s you in there. You’re stronger. You don’t need my help walking do you?”
Now what do I say? Secretly I enjoyed her hand on the small of my back and her other hand in mine. We looked good together in the mirror. I was drawn to Bethany before but knew we could only be friends. Could we have a chance together now? “If I say no am I in trouble?”
Bethany looked puzzled and then frowned. “Don’t toy with me, Amelia.” Her hands moved to her side abruptly.
Looking her in the eyes I realized how much pain she must be in. My strange sense of mischievous bravado faltered. “I’d never toy with you. I only want the best for you, Bethany.”
Her eyes softened. “I guess I’m skittish of everything lately. Why don’t you go ahead and go to the bathroom. You’ve slept for over a day. I was getting scared you might not wake up. I’ve been changing your bandages and there are some waterproof bandages near the sink. You could put those on and shower if you like and there’s a closet beyond with some clothes. If you need help I’m right here. Just call.”
“I slept for an entire day? I need to hear what you’ve found out so far.”
“A day and then some. I’ve not discovered much. Gustaff has been preoccupied with something but he’s been checking up on you a few times a day. He said you would sleep as your body healed.”
She looked so vulnerable. I wanted to hug her but reluctantly turned into the bathroom. Looking at the toilet I knew mechanically what to do and Amelia’s knowledge was there in fragments. Lifting the nightgown over my head I put it to the side before sitting down. I had to forcibly relax before I could go and when it did the sensation was rather strange. Not having anything between my legs is still a bit of a shock and having breasts blocking my view will take a lot of getting used to.
After wiping I looked at my naked body in the mirror. I’m beautiful. I could see I was not fat in the least. My stomach was very lean and I could see hints of my abs. I had four bandages on me and I carefully picked at them. Each spot had a small incision about a quarter of an inch wide. They appeared to be healing well.
Finding the bandages on the sink counter I put those on. They were skin colored and made me look a lot better with the exception that this body hadn’t showered in a decade. Stepping into the shower I noted how large everything appeared. I was at least seven inches shorter and a hundred pounds lighter than before. The added flexibility and smaller size was liberating.
I took a long time in the shower touching, washing, and feeling every inch of my new body. It was exhilarating and everywhere I touched was sensitive. I noticed that I had some stubble on my legs and under my arms so took the time to shave.
When I stepped out I realized I’d spent a long time in the shower and Amelia’s memories helped me to dry and brush out my hair properly. Moving into the closet I found wall to wall dresses and skirts. There wasn’t a pair of pants anywhere and this didn’t bother me. I felt very comfortable even though I should be screaming that I’m now a woman. A small cupboard island had drawers of panties and bras and I found a pair of white lace ones that seemed to go together. Am I trying to impress someone?
Finding a red dress that fell just below my knees, seemed to flow nicely, and hug my body felt like the right outfit. I combined that with a pair of red shoes that looked stylish but were flat. Now dressed and clean I felt like a new woman which in many ways I was.
Stepping out into the bedroom I found Bethany waiting for me in the same chair she was in before. Her eyebrows raised and a smile came to her lips. “You look stunning. Are you sure you’re still in there?”
“I feel very comfortable. Besides, there’s not a pair of pants in the closet.”
“While I would love to see you in a pair of jeans, this is much better.” Her eyes lingered as she stood.
“What was Alice like?” Bethany stiffened. “Sorry, I know that’s a sensitive topic. Forget I asked.”
“Why do you want to know about Alice?”
“It’s nothing. Really.”
“You asked for a reason. I want to know why.”
“I have no expectations, Bethany. I’m a guy that’s somehow become a woman. My mind is inundated with emotions and thoughts and I’m having a hard time focusing. One minute I’m frightened, the next buoyantly excited. I value our friendship and think the world of you. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I feel a need to make myself look a certain way that might make you take interest in me.”
“So you want to know what attracted me to Alice?” I nodded. “Interesting. You said you were hungry?”
“That’s it? Interesting?”
“What do you want me to say or do? Maybe you want me to throw myself into your arms and indulge myself of your delectable lips?” She walked behind me. “Perhaps you want me to trace my fingers across the exposed skin of your shoulders and kiss the nape of your neck?” Walking back in front of me she took my hand in hers and knelt on one knee. “Or maybe you want me to stare into your beautiful blue eyes and commit my undying love for you?” Her words weren’t harsh but they also weren’t laced with love or passion.
My body flushed with heat. I wanted all of those things and I’d just made a complete fool of myself. Pulling my hand quickly from hers I turned away and walked to the window. This body and its hormones failing me as moisture fell gently down my cheeks.
“Amelia, I’m sorry. I can’t fathom what’s going on inside you and quite frankly I’m not sure what’s going on inside of me. I’ve lost my girlfriend, been shipwrecked, turned into a servant on the Island of Dr. Moreau, have a half man half beast creature watching me all the time, and seen a good friend be murdered and somehow transplanted into the body of a previously dead gorgeous young woman.”
My knees buckled and I collapsed into a heap of red dress and hair. Bethany was there in a flash holding me; hugging me. “What’s happening to me?” I choked out the words. “I’m confused about everything and know I should be more concerned about our plight yet I cannot look at you and not feel like my heart won’t fail me out of nothing other than longing.”
Her hands stroked my hair gently. “Hey… I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. We’ll get through this.” She held me for several more minutes until I settled. I’ve never felt such strong emotions from my heart before. I had to put my emotions in check on the battlefield and even my divorce hurt, but nothing like this emotional tide I was now experiencing. “Come on. Let’s wash your face and get you some food.”
When we entered the main living area Gustaff was there. He took one look at me and pulled me into his arms. “You look lovely and more rested. How are you feeling?”
“Almost completely normal. I’m hungry.”
“As expected. Is Bethany treating you properly? Is she being helpful and assisting to your needs?”
“She’s being a great help, father.”
He’s stoic and rather hard to read and yet I know exactly what he wants to know. Amelia had fallen for her servant girl, Joy, and that was what caused him to lash out. He had other plans for his daughter. “If you’re referring to Joy, I realize that was nothing more than a mistake. You know I was feeling trapped here with no one to talk to. I long for companionship but I could never fall for another woman again.” Did Bethany just wince?
His eyes were penetrating, boring deep into my soul. Did he know I was lying? Did he know I loved Bethany even if Bethany didn’t reciprocate my love? Is this body driving my yearnings beyond what I had as Ryan? “I have a treat for you, Amelia. Tomorrow at dinner we will have a guest. I think you and he will get along nicely. As for dinner, I’ve had Joel cook you up something light. We can’t have you eating steak and potatoes for your first meal.”
Steak and potatoes sounded incredible right now and while Bethany and Gustaff ate succulent chicken I had a salad made of butter lettuce and some beef broth with overcooked carrots in it.
After dinner Bethany and I headed back to my room. I was still starving and surprisingly tired. I sat down on the bed and Bethany sat down next to me. “Alice was a little butch. She had short hair and never wore dresses or skirts.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because if I were to be honest I wished she had long hair and wore dresses. I’m attracted to beautiful feminine girls.”
“You were upset tonight.”
“I was confused, not upset. I didn’t know what to do with everything you said.”
“After that. When I told Gustaff I could never fall for another woman again. You were hurt by that.”
“You noticed that?”
“I notice everything about you, Bethany.”
That caused her to pause. “Alice never noticed things like that. Are you okay getting yourself ready for bed?”
“I’m sure I can manage if I have to.”
“Good, because I need time to think and sort some feelings out. Why do I have an ominous feeling about the guest tomorrow night?”
“I don’t have all of Amelia’s memories, but I have enough to know that Gustaff was greatly upset by the fact that Amelia found a relationship with the servant girl, Joy. He seemed to have plans for marrying off Amelia so she could have children.”
“Now I have two more things to get out of my head before I can sleep tonight.”
Bethany turned and headed for the door before turning back. “Picturing you in another woman’s arms and picturing you with some guy. Goodnight, Amelia.”
The next morning I woke completely invigorated even though my stomach was churning. I was rushing to the bathroom when Bethany knocked and came in. I had no time to say hello as by the time I got to the toilet I heaved up what was in my stomach.
Bethany’s hands were on my back as I coughed and sputtered. “What’s wrong? Is it dinner?”
Once everything was purged I washed my face and brushed my teeth. “I’m not sure. I feel great with the exception of my stomach and yet I’m starved.”
“Let’s get you changed. Maybe Gustaff has an idea as to what’s going on.”
“I should shower first.”
“I’ll be back in fifteen minutes then. Maybe I can catch him.”
Bethany was heading for the door when she turned around. “I was able to sort some things out last night. Not everything, but some things.”
“What did you sort out?”
“That I’d be insanely jealous to see you in the arms of anyone.”
“Well then you’ll be happy to know I only have eyes for one person and I’m willing to wait for them.”
“Since there’s only three people we know of on the island that means either Gustaff, Joel, or me. Joel might be the perfect man.”
“Why is that?”
“Because he can’t speak.” We both laughed at that. It feels good to laugh. Bethany came closer, took my hand and kissed my cheek. “See you in fifteen minutes.”
“Give me thirty.”
“Just like a girl…”
Watching her leave I was beyond excited about what my future might entail. My stomach now settled I jumped in the shower and quickly cleaned up. I spent a few minutes thumbing through the dresses in the closet until I found a one that was very feminine and cute. I want to turn Bethany’s head. The ensemble was a short, above the knee yellow dress with a black belt and low-heeled yellow pumps. I even found a pearl bracelet and earrings.
When I came out of the bathroom Bethany and Gustaff were waiting. He had a stethoscope and a few other devices with him. “Come here. Let me check you out.”
He had me sit in a chair and checked my heart, blood pressure, and took some blood. “Everything appears fine and my first hunch is that the food was too much for you. I’ll have Joel mix you up some pea soup with chicken broth. The fiber should activate your bowels and the protein from the stock is something you need right now. Bethany you did well letting me know.” Without so much as a goodbye he turned and left.
“Pea soup? I’ve been reanimated and yet I’ll die from lack of food.”
“I guess if the doctor says pea soup then its pea soup for you. I’ll have to eat this bun and cheese myself then.” She pulled out the bun with cheese from behind her back.
“Give me that. Please!”
“I’d get in trouble.” Bethany giggled and made an attempt at biting the bun.
Chasing after her we ran around the room several times before I manage to tackle her onto the bed. My hands pinned her wrists and she squirmed underneath me. Being still weak it was easy for her to roll me over onto my back. She leaned down and whispered into my ear. “You look smoking hot in that dress.” Her warm breath on my neck caused me to forget all about the bun. “And you smell so good.”
Her lips brushed my neck and I let out a low moan. “Please don’t tease me.”
“Who’s teasing?” Her lips found mine and I struggled to catch my breath.
She pulled slowly away leaving me wanting more. I’ve never felt anything as wonderful as her lips on mine. “Bethany…”
“I couldn’t help myself.” Her hand went to her forehead as she sat down. “This doesn’t feel like a rebound. I was so worried that’s what I was feeling.”
“A rebound from Alice?” With some distance and conversation I managed to find the bun on the bed and bite into it. “Oh God. This is so good.”
“Eat it slow, sweetheart.”
Hearing her say sweetheart turned me into a puddle of emotions. “My heart is going to explode. Just looking at you makes it hard to breathe.”
“If it makes you feel any better, I feel the same way when I look at you.”
“For how long?”
“Since I knew it was you inside her.”
I savored the bun as I stared at Bethany. “If it’s any consolation, I thought you were wonderful from the moment I met you on the ship but knowing our age difference, how broken I was, and then learning about what happened to you I knew it could never be.”
“We still need to take things slow and be very careful. In the isolation of an island retreat, away from the prying eyes of the world, I think we could be very happy together, but life as a broken wanting to be normal lesbian in the world is still not easy. While my parents and stepdad empathize with me, they’ll never get over it and if I’m honest, I fear a repeat of Alice’s betrayal.”
Taking another slow bite of the bun I stared out the window to the ocean beyond. “I’m not Alice. I’m as loyal as they come. We need to get out of here. What have you found out about this place?”
“I’ve been around the house several times. There are a number of rooms where the security is too tight for me to get into. I suspect there must be communication equipment in one of them. The island isn’t large and from the windows and causeway I’ve spotted tall fencing. It looks electrified and it runs at different places from the house towards the ocean almost like sections of a pie. On the west side of the island is a dock and I suspect that is how they get supplies. I could think a helicopter could also land on the roof of the laboratory.”
“I’ll ask to go outside today to get some fresh air. Maybe we can discover a boat.” Glancing down at the bun I noticed I’d eaten half of it and was already feeling full. “How can I be hungry all the time and only eat half a bun?”
“Your stomach must have shrunk. I hope you don’t get sick again. Shall we see if we can go outside?”
Slipping off the bed I adjusted my dress and took Bethany’s hand in mine. I feel so much freedom feeling vulnerable and allowing my feminine emotions to come out. I felt her hand squeeze mine.
“I want to spend all my time with you, Amelia. It’s frightening how attracted I am to you but we must stay focused and I don’t want to risk our future together by getting caught or falling too quickly. I did that with Alice and I’m seeing how unhealthy that relationship had been for me. I yearned so much for her touch and love that I blinded myself to the fact I didn’t find her very attractive and I ignored the telltale signs she didn’t truly love me.”
“I’m happy going slow. I want you to be sure because the last thing I want is a repeat of my last relationship.”
“Come on, Amelia. Let’s see if we can get outside.”
We left my room and wandered the house. It still feels strange in that I know the house layout and somehow I can still see things afresh. We stopped at the south end of the hallway before a locked door.
“This is the room I think they use for communications.”
“Amelia was never in there before so you could be right.” Looking around I made sure no one was nearby. “Amelia was like a prisoner here.”
“Maybe Gustaff wanted you to be married off and turned into a baby making machine for his experiments?”
Memories were triggered about some procedures Gustaff had performed just before the accident. My hand immediately went to my stomach. “I need to sit down.”
“What’s wrong?” Bethany moved me to a couch.
“What if my getting sick had nothing to do with food?”
“What are you saying?”
“What if I’m pregnant?”
“That’s not possible. I’ve been with you almost all the time.”
“Before Amelia died Gustaff did a procedure on her.”
Bethany sat down and took my hand. “I still don’t see this as a possibility. How could your body die and the baby survive?”
“Unless the stasis also put the baby into stasis. You’re right. I’m overthinking this.” My hand went to my stomach again and I set aside the horrors of what kind of baby Gustaff might have tried to impregnate me with. For the first time in my life I had a desire to nurture a life within me. “Did you ever want children?”
“More than anything. Listen, Amelia. You don’t need this kind of stress right now. Don’t think about it. You just need to get stronger and fully healthy.”
“You’re right. Let’s see if we can find Gustaff.”
We never found Gustaff until lunch. I was starved again and Joel had refused to let us out or provide food without Gustaff’s orders.
“Amelia, how are you feeling?”
“Better and hungry. I’d like to get some fresh air, father.”
“You have access to the balcony.”
“Could I not go down to the beach?”
Gustaff frowned. “Not until you’re healthy and the bandages can be fully removed. We can’t risk staph infection. Besides, you need to prepare for our guest tonight. I expect you to wear your finest clothes so you can make a favorable first impression.”
“I will, father.”
“I’ll see you at five for pre-dinner drinks. Dinner will be served precisely at seven.” With that he turned and left.
Staring at my pea soup I was hungry enough that I had no problems eating it all before leading Bethany to the balcony. I put my hands on the railing and inhaled deeply. The last time Amelia was here she was knocked over to the jungle below. The last time I stood at a railing was when I wanted to end my life.
“Come away from the edge, Amelia.”
Sighing I took a seat on one of the cushioned chairs. Glancing down at my legs I noticed I’d not really thought about my posture. I was sitting exactly like any woman would sit. My legs were crossed making sure things were hidden under my dress.
“Are you going to be there tonight?”
“Gustaff told me I can eat before but that I need to serve. He even has an outfit for me to wear.”
Looking out over the jungle and to the ocean below I thought about our chances for escape. “It’s about twenty-five feet to the ground. Maybe we could fashion a rope?”
“You’re getting stronger every day, Amelia, but you’ll need a good week of nourishment to regain your strength. I’ll not lose you because we were too hasty in our escape. You need to start exercising to make sure your strength is there.”
“He’s trying to find me a mate, Bethany.”
“You’ll just have to tell him you’re off the market.”
“What do you think happened to Joy?”
“I suspect she was used in his experiments.”
“I can’t let him do that to you, Bethany. I must play along.”
“Still protecting me I see. What’s it like finding yourself in the body of a woman?”
“Much better than I expected. It’s not like I have a choice in the matter, but I would have thought it would be a pain with breasts and having to sit down to pee. Certainly having long hair is problematic, but all of those things seem of little consequence now. I feel better than I have in years and I like the effect I have on people.”
“You definitely have an effect on me. Have you compared what it’s like yet?”
“What are you asking?”
Bethany smiled. “You’re really going to ask me to spell it out? Orgasms. Are they better as a man or as a woman?”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“You haven’t tried yet? Not even in the shower?”
“No. I’ve thought about it but I was kind of hoping…” I started to blush.
“You do realize the lock is on the outside of your door? Once I leave Joel locks your door until morning.”
“How would you know that?”
Now it was Bethany’s turn to blush. “I tried it last night. Probably for the best since we want to go slow. Having a rip-your-arms-off guard roaming the halls and Gustaff that likely killed Joy and wouldn’t hesitate to repurpose my body if I get out of line tends to calm the flames a little. You should consider taking care of yourself if for no other reason than to make sure everything functions properly and it will help you sleep well.” She was smiling again. “Of course it helps to think of someone you want to be with.”
Just thinking about it made me flush. “What if I’m a screamer and yell out as I writhe naked in out of control passions on my bed?”
Bethany visibly flushed. “Now I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight getting that picture out of my head.”
“A good friend of mine told me about this thing you can do to help you sleep…”
There was passion in her eyes but Joel’s ever pondering presence quickly extinguished the conversation and the fire between us.
“We should get you ready for the ball, Cinderella.”
At five o’clock I stepped into the main living room dressed in a formal black dress and matching high heels. Amelia had no problems walking in high heels and luckily I inherited this skill from her. My dress was low cut in front and back and dropped elegantly to the floor. Bethany helped me with my hair and styled it to flow over one side and down my back. A touch of makeup brought some color to my cheeks and red fingernail polish matched my lipstick. I felt every bit as sensual and elegant as I looked.
Gustaff was there dressed in a suit and tie and Bethany stood to the side wearing a conservative black and white servant’s outfit. I suspect Gustaff wanted our guests eyes to not roam far from me. I hate that Bethany is being treated as a servant.
“You look lovely tonight, Amelia. Joel, please bring our guest in.”
Joel opened the door to a small sitting room and a handsome young man strode in wearing a black suit and tie. It was Austin McGowan. I tried not to show any hint that I knew the man but Bethany let out a little gasp.
Gustaff glared at Bethany and shook the man’s hand. “Welcome to my home Mr. McGowan. You’ve met Joel and this is…”
“Beth Hendrix. How have you come to this unexpected place?”
“I suspect the same way you did. I washed ashore with Ryan after the shipwreck. And you? How did you arrive unscathed?”
“It’s of little importance. Bethany, run along and get us some drinks. Mr. McGowan, let me introduce you to my daughter, Amelia.”
His eyes peeled my clothing from my body as a slightly evil smile spread across his face. “What a vision of pure loveliness. I’m pleased to meet you, Miss Braun.” He raised my hand to his mouth and I cringed as his lips brushed my skin. I caught Bethany’s scowl out of the corner of my eye.
“Pleased to meet you, Mr. McGowan.”
“Please sit.” Gustaff pointed to several chairs and made sure I sat in the chair closest to Austin. I sat demurely and tried to show interest in the conversation. “I believe it was auspicious that my boat found your life raft. I’ve been looking for more opportunities for Amelia to socialize as my work doesn’t bring a lot of visitors and she is suffering for worthwhile conversation.”
“I appreciate the rescue, the hospitality, and the clothing. The Indian Ocean is a terribly unforgiving place and I fear without your help I would have been lost for certain.”
“I’ve reached the cruise line and your family letting them know that you are safe and sound. You’re free to stay with us for a while.”
Austin looked me over carefully like he was judging a piece of meat. “I’m in no rush and would be happy to indulge Miss Braun in conversation to free her from her isolation and boredom.”
I need answers and my asking questions will also feign interest. “I’ve heard some stories from Bethany, but perhaps you could share your story? A shipwreck seems like a terribly frightening situation.”
Bethany arrived with alcohol for the men and another vitamin mixture for me dressed to look like wine. Gustaff waved Bethany off.
“A frightening situation it was, but before I tell my tale, what ever happened to the man called Ryan that was found with Bethany?”
“He suffered terrible wounds and didn’t make it, I’m afraid. I tried everything I could to save him.”
Austin sneered towards Bethany. “Such a shame. I believe I met Ryan a time or two aboard the ship. He was a little crotchety and boring.”
Bethany stiffened and wisely held back a retort.
Leaning forward I placed my unsavory drink on a table. “Please tell me the story of how you survived. It’s so exciting.”
“Exciting? It will be a tale to tell my grandchildren, but it was no storybook, Miss Braun. This was real life with people dying all around me. I was on the bridge of the ship making sure the crew had everything they needed when I spotted the rogue wave. Having nautical experience I tried to get them to turn to face the wave but they were too slow. Sounding the alarm for impact I braced myself as the wave hit us and lifted us onto nearby shallows. I knew we were done for so I ran from the bridge and went room to room looking to help people.”
“While the ship was sinking? You must be very brave.”
“It’s my nature to think of others first, Miss Braun. Having rescued as many as I could find, I went back to the outer decks to assist the women and children into the lifeboats. Once everyone was safely aboard I realized I was the only person left on board. The ship tore itself asunder casting me into the raging seas. There I struggled to keep my head above water until miraculously I bumped into a life raft. Finding no one inside and no oars, I was cast adrift with only the wind and waves as companions.”
“Remarkable. My life here certainly offers no such adventures and I daresay I would be hard pressed to be as courageous as you.”
“Nonsense. I’m sure when the time comes you’ll rise to the occasion. Tell me of your life here? It seems like a slice of paradise.”
Gustaff leaned backed and sipped his drink, smug perhaps that Austin was taking an interest in me. I had to search Amelia’s memories but she’d known nothing other than life on the island. “I’ve never been anywhere other than here, so my life has been rather sheltered. However, don’t consider my life so isolated that I’m not aware of the world. I’ve got my books and father makes sure I study about the world. He even has Joel prepare foods from different nations so I can be well versed.”
“Your education is well rounded?”
Amelia was very well educated in all topics. The library held thousands of books and Gustaff had always added new ones with every shipment from the mainland. “Ask me any question on any topic.”
“What’s 3,476 divided by five?”
“You must do better than simple math questions, Mr. McGowan. 695.2.”
He raised his eyebrow. “Where is Baguio City?”
“It’s about two hundred and fifty kilometers north of Manila in the Philippines. Perhaps you’d like to ask me about genetics or physics?” I guess that scared him off as I doubt his education was very deep into anything but alcohol and women.
“Gustaff, you have raised an amazingly brilliant daughter. To see she is so well spoken and graceful is a credit to your instruction.” Turning back to me he stared a moment at my cleavage. “What are your plans, Miss Braun?”
“Of course. What would you like to do in the future?”
“I’d love to see the world, get married, and have some children. Books are one thing, but seeing the world in a way where I could touch it and experience it would be so much better.”
“Perhaps, with your father’s permission, I could take you places.”
Gustaff humpfed. “She’s not to leave the island but you are free to indulge yourself with her.”
“Excuse me, father?”
Gustaff looked angry that I would even consider questioning him. “It’s not as if you’re unsoiled. You practically threw yourself at the little serving wench we had and don’t think for a second that I’ve not noticed how you look at Bethany. If you want to act like a slut, then I’ll treat you like a slut.”
“That’s unfair, father!”
Ignoring me he turned back to Austin. “You want her?”
“Then get off your backside and take her into her room down the hallway on the left. Feel free to enjoy yourself.”
Austin looked at Gustaff like this might be a trick, but I could see it in his eyes he wanted me badly. He stood and grabbed my arm pulling me up from the chair.
“Let go of me!” Gustaff sat back and laughed as I was dragged down the hall. I kicked and screamed. Why me? Why would Gustaff do something like this?
Finding my room Austin shoved me inside and closed the door behind me. “Such good hospitality here. Come on, babe. Give me a kiss. You know you want it.”
“Get away from me!” He reached for me and I spun away, his fingers catching my dress and tearing part of my shoulder fabric away. Running towards the bathroom I felt his hand close on my ankle. Falling hard to the floor I kicked back at him but he held me firm and rolled me on my back as he climbed his way on top of me.
I’m done for. His hands pawed at me as I fought him. Suddenly he fell to the side and I looked up to see Bethany standing over us with a heavy lamp in her hands. She’d brought it down on the back of his head.
Joel and Gustaff burst into the room. Gustaff ran to Austin’s side and checked his pulse. “He’s dead! You killed him you little wench! You’ve ruined everything!” Bethany backed away as Gustaff got up and pulled a gun from his waist belt. “I can fix him just like I fixed Amelia.”
“No!” I dove at Gustaff as the gun fired. I watched in horror as Bethany fell to the floor gasping for air.
“Prepare the lab and bring them both down.” I scrambled for Bethany but was back handed out of the way. He looked at me with such hatred in his eyes. “I made you! You think you’re my natural daughter, but I made you in my lab from my wife’s dead cells. I made Joel. You are only here to allow my creations to form in your womb!”
Joel grabbed Bethany as she screamed out in pain. I ran to her side only to be kicked hard in the stomach. I doubled over in pain as they dragged Bethany and Austin’s bodies from the room and locked me inside. I slammed chairs against the windows and door but they just bounced off. At some point I curled up on the bed and cried as the darkness fell around me. I stared at the door and prayed for Bethany knowing that I might never see her again.
That night I started to bleed heavily from my vagina. Contractions caused me to yell out in pain as I dragged myself to the bathroom. During the next few hours I cried out over and over as my body twisted beneath me. By morning I realized I miscarried a baby and it was with mixed emotions I fell asleep on the bathroom floor.
It was the next morning that Gustaff came to my room and found me. Seeing all the blood he yelled angrily. “You can’t even carry a baby properly. You’re useless. Get yourself cleaned up and get some food. We have a guest you are to look after.”
I crawled over the shower and stripped out of my dress and clothes. It took over an hour to wash myself up. My mind was numbingly blank with the miscarriage and Bethany last night. Thankfully I hadn’t been far along and I wasn’t in any real danger but I was still weak and bleeding some. Finding some pads in a drawer I slipped them between myself and my panties. It was hard to get dressed and move into the kitchen. I was so much weaker than I was as a man and I feared the worse for Bethany. I’m on my own now. I have to find courage.
Treating myself to a small breakfast I moved into the living room. Joel and Gustaff were gone but a young man sat in a wheelchair staring out towards the ocean. With realization I feared the worse. “Austin?”
The chair slowly turned and the man stood. There was a bandage on his head. He took some weak steps towards me and I quickly backed away from him. He stopped and stared at me. “Amelia, it’s me. Bethany.”
He reached for me again and I stepped further back out of the way. “Where’s Bethany?” It was a stupid question but I needed to be sure.
“I gave you the bun. I kissed you. You rescued me from the sinking ship. I saw you murdered and your life transferred into Amelia’s body.”
“Oh God! Bethany! I’m so sorry.”
I stood staring at Austin trying to shake the horrible images I had of him from my mind when Gustaff came into the room. “Don’t just stand there, Amelia. Take care of your husband.”
“You better get used to the idea because neither of you are leaving here. My work is too important and I need your babies.”
Austin waved a hand back towards Gustaff. “I’ll give you all the babies you need. With a little bit of recovery, I’ll be happy consummating my new marriage over and over again.”
Gustaff laughed and headed back to the lab. I looked warily upon Austin.
“Don’t worry, sweetheart. I never did get to tell you that I love you. I’m hoping my words will make Gustaff believe I’m still Austin.”
It took all the courage I had to walk up to him and put my arm around him. I led him to the bedroom and rushed back to the kitchen to get food and water for both of us. When I returned I saw him standing at the bathroom door.
“That’s not my blood on the floor.”
“I believe when Gustaff kicked me he caused me to miscarry. I’m sure he had somehow artificially inseminated Amelia just before her death. I’m happy and sad at the same time.”
“It was morning sickness then.” I nodded still unsure of everything. “Austin was going to rape you. I couldn’t let that happen.”
“You saved me but look at you. I’m so sorry, Bethany!”
He crossed the space between us in a few steps. I fought the urge to flee as his warm hand touched my face. It was so gentle and loving. I closed my eyes and pictured Bethany and when I opened them I saw her in his eyes.
“It’s really me and yes, I still love you, Amelia.”
Taking his hand I led him to the bed. “You need to eat and rest.”
“You haven’t told me how you feel about all of this.”
Handing him some food I had to think hard about my feelings. “I loved everything about Bethany and I feel a tremendous loss. My heart is breaking. On one hand I became that which you wanted but on the other you’re now in the body of a person that tried to rape me and I’ve seen nothing but evil from.”
“You told me you were willing to wait for me. I’m willing to wait for you. I’ll prove to you I have no intentions to do you harm.”
“You seem to be handling the situation well.”
“You know there’s more to it than simply swapping bodies. I feel like Bethany and yet I also feel like I’ve somehow been a man all my life. I was a frightened shell of a woman and now I’m a strong man. I don’t fear men any longer. That is such a burden to be free of.”
Pushing him back into the bed I stepped back. “I need time to process all of this. Rest well.” Turning I left and headed out onto the balcony near the living room. I’d go back in a couple of hours to check in on him. Staring out to sea I determined I couldn’t stay here to be Gustaff’s baby making machine. I shuddered at the thought of what he might have impregnated this body with.
“You are not Amelia.”
Gustaff stood there and stared at me. “What are you talking about? Of course I’m Amelia.”
“Don’t lie to me! I’ve seen the subtle changes. Amelia was a quiet person and rarely spoke. The conversation you had with Austin last night told me you were not Amelia. Not that it matters. I suppose I’m talking to Ryan and that Austin now has Bethany inside?”
“It’s not that simple, Gustaff. I’m Ryan and Amelia. I have her memories. I suspect Austin is the same with Bethany.”
“Reanimating a body has its consequences but in this case I’ve stumbled upon something immeasurably more useful.”
“You’ll let us go then?”
“Of course not! I still need your babies and it helps that Bethany clearly loves you and you her. In case you get any ideas of trying to escape, don’t bother. I’ve created over one hundred creatures that roam this island that are little more than animals. They will stop at nothing to tear you limb from limb and feast on your bones. If I die, this place unlocks all the doors and the creatures will be free to roam through the home. You have a choice. Stay and live your life with the new Austin producing babies for my research, or I kill you both and continue my research on new people.”
“That’s not much of a choice.”
“Such is life. No need to decide now. Take your time. Feel free to explore, even outside if you dare.”
He gave a mirthless laugh and walked away. I looked down from the balcony and listened to the creatures he said he created. He’s not telling the full truth. Heading into the kitchen I rummaged through the cabinets finding no suitable weapons beyond a butter knife. Several drawers were locked and I suspected this was where they kept the sharp knives.
Gustaff gave me somewhat free reign. I anticipated him believing if I explore all options I will eventually give up and fall into my role. I tried various doors; all were locked except Bethany’s and my bedrooms. The door to the lab was locked but I did find stairs that led down to a room with seven doors. Each door led to what I suspected was an outside area.
Hesitantly I reached for one door and turned the handle. The door opened into a small courtyard that had fencing all around. The courtyard was protected by a heavy gate but I could see into the jungle. With a suddenness that frightened me nearly to death, a hideous creature raced from the jungle and crashed into the heavy fencing. Sparks flew and the creature looked at me and roared. Its face human but that’s where the resemblance to anything normal ended. It had legs that looked like a horse and a body that reminded me of a tiger.
Backing away I reached for the door and slipped back inside to catch my breath and let my heart slow down. Slowly I looked out each of the doors one at a time to see the same fencing and more hideous creatures pacing back and forth.
By the time I got back to my room I noticed Austin was sleeping soundly and the blood had been cleaned from the floors. Checking the doors again I noticed Bethany’s old room was now locked and I found men’s clothing mixed with my dresses in the closet. Gustaff is forcing us together.
Sitting down in the chair near the bed I stared at Austin as he slept. He was handsome, young, and strong. What I inherited from Amelia made me desire him on a physical level but it was my heart that told me it was Bethany inside that removed Austin’s evil sneers and lust-filled eyes. I drifted off into a fitful sleep.
I woke with a start realizing I was stiff and sore from sleeping in a chair all night long. Austin sat in the bed and looked at me with a mixture of loss and longing. “How long have you been awake?”
“A few hours.”
“You should have woken me.”
“And deny myself the opportunity to stare at you without fear that you might look back upon me as some monster?”
“Austin was a monster. You’re not.”
“How do you know I’m not somewhat Austin still?”
“Because even though I have Amelia’s memories, I’m not her. I’m not her enough that Gustaff knows I’m Ryan.”
“How would he know that?”
“Because I don’t react the same way Amelia would have. I’m far more Ryan than I’m Amelia. I suspect that by some miraculous event Gustaff managed to capture the core essence of who I was and install that into Amelia’s body. Everything else is Amelia’s. The way her body moves and her brain functions is still inherently female. I’m me, but it’s as if I was always a woman.”
“I feel the same way. I see the bad things that Austin did and how he cowardly stole the life raft to save himself, but there’s nothing left of him in control. It’s me. Do you think you can ever get past the outer shell I now have?”
As an answer I leaned over and kissed him lightly. There was coarseness to his beard but his lips felt like strength to me. It was different than with Bethany but still pleasant. Leaning back I opened my eyes and smiled. “I think so.”
“Mmmm. Have I missed anything?”
“Other than Gustaff stating he knows I’m Ryan inside and you’re Austin, it’s clear he’s forcing us together. The only bedroom open to us now is this one and he had men’s clothes added to the closet.”
“I can sleep on the chair if needed.”
“We can work it out.”
“Anything else new?”
“Most rooms are still locked but we no longer have Joel as a threat. Gustaff told me the way it was and let me roam freely within reason. There are terrible creatures in the jungle.”
“He wants you resigned to the fact you’re stuck here but the fact remains we walked up to the lab without being attacked. I believe the pathway from the lab to the ocean along the creek is free from those creatures and that perhaps from the lab there is a way to the docks unhindered as well.”
“He said everything unlocks automatically if he’s killed.”
“Creatures are habitual. They would stay away from the fences but over time would realize they’re no longer a threat. What if we watched the food stocks and when fresh foods are brought in we can gauge when the ships arrive here. We make sure we know the timing before we make a move.”
“You mean we kill Gustaff?”
“We kill him, get into the lab and see if we can find a way to the docks before pandemonium breaks out across the island.”
“What about Joel?”
“We have time to figure that out. I’m famished.”
“Me too but I need to clean myself up first. I was still bleeding yesterday.”
“Oh, sweetheart… Let’s pray that’s a good sign and everything has been properly rejected by your body and no permanent damage done.”
“Gustaff wants me to produce babies for his research. I promise you I’ll kill myself before he gets his hands on a baby from me.”
“I won’t ever let that happen to you.”
Bethany’s acting protective over me. Did I become frail and weak or is he falling naturally into his role? Placing my hand on his arm I stared into his eyes. There was no mirth left in them. “When I woke up as Amelia, I desperately wanted a shower. Amelia was a kind person but still I needed to feel like I was somehow cleansed of her. I can imagine you might feel the same way.”
“Come to think of it, I do feel that way. Mind if I shower first?”
“You might want to turn around.”
“You’re dressed still.”
“Yes, but I woke up with this…”
“Oh for heaven’s sake… I’m turning around.”
I heard Austin get up and waddle into the bathroom. I stifled a giggle.
There was a different feel in the air while we ate breakfast. Austin had certainly taken his time in the bathroom this morning and even left the seat up on the toilet. If I were a betting person I’d put my money down that he checked himself out very thoroughly. There was a smug content look about his face as he devoured more food for breakfast than I’ve eaten in days.
His eyes kept glancing my way and I had the feeling that had it not been for the kitchen island separating us his hands would be all over me. Some small part of me rebelled at the idea. He’s not the Austin that I knew before and he is a man. Deep down I felt gay just thinking about letting him have his way with me.
I still mourn the loss of Bethany’s body far more so than the loss of my own body yet seeing the smile sneak onto Austin’s face made me realize the loss wasn’t so great for Bethany. I could almost picture Austin and me together as a couple rooming together on some jungle island getaway with the exceptions of Joel, Gustaff, and a herd of beasts held back by electric fences. At least Gustaff and Joel were nowhere to be seen this morning.
“You seem to be getting along well, Austin. Would you like a third helping of a side of beef?”
“I can see it in your eyes. You still don’t know what to think of all of this.”
“You’re a young, handsome man now and I’m now in the body of a young woman that finds you attractive. I don’t miss my old body at all other than I feel much weaker and more vulnerable. There’s something remarkably wonderful about being a woman. If given the chance to go back I shudder at the thought. I can’t imagine how great a loss it would be for you. I’m not saying you’re not easy on the eyes, but your old body was wondrous and I miss her.”
“Maybe over time you’ll begin to see that being a woman isn’t all that great. It was because I was a woman that I became a victim and while I can logically understand young boys can also be victims, I’ve always believed if I had been a boy that I’d never have been molested and never carried the burden my entire life. I stressed every day about how I should dress. Am I being too conservative, too sexy? Will I draw unwanted attention? I agonized over everything.”
“Do you miss anything about your old body?”
“Only the effect it had on you. I’d give up everything to see that sparkle in your eyes again when you look at me.”
“I’m trying, Austin. My mind seems to work differently and I know I was in love with your old body as much as your character. It’s as if my love was fused together with what I looked upon, what I felt, my emotions, and everything.”
“I know what you’re saying. Before my love was all-encompassing. I couldn’t even get in the mood to make love unless everything was right. It’s part of the nature of being a woman.”
“I believe my transition is far easier than yours. I loved your personality and character but I couldn’t love you as your physical presence as a man frightened me. When you became Amelia, an absolutely gorgeous young woman, complete with your personality, it resolved everything for me. Yet I feel in this body a dichotomy. I don’t have to have everything perfect to want to make love. All I need to do is look upon you and I want to take you to bed.”
“That’s the testosterone talking.”
“Are you frightened of me?”
“No… Yes… I’m afraid that my heart and mind are at odds. In my heart I know it is you and this body is attracted to you, but somewhere in the recesses of my mind I still see myself as a man and not gay. I feel a sense of frailty and vulnerability as well.”
“I will never hurt you, Amelia. I know full well the damage that can be done. I think it’s time you tested your body.” My mouth opened and I found I had no words. “That came out wrong. Sorry. Unless you’re interested in that… Anyways… what I meant was you say you feel frail and vulnerable. You should learn the limits of your own strength and abilities. You were in the military, do you have self-defense skills?”
“I do… I mean I do have self-defense skills.”
“You’re lean and fit, Amelia. This leads me to believe that Amelia worked out and exercised a lot.”
“Gustaff made Amelia stay fit but there’s no gym. It was all based upon exercises using your own body weight.”
“Great. Let’s go burn some calories. I’m itching to see what this body can do. What do you say, Mrs. McGowan?”
“Gustaff called me your husband. I’m just playing along.”
“Keep playing all you want, but I’m Miss Braun until I get a ring and a proper ceremony.” Where did that come from?
“You’re right. I’m a man now and I’ll not be a dishonorable one. You should be wooed and properly proposed to when the time is right.”
The image of Austin on one knee holding a ring came to mind and it made me flush with warmth. “So you want to burn calories?”
“No more rabbit food for me. I’m a strong strapping young man that needs meat. More calories means more meat.”
Rolling my eyes I wonder what I’m getting myself into.
Austin had been right in that I needed to learn the limits of my strength. I was smaller and felt weaker, but I was anything but weak. My smaller size and weight were a good balance for my muscle strength. Sure I didn’t have the muscle mass I had before, but I was also lighter. I used to be able to do fifty pushups in a row and now I found I could do forty. Amelia had been very fit.
“Spar with me, Amelia. Test out your military fighting skills.”
We were both sweated from our exercise and I’d pulled my hair back into a ponytail. Austin had stripped out of his shirt and I had a good look upon his glistening body. For all of Austin’s faults, his body was not one of them. He was fairly well ripped and tanned.
I squared off from Austin and he moved his hand slowly towards me. I knew what to do to block but as we increased the pace I noticed that Amelia’s body had never fought like this.
After we had gone back and forth for about twenty minutes I put my hand up for a break and caught my breath. “I can wear high heels because Amelia had learned how to wear them, but while I know what to do, the muscle memory isn’t there for fighting.”
“Then we keep working at it until it is. It’s not like we don’t have time.”
We had come back to the bedroom to exercise and I’d been getting more and more into an amorous mood as the exercise induced endorphins coursed through my body; a body that was growing more and more interested in the man standing near me. Austin was looking at me with such longing when he turned away.
“I should have another shower.”
Reaching for him I grabbed his arm and pulled him back. He turned into my arms as I pressed myself against him. His hand slipped around the small of my back and pulled me tight. My lips eagerly found his and in the moment I would have yielded completely to him had it not been for Gustaff.
“Looks like you’re working out your differences. You both need to suspend your activities and get cleaned up. We’re being inspected.”
“There’s been a high level of activity in the area due to the shipwreck. Search parties spotted some debris on the island beaches and have docked to ask some questions. Austin, you will tell your tale of how you arrived here. There’s to be no mention of Bethany or Ryan. Amelia, one wrong word from you and I can guarantee things will go very badly.”
With that threat he turned and left.
Austin’s lips pressed firmly against mine and I very much noticed he hadn’t let go of me. “This may be our best chance for escape.”
Pressing myself further into his embrace I realized all my reservations were gone. “I hate the thought of Gustaff getting his hands on new people. We must alert them somehow. Warn them.”
Austin’s hand slipped lower on my backside; his passion growing. “A note… what if we slip them a note?”
My arms snaked around him as I brushed my lips against his neck. “A note might work. We just need to be ready for anything.”
Turning his head his lips sought mine. “I’ll go shower while you write a note. We’ll get through this together. I’ll never leave you, Amelia. As long as you want me, I’m yours.”
We heard the distinct sound of distant thunder and glanced out the windows towards the ocean. Waves were becoming larger. “You better go shower because if you linger any longer I might not be able to control myself. I love you, Bethany, even if you are Austin now.”
Austin smiled. “You have that sparkle in your eyes again. Looks like another storm is coming. We’re in for a rough night.”
“Storms are a way of life but there’s always something special after a storm.” He smiled recognizing his own words. With a passionate kiss I watched him turn and head to the bathroom. Glancing outside I could see the horizon darkening. Definitely a storm coming…
I waited for Austin to finish his shower before taking one myself and changing into a short blue dress. I wanted to make sure my legs were free in case anything happened. Austin hid the note in his pants pocket as we made our way to the living room.
“Ahh. There you both are. May I introduce you to Captain Jacques Trebeaux and his two officers?”
The Captain shook Austin’s hand and then moved to me. “Very nice to meet you both.”
Gustaff played the impeccable host. “May I offer you something to drink? Food perhaps?”
A radio chirped and a woman in a blue uniform whispered something to the Captain. I watched him frown. “There’s a storm coming. We’re docked on the lee side of the island. Would it be an imposition if we stayed the night? The members of the crew will be fine aboard the ship.”
Gustaff’s eyes darkened briefly but I could see the gears turning in his mind. “Certainly. I will have rooms made up for you and have dinner prepared. Excuse me a moment.”
I watched as Gustaff headed in towards the kitchen. I wasted no time. “Captain. Take Austin and me to your ship. We’re prisoners here. Please, I beg of you.”
He stared into my eyes as a commanding expression slowly appeared across his face. “Right then. We leave immediately.”
“No one is leaving!” Gustaff held a gun in his hand and Joel came around the corner looking more agitated than usual. Gustaff glared at me. “I should kill you right now. This other one will do just fine.”
The Captain turned towards Gustaff. “We have a ship and a crew that know we’re here. This is madness.”
The female officer flipped a switch on her radio. It must have been a distress signal as a red light began to blink. Gustaff’s gun roared and the woman dropped to the floor with a bullet through her chest. I ran to her side but it was clear she was dead. “You’re insane!” I ran at Gustaff only to be grabbed by Joel. His hand clamped tightly around my neck. Joel was incredibly strong as I felt my feet lifting off the floor and my air slowly being cut off. My fists pounded Joel’s face and arms to no effect.
“Let her go!”
Austin tackled Joel sending the three of us sprawling into Gustaff who stumbled as he tried to right himself. Joel let me go to focus on Austin but I was still pinned beneath his weight. The Captain dove for Gustaff, grabbing the gun with both hands as they wrestled. The second officer moved quickly to help the Captain. It was an intense and fierce struggle until the gun went off and Gustaff slumped to the ground. Joel screamed and reached for Gustaff. He ignored us altogether as he cradled Gustaff’s head in his arms.
Alarms sounded throughout the complex as Austin pulled me to my feet. “We need to leave now! The creatures will be let loose.”
“Gustaff created hundreds of creatures. Much worse than Joel. All the fences and doors are unlocked with Gustaff’s death. We need to run!”
“We can’t leave Margot, my officer.”
I grabbed the Captain’s hand. “Sir, you don’t understand. I’ve seen these creatures. If we don’t leave now we may never leave at all. We can come back with the military if we have to.”
It must have been something in my voice but he immediately turned for the door to the causeway. “All right. Let’s go!”
The doors were all open just as Gustaff had said they would be. There was a door leading from the lab that leads to the docks and as soon as we stepped into the jungle path we heard shots and screams. Racing down the path we saw five men with their guns drawn as several creatures stalked them. The Captain fired at the creatures as we ran.
“Everyone head to the ship!”
With several more shots one of the creatures collapsed but we could hear more behind us. We ran for our lives. The five crewmen paused to shoot at the creatures letting the Captain, the officer, Austin, and myself on board. Moments later the gangplank was raised and the ship prepared to head into deeper water away from the island. As we pulled slowly away we watched as the storm descended upon us and the island. Even above the thunder we heard the hideous creatures’ screams.
Safe aboard the ship the Captain isolated Austin and me from the other crewmembers and locked us in a stateroom.
Holding Austin’s hand I carefully checked him over making sure he was unhurt.
“You’re fussing like you love me or something.”
“I do love you, Austin. You were so brave to take on Joel.”
“If you think I’d stand there and let Joel break the neck of the woman I intend to marry…”
I was about to say something when the door opened and two armed guards with the Captain came in. The Captain sat down in front of us.
“I lost a wonderful person back there and I want to know why. I need answers.”
Austin and I looked at each other as he decided to take the lead. “My name is Austin McGowan the Third. I was on the S.S. Allegra when it broke apart. I was cast into the ocean and found a raft that drifted to this island. Gustaff found me and offered hospitality but it wasn’t until he introduced me to Amelia, his daughter, that I realized we were both in trouble. He wanted me to impregnate Amelia so he could experiment on our baby.”
I wasn’t sure where he was going with all of this but let him continue. “Two other people were shipwrecked on the island and he forced me to watch him experiment on them. Ryan Morgan and Beth Hendrix. He killed them both.”
Now I realized what Austin was doing and so I added my own words to the story. “My name is Amelia Braun. I was born on the island twenty years ago. My mother passed away during my birth and I was raised by Gustaff. He never let me near his lab and my entire life I’ve been isolated away. He told me it was for my own protection from a horrible world. As I grew up I learned about the outside world from books but I only recently found out that Gustaff had plans for me. He artificially inseminated me but a few days ago I miscarried. He wanted me to make babies for his experiments.”
The Captain listened patiently and silently until we finished our stories. “I’ve called in the military to sweep the island so we can recover my officer’s body. You’ll both remain in custody until it can be determined the truth of your stories. All I can say is if your story is true, then we’re glad we arrived when we did.” He stood to leave.
“I’m sorry about your officer.”
“Me too. There’s a lavatory in the room here and we’ll bring you food and water. The room will remain locked with guards outside. Do you need separate rooms? I see how you look at each other so I thought I should at least ask and not assume anything.”
“I’m fine here with Austin as long as he’s fine with me here.” Austin nodded and smiled.
The guards and Captain left and the stateroom door lock clicked into place.
Turning to Austin I realized I hadn’t let go of his hands. “I’m pretty sure I understand why you didn’t tell the whole truth.”
“The real truth is pretty hard to believe and I doubt the truth will ever be verified. No one can deny I’m Austin McGowan the Third or you Amelia Braun.”
“Except that it’s entirely possible I have no identification whatsoever.”
“But that can be explained by the eccentric nature of Gustaff. I’m sure Bethany and Ryan’s bodies will be found and verified but we both had nothing. I can’t even imagine the court battles that would ensue. You claim to be Bethany but you’re in Austin’s body. That means you’re not Austin… Our lives would be a mess.”
“You really want to marry me, Austin?”
“More than anything.”
“You’re not afraid I’ll cheat on you?”
“Of course I am, but that’s why I’ll love you like no one ever has so you won’t stray.”
“There’s no need to stray. It’s not like I can go far anyways with the door locked.”
Austin leaned over and kissed me.
The storm blew itself out quickly and nearly a week had passed. Austin and I were allowed on deck with an escort and were treated well even though we were still under custody. For the past few days we watched and listened as military infiltrated the island and neutralized the creatures. Periodically we would hear a shot or two but for the most part it had all but died out.
Austin never left my side and I found that really endearing. We stood arm in arm overlooking the island from the bow of the ship. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply smelling the salty ocean air; my hands on the railing as I looked down into the water below. Had I jumped I’d never have had this chance at real life. I’m so happy with Austin and being a woman. I never would have expected that. Maybe good things can work out in the end.
“Mr. McGowan and Miss Braun.” Turning we saw the Captain along with some military men. “The island has been purged of the creatures. They caused much damage throughout the facility but we were able to find enough information to collaborate your stories. We’ve contacted your family Mr. McGowan and they’re thrilled you survived the shipwreck.”
“I take it Gustaff never communicated my survival to them?”
“That’s correct. They thought you were lost at sea. They’re flying into Colombo, Sri Lanka as we speak. We can get you connected to them once they arrive via satellite. Miss Braun, I want you to know how sorry we are to have to tell you this, but we found your mother, or rather what was left of her. Her body had been somehow put into stasis but the creatures…”
“It’s all right, sir. I never knew my mother but I do wish she’s being treated with respect and dignity.”
“Of course. Every care is being taken. We found a safe that held your father’s documents. He owns the island and has many patents. Everything was left in your name. Of course, due to the nature of what transpired here and the research that has significant ramifications, the island will likely be off limits to you for several months. We believe over two hundred murders have occurred on the island.”
I started to gag at the thought. Austin’s warm hand found mine.
“What of Ryan and Beth? I was on the ship with them.”
“We’ve confirmed we found their remains. Miss Braun, what are your plans?”
“You can no longer stay here, at least for the near future. We can work to secure the bank accounts into your name. We’re authorized to escort you back to the island so you can recover your belongings.”
Looking down at my blue dress that I’ve worn for a week reminded me how much I could use the clothing. “I could use some things. Mostly clothing. I have nowhere to go and wouldn’t I need documentation?”
“We’re aware your father never procured documentation for you. At least none has been found. The island falls within British waters and you can accept a British passport or a German passport.”
“If I have a choice, British, please. I have no desire to associate with my father in any way.”
“We’ll expedite that for you. Any idea on where you want to go?”
I looked over at Austin searching his eyes. I was grateful he picked up on what I was thinking. “Amelia is more than welcome in my home and with my family.”
“I’d like that very much assuming they like me.”
“Then we’ll arrange transportation for you both to Sri Lanka in the morning. Perhaps you’d like to be escorted now to the island so you can get your things?”
“I’d like that. Thank you.”
Twenty-four hours later we stepped off the plane in Sri Lanka accompanied by my six suitcases of clothes. We filled one for Austin so he had something to wear for the reunion with his family and the trip back to Texas to the eleven hundred acre ranch the family owned. Being in the cattle and oil business they had several homes around the world but their home base was near Houston.
The British Consulate in Sri Lanka promised I would have my passport and papers ready tomorrow and so I stood back and watched the reunion take place; happy to be hidden in the background. I held few expectations for Austin’s family as Austin had been such a terrible person one might believe the parents would be horrible people. Austin was nervous but with all the memories he knew he could easily pass.
I’d worn an elegant dress that looked very conservative and flattering. Austin tells me everything I wear made me look good and not to worry which makes me smile. I’ve come so far and fallen so deeply into being a feminine woman that I hardly even remember what it was like before.
“Mom, dad, I want you to meet Amelia Braun. In many ways she saved my life.”
I smiled and greeted Austin’s family as graciously as I could. Far from Austin’s pompous character of before, these people were warm and friendly and welcomed me into their arms as if I were family.
Three months later the Austin’s parents invited us to dinner. I’d heard word that the island had been cleared for my return whenever I wanted to and we’d been making plans to visit it and see what was salvageable. The cruise line had even offered a free cruise in compensation which would take us close to the island but neither of us wanted a repeat of the shipwreck or the snobbish elite atmosphere.
I sat with Austin and his parents at a wonderful romantic restaurant in Houston and took in the ambiance of the smell of wonderful Texas beef amidst candlelight.
“Amelia, I think you’re having a positive impact on Austin. He’s a changed man since he met you.”
“Are you sure it’s my doing and not coming face to face with his mortality?”
“Only a woman can change a man’s heart.”
I winked at Austin. “You’re absolutely right about that.”
Austin smiled and slipped out of his chair; getting down on one knee. “Amelia Braun, there are many things that I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for wonderful parents. I’m thankful my life was spared the night of the shipwreck. But nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to the thanks I give every day since I met you. It’s my dream, hope, and wish, that you would choose to be my wife.”
For a flicker of a moment I remembered the day I proposed to my wife and wondered what she must have felt but that dissolved away as my body flushed with warmth to the point I felt faint. Feeling the ring slide on my finger my smile couldn’t have been wider. “You do realize that if I say yes, you’re stuck with me? I’m as loyal as they come and I will never stray. You’re too good to me, Austin. You’ve saved my life and made me the happiest woman alive. Of course I’ll marry you!”
Our lips met and the world faded away as I was forever lost in his embrace.
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