The Man on the Island: Chapter 1
Chapter 1: The Civilized and the Savage
“Bok bok bok-”
With the cry of wild chickens, a new day begins on the island.
Ji wearily opened her eyes, and saw a shadow move towards her. The sweet aroma of food rushed to her nose. Her empty stomach immediately acted up, giving her stabbing pains of hunger.
The man walked close, and sat down. Their eyes met as he stared at her. Ji let out a yell, and forgot her agony for a moment. These cold, murky eyes, belong to yesterday’s “savage”! The back of her neck throbbed upon recognition.
The man seemed to have anticipated her reaction, and lifted up her messy bangs. He furrowed his brows, and looked closely. Then, he took out some herbs from his misshapen basket, and chewed up the herbs. The gloppy mess was pressed onto Ji’s forehead.
Ji’s instinct was to run, but the man glared at her, and pressed harder.
She tried to cover her eyes, but it was no use. Green secretions from the herbs seeped across her face, irritating her eyes and mouth. Her forehead was obviously hurt, tingling lightly.
When the man finished, he kneeled in front of her, and gave her a dead stare, watching her every move.
Ji felt extremely uncomfortable. Why is he kneeling? I’m not some Buddha!
She shrugged her shoulders, and he watched; she tilted her head, and he watched; Finally, Ji lost her composure and swore. Yet, he still watched with a steady eye….
He doesn’t know a clue what I’m saying!
Ji became sullen and bitter. Her hands and feet were bound, but the savage didn’t understand the words from her mouth.
The man looked at her for quite a while, similar to how a scientist observes a lab rat. At last, he stood up and walked towards a crude firepit. He set a crooked clay pot on top of it, and started to boil some food. The sweet aroma started flowing again.
The man shoveled a large portion with a wooden ladle, and picked up two small, thin bamboo strands (Ji stared in disbelief, chopsticks??). He began to eat loudly, stirring the pot at intervals.
Ji’s ignored stomach started to rebel again. She swallowed mouthful after mouthful of saliva, growing from peeking glances to wishful longing.
The man was extremely alert. Even while eating, his back was straight and his eyes were sharp. The stray light from the firepit illuminated Ji’s obsessed expression. The effect was like a bucket of ice water.
So, what he’s trying to convey is… “If you look again, I’ll throw you along in the pot”?
Ji shook her head, and embarrassedly turned away.
When the man finished his meal, he started walking steadily towards her with half a bowl of fish stew in his hands.
At first, Ji was overjoyed. But then the thought of him feeding her to make her fat and tastier dawned. She started to shake, and sobbed: “Aren’t, aren’t you full? Don’t… Don’t come closer!”
The man stopped. He pointed towards himself and said “You?”
Ji nodded vigorously. “You’re already full!”
The man shook his head. “Gongyi.”
Her chest grew tight again. “You’ve already ate! I saw you eating!”
The man grew impatient. He set the pot down in front of her with a boom. He pointed towards himself again. “Gongyi!”
Ji suddenly stopped. She then said, “Gong—Yi?” Was that the savage’s name?
He nodded. The long hair on his face made it hard to discern an expression, but at least his posture relaxed.
Ji looked at the bowl of soup, then back at him. She shrugged her shoulders: “But…. I can’t eat like this.” She then mimed eating— she opened her mouth, and bit at the air.
The man seemed to understand, and started to untie her bonds. When he was halfway done, he looked at her deeply, and pointed towards himself. “Gongyi.” And looked at her quizzically.
Ji swallowed another mouthful of saliva. Her stomach started throbbing more violently. She quickly said: “I’m Chen Weiji, Chen as in the surname, Wei as in Wade, Ji as in books.” ***
*Now, here’s a little Chinese lesson for y’all. It’s near impossible determine specific Chinese words, phonetically. In typical sentences, you determine what words the other person is saying, by context. A lot of Chinese words (and I mean, a lot) can have the exact same sounds but completely different definitions. The majority of people who hear your name wouldn’t know what your name looks on paper, since names don’t have context and they don’t need to mean anything. So, whenever someone introduces themselves formally, they explain their names similar to how English speakers spell letters in words- A as in apple, B as in Banana, and so on.
Gongyi was overwhelmed and confused by her string of nonsense. He started untying at a faster pace, muttering angrily.
Once her limbs were liberated, Ji struggled to get up. Her cramped arms and legs made it impossible to walk.
Gongyi roughly massaged Ji’s shoulder, restoring blood flow and soothing her aching muscles. Once he was done, she boldly stretched her left arm for him to work.
He showed a flash of annoyance in his eyes. Gongyi lightly took her arm, and twisted it suddenly. It bent with a large crack, nearly pulling it out of her arm socket.
Ji had never experienced pain this intense. Tears immediately started to flow, and she screamed for the heavens to spare her. Although Gongyi didn’t really understand, he had an idea by Ji’s expression. He gestured to the bowl of soup, and she ate unhappily.
The soup had a rotten smell, and the flavor wasn’t the best, but… It was something to eat!
Gongyi watched her eat without a word. He absorbed her short, maroon hair, her bare legs, and her eating pattern.
After Ji finished, he gestured for her used bowl.
Eh? He’s not going to tie me up again?
Gongyi glanced at her suspiciously. Nothing felt right at all. He put his wares in his awkward basket, handed it to Ji, and carried a bow and a cluster of arrows. He led her out of the cave.
“What a great tropical view!” Ji exclaimed.
She followed Gongyi, observing him. A long scar circled his powerful calves, and his hair, although great in length, wasn’t dirty at all.
What kind of person was he?
Ji strenuously walked with the large basket, and tried to think of an escape plan. But all she could see was the deep, black forest and the barren beach.
She sighed, and wondered how Wang and the others were doing.
Ji let out a laugh. Did he just call her name?
Gongyi stopped, and watched her with a hawk’s eye. He waved with his bow, signaling her to move forward. The forest’s trees covered the azure sky above, shielding them from the harsh sun. Wild, five-foot tall grasses littered the side of the path.
After a half hour of hiking, the trees parted to reveal an enormous freshwater lake!
Thick, pale mist clung to the lake surface, giving it a mystical feeling. If there weren’t noisy tropical birds croaking in the trees, Ji would have thought it was a dream.
Ji painfully listened him recite the long string, and corrected him word by word: “ My name only has three words…. Chen Weiji, Chen—Wei—Ji—”
Gongyi pointed at her, and slowly spoke: “ Chen—Wei—Ji?”
Ji nodded, and felt a rush of superiority. See, he couldn’t even get names right at first.
Right when Ji was complimenting herself, Gongyi narrowed his eyes. He drew his bow without a sound, and shot an arrow behind her.
She broke into a cold sweat, and turned around to find a seven-foot, massive python pinned to the dirt.
A, a snake!!
Ji’s mouth fell open, and her mind went blank. She even forgot to scream.
Gongyi nonchalantly walked to the python and slit its stomach with a stone dagger. He skillfully cut out the snake’s liver, and swiftly placed it in his satchel. Once he finished, he waved to Ji. Seeing her paralyzed stature, Gongyi slung the carcass on his shoulder, and dropped it in her basket.
–Here’s lunch. Clean it up.
But before he said anything, the intelligent, civilized city girl rolled up her eyes, and dropped to the ground, unconscious.