What I remember most about that night was the rain, my God, the rain. I woke up with the skies a dark, acrid black and a downpour that wouldn’t let up. Even with an umbrella, coat, and standing between two large buildings, rain water was seeped into my toes. I checked my text messages again, double-checking the instructions. This was the place. A few weeks prior, Zach and I uncovered interesting information concerning an island. This was a special island. I pried the note out of a dead gamer’s fingers on the Steam forums, a local hangout for people with a fear of sunshine. The note was covered in dirt and crumbled remnants of various leaves. Written in a frantic scribble it said, “Most early access games are horrifying, and painful to explore…but beware The Forest. It’s not what it seems. The Forest will claim your soul… The Forest will destroy your mind… The Forest will consume you for all eternity!” On the back of the note were coordinates for the mysterious Forest.
Naturally, we had to investigate, but after examining the coordinates carefully on Google Maps, we realized that The Forest was on an island somewhere in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. We didn’t have time for this. Our schedules were too loaded with playing video games and reporting on important PC Game news. So we did the next best thing, we need to contract this one out. We needed our own weird island expert. So we called Jack Shepherd.
Having never met a doctor in a dark alley before, I wasn’t sure what to wear. A suit? A polo and brightly colored sweater wrapped around my waist? I had no idea, but I wanted Jack to take me seriously. Before coming to the alley I stopped by Peter Molyneux’s home, which was the cardboard refrigerator box about 20 feet away from the alley entrance. Peter was covered in whiskey, brown and yellow stains, all kinds of chunky organics clinging to his face. Filled with disgust, I kicked him and took off his Member’s Only jacket.
“Wait” Peter cried out, “Wait!”
I felt a pang of guilt. He was probably going to get cold out here, or worse, sick, with no one to care for him. He might even try to start a crowd-funding project for a new coat, promising to get something wonderful and full of magic like Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat. I just didn’t want to be part of that.
“With that coat and the AI routine I am writing —I call it Fableboygod-AI-Coat — you will have the ability to know what every man, woman, dog, and cat are thinking. You will feel exactly like the other person, or other dog, or other cat.” He blinked at me with bloodshot eyes and smiled at me hopefully. I didn’t have time for this nonsense. I poured the rest of the whiskey on Peter, threw his jacket into the gutter and walked back into the alley.
I was startled to see another bearded, disheveled man staggering up to me. He blinked several times and shook his head at me. Rain, saliva, and probably beer, streamed from his unkempt beard.
“Hello, I’m Dr. Jack Shephard,” he said, squinting and looking around nervously, “You must be…”
I cut him off forcefully. I wasn’t sure of who else might be listening, but even in this alley there were people passing by, staring at the disheveled hobo before me. “I hear you are still looking for a way back to that island?’ I replied.
“I have to go back!” he barked, a look of shock and bewilderment falling over him. “Who told you? Who told you I want to go back?”
“ABC, but that’s a whole other story,” I paused to wipe rain off my brow. “As I told you over the phone, I represent GoneWithTheWin.Com, and we’re looking for an expert on weird islands. We can cover most of your expenses. Stay a week on the island we call “The Forest”. Sniff around, see what you can uncover, write everything down and bring that information back to us after the week is over.”
Shephard paused and looked up at the dark sky. “If it’s an island why don’t you call it ‘The Island?’” he asked. I noticed he was nodding angrily, hands clenched on his hips. Even though he was clearly intoxicated, and hadn’t showered in the last month, he was still sharp as a tack.
“We thought about that, but The Island is the weird island you got lost on, we can’t call this island The Island, that would … be you know, um, somewhat confusing, so we’re calling it The Forest. While we don’t believe your friends are on this island, there is substantial evidence and proof that it IS in fact a very WEIRD island. ”
Jack nodded silently and turned around. “All I need are plane tickets for myself and Aaron. And an axe.”
“You got it.”
With that I handed him an envelope and an axe. Eight months later we received the following game diary in the mail. This is Jack’s Shepherd’s completely true fictional side story:
I remember way back when, after graduating med school, I thought I would be a world class surgeon and retire and live on some tropical island forever with a wife and a kid and no one else around to watch me get drunk and fall on my face. Now…islands? Saying the damn word out loud makes me want to vomit on my shoelaces. However, I have to face it, sooner or later I have to get back to THE Island and back to my friends. So – why not take a job from these guys at GoneWithTheWin.com. Lead seems solid enough. A note in a dead guy’s hand? That’s more reliable than a Wikipedia entry.
I appreciated their honesty and candor, they were pretty sure this island was not The Island. This island was The Forest Island. I brought Claire’s boy Aaron with me. I’ve been raising Aaron like a father this past year or so, and I feel close to him. Even if Kate and I can’t stand to even mime each other hello, with Aaron I feel like…like an uncle to him. It feels right to bring him on this trip.
The problem is the kid won’t shut up. Luckily, now that I’ve hit rock bottom, I have a considerable drug stash supply in my overhead compartment. Some for me, and some Nyquil for GottaAskTooManyQuestionsAaron. There he is sleeping and drooling on my arm. Poor kid. Stuck with a degenerate doctor like myself, looking for answers, who was raised by an alcoholic surgeon father..ah who am I kidding? Let me concentrate on something else. Kate? No, we split up. Sore spot.
Hmm…read the news? No, that always gets me down. Maybe I’ll just eat lunch…
What in Jacob’s name is this garbage? Looks like Klingon food. I guess my weird island adventure begins now? A lunch of living worms with slices of Spam and a cup of nothing to wash it down. Mental note: punch that Leo guy in the face for booking me on this horrid flight. Coach? Seriously? Is this some sort of bad joke? I’m a doctor…
What was that? Sounded like a horrible crash. I look down and feel a force pulling my gaze up…the plane is falling… it’s that old familiar song on this old familiar ride. Seat belt is buckled. Weird ass island, I’m coming for ya! It’s me, Jack Shephard M.D., and when I’m done with your ass, I’m going back to my other weird island and kicking more ass over there. If only I could reach my pills. Damn it all.
The rattling intensifies, I can no longer tell if the constant warbling sounds are coming from my seat and tray or from my jaw unhinging. The plane is tearing itself apart. Then silence. I can’t hear anything.
I knew the plane would tear itself in half! I mean, I could practically see the entire thing unfolding and shearing itself in two before it happened. I’ve seen this before. It’s still as exciting as the first time as it happens again. Tears stream from my face, it’s hard to make out what’s happening. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to crash in a plane. There is a sense of unimaginable speed. I feel like my soul is being ripped from my body by invisible marionette strings. Instead of fear, there is a sense of calmness, right before everything fades to black and the air explodes around me…
When I come to, there is man standing before me. He looks like an ancient caricature of a Native American with metal chains for underwear. He bends over and gathers Aaron into his arms. I can’t move, I can barely breathe. The darkness comes again.
It happened. It wasn’t a dream or hallucination the plane crashed. Right on schedule, I might add. I gaze through the broken wreckage of the plane and see a forest. Yep, looks like I’m in The Forest, that’s also an island, not THE Island, but another island, with a forest, not palm trees. What kind of trees are those? It doesn’t matter! I’m a doctor, not a botanist! Oh my god! Aaron! They took Aaron! My son-nephew! It didn’t seem like the Native American gentleman wanted to harm Aaron, and the metal underwear flattered his trim figure and bronzed skin. Maybe he was an enigmatic shaman-savior? Wait, why am I covered in blood? I check myself for injuries. It’s not my blood. Where are those pills, anyway? I could REALLY use a handful right now. I look up and notice a flight attendant sprawled and silent on the floor. She’s dead. There’s blood on her legs. Maybe I delivered her baby and she died right after the birth? That can’t be right. I’m Jack Shepherd, no one dies on my watch! I can cure paralysis, for Christ’s sake!
Yet here I am, covered in blood, and there’s a strange drawing of a robot seemingly born whole from this dead woman’s artistic womb. Is it a map? Does it mean something? Where am I? Is there a smoke monster here? Polar bears? How about an iPhone charger? I’m only supposed to be here a week, last time I was on a dangerous island I had nothing but the ramblings of a bald man and the same two songs from Charlie’s one-hit wonder band to entertain me. It would be REALLY nice if I could play Threes or Clash of Clans…oh wait, no internet here. Damn it! Son of a bitch! Is it asking too much to at least have some Angry Birds to pass the time? What am I supposed to do here for a whole week on this.wait a minute! Is that a pill bottle lying next to the flight attendant?
Perfect! And there’s my axe under her corpse! That’s what I’m talking about! Despite my joy over finding some Vicodin pills and my axe, I feel sorrow for the deceased flight attendant. If I could bring her back to life I would surely marry her. At least for a little while. But alas, I cannot. Let’s see what else is in this plane…
I need food. I’m hungry as hell. But I’m still not eating that worm-surprise meal. Interestingly enough, my worm lunch not only survived the crash, but it is perfectly intact, completely undisturbed in content and form. And what’s this? It appears some kid really went to town on his crayons and papers. Seriously, how many drawings did this kid pump out for the two hours we were in the air? Ok, let’s keep searching…
The good news is that it appears everyone died in the cash. There were too many survivors on my last plane crash. They ate all the damn food, leaving me to with white coconut mash to pick out of my teeth and a raging case of diarrhea for the six months. Not this time. Not this time! Speaking of poop, now that I’ve found my pulse monitor, my axe and a magazine, let me heed Nature’s Urgent Call for a bit and then I’ll be on my way. I wish this was the American Journal and not some flight magazine. I’ll have to make do. Excuse me me for a moment…
Ahhh, much better. Now, I’ve only been on one other weird-ass island. But on that island, the palm trees didn’t have the ability to meld with solid fiberglass emergency exit doors and airplane windows. This truly is a weird and fascinating place! I search every row and peer under every seat, but not much is left except a million crayon scrawled doodles, crumpled paper, a dead flight attendant and my disgusting worm lunch. Satisfied the plane has been thoroughly looted of useful items I jump out, a new backpack in hand, formerly owned by John McCormick of Colorado. I shove the supplies in the backpack and take my first steps in The Forest.
Maybe I won’t punch Leo in the face. It sucks that Aaron is gone, and I would really like a nice Ruth Chris steak and a fistful of pills, but this Forest looks to be something special. Majestic trees reaching for the sky, the ground is soft, moist and pliant from rotting vegetation and rain. The air smells alive with scents, there are soft rustling noises in the distance. Could it be animals? Survivors? I can’t be sure. The misty beauty and serene peacefulness have placed me under a spell.
The beauty overwhelms me. I fall to the ground and take in deep breaths of gratitude. What adventures and dangers await me? What about smoke monsters? Polar bears? I could really use a drink right now, and some pills. But I’ll wait.
The plane’s damage is definitely much worse on the outside than the inside. Strange branches protrude from the fuselage. I rip two circuit boards out. Who knows when they might come in handy? There are no screaming survivors, insane pregnant women or bald guys with oranges in their mouth this time. Just me and the trees. Funny, I’ve been seeking some kind of peace and inner tranquility for a while now. I have it here, in this moment, but all I can think about is another person coming up to me and saying something. They could say anything, scream at me, punch me in the nuts, scribble mustaches on my face with a Sharpie…anything. It’s just too quiet out here in The Forest.
I pause and look around. There are 20-40 suitcases strewn across the ground. It’s unbelievable how many passengers on this flight bought identical carbon fiber suitcases with matching handle and wheels. The only difference is the color. What are the chances of this? Surely this is an indication of just how weird this new Forest Island is going to be. I introduce my axe to a suitcase. It pops open with ease. Treasures are exposed, waiting to be plundered. Beats® brand headphones, a watch, a cloth, tampons and another bottle of Vicodin. A lot of women’s clothes, and a rubber ducky. I take the cloth, watch, and Vicodin. A part of me wishes I could at least take the tampon. A doctor of my skill could perform life-saving medical miracles with its blood-absorbent properties. But for some reason I decide not to. I don’t know why. It doesn’t matter. Nothing really matters when you are stocked up on Vicodin. I only feel the need to take some of the items. So I do.
I whack a gray suitcase next to the husk of the one I just partially emptied. Strangely enough, this one has a plethora of items. Was this is a Southwest flight? They let you stuff your suitcase to the gills. Not like those cheap penny-pinchers on Frontier. The suitcase holds Japanese kimonos, a samurai sword, fourteen signed Beatles albums, a bikini, and more. However, like before, I feel the need to ONLY take the watch, and a cloth that flew out of the case after it sprung open. I can’t explain why, it’s almost as if this island, this Forest, has a strange power over me. Forcing me and contorting my will in strange ways. But it doesn’t matter. I am starting to amass a healthy stockpile of Vicodin, so everything is great.
As I rummage through the cases, I feel as if I am being watched. I sense something moving in the distance. Most people would probably smile and admire a grazing herd of deer. Not this doctor. No, I learned my lesson last time. This is what I call fast food. I immediately spring up and go into full hunter mode.
I am Jack Shephard! Weird islands do not intimidate me! I have overcome far stranger islands than this! Look out deer, look out strange man with the metal underwear! I will conquer and overcome every challenge The Forest has to offer! I will not back down. I will not be intimidated. I am not afraid! But I am hungry.
I spent a year in Thailand and raw snake has nothing on raw, bloody deer-flesh. Now that I’ve hacked up some suitcases, and Ginsu’ed some deer steaks, I’m feeling good. But I am exposed! I need shelter! It’s afternoon and I don’t have a place to rest, sleep, and protect myself. Can’t just hang out here with bloody Bambi, picking up three or four Rolexs and counting rocks. I have to move.
As I walk away from the dense forest I come across two hundred more deer. My stomach full of raw meat and pills, I ignore them. I take a long, cool drink from the still waters and then I bathe. My mind wanders for a moment, faces start to spring into my mind’s eye. Hurley, Kate, Sayeed, and Sawyer. Depression began to seep in, my lips quiver and my vision blurs. These memories haunt me…but I can’t indulge them. I need to build shelter. I need to survive. I reach into my pocket and grab a handful of pills.
YEAH! Oh yeah. Let’s get on with this magnificent life!
I stumble forward at least another mile or two and come across a clearing. For the first time I see something man-made. Huts, and what appears to be a campground of some kind. No people. I hug the ground and creep towards the tents. The tents are in perfect condition. Have they been abandoned? Where are the people who put them here?
A nylon orange tent and grill. Is that a Coleman? I wish I had had a Coleman stove on The Island. But there’s other signs of human presence. What’s going on? And why won’t The Forest let me me take this stuff with me. What the hell? I can’t even climb in the tent. This mysterious force is keeping me from doing what I want. I can’t understand, it assaults logic, it slaps me on my nipples and rubs Thai jellyfish ointment on my …
Wake up, Jack! get a grip! Don’t let the pills wear you down. I take a moment and look over my inventory. Maybe I should take some more Vicodin. Just to be safe.
Rags, pills, lots of pills, and a book on how to build stuff in the wild. I took it with me when in my carry-on bag when I boarded the plane because I knew I would end up here. Five deer steaks, deer skins, sticks, a rock, rope, an axe, sodas and candy bars. Not bad. I need more wood and rocks for a fire pit and shelter. I can do this but I am also tired. I’ll get some rest and maybe in the morning I’ll search for Aaron.
I look around and notice several lawn/camping style-folding chairs around the campsite.
Call me crazy, but they almost seemed to be arranged as if invisible occupants sit in them, watching something over the hill. Some sort of outdoors movie? Like a drive-in? Those where the bomb back in the 70s, they should really bring drive-ins back. The chairs have cup holders and they recline, perfect for relaxing and gazing in comfort. I wonder what they were watching? Probably The Shining, if I had to guess, or Watership Down. I can’t know for sure, but those are classics. One thing I do know, even though these chairs are new, useful and comfortable, The Forest will not let me take them. It’s as if I am not meant to sit. It’s not my destiny to sit. Maybe they were watching The Stand? God, I need some pills, this is giving me a headache.
Confused and angry at having my will once again thwarted, I gather my backpack and hike up the hill. In the distance I see what looks like a man lying down. I run to him.
A million medical journals and forensic case studies flash through my mind. This man was murdered. It appears he was naked at the time of his death, the markings on the skin and dirt patterns indicate that. Trust me, I am a highly skilled doctor. His lacerations are deep and freaking scary. He has a deep wound bisecting his entire abdomen. He is literally CUT IN HALF! The second laceration penetrates deep into his body, past the shoulder socket into his upper lung. And the posterior has been carved as if it were a side of deli meat. Whoever did this is one sick bastard. Not only is there a murderous entity in The Forest, but it likes to eat gluteus maximus (that’s doctor for “butt”). This makes my task of building a house my number one priority. I need to cover my ass, literally.
Daylight’s burning. It’s a race against time. I create a rudimentary system for cutting logs.
I take the logs back over to the top of the hill. Don’t ask me how I am able to carry these freshly-hewn logs. I’m no Superman, but I do have a lot of Vicodin. Along the way I collect several small stones and sticks. Why am I stopping to collect stones and sticks while carrying hundreds of pounds worth of logs? I don’t know! But I do it anyway.
Strangely, a vision of of the plan for my shelter shimmers in front of me. It’s ghostly blueprint glimmers on the hill. No matter where I go, my future home glows, framed with translucent yellow hammers and almost-built log placements. It is encouraging to see my home, even though I haven’t built it. man, maybe I should lay off the pills? Nah. I’m still carrying all of these logs and sticks. And I need even more logs! I pause for a moment, desperate to finish…but there’s always time for more pills. I wash them down with some soda. If I don’t finish my home before dark, I will have to sleep in the open. I’ll be easy prey for whoever was out there cutting people in half and eating their asscracks.
Invigorated by the pills, caffeine and a sense of purpose, I start to build. I lay the rocks I collected in a circle and arrange a pile of sticks and dry leaves inside and start a fire. Maybe I should have done this before I ate that deer raw? It doesn’t matter, better late than never. I place deer steaks on the fire and go back for more logs. I should be exhausted, passed out even, but the Vicodin continues to work its sweet, sweet magic. I fell another mammoth tree, and with a crash it falls to the forest floor. Birds, deer, and rabbit flee from me in confusion and panic. Once again I carry logs back to the almost completed shelter.
After finishing my work on the shelter, I pause, reflecting on what I have accomplished. I am one badass MD! Bear Gryllys doesn’t have shit on me. And who the hell drinks their own urine, anyway? I swig down another bottle of soda and laugh. What an amateur. I wish Kate could see me now. I’ll make sure to rub her face in my accomplishments the next time I see her. What’s Aaron’s doing now? Is he ok? Why was that guy only wearing metal underwear? I can’t worry about that right now. I have to protect my own ass tonight. Some sleep would be great…wait what is this?
I walk over to the next hill. There’s a totem, a symbol of some kind. What does it mean? Ancient burial ground? Am I getting close to the metal-underwear man that was holding Aaron hostage? I don’t know, but I do know that I need my rest, so I return to my hut and close the makeshift door and go to bed.
As I sleep I dream that I am transported to another place, another island, an island like The Forest, but different. In this hazy vision, I see a giant deer who walks on hind legs, but it talks to me with my mother’s voice and gives me a lap-dance. I take a twenty out of my wallet and pin it on its antlers and began shouting out the dirtiest Irish limericks I can think of. When I wake, I realize it was just a dream. I brush the dirt and earthworms out of my dry mouth. This is the dawn of DAY TWO, my stomach is grumbling and I’m no closer to finding Aaron than I was last night. And I need some pills.
I head back to the tents I discovered to see if someone left a box of Fruit Loops or something useful back there. That’s when I saw him.
A naked freak feasting on the corpse of the man who had been cut in half. I’m starting to think the movie they were watching around here was a double feature, The Shining AND Eyes Wide Shut. What’s up with all the nudity up in here? This is like Kubrik Uncut. The grotesque bloody faced man screams and charges! I don’t have time to think. All I can do is react. I slash wildly with my axe. There is no time for reason or strategy. It’s a battle to the death! Eventually I stop swinging, and he lies still and unmoving, dead and lifeless.
In the melee I dismembered his legs and arms. I don’t even know where his right arm is, but let’s just assume I threw it into the trees. That’s what a badass does when he’s going berzerk on a naked cannibal. I drink a soda and drop the empty bottle as I stare at at the carnage I created. There were teeth everywhere, so naturally I collect them all. I take his legs too. I don’t know why. The Forest was allowing me too, so I took them. I can’t take a tampon or a tent, but I can take severed limbs? If it weren’t for the pills and my axe I would totally hate this place. I go back to my shelter and brood. I need a new axe, mine was destroyed from the logging venture and fight with the cannibal. Trusting my instincts, I craft a Neolithic axe from my sharpened stone and rope. I stride over the hill to where my shelter awaits…
What the…son of a bitch?!?! My pills are in there!