The Second Chance Club
What would you do if you had the chance to start all over?
Written by Gregory Patrick Travers
My life had always been pretty normal. I would even go so far as to say it had been boring, but I don’t want to come off pessimistic right off the bat, so we’ll just go with normal as the adjective here. I had a mom and a dad; they too were fairly normal, besides their much out of date fashion sense. I lived in a normal house with a garage, a kitchen, bedrooms and such. I went to a normal school in my normal town where I would hang out with my normal friends and do a bunch of normal shit. But the day I took my dad to the airport and saw Jeremy’s mom having a drink in the airport lounge, was the day things went from normal to absolutely bat-shit crazy.
Now you may be reading this and be thinking, “What’s so bat-shit crazy about a woman having a drink in the airport lounge? It happens all the time.”
True. Under normal circumstances these events would prove to be nothing out of the usual. But you see, Jeremy’s mom had been dead for three years. I would know, Jerry is my best bud. I was at the funeral. I helped carry the fucking coffin. She was dead and yet there she was, sitting in the lounge, sipping on a martini and dressed in a cocktail gown with her hair styled to the dickens, which I must say, was almost as weird as seeing her alive when she had been dead for three years. The reason being is that when she was alive, she never, ever got dressed up like that. In fact, reaching back into my memories of Jerry’s place, I couldn’t remember seeing her in anything else but a moo-moo with curlers in her hair and a cigarette in her hand, screaming at Jerry from the television room to clean up whatever dishes or sticky-paged porno magazines he had lying about.
I took out my phone and called Jerry.
After a few rings Jerry picked up. “Sup, fag?”
“Jer, what are you doing right now?” I asked in a panic.
“Watching some Netflix…I swear there are a thousand movies on this thing and they all suck. I’m seriously considering going back to my room and tugging one out. Only thing is, I just tugged one out like twenty minutes ago. Is that bad? Do I have a problem?”
“Nevermind that now! Listen to me…I’m at the airport and I’m staring at your mom, dude.”
There was a short pause and then his voice returned, “That’s really fucked up, man. That’s not cool.”
“I know it’s fucked up. But I swear to god, man…It’s her.”
“Dude, I literally just told you I was on my way to jerk off and you bring up my dead mother? You’ve got problems, Joey. I thought I had problems, what with jerking off twice in an hour and all, but you…You’re fucked, man. Anyway, come by later after you drop off your pops and we’ll get high.”
Then he hung up.
I stood there for a moment, biting my lip. Finally I said, “Fuck it.” I began walking across the hall into the lounge. As I entered, she saw me. I knew it was her because she recognized me, she knew who I was. As soon as she saw me coming, her eyes darted in all directions, looking for a way to escape. But there was none.
She cracked a very awkward smile. “Hello, Joey,” she said, still avoiding eye contact whenever possible.
With my head in swirls, I said the only thing that came out of my mouth, “…What…the…fuck?!”
She turned her head away from the glances at the nearby tables and spoke quietly, “This must be very strange for you, seeing me like this…”
“Yeah, ‘very strange’ is a pretty big understatement,” I replied. “How can you be alive? You—You had cancer! I came to see you in the hospital. I went to your funeral. I carried your coffin!”
She grabbed a hold of my hand, “Please, Joey, lower your voice, I beg of you.”
“Sorry,” I said, trying my best to calm down. My hands were shaking. “Mrs. Gibson…Please…What’s going on?”
She gazed into her martini and stirred the olive in a moment of reflection; I imagined that she was thinking on just where to start. Finally, she spoke. “There is so much to say…So much to explain…Obviously it is clear that my death was fabricated, I don’t need to tell you that. But I suppose the “how” and the “why” are more important than the “what” at this time.”
Even the way she talked was more sophisticated…
I did not interrupt and so she continued, “You have to understand, when I had Jeremy—When I married his father—” She paused to sort out her thoughts. “You see, Joey…As a young girl I had many dreams of traveling the world…I dreamed of oceans and landscapes far wider than those of Streetsville. I dreamed of music and exotic flavors and aromas…
“When I became pregnant with Jeremy, life took a rather quick turn for me. I became married and a mother to which, and you must believe me when I say this, I had no objection. I was thrilled to bring life into this world and share my wonderful adventure with my newborn son. Yet, as the years passed I quickly would learn that my hunger and passion for life was not shared by Mr. Gibson. He grew into a stern man, stripped of joy and lust by years of hard labour. His cold soul began to suffocate me, tire me, extinguishing feelings that had once been fireworks inside of me. I surrendered to his tomb with the hope that maybe one day Jeremy would break the spell of mundane and lifeless routine that we were under…But Jeremy…well…Jeremy…”
“Turned into an asshole,” I said, finishing her sentence. She couldn’t get it out, but I didn’t have any problems saying it. Jeremy was an asshole, no doubt about it. He didn’t care about anyone but himself and he would be the first to tell you. He stole from his parents, said horrible things, masturbated with the door open… Shit, I was his best friend and I could barely stand him. The only reason I didn’t see him as a complete write off was because we had been friends since we were kids and it was hard for me to just chuck out all that history.
“A mother could never say such things about her son…but he made my decision to do what I did much less difficult. I was promised by the Club that my life insurance would make sure he and Mr. Gibson would live comfortably in my absence. It was clear my company would not be sorely missed.”
I stood there absolutely baffled at what I was hearing. “So…How? How did you fake your death?”
“The Club made it possible. Now I must watch what I say, for they are people of great power and great secrecy…But they are also of great understanding and great mercy for a soul such as mine whose flame was all but burned out…they gave me light once again. They put the fire back inside of me…”
Suddenly there was a thunderous explosion outside that shook the building walls and the floor beneath my feet. It sounded as if an asteroid has crashed just outside the airport. In a moment, mass panic broke out all around me. The patrons at the bar screamed and scattered. The bartender ducked for cover behind his wells. Outside, a trail of thick black smoke darkened the sky as if the world itself was coming to an end. When I turned back to Mrs. Gibson—she was gone. The only thing left in her place was a small, purple business card on the stool that read, “The Second Chance Club”
I snatched the card, and ran out of the lounge into the airport hallway. I grabbed one of the staff and asked him what had happened.
“There was an explosion at gate 7! One of the engines! Get out of here as fast as you can!”
He ran off into the crowd but I stood still. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to move—I couldn’t move. My legs were shaking too much. My heart started racing faster and faster and the whole room began to spin….I had dropped my father off at gate 7.
An accident. That’s what airport control ruled the explosion…a fucking accident. 37 people lost their lives on flight 97 because Air Canada had shotty equipment…How can you justify that to a son and a wife who just lost their everything? Their whole entire world?
It was horrible. I’ve never seen my mom cry so much. I wanted to hold her and make everything all right, but I couldn’t. There was nothing I could do.
The funeral was even worse. Everyone who spoke talked about my father was “so young” and how “he had so much life ahead of him.” Jeremy came, which I really appreciated. I mentioned seeing his mom again after the majority of people had left, but he wasn’t having it.
“You need to drop that,” he said over a smoke. “You’re starting to scare me.”
“I’m not crazy, man…I know what happened.”
“Yeah, well…If my mom faked her death and went to this club, then maybe your dad’s there, too.”
I didn’t know what to say to that, so I dropped it.
For the next little while I didn’t leave the house too much. If my depression wasn’t enough to make me completely anti-social, seeing my mom in her depression definitely sent me over the top. One day I remembered what Jerry had said about my dad. What if the explosion was a cover-up just like the cancer had been for Jeremy’s mom? Maybe it was desperation, but I hopped to my feet and began digging through the pile of dirty laundry in the corner of my room. I tore out the jeans I was wearing that day and dug inside the pockets. I pulled out the purple card and stared at it for a moment as the memories of that day came rushing back. Was Jerry right? Was I crazy? I turned the card around to see something written in the bottom left corner.
It was an address. All of a sudden the thought hit me, ‘Go see what’s there ’.
That night I called Jeremy and told him my plan. He thought it was stupid but agreed to come along. I honestly think it was because he thought I was losing my mind and was trying to validate my craziness until he figured out a way to call the boys in white and get me a residency in a padded room. He probably thought if he didn’t go along with it then I’d chop off his head or something…For the record, I wouldn’t have. I’d have just gone without him.
The next morning we took the Go Bus down to Union and walked to the waterfront. We stood about a hundred yards away from the port and had a smoke as we checked out the scene. At first there was no around except for a man that I could only assume was the concierge, or the skipper, or whatever you call the doorman for a boat. I only say this because he was dressed in a nice uniform…like a concierge uniform. He had a top hat, too. Before long people began to congregate by him and the docks. First one, then three, then some more after that.
About thirty minutes later, the boat pulled up and everybody lined up single-file to get on. I kept looking for my dad, but I didn’t see him. Though he would never admit it, I could tell Jer was keeping an eye out for his mom, too. When she wasn’t there he got disappointed and discouraged.
“What the fuck are we even doing here, man? This stupid,” he said, throwing his cigarette butt into a bush.
He started to walk off but I grabbed him, “Wait!” I said. “Let’s try to get on the boat, see where it goes!”
“Are you fucking crazy? Look at that fucking guy, it looks like he’s the skipper for the S.S. Rape A Dude.”
“Don’t be a fuck, what else are you doing today?” I asked.
“I only brought two joints with me, man. We’re going to go all day on two joints? I’m halfway through the last season of Breaking Bad and shit…”
I punched him in the arm, “C’mon man! Aren’t you curious? All this crazy shit and then it turns out this card actually brought us to somewhere legit? Don’t you want to see where this takes us?”
My head turned back and forth between watching people slowly get onto the boat and to Jerry fighting with himself over curiosity and comfort. Finally, he broke.
“Fuck it,” he said. “Let’s go”
“Awesome!” I said, giving him another smack.
“But someone on that boat better have some weed. Two joints is not enough.”
We joined the line and watched the boarding process. Each person showed a card like the one I had to the skipper guy and then walked up the dock onto the boat. Some of the cards were different colors, though. I saw a few blue ones and a few red ones, as well as a few purple ones. I guessed the card was like a ticket to get you on the boat. Jerry had the same thought.
“Dude, I don’t have a card. How am I going to get in?” he said in panic.
“I don’t know, let me think…”
But I had no time. Before I knew it, the skipper took my ticket and I was on the dock, Jerry standing stranded behind me.
“Ticket?” said the skipper with his leather gloved hand out.
Jerry padded down his pockets, pretending to search for it. “I…I must have dropped it somewhere.”
“I’m terribly sorry, sir. No ticket, no entry.”
Jerry looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. Then, there was a voice from behind him. A girl’s voice.
“Excuse me,” she said.
Jerry turned his shoulder and revealed a younger girl standing behind him. She was this little, blonde girl…Not natural, but she had bleached her hair, a real punk rocker type with sweatbands on her wrists and a tank-top tightly worn over her sun kissed skin. “I think you dropped your ticket,” she said, handing a blue card to Jeremy.
He just stood there with his mouth open, like a dope.
“Uh…Oh, yeah. Thanks,” he said eventually.
He turned back to the ticket collector and smiled his goofy smile. In a moment he was up the dock and standing beside me. The girl handed the collector another blue ticket and joined us on the boat. We didn’t know where to go so we just kind of huddled by ourselves in a corner.
“Hey, thanks for that,” said Jerry to the girl.
“No problem,” she said with a smile, as she extended her hand to him, “My name’s Trish.”
“I’m Jeremy…People call me Jer.”
“Hi, Jer,” she said. She was so fucking happy and perky. “And who are you?” she asked, turning to me.
I found myself stumbling over my words…saying my name, wow. It was never so hard to remember before…she was really cute. I don’t know what it was, maybe it was because she was the first person I had seen smiling so genuinely in months. Maybe it was her blue eyes looking back at me, or her soft little cheeks. Maybe that whole thing she did for Jeremy made me believe she might have been the most bad-ass chick I had ever laid my eyes on. Definitely not like the girls I was used to in Streetsville.
She laughed, “Uh…Hello?”
I came to, “Oh…haha…sorry. I’m Joey.”
“Well, Jer and Joey. It’s nice to meet you. It looks like we’re in for a little adventure together.”
Suddenly the boat began to pull away. The sway of the boat on the waves knocked us all into a seat, and before we could turn back, the dock was nothing but a small shadow at the edge of the water.
At that moment I knew that whatever we were about to discover, there was no turning back. At least I had my best friend…and this super cute punker chick I couldn’t take my eyes off of.
“I got dibs.”
I had barely shut the sliding door of the bathroom before Jerry was in my face. I stepped back and gave him the classic, “What the fuck are you talking about?” face.
He dodged back, offended at the gesture. “Oh, don’t even fuck with me…I got dibs, bitch.”
Finally it clicked in my head what he was talking about. “Oh, fuck off,” I said. “You can’t be serious.”
“I’m serious as dick cancer,” he said plainly. “I got dibs.”
“What makes you think you can call that?” I asked.
He rolled his eyes, “Oh, c’mon! Like it’s even a question! You drag me out here on this fucking boat with Skipper McCreepy, who looks like he just robbed Micheal Jackson’s stage wardrobe and you think I don’t have dib rights? You’re crazy.”
“You’re fucked,” I said, pushing my way through him and heading back to the front of the boat.
Before I got to the next door, Jerry grabbed me and turned me around. “She’s mine,” he said. “Fuck off.”
I pulled my arm away from his grasp. “Fine. Whatever,” I said. “Don’t fuck it up.”
We went back to the front of the boat where Trish was waiting alone. By this time the sun had broken through the clouds and it was getting seriously hot. Seeing her sitting on the bench with her bathing top over her petite and seamless body had us both stopping in our tracks. The sun drenched her skin like they were old comfortable friends. How I was going to keep my hands away from her, I had no idea.
I shoved her tank top aside and sat down. Jer sat on the other side of her and gave me a stern look, as if to say, “You better not fuck me on this, Joey.”
“So…if you don’t mind me asking…Uh, how’d you come across those tickets?” I said.
She laughed, “I just found them, to be honest. I saw the address on the back and, uh, something just told me to go there…It must sound weird, I guess.”
“Not at all,” I said. “The same thing happened to me.”
“Yeah, the same thing happened to us,” Jer repeated, flashing me a deadly glare.
“Yeah, The Second Chance Club…it just has this ring to it, right? It’s so mysterious…” She faded away for a second and then joined us back in reality, “But, what about you guys? Do you know anything about it? I imagine by what I saw, you both didn’t get an invite like me.”
I told her about what happened at the airport, seeing Jeremy’s mom in the lounge and my dad’s airplane exploding. Understandably, she didn’t know what to say. Finally she cracked a smile, “So you guys are on a quest to find your parents? That’s sooo cute.”
“Don’t say quest,” said Jeremy. “That sounds gay.”
We all laughed. That may have been a bad move because it seemed to get the attention of another group of people across the boat, who turned and looked our way with suspicious eyes. This one guy especially was giving us the real angry man glare. That shut us up a bit; we didn’t want to draw any extra attention our way.
We sailed for about forty minutes before we docked on an island where there was an airstrip and a small jet waiting. The concierge-skipper dude got on the mic and directed everyone to get their things and follow him to the awaiting plane. Everybody else had stuff but Jerry and me. Even Trish had a small backpack.We followed the crowd over to the plane where a couple of stone cold foxes all suited up in their stewardess uniforms took the bags and directed us up inside. Of course, once on the plane, the three of us sat together.
We couldn’t believe how badass and expensive everything looked. It was like something out of James Bond. When we took off, the stewardesses handed out a glass of champagne to each passenger, and then a voice came on the overhead speaker.
“Welcome, all new Reboots here with us today. We invite you to relax and enjoy the flight…Much new things await you upon our landing, but for now, let us toast to the peace of flight and ease our minds away from all that we have left down below. You have been chosen. And to all our returning Scouts, you have completed your rescue of your Reboot, you are closing in on your final advancement. Congratulations on your success.”
Then everybody raised their glasses and drank champagne.
The flight was long, how many hours I couldn’t tell. None of us had watches and the plane had knocked out all the power to our cellphones somehow. But I got the feeling that cellphones weren’t something we were supposed to have because when I pulled mine out to check if my service had returned, the same guy who was mean-mugging me before on the boat saw me and gave me this god awful, blasphemous scowl. I kept the phone in my pocket for the rest of the flight.
Between naps and conversations with Trisha, we passed the time. We had enough time to basically tell our whole life story. The more she talked, the more interesting she got. She was adopted, lived in Toronto her whole life; Mostly in the rougher ends of the vast metropolis. She just broke up with her boyfriend who was touring in a punk band.They had been together for six years, traveling six months of each year. I couldn’t believe how many places she had been…Tokyo, Italy, France, Amsterdam, New Zealand, Hollywood…She was like this huge rock-star packaged in this fragile little frame. Somewhere between truth or dare and black jack, after Jeremy had blacked out and just when the sun seemed to shine underneath the clouds like a private show for me and Trish, the voice came on the intercom again…
“Attention all Scouts and Reboots: We are due to land at the Lobby within the hour. Please gather your things and prepare for final exits. Thank You.”
“Final exits?” I said to Trish quietly, “What the fuck’s this guy talking about?”
She lifted her head from my shoulder; I guessed she had fallen asleep. I felt kind of bad that I woke her. I just acted like I didn’t say anything and she knocked back out.
An hour later, we had landed. I stayed up the whole time just to see our decent from the window. Wherever we were, the island was large. There were huge futuristic buildings; some dome-like, some tall and narrow. There were beaches of the whitest sand, and a whole bunch of big, thick green forests that from so high up looked like gardens of broccoli and mint. Whatever this place was, it wasn’t on any map, I’ll tell you that.
When we got off the jet, our legs dying to stretch and walk about, we were moved quickly by skipper and his ladies to the front gates, where the first thing you saw were these massive signs in three separate colors:
Purple on the left.
Red in the center.
Blue on the right.
As if we both had the same thought, me and Trish looked down at our cards. Hers was blue, mine was purple. Before we even had a chance to hatch a plot, we were coming up to the gates where, once again, people handed off their tickets to another man in a uniform only a little less fruity than skipper’s.
It took until I was being guided off to the left and they the right for Jeremy to get what was going on. His eyes went wide with panic. He looked as if he was about to scream something until Trish grabbed him by his collar and brought him along with her to the blue line which led to one of the large glass dome buildings in the near distance.
I only looked back for a moment before I was shuffled along with the rest of the people in the purple column, who moved quickly and with purpose, passing me with ease. I felt as if they were all looking at me…staring at me. Suddenly I began to feel alone and frightened. I had just lost the only people I knew, and I was completely by myself. All I wanted to do was turn back and run, but I couldn’t. So, I kept my head down and I followed the crowd…it was the only thing I could do.
It took about an hour, but the roofless “tour bus-slash-safari jeep” we were all crammed in finally parked at the end of the road and at the beginning of a massive white sanded beach surrounded by small, bamboo huts. Beyond that, the crisp blue ocean twinkled like diamonds under the beaming sun. It was something out of a travel agency promotional poster, and a huge difference from the futuristic dome that I watched Jerry and Trish get shuffled away to. I was still worried about them and I hoped they were okay…
I had done alright myself, being on my own and all. I acted like I was where I was supposed to be and no one really called me out–No one except for that same dick that was giving me the evil eye after I pulled out my cell phone on the plane. He sat about two rows in front of me on the right and kept turning back every few minutes just mean-mugging the shit out of me. I knew this guy was going to be a problem.
It wasn’t all bad, though. One of the guys sitting across from me saw what was going on and came over and sat with me. That seemed to make the watcher’s eyes turn, if only momentarily.
“So,” he said, in a low voice, “I haven’t seen you around camp.”
He gave me this look like he knew I didn’t belong there, but wanted to toy with me and see what kind of bullshit lie I came up with…So I came up with something, just in case I had him pegged wrong and that creepy look was just him looking creepy.
“Yeah, I kinda like to keep to myself…”
He chuckled softly to himself, “It’s okay, kid. You don’t have to worry about me. But see that guy?” He nodded over to the guy in front of me that had been staring me down. I nodded to show I understood. He continued, “That guy is Dennis—He’s a dick. In all senses of the word…he likes to fuck people. I can already see he knows you’re not a Scout.”
“Yeah,” I said, trying to be as ambiguous as possible until I decided if this guy was to be trusted or not. He seemed pretty cool. He had a real Rock ‘N Roll attitude about him, a big, dark curly mop on his head and a stubble speckled jawline that spoke of easy living, aviator glasses, and a sleeveless ragtop…like a Jewish Jim Morrison.
He slapped me on my arm, “Shit, you don’t even know what a Scout is, do you?”
I stared at him blankly.
“It’s cool,” he laughed. “I’ll fill you in when we get to camp.”
And that’s what he did. When we parked at the beach, he took me across the camp, over to his hut and filled me in on where I was. I couldn’t believe what I was being told…
The purple card that Jerry’s mom left behind belonged to “Scouts”, who are the third and final stage of the three levels of The Second Chance Club. It is their job to go out and recruit one other person to take their place on the island. The Blue cards that Jerry and Trish had, belonged to new recruits called Reboots, and the big dome they went into was the “Reboot ReConstruction Center”, where the Reboots get to basically pick how they want to spend their Second Chance. If you wanted to be a rock star, they gave you instruments to play and space to rehearse. If you wanted to be a porn star, they provided the set and the cameras. If you wanted to be a professional hockey player, they had a team and a rink for you to practice with. They had absolutely everything for whatever you desired.
It seemed impossible. I asked him how someone could afford to do all this. That, he didn’t know. He said from the day he first stepped on that boat to the island, he stopped asking questions.
“So what comes after the third stage? If you scouted someone to replace you then…where do you go?”
“It’s called Final Advancement,” he replied. “No one really knows exactly what it is, but they talk about it like its eternal peace…like the ultimate happy ending, you know? Fucking rad, man.”
“Uh, okay…sure,” I said. He seemed pretty optimistic for not knowing what was to become of him after he left the island.
“But someone’s going to notice that your friend’s mom hasn’t come back from Scouting Leave. By the looks of it, Dennis is that guy. We’ve had a few smugglers here before and it didn’t go over so well. They don’t like revealing this way of life to outsiders…Why are you here, anyway, man?”
I told him about the explosion at the airport and how I thought that perhaps it had been just a rouse to fool the public, much like Mrs. Gibson’s cancer. He sympathized with me and gave me some good news; there was another boat to arrive later in the night with the last of the Scouts and Reboots. If my dad and the others really had faked their deaths to come to the island, that would be the boat in which they were on. That put a smile on my face.
“There’s a smile,” he said. “And that’s not even the best part. Tonight is ReUnion! It’s a party on the island for all the new Reboots. That means your friends are coming back here tonight after their orientation!”
That was all I needed to hear. I felt a lot better knowing me and Jerry, and even Trish, would be a threesome once again. The good vibes continued as, in the spirit of celebration, my new friend, who introduced himself as Maxwell, opened up his cabinet and pulled out a bottle of gin for us to sip on while we waited for the sun to sink.
That night, under a soft-glowing full moon, hundreds of people gathered on the beach and between colored lamps and bamboo torches they danced to the rhythm of a drum circle. Maxwell assured me that it would be okay for me to survey the island during ReUnion because I would easily blend into the crowd. I used that to my advantage as I swam through the waves of contorting, rolling, and sweaty bodies in search of both my friends and my father.
I wondered what I would say to him if I actually found him. I convinced myself that I would be brave and rip him apart for abandoning his family, but that newfound anger was most likely the offspring of my gins with Maxwell. To be honest, I was mainly afraid that I might be caught as an impostor and suffer some horrible consequence. That being said, feeling down was hard to maintain when I was surrounded by people who were obviously so joyful and carefree. I had been to music festivals and all that, I had seen people high on M dancing their life away…but this was different. Everything was so authentic; it was like they didn’t even need the drugs. I could see why people would leave everything to come here. It was paradise. A place where you could do whatever you want, a place where you could be whatever you want, a place where all your old mistakes and dark history are completely erased and you are baptized into a new life full of freedom and void of unwanted responsibility. I wasn’t angry with these people for leaving their lives, not even my dad or Mrs. Gibson. How could I be? Everything here was absolutely perfect…
I had ended up on the end of the island, my shoes in my hand and my toes sunk in the sand. The tide crashed softly under the moon, teasing my senses every few moments and then retreating back into the ocean. Behind me, the people danced blissfully over the drum circle rhythm. Even though it was midway through the night, the air was warm on my skin. It was comforting, like when my mom used to come into my room after I had a nightmare and hold me…it made me feel safe.
Suddenly I heard a cry to my left, “Hey! Butt Stain!”
I didn’t even need to look to know that it was Jerry who was calling. He was the only one who called me “Butt Stain.” Back in the sixth grade, after having a huge stomach upset all day, I farted on the walk home from school and some shit came out. It was really uncomfortable and embarrassing, but Jerry thought it was the funniest thing ever. Despite not having much love for that name, I was ecstatic to have Jerry in my sights once again. Trish followed behind him, dancing playfully, swaying her hips and smiling at me. I smiled back, I couldn’t help it.
“Hey, stranger,” she said.
I wrapped my arms around both of them, “Holy shit! I thought I was never going to see you guys again! What happened? Where did you go?”
“You’ll never fucking believe it,” Jer started. “That place was crazy. We got to pick a new job…any job we wanted—”
Trish cut him off, “I picked a dancer. I always wanted to be a dancer. Not, like, a stripper dancer, but contemporary and ballet.”
Jerry added in, “I picked an NFL quarterback.”
“You suck at quarterback,” I said.
He curled his eyebrows. “Fuck you, buddy! Whatever, it’s not like we’re sticking around anyway, right?”
“I guess not,” I said.
Just then, Maxwell came walking by in a hurry and noticed me. “Oh, hey. What’s going on, kid? Crazy party right? Re-Union is fucking awesome! I see you found your friends. I’m just going back to the place to grab a little weed. You like weed?”
“I do!” Jerry shouted. Then he turned back to me, raising his eyebrow apologetically. “I smoked those two joints…”
Maxwell grinned. “Sweet, brutha man. Why don’t you come with me to the spot and we’ll fire up a bowl?”
“For sure!” Jer replied.
“Wait!” I called out to him. “We need to look for my dad!”
As he walked away, Jeremy called out, “Yeah, good luck with that!”
I shoved my hands in my pockets and kicked the sand in frustration. Trish just giggled. “Don’t freak. I’ll help you look for your dad.”
“Yeah, but if we take off then we’ll lose Jerry!”
“You worry a lot, y’know that?”
“I really don’t,” I replied in my defense, “This is just an extremely odd and fucked up situation and I want to make sure I keep some level of control.”
She slipped her hand into mine and squeezed. “Sometimes when a situation is odd and fucked up…you just need someone to trust. Do you trust me?”
I stared at her blankly.
She giggled. “Well? Do you?”
“Uh…Sure. I mean, I barely know you…But yeah, I do.”
“Then you’re in control,” she said. She leaned into me and kissed me softly on the lips.
I didn’t know what to say. “I, uh…I thought that you and Jeremy…”
She shook her head and smiled. Then she kissed me again.
I don’t know how we found ourselves tumbling to the sand, struggling to undo each others belts and buttons, but before any one of us had the urge to reconsider we were having sex on the beach, barely hidden from the crowd not ten feet away. I kept thinking, “Who was this girl?” She made me feel so alive, so inspired, and bold. Back home you would never find me having sex at a beach party. I’d never been much of a ladies man, but with her, it felt like everything I did was the right move, the right words, the right everything. It was like she made me better.
When we finished, she stroked the hair behind my ear and smiled. “Feel better?”
“Good…Let’s go find your dad.”
As we walked through the crowd, Trish continued on about all she had learned in the ReConstruction Center, her playful voice keeping me leveled as I scanned for my father and Mrs. Gibson. The drum circle poofed and ponged rhythmically behind laughter, howls, and the jovial conversation of fiery spirits and souls.
“This place has been around for over fifty years! You wouldn’t believe all the famous people who faked their deaths to come here! Elvis did…Biggie and Tupac did; they were gay lovers, did you know that? They came here to escape persecution!”
“Oh, really,” I laughed. “I guess Kurt Cobain faked his death, too, huh?”
“No…he just shot himself.”
Suddenly, about ten yards ahead, I saw someone who looked a lot like my dad. The whole time, in the back of my mind, I had this feeling I wasn’t going to find him, that the explosion at the airport was just that—an explosion, and nothing more. But now, here he was. I knew I couldn’t let him out of my sight. I had to find out why he left me, why he left mom. Did we bore him? Was I not the son he expected? Did he want me to turn out differently? And, if so, why didn’t he tell me? I would have tried to change for him, he’s my fucking dad for Christ sake!
I squeezed onto Trish’s hand and began pushing my way quickly through the crowd, trying to avoid hands and elbows of the dancing and blissful while still keeping my dad, or at least the person who looked like my dad, in my line of sight. As my heart began to pump faster I couldn’t help but feel as if it was beating to the rhythm of the drum circle. The noise of the crowd faded and all I could hear was the beat.
Closer and closer I got to him. I saw his face when he turned. It was my father! It truly was! I squeezed Trish’s hand and pushed harder through the hot and damp bodies. I needed to get to him. I needed to ask him why he did what he did. Even if I went home without him, at least I would know the reason why he left. That’s all I wanted. That’s all I deserved.
I opened my mouth to call to him but stopped when a hand grabbed me by my arm and spun me around. At first, I thought it was Trish, or someone I bumped into in my stride that was drunk and looking to file a grievance. I was not expecting to see the face looking back at me.
There in front of us was Dennis, the dick that Maxwell warned me about on the way to the island, staring back at me and Trish with a sly, satisfied look smeared all over on his stupid face. He was accompanied by two large men dressed in gowns not unlike hospital scrubs, but thinner and white, comprised of a hemp-like fibre that was light and breezy. They were guards. Beside the guards, in handcuffs, standing like prisoners, were Jerry and Maxwell.
It didn’t take a scientist to figure out what was going on.
“These two are imposters as well,” Dennis snarled. “He brought a cell phone with him. And she has multiple cards.”
Trish hung onto me as the two large guards grabbed us and forcefully emptied out our pockets. The guard who had taken my phone bent over as to be at my eye-level and said, “Cellphones are off limits. Was this not made clear?”
Dennis waved his hands screaming, “He doesn’t know the rules! He’s a thief! He smuggled his way here with his hoodlum lacky and his little blonde girlfriend! He needs to be made an example of!”
“You’re a dick, Dennis,” said Maxwell.
“You’re off this island, Maxwell!” Dennis barked back at him.
Suddenly, a potato sack was thrown over my head and everything went black. I heard Trish scream. I heard Jeremy struggling for a moment before he submitted to the force. The guards began to drag us away and as I stumbled to stay a foot in the sand I couldn’t help but fear that I would not be leaving this island alive…
When the sacks on our heads were finally taken off, we were in a small interrogation room, accompanied by the two guards that had arrested us, and without Maxwell. We waited there, silent, for what seemed like forever until the door to the room opened and a white-haired man, older, and dressed in an expensive and well-fit black suit, came inside and calmly sat down across from us.
He looked to the guards. “Thank you, you may wait outside.”
Following his command, they left us.
Once we were alone, the old man watched all three of us with a somewhat amused expression, but mostly he was watching Trish. She looked absolutely frightened of him. I felt helpless with the cuffs around my wrists.
Finally, he spoke, addressing us all, “You are probably wondering just who I am. All of you except for this young lady…”
He turned to Trish, who was trembling at this point, and lurched close to her face, “You remember me, don’t you? What was your name again? Sammy was it? How could I forget a thieving whore like you…”
“Her name’s Trish,” said Jer.
The man smiled. “Oh, I’m sure she uses a variety of names when she’s on the job. Isn’t that right, Sammy?”
Trish kept her eyes to the floor.
The man smiled and then his eyes went dark. “…And to think you had the balls to steal my cards! And then come here! To my island! And think that I wouldn’t find you. I’ve been watching the three of you since you got on the plane. I watched as you were separated with each other. I saw you two fucking on the beach when you thought no one was looking. It brought back some good memories.” He turned to me, “How was she? Good? Personally, I thought she was a little sloppy. But I guess you get what you pay for, right? Can’t expect street trash like that to have any class.”
“What’s this guy talking about, Trish?” I asked. “How does he know you?”
She lifted her shackled arms and did the best she could to wipe her tears. “I lied about the cards, okay? I didn’t just find them…I took them from him.”
“After she knocked me unconscious!” the man screamed.
Trish’s head sprung up and she screamed, “You were hurting me! Choking me! The things you said…You would have killed me!”
“Wait a second!” cried Jerry. “Joey, you and Trish had sex on the beach?”
“That’s not important!” I said. I turned to Trish and pointed to the old man. “You had sex with this guy? For real?”
“It’s not what you think…I was backpacking, I was broke and needed money…it all happened so fast…Then he started getting violent with me and choking me…after I smashed a bottle over his head, I found those cards in his wallet…”
I was starting to see that, despite my infatuation with this girl, I had no clue of the person she really was, nor did I have the slightest clue about the past life she had led right up until our meeting. The hard realization that maybe she was not the perky, happy-go-lucky girl she played the part of so well started to sink in.
The man sat with a grin on his face as if fondly recapping the events to himself. “I suppose it can seem like violence to someone so weak and helpless. I sometimes forget how fragile these brats can be…”
Jeremy shook his head. “I can’t believe you had sex with her. I called dibs…”
“Shut up, Jerry… I don’t know who you are, old man,” I said. “But you’re sounding like a real sick fuck. Now, why don’t you just let us get out of here and we won’t bother each other anymore.”
“You don’t know who I am, no,” he said. “So I will tell you…I, among an elite group of others, control this island. We are the richest men in all the world, our power is matched only by its secrecy. Our kind does not live by your civilian laws, nor do we drink from your civilian taps, nor do we travel on your civilian roads. Quite simply put, we are the Gods of Olympus. The puppet masters. We take souls that are unhappy with the path they are walking and give them a second chance, a place to master their craft and become the person they always wished to be. Then, they are sent back out into the world under a completely new identity of which they have curated every detail. We give them their perfect life. And after years of this, they come back to the island as graduated ReBoots and advance to Scouts, where they go out into the world and pick another lost soul to take their place on the island. Then, the cycle continues.”
“And what happens to The Scouts after they’re done recruiting? Where do they go?” I asked.
“They die,” said the man plainly. “You see, when you present people with the question of if they would rather live a long unsatisfied life, or decrease that lifespan significantly, but fill the few remaining years with unlimited joy, their choice is usually the latter. This is how we can control populations.”
“That’s crazy as fuck,” added Jeremy.
“Who in their right mind would come here knowing that they’re going to die?”
“You would be surprised…Mr. Gibson, is it?”
Then the man put his thumb to his watch and spoke into it, “Send her in.”
The door to the room clicked open and in walked Mrs. Gibson, Jeremy’s mom. A part of me was relieved to see her. Like it was proof I wasn’t crazy. Jerry’s mouth dropped open, I could see his eyes tearing up. I never saw Jerry cry before.
Then my dad followed in behind her and my heart dropped, too.
“These are just two people who made that choice,” the man said.
I shot up in my seat, “Dad, what the hell? Why? Why did you leave us?”
“Oh, Joey, I’m afraid that’s my fault,” said Mrs. Gibson. She was starting to tear up pretty bad.
“No, it’s not,” my dad told her. “I love you. This is what I want.”
When I heard him say that, it made sense. Not all of it, not by a long shot, but the main idea was there. Her and my dad were in love. That day I saw her at the airport lounge, she was there because she had scouted my father. Like Biggie and Tupac, they came here to start a new life together.
Jerry came out of his daze, “Mom! What the fuck’s going on? You’re dead! You had Cancer!”
“Please, forgive me son!” she wept. “You were never supposed to know about this!”
“Well I fucking know now, don’t I?!” he barked.
“And that is the problem we have here,” the old man intervened. “Now that you know these secrets, I cannot let you leave this island. If the world were to find out of our existence, it would cause utter chaos. So the question now becomes…what to do with you?”
“You’re not going to hurt them are you?” asked Mrs. Gibson.
“They are innocent in all this,” said my father. “Don’t punish them.”
“Of course not,” the man said. “What kind of monster would I be if I did that?”
I could see Trish glaring at him from the corner of my eye, as if she knew well the answer to that question.
The door to the interrogation room opened once again and the two guards who had arrested us walked in. The old man fixed his cuff before shooing off our parents. “The lovers may return to their quarters and enjoy ReUnion…”
“My son!” she cried. But it was too late. Her protest was no match for the guards, who ushered her out without problems. As my dad left, he didn’t say anything, nor did I. He had a look in his eyes, though; it said so much without words. It said, “I’m sorry” and yet it said, “this is what needs to happen.” It said, “I don’t want to leave” and yet it said, “I’m going now and I’m going forever.”
Then the door closed and they were gone. The old man got up, adjusted his suit and headed for the door. As he left, he turned to the guards and said, “Bury their bodies in the forest.”
Trapped, handcuffed and surrounded by guards, we knew there was no getting out. The old man had planned to kill us all along…
You often think about death in your day to day life, sometimes more intensely than others. But when you come to a situation where it’s fairly certain you are about to be murdered, you find out certain things about yourself. You find out your natural instinct to survive. And your choices are minimal; you either do or you don’t.
As I was surrounded by the guards in front of the door, my hands cuffed beside Trish and Jerry, I came to the understanding that I was about to die. Now, I’m not going to act all tough and say that I sacked up and took it like a gangster, because I was scared to shit. But in that fear, there came this fearlessness to fight back. I figured, if I’m dead—okay. But I’m taking one of these fuckers with me.
The guards began to close in, I looked over to Jerry and I could tell he felt, if not even more, the same as me. I guess finding out about what really happened to his mom sent him off the edge. I’d never seen this Jerry before. I was almost afraid of him. But if I was going down with anyone, I was glad he was there.
There was a knock on the door and one of the guards–I want to say the big one but they were both fucking pretty jacked; the bigger one I suppose–opened it, and what happened next was like something out of a movie…
Maxwell, that magnificent bastard, burst into the interrogation room waving what looked very much like a gun towards the guards, who immediately stepped back. How he had escaped, at this moment, was anyone’s guess…But we weren’t complaining. Before a word was even said, the gun went off and with two loud claps the guards dropped to the floor.
Jerry practically jumped off his feet. “Holy fuck! You shot them!”
“It’s tranquilizers, bro.” He gave a goofy smile and threw up the bullhorns. “Come on, we gotta get the fuck out of here now, before things get nasty.”
After locating the keys to our shackles, we were once again free and spared no time getting out of that godforsaken room. We ran and ran. I had no clue where the fuck we were going but I hadn’t counted on Trish and Jerry remembering their time there and the surroundings so well. She would whip around corners without a word, and for some time I wondered if trusting her at all was a good idea, but eventually, she came through and we were back outside the dome, not far off from where we were separated the day before.
“Where now?” Jerry asked.
Maxwell pointed towards the airstrip where the plane we came in on sat under the moon as if underneath some game show prize spotlight.
I turned to him. “You know how to fly that thing?”
“Fucking rights,” he said.
“Trust me,” he said as he began jogging off towards it. There were only two ways to go and back where we came was not an option. This won by default. I turned to Trish and held out my hand. I knew she was scared, too, but she put her hand in mine and we were off.
We got onto the plane and Maxwell went to work. He was so at home in the cockpit that it was obvious he had done this before. He saw us watching with our jaws dropped to the floor and offered up an explanation as he flipped precise switches and knobs.
“Before the Second Chance Club, I was a pilot. I spent almost ten years flying these fuckers.”
“You left a life as a pilot?” asked Trish, baffled. “Why?”
“I never liked the busy go-go-go life. All I ever really wanted to do was hang out. You’ve been to the dome, right? You get to pick whatever you want to be? Wanna know what I picked? I picked a beach bum. I swear, man. A beach bum! They supplied me with everything, man! Weed, coke, liquor. When they sent me back out into the world as Maxwell, I didn’t have all those responsibilities…I mean when you’re flying people around the world, you’re responsible for the lives of everyone on that plane! That’s a lot of pressure, man. I don’t want that…But I guess it’s finally coming in handy…The irony, eh?”
Suddenly the engines rumbled on and the cabin began to hum with power. “Grab a seat,” said Maxwell. “This might be a little bumpy.”
The plane taxied down the runway and, with minimal turbulence, we lifted off the ground. In moments we hovered over an endless sea with only the reflection of the moon on the water and the stars in the sky to light our way. We didn’t say much until Maxwell let us know it was safe enough to engage the auto-pilot. We all breathed a sigh of relief at that time. I guess we all thought up until then that, even though highly unlikely, some freak accident would occur and send us on a nose dive under water.
Jerry was the first to break the silence. “When they find out we got away…Will they hurt our parents, you think?”
That question hit me like a ton of bricks. It made me really face the truth of what I thought about our respective parents abandoning their whole lives, me and Jerry included, and starting anew together. All I could come up with was: this was their choice.
Like the man in the suit said, after the Scout stage, the final advancement is dying. Mrs. Gibson had to know that she would only have so much time with my dad until the Club came for her life. But they did it anyway. What can you say to that?I mean, a love like that is like something out of Shakespeare, that “fuck the world, we’re in love” way of loving that is so inspiring and heart-wrenching. It was the stuff you would hear in songs but no one truly believed could ever exist. And then, on the other side of the coin, this love could only be made possible by destroying the lives of everyone they had known and loved before. Though I’m partial, I will admit, anyone can feel some sort of disgust at a selfish act like that.
“Well, I got good news and bad news,” said Maxwell, coming out of the cockpit and joining us in the main room.
I tensed up. “What is it?”
“Well, the good news is these fuckers filled up on fuel when you got here, so we have some time. The bad news is, when they find out this plane is gone they are gonna put the word out. They’ll be looking for us. But, I know a runway that’s off the radars where we can land…We’re gonna have to be there for a while, at least until the heat dies down. So, basically, what I’m trying to say is…Do you guys have any problems with Mexico?”
I turned to Jerry. “What do you think?”
“I’m still kind of pissed at you for sleeping with Trish,” he said.
“I’m still kind of pissed at your mom for stealing my dad from our family and ruining my life. Even?”
He smiled. “Yeah…Even.”
Then I turned to Trish. “You in?”
She buried her face in her palms. “I…I don’t know…This is such a fucked up situation.”
I took her hands away from her face and put them back on her lap. She looked up at me with tears in her eyes.
“Listen,” I said. “Sometimes when a situation is really fucked up, you just need someone to trust…do you trust me?”
She laughed as she wiped the tears from her eyes. “You stole my line, asshole.”
“Well, don’t leave me hanging,” I said. “Do you?”
And so the decision was made. We couldn’t go back to our past and the second chance club was nothing more now than a fantastic dream. There’s no such thing as a magical second chance. Sometimes you have to pull yourself from the dirt and take a fresh step forward, but no matter how many times you change your job, your hair, your name, the way you dress, the way you talk…you’ll never escape who you really are. And who you always were.