It was dark. Really, extremely dark. It was so dark he couldn’t see
his hand in front of his face.
rustling, wind blowing, insects buzzing—sounded around him. Turning slowly,
he tried to get his bearings. Where was he?
For a moment, he could not remember how he came to be in the forest at this time of night.
In a rush of memory,
everything came back. He was looking for Claire. He left Kate
with Charlie. Claire
and her baby were in danger. Ethan had threatened
him and had nearly killed Charlie.
Jack! Stop! He’s gone.
No. Charlie was safe now, but in shock, a shock so great he had not spoken for
hours after his ordeal.
No one knew when Jack
had left. He knew Kate wouldn’t approve,
knew she would follow him. This way, at least, she would have to search the camps
for him before coming after him. She might think he had gone to the camp on the
beach for more supplies. She would probably suspect where he had really gone,
He turned again, trying
to see and get his bearings. It was darker now that he had come to the mountain’s
edge. The faint light from the moon did not penetrate this deep into the trees. It would have been wise if he had waited until the sun rose, but he did not know if
Claire had that long.
Shuddering to think about
what might have been done to her, Jack pressed forward, trying to retrace his steps. The ground was still slick with mud from the rain of only hours before, and it was difficult to keep a
The blow came from nowhere,
as it had before.
Before he realized what
was happening, Jack found himself flat on his back, his head ringing and the breath knocked
from his body. He wasn’t sure what had happened until a shadow fell over
him. He squinted up to see Ethan glaring down
at him in the faint light of the moon that now seemed to shine miraculously through the trees.
“I warned you,”
Memory flooded Jack
as he remembered what Ethan had done and threatened to do.
With a scream of inhuman rage, Jack leapt towards the man, tackling him to the ground.
he shouted, gripping the lapels of Ethan’s shirt and smashing his head back against the
ground. “What have you done to her?”
With surprising strength,
Ethan threw Jack off and reversed their positions, slamming
Jack’s head back against the ground.
saw stars. Ethan pressed his knee into Jack’s
chest and punched him, left, right, left, right. He could taste blood, and his
“I warned you!”
Ethan repeated. “Stay away! Stop following me! Forget the woman. She is out of your hands now.”
twisted under Ethan, gripping his knee and twisting sideways with the little strength he had
left. Both sprawled in opposite directions, but before Jack
could recover, Ethan leapt on him, kicking him in the ribs with his heavily booted feet.
couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t move, he could do nothing to fight back. The
heavy boot caught him under the chin, flipping him over. He lost track of consciousness
for a moment, then woke to pain.
The blackness hovered
on the edge of his vision, and he could tell he was not in good shape. He caught
sight of movement, tried to move to see better, and realized Ethan was still there. The man was watching him, a stick in his hand. Jack
wondered if Ethan was going to use the stick on him, then briefly wondered if he was going
to kill him like he had tried to kill Charlie, but after a moment, Ethan
turned and disappeared into the trees.
A great heaviness fell
through his body, and he felt tired . . . so tired. Jack
tried to keep his eyes open, tried to stay conscious, knowing that he had a concussion, but it was so easy to close his eyes
and let the darkness take over.
There was a faint streak
of pink in the sky behind the trees, signaling the coming dawn. He wondered how
long he had been out.
“Jack.” Something blocked his vision of the sky.
can you hear me?”
He tried to place the
voice, knew it was familiar. Locke. That’s who it was.
come on now. You’ve got to stay with me.
Can you speak?”
He was not going to try. It hurt to keep his eyes open.
“Come on, Jack. What happened?”
A hand touched his head,
and he became distinctly aware of hot blood cascading down his face. The hand
raised his shirt, and he heard a whistle and murmured voices. The other voice
he heard . . . it was Boone, wasn’t it?
“. . . got to get
Hands pulled on his arms,
trying to pull him upright. Stronger hands joined the first, pulling him up. His ribs felt as though they had been torn apart and thrown back together. He tried to hold in the pain, but a stifled moan sounded from his throat.
calm voice held him together and threw him mercifully back into the darkness.
After a time, the darkness
parted to reveal a fire. It was dark again.
Kate was leaning over him, concern written on her every feature.
“Jack? Jack. Stay
awake, now, okay?” She lightly patted his face, sending pain flaring through
every nerve and a roaring headache began.
He tried. He tried to stay awake for her, but it didn’t exactly work out as he planned. Someone was pressing on his ribs, and the blossoming pain caused him to pass out again.
When next he was aware
of consciousness, Kate was still there, still worried.
He managed to look her
in the eye.
what happened? Locke said they found a trapdoor out in the woods. Can you understand me?”
He blinked, attempting
“They were going
to see if they could open it when they heard you. They said you screamed, Jack.” She almost had tears in her eyes. “Jack,
what where you doing out there alone?”
shook his head the tiniest bit. “Concussion?” he rasped.
She looked at him, startled
that he had spoken, then quickly replied, “Probably. We can’t wake
you when you’re unconscious. The head wounds look pretty bad too. I tried to clean you up.”
“Kicked me . . .”
Jack tried to explain. “Ethan
. . . was mad. He . . . he wouldn’t tell where . . . where Claire
is out there with a group of people looking for them right now,” Kate said. “They’ll find her, Jack.
It’s out of your hands now. Just stay awake for me, okay?”
tried to catch his breath, certain now that his ribs were broken as well. He
couldn’t keep his eyes open, knowing even as a doctor that he had to stay awake.
Kate caught his hand as he struggled for air.
managed. “Need to . . . stay awake, though.
More . . . important.”
Kate tried to help him
stay awake, talking about nonsense things: what the weather in New York might be like this time of year, wondering at world
events that they were missing out on, trying to get him to tell her what to do about broken ribs and a concussion.
After a while, however,
her talk didn’t help, and his mind wandered past the pain to wonder at Claire’s
plight. With his last thoughts, he prayed that she was safe and that Locke
would find her. He knew it was out of his hands, and he finally succumbed to