Story recap (all episodes here): Dr Florence has been carrying out investigations on the Lost Islands of Xogulano for some weeks now. The islands are home to many creatures and plants never seen before, and Dr Florence has learned that the locals believe these organisms to be hybrids created by the Lost Men who live in the sea. On several occasions she has woken to find her feet wet, even though her tent is otherwise dry. Her interaction with the locals is fraught, they see her as being disrespectful to the islands, she sees them as foolish in their superstitious beliefs. However, despite her cynicism she has started having strange, feverish dreams, and a local fisherman has warned this is due the Lost Men. He claims that they are stealing Dr Florence’s very nature and trapping it in the plants so that she will never be able to leave the islands. He says that when the islands next tumble into the sea she will be taken with them, to be used by the Lost Men in their experiments to create new hybrids. Confused? You will be(at least if you have read any other of the episodes). And now to the final…
I woke up gasping again, but unable to rise, tethered. With panicked exploration, I discovered that my hair had been plaited around a stick that was stuck firmly in the ground. Again, my lower half was wet, this time the water had reached my waist, but the ground beneath me was still dry. However, it seemed the fever had finally broken, and after freeing myself, I set off in grim determination. I had decided to finally prove my visitor’s tales of Lost Men, and plants that steal souls, steal my likeness, to be foolishness.
I took my boat around to the back of my island, returning to the incredible joined row of sensitive plants (see previous episode). I had cut several leaves off one of the plants previously and was surprised to see that it was already growing a new fleshy outgrowth. Several long strands of phloem were hanging loose, almost like hair. And curiously, the outgrowth had the appearance of a nose, even with two holes for nostrils. I decided that once again the locals were trying to scare me into believing their bizarre superstitions. I am made of sterner stuff! I chuckled at their duplicity.
However, still recovering from the sickness of the last few days, I felt suddenly exhausted and rowed back to my tent for an afternoon nap. My sleep was deep and lasted until it was dark without breaking.
I woke groggy, but with only a few precious moments of calm before fear gripped me. My first realisation was that water was lapping around me. Tickling my face, my hands, splashing against my sides. My second moment of alarm was when I tried to get up to leave the tent, and was pulled back by my flotation device firmly tying my ankle to the tent. As the water rose, I searched in my pockets for my trusty knife and cut myself free. I quickly grabbed my back pack, deciding I would leave the tent behind. Already the water had risen over my ankles as I scrambled out into the night.
I found my torch floating in the water, lifeless and of no use and in the dark it was difficult to navigate the rocks and cliffs. I tried desperately to picture the route across the rocks to my boat, I knew it was tied at the base of a slight incline, but this would of course now be under water. Oddly, I found it easiest to remember the way by walking the bizarre straight lines and right angles that my visitor would use when he came to see me, and this was the path I took. Perhaps it was this that saved me, or has superstition distorted my thinking?
Having reached the edge of the cliff, I fumbled along the rocks, looking for any patch of deeper darkness in the water, that might show where my boat was. And that is when I heard the noise, a roaring, whining sound.
I watched dumbfounded as deformed animals rose up out of the sea. The razor-sharp tooth-filled mouths of sharks, with the wrinkled foreheads of pigs. Ivy leaves, twining out from the arm sockets of monkeys, lizards-scales and warts. Such abominations that defied my eyes.
As the mutations reached the surface of the water, they just kept rising into the air and I saw that the hybrids weren’t floating alone, but stood atop the shoulders of giants. Pale giants, with round heads worn smooth as pebbles. The Lost men! Giants with tiny shrunken eyes and sad expressions, a wistful curiosity as they continued to rise out of the sea, walking towards me. Me, who would be the next subject in one of their hideous experiments.
Perhaps it was fear that enabled me to hear the gentle knocking of wood against rock, beneath the roaring. My boat! With skill born of desperation, I leapt into the sea, landing by the boat and grabbing frantically at the wood. The giants turned as one towards me, their faces filled with patience and longing, their hands slowly lifting out of the sea as if to grab me. I awkwardly pulled myself aboard, grabbed the paddle, and began to row with a ferocity I did not know I could possess. I only dared to look back when I was some distance from the island.
The pale figures and hybrids had gone, the roaring had stopped. I paused, too exhausted to move for a moment, and watched as the last few islands dropped one by one into the sea. I had a sense of intense sorrow, as if I was deserting my very soul, leaving it to the Lost Men of the islands of Xogulano.