“C’mon,” Paul said the following morning, “if we’re stuck here for a while, we might as well do some exploring, right?”
“I suppose so,” Doc replied, scratching his head. “Hate it when my hair grows back like this. Itches like a — ”
“I bet,” Paul laughed as they trekked into the jungle.
It didnt take long to cover the width of the island, perhaps an hour at most. At its highest point, the two could see nothing but an expanse of ocean all around them. “This doesnt make sense,” Paul said grimly. “We should be able to see at least something of the mainland shore from here.”
“Maybe we got blown further out to sea than we thought?”
“With FEMA here at the ready so quick? I doubt it. I dunno, Doc. There’s something very weird about this place.”
“There’s something weird about everything, including the passengers,” Doc added. “You notice that?”
“Everyone’s sorta… grouped together. That quartet of little old ladies — it’s like they run in a pack. Those two huge families that were all traveling together. That creepy bus driver… the one who’s totally obsessed with the moon. There’s something about all of them that seems… familiar, but I would be so hesitant to invite any of them to a dinner party.”
“Well, yeah, they’re all a little strange, I guess. But there’s some normal folks too.”
“Not many, that’s for sure. And did you notice how young our only doctor is? … Hey, what’s that?” He pointed at a glimmer of light coming from the bush below them. “C’mon, let’s go check it out.”
They dashed down the hill, briefly losing track of the light, then finding it again. “There!” Doc shouted.
Paul looked down at the large metallic object embedded in the ground. “What is it?”
“It looks like a hatch.”
“Should we open it?”
It took their combined strength, but the hatch finally gave way and opened. Below, a string of lights along a metal ladder that led to the rocky floor below. “Well,” Paul said determinedly, “we’ve come this far.” He swung one leg over the edge and started climbing down. After a brief hesitation, Doc followed.
At the bottom, they found another tunnel, leading to what looked like a large room. Paul started towards it, but Doc grabbed him and held him back. “Listen!” he whispered. Softly, distantly, there was a voice, a female voice, but a mechanical one, repeating as by rote.
“Please press one,” the voice instructed. There was a slight beep, then: “Please press one.”
Inside the room, the man from FEMA was sitting at a desk, barely awake, a phone in his hand. “Please press one,” the voice repeated from a hands free speaker. “If you do not press one in the next fifteen seconds — ”
“Wuh!” the man from FEMA awoke with a start. “Press one! Press one!” There was a slight beep as he did so. “Thank you,” the voice continued. “Please hold.”