Christine had just turned thirty-three a month ago. She was sure that her long term partner, Jeffrey, would propose to her any day. She had been preparing for it. Mentally she had already planned out the rest of their lives. How many children they were going to have, where they would live and which relatives they would keep in contact with. All of these issues were brought into consideration within her mind and she had spent her time waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting for the day when he would take her out for the night and put an engagement ring on her finger. Her friends had all told her that it was just a matter of time and that these things would surely come to pass. They had been in a long-term relationship for the past six years and there was no way that either of them had the time to find another serious partner at this point in their lives. When she thought of any other possibility, but marriage, she simply laughed away the idea and reminded herself that she was not living a nightmare.
The night when Jeffrey took her out to that restaurant. A little Italian place on the outskirts of town she thought that this, surely would be it. She dressed up for the occasion and they had dinner at eight sharp. When he broke the news to her that he had been seeing someone else, a close friend no less, her heart shattered. Into a million different pieces. Like a ceramic plate being thrown to the floor in a rage, it simply broke in a thousand different spots. It was over, the relationship and many other things besides.
Seeing as it had been one of her close friends who had been doing the dirty behind their back, she needed time off. Time off work, time away from her friends, she wanted to be alone. A deep hatred for humanity coursed through her veins and she felt the bitterness of the million knives that had been shoved into her back over the years.
She had a relative, a third cousin, who owned some bushland out East Gipsland way. The regional areas seemed as far away as she could manage and so she arranged some time off work, a couple of months and went for some rest and recuperation out in the middle of nowhere. Her cousin, who managed livestock on their estate left Christine alone for the most part. Very rarely did he check up on her. Her days were filled with long walks out amongst the bush and in the evenings she would cuddle up with a bottle of red wine and lament over six wasted years with Jeffrey.
It was misty the morning that she disappeared. Cool temperatures had enclosed the surrounding landscape with a heavy fog. Yet still, she wilfully went out for her walk that morning. She was walking through heavy bushland, down a walking trail when she saw it. It was weird. Like a cloud at ground level. It was deep fog. Heavier than the surrounding fog and within it, she could see little electricity sparks gathering at its core. She didn’t know what it was, really. No-one could really clearly state what it was when faced with such a phenomenon. It reminded her of jelly, but it was still gaseous. And it moved. It travelled at an incredible pace on the surface level, and when she realized that the gas bubble had begun to chase her, she went to run away. But she was not quick enough, even if she were athletic, which she wasn’t, she didn’t think she would be fast enough. The bubble of fog caught up with her and enclosed itself in on her person. She was stuck in the middle of this cloud of fog and she had no idea what was happening. It made her scream, but she was so far away from any point of human contact that her screams went unheard. Electricity and energy gathered all around her. These little sparks: blue, yellow and green. And then her screams ceased. She had disappeared.
When Christine regained consciousness, it was like waking from a delirium. At first she felt the ground beneath her and found it to be sand. Golden sand. She could hear waves crashing in towards her in her close vicinity. She didn’t know what had happened or where the hell she was. But wherever it was, it was sunny and hot. The sun glowed above her and sent rays of sunshine down to heat her skin. She raised her head and then was startled, not startled, terrified. Like three sticks arranged at one hundred and twenty degree angles, all facing the center were three other people. Who the hell were they? One had already raised their head and was staring bewildered at Christine. When she realized who it was she let out a little yelp, like a dog that had been kicked, the sound that she made was short and sharp. It was her, or rather not her, it was somebody else. But the other person looked exactly like Christine. As soon as she made that sound, the other person, the other Christine got up out of the sand and ran in the direction towards the center of what seemed to be an island. Disappearing into a heavy patch of deep vegetation. She was terrified, she didn’t know what had happened or what was happening. Futhermore; she didn’t know why it was happening. When the other remaining person looked up, raising their head at the sound, Christine’s heartbeat leapt out of her chest. It was her again, another her. She didn’t understand it. She didn’t understand why this was happening to her. But she wanted to escape this nightmare, and so quickly raised herself to her feet and then found herself running around the outskirts of what appeared to be a small island, along the sandy shore. She ran away, just as the other Christine had, not wanting to stick around when confronted with a mirror image of herself.
Christine ran and she ran. She must have ran at least three kilometres before she collapsed on the sand in a heap. She was far away from the other two mirror versions of herself now and she was petrified of both of them. She broke down, just like the night where Jeffrey had revealed his adultery to her. Tears came cascading down the sides of her face. She made loud whimpering noises that couldn’t be controlled. She ran her hands through the golden sand and threw handfuls of the stuff in every which direction around her. Why was this happening to her? First, the terrible revelation and dissolution of her relationship and now this. Sucked up by some mysterious fog and transported to God knows where. It didn’t make any sense. Why was this happening? Where the hell was she? And who were those duplicate selves? She couldn’t stop the tears, the sobbing didn’t cease and Christine curled herself up into a ball. Curling one’s self up into a ball, that’s about all one could manage to do when faced with such extreme bizarre circumstances. She gently rocked back and forth in the sand. It was hot and humid and in amongst her grief, she found it easy enough to find sleep.
When she woke up it was night. The moon shone down upon the island and insects came out. Little mosquitos and other gnat like creatures. She didn’t know what to do? She had been terrified, damn near traumatized. She supposed it best that she go back to where the others were and see if they had any information that she didn’t. They did look like her, but they were probably just look alikes and not exact replicas. Dragging her feet, she started walking back to where she had come.
As she walked along the coast of the island, she took note of the scenery. It was a magical place, or would have been under any other circumstances. She noticed small animals lingering in amongst the vegetation that lay at the center of the island. Then a horrible thought struck her, what if there were predators? Things like tigers or wolves or something like that. Although she had been thinking about it, she decided it best to stick to the coastline and not venture off and into the wilderness of the island. Whatever lay within there, best not be explored at night. She walked back the three kilometres that she had spent running away from the terrifying visions of herself. When she came close enough, she spied a great fire that had been lit along the shore. Around the fire two figures stood, slowly placing more wood and driftwood onto the fire to ensure the blaze remained constant. At this sight she was glad to see.
When she approached the others from the darkness of night she realized that she hadn’t imagined the whole thing. The two figures were duplicates of each other and adding herself, she would be the third exact copy.
“Hello,” she called out to the other two figures.
The two figures turned from one another, and one of them turned to confront and address Christine as she made her reunion with the other two Christines. “Hey. We were wondering where you had gone? We were worried about you.”
“What about you two, are you alright?”
“Yeah, we’re both fine. We found out a few things.”
“Well, we’re all the same person. Or at least we were. We’re both exactly the same. Same memories, same experiences and same fucked up past.”
“Same fucked up past,” Christine questioned, “what does that mean?”
“The break-up with that cheating bastard Jeffrey!”
“Oh, yeah, right.” Christine answered to her two duplicates.
“Well, we aren’t the same. Or at least not anymore. I ran off into the wilderness…”
“And I stayed here on the beach writing a list of things in the sand, trying to figure out how we got here. What did you do?”
“I ran a few kilometres up along the shore and then cried myself to sleep.”
They both laughed, “That’s what we felt like doing. But we reunited pretty quickly and then realized that we had better do a few things so that we could survive.”
“Like what?” Christine asked.
“Like make this fire for a start, then we foraged around the island and found some coconuts and other little berries. We’ve got a stockpile, have some if you want, we all understand that when we stress out we like to eat.”
They all laughed, although Christine laughed nervously. Christine followed their instructions, saw the stockpile of berries and coconuts and started nibbling on the berries. “Thanks.”
“No problem. And just for further reference, you’re three.”
“Excuse me?” Christine asked.
“You’re ‘three’. I’m ‘two’, she’s ‘one’ and you’re ‘three’.”
“I see… Which one’s which?” Three questioned.
“’One’ stayed on the beach, and me, I’m ‘two’, ran into the center of the island.”
“What’s at the center of the island?” Three asked.
“There’s a small little lake with a creek…” Two answered.
“Good to know we have a source of fresh water.” One responded.
“I see…” Three said. For the rest of the time, as one and two discussed what they should do next, three sat there eating berries. ‘Why did this have to happen?’ Three thought, ‘None of this makes any sense.’ It was all so confusing. Three felt stressed out. The other two who had been busy all day, informed Three that they were both getting tired. They asked her if she could keep watch over them while they rested.
They handed her a big stick and said, “If anything comes along, hit it until it goes away.”
One and Two found themselves places next to the fire and began to sleep. Three stayed awake and stared at the fire as it burned. One and Two slept like babies with their watchful protector standing nearby. The thought entered Three’s head, it entered her head, but she didn’t act on it. She didn’t know who these people really were, if they were telling the truth or what was happening. She couldn’t make sense of it. Perhaps she should hit them both over the head with the stick in her hands before anything bad happened to her. She thought about it and then dismissed the idea when she remembered how they had offered her food straight away. It wasn’t that bad of a role, keeping watch at night. It was the role that the other two had assigned her without asking about her preference. But then again, she had spent the whole of the day sleeping, so she thought it only fair that she kept watch during the night.
Staring into the fire as Three did, it was a soothing experience, almost cathartic. It was helping her heal from all of the recent confusion and disorder that she had experienced. Still, everything around her remained her remained a mystery, but she was learning to carry on without having to have all the answers.
As she sat there, staring at the fire. She heard a rustling sound coming from the vegetation of the center of the island. She turned her eyes to scout along the area for any potential predators. There, lurking at the edges of the light that the fire provided was this large cat-like creature. She didn’t recognize the species. For all Three knew it could be just a giant feral creature. Who knew what the hell it was? It had black fur and it stared at One and Two as if eyeing of prey.
Three got to her feet. She didn’t know what to do, she couldn’t take a swing at this thing with the stick they had given her. This thing was bound to strike back if she did that. Instead of charging at the creature, Three quickly grabbed one of the sticks from the fire. It was half alight and half waiting to be burnt. She hurled the flaming stick like a javelin at the big black beast and luckily, that was enough. The thing ran away and scampered off into the night. One and Two hardly stirred from their slumber, they both must have worked hard throughout the day. All things considering, Three was handling all of the recent events very well, all three of them were. Everything that had happened was just so… bizarre.
The rest of the night passed by peacefully enough. Three watched the sun rise over the horizon of the surrounding ocean. Soon enough, One and Two were rising from their slumber and Three was growing tired.
“Anything happen throughout the night?” Two asked Three.
“Yeah, there was some sort of panther or something. If I hadn’t been here I’m sure the thing would have attacked you.”
One and Two were both shocked, “That’s lucky.”
“I have an idea.” One started, “If we’re going to survive and figure out what’s going on we better divide up different roles. There’s three of us and one of us has to keep watch during the night so that we’re all safe.”
“I agree.” Three stated, “And I guess that will be me. What will you two do?”
“One of us needs to find out what happened and how we get back to where we’re from.” One explained.
“Count me out on that. Everything that’s happening is just so god damned confusing.” Two stated.
“Okay, I guess I’ll do that sort of stuff then. Which leaves looking after and establishing camp to you Two.”
“Damn it, that’s the hardest one.” Two complained.
“They’re all hard.” Three retorted, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get some rest so I can keep watch at night.”
“Very well,” One said, “Let’s all do our thing.” And One clapped her hands signalling for everyone to get on with it.
They all went off and did their thing, day after day, night after night. Two started building a shelter and creating a food and water supply that was sustainable. She would hunt small ferrets, lizards and other animals that lived on the island. As well as fishing in the surrounding ocean with a spear. Three built up an arsenal of weaponry and at first was protecting them all throughout the night, until that was no longer necessary because Two had built a shelter that protected them. After that, Three went off into the night and started hunting the predators. She caught and killed one once, one of those big black cats, it was a great victory.
Meanwhile, One was attempting to try and figure out what had happened to them. Why there were three copies of themselves and what the hell that crazy patch of fog was. There were no breakthroughs or revelations until three years after their initial arrival, another three individuals appeared on the sandy shores of the island. Three exact copies of the same person, but this time, they were copies of a man.
Thirty-three years had passed. Which made all the Christines sixty-six years of age. In that time; eleven groups of three duplicates of a single individual had arrived on the isle. That was a total of thirty-three individuals. They all told the same or similar story. They had been out walking alone is some isolated place, it had become foggy, and this heavy cloud of fog buzzing with electricity had captured them and when they awoke, they woke up on this island and there were three identical versions of themselves. There were an equal amount of men and women that arrived every three years. When they arrived, they were all thirty-three years of age. And the most uncanny fact; leading up to their capture by the mysterious cloud of fog, they had all experienced some form of heartbreak from a long-term relationship that didn’t work out for various reasons. None of the individuals knew each other or had any prior knowledge of each other.
During those thirty-three years, a form of community and settlement had been established. They divided themselves up into three separate classes. There were the ones; who had the task of what had happened and a way to leave the island. During those thirty-three years they had developed seafaring skills as well as the building of several sea travelling vehicles. They went out on small expeditions in the surrounding area and they have found that there were no isles or islands in the local vicinity. There were the twos; who had developed log cottages as sleeping areas for all of the three different groups. They had also begun to farm and harvest local fruit and vegetables on the island and create a successful harvest to feed the population. They have also begun herding and breeding animals that resemble, but were not, deer and elk. Then there were the threes; the threes had eradicated all of the predators that could have been of harm to the community and had since established a form of law and order amongst the inhabitants of the isle. They all wore clothing, manufactured by the twos, with their identification numbers imprinted with charcoal on the material made of plant scraps. During those thirty-three years; nobody had died and only small illnesses and injuries had been suffered by the inhabitants of the isle. Because there was an equal amount of men and women on the isle, they got grouped up in pairs. Since they were all identical, there was no conflict involved in the pairing. The female ones paired with the male ones. The female twos paired with the male twos. And the female threes paired with the male threes. It was that simple and straightforward that everything worked in harmony. The groups stayed with their groups and they called each other by their original names. Only when two or more of the same individual were gathered at the same place did they need to differentiate with the identification of the number. It didn’t mean much at the start, but the Christines had noticed it. Depending on their different roles and allocations, they would all age differently. For example Christine Three focused on their athletic build up because it was a requisite of their role. Where as Christine Two became worse for wear for all the constant work that she had to do. And Christine One became plump and developed a more intellectual discipline for the work the Ones did. But all in all, everything was peaceful and harmonious in the community.
They were preparing for that time. When the new arrivals would appear on the sandy shores of the isle. They were assigned roles based on their position that they appeared at. Like when they disappeared, when they appeared a heavy fog would cover the isle and an incredibly heavy patch of it that flowed with electricity would deliver them there.
The new arrivals would be female. Their male partners would arrive three years after that. It was mysterious, when the fog arrived. Every one of the inhabitants of the isle would find themselves in a deep sleep. Nobody had ever successfully witnessed the true arrival of the new arrivals. The fog did that to people there, made them sleep like that. It didn’t make much sense to anybody, but the Ones were still trying to figure that sort of stuff out. They didn’t even know if they were on planet Earth anymore or what. That’s how little information they had.
When the three duplicates of the person arrived, it was discovered that they were all of the same person who went by the name of Fiona. Fiona was a divorcee who had been divorced by her husband on the grounds that she was barren. She could not have children. It was a heartbreaking situation for Fiona and she was an emotional mess. And now there were three of them.
They arrived like they always did. At one hundred and twenty degree angles, all facing each other where a circle could be drawn around them where their feet lay. All of the inhabitants of the island came to meet and greet the new arrivals. When they arrived, Christine One gave a welcoming speech.
“Welcome to the Isle of Heartbreak. We have so aptly named it this because if there’s one thing that we all share as a community, it is a history of heartbreak. Here, there will be no heartbreak. Only love and a warm welcome…” Christine One went on to explain the history of how they had all come there as different individuals stepped forward and shared their own stories. Welcoming one another and attempting to make the best of a confusing situation. Then the three different duplicates of Fiona were separated into their various ranks. Either among the Ones, Twos or Threes.
Fiona One, Two and Three settled into the community and their different roles like all the others had before them. They all continued on with their own lives and waited another three years before the next set of arrivals would appear.
Three years later that same mysterious fog enclosed the isle. Complete with a new set of duplicates. This time they were duplicates of an individual named Arie. Arie had spent his years trapped in a toxic relationship where he had to fulfil the desires and whims of his partner at every turn. There was the usual give and take situation. However, what Arie had experienced was far beyond that and the fact that his ex had left him for somebody else, only added to the ordeal. That was what had happened before the mysterious electrical fog cloud had found him. And now there were three of him. Three pissed off and embittered Aries. Taken away during a walk in a park on a foggy morning and delivered there, to the Isle of Heartbreak. When the three of him woke up, they woke up angry and confused, “What the fark is going on here!?”
It took some time before the inhabitants of the Isle could calm him down and explain things to him. That they were all as confused as each other, but they were all stuck in this bizarre situation and had to make the best of it. The three Aries were not settled by this information. What then occurred was that the three Fionas went and embraced each individual Arie. And each Arie cried like a baby in their bosom. The Fionas took their Aries away and explained, as best they could, what was happening and what had happened. Over time things settled.
Five months down the track, Christine Three had noticed that a situation had developed with Arie Two. Over time Arie Two had become quite unsettled with his assignment of being a Two. The other Twos had attempted to convince Arie Two that being a Two was the best number that you could be. But Arie Two remained unconvinced. He slowly began talking and integrating with the Ones. It started off with small conversations in his off time, what their life was like, what their duties were etcetera, etcetera… And then that’s when Christine noticed what Arie Two was really doing. He was seducing Fiona One and ignoring Fiona Two. He was seducing her with extra food supplies that had been harvested, ignoring the regular rationing system. Christine Three didn’t know what to do and it was difficult to figure out what Arie One was thinking during the whole fiasco. The situation climaxed when Arie Two and Fiona One were found engaged in sexual intercourse with one another. Upon this discovery Fiona Two found herself in such a degree of depression that she threw herself off of a cliff face, committing suicide. Arie One was silent and found solitude somewhere away from the others, buried deep in the vegetation of the isle.
Christine Three didn’t know what to do about the whole situation, so she held a trial before the inhabitants of the isle. Because the Threes weren’t involved, it was decided it best that both Fiona and Arie Three should sit in judgment of Arie Two and Fiona One for their act of adultery.
After a long period of deliberation, it was found that both Arie Two and Fiona One were guilty of the act of adultery and seeing as that someone had already committed suicide over the act, the punishment would be seen as death. The last act of defiance that Arie Two showed, at having been sentenced this way was to grab a hold of his crotch and address the crowd, “I like Ones.” There was a great uproar of rage at this declaration.
Just as Fiona Two had thrown herself off the cliff’s face to end her life, Arie Two and Fiona One were pushed off of the same cliff. Thus ending their lives.
For a period afterward, the Ones and Twos were never seen talking to each other. The Threes were attempting to smooth things over between the two parties, but they were having little luck. This ended when Arie One came back from hiding. He declared that he had spent the last thirty days in a deep trance, meditating and surviving off wild berries and rainwater. In his meditation, he was said to have discovered some things and at his reemergence, the people gathered around him and he gave a speech, “It is difficult to know why Arie Two did what he did. But I spent the past month, meditating underneath the palm of a Bodhi tree. And I discovered some things. It is true that Arie Two and I are the same person, or at least we were. And given the same circumstances, it is presumed that I too could have committed the same acts. For the same streak of jealousy that took possession of his soul and transformed him thus, also inhabits mine. I came to a point of delirium where it was revealed to me that there is something missing amongst this community. Something that recent events have shown that I have been chosen to fulfil this role. And that is the need for spiritual enlightenment and counselling. In this land that we now inhabit, we all face our own spiritual and moral dilemmas. Had such a position existed previously, I do not think such an event would have occurred. Fate has handed me the circumstances that I now face, without a partner. I put forth to you, the good people of the Isle of Heartbreak, that I should serve you in this way.”
There was a long silence among the people. And that was when Arie Three began to clap. Slowly at first, but then gathering much more momentum. Soon all of the inhabitants of the isle began clapping and cheering. For their own version of the savior had been delivered unto them.
Christine Three was now ninety-nine years of age. She was the oldest person on the Isle of Heartbreak and the other two Christines had already passed away. Christine Two had died of a heart attack four years ago and Christine One had been missing in action during a sea voyage that had presumably gone down in a storm twenty years ago. Many things had happened since the savior had come. For one; children were born. It had been undecided as to whether or not to allow people to breed, but Arie One declared that they required a younger generation to bring warmth and joy to the community. And so that’s what happened. All in all; a total of twenty-seven children had been born. Even when two duplicate couples had children, the children were never exactly identical. The three duplicates of people had never ceased arriving. Once every three years, three identical people would appear on the shores of the isle. A great Temple had been erected to facilitate the spiritual guidance of Arie One. Sometimes Christine Three didn’t know what to think about him, but when she saw the faces of the children, she understood that it was a good thing and he showed much wisdom. Christine Three’s partner had also died many years ago. It was like that, the men usually died before the women. The greatest thing to have happened was that they had discovered new land. Off to the south-west, a boat had been sent out to explore on an expedition housing three individuals. It was the second time such a thing had occurred. And this time they returned. That was seven years ago. They had found new land. It wasn’t an island, not even another isle… It seemed to be some sort of continent. It was then decided that they weren’t on Earth anymore, they were somewhere else entirely. That mysterious electrical fog had brought them all here and made duplicates of them for some reason. Nobody really knew ‘how’ or ‘why’ anything happened, they just had to live with ‘what’ was happening.
Christine Three was feeling old now; she could feel her life fading away. She had ceased any form of work years ago and now spent most of her time in conversation with Arie One. Every evening, before they all feasted, he would lead the inhabitants of the isle in meditation. It was a practice in which they would all clear their minds and imagine nothingness. He would give a speech to the people about the theistic possibilities of the existence that they all now led. That they could all be dead, lost spirits who were roaming the afterlife in search of peace and understanding. They could be the victims of some cosmic event that occurred throughout space and time. They could be some sort of an experiment conducted by a higher intelligence from another planet. They could somehow be part of God’s divine plan. The possibilities were endless. ‘Never-the-less’, he always asserted, ‘we’re here now and we all have to learn to live with it, so let’s all manage it and do the best we can.’
Another year passed and Christine Three had turned one hundred years of age. She was no longer capable of looking after herself and was looked after within the temple. Many of the sick and elderly went to the temple when they knew they were going to die. She lost control of her bowels at some point in time.
Arie One spent the days and nights by her side. With a bowl of water, he would moisten her forehead, bringing what relief he could to her ailing body. When she shat herself, he looked after that too. In her fits of delirium, he would stand by her side and slowly pull her back to reality. And for this, the reality that she came back to in her periods of clarity, she became even more confused.
One night, she looked upon Arie One. In a moment of unusual clarity, she began quietly mumbling to herself, “You poor, poor man. You poor, poor man.”
This gathered Arie One’s attention and he held her hand. Not hard, but his grip was firm. “Yes, dear Christine. I’m here, I’m here.”
“You poor, poor man. You poor, poor man.”
“Yes, Christine. Quiet now, do not worry yourself.”
Then in clarity their eyes met, “After everything you’ve been through. You above all others. How do you cope? You have been cursed and cursed again. How do you continue living?”
“I have often come into consideration of that myself, Christine,” Arie One explained, “When I am alone, I laugh. I laugh wholeheartedly, knowing one thing for certain. That all of this, this life and everything I see, hear, feel or touch is some sort of joke. It is a cruel joke, but is a joke none the less.” The words washed over Christine as she listened, hearing his voice, letting the words form some sort of understanding and bringing some peace to her soul. “People listen to me since I have suffered more harshly than most through my circumstances and the life I now lead and for that I have become wise. It is said that man laughs at what he cannot understand. There are points where I do understand, I understand wholeheartedly why these things occur. In those moments I remind myself to laugh because there are some things that I do not want to understand. We must always remember to laugh, to bring joy and pleasure to ourselves. For to understand is to be serious and grave in our concerns. If I were to admit to the cruel existence that I have come to lead, that we all lead in some way or another. I would not be able to laugh. And without that laughter I would not be able to survive. My laughter and my joy are what I like to think of as my heart attempting to piece itself back together again after it has been broken so many times. We must all remember to laugh, at ourselves, at what happens. We must not forget to laugh. For without laughter, we would all break under the weight of the full realization that is.”
When Arie One had finished, Christine Three was gone, she had ceased breathing at some point and now she was gone. ‘Whatever the truth is,’ he thought to himself, ‘she had come to it, and for having come to the answer, is the reason why she is no longer with us.’