“Off there to the right--somewhere--is a large island,” said Whitney, leaning over the rail of the ship.
Whitney stared across the sea as memories clouded over her. She recalled her partner’s disappearance all those years ago. It had been so sudden. They had found that he had disappeared in the morning, thinking that he had surely drowned. Whitney didn’t believe it though. A skilled hunter and survivor such as he, wouldn’t have just drowned. With nothing but a gut feeling, Whitney sailed smoothly, drawing nearer to the place where she’d last seen him.
“It’s rather a mystery.” she said to herself. “The old charts call it ‘Ship-Trap Island’. A suggestive name, isn't it? Sailors have a curious dread of the place. I don't know why. It’s probably just some superstition.”
The ship continued to sail. Rain started pouring, first a slow trickle, then thundering dangerously. Whitney, gazing toward the sea, was vaguely aware of her crew trying to get below deck. With sudden jerks, the ship started gradually turning with a mind of its own. Several crew members began shouting at her to get down, and she gave in. She protected herself from the rain the best that she could and ran to the opening of light. In the small room, the crew huddled closer together to make space for others. There were only a few people still above, tying down what luggage might fly off.
No one made a sound. The crew’s nerves were already jumpy, and the storm wasn’t helping. The remaining crew members came inside, shivering from the intense storm. Every few minutes what little light they had would flicker, and no one dared to interrupt the storm’s wrath. It went on like this for what Whitney thought felt like forever. She didn’t know why, but she found the sounds of the storm somewhat calming. Unable to keep her eyes open any longer, she sat down and welcomed the bliss of sleep. She didn’t hear the few repetitive gun shots that rang out that night.
At daybreak Whitney woke. The first thing she noticed was that the small room had been abandoned. It was surprising that being as loud as they are, the crew hadn’t woken her, even if unintentionally. Whitney got up, her hair a tangled mess, and hurried above deck. A loud ruckus sounded amongst the sailors, and when Whitney took a second to look, she deemed it easy to see why.
There at the front of the ship, was a large rock that had pierced through the metal material. That, along with several smaller rocks enclosing the vessel within its grip, ensured that no one would be able to use it again. The ship’s front had completely shattered against the razor edged rocks. It had been crushed as easily as one could crush a walnut.
As the sailors continued shouting amongst themselves, Whitney took the time to analyze where exactly they were, as any proper hunter should. She noticed the dense jungle that came down to the very edge of cliffs. It was quite lucky that they were near a shore. It would be very hard to climb the towering cliffs. Whitney realized that they had two choices to get to land: climb through the sharp rocks, or swim. Seeing what the rocks had done to their ship, Whitney chose the latter.
“Alright, we all have to swim if we are to make it to the island!” Whitney cried out, her voice unwavering with confidence.
She was immediately met with a series of protests.
“Swim? Are you out of your mind?”
“We need to fix the ship!”
“Who knows what dangers lie ahead on that island?”
How naive the sailors were. What would they know about survival? Whitney pitied their lack of understanding the situation. She tried to tell them once again that if anyone wanted to live, they had to get to the island. “Look, the ship is crushed, and unless anyone here can bend metal to reform it, it is never going to properly run again.” she spoke patiently. “Our only hope to live through this is to swim to the island. It’s only a short distance, so everyone should make it.”
This time, the crew wore expressions of guilt. They knew that Whitney was right, but without admitting it, they all feared the island. They all were thinking the same thing; no good would come if they went there.
With Whitney leading the way, everyone made it safely to the shore. It wasn’t a long distance of swimming, but they were tired nonetheless. The tides resisted them the whole way, causing each stroke to feel like a challenge. Everyone took a moment to relax and calm their nerves. Then they were back up.
Noticing the bend of a twig and some crushed blades of grass, Whitney knew there must be people on the island, it couldn’t be deserted. Animals wouldn’t make such precise tracks. She led the crew through the dense vegetation. Like a detective, she never missed a clue.
It didn’t take long for the group to reach a small clearing. The space would be great for setting up camp, if they actually had the proper materials for that. The crew waited impatiently for Whitney to lead them on, but she had stopped. A thin trail of smoke could be seen wandering above the trees. Whitney pointed upward, and the sailors saw what had made her stop. Whitney gave a short nod, and the group started moving in the smoke’s direction. The smoke led them to an enormous building that emitted many lights. Maybe someone there would help them.
Whitney opened the tall spiked iron gate and stepped through, the rest of the group followed closely behind. They walked up stone steps to the massive door with a leering gargoyle for a knocker. Whitney picked up the knocker, and let it fall. Everyone flinched at the booming loudness that had startled them. Then, all was silent. They waited a moment, but the door never opened. Whitney again brought the knocker up and let it fall. This time, the door opened instantly. The man who now stood in the doorway was someone whom Whiney had never thought she’d see again.
“Rainsford.” Whitney spoke as low as a whisper.
The man met her gaze and gave a small smile. “Hello Whitney.”
The man had many resources and servants to assist him. He had gotten the crew clean clothes, and then sent them to a large room so they could get settled. Once he and Whitney were alone, they sat at the table, and after ordering drinks, the man jumped into a story. Rainsford told Whitney how he had first come to the island seeking sanctuary after falling into the ocean, and how he met a man named General Zaroff, who at first seemed decent, until he had implied to him that he hunts humans. Then he told Whitney about how the General had made them hunt together as a sort of game, and how in the end, Rainsford had won. Whitney listened thoughtfully until he had finished the story. She couldn’t believe that her friend had lived and what he’d gone through. She was glad that Rainsford had killed the General. Sure, as a hunter she could understand the excitement of hunting animals, but killing people? That was monstrosity.
“Why haven’t you left the island?” she asked. “Why not come back?”
“Because I’m no better than the General,” Rainsford responded. Whitney looked him in the eyes and now noticed an icieness in his gaze that she had never seen in her friend before. She was talking to a murderer. Of course the man he had killed deserved to die for what he had done, but Rainsford had still taken the life of a person. She knew not to doubt that Rainsford’s words were true. “After killing the General, I had a sense of satisfaction of winning the challenge. After that, I hunted with the remaining captives on the island, and by then, I was addicted to the thrill of this kind of hunt. Although I hated the General, I can understand his reasoning. He only wanted an animal that could reason like him, as I now do as well. Yet, no animal can reason.”
This was not the Rainsford that Whitney knew. This man had lost all his feelings long ago. Trying to find him was a huge mistake. “Rainsford, I wish to take the crew and leave this island at once.” Whitney said firmly.
Rainsford seemed hurt by her words. “Join me, Whitney.” he said. “We can be hunting partners as we once have been all those years ago. I can’t control the need to play the game with those that end up on this island, but if you join me I can assure that you won’t get hurt.”
“No. I wouldn’t ever want to kill humans for fun.” Whitney replied sternly.
“Then you shall play the game as the sailors shall” Rainsford said as he laid back in his chair. “We shall play with the General’s rules. You all will get a three hour head start, and I will supply you with hunting clothes, food, and a hunting knife, while I’ll hunt only armed with a pistol of the smallest caliber and range. If you elude me for three days, then you win the game, and I’ll let you leave the island. You’ll go last of course. Our hunt will be most interesting.”
Whitney was at a loss for words. Her old partner was completely serious. “And what if one refuses to hunt?” she eventually asked.
“Given the other option, invariably they choose the hunt.” he said. Whitney didn’t question. She didn’t want to know what could be worse than playing a game of murder. “I’ll begin the games tonight, for I haven’t had a proper hunt in over a week. I hope you have a good night’s rest.”
Whitney was dismissed to go to a bedroom. She was vaguely aware of the comfortable bed and how tired she was. She couldn’t stop thinking about what her friend had turned into. Which sailor would have to hunt with him tonight? She lay, with her eyes wide open. It took a while, but she eventually fell asleep.
Meanwhile, Rainsford picked a person from the group to hunt with him that night. The sailor didn’t make it to the next morning.
A servant came in when Whitney woke up, and left after leading her to a different room. The rest of the crew was already there standing around. When they saw her, a look of hopefulness crossed their faces. Whitney walked up to them and noticed that one of the original twelve sailors wasn’t there. After asking one of the other sailors about it, she learned that Rainsford had taken him late last night and he hadn’t returned. Whitney felt bad for him and the rest of the sailors. They knew nothing about hunting, and she doubted any of them would make it through a hunt with Rainsford.
The room looked like it was meant for training. There were several different kinds of weapons, mostly hunting knives, that filled the large room. Of course, all of the weapons in that room couldn’t actually hurt anyone though. The knives were too dull to create any serious injuries, and the few guns that were in the room didn’t contain real bullets. Rainsford wasn’t going to let them get any ideas about escaping.
There were also trapping tools. Whitney knew that there would be little chance of getting within a close distance of Rainsford with a knife, while he had a pistol. If they had any chance of surviving, it would be wise to catch Rainsford off guard with a trap.
Whitney began teaching the sailors how to set different traps. The sailors learned quickly, and then practiced setting them up. It went on like this for about a week as the sailors learned what Whitney taught them.
Rainsford came in several times throughout that week to take one of them to play his game. Whitney felt proud of them each time one of them would bravely walk out. Surely they had to know that Rainsford was leading them to their deaths, but although the crew didn’t know much about hunting, they all had honor. However, none of them lasted much longer than a day.
“I must keep my nerve. I must keep my nerve.” spoke Whitney. She used to think that it was funny how Rainsford used to mumble those words under his breath when they went hunting. She had at first thought that he had been scared of the hunt, but then realized that it was probably much deeper than that. She still didn’t know why he’d say that, but as for right now, saying those words was helping her. She made a promise to herself that no matter what, she would not become a heartless killer like him.
Rainsford had just taken the last sailor to play his game. After him, Whitney would be next. She tried to believe that the few traps she had taught the sailors to make had helped at least a bit, although it wasn’t likely. Whitney had taken years to accomplish her skill, the crew, however, got to train for no longer than two weeks. There was no way they’d been able to hold out for long.
Three hours passed. It couldn’t be long until the ever so familiar gunshots would ring out. Whitney tried to make a plan. Rainsford was as good a hunter as she, maybe even better, so she knew that one on one combat wasn’t likely, especially because he would have a pistol. It was also unlikely that Rainsford would fall for any trap she could make, being that Rainsford had learned all of them with her. Whitney had to catch him off guard. Although Whitney hated to admit it, she had to defeat her old friend just as Rainsford had defeated the General. She couldn’t let his killings go on.
Whitney ran to the door of the training room and tried to open it. As usual, it was locked. She got the few pieces of wire she always kept from her shoe, she had never used it in the room before because she hadn’t seen reason to. Now she did. She kneeled next to the door and fit the wires in at an angle. It took her less than a minute to get the door open. She grabbed a hunting knife and ran out without a moment of hesitation and was surprised that there were no servants walking the halls. They probably had better things to do, or maybe it was a day off. Whitney couldn’t recall what day it was.
Whitney was almost out to the jungle when she heard the gunshots. The last sailor was killed. She had to hurry if she wanted the element of surprise on her side. The shot sounded near, so she hurried in that direction. Rainsford saw her first.
“Hello, Whitney. I have been waiting for this.” he spoke, a slow smile creasing across his face.
They fought. Whitney knew that Rainsford had many chances to finish her, and yet he didn’t. She clubbed his head with the bottom of the knife, and Rainsford, shocked from the blow, fell back. The strike was too light to knock him out, but it left a cut to the right side of his forehead. Whitney hovered the knife above his chest. Nonetheless, he flashed a lopsided grin at Whitney.“You wouldn’t really kill me, friend. That would make you no better than I.”
Whitney closed her eyes, and struck down.
She watched as crimson red stained his shirt. Rainsford’s eyes glazed over. It didn’t take long for his heartbeat to cease.
Whitney picked up the knife, and began walking back to the house. She felt wonderful for the win.
As Whitney walked, The Ghost of General Zaroff watched. He smiled ominously, and as he hummed a snatch of song from the Folies Bergere, he disappeared.
Author Notes: As the name suggested, I wrote this story as a sequel to the story by Richard Connell, titled The Most Dangerous Game. Although the ending to the original story did little to suggest any of what I wrote, I thought that this interpretation would be interesting. If wanted, here's the link to the original story.