Sometimes Charlie felt as if his life – surreal as it was to begin with – had become part of some weird fantasy since the crash. The island was a world so strange that the word ‘normal’ lost any anchor in reality. And coming from someone who still woke up craving the sweet release of smack shooting through his body, that was saying a lot.
It had gotten to the point where Charlie felt that nothing could surprise him anymore, no matter how out of the blue it came. After all, nothing could be more surprising than saying farewell to the world, only to find out – very painfully – that one was still alive after all. He still woke up every morning slightly surprised that he was there to see it, and not quite sure whether to be glad about it.
Usually he then looked over to where Claire was resting, moving fitfully as she tried to find a position her heavy body would find agreeable. As always Charlie wondered whether this would be the day that her child was finally born, and whether he would be allowed to stay with her while it happened. The tenderness he felt for Claire still surprised him – it was the last thing he had expected to happen to him, this caring for someone else to such an extent that one was willing to do just about anything for them. It was just another proof that everything was slightly askew on this island.
Another one was the smile on Jack’s face and the way he nodded at him when Charlie approached the pool to wash up. Charlie had never been one to get along with the leader – he had always been the one in the back, ignored except when being patted patronizingly on the head. But ever since that day, the day Charlie shot Ethan to protect Claire, the look in Jack’s eyes had changed. All of them looked at him differently now, all the castaways, but especially the group of people that everyone looked to for leadership – Jack, Sayid, Kate; even Sawyer, in his strange Sawyer-esque way.
Only Locke behaved much the same, but then he had been an anomaly from the start. Joining him to help out with the traps he was building, Charlie could never help but wonder why this strange, bald man could look at him and recognize exactly what Charlie was capable of. Even better than Charlie himself, although Charlie felt that he was slowly beginning to see his own strengths along with his weaknesses. It made spending time with Locke – and Boone, who these days was never far away from where Locke was, reminding Charlie of nothing more than a faithful dog, a bit like Charlie himself not too long ago – a slightly unsettling experience.
He was much more comfortable with Hurley. Everyone was, as a matter of fact. In a very real sense, the large man had become the one everyone relied on for emotional support. Charlie basically just enjoyed fishing with him, because although they never caught much, it was the closest to normal he could get. A lot of the other castaways were not exactly easy to get along with, but with Hurley one could always count on having a laugh. This did not just feel good – it felt absolutely necessary.
It was strange what things had become absolutely essential for Charlie on the island. Everyone was forever putting their nose in his business, even Sayid, whose self-contained manner and confidence intimidated Charlie. Yet, as he opened coconuts with the movements he had perfected in long brooding afternoons, grateful to be alone for a change, he knew that without them he’d have been long dead already.
Even when they were as annoying as Shannon trying her best to seduce Sayid while pointedly ignoring Boone ignoring her as everyone gathered around the fire in the evening. Charlie carried some of Jin’s fish from the fire over to where Claire was waiting for him.
This had been a relatively sane day, a rare occurrence – probably because Sawyer and Kate had been gone from the camp again, doing whatever it was they were doing when alone, and hopefully attracting whatever weirdness the island was holding in store for the castaways. Charlie could see Jack check the dark forest repeatedly, as if he could make them – or rather Kate – return faster that way. It was amusing, in a slightly annoying way.
Charlie shook his head, wished Claire a good night, and turned his back on the others. He was not quite sure at which moment he had agreed to follow the White Rabbit, but for today he had had just about enough of the world down the rabbit hole. It would still be there tomorrow, after all.