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WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALT

oh man.  this week's collective storytelling assignment was a real challenge.

we were asked to pick a form of media we love -- television, book, movie, whatever -- and write a short piece of fan fiction about it.  i've never been part of the fan fiction world before, nor have i ever felt particularly inspired to write a piece of fan fiction.  i've always felt uncomfortable with adding my own perspective to a story that's been so well established in some other medium, which is why i thought that this assignment would be a good challenge for me.

it took me all of 2 minutes to figure out that i wanted to write a story about ABC's "LOST," one of my favorite television shows of all time.  the thing about "LOST," though, which was made even clearer after doing this week's reading, was that throughout my time watching it, i treated it as something to be spoiled rather than a world i wanted to explore.  99% of the time, it was about figuring out the answers to questions, guessing what the solution to the mystery was, and speculating about what the hell the writers thought they were doing.  it wasn't really about the plot (although that's what carried you through and was the device through which you found out what you needed to know); it was about unraveling the mystery of the island, which had been built up to an almost insurmountable level over the course of six seasons.  clearly, the writers couldn't solve ALL of the mysteries that they had put forth over the course of six years, and so many were disappointed when the series finale aired and their burning questions were left unanswered.

now that the show's over and i've had some time away from it, it's easier for me to see what i would have liked the writers to spend a little more time explaining.  one of the biggest things i was disappointed by was the character of walt, a series regular through seasons 1 and 2.  walt was a 10-year-old boy who crash landed on the island in 2004 with his father michael and the rest of the survivors of oceanic flight 815.  almost immediately, the writers jammed it down our throats that walt was "special."  everyone thought so -- walt's stepfather, who abandoned him after his mother's death because of these very qualities (forcing michael to bring walt back to the US and their presence on that fateful flight); john locke, one of the central characters of the series, who struck up a friendship with walt early on; and the island's native inhabitants, called "the others," whose kidnapping of walt was THE major cliffhanger at the end of season 1 (well, besides the tantalizing mystery of what was in the hatch).

walt's kidnapping, and michael's increasingly desperate search for him, was one of the central plot elements of season 2 and set the wheels in motion for what happened in season 3.  at the end of season 2, after killing, lying, and decieving the rest of the survivors in order to get his son back, michael succeeds in reuniting with walt, and the two of them head home in a motor boat.  the others claim that walt was "more than they bargained for" and seemed relieved, in a way, that he was leaving.

and then walt just kind of... disappeared.  he had minimal appearances through seasons 3 and 4.  michael came back, with a nice, redemptive storyline, but ultimately walt was just kind of left in the dust.  this was likely due to the fact that the child actor who played walt had hit a growth spurt, which made it difficult to reconcile his new height and deep voice with the fact that seasons 1-4 were supposed to take place within the span of four months' time.  walt did come back in seasons 5 and 6, where the plot lines allowed him to play an older version, but ultimately nothing about his "special" qualities was revealed -- hell, we still don't really know why the others wanted him in the first place.

i don't think my fanfic solves those issues, and i'm not sure i could have successfully done that even if i had tried to explain those things.  instead, i attempted to write a story bridging the events of seasons 4 and 5 -- where we see walt for a total of two scenes (three if you count his appearance as a hallucination) -- with the events of the "epilogue" to the series, a 12-minute short released to promote the DVD and blu-ray release of "LOST": the complete collection.  in the epilogue, walt is named the new "protector" of the island and is taken back to his true home by hurley and ben, but between then and season 5, he's ended up in a mental institution and seems to be seriously disillusioned by the idea of the island in general.  how did he go from hopeful and demanding that the truth about the island be told to dejected, sad, and willing to give it all up?

below, i've included 4 short scenes which encapsulate walt's "LOST" story.  after the videos is my fanfic.  i don't particularly think it's all that great, which gives me immense respect for those who spend time crafting out complex, thoughtful pieces inspired by worlds that they love.  it takes identifying with media as much, much more than just a "fan" to be able to do something like this well, and had i watched "LOST" for more than just the answers to my questions, maybe i would have been able to do this justice too.

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scene 1: "exodus, part 2," season 1 walt's kidnapping in the season 1 finale: a plot point that set the events of an entire season in motion.

scene 2: "there's no place like home," season 4 walt tracks down hurley in a mental institution and asks him to explain why the purported "survivors" of the crash (known worldwide as the "oceanic 6") are lying about what really happened on the island.

scene 3: "the life and death of jeremy bentham," season 5 john locke (under the alias of jeremy bentham) comes to visit walt in new york with the intention of asking him to return to the island.

scene 4: "the new man in charge," epilogue to season 6 / series finale (5:21 for an explanation of "room 23"; 7:47 for where the dialogue picks up after my story ends) LOST - Epilogue - The New Man In Charge [VOST|HQ] by addictomovie

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"You Have Work To Do" by Roopa Vasudevan

His eyes snapped open.  He took a deep breath in.

It took him a few minutes to figure out where he was.  At first he was confused by the darkness of the room, the constricting feeling of the sheets on his body.  He tried to calm himself down by controlling his breathing.  Slow down.  Slow down.

Sunlight streamed in through the curtains on the window.  He looked at the clock on his nightstand.  7:30 AM.  He slowly remembered that he was in the Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute, that he had checked himself in six months ago after running away from his grandmother’s house in New York.  He wondered how she was doing, if she had given up looking for him, but he couldn’t bear to get in touch with her.  The staff here all thought he had no living relatives.

He sat up in his bed.  He was still wearing his robe from last night.  He couldn’t be bothered to change his clothes at all these days.  He reached into his pocket, almost out of sheer habit, and pulled out a crumpled piece of newspaper. The clipping was tattered and worn, and looked like it might just disintegrate into thin air.  It was an obituary from a little over a year ago.

Jeremy Bentham’s obituary.

It was this obituary that had sent him to Santa Rosa for the first time when he initially heard the news.  He had begged and cried to his grandmother to let him come here to see a friend, someone he claimed could make him feel normal again.  His grandmother, who was worried about the attachment that he seemed to have for a complete stranger, refused at first.  But she had become troubled by his increasingly erratic behavior, and agreed, on the condition that she accompanied him.  She was desperate for things to go back to normal.

But the visit hadn’t solved any problems – on the contrary, they had just become worse.  He started seeing that dirty, bearded man’s face everywhere, the one who had taken him away from his father and the raft that they had hoped would lead to safety.  He began having more nightmares – psychedelic visions and loud, thumping music, and references to someone named “Jacob.”  He’d never known who Jacob was, but he’d heard his name often while he was held in captivity by the Others.  He knew his nightmares were actually flashbacks to Room 23 but he couldn’t talk to anyone about it.  No one would understand.

This morning, before he woke up, he’d had one of his recent recurring dreams – that Jack had died on the island.  Vincent, his long-lost yellow lab, was there too, lying dutifully by Jack’s side, almost as if he was keeping him company until he’d passed on.  But that was impossible.  Jack couldn’t have died, he was the one who had helped them all survive.  And besides, wasn’t he back in Los Angeles with the rest of them?  With Kate and Sayid and Sun?  And Hurley?

On the rare occasions that he was truly honest with himself, he would admit that he’d come to Santa Rosa half expecting Hurley to still be there.  He had wanted to feel that connection to someone else on the island since the minute he and his father had returned.  He had been deeply hurt when no one from the Oceanic Six had contacted him when they returned, so much so that when he read that obituary for the first time he made it a point to seek one of them out.  To demand that they explain to him why they were lying about what really happened.  To find out why John Locke had come to visit him only a few days before he killed himself.

He’d been relatively well-adjusted when Locke, under the alias of Jeremy Bentham, had come to see him in New York last year.  He was doing well in school and he had friends.  His father had disappeared, had stopped making any efforts to contact him.  Logically, he knew that this was because he’d completely shut his father out – and after what he did to get them off the island, who could blame him? – but he secretly hoped that his dad had actually gone back, was trying to do something to make amends.  And that one day, he’d get the chance to go back too.

His excitement at seeing Locke was short-lived.  When he got home that night, his grandmother asked him why he was so happy.  He made up something about winning a game of basketball at school, but he knew she wasn’t buying it.  She never asked any questions about what had happened after the plane from Australia had crashed, but she knew that both he and his father hadn’t told her the whole story, and she was always suspicious when things didn’t seem quite right.   He tried to tone it down until he could shut himself up in his room, alone, to think about what had just happened.

And it was then that he realized that the pieces weren’t quite falling into place.  Clearly Locke had gotten off the island too, but how?  And why had the Oceanic Six – people he had trusted, and relied on, and come to know – why had they lied about being the only survivors?  He had assumed, when they had first come back and they were all over the news, that the rest of their group had been attacked by the Others too, but Locke had said that everyone was still there, alive, and needed protecting.  “I have work to do,” he had said.  Locke had implied that his father was there too, which made his heart ache.  He’d had the strangest feeling that Locke was about to ask him to come back to the island, but had stopped himself.  If only he had known that that’s what he wanted, more than anything else in the world.

After he found out that Locke had died, he was crushed.  His visit to Hurley didn’t give him any answers.  Hurley insisted on being just as cryptic as Locke had been, and seemed to give off the impression that he would no longer accept any visits from him in the future.  A week after he and his grandmother returned to New York, someone in a black suit had come to the house, holding a box.  His grandmother later told him that his father had died a few months earlier in an accident while working on a merchant ship for a company called Widmore Industries in the Pacific.  He was going by the name “Kevin Johnson,” but they were able to identify him using his dental records.

His world shattered.  He refused to leave his room, eventually dropping out of school.  At first, his friends came by, trying to coax him out, but eventually they stopped when they realized that something had permanently changed in him.  He knew rumors were spreading but he didn’t care.  All he wanted was the truth.

His flashbacks to his time in captivity became stronger and more powerful, but he also started having visions of the island.  They plagued him all day and night.  He kept seeing Jack and Kate and Hurley and Sayid and Sun back there but couldn’t explain how they had returned.  He had visions about time travel, about something called the Dharma Initiative, about a nuclear warhead being detonated.  When the bomb went off in his mind, on a clear, sunny afternoon, the whole house shook.  His grandmother ran upstairs to see if he was okay, but she found him sitting on the edge of his bed, motionless.

He felt like he was going crazy.  People long ago had told him he was special, but he soon began to realize that “special” was just another word for “insane.”  He wondered if Hurley had realized that he was crazy too.  He needed to see him again.  And so, one night, he packed his things, left in the middle of the night, and hitchhiked to California.

And now, here he was.

A knock on the door snapped him out of his reverie.

“Keith?  Keith, it’s time to wake up,” came the cheerful woman’s voice from behind the door.

He didn’t move.  That wasn’t his real name, but she didn’t know that.  After a minute, he could hear her shoes walking away from his door and the knock on his neighbor’s, an old man named Leonard Simms.  Walt had never seen Leonard in person, just heard him screaming from his room.  All he ever said were six seemingly random numbers in a sequence, over and over again.  This morning, though, Leonard was quiet, and he listened to the nurse walk down the halls until he couldn’t hear her footsteps any longer.

He slowly got up from his bed and wandered into the lounge, the same lounge where he had visited Hurley back when he still hoped he could find out what had happened to everyone else on the plane.  Hurley wasn’t here when he checked in, though.  He knew that was bound to happen but couldn’t help but be disappointed.  He wondered if Hurley had gotten better, if he was able to lead a normal life now.

He sat down at the same table where he had been the night before.  The Connect Four pieces were still where they had left them last night.  He’d looked for backgammon on his first day there, but the board was broken in half and most of the pieces were missing.  Backgammon reminded him of Locke, of that very first day on the island where they had played together on the beach.  Locke had told him about a miracle then, but he’d given up on hoping for any miracles now.

He gathered the checkers into a pile and started playing putting them into the board, in no particular order, letting them fall when he ran out of pieces and starting all over again.  He did this every day, from morning to night, stopping only to eat while staring blankly into space.  The clacking sound of the checkers was soothing.  It was a rhythm, something that made sense to him when nothing else in his life did.

A nurse came by and tapped him on the shoulder.  “You have a visitor, Keith,” she said.  “He gave me this note.”

His arm, in the middle of putting a red checker in the fourth row of the board, stiffened.  She put the note by his board.  He didn’t open it.

“Should I let him in?” she asked after a few seconds of silence, touching him gently on the shoulder.

He didn’t say or do anything for a little while.

Then he nodded, almost imperceptibly, without looking up.  He heard her walk away.  He dropped the checker into the slot on the board and picked up his rhythm again.  It has to be a mistake, he thought.  No one knows I’m here.  But deep down, in the corner of his heart that he thought had been closed off a long time ago, he felt a rush of excitement. Someone came, he caught himself thinking.  Someone finally came.

But the minutes passed, and the nurse didn’t come back with a visitor.  His heart sank.  He had known it was too good to be true.  He didn’t dare touch the note, because he knew it was probably meant for someone else, some other Keith Johnson who had family and friends who cared about him and was in a mental hospital for something else.

Fighting back tears, he tried to focus on the checkers.  There was a buzzing in his head that he couldn’t tune out.  The only thing that broke it was the clacking.  Clack.  Clack.

Suddenly, a voice cut through the fog.  A voice he hadn’t heard in almost seven years.  A voice that still sent shivers down his spine whenever it woke him up in the middle of the night.

“Hello, Walt,” it said.

He froze upon hearing his real name for the first time since he had left home.  His breath stopped short.  As much as that voice terrified him, he felt himself hope that his mind wasn’t playing tricks on him, that it belonged to the man who had kidnapped him all those years ago.

Slowly, he turned his head to face its owner.

Ben Linus stood next to him, and looked him right in the eye.