You betrayed me, didn’t you? Sold our burgeoning bond down the river because the benefits of cowardly collaboration seemed brighter, easier, more attractive; because agreeing with, and then becoming, the enemy stroked your ego more effectively, or something…
In truth, at the time, I had no idea why you’d turned traitor. In the end, it was enough that you had. All that was left, in those post-rescue days, was surmise based upon my understanding of your character and, in particular, your need to be Top Dog and centre of everything, both of which I had, inadvertently, threatened by telling the truth, being myself and being chosen.
The problem was not the taking of sides in our big group friendship spat, was it? Not really. That was just an excuse to make you look good because, you see, I had, without meaning to, tarnished the framed and perfect picture you kept of yourself, always prominently displayed so that all could see. I had, without even realising it, made you feel lesser: Less handsome, less talented and, above all, less powerful.
Your betrayal was treachery waiting for the right moment: A Rogue panther pacing outside the village for sight of vulnerability, age, isolation or illness in order to strike and kill. Your vanity, your overweening sense of perfection and entitlement made you a dangerous animal, man-killer in potentia.
You had the Choir. You had the superior height and strength. You had the adulation. You were used to being admired by all. Your ability to sing top C was, for you – and the others – the hugest of big deals, though, in the stark reality of fire and murder, it counted for nothing.
‘Murder?’ I hear you say, your bell-like tones, still shy of the bigger carillon that was adolescence, a harmony of surprised affront. But then we all tried to deny it, didn’t we, even as the sticks shattered his tiny body, and blood, mingling with the engulfing phosphorescence of eventide, bathed him in ominous sunset shades.Made out that he’d asked for it, didn’t we? That it was dark; that we were in terror of the Beast; that he was a loony…
Even Piggy climbed on that sickeningly rocking band-wagon and tried to squirm his way out.
But that was later. Much later. Horrifically, homicidally much later.
You betrayed me for one reason alone: I was chosen to be Chief and you were not. It was that simple – and, in the end, that deadly. We were both little boys back then. For all that we felt as old and experienced as true warriors, we had not yet reached our teens. Yet we were the two oldest. Supposedly the two most responsible, sensible, mature.
We could have been friends. Trembled on the lip of it briefly. But jealousy was too strong for you, wasn’t it, Jack? Expectation and disappointed dominance poisoned you and, in the end, you sold out to Roger’s sadistic savagery and Narcissistic rage. You allowed him to infiltrate all the layers of sense and good breeding and natural authority and turn you into a tyrant. You hearkened to his devilish whispers, his inarticulate hints, his out-and-out lies, his perverted world-view and his terrifying, brooding presence.
Were you, brave Jack, scared of him at some level? You should have been. We all should. What happened on that desert island was everybody’s responsibility; I am quite clear about that – but the deranged madman Roger turned into, the bloody trails he left behind him, came from what he was as much as what he experienced. Otherwise we would all be locked up in maximum security cells, wouldn’t we?
You ‘bent with the remover to remove’, as Shakespeare once put it in a sonnet. You sold your boyish soul for the specious gold that is power, peer-group admiration and control.
We are old men now, those of us who survived – and so, whether this letter ever reaches you or not, Merridew, I am going to force the issue: Make you look at something you have, I am certain, denied for the rest of your life thus far. Very simple and sad: There was a reason why the other boys chose me as Chief and, conversely, a reason why you were not chosen. It was not about popularity, good looks, talent or leadership qualities; it was about fairness and humanity, qualities I did not see, at twelve, that I possessed in abundance. Qualities you – for all your privileged background, good schooling and vast potential – lacked. It was about empathy – which, as young lads, we all fought shy of, but which was just beginning to grow in some of our hearts. It was about seeing the ugly, the fat, the epileptic, the strange as fellow human beings and not freaks or monsters.
It was about seeing past the revolting Pig’s head, our offering to the Beast which only ever existed in our own hearts and souls – and into the darkness which so clogs up the emotional arteries of mankind.
Yes, Jack, you betrayed me, taunted me, chased me, took away all support other than Piggy, Simon and the Twins; you tried to kill me and would have succeeded too but for the happy accident of the Navy arriving when they did.
Traitor. Not because I was your enemy. Not because I had injured you. But because of vanity and selfishness and the need to keep the image intact, to be admired by all, to usurp me and prove that you had what it takes to be Chief and I was but a pathetic pretender.
Ironically, I have traced you through the modern technology and can see images of the old man you now are. Wealth protected you, didn’t it? Family connections ensured your success in life. But now, in your seventies, you resemble a great fat slug, self-satisfaction and arrogance seeping out of your hide like grease. You are half the man Piggy would have been. You are dull and unconvincing in comparison to the brightly unique man Simon would have become.
Your bullying, your betrayal, your murderous actions did not, ultimately, show you to be the brave Chieftain figure you thought yourself to be. By the end, you were just a little boy, clumsily daubed with laughable ‘war-paint’, weeping and shivering in front of pristinely-dressed adults.
You proved nothing, Jack, and gained even less. Perhaps you should have paid heed to the Biblical tale of Judas – and realised that betrayal is never worth the silver you are given, and has a tendency to end badly for the traitor.
You willingly collaborated with the dark and depraved demons of the worst of humanity. No one forced you. It was your choice. You betrayed to curry favour.
Maybe you thought that changing your name, and tinkering with your appearance, would protect you! Instead, both have made you ludicrous.
You see, I know you, Jack – and no physical changes can hide the treacherous little soul you were back then and, by the looks of it, still are.