After the workday wrapped up, I collected all of my things in my bag. Fishing rod, net, ax, shovel, slingshot, watering can, outfit wand, diving suit, and vaulting stick. Standard tools for island life. I wasn’t planning on doing anything when I got to the island, but it didn’t feel right to go back after all these years without the usual suspects. 

For the better part of the early pandemic back in 2020, I worked remote from the island. Nothing quite says isolated community bubble quite like a random island that needed to be cultivated. They asked me to name the place, which was weird, but who was I to say no to the honor. Named it Bicolano, after the same region of the Philippines that my mom was from. Ended up doing a lot more than naming it. For whatever reason I was also responsible for all urban development and even some terraforming.

I tried to keep the general layout of the island the same. Didn’t mess with the existing elevation too much. There was an existing island within the island though, and I did clean that up a little bit so my house would have a nice little plot of land. I tended to place for about year and then one day, I went back stateside and then… just never went back. It’s not like I didn’t like it, I just… didn’t feel like I needed it as much as those early days of isolation.

New Horizons

But after a few years, it’s hard not to be curious about the places you used to live. So, I booked a flight to the coast and called Redd to sneak me into the island.

I sheepishly met him at the docks little after midnight and went to the guest quarters and passed out. Few hours later, the gentle jousting of the boat woke me, and I stumbled to the surface.

“Hey cousin,” the sly fox greets as I emerged from the lower decks, “still a bit out.”

“Already awake cousin, might as well see the islands off in the distance.”

It’s hard to say exactly how many islands are contained in the New Horizons Archipelago. The higher range of estimates is somewhere around 44 million, and I stopped trying to make sense how that works out logistically a long time ago.

“It would have been much faster to take Dodo Airlines y’know.”

“And wake up everyone with their all-island announcement of an arrival? I just wanna check on a few things that’s all. No fuss, no nothing.”

“They miss you, y’know,” Redd retorted.

“Still not coming back to stay, cousin.”

The fox nodded and parked the boat on the north cove of the island. I gathered my things and under the cover of twilight made the way back to my house and once again fell asleep.

I woke up a little after 5 on a lazy Saturday afternoon. My hair was a mess as I stumbled out the front door to get terrible seasonal allergies and the like, but something about the flowers on the island didn’t trigger my hay fever. The bright colors were disorienting, so I went back into the house for a spell and saw it in proper lighting.

New Horizons

Despite not attending to the place in years, there is a surprising lack of cockroaches. I grabbed breakfast in the kitchen and went into my listening room and vibed to some good ole K.K. Slider. Used the restroom real quick and got a better look at the pastel-colored time capsule I re-entered. There were flowers. I don’t typically do flowers. Quickly ducked upstairs to check my emails and ducked down to make sure all my stuff was ready for when I left.

Afterwards, I checked the campsite out of habit. Who knows how many campers came by and left in my absence? Went to the unmarked tomb in the Northeast Corner of the island which may or may not have something to do with the Bicolano Spike Pit that I made.

The very clearly intended for a very different time and universe landmark was inspired by an episode of Castlevania, but I then wondered if Bicolano did actually have an aswang or manananggal problem that I had just forgotten. 

New Horizons

I quickly put the thought aside and worked down the west coast and saw the outdoor theater and pop-up restaurant still up and running. Walked down to the Malachite Littoral and saw that my tribute to the other game that got me through the pandemic was still standing.

The south beach carnival was still up and running. Made me remember the days of island hopping to my friends in the Archipelago and doing exchanges and yard sales. Finding the highest hill and making wishes on shooting stars. Tracking down Sahara and Celeste across the realms. Looked at my art exhibit that every traveler sees over the flyover and was still oddly proud at the sight.

New Horizons

Over on the east in the industrial district, Mabel’s was still standing, and the Museum kept my weird monument in the back. I purposely avoided the residential districts. As I looked at the current island map, I realized I didn’t even recognize all of the names of the residents, but I did figure I had to see one person.

Made my way, and there Puck was. Pink Penguin was still wearing his iconic blue hockey helmet and the jacket I got him ages ago. We talked for a while. I caught him up on things going on stateside, and he gladly proclaimed that things hadn’t really changed. He still played beach volleyball and travels to a nearby island for a hockey league. We both have our routes, our routines, our rituals.

“We worked hard to make sure we have a boring life,” we both uttered and laughed.

Puck looked at me with a knowingness in his eyes, “I’m glad you had this space when you needed it. And I’m glad you found a better space.”

I felt tears swell up, and Puck did me the favor and headed back into his house. He also let me know that the townsfolk still were doing upkeep on the mini-fun museum I constructed after the island had been rated five stars and my first house was rated S, just to have the space be a little fuller.

I headed back to my island within the island and made one last set of rounds. It was built like a home, but it was sparsely decorated. An exercise in simplicity. One last bit of self-expression. I lingered for a bit before calling Redd to take me back stateside, making a note to make a proper return to the pastel time capsule and thank folks properly for getting me through 2020 and some change. It’s tough to fit everything into a weekend trip, but at least I shook off the shock. 


  • Mikkel Snyder is a technical writer by day and pop culture curator and critic all other times.

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