Stranded

Short Stories Aug 08, 2019

 Staring out across the vast ocean, I ponder for the thousandth time my fate. This island in the middle of nowhere has been my home for the past seven months now, and the end is nowhere near to being in sight. When I was first shipwrecked here in the midst of the most terrible storm I have ever witnessed, I anticipated that it would take every fibre in my body to survive. But never once did I anticipate the sheer amount of will it would take to keep going. I was naïve then, a mere boy. Now I am a man.

 I lean back a little more, pick up a fistful of sand and watch the grains slip through my clenched palm and fall back to the shore. Seven months. Seven months of hell, and I am still here. When I came here, I did not know how to light a fire without matchsticks. Now, matchsticks seem a luxury.

 I remember roasting my first kill over the fire. It was a squirrel, innocent and defenceless. I did not want to break its neck, and drowned in self-recrimination when I did, but I would have starved otherwise. I was in tears while chewing on the horrible-tasting meat.

 But my worst experience on this island came when I was here for four months already. I never strayed far from my established base a little way into the shore, until one day, curiosity got the better of me.

 They spoke a different language, and I could understand not a single word, but I did not need to. I knew that they were debating whether to kill me or not. They were dressed scantily, in brown, soiled, rugged garments. The woman stayed in their huts while the men sat around me in a circle, talking among themselves. I was bound with rope. While talking, one of them gazed over in my direction for a few seconds, and then threw a stone at me.

 Spraying sand into the air, I recall the hut that they kept me in that night while they continued their discussion. It smelled of urine and faeces, and was completely bare. In the middle of the night, when I finally broke down into tears over my impending execution, one of them broke in and freed me. He explained to me, in halting and heavily accented English, that the elders had decided to behead me the next morning, and I needed to get out of there as soon as possible. He waved aside my gratitude, and helped me escape. I never got his name; I simply call him Joe.

 I have survived all of that, survived never-ending rain, scorching heat, wild fauna, and for what?

 Help is not coming, I know that much. If it were to come, it would have come by now. I am destined to rot on this godforsaken island for the rest of my life. The ocean is right in front of me. People drown all the time. No need to fight anymore. Just drift away. Peace.

 That’s when I see it, and my heart aches with regret. A dog, skinny and mangy, limping on the shore. It stops and lowers its head to the ground. A second later, it raises its head again and munches on what it just found. Looking at me for a second, it freezes, then limps away.

 If that dog can fight, if it can survive, then I can too. I feel ashamed for even thinking of giving up. That is not an option. It is never an option.

 Standing up, I dust myself off and mentally ready myself for another day of scavenging and scrounging, another day of grumbling stomachs and aching muscles. One day, I will be back home. One day, all of this will be over.

 And just then, out on the horizon, I see a speck. Running excitedly back to my makeshift camp, I take my binoculars and return to the shore. As soon as I bring them to my eyes, a smile crosses my face.

 It is a ship.

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