Stranded- By Michael Saunders

                 The last thing Allison remembered before waking up on this deserted beach was the cold water forcibly knocking her off her boat, her husband crying out her name- his hand barely out of her reach. It was a stormy night to be sure, but it was nothing they hadn’t dealt with before. The two of them were just coming back from a fishing trip- Jackson had been suggesting they go for months, once the cold weather started to break. They had gotten up early in the morning and headed out, driving an hour to the nearest harbor where they were able to set sail. It was a calm morning, but with nothing biting as the day went on, it turned from a fishing trip into a romantic date night out under the stars. They planned on spending the night, just enjoying the night sky, the cool breeze gently rocking their boat, when they were awoken in the middle of the night to their radio- blaring. “This is your coastal guard speaking. We have detected a sudden typhoon off the southern coast, and are requesting all fishermen bring their boats in for the night. I repeat, we have detected a sudden typhoon off the southern coast. Please bring your boats into the harbor for your own safety.” Jackson shot up out of their tiny makeshift bed below deck, Allison being awoken by the sudden ruckus as Jackson thundered up the stairs and towards the helm. Allison groggily got out of bed and headed above deck, attempting to figure out what was going on. Then she heard the radio say once more- “This is your coastal guard speaking. We have detected a sudden typhoon off the southern coast, and are requesting all fishermen bring their boats in for the night.” She felt a shiver run down her spine, as goosebumps began appearing along her arms. She looked over to Jackson for reassurance, instead finding only panic and worry consuming his face.

               With a quick twist of the key, “Paradise Adrift” roared to life, Jackson quickly spinning the wheel as they hightailed it back towards shore. “We’re going to be okay” he said, turning back to Allison, smiling as best he could to mask the fear. Allison smiled back, nodding, but she could tell the anxiousness in his eyes; she could feel it too. Things seemed alright at first, but as they got closer and closer to the harbor, that’s when the storm hit. It felt like it came almost out of thin air; one moment all was calm, the next… the ocean was filled with anger and hatred. The waves slammed into the boat, seeming to get larger and larger. The boat was rocked violently back and forth, the water never stopping its onslaught for even a moment to give the two of them a moment to breathe. To think. “Allison, watch out! Get away from the edge!” She had been thrown to one side of the boat, but had managed to steady herself on the railing just as she heard Jackson call out to her. She looked at him, watching as he sprinted towards her, desperately, just as a wave, larger than its siblings slammed into the boat. Losing her balance, Allison fell overboard, watching her husband reach his hand desperately towards her as she lost vision of him and their boat, crashing into the dark water below.

             As Allison sunk lower and lower, only one thought crossed her mind “AIR. I need AIR.” She felt the current pull her body back and forth as if she were nothing but a ragdoll; the air being ripped from her lungs as she was thrown around… helpless. Deep in the depths, all directions blending together and warping into an abyss of darkness, Allison began panicking, the last breaths of air barely being held behind her tightly sealed lips. She felt her heart beating faster and faster in her chest, her eyes darting every which way to find some semblance of the world above, until- FINALLY- she caught a very faint glimpse of the moon. It wasn’t much, and only appeared for an instant, but it was enough. Allison instinctively began swimming in that direction, her arms feeling heavier and heavier- her body begging for oxygen. Suddenly she broke the surface of the water, the freezing air slapping her in the face, as she gasped for air. All she could taste was the salt of the water, her eyes darting around, desperately looking for her husband. Allison’s legs kicked desperately back and forth as she attempted to stay afloat, but again and again she was forced under the water by powerful waves, her body becoming weaker and weaker, until her consciousness faded into nothingness at last.

              Sitting up, feeling the cool sand underneath her, Allison dazedly looked around; her head was pounding, but at least she was alive. The beach seemed to span as far as her eyes could see, and the water- now quite calm- casually flowed up and down the sandy beach, licking her feet as she sat there. Allison watched in silence as a crab walked along the shoreline, stopping briefly to stare in awe at this giant before it- before scuttling off to continue its exploration. Slowly, Allison rose off the ground, knowing that she needed to investigate this unknown land; if she just sat here she was going to die. She walked along the edge of the beach at first, but it became clear quite quickly that she was on an island- the beach wrapped around itself, with no islands, boats, or any other forms of human life for that matter, anywhere. Turning around, the cool breeze from the ocean blowing lightly on her back, Allison faced the dense forest ahead of her. She had to investigate. She didn’t have anything with her- she was still wearing her pajamas from the boat, now slightly ripped from her time as a ragdoll in the ocean currents- which meant she had no way of contacting the outside world. Taking a deep breath, Allison walked forward, carefully stepping over any small roots so she wouldn’t trip. Closing her eyes, she just… listened for a moment, to the beautiful sounds of nature, undisturbed by man. Tree frogs croaked a lovely tune, as a woodpecker harmonized, drumming ever so diligently on one of the many tall trees before her. She continued walking further and further into the forest, still seeing no signs of human life, her stomach now becoming increasingly hungry; she needed to eat something. Despite never having learned many skills growing up, having a husband so keen on fishing and the outdoors was indeed coming in handy. She tended to tune out most of what Jackson said, since he would ramble on and on about facts she figured she’d never have to worry about, yet here she was; stranded, alone, on a deserted island with no one to help her. First thing’s first- she needed clean water; she could worry about food and shelter after that.

               As she began climbing higher into what appeared to be a developing mountain range, she heard it at last- the quiet whispers of a nearby river. Her speed picked up, her throat becoming dyer by the second, yearning for the source of the sound. Allison quickly climbed up the rocky landscape that appeared before her, until she at last found the flowing water- a small river that ran down the mountain to the forest below. Without thinking, she kneeled down and started drinking from her hands, her body grateful for the sudden source of sustenance. Standing back up, Allison looked around, noticing the thinning of the treeline as she climbed higher. She decided to follow the stream, climbing higher and higher, the ground beneath her transitioning into almost purely rocks, with very few plants managing to worm their way in through the cracks. The higher she climbed, the louder the water became, until at last she stumbled upon the source- a small little waterfall, flowing down and creating her guide of a little stream. Curious, she climbed even higher, until she at last stumbled upon the source- a small cavern hidden in the face of the mountain. Wanting to investigate, but worried of just how pitch black the crevice appeared to be, she carried onward, climbing higher and higher up terrain until she at last reached the top; her knees and hands were a bit scratched up, from her ascent, but her curiosity overwrote her pain. Standing up at the peak, she was at last able to get a good view of this island. Trees seemed to stretch the length of the island, creating an almost impenetrable fortress that she could not look into to see. Just past the treeline was the beach that wrapped around the island, accenting this deserted isle. With no ships visible in the distance, all Allison could do now was survive. Jackson would find her; she knew he would. With the sun retreating, trading places with the moon, Allison needed to find shelter. Thankfully it was a warm night, with the breeze blowing steadily enough to not let her overheat, so she chose to just lay down on the cool rocks for the night; the real challenge began tomorrow.

                 Allison awoke with a start, her body feeling as if it were being fried. Sitting up, she realized that the sun, steadily rising once more, had chosen to start baking her, using her bed of rock as a stove. Quickly sliding back down the mountain, Allison headed towards the body of water that lay just beneath the peak of the mountain. Without thinking, she quickly stripped naked, walking beneath the waterfall- closing her eyes as the cold water soaked into her soul. Suddenly, she felt her stomach growl- how long had it been since she had eaten? Looking at the base of the waterfall, she noticed that there were some smaller fish swimming around the small river- food, thank goodness. After using the rising sun to dry off, Allison got dressed once more and headed down back towards the forest. If she was going to catch a fish, not only did she need a weapon, she also needed to make a fire. The next few hours were spent gathering all the materials she could- wood for a fire, rocks of various sizes, thick sticks and branches for kindling and a weapon, leaves for a bed, and vines for rope. Allison managed to find several bushes of blackberries, so she plucked enough to quell her appetite for the time being, before climbing back up the rocky surface, smiling at her spoils. Next up, she needed to find a shelter. Still curious about the cavern hidden in the surface of the mountain, she climbed up the small path that protruded from the wall, the waterfall playfully splashing her, daring her feet to slip on the wet surface. Thankfully the sun hadn’t set yet, so Allison was at least able to get a faint glimpse into the inside of the cave. It was quite dark of course, but there seemed to be a hollowed out space along the water, where she might be able to make herself a makeshift shelter. As the sun set on her second day, Allison worked diligently to bring everything she collected into her new home, using rocks to build a small fire-pit, placing sticks in the center and using some flint she found to create a small fire- not necessarily to keep her warm, but more-so just to make sure that she could do it. After a few attempts, a spark finally was created, and her fire came to life, quietly roaring in the night. The cavern began glowing warmly, lighting up the dark cavern, shadow beginning to dance on the walls; the waterfall just outside softly singing Allison to sleep. Using some of the leaves she had gathered, Allison created a makeshift bed and pillow, at least making her a touch more comfortable, instead of sleeping on the cold floor of the cavern. Staring up at the ceiling of the cave, the only light sneaking in from the rising moon, Allison thought back to her life, her husband. Tears began rolling down her face, the final moments before she fell into the water playing over and over in her head. Last night she was too exhausted to really comprehend what had actually happened but tonight… everything flooded back into her mind. She pictured the terrified face of her husband as she fell back over the railing, the water swallowing her up. Her struggling to get back to the surface to get even a gasp of air, only to get swallowed back up. Then everything was black. Trying to push aside those thoughts, Allison closed her eyes; sleep finally consuming her.

              Day 3 came with Allison waking hungrier than she had been yesterday. Realizing she hadn’t eaten anything of substance, she up off the ground and got to work. It was morning by this point, the sun just beginning to rise up towards the clouds, so she used that light to begin making a spear- how else would she catch these fish? They were small, yes, but they’d at least keep her satiated. After sharpening a rock into a spear head, she tied it tightly around one of her larger sticks, using the vines as rope, before heading towards the water. She held the spear awkwardly in her hand, the wood growing warm in her hand. She started farther away from the waterfall, hoping not to scare the fish away, and once a fish was spotted, she brought her arm down, attempting to stab her potential meal. Unsurprisingly, the fish darted away from her, swimming around her spear and farther downstream; not wanting to become its newfound predator’s lunch. Allison sighed- this was going to be harder than she thought. Not wanting to waste more energy than necessary, Allison began constructing a small dam using some of the rocks she had gathered, trapping the fish that were closer to the waterfall. At least they wouldn’t be able to get away. Steadying herself, the fish now swimming around in their smaller enclosed space, Allison lurched into action, swinging her weapon quickly towards the unknowing creatures. They scattered at first, all quickly swimming around her spear, but she kept at it, determined. Then, suddenly, she felt her spear connect, pulling it out of the water to find a fish, now lazily flopping around, skewered by the sharpened stone. She gasped in excitement, letting out a small squeal as she pulled her spear back closer to her. This fish alone would not be enough, but it was a start. She laid the first fish down on the rock behind her, then went back to fishing, now more determined than ever.

                 An hour later, Allison sat down on the rocky surface, exhausted; four fish now lying next to her. Her arm was on fire, from the constant stabbing at the water, but she had done it; food at last. Collecting the rocks she had used as her make-shift dam, along with her soon-to-be meal, she headed back up to the cavern, setting the fish down as she started up her fire. After washing the fish in the flowing water next to her, Allison skewered her meal on a sharpened stick, and after a bit of construction, she built a small fire pit, where she could properly cook her food. As the fish began getting cooked, the fire licking the delicious morsels, Allison began instinctively drooling; her stomach begging to eat. Once cooked, Allison dug in, quickly eating two of the cooked fish, choosing to leave the other two for another meal. The flavor, though not terrible, frankly didn’t matter; she was so hungry at this point, anything would do. After nearly picking the bones clean, Allison laid back against the wall; she was going to be okay. She was going to survive. Getting herself up, she headed out of the cave and up to the peak of the mountain- someone would come, she just needed to wait. After gazing out into the ocean beyond, seeing nothing but the lazy tide calmly rolling in, Allison made her way back down the mountain, continuing to forage for food and other essentials. She managed to find some more edible berries, more rocks, branches, and the like. She was going to be okay. She had to be. As the sun set once more, Allison watching the bright light disappearing into the skyline once more, she picked up her spear, bringing it to the wall and making a mark of the days she had been on the island. Scratching three tallies into the wall, she sat back down to eat before laying down to rest at last.

             Allison began falling into a routine- waking up, striking a tally on the wall, heading up to the peak of the mountain, looking for ships, and then going on with her day. As the days progressed, she began exploring the island more and more, finding the hidden beauties in this unknown land. She watched as deer foraged, enjoying the natural nutrients provided to them by this island. Birds of various colors flew above her, creating songs never before heard. Allison even explored the cavern where she was living, creating a small torch before travelling deeper into the cave. It actually led back down towards sea level, which explained the flowing water; that became her favorite fishing spot. Larger fish, better meals. Day after day she drew another tally. One week turned into one month, and one month turned into six months. She always checked for boats, but the ocean was always as empty and clear as the last day she checked. Her hair had grown long and tangled; her clothes now thoroughly stained in dirt and grime; But she was alive. Then, 197 days since Allison had washed ashore on this island, something unexpected happened. She sat, relaxing on the peak of the mountain, watching the tide roll in, when something appeared in the distance. It seemed like a small dot at first, but it began getting closer and closer. She squinted, unable to make out what that shape was at first, but as it got closer there was no mistaking it- it was a boat! Allison gasped, tears streaming down her face. Instinctively, Allison flew off the peak, sprinting down the mountain and through the forest towards the shore. As she ran, she tripped on a root protruding from the ground. Ignoring the pain coming from her knee, she pushed onward, until the trees cleared and she was back on the beach. Sand slipping through her toes, Allison continued running towards the water, the boat getting closer and closer. She screamed at the top of her lungs, tears rolling down her face. Someone was here. She was saved.

                As the boat came closer and closer, words on the bow finally became visible, gleaming in the sunlight- “Paradise Adrift”. Allison gasped. As the boat closed in on the beach, her knees gave way, tears continuing to stream down her face. A wide smile slowly began to grow as she heard a familiar voice at last call out – “Allison?”

-End

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