General Fiction posted December 28, 2016


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A man is the only survivor after a plane crash

Sole Survivor

by Cory G

Castaway Contest Winner 

My head hurt – a lot. It thumped like it does after an all-night bender yet somehow different. Funny I couldn’t remember a thing about last night. Sunlight assaulted my eyelids and I didn’t want to open them, I wanted to go back to sleep to make the pain in my head go away but knew I couldn’t. And when I finally did open my eyes I wished I hadn’t, instead I wished I was dead.

“NOOOOOOO! NO NO NO NO NO!” I got up and ran to Ali, collapsed on my knees in the hot sand, and pulled her limp lifeless body close to my chest. Her head lolled back and her half-open eyes stared at nothing. I felt the firm, still swell of her belly, five months pregnant with our beautiful unborn baby girl. Elizabeth. We were going to name her Elizabeth.

A wave of nausea rolled through my stomach and I heaved burning yellow-green bile, spitting it out on the hot white sand. “This isn’t happening. It can’t be happening. Ali’s not dead. She’s NOT!” Tears streamed down my cheeks and through my blurred vision I scanned my surroundings. Where am I? How did I get here? Behind me a small grove of coconut palms swayed in the salty breeze beneath the beating sun. Otherwise there was nothing but beach and the soft slapping sounds of the Pacific along the shore. My mind reeled as I felt the bump on my head, grasping for memories of how I came to be here and wondered how long I’d been out for. Then I remembered the plane – the 4-seater Cessna we’d rented to take a private tour around Maui.  But where was the plane now? It was nowhere in sight. Was this some kind of sick joke? Were we dropped off and left for dead? But why? This definitely wasn’t Maui anymore.

After gently laying Ali back down in the sand, I got up and walked around aimlessly. I didn’t know what I was looking for or even what I should do, but I felt that I needed to do something to try and understand what was happening. So many questions stirred around in my muddled, throbbing head. I walked toward the coconut palms and found the plane, its wings ripped off and the fuselage torn open and tipped sideways amidst the tree trunks. Juan, the pilot, was still strapped in the seat – dead, blood trickled from a wide gash on his forehead and stippled the cracked windshield. I looked up into the blinding sun, blood drained from my face and my heart sunk into the pit of my stomach upon realizing I was stranded on an island in the middle of nowhere.

Alone.

Help would arrive soon – right? I wanted to believe it…I needed to believe it. But what if no one came? I was going to die…like Ali…like Juan. With my heart pounding like a drum in my chest I ran back to Ali.

I grabbed both her arms and shook her. “Ali, wake up! WAKE UP DAMMIT!” I knew she was dead but I did it anyway—CRAZY! And I was crying again, like a baby, like I never had before as a grown man.

Hours passed and the sun began to dip below the Pacific and the air cooled. No one came to rescue me. No planes. No boats. There was nothing except the sound of the wind blowing through the palms and the cawing of seagulls above the shoreline. I needed to find a place to sleep, somewhere safe and warm before it was dark. I walked back toward the plane, collecting fallen palm leaves. Using the side of the plane as a wall, I built a lean-to with the leaves, pushing together piles of sand to hold the stems in place. There was no food or water in the plane – we were on a two-hour tour so why would there be? —but I checked, maybe Juan had some snacks tucked away somewhere. I was SOL as Ali used to say (shit outa luck). There was no luck to be found out here, except the bad kind. I found an empty first-aid kit, banged open in the crash. In the exterior back-end of the plane I opened a trunk compartment, in it was a rusty tool kit with a hammer, screwdriver, wrenches, and a few other gadgets.  It would come in handy for something so I took it and put it in the shelter.

It got dark fast. With nothing to eat or drink or do, I laid down in the sand in the lean-to and soon fell asleep, exhausted from the surreal nightmare that was now my life. It broke my heart to leave Ali (and Elizabeth) out there on the beach. Tomorrow I would give her a proper burial.

When I woke early the next morning, it took a moment before I realized all that had transpired the day before. Hunger gnawed at my stomach and my tongue felt paper dry in my parched mouth. I knew I needed to find water soon or I’d be a goner in no time, which seemed so crazy with a whole ocean of it around me. The lump on my head had gone down a bit and it was unbelievable to think I wasn’t really hurt other than a few bumps and scrapes – given that everyone else was dead. God must have been looking out for me, or had he? Maybe this was hell, a punishment, being dead would be better. I crawled out of the lean-to and looked around. Dew! I saw dew on the broken windshield. Elated, I pulled myself up into the passenger seat beside Juan, the blood on his face had darkened and dried in a thick web. I licked the inside of the windshield, careful to avoid shards of glass and spatters of Juan’s blood. The moisture felt like heaven on my tongue, like a wilted planted sucking up water through its spindly roots after long awaited rain. After licking up what I could off the windshield, off the side of the plane, and off the earthy palm leaves of the lean-to, I set off to see Ali. The sun was up, still low in the sky, but it was already hot, any remaining dew would vanish quickly and I knew I would be thirsty again soon.

The tide came in and its foamy bubbles ebbed and flowed over and around Ali’s white Vans, laces undone, slithering white worms. I knelt beside her, took her cold, stiff hand in mine and kissed it, like the night I proposed to her. Ali’s skin had turned grey, her lips a dark purple. I worked the wedding band off her swelling finger and strung it through the gold chain she’d given me for my thirtieth birthday, then I fastened it back around my neck. Inscribed on inside of the ring was Ali & Josh April 25th, 2015—the same was engraved on the twin band I fingered on my left hand. More tears flooded my eyes and traced down my cheeks. My precious, Ali. My darling wife. Gone. I pounded the sand with my fists, desperately wishing we’d never taken the trip, it cost so much and we debated whether we should stay home and save the money since we had a baby on the way. But in the end, we decided to go, one last hurrah, just the two of us. One last hurrah all right.

I grabbed Ali under the arms and drug her to the nearest palm tree. There I dug a shallow grave with my hands and laid her down, hands crossed under her belly, cradling Elizabeth. I covered her with a few inches of sand and worked quickly to find as many rocks as I could to rest on top so the birds wouldn’t get at her and the wind wouldn’t blow the sand away. The sun was climbing higher in the sky and I felt my skin burning and a headache coming on. I needed a hat, maybe I could weave something together out of  palm leaves, and I would another day.

Heading back to the shelter, my next order of business was finding something to eat. But what? I could see those coconuts teasing me way up high, a thousand feet in the air, beneath the dancing branches. And I had the tools to blast them open but they were of no use if I had no coconuts. Later in the afternoon, when it cooled a little, I’d search the island for food. And when I did I found some coconuts that had dropped to the ground but most of them had started to rot. I found a couple good ones but that was it.

--
 
Every day I waited for my rescuers that never came. Occasionally planes would fly over but they were too high up to see the measly SOS I made from rocks on the beach. Sometimes I’d see big cargo ships and I’d wave and yell and jump around like wild but they were too far away to notice me. Yet I stayed alive, many days I wanted to throw in the towel but I didn’t, at least not yet. I tried to catch fish and other sea creatures on the beach with a rock trap that caught mostly seaweed after the tide went out. But I had to be careful. I couldn’t afford to get too sick or injured with no one to help me or medicines to cure me. And I had no fire to cook with so I had to be wary of what I ate. In the end, it was the rotten coconuts that saved me. I couldn’t eat the bad coconuts, of course, but I discovered I could eat the insects and creepy crawly grubs that thrived in and around them.

Rain came but not often. I used the hammer to shape bowls out of chunks of metal ripped from the plane to capture the rainwater, then I’d put the filled bowls in the coolest, shadiest spot I could find to keep the water from evaporating too quickly. Once a terrible storm blew threw. I thought it might be the end for me. My shelter was shredded to bits and the metal water bowls were tossed out to sea. The next day I had to start over, rebuild, but this time it was easier
.
After three months, I was finally rescued by an oil tanker ship that happened to pass by close enough, and one of the sailors just happened to see me jumping and waving like the mad man I had become. My beard had grown in thick and ragged. My bones stuck out, and my skin was dark brown and permanently burnt and red in some places.

With just a few tools, a banged-up plane, and the love for my wife, I survived. I came home a changed man, partly bitter but mostly thankful—a sole survivor.
 


Castaway
Contest Winner
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by cleo85 at FanArtReview.com

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