Sands

With a lap of the islet complete Oliver concludes that he can’t stay here. The rising tide will swamp the small protrusion, which when it happens will leave him treading water. Plus the island has a lack of shelter, natural or able to be fabricated, as there are no resources or food. It’s a decision that he doesn’t relish, but it is reality. Trying to justify staying here against the facts could cost him his life and this sandy speck isn’t worth that. It does mean however, that his gut feeling had been correct, as had the nagging voice at the back of his mind. He knows that it means that the nagging voice will be emboldened by this victory and he dreads to think how that could in turn affect his mental state, for the worse. He’ll have to consciously track that, he knows. Not that such a revelation, that isn’t really one, does anything to change the fact that the nearest island, of whatever size it may be as he can’t tell from this distance, is probably a near two mile swim. Two miles, as he says it, doesn’t seem like much, especially when compared to the size of a country or ocean. Hell, it doesn’t even seem that far for a car or bike, he thinks. But swimming that far is different. It takes the use of your whole body, which makes it tiring, especially when you’re hungry and becoming dehydrated, like Oliver is now. Surrounded by water he can’t drink really is a cruel joke, he feels. He only hopes that upon reaching another of the islands he won’t find it holds nothing but disappointment, though he won’t know until he gets there. If it does, what can he do? Swim to another island? How many times can he do that? Without food or a way of quenching his first the answer, he knows, is not long. He’d drown, or simply drop into unconsciousness, long before he’d ever manage to dart between the maybe dozen islands clustered around him. Though, he’s already chosen which of the islands he intends to aim for. It’s a larger, perhaps the largest he thinks, island of the group, which at least in theory, should provide him with something. If it doesn’t then no other island, at least in his mind, is likely to. If Oliver reaches such a point he might as well just call it quits and enjoy the view with what time he’ll have left.

That’s the voice again, bringing in its negativity. He has to ignore it, he tells himself, as he gazes at the island he has set as his goal. It has trees; he can see them even from here. It also has rocks jutting out of the ground from what he assumes is the centre of the island. However, all those positives do nothing to stop that nagging voice picking at his confidence as it attempts to sow panic, defeat and dread into Oliver’s mind. It tells him he has no hope. That there is no hope. That he is lost. Trapped. Doomed. Forgotten. But Oliver refuses to believe that as he plods, the suns heat near unbearable now on his skin and clothes, toward the far bank. He really doesn’t know what else to call it but that.

He stops there, taking deep breathes as he gathers himself and all the energy he possesses, his eyes closed as he clears his mind of everything but the task he tells himself he has to complete. Then Oliver’s eyes open slowly, the sun at his back as he makes his way into the water. First the water passes his ankles, then his shins, knees, thighs and finally his abdomen. Oliver stands motionless in the water that is nearly at his chest; beyond this point his feet won’t touch the seabed. He has to do this, he tells himself. This is his only option. But you’re tired, the voice says trying to distract him. It’s my only chance, he says in the seconds before he launches himself forward through the water and into a breaststroke. He starts slow, gathering momentum as he goes. He knows he has to pace himself. If he goes off like a bullet out a gun he won’t make it. He’ll overexert himself and he doesn’t want a watery grave. The green of the ocean is now a deeper, darker shade that makes it clear that this is far deeper water, open water.

As a distraction Oliver’s mind wanders as he continues to push forward. He searches his memory trying, desperately, to ascertain how it is he ended up here. What happened? But he draws nothing but a blank. A clear gap in his memory, which no matter how hard he tries he simply cannot seem to fill as he suddenly feels sand mixing with the water ahead of him, around him. With this change Oliver transitions from a breaststroke and into a simple paddle, so he can take in his surroundings. A large looming island of rock and trees, ringed by a jagged shaped beach fills his vision. The green ocean water paler in colour again. He’s in shallower waters once more, he realises. His feet seek out the seabed, which they find with ease. His toes sinking into the soft sand as he stands there for a while drinking in this new island, his goal, his destination. He feels relief wash over him as he begins to slowly wade through the shallow green water. The waterline drops below his waist, then thighs, knees, shins and finally his ankles until he is stood on “dry” land again. It isn’t dry. He’s still stood in wet sand as the water laps softly at his heels, the sand clinging to his feet. It is only now that Oliver pays attention to the sensation as it dawns on him that this entire time he has been without shoes or socks. It strikes him as odd. He’d been on a ship after all, so why is he without footwear? He can’t answer. It’s just another of many questions which he has to add to this seemingly ever growing list. The questions and any answers, if he could get any, would do nothing to change where he is or what he needs to do to survive.

He does have to admit though, that he is now totally exhausted. The swim had been long, even if he had spent much of it meandering round his own mind. He needs to rest, he tells himself, in the moments before he sinks onto a nearby low rock. It’s a near perfect seat he decides before long. Though it is definitely too hard for his liking, he notes as he rests, surveying his surroundings. If he were not stranded, he would say that this island could otherwise be described as sublime. After all, there are worse places to be stuck he tells himself. Especially, as he has emerald green waters, golden sandy beaches, near black rocks and towering vibrant palm trees. He decides he likes the palm trees most. They give him shade from the brilliant sun that burns brightly in the cloudless sky.

Oliver wakes with a start. He hadn’t realised he’d drifted off. Much like he doesn’t know how long he was asleep for.

At first he is filled with fear, having forgotten where he is, but that soon passes as he remembers that he’s alone on a small island in the middle of the ocean. What ocean? Oliver asks himself, but realises he doesn’t know what ocean. He has no idea what its name is. That strikes him as odd. Why doesn’t he know what ocean he’d been sailing across? He doesn’t have the answers, so add such questions to his lengthening list as he rises from his rock seat. His back and tail bone are aching from the unrelenting surface he’d been poised atop. He stretches and rubs his lower back hoping the ache will not last.

The sun is lower now, and is beginning to sink back toward the horizon, Oliver notes as he feels his stomach rumble, demanding that it is fed as he finishes stretching his legs. He may be hungry, no you definitely are the voice says, but he has to make a shelter first. His stomach doesn’t like that notion, but it will simply just have to live with it he decides.

The beach will make an ill-advised location to construct a shelter, Oliver quickly concludes. Not just because of the possibility of the tides washing it, and perhaps him, away, but also the chance that during the night when the sun is gone it could get very cold. A severe drop in temperature could leave him vulnerable, he knows. That means his only real option is to construct something atop the rocks, using the palm trees that lance high up into the sky.

Oliver surveys the rocks, which don’t look difficult to climb. Plus it’s only a short distance he tells himself. Maybe a couple metres at most, he guesses. That doesn’t mean however, that he shouldn’t be careful. Appearances can be deceiving, he tells himself, before adding that one wrong move could spell disaster and see him with a broken bone or a deep gash that would quickly become infected. The rocks certainly look sharp after the countless millennia of water erosion that have helped to form them.

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