Second Chance: Genevieve and her husband Andy have just been shipwrecked in a storm and found themselves stranded on a seemingly deserted island…
The sun was setting fast. A fiery ball hurtling towards the horizon, raising blazing oranges and pinks all around it and leaving in its wake a darkening sky that first turned purple then blue, dotted with tiny stars.
“What are we going to do?” Andy muttered to himself. Lost in his thoughts, seated on the sand beside her watching the sunset, he felt an overwhelming responsibility for sailing them into the storm, for ignoring the rough waters, for taking sleeping pills... and now they were stranded. With nothing but the clothes on their backs, how would they survive?
“We have nothing…” he mumbled.
“What?” Genevieve absentmindedly asked, lost in awe of the now flaming red horizon as the last rays of the sun sank below the endless sea stretching out in front of them. The gentle waves lapping on the shoreline a few feet from where they sat had a soothing rhythm that was hypnotic, especially in her sorely fatigued state. She’d just spent most of the day running up and down this beach in search of Andy, and before that there was… she shuddered, remembering the sensation of being dragged into the bowels of the sea.
“I’m saying we have nothing honey, wondering what we…”
“Actually I grabbed this, remember?” She leaned back to show him the pouch strapped to her waist, “We at least have a knife, some twine, the flashlight you loaned me…”
Genevieve began pulling things out of her pouch, some she remembered packing, others she was sure she’d stuffed in there ages ago on previous sailing trips and had completely forgotten about. After emptying the bag, they looked at each other over a shared bar of chocolate, unfortunately the only edible she’d packed other than chewing gum, but they were buoyant once more, maybe there was hope.
“We’ll figure things out in the morning,” Andy started, “Things always look…”
“…up in the morning,” Genevieve finished off.
Hunkered down, almost half buried in the sand for warmth, they spent a bitterly cold night as the temperatures plummeted and the wind picked up, sending a fine spray of sea water at them each time a wave broke. They didn’t want to move back towards the thick jungle, but as the tide came in higher and the waves crashed even more violently, they had no choice but to move up the beach and into the protection of the foliage of the trees.
Andy, so tired his very bones seemed to ache, dropped off into sleep first. But Genevieve, probably even more tired than he, just couldn’t sleep or shake off the feeling that something was amiss…
She started awake suddenly, sitting up and staring around her with groggy eyes, confused, until she remembered where they were. ''What woke me?'' She thought to herself, ''Andy’s still asleep and I’m still tired and we aren’t going anywhere so…'' shrugging her shoulders, she lay back down, closing her eyes. But only for a second, as a loud thud to her right made her almost jump out of her skin. Genevieve turned to see a fallen coconut half a foot from where she had laid her head. Looking up to assess this new danger, her hand already on Andy’s shoulder to shake him awake, she froze as she saw a black shadow leap from the tree above them and swing off into the forest.
“Andy!” her voice was hoarse with fear.
“Hmm?” he’d been awake for a few seconds, fighting the harsh reality he knew was waiting for him beyond his closed eyes.
“Andy,” her whisper was urgent, “there’s something in the trees. I saw, I saw…”
What had she seen? He was awake now, scanning the dark jungle sceptically then giving her a look that said plainly what he thought of her story. Rolling to his feet with his usual vigour he began stretching, as the full force of their predicament hit him again. They needed a plan.
“A raft, we can build one with the driftwood and the twine.”
Genevieve, as if reading his thoughts was already pulling the twine from her pouch. She wanted nothing more than to leave the island, something felt so wrong here.
“We can’t leave,” Andy gave his wife a quizzical look, she was always so logical, “Gen, we don’t know where we are, we’d be out there at the mercy of the sea with no food or water… at the very least here there are coconuts!” he gave her a reassuring smile that didn’t erase the cloud of anxiety from her face.
“You know what we need?” he clapped his hands, “Breakfast and water…Oh, I’m thirsty! Just wait here Gen, after we’ve eaten it’ll all seem better, promise!”
“Andy don’t!...” her voice was lost in the wind and waves as he bounded off into the jungle so quickly it was as if the past few minutes had been sped up.
''It’s so cold,'' he thought to himself, as he pushed his way through the thick, tropical plants. It was dark and densely overgrown, after the brilliant airiness of the beach where he could see everything. He wasn’t afraid to explore per se but the deeper he went, the more the air turned stagnant and quietly still, until he realised he could no longer hear the waves breaking. Stopping to get his bearings and wondering if he should try climbing a tree for a better lay of the land, Andy’s breathe caught in his throat.
“Once or twice a year, the sea sends presents over here,” the voice was raspy, unused for a long time.
“Oh, but remember, the pact says we all have a share,” this one was nothing but glee.
“How many are there? There’ll be no sharing if there’s three…” a quieter, almost a whisper, but the most chilling of all three voices said.
Andy was off. He’d panicked at the mere thought of Genevieve waiting for him, at the beach, followed by the realisation that ''It’s us or them.'' It spurred him into motion he’d never thought possible of himself. Flight.
He was wild; he felt it as he ran with complete abandon, hearing and seeing nothing but a seemingly clear path through the previously impenetrable wall of trees. He had to reach her before they did, and then… well, together they’d die fighting.
Bursting breathless through the trees, he saw his wife busy far down along the beach. Streaking towards her, his fear turning to elation as he realised she was intently fastening together what looked like a raft. She turned to see him, started happily in his direction then stopped, beginning to frantically drag whatever she’d finished of the tiny raft into the water. Andy didn’t bother looking to see what she’d seen behind him, he was in the water with her in a few strides and paddling away furiously. Howls that were human yet not followed them, quickly drowned by the roar of the open sea.
The sun was setting. Their second sunset in unfavourable circumstances, but this time they both knew it would all end soon. Dehydrated, hungry and weak, they wouldn’t make it far adrift like this. Yet there was something to accepting the inevitable that made this moment, this sunset, incredibly beautiful. The fleeting colours lasting only a few seconds, the glint of sunlight off the waves, the salty smell of the cool evening breeze as they lay exhausted, wrapped in each other’s arms. There was still fear behind this momentary peace, after all they were facing the unknown… but, there was so much comfort in still being together.