A Boat and a Bottle

Are they coming…? I don't see anything…

Eric sighed as he flopped back down into the boat, which rocked a bit under his weight. It had been nearly four days since he had last seen civilization… Two since he ran out of provisions. He was starting to think that help wasn't coming.

Maybe they can't find me… I didn't think it would take this long.

He idly toyed with the small handheld radio he'd used to call for help, which was starting to look like a pretty good meal right now. Hunger gnawed at his stomach like a caged beast, and his lips and tongue were numb with thirst. He had learned long ago to keep his mouth closed so that it didn't get dried out by the wind. Scattered around the boat were the remains of what he'd manage to scavenge from the sinking ship, mostly food wrappers, clothes, and various odds and ends he'd thought might come in handy, though none of it was useful in his current predicament. In the corner lay an empty beer bottle, which he had drunk the last of two days ago, only to refill it the next day with his own urine and then drink that too.

I wonder if anyone else got off that boat… Probably they're all dead. I didn't see any other lifeboats make it out… …What's that?

In the midst of his thoughts, he had suddenly spotted something off in the distance, something that looked an awful lot like dry land. Immediately, he leaned forward to inspect it, unwilling to believe his luck. Is that… an island?

Of course, he knew that just because he'd found an island that didn't mean he was saved, but it was worth a try, especially if there were people on that island. Quickly he reached out into the water and began to paddle with his hands, driven by the force of desperation. If he stayed out here, it was almost certain that he would die, so he had to reach that land no matter what.

Before long, the island began to come nearer, and he could make out more detail about it. It looked to be relatively small, with no trees and only scattered clumps of stringy grass for vegetation, but it was better than staying out in the middle of the ocean. Maybe once he reached it he could build a shelter, and if he was lucky that grass might be edible.

At last, Eric reached the island, and with a wet grating sound his boat slid up onto the sandy shore. No sooner had it done so than he stumbled out onto the sand, relieved at the feel of something solid beneath his feet. He briefly bent down to kiss the ground, and though he immediately regretted filling his mouth with sand, that did nothing to lessen the feeling of elation he was experiencing right now. Maybe he would survive after all!

By the time the sun had begun to go down that evening, Eric had already used his small lifeboat and a few gathered branches to construct a makeshift shelter for himself, using the boat as the roof and the branches to prop it up. The stringy grass on the island, he had found, was tough and most likely inedible, but he'd eaten some of it anyway, if only to give his stomach something to fill it up. He would probably have some pretty bad indigestion later, but at this point he didn't really care. At least it helped assuage his hunger a little.

Recalling something he'd heard somewhere about survival in the wilderness, he then went about making a small water trap, digging a pit in the sand where he placed the empty beer bottle, with strands of grass trailing from its mouth to the edges of the pit to collect condensation. Over all this, he placed one of the plastic wrappers he had left over from one of his meals to keep the water from escaping. Once he was satisfied that it was complete, then, he went and curled up underneath his shelter, where he quickly fell asleep, exhausted from the day's proceedings.

He had no dreams that night, or if he did, he didn't remember them when he finally woke up again the next morning. He did, however, quickly notice that the temperature around him seemed to have dropped during the night, and everything was covered with a thin layer of frost. He blinked, momentarily bewildered.

When he emerged from his makeshift shelter, he found the island exactly as he remembered it, barren and devoid of all life besides him and a few clumps of grass and bushes. He briefly checked a nearby bush to see if it maybe had anything he could eat, such as berries or nuts, but it was empty. Only mildly disappointed, he wandered over to his water trap.

To his delight, it had collected a good amount of water over the course of the night, likely thanks to the sudden frost that had struck the island. Pulling off the layer of plastic, he lifted the bottle out of the sand, before examining its contents: the water seemed a bit discolored, with a slight yellowish tinge, but it was better than nothing. Putting the bottle to his lips, he downed it in one gulp.

Almost immediately after he wiped his mouth and replaced both the bottle and the trap, he began to feel a little dizzy, and he turned and stumbled back to his shelter. Hopefully help would come soon, before he starved… The grass and leaves helped, but he didn't know how much longer he could last without any real food.

Once the dizzy spell had passed, he emerged from his shelter again, and now he decided to take a better look around his island. It was bigger than it had first appeared, he now realized, though it was still little more than a tiny spit of land in the middle of the vast ocean. As he walked around, he tapped the trunks of the trees as he passed by them, absentmindedly scanning their branches for any form of fruit, even though he hardly expected to find anything now.

After a while, he returned to his shelter, where he picked some more grass and ate it along with leaves from some of the bushes, hoping to stave off hunger for a while longer. He felt better after he did so, and then, with nothing else to do, he curled up under his shelter and went to sleep again, deciding that the best thing to do was to wait it out until help arrived.

He was awoken by the sound of a voice. At first, he didn't recognize it; he blinked a few times, not quite comprehending it, until, at last, he finally realized what it was. It was a few more moments before he realized it was coming from his radio, and after snapping to full awareness he hastily scrambled to snatch up the device from the pile of belongings next to him.

"This is USS Maria. Eric Perdito, are you still able to respond? Please reply, over."

Lifting the radio up to his mouth, Eric practically shouted, "I'm here, I'm here! Where are you?!"

"We are approaching the last known coordinates of the USS Ichabod. What is your current location, over?"

"I'm on an island somewhere… I can't say exactly, but I don't think I'm too far away…"

There was a short pause on the other side. Then, "Alright. Stay where you are, you'll be collected shortly. Over."

"Understood."

Eric breathed a sigh of relief as he leaned back against his shelter, letting the hand holding the radio fall to his side. Help was on the way. He was going to make it. At last, he was going home.

Finally, after a few minutes, he decided that he had better say goodbye to this small island, which had sustained him throughout his ordeal. Crawling out of his shelter, he stood up to look around at the island, with all of its soft grass, vibrant shrubs, and fruit-filled trees. For the first time, now, he realized that it was actually very beautiful. Not to mention peaceful, with nothing else around to disturb him for miles. He could live here, he thought dimly.

Three weeks later, a small lifeboat washed up on the shore of California, an emaciated, sun-dried corpse inside. Its clothes were torn and shredded, as if it had tried to eat them before the end, and in its pockets were found a few shards of glass and a handheld radio, the latter of which was corroded beyond repair. The corpse was soon identified as Eric Perdito, one of the passengers on the USS Ichabod during its fatal voyage, who had managed to escape the sinking boat but had then died of thirst before he could radio for help.