As the plane hurtled towards the earth, Peter wished he had paid more attention to the safety guide given by the air stewards, unfortunately his mind had gone blank…..
He had been planning this trip for years, first stop Australia for a month, then on to New Zealand for another month. His life had started to drag once he had booked the trip, he could not wait to go. He had never been abroad, unless you count the Isle of White. Sleep was nowhere to be found over last couple of days, but he didn’t mind, he had a long flight to sleep on, or just sleep the day away when he got to his first destination, he was just so excited to be going. The flight had been uneventful thus far, the two hour stop over in Singapore had flown by, a couple of pints in a bar had been welcome, and it killed the time.
The plane he returned to was a little newer than the one he had been on, he settled back in to his seat, and waited for moment to take off, there was of course the obligatory ‘in case of emergency’ protocol, but he had already started to flick through the in flight magazine. They had been flying for a little under seven hours when things started to go wrong. The seat belt sign was suddenly illuminated, and if he had not been flying, he would have put the shudder he felt down to post winter potholes, he tentatively raise the window blind, and was met with fire shooting out from under the wing. He realised that this could possibly be a problem, he anxiously flicked through the magazine to see if there was a hint of what to do, when he found a laminated sheet giving him all the information he needed. Then the slightly worried stewards started to announce what needed to be done. As they were going down over the sea, life jackets were fumbled for, one of his friends had been joking about putting your head between your legs and kissing your arse goodbye. He could feel the plane dropping fast, smoke was beginning to fill the plane, and he fumbled for the oxygen mask that fell from above his head.
At some point he passed out, he was not sure if this was before the plane hit the water or after, when he woke he was floating on his back in the shallows just off shore of an island. When he tried to stand up he found the water to be just above waist high. He waded the rest of the way to the white sandy beach, amazed how warm the ocean was, and thought it is not like the sea off the coast of Margate. He noticed that he was not the first thing to wash up on the beach from his flight, cushions from seats, the odd suitcase and a few unused life jackets. He sat on the hot white sand, and thanked his lucky stars that he had survived. He had seen enough survival shows to know he had to find water and food, preferably before it got dark, he had no idea of the terrain, but for now he had decided to walk the length of the bay, in a hope to find any other lucky survivors. He saw plenty of debris lying along the shore, but no survivors, there was also plenty of bits and bobs still floating towards the shore. He found nothing usable from the debris, and started off to looked inland, he was glad he didn’t take his friends advice on removing his shoes while flying, he did not think he would have had the wherewithal to have put them back on prior to plunging in to the sea.
The inland part of the island was a lush green, he didn’t want to say jungle, and Forrest was too English, but there were all variants of ferns, palm trees and a few other types of tree and shrub life that he did not know, but he was sure that those big green baubles were coconuts in their husks, so there was some sort of edible/drinkable items on this island, he thought. He heard water rushing from somewhere, and followed the sound. There was a small brook at the head of which was a spring bubbling up through a large rock formation as far as he could see, he would have to climb up there at some point he thought, it was about thirty meters high, and didn’t look to him as though it would be a full on mountaineering task to do so. He was just please to have found a water source, he stood beneath the water feature, and the water had the best taste he had ever sampled, no chlorine smell or after taste like back home, with maybe a hint of salt, but not unpleasantly so. He didn’t think it had any fish it it, but then there was a large expanse of ocean behind him to fish in if he needed. The sky was bright blue, not a cloud to be seen, which made him feel less concerned about having to build any form of shelter today, the heat was intense, but all in all, with the exception of plummeting to the earth trapped in a fire ball, today has been a good day.
He was alive, had drinking water, well unless he shits himself inside out later after that mouthful he had just sampled, and for the want of anything else, he had coconuts. He began to gather wood, twigs, grasses and other fluffy bits to start a fire, he had laid out some of the seat cushions earlier that had drifted ashore, which he would have to turn in to a bed of sorts later, he was hoping that the temperature wouldn’t drop too far when the sun dipped. Tomorrrow would be time to learn a few things about this little island, and more over the next few days he was guessing. Tonight he was anticipating a sleepless period ahead. He was wondering what was going to crawl out of the undergrowth or crawl up the beach. Maybe he was just influenced by all those horror movies he liked to watch. He settled back on his cushions with half a dozen coconuts ready to go, his fire was ticking over nicely, there was no booze, weed or smokes but he was going to just have to do without for the time being, and he chuckled at the thought of blowing the entire insurance claim on a massive bender, when he gets back to civilisation and can claim on the airlines policy, he had not seen a pay phone on his travels today, and for the first time today he sat and laughed uncontrollably.
He had been wrong about sleeping, he slept like a baby, right up to the point the sun rose above the vegetation on the far side of the island, which would suggest that would be east(ish), not that really gave him any better idea of where he may of ended up. His plan for today would be to take a wander. Initially he went back the way he had gone the day before, he gazed at the rock incline, he reckoned from the top he would be able to get a better view of the whole island. He had cut holes in the life vests, while looking at the flotsam floating in, he had found a make up bag in one of the cases, in which he found a nail file, nail clippers, tooth brush, a bottle of Chanel, nail scissors and varnish. Now he intended to fill a couple with the fresh water as it pooled at the base of the formation. He was going to need rehydration during this climb.
He had no clue what the time was, his watch had been reset during the stop over, and had no clue how much further he had come to readjust his watch. The sun was directly over head, give or take a few degrees, so he reset his watch to midday, he would be close ‘ish’ he thought, also he seemed to be the king of his island, so the time was what ever he said it would be, and with no dissenting voices, motion carried . He stood on the highest point and saw just how small this island was, plenty of trees, pampas grasses, very tropical. He could make out in the distance what looked like a clump of bamboo, bamboo could be his saviour. He began the climb back down, while formulating the plan of what to do next.
He had decided it would be smart to take a carful walk towards the bamboo, he guess as long as he kept the rocky outcrop behind him he would be able to keep his bearings. He walked for about thirty minutes, it was cooler in the shade of the trees, but suffocatingly humid, he started to see sporadic shoots of bamboo, getting more dense every 20 steps or so. He reached the a dense Forrest of bamboo, there was thin stuff akin to the bamboo cameos his parents always seem to have, right through to bits as thick as his arm. Now his issue would be how to harvest some, nail scissors or nail files were not going to do the job, the thinner shoots he could snap. The plan was to grind the end to a point by rubbing them of the abundance of rocks around the shore line, let them dry. He could use these to fish, he had seen no other creature or signs of creatures in his days wandering, so meat would not be on the menu, for now. But wether he liked fish or not, he had to eat, there were plenty of birds on the island, maybe they could be lured in with fish trimming, if at first, he could find and catch them.
He collect twenty differing size pieces of the thinner bamboo, and ventured back to his beach front home. He first wore down the the ends of the bamboo to a point, and the stuck the point of the bamboo into the sand in a hope to dry them out a little quicker. He retired to his makeshift bed, and enjoyed a couple of fresh coconuts, before he ventured out in to the sea, just to see if he could see any sea life. There were rocks reaching in to the sea for about one hundred meters sporadically along the bay, his plan was to lay in wait on the rocks for fish to swim past. As the water came up to his chest, he clambered up on to a chain of rocks and hopped from one part to another, until he reached the last one. There he laid, watching the marine life come and go in and out of the rocky outcrops. There was more than plenty of life, and as he tickled the surface of the water, they would come up and suck at his fingers. He stayed there, playing with the fish until orange started to caress the horizon just because he was enjoying himself, and then felt guilty at what he was going to do to them over the coming day’s, week’s but hopefully not years.
He returned to the beach while it was still just light enough to see what he was doing while lighting the fire. He pulled over the one suitcase he had found thus far, to see if he could find something to make a small net from, he may permanently scare the fish off while he tried to perfect his skill using bamboo spears. He thought he may try to make one from cutting the lining of the suitcase in to strips and try to make a net from that. He had sat beside Cornish fishermen as they fix their pots and nets, he had a rough idea on how he could do it, he would need to go back to get an even thinner shoot of bamboo in the morning. He watched his fire pop and crackle, and wondered if he could he use fire as a method to bring down the thicker pieces of bamboo. He wanted the thicker stuff to build the frame of his shelter. He also wondered if he could use the smallest shoots of bamboo to make baskets for another method of fishing or catching the birds. He slept well again that night and dreamed of basket weaving.
He was loving these nights sleep he was getting, waking up in the morning feeling a million dollars. As he sat and enjoyed his morning coconuts, he sketched in to the sand his ideas on basket and net weaving as he relaxed. He picked up the bits and pieces he thought he may need for a bamboo run, one of the life vests had been stuffed full of small dried twigs and grasses to use for a fire lighter when he was ready to burn the bigger bamboo, firewood can be found every where out there. He toiled all day, he could only manage to bring two of the bigger bamboos out at a time, and by the time the sun started dip he had about forty big poles and half a dozen bundles of the smaller bamboo. He laid it all out on the sand to dry.
He had his fire flickering nicely, and as he sat there he began to make his version of a net, and a couple of bamboo baskets, he liked coconut, but not for every meal. A bit of fish would be welcome, he would even see if any of the seaweed clinging in bunches to the rocks is edible, just for a bit of roughage. He placed his newly crafted fishing gear with the bamboo to dry out. His plan for tomorrow would be to start building his shelter. There was plenty of bits in the case to cut down for bindings to hold it together, plus a couple of pairs of shoes with laces that would come in handy, but that was work for tomorrow. Tonight he just wanted to lay back and gaze at the beauty of a sky filled with silver stars, like diamonds on black velvet. At some point he drifted off.
By the time the sun was directly above him he had the four side made, which were, at this point resembling a box with a cross in it. He would attach each of these to the four corner posts with some wool he had free from life as a cardigan, and then over the top of that there were strips of bamboo bark, still moist and easily used to tie around the corners, by the time the sun went down, he had the frame made, he needed a bit more bamboo to finish it, but no worries there, he was getting low on water. He laid back nibbling on coconut, and watched the stars, last night he had seen two shooting start, but none of his wishes had come true yet.
The following morning he was up early, to try his fishing net, he gave it a good tug all over and appeared to be solid, once again he waded out in to the sea to clamber on the tail end of the rocky finger, where he had seen the fish last time. He set his basket down, laid down, a slowly put the net in to the water, and as before, tickled the surface with his free hand, and as a fish came up, he slow moved the net under the fish, and when he has ready, he snatched up the net lifting the fish with it, he precariously struggle with his balance, the wobble of the fish, and the uneven rock surface for a few seconds. He regained his equilibrium to see a fat juicy fish flapping and gasping in his bamboo net. He felt a wave of euphoria engulf his entire body, and even when thinking of it later that day, he would have say this was his greatest ever moment. He put the now almost lifeless fish in to his bamboo basket, and tried again, once more successfully, and a lot more gracefully this time, it was almost as special as the first but not quite.
He had secured the basket in to a sandy part of the sea bed in water that was deep enough to come within an inch of the top, he hoped it would keep them cold enough until tonight. Then he grabbed his water containers, filled them both at the spring and once more, before his day on the bamboo farm. Today he would only collect those he could snap. By the end of his day, by now he would look to where the sun is to decided when he need to make tracks home. He was still disoriented by not knowing the exact time, but it was not going to kill him he thought, but if he was correct, then this island gets dark at 8pm.
Two fires tonight, a big one for illumination and a little warmth, the other smaller containing small pebbles and stones, which he roasted his fish over. It was, without doubt in his mind, that it was the best thing he had ever eaten, in his life. He was sure at one point he actually broke in to his cum face, so overwhelmed he began to sob, uncontrollably. He let out an ear shattering scream, directed at himself, “Fucking pull yourself together you useless fucking cunt, crying like a baby and your trapped in fucking paradise, there are poor fuckers living in fucking Hounslow for fucks sake, get a fucking grip!” He berated himself……………………………………… “What’s for fucking pudding? Oh, fucking coconut” and with this he started to giggle through his tears, the fish had been very good but after all this time on just coconut he guessed anything would have been good. He settled back and the odd sniffle or hitching of breath broke the absolute silence, and the perpetual giggle hiding just behind his Adam’s apple, and he drifted off for another night.
He woke in a funny frame of mind, he had slept well, but he just wanted to lay here all day. He argued with himself for a while, then jumped up with a…………… ”Fuck it, fuck, fuck fuckity fuck, fuck it” and walked over to his remaining bamboo, he had made the roof frame earlier in the week, and he started to attach some of the thinner sticks, it was never going to be water tight, but it was better than nothing, he then man handled it on to the top of the wall frames, it was slightly off square, but with a push and a tug he managed to get all the right parts square to the the rest of the frame, and went around tying the roof in place. He stepped outside, looked back at his creation, and all at once filled with a sense of pride that had been lacking in his run of the mill life of late. The sight of a roof on his house, got him in the right frame of mind and he began to tie poles on to the walls, by the time the sun was in its late afternoon position, he left the building to go fishing.
It took him a further five days to get his home finished, he had laid a bamboo floor, made a rough bed frame to hold the seat cushions together, his first night in his own hand built home was like Christmas Eve as a child, he didn’t sleep, he could not believe he had found a skill for survival, and this was a proper hut to live in. When the sun came up he ran outside just to look at it.
The following months he would go out and about on the Island, to see what life there maybe, better places to fish, or rebuild his home on better land, a few brisk winds hit him as what would we would know to be April. Although his house survived them, he didn’t think it would take another. After a few days umming and arrghing, he was hit by another big storm, and Mother Nature had given him a helping hand in deciding what to do. He though it looked a bit on the piss when the morning came, and a gentle push was all it needed to flat pack itself.
He rebuilt his new home a few hundred yards from the rocky out crop he climbed to see the island, he was able to correct what he felt were the mistakes in his original build, made the roof more water tight. As the months passed in to years, then decades, Peter never once saw a ship on the horizon, never saw a plane fly overhead or helicopters, he was never to see another human face, he talked to himself as if he was talking to another person. Never to hear the hum of electric, no music, art, books, movies. He always managed to fill his days, hunting, fishing or swimming. He was happy not to ever see another person, he truly believed he was the only person left on the planet. He improved on his nets, tools and anything else he needed to make his life easier.
All the years he struggled to keep himself going, hiding from the storms this island was battered by occasionally, he has had to build and rebuild his home on many occasions. Due to a quirky freak of nature, this island was in the middle of nowhere, but just passed the horizon that Pete gazes at every sunset, 30 miles or so away, is the coast of Australia, just over the horizon. It’s the odd position of this island that nobody flies over it, or sails pasts it. Just 30 miles from Pete, civilisation, entertainment, people, food, electric lights, mobile phones, music and all the other wonder we take for granted, just 30 miles.