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Authors: Olivia Levez

The Island (4 page)

BOOK: The Island
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I sink back into my hollow pit of headache yellow.

I drink, hugging my knees, tracing the walls with my finger. There are thin trickles of water coming in now, seeping in behind the joins. The one by my left foot is different; the rest have an extra strip of rubber glued over them but this one doesn't. It's lumpy and bulgy and hard.

I push it with my foot and take another swig of vodka. Definitely hard.

It takes a long, slow time to rouse myself and get to that seam and feel it pull away with my hand.

Velcro.

It's a secret pocket and it contains the Red Nylon Bag.

‘Ooh, look,' I giggle. ‘Hello, Mr Red Nylon Bag. Welcome aboard.'

I crawl back on my hands and knees and close my eyes for a moment. It's sooo hard to get a grip –
Get a grip, Fran. Get a frickin grip
– because the floor's sliding and shifting bouncybouncybouncy.

I wave my bottle and slither about in the seawater. Quite a lot has come in now; it's swishing and sloshing all around me.

Then I remember the Red Nylon Bag.

Let's see what it's got for us.

There are loads and loads of things.

I spill them out all over the floor. Boxes, packets, sachets. Tubes and scissors and flares and a fishing line and a torch and whistles and plastic bags.

Hi I'm Steve!
would love this.

I swirl them all around in the puddle. Take another swig of my vodka.

Then:

ohGodohGodohGod.

There's water.

Those fat little plastic sachets are labelled
Drinking Water
.

I can't pierce the sachets with the scissors.

‘Oops,' I giggle. ‘Don't want to burst the boat.'

They keep slipping and sliding out of my hands but I manage to stab one, pin it between my knees like it's a fish or something and then I hold it to my mouth and drink.

And drink. And drink.

And I have to take deep breaths and hold my tummy because I don't want to retch again. Mustn't lose all that liquid.

I drink three of the water sachets till my belly feels tight and full.

See? No need for solar stills.

I don't even know what to do with all the other stuff that's in the bag so in the end I have a little party.

 

Party

Ha ha.

I'm all on my own in my little bouncy-castle boat, bouncing up and down on my knees, waving my arms and blowing my whistle.

I blow up the solar stills through their tubes till they make balloons, and tie the bandages from the first aid kit round my head for a headband, and shine my torch as a lighter like it's a concert.

The radio's useless. Can't get a signal and can't make it work.

I down more vodka and that's probably a mistake because it makes me angry.

Angry so that I end up chucking the stupid thing out into the stupid, stupid sea.

'Cause what's the point of a party with no music?

It doesn't matter though because the smoke signal's amazing. I chuck it into the sea and it shoots up a jet of billowy grey smoke that turns bright orange and lasts for ages and ages.

I hang over the side and watch it forever. I just wish there were more of them.

Turns out I do have guests at my party.

They swoop low and follow my party boat, so low that I can see their bellies, all perfectly white with tucked-in red legs. The gulls don't seem to be moving but just shift slightly in the air currents, a nudge here, a nudge there.

I feed them all my emergency energy bars.

‘Come on, birdies. Come to Fran.'

I'm not even hungry.

I am so hungry.

It's getting dark again but I have my torch, though it nearly slips out of my hand when I'm trying to dance on my knees.

But that doesn't matter because I have matches: twenty-five of them. I light them, one after the other, till there are only three left.

I save the best till last.

As well as the smoke signal, there's a flare. When I light it, a million stars shoot up into the sky, and my raft creaks and sighs in the black, black water.

I've never liked the dark.

 

The Morning After

What the Red Nylon Bag should contain:

• 1 fishing kit

• 1 radio

• 1 smoke signal

• 1 flare

• 1 safety knife

• 1 whistle

• 1 torch

• 25 waterproof matches

• 1 first aid kit: bandages, dressings, scissors, antiseptic cream

• Sun cream

• Plastic bags

• 2 solar stills

• 12 high-energy food bars

• 6 × 500 ml drinking water sachets

What it contains now:

• 1 fishing kit

• 1 safety knife

• 1 torch

• 3 waterproof matches

• Sunburn cream

• 3 × 500 ml drinking water sachets

Shit shit shit.

 

Team Games

Hi I'm Rufus!
waits, flushing like a sunset.

He makes a big effort to start the team game and I make a big effort to stop it.

‘OK, you guys, we're going to start with an icebreaker,' he says, and Coral and the others fall about, wetting themselves.

‘Oy, Posh Boy, is your name Harry?'

‘Yeah, man, how's the Queen, innit.'

I see his flush deepen and the colour clashes nastily with his yellow polo.

‘He said to stand in a circle and clap,'
Hi I'm Steve!
barks. He looks like he's walked off a Tarantino movie with his bullet-bald head.

We're in a large hall somewhere in the New Forest. Everything's all fresh sawn from new wood and my DMs clump too loudly on the hard floor. Trish has the camera crew trailing behind her – one bloke, anyway, in flip-flops and a Blink 182 T-shirt. The camera zooms in on me, nice and close, and I freeze the lens with my stone eyes.

Only a tiny lad in too-big combats is paying attention to the game. He bobs about like a cork, listening hard.

Hi I'm Rufus!
passes round a roll of toilet paper. ‘Take as many sheets as you want,' he shouts. ‘Then pass it round. Keep to the beat.'

We clap time, and this time I look into Rufus's eyes and they're blue as Fizz Bombs.

‘Lovely game,' I tell him. I may be made of stone but I'm burning today.

These eyes of mine can shoot ice-fire at any moment, so watch out.

Coral starts arguing with
Hi I'm Steve!

‘No way,' she says. ‘No way am I taking out my tongue stud. It'll close up, it'll get infected.'

‘Now,' he says.

Hi I'm Trish!
gives a little laugh as the camera lens swivels.

‘It's important that all the members of TeamSkill are stripped down to their basic essentials –'

‘You're not stripping
me
down to my bare essentials,' hoots a boy called Kieran.

Coral shrieks and nearly bites her tongue.

‘Come on, focus on the team game,' trills Trish.

‘This is fun. What's the next one?' I say. I know my voice is too loud but I don't care. The room's rocking like a boat and I'm sinking, I really am.

When it's my turn, I pull sheets and sheets of toilet paper off the roll till it pools around my feet.

‘Shall I take her for Team Out?' growls Steve.

I pass the nearly empty roll to a skinny girl, who shakes her head and hands it to Kieran-the-joker.

‘No, leave her here,' says Trish.

‘Who's she? The cat's mother?' I ask.

Rufus raises his voice over the noise. ‘OK, right, you lot. Stop clapping and chanting now please. Um, the rules are: each person must now take it in turns to tell the group a few fun facts about themselves…and the number of facts must equal the number of sheets of paper that the person holds.'

Everyone is looking at me: I'm holding twenty or thirty sheets.

‘Facts must be new information to the group and only one very short sentence each,' he explains.

‘I'm not telling you lot anything about myself,' I say, and my voice comes out all thick.

No frickin way.

Silence pulses, hot and prickling.

Freeze him with my gaze. Watch him crumble.

‘So why don't you take your stupid game and use it to wipe your arse?'

And I crash out of the room to go and find somewhere that doesn't have a team in it.

 

Birds

The effort of climbing up to the observatory platform has made me feel sick and I hang over the railing and breathe deep.

I wish I had a fag.

I don't want a fag.

I still have bog roll in my hand and I rip off the sheets, one by one.

Fact: I destroy everything I touch.

Fact: I have done something so terrible it can't be undone.

Fact: I have snakes for hair.

Fact: Anyone who looks into my eyes gets turned to stone.

Fact: Cassie, my mother, shags for money.

Fact: I make the best Turkish coffee.

Fact: Out of all the exhibits in the Horniman Museum, I like the flying fish best.

Fact: I once had a little brother.

Fact: I don't like the dark.

Fact: There is nothing I don't know about vocal jazz and blues.

Fact: I am a rock. And I feel nothing. Ever.

I use the rest of the bog roll to wipe my eyes and let it all flutter down, where it hangs stupid and pink off the branch of a tree, and now I feel bad because it looks crap and the tree was nice before.

A dark cloud is heaving itself out of the tree tops. It spills and separates; it is birds, lifting and looping. I watch forever because it's crazy-beautiful; I wish Johnny was here to see it.

‘That's a murmuration of starlings,' says a voice from behind me.

Hi I'm Rufus!

I don't turn round.

‘Just before dusk is the best time to see them. They're performing their aerial dance as they choose their communal night-time shelter. In winter we get as many as a hundred thousand, all dancing together.'

The birds look like someone's moving a giant magnet through them. I could stare at them all evening.

He takes a picture with his phone. ‘Trish sent me to find you.'

I scowl. ‘Don't you have some more games to play?'

He shrugs. ‘I don't think anyone was paying much attention. Where are you from?'

‘Where are
you
from? Sound like you've swallowed a dictionary.'

It's getting dark, but I can feel his blush from here.

‘Well, I'm actually from Surrey, but I went to school in the north of Scotland…'

I'm not interested; I watch the starlings swirl. I wish I had my music with me; their dance would go with one of Ella's improvised scats just perfect.

‘…a boarding school called Gordonstoun. We learnt a lot about seamanship when we used to take the school's sailing boat out on expeditions. That's why they took me on at TeamSkill.'

I've got myself together again now.

I don't know why this boy's come up here. If I was him, I wouldn't get within ten metres of me for ruining his team game.

I lean my head against the railing and close my eyes.

Rufus's voice drifts in and out and the night settles like the tide.

 

Sun

Big mistake to fall asleep hanging out of the top of a life raft in the burning sun.

I unstick my cheek from the rubber and try to open my eyes.

Sun slices, burning the back of my neck raw. I lick my cracked lips and duck back inside.

Something rolls under my foot. The torch.
At least I've found the torch.
I flick it on and it gives a feeble glare.

I reach for another water sachet. Stop.

I stare again at the knife, the sun cream, the fishing line with its row of hooks.

The tiny plastic packet of matches nudges my knee. I pick it up and stare at them.

Three matches left.

Three water sachets left.

I don't know how many days that is to die.

I think of Coral's face, pale as the moon in the watery cabin; think of her billowing hair stroking my cheek.

I curl up tight at the bottom of my flickering world and close my eyes.

Nudge.

Something is butting against my hip beneath the raft. I jolt up, heart thudding.

Nudge.

Bigger this time; harder. More insistent. I draw my legs up and press against the walls, holding my breath.

Nudge.

And this time I think I see something pressing up against the base of the raft. It's smooth and muscled and solid. A whale? A shark?

Panicking, I grab the safety knife, then a voice in my head screams,
No, no – you'll puncture the raft
. I throw the knife down, trembling.

It's under the raft now and I drum with my feet to bash it, again and again, on its rocky head, its jagged back.

I huddle in the bottom of the sagging raft, shivering, too tired to fight any more.

And then everything stops.

 

Tree

Bump.

It takes me a moment to think what's different. And then I realise that I'm no longer moving.

The raft is bumping against something gently. The floor beneath my legs is still. The sound of the restless, tugging roof canopy has stopped.

I push up through the roof and shield my eyes against the sudden sunlight.

Something is waving at me; something with blurry fronds like hands.

A tree.

I blink. In the tree there is a bird, and below the tree there is a rock.

A rock. A bird. A tree.

The raft is caught up on the rock by its trailing rope, and the water around the rock is white-blue and shiversshiversshivers in the sun.

Before me, a long white beach lies open like a blank page.

Sea has turned to land.

I clamber inside to shove all the stuff into the Red Nylon Bag, and when I climb back up through the roof, I almost fall and the raft slides and bounces.

BOOK: The Island
4.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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