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Authors: Olivia Levez

The Island (7 page)

BOOK: The Island
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‘
Magnum frickin opus?

‘
Yeah, right
.'

 

Pool

I'm glad I have a knife.

The trees and creepers claw so thickly that often I can't get through and have to turn round. The whole time, I'm twitchy, waiting for something to come galloping out of the thicket or land on my head.

The forest floor is a rustle of dead leaves and, as I watch, a rat shoots out from behind some bushes. There must be snakes and spiders and frogs.

Crazy sounds, screeches and booms.

Somewhere, a bird is calling, over and over again.
Oh dear me
, it seems to say.
Oh dear
me
.

Even though it's early, the heat presses in and sweat dribbles behind my neck and down my sides. I've passed the same log three times and am beginning to think I'm in that scene in
The Blair Witch Project
when the guy goes crazy and chucks the map away and the girl screams at him 'cause really, that's when she knows they're all going to die.

A muddy pool.

It shines dully through the trees like a badly cleaned mirror.

Water.

I hack at the few remaining creepers and slide down into the clearing. Run to the pool and crouch down. It's definitely water but I stop still when I see what's lying in it:

One dead rat, its mouth pulled back to show its little brown teeth.

Something nasty wrapped up in a spider's web.

Lots of murky brown stuff, which I suppose must be snake crap and worse.

But the water's still in my scooped hands and, even though it's warm and brown and smelly, I'm so thirsty after my trek that I nearly –

‘If you drink dirty water, you die, plain and simple. You get sickness and diarrhoea, you lose any fluids your body has…'

Hi I'm Steve!
's sneering voice nearly makes me down it, just to show him.

Show him what? He's not here – nobody's here.

So I stand up again. Hold on to a tree when my head swims. I can't think clearly; my thoughts are all muddy, like the pond.

There's something niggling me; something that Steve said. Something about water. At least I can collect some, I think. I can take it back with me. But I can't even do that, can I? Because I haven't brought a bottle.

After a long time, I get up and wipe my eyes. It's steaming hot in the jungle.

Sweat runs down my bra and trickles into my armpits. I retie my torn-up T-shirt shoes, which are bloody and filthy.

There's nothing for it but to trek my way back to One Tree Beach.

 

Loser

I can't find One Tree Beach.

I break through the trees after what seems like hours of walking, only to find that there's a strange sucking swamp of tangled roots instead of the sea.

No Fang Rock. No One Tree.

I hiss in my breath. Wonder if I can somehow climb through the swamp and make my way through the roots to the sea. But when I put my foot in the mud, it squelches and bubbles and then I'm in up to my waist, arms flailing.

‘
Help
,' I cry, but what a stupid thing to be calling, here in this gulping, sucking swamp. Of course there's no one to help me.

I crawl out of the mud myself, arms trembling. I've lost both of my T-shirt shoes.

This is a hateful place.

I think of Joker during survival training:

‘So will there be crocodiles then or what?'

Steve smirking as he nods. ‘There'll be crocs so big they'll kill a man quicker than he can grab his knife.'

Joker fist-punches the air.

‘And can they climb trees?' Tiny asks, standing close to Trish, arms folded.

Steve nods. ‘Sure they can. And they're fast too. Faster than a horse at full gallop.'

I trip barefoot back through the jungle. Everything looks the same. Something bars my way and it's a grove of fallen trees, criss-crossed crazily across my path. Have I been here before? I don't know if I have or haven't.

Panting and cursing, I clamber through the netted branches. Try another direction.

All the time, I'm listening for the sounds of galloping behind me.

 

Shall I?

Shall I? Shall I? Shall I?

I trail my finger over the sharp edges of my last water sachet; squelch its contents; hold it to my cheek.

Big mistake to lose my way and get tired and thirsty; stupid to go trekking in the forest and sweat out the rest of the water that was in my body.

I'm scratched and torn. My mouth burns.

Slumped under One Tree, I realise that I've done everything wrong.

I trace my finger over the plastic. It feels plump in my hands, smooth against my cheek.

Whatever happens, I will not drink that water till I've found more.

I drink that water with my eyes.

 

Countdown

• No. of water sachets left: 0

• No. of attempts to break into could-be coconuts: 8

• No. of times switched torch on in the night: 17

 

Thirst

I lick the condensation from the underside of the life raft, drop by drop.

It's over my head, bright and yellow. The sun is burning through it, into my head, into my brain.

I thirst.

I think about going back to the muddy pool. But I can't drink that. If I do, I will die.

I think about drinking seawater, just a little. But Steve's voice screams at me, ‘
Don't do it. Don't do it.
'

I look down at the green kernel in my hand. All around me are the broken shells of those that have split before I could get out the liquid. I don't think they can be coconuts because coconut flesh is hard and white – this stuff is green and wet and stringy. I decide to call them could-be nuts.

At least their flesh is wet. I sit surrounded by their skin as I've been scooping out the mush inside with my fingers. But I need their liquid.

Painfully, I reach again for the knife.

If I breathe through my nose, the heat is fiercer but at least I don't feel dry air sucking through the dry sawdust that is my mouth.

I sit gazing at the sea as it laps and licks at the sand. One Tree is against my back and the wind has blown the life raft on to the rocks.

I suppose I should wade in and drag it back to make my shelter.

I suppose I should find a way of pinning it down for the night.

I suppose, I suppose.

I'm staring at the sea, holding my torch and my knife, when I see a small, dark object in the shallows. It can't be a could-be nut because they're round and this is square.

After a million years, I get up the energy to stick my knife into the sand, make my legs stand up and walk across to the sea's edge. Each step is like wading through syrup; the heat pushes against me and my legs are treacle. I stop when I feel the warm water seep through my toes; kneel down and pick up the object.

It's a package.

It's wrapped tightly in white plastic and is the size of a shoebox.

I carry it carefully back to my tree and sink back down in the sand.

It takes for ever to get inside, almost as bad as getting into the could-be nuts.

I hack at the tape with the knife and tug and pull until all the tape is off and the package is exposed.

A small cardboard box with a picture of a sailing ship on the side.
SEVEN SEAS
, it says, stamped all over in blue and green. I pull away the perforated flap and lift the lid.

Inside it's crammed full with small white sachets, like a box of After Eight mints. I pull one out and look at it.

Seven Seas Eezi-Meal
, it says,
Chili Mac with Beef.

My stomach starts to growl. I haven't eaten anything but scoopfuls of mushy could-be nut flesh since I've been on the island. I pull out another packet. Tear it open. Sniff.

It smells faintly of cheesy-puff crisps.

Instructions for Cheesy Fish Pie
, I read.
Simply mix contents with 150 ml boiling water and serve.

I pour the contents into my mouth.

When I finish coughing and trying to swallow about five tons of dried fish-flavoured sawdust, I pull all the sachets out and scatter them across the beach; kick the box across the beach; kick One Tree again and again with my bare feet and scream.

My voice is dry as a dust bowl but I don't care; I fall to my knees in the sand and

HOWL

 

Hello Kitty

Carefully, hardly daring to breathe, I place the tip of my knife over the could-be nut.

I've spent what seems like hours chipping away the hard shell, and there's the top of it, all ready to pierce. I'm not going to use the rock this time because I can't afford to let the liquid splurt out all over the sand again.

Not this time.

Not when there are hardly any could-be nuts left.

Wedged between two stones is an open packet of
Hearty Stew with Chicken 'n' Mushroom
. I've poured half of it out into a scraped-out could-be nut shell. All they need is liquid.

I lick my cracked lips.

Take a breath.

Cut away with my knife to make a small opening.

Now.

My knife breaks through and liquid sprays out and
quickquickquick
I shake the juice into the open packet, into the shell of dried food.

Then I press the could-be nut to my lips and drink and drink and drink.

It's heaven. It's bliss. It's fresh and clean and almost fizzy in my mouth, soothing my dry throat, plumping out my cracked tongue.

‘Thank you, rock,' I say.

I take another could-be nut.

Crack, split, drink.

And another.

I'm getting good at this.

I count the could-be nuts I find lying on the sand. Seven. The rest are clustered tight in their palm trees, high out of reach. But there are lots of palm trees fringing the forest. And I could get a stick.

The drink has given me energy again. I collect the nuts and pile them neatly by One Tree and think I could even have a swim later. The water shimmers whitebluewhite and is studded with stars like a gypsy's wedding dress.

White with a splash of red.

I blink.

There's something in the water.

Something small and bright and red, winking as it's nosed by the tide on to the wet sand. I leave the could-be nuts and wade into the water. The sea nudges its gift to my feet like a dog with a ball.

I pick it up and begin to laugh; of all the things the sea spits out, this has got to be the most useful, right?

It's a Hello Kitty washbag.

Inside:

Turquoise nail polish

Eyeliner

Vaseline lip balm with cocoa butter

A nail file

And a box of tampons, unopened.

It must be Coral's. No way
Hi I'm Trish!
would use that shade of varnish on her nails.

I think of swirling hair and shiver.

The cat's face on the bag blinks back at me.

But I have food.

Back on the beach, I find a stick and stir the mixture in the packet, then I stir the mixture in the shell. There. I have a starter and a main. With the could-be nut mush I even have dessert. So maybe my luck is finally changing.

Maybe the sea will just keep chucking me the things I need –

some cans of ice-cold Coke would be nice and a couple of cheeseburgers and a Snickers bar
–

and my life will literally be just perfect.

 

Eezi Does It

The Seven Seas package contains twenty freeze-dried Eezi-Meals.

What they're supposed to taste of:

• New Orleans Rice with Shrimp

• Beef Lasagne

• Chili Mac with Beef

• Hearty Stew with Chicken 'n' Mushroom

• Spaghetti 'n' Meat

• Pink Blancmange 'n' Berries

• Apple Pie 'n' Custard

• Lemon Meringue Supreme

What they actually taste of:

• Cold puke

• Warm cheese

• Dry sawdust

I put a dollop of Hearty Stew on the stick and eat. I eat it all, every last bit.

Yum frickin yum.

 

Bubbles

After I finish my breakfast of Apple Pie 'n' Custard washed down with could-be nut water, I look at the sea and know I have to get in there.

It feels so good just to wash; to splash around in the shallows and lie on my back with the sun on my face and the waves tickling my cheeks and forehead.

When I duck my head below the water, I can see shooting shoals of fish, zipping and zigzagging over the sandy bed and around the rocks. I try to touch one with my finger and it twitches away.

I take another breath and dive lower; swim further out to where the water deepens and darkens.

‘Look at me, Frannie. Look at me!'

Johnny, standing by the pool's edge, skinny knees shivering.

‘Watch me jump, Frannie.'

‘I'm watching, Monkey, I'm watching.'

I've always liked to swim.

This sea is brimful of sky; it fizzes with bubbles of light as I swim and dive, heading towards the horizon. Now there is coral foresting the ocean floor. It's purple and red and mysterious. I drift in the water on my tummy, reaching my hands down towards it.

Fish flinch and shiver.

When I come up for breath I'm dizzy and alone. I could go on and on, could keep on swimming. There is nothing and no one to stop me. The thought nags me.

What if I just keep on going?

What if?

I hang in the water, pulsing. The sea holds its breath.

Then I turn, back to the white curl that is the beach, back to the island.

 

SpongeBob SquarePants

Maybe it's something to do with the tide, but it's happened again. The sea is feeling generous today.

The first gift is hanging off a rock, bright yellow and startling.

BOOK: The Island
12.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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