The Derelict

Nathan Baker awoke in the sand. He could hear the waves crashing rhythmically. The sky was a bright blue, and not a cloud lingered above. The sun felt hot against his exposed skin. He sat up to look around. Aside from a few remnants scattered along the shore, his sailboat was nowhere in sight. Behind him was thick vegetation and a vast amount of tropical looking trees. He looked back at the ocean in front of him.

It seemed to go on forever. There was nothing he could see, save for the endless stretch of water. No other sign of land. No other boats. Nothing. He was truly alone here.

His pants were slightly torn, but his shirt had suffered no noticeable damage. He had lost his shoes sometime during the storm. The food he brought had been on the boat, but that was long gone by now. Everything had been on that boat. His cooking utensils, his food and water, and all other tools that would have been helpful to survive on this unfamiliar island.

Yet, he was not dismayed. He had always thought himself quite the optimist. “Anything is possible,” he thought to himself. Reality was nothing more than an illusion, prattled by cowards who were scared to try new things, who were scared to take risks. Nathan was not scared. He got to work immediately.

There was no need to make a shelter he decided. He concluded that the human body was made to withstand immense weather, and that constructing a shelter would waste precious time and energy. No shelter was built.

His stomach bellowed, so he started off in search of food. He walked into the jungle with no real plan, only an abstract goal in his head. He found trees harboring coconuts, but they were too high to reach. The decision was made to sit by the trees and hope that one would fall so he could consume it. Hours passed. None fell.

He made his way back to the shore. He was not dismayed by his failure to find food. Water was more important anyway. He had not found a source of water during his journey into the jungle. He had been warned about the consequences of drinking salt water, but he dismissed these claims. Salt was natural and often consumed regularly in food. How could combining it with water lead to any side effects?

He spent the next hour vomiting and clutching his abdomen in agony. He passed out in the sand from the pain.

He woke in the middle of the night shivering violently, icy drops of rain beating on his face, and the rest of his body that was not covered by the little clothing he had. He attempted to go back to sleep, yet managed only perhaps twenty minutes. After a grueling couple hours, the rain stopped and the sun began to rise.

The next two days were no different. Something had to change or he would die out here.

He reevaluated the previous days. He had renounced reality. He had forgone his ability to resonate his actions with reality, and it had shown him that it did not care what he thought or felt. “Perhaps,” he began to think to himself, “not just anything is possible.”

Today was different. He spent a good part of the day collecting wood and putting up the basic framework for a small, teepee like structure. He made cordage to hold the structure together from fibrous plants and used a thick wall of leaves to keep any weather out. He had made a bed from leaves for a more comfortable lay, and to help preserve body heat.

His journey back into the jungle was not unsuccessful this time. He found a particularly long stick that he used to knock the coconuts from the tree they had hung from. Using a large rock, he pounded the top of the coconut until it had split in half, leaving him with a perfect container for transferring and boiling water.

He found a stream deeper into the jungle. He caught fish using a makeshift spear he had made by grinding a branch to a point. He filled the coconut halves up with water and headed back to his shelter.

A fire lay was constructed next to, but not too close to, his shelter, ready to be lit up when needed. The water was boiled and set aside to cool, while he used a sharp rock to cut the fish and obtain the meat inside. It was then cooked over the fire and eaten, and the now clean water was drunk until he was satisfied.

When night came, the rain came with it. He headed into his shelter and fell asleep to the sound of the rain pattering on the walls outside his shelter.

He continued like this, losing track of how long he had been out there.

One morning, he was awoken by two men nudging him awake. They explained that they had been flying overhead and seen the smoke from his fire, which had prompted them to land and investigate. Nathan identified himself. The men were astonished. Nathan had been missing for just over three months, and had been presumed dead. The men asked how he had lived out here that long.

Nathan spoke.

“I had landed on this island after my boat was ripped apart in a storm. I spent my first days here in error. I had denounced reality and convinced myself that I could exist however I pleased. I had exchanged my ability to think for the ability to believe I was above the need to think. But after my attempts to survive by whatever means I pleased were proven to be not only false, but nearly fatal, I knew I needed to take a different approach. I had learned something. Reality was not merely an illusion. It was the guiding force of all my actions. It did not care what I had to say about it. Reality was real, and it would not change for me. I grasped, once again, my ability to think. I realized that my life would not simply be granted to me, but that I had to sustain it myself. I realized that I could not sustain my life by any random manner. I had to discover the course that reality required of me to live. To answer you simply, I managed to live because I recognized that I was a man with a certain nature, and that reality was at the forefront of all my decisions. I accepted reality as an absolute, and forced myself to think only in regards to reality. It taught me that my life was a value that came not at random, but at the cost of thinking.”

That day, Nathan returned to civilization with the two men who rescued him. They had rescued him from that island, but he had rescued his own life, and was ready to take a new approach at the life ahead of him.

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Isabelle Stone
This was a brilliant story! You truly mastered the techniques used in writing.
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