This is PART 2 of Little White Chairs. Click the link to read PART 1.
He had been adrift at sea for three days. He was so thirsty it felt like his body had turned to sand. He was heavily sunburnt with peeling skin that was oozing and felt like fire. He tried to stay in the shade as much as possible but there wasn’t much he could do on his little piece of plank. The fear of sharks, jellyfish, and other such scary creatures kept him awake. There was no calling for help, their party ship had been destroyed in the storm. They don’t make them like the used to and that was a good thing.
He was certain he was about to die but he had made peace with it. How he would miss his little white cubicle and his little white chair. How he would miss his little white apartment and his little white door. But most of all he would miss his little nice life carved out in routine certainty. If this experience told him anything, it was that deviation from routine had deadly consequences. But that mattered little now that he was adrift the endless sea. He closed his eyes and did not expect to open them again.
He woke up a few hours later to his piece of plank upturning. He plunged into the ice cold sea, the salt hurt his severely sunburned skin, he flailed for all he was worth, but it was useless. The sea tossed him like a ragdoll over and over and over again until he lay flat face first in the sand, calm wave after calm wave lapping up and blocking his breath.
He laid there for a second or two before realizing he was very much alive. He sat up sputtering for breath and stared hard at the sea. The moonlight bounced off the beach into his eyes and when he looked around, he realized he was on a large island. He began to rack his brain for any known islands off the coast of New York but could think of nothing significant. His knowledge of geography had declined rapidly since graduating high school. All he knew now was that he was alive, he was stranded on an island, and he was in the most pain he had ever felt in his life.
He slowly climbed to his feet, his skin scraping against his sandy clothes. He looked at the beach and then at a dense patch of forest just behind the beach. He sighed and thought the worst that could happen was he could be eaten, but that wouldn’t add much more pain to what he was already feeling. In fact, being eaten might offer some kind of peace in death. He had already conceded to dying anyways so might as well make it fast. Best case scenario he could find water. He nodded to himself then marched defiantly into the forest. It was the boldest move he had ever made in his life.
The forest was loud. Why had no one told him nature was so loud? On TV they only show people laughing next to a campfire. They never mention how loud the bugs are, the screech of mating calls filled his ears as did the buzz of mosquitos. It started with one annoying high pitched buzz that ended in a painful prick…then another, and another, and another. They were relentless. They focused on his body heat, heightened even more by literally being roasted in the sun for three days. He swatted at them as best he could but honestly, he was a dead man walking. He had no strength left and didn’t even know how he was able to think or walk at all. Eventually he gave up and trudged on, adding the mosquito bites to his list of pains.
He stumbled a few times and added cuts and scrapes to his injuries. He crawled when there was a hill and stumbled when there was a stick, and swiped blindly away at mosquitos, branches, leaves, and visions. A noise began to fill his head. Quiet at first but then slowly building to a loud roar. He didn’t notice it until it was so loud that he began to feel even more disoriented. He rubbed his eyes and looked around trying to find some sense of relief. He was unsure if this was the sound of his body finally breaking down or a real sound that was coming from somewhere. He looked wildly around, unseeing, until he literally fell into the river.
The shock of the cold water sharpened his senses and brought him out of his stupor for just a few seconds. It was long enough to realize that this was water he could drink, and drink he did. He stayed there in the river on his hands and knees feeling the current push past him drinking as much as he could stomach. He felt a little nauseous from finally having some form of drink inside him in three days, but he relished it compared to how thirsty he had been. He laid down on his back in the river, the part he had fallen into had luckily been shallow…he had no way of knowing that he would have drowned had he fallen into a deeper part of the river.
The cool water washed away the burning salt and offered some relief to the pain of his sunburn. His body quickly went to work on using the water he had drank and he was thirsty again before long. When this happened, he simply flipped over onto his stomach and greedily drank what he could. He was suddenly aware of how tired he was, and he looked up to the bank at a pile of leaves. The thought of bugs didn’t even cross his mind as he crawled on top of the bank and pull them on top of himself for warmth. He fell asleep as soon as his head hit the dirt and experienced a heavy dreamless sleep for an unknown length of time.
Perhaps during this sleep he had waved at death as he passed by, his body gaining strength after the intake of water. If he had been the slightest bit weaker, he would have joined death as a friend and pranced along his way into the afterlife…but the truth is he was not. He passed by without knowledge or understanding and came back up to the surface of his body sputtering and spewing out some sea water that had decided to become fully dislodged from his lungs rather than cause him to dry drown.
He sat up coughing hard and heavy, throwing up a little bit all over his bed of leaves. He wiped his mouth and crawled back into the river to wash off ants, dirt, and the terrible feeling of throwing up and coughing up salt water. He laid in the river for a bit longer and drank his fill once more. He had no way to tell how long he had been asleep, but the sun was out and the forest was awake. He heard birds singing off in the distance and the roar of the river that now surrounded him. His skin was still on fire but the cool shade of the trees provided a chance for it to begin the healing process. Newly hydrated, his body was in full gear.
He was so hungry. He began racking his brain for something, anything about survival that might help him. He had never planned to go camping if he could help it much less be in the situation he was in now. Bugs had protein, didn’t they? He grabbed up some beetles and mashed them between his molars, grimacing at the taste and action, but he had unknowingly bought himself another day of life. With each new action that brought him further from the civilization he knew and loved, the more alive he literally became. In order to survive, he would have to leave his little white house behind and focus on the brown dirt and trees that currently surrounded him.
Never had he experienced so much color! He looked around him in sudden dazed awe as his body sharpened his senses to try to survive. Everything around him was so vibrant, so wonderfully colorful with various blues, greens, and browns…greys, blacks…reds, oranges…every shade you could imagine was held in some type of plant, rock, or creature flying by. He reached his arms up and let out an elated yell as he splashed in the water and laughed. He grabbed up a worm this time and chewed. He washed it down with some river water. He tried to keep it down. He would have to build himself a type of shelter.
Further into the forest he went. He decided he wanted to stay by the river, so he cleared an area of debris and put it into a pile. He then grabbed some large branches and made a sort of boundary with them. He found as many leaves as he could and put them into a pile for a bed…it was very flat. He didn’t know how he could go about making walls, but he figured he could figure it out later. He went out to the beach to see what he could find.
A crab was digging in the sand and he about jumped for joy. He knew for a fact that he could eat crab. He grabbed a rock and smashed it into the crab, killing the little creature instantly. He now stared at the remains with a sudden realization. How would he cook it? He marched back to his little house holding his crushed crab and stared at the pile of debris. He threw the crab down and started to arrange what he thought a fire should look like. Suddenly, he remembered his boy scout training as a child that his parents forced him to go to. He went around and grabbed as many soft and flammable materials as he could and formed a nest for the fire he hoped to have. He then stared at it. How would he light it without a match?
He remembered movies where they depicted twirling a stick over and over to create heat…so he tried. His hands hurt and three hours later he was no closer, the plank of wood he had split off by slamming a branch against a tree wasn’t even warm. He reached up and scratched his head. Then he had an idea!! He started pulling fist fulls of hair out of his scalp, ignoring his now watering eyes. He rubbed them together until they formed a little mat of dry hair then placed it on top of the plank and twirled, twirled, twirled that stick. Five hours later, he saw a spark. Oh how he coveted that spark. He very gently blew on the hair to make the spark catch, then when the hair went up in a flame he almost got too excited. He remembered the one bit of training he had ever had with fires and began, one by one, placing twigs, leaves, and other things on top. He let the flame take its time. There was no use in trying to rush it.
Twenty minutes later he had a roaring fire and it was starting to get dark. He grabbed a flat rock from the river and placed it near the fire. He placed the crab on top and picked through the cooked shell to eat what meat he could manage from the tiny body. He went back to the beach hoping to find more but what he saw instead was a very bright glint of light in the sand. He made his way over and saw that it wasn’t a piece of light at all but a collection of little white seashells. They were so brilliantly stark white that he was taken by them immediately.
They reminded him of his little white life back at home. He gathered them up and placed them along the little border next to his bed for decoration. He covered the fire in a small layer of dirt and hoped beyond hope it would still be hot in the morning.
His eyes closed and he dreamt of little white beetles, little white crabs, and little white seashells.
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