“So, Darling – what are your plans for today?”
I smiled at Mom, who was sitting across from me at the breakfast table. “Well, I was thinking of going to Sherlyn’s house. She texted me last night and wondered if I would want to cool off in the creek with her today.”
“Can I come?” Richard, my twin brother, pleaded. He shot me a smile, and raised his eyebrows expectantly.
“Fine – I’m sure Sherlyn won’t mind.”
“That sounds like a great idea! How about you text Sherlyn back now and tell her that both of you will be coming,” Mom suggested.
“Alright,” I agreed, sliding my chair away from the table. A search for my cellphone soon ensued. After a few minutes of looking in my bedroom, I heard it ringing. It sounded like it was coming from Rick’s bedroom across the hall. I hurried out of my bedroom and straight into his. He sat at his desk, holding my cellphone out to me.
“Why didn’t you tell me you had it?” I asked him in a frustrated tone.
“I don’t know,” he merely replied. I sighed and took my cellphone from his hand. I was about to text Sherlyn when my Dad appeared in the doorway.
“Sherlyn just called and said that it was okay if Rick came with you,” he said, a blank expression on his face.
“Dad? I thought you were at work already!“ I started; but after a second thought, I sighed, not wanting to make a big deal of this whole situation. “Okay, thanks. Let’s go, Rick.”
Richard followed after me as I made my way out of the house. Sherlyn’s house was right across the street from ours, so after I made sure there were no cars coming, Richard and I walked across. We made our way around to the back of the house, where the creek was. I saw Sherlyn already swishing her feet around in the cool water.
“Hey, Sherlyn!” I cried, waving at her enthusiastically. She turned around, an angry expression on her face.
“Why didn’t you text me?” she yelled. I was about to reply when I saw Dad's and Mom's heads slowly sinking further into the creek. I ran closer, screaming at them to come out. I jumped into the creek and tried to swim to them. Just then I remembered that I couldn’t swim! Sherlyn reached out to me and pulled me back to shore. I pleaded with her to save my parents, but she just sat there and stared out into the water. I watched as my beloved Mom and Dad slowly sank completely under the water.
I screamed when I felt someone grab my shoulders. Then a voice called, “Brielle! Are you okay?” I opened my eyes and sat up straight. Sweat pricked on my face and arms. My breath was heavy, and I struggled to regain composure. I looked up and saw Richard staring into my chocolate brown eyes, his eyebrows arched in confusion.
“I’m fine – just a nightmare,” I stammered. I blinked my eyes again as I realized that I was not in my warm, comfortable bed at home. “Why are we at the beach, Rick?”
“We’re not at the beach,” Richard said solemnly. He took a deep breath before continuing, “We’ve been shipwrecked here for days; have you forgotten already?”
“What? You’ve got to be kidding me! This couldn’t possibly have happened!” I cried, getting up off the sand and furiously brushing off the seat of my jean shorts with my hands. I looked out into the ocean, the salty sea breeze whipping my brown hair anywhere it pleased. All that remained of the ship was a few boards and an unused life jacket.
Seeing the life jacket reminded me of my own. I looked down to see a deflated mass of orange nylon surrounding my torso. After undoing the clips, I tossed the useless thing onto the sand next to me and walked closer to the ocean. The waves lapped gently at the shore, showing no signs of a previous disaster. I collapsed onto the sand and fingered the foam that served as a reminder of previous waves.
Tears welled up in my eyes. “How did it happen? Where are we?”
Richard rushed to my side. He squatted down next to me and wrapped his arm around my shoulders. “It’s alright, Bri. We’ll be alright.”
It was almost noon, and I began to feel hungry. I shrugged off Rick’s arm and stood. “What do you think we can eat out here?”
“I don’t know… I don’t really see anything edible. Do you?” he asked, looking around. All we could see was sand stretching out for miles in all directions; except, of course, where the ocean was.
“Do you see that grass-looking stuff over there?” I pointed to a patch of short, stubbly grass a few feet away from us. I ran over to it and reached down to grab some.
“Wait!” Rick yelled. “You don’t know if it’s poisonous or not!”
I yanked my hand away. “You’re right. So, what do you suggest we do?”
“I don’t know. Here, let me touch and eat it first, just to make sure it’s safe.” Rick pulled up a few blades of the grass, broke off the dirty ends, and folded them in half, making it easier to stick them in his mouth. He stared at the clumps of grass on the ground as he chewed.
“Well?” I asked impatiently.
“It doesn’t taste fantastic, but I suppose it will have to do for now.”
“So you don’t think it’s poisonous or anything?” I questioned further.
“Well, I haven't died yet," he remarked sarcastically.
I sighed, relenting to his consensus. I followed the same procedure as he had done with the grass. As I chewed the stringy substance that was to serve as our lunch, I conceded that it would have to suffice for the moment. Rick and I busied ourselves with harvesting some more grass, just in case this was the only food source we would find for awhile.
The sun was now straight above us, and we could feel the heat and humidity pressing on our skin. After I complained to Richard, we decided to find a shady place to sit and think about what to do next. We wandered away from the grass and walked in the direction opposite the ocean.
“Wait a minute!” I stopped abruptly. “We don’t have any water!”
“Do you think we should go get some saltwater from the ocean?” Rick suggested.
“Absolutely not!” I sighed. “That is simply disgusting; and besides, we don’t have anything to carry it with.”
“Very true,” Rick agreed. Then he continued, “Although, we might just find some cactuses along the way. Or maybe even a clean spring, or at least a puddle.”
“Well, there's a very slim chance of finding anything 'clean' out here. But it did rain last night, so maybe there's something nearby.”
We continued walking towards the horizon. Endless miles of sand lay before us, but we walked with purpose. Along the way, we tried to convince each other that there might even be a town not far away, or even a camel-rider – although, we didn’t know if camels even existed in the desert we were in.
After it felt like we had been walking about an hour, I dropped to the sand out of sheer exhaustion. I was hot, I was tired, and I was thirsty. Rick looked down at me in alarm.
“Are you okay, Brielle?” he asked, dropping to his knees beside me. We were both sweating profusely, which was not good considering we had no drinking water to refresh ourselves.
“Stay with me! Tell me what’s wrong!” Rick cried, shaking my shoulders. I squinted through the bright sunlight at him. A sincere look of concern was painted across every feature of his face.
“I need water,” I whispered.
“Of course! I think I could go for some water right about now, too,” he remarked. “I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere!”
After he scampered off across the sand, I lay down. The burning crystals of sand scorched my bare skin, but it felt good to rest my weary body. I closed my eyes, wishing everything was back to normal. I wished Mom and Dad were still alive. I wished I was back on the ship, sailing to New Guinea with my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins. I wished I hadn’t been shipwrecked.
“God, why would you do this to me? I don’t understand what good could come out of this! I’m tired, hurt, hungry, thirsty, and hot! Help me understand! Please get me out of this mess,” I cried aloud to my Heavenly Father.
Hot tears rolled down my cheeks. I swallowed, trying to get the large lump out of my throat – crying always made me choke up. Just then I felt the hairs on my arms and legs bristle, and goosebumps prickled my skin. A deep, steady growl echoed in my ears. My muscles tensed, and I held my breath as a soft tuft of hair – not my own – brushed up against my bare calf. I felt gentle gusts of air tingling my skin, and I guessed it was another animal’s breathing.
Oh, Lord! I thought to myself. Protect me, please!
As I made my way across the sand looking for a cactus or water source of some sort, I came upon a set of barely visible footprints. They looked to me like they belonged to a type of dog; maybe a dingo. I shrugged and wandered on; but I soon stopped short, realizing something terribly important.
“Oh, great. How am I going to find my way back to Bri?” I stomped my foot in the loose sand, creating a fine dust in the air. I coughed and waved my hand in front of my face. A clear howl pierced through the thick, humid air. I looked behind me, and another howl rang out.
Dingoes! I thought, and then something hit me. And their howls are coming from the same direction I left Brielle!
I turned and ran as fast as I could toward Brielle. I had been running for what seemed like forever when a terrible sight finally met my eyes. I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Brielle!”
The dingoes looked in my direction, and one of them snarled. Another dingo nipped at Bri’s arm, and I lost it. I ran full force toward Brielle and the dingoes. The one that had nipped at her darted off, but the snarling one stayed on to challenge me. He crouched down to his haunches, ready to charge at me. I held my hands out in front of me as I ran, and my right fist landed right between the dingo’s eyes.
I was prepared for what would happen next. The dingo would attempt to bite my hand off, and no doubt to teach me a lesson I wouldn’t forget. I used my left fist to punch the side of his head, making him stagger to the side. He quickly regained his balance and attempted to pounce at me. I stepped to the side and let him half-bury himself in the loose sand. Apparently this did not please the dingo very much. I suppose, though, that he decided I was not worth the effort, because he sulked away into the endless expanse of sand. I looked after him, breathing heavily with my hands shaking at my sides.
Then I remembered Brielle, who was still lying on the sand next to me. I looked down at her, forcing a teasing smile to my face. “So, you stayed put, just like I asked, huh?” When she didn’t respond with a giggle or even a smile, I knelt down beside her.
“Sorry, Bri. I couldn’t find any water. Are you okay? Did the dingoes do anything to you?” I asked, concerned. The only reply I got was a small sigh that I couldn’t really interpret. I decided to check her for myself. I lifted an almost sunburnt arm off the sand – which I suddenly realized was scorching hot – and examined it carefully.
I sighed in relief when I only saw a small scratch. I moved over to her other side and picked up her right arm, where the nipping dingo had previously been. A small set of bite marks was visible. They didn’t seem deep; in fact, they seemed to be mere indentions.
After examining her legs and the area around her head, I concluded that the only minor injury was a few scratches on her calf – no doubt from curious dingo claws.
“Rick,” I heard her whisper softly.
“I really need some water, and – shade."
“Okay, I’ll try my best,” I assured her. I slid my arms under her weak body and lifted her up. It wasn’t until then that I realized how weak I was myself. I stumbled to the left for a step or two, then regained my balance and began to walk forward.
I had been carrying her for at least ten minutes when I couldn’t bear the weight anymore. I dropped to my knees with Bri in my arms, and I cried out to God,
“Heavenly Father, please hear me! I am so weak. Please lift my heavy burden and walk beside me. Help me find cool water and a place of shade!”
Feeling myself regain some strength after my prayer, I looked straight ahead and rose to my feet. I squinted my eyes, thinking I saw something that looked like a spring of water.
No, it couldn’t be! I thought to myself. It’s probably just a mirage; but I guess it couldn’t hurt to go see for myself! After making this decision, I staggered toward the spring. The time seemed to lag on forever until I reached the small mass of water. I carefully laid Brielle on the sand and reached out to touch the water in front of me. It wasn’t a dream!
“Bri! I found some water! Do you have enough strength to come get some?” I asked excitedly. I saw her gently lift her head and glance over at the cool spring. Something inside her eyes seemed to glimmer, and she used her arms to drag herself close enough to drink. She cupped a shaking hand and plunged it into the water. Hastily, she brought it up to her mouth and drank the refreshing liquid.
“Do you think you’ll be okay now?” I asked cautiously as she took another drink. The only reply was a small nod in my direction. I smiled, knowing I had completed my task. Brielle would be okay!
While I was watching this whole scene, I had forgotten that I was desperately thirsty as well. I fell down beside the spring and cupped my hands to drink. The water felt like liquid gold running smoothly down my dry throat. I sighed in relief and praised God for His wonderful mercy.
All of a sudden, I saw a giant shadow looming in front of me. It covered Brielle and me in a glorious shade. I peered behind me, almost afraid as to what might be the cause of this shadow. A large, prickly cactus met my gaze. Surely that had not been there before? At least, I hadn't seen it when Bri and I had arrived at the spring.
I smiled a wide, thankful grin. It must be a providence of God, just like He helped the prophet Jonah! Thank you, Lord!
I looked down at Brielle to see her reaction. She was still drinking handfuls of water from the spring. I lifted her from the edge of the water and pulled her back further into the shade.
“Here, Bri. Now that you’ve drank some water, you can sleep peacefully in the shade,” I suggested.
Brielle looked up and met my gaze. “Thank you,” she whispered.
I just responded with a smile.