I look at the colorful sunset over the dark blue and golden water. The waves brush over my feet, the cold water sends a chill up my back. I stand there awhile, always hoping to see a boat or a person, but so far nothing. Palm trees hang over the ocean, sometimes I see a colorful bird or fish. A stream runs through connecting to a small lake. It is beautiful, but I wish I were home.
Everyday I hunt with an old rifle. The sight is off, but I have gotten used to it. I eat mostly rabbit, seeds, mangos, and nuts. I have an old book about edible plants in my backpack, along with a flashlight, some matches, sunscreen, and a blanket. I sleep in the sand under a palm tree. It is big and provides some shade. The nights are cold by the water, so I hold on to my blanket tightly. In Arizona, where I’m from, cold nights don’t really exist.
My brother Jason doesn’t miss Arizona that much. He has always wanted to get away and he jumped at the chance. Our father was a marine biologist, and he wanted us to go with him to study sharks in the Pacific. I decided to come, but I was always afraid out at sea. I thought it would help me overcome my fear, but now I’m more afraid than I ever was before. Jason always says “Don’t worry Lizzie, someone will come”. I don’t believe that for a second. He is four years older than me, and at eighteen, he feels the need to “be in charge”. He can be really annoying at times and he doesn’t like the idea of me using the rifle, but I’m glad he is here. I don’t know what I would do without him.
The first few weeks at sea with our father, the water was calm and serene. We would see dolphins and whales, and sometimes even a shark. It was amazing, I loved it. I discovered I loved to be out at sea, even if I was a little on edge. The ocean is vast and mysterious and a part of me wanted to be back home, but I longed to see what was out there, where it would take us. Jason felt the same way, he loved it more than I did, but no one loved the water more than my father. We lived on a lake in Arizona and he would always wake up at the crack of dawn to sail in his little boat. I always slept in so I hardly ever would sail with him, I think he enjoyed having the morning to himself.
It was a calm night on the water, we were somewhere in the Pacific. I was getting a little claustrophobic, and I missed my mother. She died sailing in the Pacific when I was twelve. I still miss her, I always will.
“Dad, I love it out here, it’s beautiful, but sometimes it’s scary knowing that mom died out here. I know that it probably will never happen again, but I still get worried,” I said.
“I know it is hard, but I want to get past that and continue her legacy. She was an amazing marine biologist”, he replied. “Every time I sail in the ocean, I think of her. I miss her so much, but she died doing what she loved.”
“I’m going to go to bed. I’m exhausted.”
“Goodnight Liz, see you in the morning.”
I said goodnight to Jason and went to my small cabin. It was kind of uncomfortable, but it was nice. I had a lovely view of the ocean out of the window next to my bed. Occasionally I would see dolphins, and even whales.
I woke up to loud thunder around three a.m. The boat was rocking like crazy. I went out to my dad and Jason who were rushing to get out the lifeboat. Waves and water were pouring onto the deck. The rain was crashing down so hard that it hurt my back.
“We are going down!” my father cried. Lightening struck the boat. It started steadily lowering deeper and deeper into the water. We scurried into the lifeboat. I grabbed my backpack and we went out in the ocean. Our boat was devoured by the waves, we watched it as it sunk into the ocean. We all were terrified.
“What are we supposed to do now?” I said through tears. The waves were huge and I just barely could stay on the lifeboat. I held onto Jason tightly. Father was holding onto the side of the boat and was starting to slip off. The waves devoured him. Jason tried to grab him, but it was too late. There was no hope in getting him back; we were alone.
“Dad! Come back!” I cried. He was gone. Jason and I both cried. First our mother died at sea, and now our father too? I was starting to hate the ocean. I just wanted to be back at home. I was filled with hatred and sadness. I cried myself to sleep after the storm ended.
I woke up and could see land. I shook Jason awake.
“Land! I see land!”
“Oh my god, you’re right!”
Soon we had reached the island. We were both extremely thirsty and hungry. That’s all we could think about. Jason found a stream and I found a mango tree. We both ate and drank until we were completely stuffed. We fell asleep on the beach.
I awoke and remembered that our father was gone. I started to cry. Why did I agree to go on this trip? Couldn’t we just have stayed home? Maybe this was all just a long dream. I pinched myself. I was full of denial.
I later found an old rifle and bullets. That kind of scared me, were people here before we were? Did they die here? I stopped thinking about it and considered myself lucky. I started getting used to living on the island.
That’s where I am now. I have been here two weeks. Every day I mark a line in a tree before I go to bed, so I know how many days I’ve been here. Jason and I seem to be doing okay, but I wonder how long we will last. We have food and water. We have each other, but can we thrive? Can we survive? Everyday feels like an eternity. It all feels hopeless and meaningless. The only thing I have to look forward to is someone coming, which will never happen.
We had been there seventeen days now. I decide to go hunting. I go and get the rifle which is hidden under a few palm trees close to shore. I look at the rifle. It looks familiar, like I’ve seen it back at home, but I shrug it off. By the time I finish hunting I’ve shot a rabbit. I come to our main camp, which is just some food and a blanket. I sit down and look at the rifle. I look at the serial number, then look on the other side. Initials. A.M.R. The same initials as my mother… this was my mother’s rifle.
“Jason!” I yell. I run through the island with the rifle in my hand until I find him.
“ What, Liz?”
“Look at the initials on this rifle, it’s Mom’s!”
“No it isn’t. That’s ridiculous. Why on earth would her rifle be here of all places.”
“Look at the initials, A.M.R. That has to be her. She must be here, we have to find her.” Jason looked at the rifle.
“It looks like hers but I’m sure there are others like it. There are plenty of people who have the same initials as her.”
“Like who? And why would one be here. She died on the Pacific, just like we did. She could be here.”
“I think we would have found her by now. We haven’t seen any smoke or other signs of people here. How would she survive for two years alone on this island, without any fire.”
“Maybe we haven’t noticed her yet. She might find us before we find her.”
“She isn’t here, Elizabeth. Get over it. I’m going to start a fire and cook the rabbit you shot.”
“I’m going for a walk.” I walk through the lonely island. When I come back after a few hours, the rabbit is halfway cooked. When the rabbit is finally done, we eat dinner. The fire’s smoke is still rising throughout the night. It is a full moon and the sky is lit with stars. We fall asleep quickly.
I awake to a loud noise. Something is walking toward us. I can hear twigs breaking under its footsteps. Jason is already awake and is holding the rifle ready to shoot. I quietly back up a few steps.
“Jason,” I whispered, “Don’t shoot.” Jason lowers the gun. It becomes clear who this mysterious figure is. Our mother. I run towards her and she holds me tight in her arms.
“Mom! I knew you were here! I missed you so much.”
“I can’t believe it’s you, I thought you were dead,” Jason says.
“I missed you all so much. You’ve grown up so fast,” she exclaims, “It’s very hard living without you and your father. Where is he, and how did you get here?” We explain everything.
“How did you find us Mom, we have gone so long without finding you,” Jason asks.
“When I saw smoke in the moonlight, I went to see who it was. I’m so glad it was you.”
We take a walk through the island. We talk about life back at home when she was gone. I see something in the distance. A small shiny metal thing sticking up from the ground.
“What’s that?” I walk towards it and brush off the leaves. A bunker. “Mom, look!” She looks at it and pulls a key out of her pocket and opens it.
“Mom?” Jason asks, “How did you get that?”
“I’m not stranded, I’m a scientist here. I didn’t tell you because it’s top secret, I work for the government. No one knew, not even your father. I faked my death.”
“What?” Me and Jason were shocked. “Can we go back home?”
“I can send a boat for you.”
“What about you Mom? Are you just going to send us away?” I ask.
“I can’t leave, this is my job. I love you, this is what’s best.”
“Will we ever see you again?”
“It may take years, but I will see you again someday.”
“Why can’t we stay here with you. You left us once, pretending to be dead. Dad is dead and you don’t seem to care. We will be alone while you are doing who knows what on this little island. Do you even care about us?” Jason asks.
“I care about both of you. I will see if I can let you stay.” Mom looked sad. She pushed away her tears and climbed inside the bunker.
We were able to stay. Even if we are alone, we have each other. Jason may be upset at mother now, but we’re safe. That’s all that matters.