It had been precisely seven hundred and twenty-three days since the ocean had taken Captain Finley’s ship. The challenges of surviving on this hell of an island had been nothing compared to the crippling loneliness that followed. After his morning ritual of collecting water. Followed inevitably by the cursing of the coconut crabs who had pillaged his fruit stores again. He wandered along the beach. A breeze rustled the palms as he dragged his toes along the golden and. Under any other circumstances, the scene would have been paradise. He came to a halt in front of five crude crosses, fashioned from driftwood, no doubt, some of it from his own ship. They marked empty graves. One for each of his crew. After weeks of scouring the shorelines, he’d been forced to assume they were dead. He’s held a simple service, consisting largely of a moving eulogy for his first mate and best friend Charlie. For the rest of the men, whom he’d not known as well, he’d done his best.

The sun-soaked sand burnt his knees as he knelt to carve another day into the trunk of his least favourite tree. After giving his fallen comrades an update on his latest escape plan, he bid them good rest and hailed himself back down the beach to work.

It had taken months of labour, but the raft was almost complete. He’d learnt from his past mistakes and added some simple shelter from the harsh sun, as well as a pointed and reinforced bow to help plough through the breakers to freedom. His last task was tedious but at least it wasn’t too labour intensive. He collapsed in the shade by his partially finished saul and continued weaving. The prospect of leaving his prison was ample inspiration to work quickly. By the time he lay down to sleep, he’s not only finished the sail, but attached it to the raft, and loaded the supplies. Eyes closed, he smiled at the clicking of coconut crabs heading for his, now empty, fruit stores.

Conditions were perfect, there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky and a strong easterly breeze was prepped to carry him home. Panting, he finally pushed his raft to the water’s edge. As he was about to launch, a glint of light caught his eye. it was a bottle, whiskey if he wasn’t mistaken. Unlucky for him, it was empty. Instead, someone had rolled up some tatty paper and stuffed it inside. Intrigued, he unravelled the note.

Send help. By my calculations, we’re on an island in the Pacific, somewhere east of where this bottle should end up. Our ship is gone. Our Captain and the rest of our crew are presumed dead. Our food stores are low. C

Captain Finley’s heart lept to his throat. Though the charcoal was smudged, he knew who’d sent the message. Charlie was alive. He had to find him. His energy doubled with a new mission, he raised the sail.

By Stacey Potter

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