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BIRDS CIRCLED HIS head. The breeze blew him awake, the supple
warmth of the sand struggled at his body and kept the water from pulling
him back into the ocean. He felt like he was disappearing. The sun
blinded him with sun spots. The sun, at one with his shadow. He was hot
and his mouth was dry and if this was death, that final moment, he was
fine with it. No struggle left.
Birds landed by his ears. The first bird, a gray and white sea bird with a
crooked beak pecked at a small shell not moments from his face, time
coming in waves until he noticed that the bird was perhaps ten feet away
and trying at his distorted vision. In spirals he watched the bird as he
listened to the waves. They sounded like the tepid breaths of something
large sitting on top of him. Breathing into his ears. Over and over again.
He knew the sound of the waves, he knew it well. The world was
swallowing him. It hurt to think. He closed his eyes. Darkness visited
again. Briefly, for a while. Moments, hours, he wasn’t sure. It wasn’t
until the second bird screamed him back into a moment where his eyes
pried open for him to follow the spiral designs scraped into the sand to a

squawking hollering one legged gull chasing away the other bird that he
finally realized where he was and when: mere moments later.
Suddenly something was clamping on to his hand. Hard.
“Whuhhh!” with one long painful heave he muscled his body up onto
his aching elbow as he shook his finger at the air.
The offender came off and into the sand as he smashed his hand into
the sand to flatten the crab. It cracked and it crushed into a gooey pile of
broken shell, two dying eyes peeking out to watch its own death begin.
He was fully awake. Hopping up, it hurt to stand. He knelt instead. A
few deep breaths. Then he was up. Standing. Wobbly. His ribs were
bruised and his legs were weak. But something further up ahead on the
beach had caught his eye and he knew there was no time to waste. He
had to get over there.
Broken glass, a thousand hourglass shards shattered into pieces large
and curved, the small thin rocks amongst the sand sliced into the soft of his
bare feet. From the sides they dug in and he had to pick and choose where
to put his feet. On larger rocks. Hot, they burned his feet and he jumped
wherever he could find a soft place to touch down, as he realized, where
the water met the sand he might have better luck. Soon he was on wet,
rocky sand, following the path of larger rocks to his destination. His
destination was a man. Or what was left of him anyhow as he found when
he reached the man to examine his body more closely.
Looking at a man laying in a slumped over position his back was
arched up. It was stuck between two large rocks.
“Jeems! Jeeems!” he shook the man in the tattered clothing. The man
looked alive.
No air going in. He put his hand up against the man’s nose. No air
coming out. He opened one of his eyelids. It closed halfway. Noticing
the man was also without boots, he looked at his own feet, dried to crack
marks and peeling from the tips of his toes. Shaking his head he spit on
the ground. After the shipwreck survivor spit on the ground he looked
out into the distance. His legs were weak and he could see little more
than infinity in wet canvas, an ocean of pure blue mass rolling in rows
with white ribbons that rose up abruptly to grab at the air, bringing in
seaweed, bringing forward all sorts of other ocean debris in large clumps
and bringing in small bits of cargo and broken ship. Left and then right
again, further down the beach he could see little more than a similar
stretch of the same. When he looked over to the left again something
seemed to be moving. It slithered across another patch of small rocks, far
off in the distance. His eyed widened. Once again he was off, hobbling
across the sharp rocks, torpid, dangling them to his aching sides. The
walk seemed to never end. Hot, each step was a bruise. When he reached
the man he stopped abruptly to grab at his side. The pain. He grumbled.
The pain was constant and he grit his teeth but the man in front of him
was at least twice as bad and crawling across the sand in an agonizing
dance of bones broken like he was trying to find some right position to
get them straight and working again the way they should.
The shipwreck survivor walked over to the crawling man.
He knew him well. It was the captain and he was not a nice man. Not
one bit. In fact, he was the worst person the survivor had ever met.
He’d watched the man torture a child as he forced the child to kill his
own mother. Then he killed the child after torturing the poor boy with a
length of rope and a candle. He looked the captain up and down as he
clawed at the sand. Both of the man’s legs were broken. Bone protruded
from just below the knee on the right leg and the left one was broken at a
sharp angle just above the ankle. Crawling across the wet sand in a bare
patch foreign of rocks, the captain clawed and scraped at the sand. Inch
by inch he moved across the ground dragging the weight of his body like
an old shell to mark the sand with an imprint of his resistance.
Attached to captain’s waist was a rope, tied in his middle, sopping and
sandy. Stretching to the ocean the rope caught the survivor’s eye who
didn’t stop to help the man. Nor did he say a word to him. Instead he
followed the rope. The rope brought him to a small wooden raft
fashioned of old barrels. It was bumping up against a set of large rocks,
floating several fathoms out and into the water. It made a sound like a
pile of chains caught up in the bob of a loose sail. When he reached the
raft he could see that there was a box tied down to its top. His eyes lit up
immediately. He opened the small chest to make sure. A small chest, the
buckle came undone and the hinges snapped open on the box to instantly
reveal a strong smell like wet metal. Again his eyes bulged and he
laughed. It was still full!
He closed the box, turning to the man on the beach.
“Theeeeeeeeef!!!” he heard the man call out in a low growl.
The water was warm around his legs and he was feeling better by the
moment but he knew now was the time to be cautious. He learned from
years of traveling the seas, that just when everything seems safe some
form of danger is always just a step away. Carefully crawling up on top
of one of the rocks he covered the sides of his face with his hands to
block the glare of the mid afternoon sun as he searched further down the
beach, his eyes combing over all of the shapes and the obstacles in the
distance from every direction. He could see nothing that resembled much
of anything. Everything of the beach was surrounded by thick patches of
palm trees.
He was most certainly marooned on a small island.
His foot hit the water with a kerplunk. Trudging through the waves the
shipwreck survivor hauled the raft up onto the sand by the rope, just
below where the injured man had given up. The captain was up on his
elbows now yellyellingyellyellingyell. His face was covered in sand. His
bushy black beard took to wet curls and it caked up with brown mud as
he coughed and hollered and spit out a tongue full of dark blood, crimson
and crying to where it ran a crude stream of something thicker than we
think of blood and with more density to it collecting on the sand.
The survivor stood over him and looked him over.
The captain’s eyes suddenly opened and then he was quiet. The breeze
stopped and he suddenly opened his mouth. In one howling scream the
captain rolled over onto his back as his legs kicked up and went in
different ways, torn at the seams and twisting in the wrong directions. He
was on his back. A few more hollers and he was panting, spitting,
drooling out a mouth full of sand and blood as he clutched and scraped at
the dirt with his fingers.
“Hellllllp. Just. Hellll. Pleeeeeese,” his soft, low voice, it broke and
wheezed as tears took to the corner of his eyes.
The survivor had never seen the man cry. Or even come close. The
feeling was almost shameful. He felt sick to his stomach, waves from his
insides, a deep sickness from watching his boss behave in such a way.
The heat made it worse. The sun was melting them both into the
moment. Their shadows, shaping, shifting, sticking to sand, it seemed as
if his own shadow was trying to peel off of him and pull apart to run off
elsewhere and make trouble in some faraway land across the waves. As
if something was taking it away. To borrow it for something else.
He hoped it would return with a glass of water. He swallowed and
pondered on with deep thoughts of a cool drink.
The sun was soon skipping off to bury its face behind a lonely cloud
and a dark wind coming out of nowhere. It brought the man to a shaking
chill as the captain fell into a silence of breathing heavy and quiet. No
boots. Looking him over some more he noticed the knife sheath still
fastened to the dying man’s belt. He knelt down as the captain’s
breathing became heavy. The captain of their ship was now staring out
into the distance and away from the sun. He was close to death. With one
finger the survivor carefully undid the button on the sheath and removed
the knife from the belt, taking notice not to disturb the broken man as he
then backed away to pace around on the sand down below the captain’s
broken body, bruised and beaten by the water coming back to slap at his
dying body where he severed the rope from the man with one hard pull
of the knife across the grit of the rope in it’s twine and tether. When he
went back to check on the captain he found the man still alive and
mumbling to himself. Standing over him, both legs on either side, he
knelt down over his head. With the captains arms coming up to stop him,
the shipwreck survivor knocked them out of the way to bring the blade
across the man’s throat as he gurgled out one last black mouthful of
blood, his eyes taking in the last of the sunlight pupils fat and full of fog
where death was coming in to take him away. The man’s arms fell out to
the sides. They stuck in limp hang. Then he began to urinate a thick
warm puddle draining down the sand and searching for the cool of the
ocean sound.

The survivor turned around and wiped the blade off on his pants and he
went right to work. Making the sling from wood lying about the beach
was easy. Two dangles of rope. One piece of plank broken right down
the middle. A piece of sail tied up towards the top and some old clothing
to wrap around the handle. He stopped to slice open a few coconuts, first
cleaning the blade of the knife in the warm ocean water before drinking
down the sweet contents of the coconuts but he knew it was imperative
to get the chest of treasure hauled off the open beach and into the thickets
of brush.
Incase anybody else showed up, other crew members or a passing ship.
At this hour in the day it seemed more and more unlikely that it would be
sooner rather than later. But still, there was a plan to follow. There had to
be. A method. Years on boats, he understood that things mostly only
worked one way. You made a mistake and it might be your last. You
made two mistakes and it would be.
Pulling the chest across the sand was the hard part but he had a plan.
The sling bent down. It pulled, it tugged. It dragged at the bend in his
arms and stretched the skin on his hands to blister his fingers from the
weight of the box. Still, he tugged. Moving across the sand he tried first
to pull it toward the top of the beach. A straight crooked line all the way
up to the trees, but it got rockier toward the tree line and so he ended up
midway down the beach line back where he started. The softest sand was
in the middle. His feet scorched and he cupped his toes into hit foot.
Making S-shapes in the sand he fought the hills on the beach and pulled
the box further along another few hundred yards headed for the rockier
areas off toward the jetty, jagged shards of angular rocks sprouting up
around new areas of shade collecting to different shapes in the distance.
Falling to the sand tired, his feet burned to the bone and his fingers,
bearing the brunt of his fight, they creased up into curls as he gave in to
the big bitch in the sky and her giant sand sculpture of a hot hell. The sun
was sliding down the blue wall of the sky, slipping closer to the horizon
and he had things to do before it got dark.

Tomorrow was another day and dinner was a fire done best before the
fleeting light disappeared into the sky where it spread out vast and
toward the becoming night.
Two rocks and a flat stick and the only part of his palms left that
weren’t shaved off from the tug as he worked to gather wood for the fire
and bits of clothing to wrap his feet in he noticed crabs crawling out from
the sand and onto the box to lick at the blood from his hands and from
the neck of the captain, face up and rotting several hundred yards away.
After he started the fire he had collected enough crabs to cook for his
meal. He thought about collecting some more from the body of the
captain. Then he decided against it.
Half an hour later he went back to the body. Five times as many crabs
as the box of gold, the crabs crawled across the captain’s body in
organized formations which made collecting them up quick and easy.
The survivor ate a nice meal by the side of the fire until he was full and
falling backward from the bulge of his waist. The stars were showing,
emerald blips, as the sun was still but a sliver in the sky stretched from
one unknown place on a map of mixed constellations to a low cloud
cover of rolling serene gusts of air. With his back leaning up against the
chest of gold and the remaining rope tied around his waist, he sat by the
fire and continued to crush open the shells of the crabs with the rocks to
scoop out their cooked innards and pick his teeth with their paws and
hooked toes as he guarded the chest of gold from any intruders or
possible thieves.
Fire embers escaped into the air like lost souls. His thoughts were of
men crawling in from the ocean to try and take the gold away from him
and he’d often turn to look for eyes in the dark of the bush. For the most
part the air that night was quiet but later that night a howling call blew in
from the water and the wind blew in fragments of ocean that cut across
his swollen red face and it stung his eyelids with small pieces of sandy
soil coming from all directions to blow in his ears.
Each way he inched around the box to stop it but the sand kept
blowing. Harder. There was little sleep that night.
At some point he dreamed he was back in the water.
Stormy waters clapped his face. Up and down, he floated on the waves
in the middle of the blackness and wet. Suddenly he saw a woman. She
was riding the waves, floating about fifty yards from him in the wet of
the waves, bobbing, falling away. Calling to him, “This way!” she called
out. But there was no sound, no voice. And yet he understood. She
wanted him to follow. He tried. Immediately. But his arms were heavy.
They were wrapped up in rope from the sinking ship.
Something was pulling him under. He fought with his own hands,
pulling his arms to swim toward the woman in the distance but he
couldn’t. It was as if he had no arms. He was being pulled under by the
current into the black.
Swallowing water. Sand in his mouth, he awoke to a yell, a scream,
himself. Yelling. It was early the next morning and the crabs had
returned to the chest to get at the dried blood and some were crawling
across his body. He beat them and he kicked them and he stomped on
them and he was up. After shaking off the nightmare he realized that he
wasn’t so soar and soon he was also feeling quite happy to be up and
awake. Twice as much energy as the day before but he had a full day
ahead of him if he wanted to drag the chest to the rocky alcove in the
distance, the only place that looked like it might keep the treasure out of
First, he went to round up a pile of coconuts to keep him hydrated and
there was still some cooked crab left over from the night before. He
buried the remaining coals in the sand to keep them warm, hoping they
might last, knowing he would probably have to make another fire later
that night.
There was no time. He moved on at a thick pace. Moving, always
moving, he scoured the beach to gather whatever he could find to help
him figure things out first before his long trip across the sand to find a
place to hide the box. When he came back to where the captain’s body
was he was shocked to find the body missing. The captain had been
above the tide line. Well above. By at least twenty feet. And there were
markings in the sand, patterns and blood spatter like there was some kind
of struggle.
Like something had crawled up out of the ocean and dragged him back
into the water.
He followed the bloody lines scraped into the sand to where they
disappeared back into the water. Some of the captain’s clothing was
stuck between a lift of large rocks where the tide was pulling away. The
survivor looked out into the ocean and thought for a moment. He
remembered his dream and the woman in the water calling to him. It
flashed through his mind like a strike of lightning. No time.
Without another thought he went back to work.
As he pulled on the sling he kept his mind on the box. There was
enough gold inside to keep him rich for many years. First he would have
to find a way off of the island but in the south seas ships often passed by
islands like the one he was on and there were plenty of coconuts and
crabs and tide pools full of edible fish which made it all the more likely it
would be visited again. It was also home to all sorts of birds, flying about
and shitting all over everything which was another promising sign. He
couldn’t be too far from more land. To further his hopeful outlook he
even found some evidence of people being there at recent times not long
before. It was earlier that morning when he had wandered on to some old
pails and an empty trunk, a cargo box from what must have been a
whaling ship. It had strange letters written on the outside of it. They were
in French or Spanish or Chinese, he thought. But he couldn’t read too
well and so he wasn’t exactly sure. They didn’t look like English. He
wasn’t certain and then he was certain.
After poking around a bit more he realized that this was as good a
place as any to be holed up and he had hoped it wouldn’t be too long of a
wait but he was prepared to survive no matter how long it took for him to
get off of the island and then return to claim his prize. But he also knew
that if somebody found out about the chest he wouldn’t be leaving the
island. Not a chance. He knew how men of the sea made their choices.
The treasure box had to be stashed somewhere inaccessible and safe.
Winding around his feet, the shirt cloth did the trick. It kept his feet
from being burnt by the sand and his journey across the vast and endless
sand was easier than the day previous. He was way ahead of his own
personal schedule. For a moment he stopped to take another drink. The
coconut juice was too sweet and it only made him more thirsty. As he sat
and rested during his break, a bird flew down from a cloud, a tree top, he
wasn’t sure. It landed in the sand behind him and started to scream at
him as he rested under a patch of shade.
“Git away!” he kicked sand at it but it just hopped several feet away
and then it hopped back toward him to yell some more. It wouldn’t stop.
He kicked sand at it, he threw sand at it, he chased it away with screams
but it kept coming back to squawk and shout and bitch at him as he went
back to hauling the box.
One hard pull and he slipped in a deep patch of sand to fall on his
bottom and the bird hopped toward him to yell as he sat in the dirt.
Truuudy! You git away!
You git! Trudy.
Trudy, he named the bird. After an old whore who he’d sometimes
visit at a small seaport back in the good ‘ol days when he worked as a
fisherman on the northern coast of the new world. The whore used to
chase after him and harass him when he did her wrong and the bird was
dirty and he was dirty but he had been longer without fresh water and
was used to it. The bird had wings and like the whore it could do
something about it. Like fly off to some bath and douche its ass. But it
didn’t. It kept on harassing him and its wings were brown and sandy and
its beak was bent and cracked about the bill. It would stop yelling at him
for a minute to move its neck in circular motions and look around and
then it would turn toward him, hopping around again to yell some more.
Like Trudy the whore, it pestered him and bothered him and it was the
last thing that he needed.
“Damit! Git away you danged burd!” He threw another handful of sand
at the bird and it finally flew off, up into the air. A chuckle later and
everything was quiet again. The sun slipped behind a cloud and the
temperature dropped immediately. A cool breeze put more life into him
and he flexed his shoulders as he picked up the rope. The shipwreck
survivor moved the box across the sand in the sling with the agility of a
cat, sweating down his back. His shirt was off and the box moved across
the top of the sand like a sleigh. Pulling. As he looked out into the
distance he thought he saw something.
What! It was a person, somebody with fair skin and long dark hair
swimming in the water. He could see the head and arms, a human crawl
stroke rising and falling across a set of shallow waves. He blinked his
eyes. The swimmer was gone. He blinked again, stopping to pause and
respire. He wasn’t sure if he was imagining things but he thought of the
terrible dream again and he decided he must be. A third blink. Sand
wiped out of his eyes by the pinch of two fingers. Must be seeing stuff,
he thought. Heat can do that to you. He had had it happen several times
stranded on small boats without food and water for several days. Shaking
his face he broadened the gap between his heavy eyelids as he wiped the
sweat from the corners of his nose to smell the filth of his skin. Looking
back out into the water he could see nothing but waves, a rolling tide
heading toward the beach and some random rocks and patches of
seaweed but nothing else. No birds, no nothing.
Pulling the box, he moved across the sand at a steady pace, drawing
closer to the rock wall in front of him. He was close. Moving his eyes he
focused higher up on the large hill of rock formation as he searched for a
cliff or a crevice to stash the box in, to burry it amongst the rocks in a
cave or a crag. Hot, the sand was scorching as the sun moved higher up
in the sky but he trudged forward in its soft piles, slipping, sliding,
sledding and pulling on the sling as he made for the short break in rocks
by the water.
He was there. Feet away. He dropped the sling and skipped over the
remaining sand to hop up on a rocky ledge. The wall wasn’t as high as it
had looked from far away. Inching around the ledge the rock circled into
a round nook and on the other side was a small lagoon surrounded by
rocks and scattered shapes. The ledge continued down around the rocks
to a small beach of wet stones as the tide pulled out and the pool of blue
churned and changed into a white whirl. The ledge descended, mostly,
and he saw that if he were to drag the chest any further it wouldn’t be too
hard. But where would he stash the chest? He looked around the ledge
again. He examined it from several places. And then he saw it. A low
alcove in the cliff wall down by the water’s edge that looked like it had
several small caves dug out holes of crumbled sandstone stuffed back in
the gap leading away from the water. Dug in with a few small crevices,
just high enough above the water to wedge the box into and cover it with
rock to keep out the curious and just low enough to reach while dragging
the box across the ledge.
The spot really looked like as good a spot as any. It was his best option
at keeping it out of sight for as long as possible. At least long enough for
him to get off the island and come back with a boat of his own. He
climbed up a few feet higher to get a better look. It was perfect. A couple
birds flew up out of the crack in the rocks, smaller and darker than
Trudy. They took to the air in a zigzag and a slight hang before they
rounded the rocks in a furious flutter.
“Heh,” he smiled at the thought of Trudy. “If themd burds make a nest
over dat box, e’en better,” he shot out under his breath. It was stale and
he had to swallow a few times to gather some spit before he discharged it
into the sand.
Everything was lined up, just waiting for the motions, and he was
anxious to get back to camp and get ready for another night in the winds.
Decided, he circled back around the ledge and the he hopped into the
sand. From where he stood, the water got deep below the rocks and there
was a ledge at sand level further up on the hill that was very close to
level ground at rock height. The box was too heavy to heave up onto the
ledge, even a foot or two. He thought it would be best to pull the box of
gold uphill and then move it onto the ledge where the ledge met the sand,
slowly dragging it to the alcove before hoisting it down and into the gap
in the rocks.
Sling over his shoulder, he hauled the box up the embankment of soft
sand to where the smooth rocks met the sand at an angle where he could
haul the box up onto the ledge. It went easier than he thought and soon
he was standing back on the rock ledge with the box moving along in
scrapes and shuffles, back near the edge of the water. He stopped for a
second to get a better whiff of something foul spreading out across the
air and thickening the breeze. As he stood there he thought he felt
something. Wet, it felt like a cup of paint had fallen off of a ladder and
onto his back. He turned and then he heard her again. Waaah!!
Trudy was back, perched up on a rock above and screaming down at
him. He reached around his back to bring forth several fingers full of her
filth. He sniffed it, why, he wasn’t quite sure. Then he flung it at the rock
and cursed her, “Trudy!! Yor gonna git it, you have no idea!”
He shook his fist at the bird and grit his teeth in anger. And then, like
magic, like all it took was a clear warning signal, a distinct physical
gesture, a vein to pop in his neck and his forehead to braise a wrinkle,
Trudy took off with a flap of her broad wings. But there was something
else. Something that seemed to have scared her off from the other side of
where she sat perched high up on top of the ledge. He thought he could
still hear it. Something that sounded like thrashing amongst the waves,
unnatural and out of tune. Dropping the rope he edged up further along
the cliff and around the rock wall inching his back to stay balanced and
not fall.
Just as his head moved around the corner and in sight of the tide pool
above the low alcove he saw the thing in full light.
When he looked at it, sitting there on the rock, blending in to the
scenery, it moved like a statue coming alive to stick out in it’s beating,
pulsing, lifelike wriggles, a random handful of various objects collected
from the sea and flung together into a moving dance of teases, seaweed
tangled in knots and ties, seashells mangled and mashed and mixed into
barnacle soup, crab horns sanded to chain mail and beach armor, fish
scales pulled from the backs of sea dragons and strung to the nape of
giant uneven pearls, and it was alive!
Its back was turned toward him and its tail flapped against the water
below the rock. He wasn’t sure of what he was looking at, but still, it
stunned and amazed him.
Pulling back as quickly and as quietly as he could without losing his
balance, he ducked down behind the rocks to think about what he had
just seen. In his stomach the shipwreck survivor held back a feeling of
faintness, a sturdy and bulging fear, a fan-out of nausea, a throbbing
shiver straight from his center. It shot out in all directions and in all
places it filled his fright as he backed up into the sun to cuddle with his
“G-g-g-dd,” eyes popping out of his face, he coughed, covering his
mouth. He couldn’t hold the cough down without spitting drool allover
his hand. As soon as he regained his compose he inched back up to put
his prying fingers on the top of the rock and pull up over it in a crawl to
sneak another look in his timid peak. It was still there. It hadn’t made
him yet. Back turned, he could see a slight silhouette of its ghastly
profile. It was hideous. So different than what he had been told. The
creature he sat staring at in it’s slimy cocoon of what it had brought in
from the depths of the sea, was part human and part fish. They called
them ‘mermaids’.
Years on the open ocean and you hear tales. He had heard of these
creatures but he had never seen one. He had watched a forty foot skiff
sunk by a hundred foot beast of a whale fish and he had even witnessed a
giant squid swallow a man whole. But never a mermaid.
Up until now he was almost sure that men who believed in these
grubby female trollops of the deep were nothing but fools taken by old
wives tales spun by captains to fish out a few more coins from their
worker’s wage piles as well as to keep their minds in proper position and
their cocks aligned to themselves during long outings on the open ocean.
She was grotesque. He had seen more appetizing ladies at a leper
colony he once came upon in the South Seas.
Slithering in the sunshine her scales scraped up bits of water, dripping
to slip off of her sleek lower half.
The fishbone portion of her skinny physique skipped and hopped
around on the rock as she flapped the flat fan-like shade of her closed-up
waist, wading into the middle of the broad stone with her shakes, her hair
hanging to tangles and curls to cover up over where her face was
sheltered in pits and warts, her wide eyes fixed in a stare, up and out
toward the endless sea like an old night croaker stuffed in a shell and
sitting in a long lineup of crawlers on a slimed-up log in a pond. She was
mostly fish but her arms were human-like and gross. Each one of her
twisted fingernails were well over an inch long. Watching her preen
herself as she sunk her teeth into her arm to remove water ticks and
leeches he suddenly caught a small crab crawling up toward his nose on
the rock in front of his face. He let out a slight gasp and nearly fell
backwards but caught himself just in time before falling.
When he looked back she was still there. He was stunned that she
hadn’t moved. In fact, she was turning toward him to flap and fret about
with her tail in the water, frightening off something in the water that was
after her tail. She made a strange chirping noise and the water churned as
her high pitched shrieked turned into a low growl. His face hanging
around the rock, the survivor put a halt to his breathing. Still, perfectly
stuck to the shape of a stone, he did his best to keep himself a shadow.
She seemed to have no idea he was there. On he watched. In natural
movements her body came all the way forward as a dark lock of her
knotty hair blew to the side in the wind and he caught a glimpse of her
swollen little breasts, malformed and well misaligned from one another.
Still, it lent him some excitement. But her face! It was something of
nonhuman in all of its un-lady-like features. Fish-like, reptilian. He
wondered what kind of a guy would fuck a dolphin.
Suddenly with a loud splash the mermaid was back in the water. All
the way under, her tail came up out of the water. Straight up as she
snaked her way around the lagoon toward the alcove. The trail of her
crawl stroke left a wake of rifts as she circled around the rock that she
had been sitting on and soon she was in that same small gap of the alcove
deep inside the rocks.
What was over there? It was exactly where he had wanted to stash the
gold. He couldn’t completely see it but it looked as cavy a spot as any
and an ideal spot for something of the water to hide in. He thought about
the box of gold, looking back to check on it. He knew that the alcove
wasn’t going to work as a hiding spot for the box of gold. There were
fish people in there, and, as he knew, where there was one there were
sure to be more. But how many? After thinking everything over and over,
again and again, he decided there was nothing to do but to wait for her to

leave so he could get a better look at their hole. There was nowhere else
in sight to stash the box.
As he sat there and waited the sun arced over the sky and time slipped
into the future and time slipped into places that he couldn’t measure and
time slipped away behind his eyelids. A few times he nearly nodded off.
Where was she? And what was in that gap in the rock alcove? After
talking himself in and out of going after her, he finally decided, he would
brave it and head in to get a closer look. Besides, she might be alone and
if she did show up while he was over there it might scare her off and give
him somewhere to hide the loot. He knew it wasn’t the most ideal of
situations but it was worth a shot.
His knife was back out in his hand again and he was on the move. He
wasn’t particularly afraid of her. He had never heard that mermaids were
dangerous but you never could be too careful. It could be a flesh eater or
have some sort of a poisonous puffer fin. Judging by its ugly face it at
least looked like it knew how to bite.
Further down the path he crept over loose stones and he inched toward
the small alcove as a foul smell crept up inside his nostrils. Putrid, it
smelled of moldy cheese and soiled socks and rotten fish.
Not very strong but very distinct in its various assortment of rotten
chard, fetid and damp and old. The closer he got toward the alcove the
more the stench punctured the fissure of his face and he had to hold his
breaths for short bursts as he edged up toward the end of the path. When
he got to the wall by the gap he could see further up into the crag. There
was a cave opening just about large enough for a small person to walk
into along a small gap where the water flowed into the open hole.
He waited for several minutes. The smell was something of a horror
and he knew what was in there. It was her den. She lived somewhere
back in that hole.
As he looked down and in toward the back of the cave he noticed a
hand. A human hand attached to a dark figure, it looked like there were
fingers missing and he could tell from the sleeve, it was one of his crew
members! Then, suddenly, he got a funny idea about what was
But it was too late. Crouched down over two rocks he heard the splash.
He sprang up and did an about face crawling as fast as he could back up
the ledge toward the beach. He already knew what to expect.
“You!!!!!!!” he screamed, “You fuhcking deeemon!!!” She had duped
him. A fish of a woman had led him in the wrong direction. An
intelligent fish of a woman, just to steal the chest of gold. All that
remained of the box of gold were scratch marks on the rock and wet
water and slime from where she had crawled up and pulled the thing
down into the water. Off the ledge, he was soon down in the water to join
her, thrashing about, feeling around with his fingers across the bottom of
the water across the rocks and sharp shapes and across the slick stones
searching for his chest of gold. It was as good as gone. Swallowed by the
ocean, she could be anywhere by now. And then he heard something that
nearly deafened him. His hands went up to cover his ears. A shrieking
cry, a high pitched whistle from a combustion engine with something
stuck in its gears. And then, like it appeared, it stopped. As he turned to
look there was some thrashing up and out over the rocks between him
and the open ocean. A wave of blood and white water churned into its
own circle, a hundred yards out, as he watched her tail come up and then
something much larger, a shark or a small whale fish rise up out of the
water on top of her.
Soon the calm had returned and a few birds were yapping about the
rocks. The shipwreck survivor was out of answers. He thought about the
island some more. It wasn’t as it seemed. Much more dangerous and full
of horrible secrets that nobody wants and dark morbid things lurking out
in the water.
The sun was going down and he knew he had several hours of work to
do if he was going to start a fire and gather some dinner. He quickly
decided against the fire and thought it might be safer to try and build
shelter off the edge of the beach toward the bushes and other growth. He
slowly trudged up out of the water to spend several minutes rewrapping
the cloth around his feet.

The cloth was too tattered by this point and he ended up ditching it in
the ocean.
The tide was coming in and he was anxious to get back to his camp and
prepare for the long night. His trek across the sand went slow as he
stayed by the cool rocks at the edge of the water, cautious of anything
out there looking to pull him under.
Back at camp he sat down under a tree to collect his thoughts. He
thought about Trudy and he thought some more about the box. It made
him furious to think about the treasure, down there somewhere at the
bottom of the ocean. He cringed and then reminded himself it didn’t
matter. He needed to get off the island. No time to get mad. Then he
thought about the bird. Trudy. Where was she?
But after another hour, gathering up leaves to try and build a wall to
fight off the wind, the sun was forming into a half circle on the horizon
and there was no bird and little else to be seen or heard.
A cool breeze blew across his face as he sat against the palm tree,
crouching behind the wall of leaves strapped with sticks to its wide base.
The shipwreck survivor was all out of answers.
“Sonn bitch,” he looked up and into the sky. The stars were so bright
they could be rays of sun finding him from holes in the roof inside of a
cave. He thought about God and wondered if this was all punishment for
being a thief. Was it God that had taken the gold away from him? But he
had been a thief for many years and god had never deserted him before.
He thought on about God and he thought about the mermaid and he
thought about his predicament and about the gold. He remembered the
dream from the night before and he was sure that the woman in his
dream was the mermaid. What were dreams though anyhow? Is this how
they worked? The waves crashed on the beach in long fading howls and
he felt like he was entering into another dream. He suddenly didn’t want
to dream any more once he began to think more about the ocean and the
storm and the water. But time eventually crept into his mind, open and
taking in the night. It moved inward through dark spaces and cold
moments to take over his mind and decide against him.
He was asleep.
Soon he was dreaming again. Floating all alone, way out in the ocean,
the storm had come back for more. There was no woman in the water
however. Riding the waves, the shipwreck survivor dreamed on about the
ocean as he went on with the currents and went on without the fight until
he was feeling serene and passive and empty. At some point the dreamed
blurred into a white mist and yet he was still cold, wet, weightless.
When he awoke in the morning, to his surprise, he was floating in the
water, way out in the middle of the open ocean. He immediately spun
around to see where the island was. Water. Every which way he turned.
“Nooooooooo!” he hollered as loud as he could as he beat the rolling
waves of the choppy water and he thrashed around in agony and in fright
as he felt the nothing of his weightlessness and the bob of his body, up
and down about the wavering water as he shook.
And then he stopped himself. He thought for a moment. Everything
was just fine. Slowly letting his hands bring him back to buoyancy on the
surface of the water, the shipwreck survivor leaned his head back into the
water and closed his eyes. The morning sun was warm. It warmed his
face and it felt good. Floating on his back, it felt just alright to be out
there all alone.

© Will McCoy 2016


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