I’ve finally done it! After years of wanting to escape the bounds of civilization, I’ve sold my house and everything in it, traded the bourgeois trappings of luxury for a small cutter sailboat and a dream — and now I’m ready to leave this old, cluttered, tedious life, and trade it for one of adventure.
I’ve never forgotten those uncharted archipelagos where we anchored during my days in the Merchant Marines; I have every confidence I’ll be able to find them within a few hours of departing port in Princeville.
Goodbye, old world! Welcome, unknown!
The winds blustery and the waves unpredictable, but how good it feels to be tested against the unmerciful ocean, one man versus the brute force of Nature! Swells thrice the height of my boat’s mast, tossing the craft aloft and every which way, the sting of salt water in my eyes, reminding me I’m alive — so alive! Tomorrow I’ll anchor in port to purchase the supplies and rations that are to last me throughout the rest of my day, and then I disappear from civilization forever.
An hour before dawn and under cover of darkness, I hoisted my sail and slipped back onto the open ocean. Everything was still and calm and quiet; the sea was wondrous, alive with dancing porpoises and phosphorescent jellies; and the moon beckoned me on.
True to my memory, I found the islands! I found them, right where I’d left them, all those years ago: a small and secreted paradise. For now I’ve anchored in a lagoon: I’ll spend my next days scouting the terrain from my boat, because what’s the investment of a few more days cooped up, if the reward afterward is beautiful serene isolation, no noise but my own pulse and the murmur of the tides?
My luck is better than I’d hoped: there’s a clean, airy cave a hundred yards from the beach that will offer me shelter; a spring of fresh drinking water; a cove blessed with bountiful fish; and the whole island lush with a feast of edible vegetation — berries and nuts and coconut, and bamboo of all sizes, from which I can fashion any array of useful objects.
How many men, stranded on such a deserted island, would waste their days dreaming of an escape from it? But here, now — this is my dream: to be stranded on this island, like Adam’s son, and never to leave.
I’ve committed a decisive act that many would call rash, but which for me is simply a ritual affirmation of the rightness of my course of action: I’ve burned my boat. There is no going back.
Today I lived purely, like the savages of old: I caught fish with my own hands, hung them to smoke over a fire, swam naked in the warm sea, and even began carving an old log into a sort of decorative totem pole, upon which I intend to sculpt frightening visages, such as would scare off any passersby, though of course the possibility of a passerby is remote bordering on ridiculous here in this Paradise.
Fate is cruel.
Earlier today washed ashore a wounded fishing vessel with a great gaping hole in its hull, and its crew of survivors is now cluttering up my perfectly serene island.
For now I’ll maintain my presence in secret, and hope they quickly find enough competence to fetch themselves off of my island.
The insufferable buffoons are still here. If they’d landed anywhere else on Earth, they’d surely have perished by now, fodder for whatever indigenous predator; or perhaps poisoned themselves on local flora; or simply lit themselves on fire from their sheer incompetence, then drowned while trying to put out the flames. But such is the hospitality of my island paradise: they seem able to blunder on forever without any consequence.
They’re led by a pompous captain and puerile man-child, the two of them together incapable of a single competent act — and thanks to this guileless leadership, the wretched castaways are no closer to rescuing themselves than the day they arrived.
Tonight, I will dress as a cannibal and sneak into their camp, to repair their radio and survey the damage to their boat. These infelicitous folk must go, even if I have to mend their vessel myself.
Woe is me: their craft, The Minnow, is damaged beyond repair. It seems these hapless stock characters are to be my mates here in Eden, till my hand or Fate’s conceives of another alternative. One can only hope that their incessant scheming, or mine, will soon arrive them at a happy escape. How long can this go on?
CHRISTOPHER DEWAN is author of the book Work and Other Essays, and has published numerous short stories in journals recently including Bartleby Snopes, Crack the Spine, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, Grey Sparrow, JMWW, and wigleaf. His fiction has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. Learn more at christopherdewan.com.