A tremble in the ground woke me up. Groggily, I sat up and brushed away all the sand from my arms and feet. I was having a lovely dream in which I was feasting on grilled panini and chocolate mousse. My stomach grumbled. I think that’s what trembled and woke me up.
The ship! I groaned.
A few days ago, my friend (JJ) and I were loitering along the docks looking at cruise ships. We had this “hobby” where we dressed up in our finest clothes and went aboard cruise ships to look around (we weren’t thieves) and pretend that we were rich and fancy. Sometimes we got to sample food too. It was our ten minutes of extravagance. That day when we paused in front of a particularly large ship, a steward ran towards us and said, “Sirs, please come aboard, we will be leaving in fifteen minutes.”
“Of course”, we mumbled, grinning inside. That was all the invitation we needed.
So, we climbed the ship and were immediately greeted by a waiter carrying finger food. Obviously, we helped ourselves.
“Your luggage is already inside, Sir?”, the steward asked. We nodded in agreement. Our minds were already elsewhere, taking in the sights of the ship. We walked past an array of shops waiting to begin sales once the vessel departed the dock. The end of the line boasted a large casino. We entered the casino that was already bustling with activity. Within no time we got drawn in. We were careful gamblers, considering how little money we had, but we soaked in the ambience.
Fast-forward 90 minutes. I happened to look at my watch and exclaimed. I grabbed JJ and ran outside only to be greeted by the glittering sea on all sides. Yikes! I casually clarified with a passerby on the route of the cruise. We were heading towards a cluster of islets called “Thousand Islands” in the Atlantic Ocean. Post that, the journey led the passengers here and there, to places I had never heard of and neither could pronounce, before returning after…THIRTY days. We were doomed. We couldn’t even escape at the next stop since they would check passports and we didn’t have ours. Surviving was not the problem; we could put all our purchases on the tab of a few room numbers. Not getting caught was the problem. We had never done this before.
We walked around searching for names for ourselves. We had hypothesized and had joked around many times about what we would do in such a scenario. It was time to implement it. At the diner, we were George and Alan of room number 304. The casino folks knew us as the frugal Callum and Wilson of room 512. We had a few other identities too.
Things were sailing smoothly, excuse my pun, for three days until JJ decided to get drunk. We had reached the Thousand Island region and the ship had slowed down for people to enjoy the view. It was 4 pm. We were at the lower deck drinking beer while leaning against the railing. He had begun blabbering about how we were like pirates, living illegally. Shushing him didn’t work, so I slowly started hiding the beer bottles hoping that JJ would stop. Unfortunately, he noticed that and shoved me. I was leaning precariously against the railing at that point of time, lost my balance and fell overboard. I knew how to swim and assumed that whoever was patrolling the ship would notice the body bobbing in the water. Ten minutes passed and no one came to my rescue. I swam a little away from the ship to get a wider view. That was when I noticed two security guards trying to control the commotion JJ had created. He was throwing bottles into the ocean and yelling at the top of his lungs. I panicked.
What if they ask us for our tickets?
What if they detain and arrest us?
What if they fine an exorbitant amount and our lives are ruined forever?
That was when I knew I was not going back.
Luckily for me, there were plenty of tiny islets to choose from. I swam towards the nearest one that looked bigger than the rest. The land mass was not as close as I guessed. It took me two hours to finally reach there. I was exhausted. I slumped on the tiny portion of sand and watched the sun go down and the ship sail away. I fell asleep soon afterward.
That was two days ago. I had cursed myself at least seventy-five times since then. There was not a living soul on the islet I had chosen, with the exception of pesky insects. Vegetation was sparse, but there were a few edible berries. Water was another problem. Conveniently, it rained occasionally. I fashioned a few bowls out of several fallen palm leaves to catch water whenever it poured. This was insufficient to combat the terrible heat during the day. There were barely any trees that gave cover from the sun or rain.
I had explored the whole land mass within three hours of the morning after I reached. I had landed on the west side of the island. The beach covered the north and west portion. The minimal vegetation spread from the center to the south and ended with a few large rocks. It was a climb to the west that resulted in a vertical cliff to the ocean. This description made the land sound large, but I figured that the area hardly spanned 2km2.
I stood up and stretched. It was time for berry hunting. I needed to formulate a plan to get out of there. I was deep in thought while plucking berries when the ground trembled again. This time I was certain that it was not my belly. I heard a rustling sound from a shrub nearby. I looked up.
Did I come across an animal friend? Or was it animal food? I was a vegetarian, but at that point, anything was food.
“Ka”, said a voice that sounded distinctly human.
My heart raced.
“H-hi..?”, I stammered.
I heard a sigh. Oh no! I didn’t want the creature to disappear because of my weak greeting. I gathered all my courage, puffed out my chest and said…
“Ka-aa!”, said the voice again. This time it extended a hairy leg into the open and stomped the ground making it tremble.
Who is this mysterious creature and what will it do next?