It had seemed like a good idea at the start. Let’s go on a boat trip, they said; after all, wouldn’t you if you found out one of your best friends could actually drive a boat?
So out they went. They’d be back by the time nightfall came. They didn’t want to risk getting stranded in the dark.
The sea had been calm when they first set off and the sun was beating down. Perfect weather, they had thought.
For two hours, all five had been happy and relaxed.
It was in the third hour that things took a turn for the worst…
“Jason, since when did you know how to drive a boat?” Howard asked his partner as Jason climbed onto the floor of the boat, pulling in the rope as Gary threw it to him.
They were currently in the docks, having picked out their boat they had chosen to rent for the time being. Jason had shown that he was perfectly qualified to take the boat out beyond the usual distance and none of them could contain their shock.
“Howard, we’ve known each other for two decades and been together for two years and you didn’t know I could drive a boat?”
“No, that’s why I’m shocked.”
“You have to admit it, Jay, you’re not exactly the most open of people.” Mark pointed out to him as he appeared out from the other side of the boat, having helped Robbie load their stuff on board.
“Mark, how much stuff have you and Rob put down there?” Gary asked, doing his best to see what was going on.
“Not much, believe it or not.” Robbie replied.
“Please don’t overload the boat, guys.” Jason told them. “We’re going for a day not an entire week. There’s no use weighing the boat down.”
“Could sink.” Howard put in.
“Doug, it’s not going to sink.” Robbie told him, making his way round the side of the boat everyone was standing on.
“They said that about the Titanic, didn’t they?”
“Don’t guys,” Gary almost whined. He wasn’t exactly the most enthusiastic person about this trip and hearing about the Titanic was not helping him at all.
“Alright, alright, I won’t mention it again.” Howard said, putting his hands up in mock defence.
Jason had finally managed to sort everything out and had put things in the places they needed to be. They were ready, it seemed. Just one more thing...
“Hey, you guys coming or what?” Jason said to Howard and Gary who hadn’t yet made their way onto the boat.
“I guess so.” Gary said as Jason helped him over the edge, followed by Howard. “Just remind me, whose idea was this again?”
Jason shook his head and started the boat before steering it out of the docks and towards the sea.
The wind hit the five of them as they left the dock for the open air. With nothing around other than water to block to gusts, they could feel the wind in their in a way you could never feel inland. As they picked up speed, the wind grew stronger. Howard glanced over at Jason and smiled. It was clear to see that he was in deep concentration as he steered the boat along the waves. It was endearing for him to watch but, then again, to Howard, Jason was the most endearing person he could think of and he was so glad he was the one who got to witness it each and every day. Howard knew he was the luckiest man alive.
Gary looked over at Mark and Robbie from where he stood next to Howard and Jason. He watched the two of them as they sat together at the other end of the boat. They were smiling and joking; the sound of Mark’s laughter could’ve been heard for miles. Gary smiled to himself. There was love in their eyes; a love which both of them seemed oblivious to. One day, Gary thought to himself; one day.
The five of them stayed the way they were for a couple of hours at the most. They were all engaged with each other in conversation as well as having their own private conversations as well. It was perfect. It was windy and the water was churning a bit more than any of them would have liked (a couple of them didn’t want to admit that they were actually starting to become rather sea-sick after a while). Okay, so it wasn’t exactly ‘perfect’, but it was bearable and rather enjoyable too.
It was when they reached their third hour on the boat and sea that things started to take a turn for the worst. The sky had gone from blue to grey to black in the space of as little time as possible; the wind had also picked up considerably. Their boat was rocking like there was tomorrow.
Jason did his upmost in order to keep the boat as controlled as he possibly could. It didn’t help when his four friends had started panicking about what was happening. He tried to tell them to quieten down; that everything was going to be alright. However, although he was usually the calm and collected one out of his friends, even he was started to get panicked by the present situation.
Suddenly the boat lurched and Mark felt his stomach heave. He had been feeling rough ever since the wind had really started to pick up, but now he felt worse than he had all trip. He ran over to the side of the boat and lent over the edge. He knew he was going to be sick and it wasn’t long before he felt the presence of someone next to him with a hand on his back.
“Mark, you okay?” He heard Robbie ask, shouting to be heard over the noise of the wind and the waves crashing against the boat.
Mark said nothing in reply and merely just continued to lean over the side of the boat. He let the water hit him in the face, hoping that it would make him feel in any way better. It worked. Kind of.
He didn’t have time to puke before the sounds of the boat’s engine went silent. The boat was still moving against the force of the waves, but there was no sound coming from the boat other than the sound of nature taking its shit out on them.
“Jay, why the fuck has the boat gone silent?” Robbie shouted over the waves in the general direction he knew his friend was in.
He heard nothing other than the faintest of “urghs”. But then again, that could’ve been the wind, there was just no telling.
Jason was most definitely panicking now. Not only had he managed to lose control of the boat, meaning they were miles away from anywhere, the boat’s engine had also just gone kaput. They were stranded, in the middle of nowhere, with no signal to call for help and no engine to get them back home.
It was all his fault.
He looked over at his four friends, having heard Robbie shout over at him. He could see Howard and Gary looking at each other with panicked looks; Mark hanging over the side of the boat and Robbie staring at him while keeping a hand on his friend’s back.
How was he going to get them out of this?
Just then, a huge wave came almost tilting the boat sideways. Jason grabbed on to the steering wheel while Howard and Gary grabbed on to each other, as did Robbie and Mark. They were in some deep shit now and, worst of all, there didn’t seem to be a way out of it.
Within forty minutes from the turn of events, water was now lashing over the sides of the boat, filling the boat with large puddles of water.
All five of them had managed to make it to one area of the boat, somewhere in the middle, in the hope that they might not fall overboard.
Their plan had worked for a full five minutes before each of them were thrown in directions corresponding the edge of the boat. There wasn’t any time in between waves for them to be able to get back on their feet and they were lurched sideways, towards the sea below them.
Another wave it.
The next wave was all it took for the five of them to be thrown overboard, all of them plunging into the ice-cold water below.
Underwater it was dark, but Howard could just make out the shapes of his friends somewhere near to him. He tried to surface, but the constant coming of the waves kept pulling him under. He suddenly caught eyes with Jason, fear written all across his partner’s face. He knew what Jason was thinking, he always knew, and it was the same thing he was thinking.
Gary surfaced briefly before being pulled down by the current again. He came up a second later, taking in a deep breath. The water was freezing and already he could feel his limbs start to go numb. He tried to stay focused on staying above water. In the near distance, he could just make out Howard and Jason and thought he could just make out Robbie. He couldn’t see Mark anywhere. The waves were too strong and he couldn’t look for long enough before being pulled down again. In his mind, he prayed that someone would find them; that, somehow, a signal had reached someone that they were in need of help and they were sending out someone to come and find them. All he wanted was to be home with his family; his wife and his children; but right now, he was starting to lose all hope.
Robbie could hear his name being shouted through the wind. He tried his hardest to locate it but, every time he tried to turn, another wave pulled him beneath the surface. He could barely hear, but he still knew who it was; he’d recognise that voice anywhere, he knew it was Mark calling him.
“Mark?!” Robbie shouted as he resurfaced again. His mouth filled with water and Robbie was quick to spit it out before being pulled again. It was cold. So cold, but he wanted to know if Mark was okay. It wasn’t only want, it was need.
He was starting to tire; starting to feel drowsy. He felt as though he was just about to give in completely when he caught a pair of eyes, bobbing up and down looking straight at him.
It was Mark.
And there was a fear in his eye.
And before he blacked out completely…
That’s when he realised.
They were going to drown here.
It was Gary who came around first.
He could hear the sound of something that resembled waves crashing against the shore; the sounds of birds (seagulls, maybe?) calling. As he began to regain consciousness more and more he slowly became aware of the heat hitting the back of his neck. It was a warm feeling, like relaxing on a sunbed while on holiday in the summer. It was comforting and rather pleasant.
He then started to feel the cool wetness that he began to notice he was laying on. His eyes were still closed – not yet ready to open – but he could feel something wet below him. It was soft yet hard – definitely not anything he was used to.
He moved his fingers. They seemed to dig into whatever it was he was laying on. It was weird and Gary was starting to become confused.
As he finally came to opening his eyes, he groaned at the fact that he had suddenly realised just how much he ached. He felt as though he had been pushed and pulled in any direction physically possible (and maybe in a few that weren’t so).
He rolled over, shutting his eyes almost immediately again when the blinding sunlight hit his pupils harshly.
Slowly opening them again, Gary turned his aching head. He was still dazed and confused and nothing seemed to be making sense all of a sudden. He couldn’t remember anything of what had happened before he woke up.
He racked his brain, trying to remember anything that had happened. He remembered being with the others and Jason saying that he could drive a boat. He remembered leaving the dock and enjoying the way the wind felt on his face as the five of them had left and headed out to sea. He remembered…
Gary sat up with a jolt. Where the hell was he? Desperate to know, he scanned his surroundings hastily, barely taking in the sand in which he had been laying upon; the sea which he had first started hearing only moments ago; the rocks that had formed behind him; the trees; the green; the blue sky…:
He was on an island.
And as he scanned, that’s when he saw it. The boat. The boat they had taken out. It was here; about one hundred metres away, there it was, tattered and broken. There was no way it was ever going to float again.
He stood up on shaky legs, stumbling a few times before finding himself able to stand up firmly on the sand below him. His feet were sinking into the soft sand they stood on, but that was the last thing Gary was worried about as he continued to search the island for any sign of his friends.
He called each of their names in turn, but there was no answer. What if he was here all alone and his friends had ended up somewhere else? What if they had drowned, what then? Gary shook the thought out of his head; he couldn’t allow himself to think like time, he had to stay positive. There was every chance that he would find the four of them somewhere on this island. But there was also every chance that he wouldn’t.
The first thing Gary did as he started his search was walk over to the ruins of the boat they had all been on before the storm. The nearer he got to the boat, the worse the wreckage seemed. God knows what it had hit before it had washed up on this beach but, whatever it had been, it had certainly hit it with some force. Everywhere he looked there were dents in the body and bits had even fallen off.
He had walked around half of the wreckage before his eye caught something lying on the sand on the other side of the boat. He peered over to have a look at what it was. His heart raced in fear when he saw that someone was laying there, as still as anything.
Running over, it took Gary a few moments to realise who it was who was lying, face down, in the sand.
“Howard!” Gary bent down and turned Howard over onto his back as quickly as he could.
Shaking him in a way that would have been considered violent had this not been a matter of life or death, Gary tried to wake Howard up, praying to God that he was still alive. He bent down and put his ear to Howard’s nose and mouth. Well, at least he was breathing. He was still alive. Gary breathed an audible sigh of relief before continuing to shake his friend until there was the sound of Howard groaning as he started to come around.
“The sun’s nice and warm.” Howard mumbled with his eyes still closed. It was the same thing Gary had thought when he had found himself starting to come around. Boy, was Howard going to have a massive shock when he opened his eyes.
“Howard, for God’s sake wake up.” Gary said, shaking him again.
“Gary?” Howard asked, slightly dazed as he opened his eyes. “What…where…?” Howard had suddenly realised that there was something very wrong about his current surroundings. He sat up sharply, giving himself a head rush as he did so.
Jumping back from Howard as he sat up quickly, Gary looked at him. “I don’t know.” Was all he said.
“Shit.” Howard said as he started to stand up, his eyes directly looking at the boat which had been next to him. “What the hell happened?”
“The storm, don’t you remember?” Gary asked.
“Holy…” Then Howard looked at Gary, his eyes the most worried Gary had ever seen him. “Where’s Jay?” He asked, suddenly worried for his partner.
“I don’t know, I’m hoping with Mark and Rob, though.” Gary said.
“They’re missing, too?!” Howard was clearly panicking now and that wasn’t helping Gary at all.
“You’re the only one I’ve seen since I came around.” Gary told him.
“Right then, we’re going to have to go looking.” Howard said.
“Howard, what if they’re…?”
Howard cut him off immediately. “Don’t think like that!”
“I’m sorry, but…”
“I said don’t! I am not going to think like that because there is no way that Mark, Rob and Jay are…”
“Sshh!” Gary shushed him.
“What?” Howard asked.
“I thought I heard something; probably nothing.” Gary sighed. “Come on, let’s get a move on. The longer we’re here, the less time we’ll have to find them.”
The two of them started walking away from the boat when they both heard something coming from somewhere behind them. They both stopped and turned around. Had they been in any other situation they probably would have put it down to the wind but, considering they were trying to find their three lost friends, every single sound they heard – no matter how small, it seemed – could prove to be the difference to finding them safe and alive and…well, you can imagine the opposite for yourselves.
Having turned around, they could both see a figure of something – or rather someone – moving quickly towards them. It was then that both Gary and Howard realised just how vast this island was and how long it could take them to find the people they were so desperately looking for.
As the figure got closer, the sound coming from them became louder and clearer, until it was clear to Howard and Gary who was running towards them.
“Rob?!” Gary shouted over at him, hoping that it really was him and not his mind playing tricks on them.
The figure waved at them in a way that suggested they were needed over where he was. Looking at each other, Howard and Gary started to run along the sand towards the figure in the near distance.
As the distance between them began to decrease, they soon realised that it was in fact Robbie who was standing there waiting as the two of them ran towards him.
“God am I glad to see you guys,” Robbie said as Gary and Howard made it to him. “We can deal with the informalities in a bit, Jay is in a bit of trouble. Says his ankle hurts. I managed to get him on top of the hill but I don’t know what to do now.” Robbie said.
“Is it broken?” Howard asked, slightly worried that Jason might have landed up breaking something.
“I don’t think so, but he says it hurts pretty badly.” Robbie told him. It was then that something caught his eye and his face became even more worried than it was before. “Where’s Mark?” He asked.
“He not with Jay?” Gary asked, his voice rising slightly as he suddenly started to panic.
“No…” Robbie trailed off. “You go up to Jay, I’m going to find him.” He was about to move off when Howard caught his arm.
“The last thing we need is for you to run off and get lost.” Howard told him.
“But Howard, he’s out there somewhere!” Robbie said.
“Rob, Howard’s right, we can’t risk you getting lost as well.” Gary said. “We’ll all go up to Jay, find somewhere where we can shelter from this sun and then you and I can go out and look for Mark after.” Gary told him. “I promise, we’ll find him.”
Robbie just looked at him. It was clear that he wanted to say something back; something that might make Gary and Howard realise that he had to go out and start looking now. But he stayed quiet instead. He knew Gary was right, they couldn’t start losing each other now. For one, they had no idea where they were or what dangers were out there. It was best, now that they had found each other, to stay together as much as they could. That didn’t mean that Robbie didn’t still want to go out and find Mark while he had the chance. After all, he was clearly alone.
“Alright,” Robbie said and the three of them made their way to where Robbie had left Jason on top of the hill.
It didn’t take them long to reach him, thankfully. As soon as he saw him sitting on the ground, Howard knelt down beside Jason with worry in his eyes.
“Are you alright?” He asked.
“I’m fine, I told Rob not to make too much of a deal about all this.” Jason said. “It’s just a sprain after all.”
“Come on, mate, we’re gonna have to go and find somewhere to shelter.” Gary said. “Do you think you can walk?”
“Probably not for a while,” Jason answered.
“I’ll carry you then,” Howard said.
“Y’know, under normal circumstances, I’d tell you to do no such thing, but considering we’re on an island in the middle of nowhere, I’m prepared to let it go just this once.” Jason said as Howard picked him up. “Well this is embarrassing.” He moaned. “Hold on…Where’s Mark?” Jason asked, fearing the worst.
“We’re going to find somewhere to shelter and then me and Rob are going to go and find him while Howard stays with you.” Gary explained.
“We need to find him, so why doesn’t Howard go with you?”
“No, because then you’ll be on your own and there’s no way we’re going to leave anyone on their own while we have no idea where we are and what’s out there.” Howard told him. “Therefore, I am staying with you.”
“Fine, but promise me you’ll find Mark, for God’s sake.” Jason pleaded.
“We will, I’m sure. He can’t be far.”
“Good because I’m worried what’ll happen to Rob if we don’t find him soon.” Jason nodded to where Robbie was standing by the edge of the hill looking out towards the ocean that had brought them here.
“We’ll find him.” Gary said, but even to his ears his statement didn’t hold the assertion he wanted it to. Somewhere in the back of his mind, there was a voice telling him that they wouldn’t find Mark.
Eventually, the four of them started to make their way across the island. As they walked, they kept an eye out for any clues that might lead them to where their missing friend could be.
A while later, the four of them came to a halt. Below them was a sheer drop of rock. Down there was what looked like some kind of jungle. It was a brilliant green colour, but at the same time it was dark and didn’t look that inviting.
“I think we should go the other way.” Jason said.
“I think we should go back the way we came and head back towards where I found Howard.” Gary suggested. “Where we were there were these trees and there were rocks so I’m wondering if there was some kind of cave that we could shelter in down there?”
“Why didn’t you say that before?” Robbie asked, annoyed that they had wasted time walking this far only to go back to where they had started.
“I thought you wanted to look for Mark?” Gary shot back.
“Guys, please, let’s not start.” Howard said.
“Howard’s right, there’s no point in arguing now. At least we know a bit more about the island.” Jason said, hoping that to calm the situation before it even had chance to start. “Come on, let’s go to where Gary suggested.”
With that, the four of them made their way back the way they had come.
By the time they had got back to the beach, it was starting to get dark. In the distance, they could see the remains of the boat that had landed here with them and like, Gary had said, there were trees and rocks a way back from the sea front.
“Come on, let’s try over there.” Gary said pointing over at a rather large group of rocks a little further way from where they were currently stood.
Thankfully, when they arrived they found that there was in fact some kind of cave within the rocks. Howard immediately set Jason down inside and sat with him.
“What are we going to do about food?” Howard asked as Gary and Robbie came into the cave.
“I’m sure there must be something left on the boat.” Gary said.
“Try inside the cabin, Gaz. I packed some tin stuff just in case there was a storm and everything in boxes got wet.” Jason told him.
“Did you know there was going to be a storm?” Robbie asked, his eyes narrowing in Jason’s direction.
“No, of course I didn’t, don’t be ridiculous! I just packed some tins just in case.”
“Look, why don’t me and Rob go and have a look.” Gary said. “Come on, Rob.” Gary led the two of them out of the cave and towards the wreckage.
When they were half way there, Gary turned to Robbie.
“What was that all about? I heard the way you spoke to Jay, this isn’t his fault you know?”
“I know that,” Robbie put his down. “I didn’t mean it the way it had come out or the way I looked at him, I’m just…”
“Worried, I know. Look we’ll find him, okay?” Gary didn’t need to say names, they both knew who they were talking about.
“We’re not going to get a chance to find him tonight, though, are we?” Robbie said.
“No, but first thing tomorrow we’ll start looking.” Gary looked up at him. “Rob, Mark’ll be fine. He’s smart that one, he’ll know to find somewhere safe.”
“I hope you’re right, Gaz, I really do.”
Upon reaching the boat, Gary made his way into the cabin and dug around until he pulled out three cans of beans from the inside of the boat. It was all that had survived the journey. The tins were dented and damaged, but none of them had split and the contents of them were still within the metal. It was all they had for now, but it would do them the night at least.
As they walked back to the cave, Gary started to veer off towards the jungle area that was beside him. Robbie followed him, although unsure what Gary was doing.
“Just going to try and find some wood for a fire.” Gary told him, sensing Robbie’s confusion.
Robbie nodded in understanding but said nothing before helping Gary collect as much wood as the two of them could carry as well as the three tins they had salvaged from the boat.
They made it back just as the darkness was falling completely; there was still a little light left in the cave, just enough to light the wood they had found.
“Found wood then?” Jason noticed as the two of them made their way inside.
“Yeah, and three tins of beans. It’s all that’s left, I’m afraid.” Gary said putting down the stuff he was holding, as did Robbie.
“It’ll do for tonight. We’ll have to look for things tomorrow morning.” Howard said.
“How’s the ankle, Jay?” Robbie asked.
“Better thanks, I should be alright tomorrow.”
“I’m sorry about earlier, I didn’t mean to come across as if I was blaming you for this.”
“Rob it’s alright. Honestly.”
“Come on, let’s get this fire going and eat these things.” Howard said as he a couple of the sticks and started to rub them together, hoping to get some sort of fire going.
“Give it here,” Jason said when he noticed that Howard clearly struggling. Within a couple of minutes, Jason had managed to get the fire started and the glow from the flames lit up the inside of the cave, the cracks and dents in the rock visible.
Once the four of them had finished their ‘meal’, they decided that it would be best if they turned in for night in order to be up and ready to go by the time sunrise came.
“How?” Jason whispered to his partner, lying next to him.
“Yeah?” Howard whispered back.
“We will find Mark tomorrow won’t we?” Jason asked, it had been worrying him all day, but it was only now that he felt he could ask such as question. In the back of his mind, there was still a horrible worry that they might not.
“I hope so, I really do. For all our sakes.” Howard looked over to where Rob was lying near the wall of the cave. It was hard to tell whether he was asleep yet or not, but judging by the day they had had, Howard guessed not. “Come on, we can’t do anything until the morning, so we might as well try and get some sleep while we can.” Howard said as Jason nodded, closing his eyes not long after with Jason following suit.
What hadn’t crossed their minds at this point, was how they were going to get off this island, but with one of them still lost and still out there somewhere, that seemed to be the last of their worries right now.
Never having been one to sleep through an entire night, Jason found himself waking up, in what he assumed to be the middle of the night, with his head resting lightly on Howard’s shoulder. Lifting his head up, he found that Howard was still asleep, his mouth open slightly and his head to one side. Smiling briefly, Jason carefully rolled over and sat up, noticing that Gary, too, was asleep. He looked around in the darkness of the cave they had found to shelter in, trying to find any sign of Robbie. A moment later, he could see the familiar silhouette of his friend sitting just outside the cave. From what Jason could see in the near pitch black, his friend was staring out at the vast beach before him.
Knowing full well what was most likely keeping Robbie from being able to sleep, Jason slowly got up, being mindful of his friends, trying not to wake them, and made his way over to where Robbie was sat.
He clearly sensed or heard that someone was coming as Robbie turned his head to face behind him, before turning back to face his vast surroundings.
“You okay, mate?” Jason asked as he took a seat next to Robbie on the cold sand. He, too, looked out at the vast nature of their surroundings. He was in awe of the beauty that the island presented, but knowing that they were stranded here with one of his friends still missing, the thought of beauty left Jason’s mind as quickly as it had entered.
“Can’t sleep,” was all that Robbie said. Jason just nodded; he knew it didn’t need explaining.
“Why don’t you try? You’ll be more awake at sunrise then.” Jason suggested. It was a long shot, he knew, but it didn’t stop him from trying.
“I’ve tried, but it’s no use. I’m too worried to sleep.” Robbie replied honestly.
“I know, but you’re not going to find him while tired, are you?”
“Jay,” Robbie said, choosing to ignore Jason’s comments and not argue about the issue of him not being able to sleep. “Tell me honestly: what happens if we don’t find Mark?”
Jason looked down at the sand below him. He had been thinking the same thing for a while now, but not wanting to say anything; not when there was still some kind of hope that they would find Mark. They had only been here… what? A day? There was still a chance that they would find him. The only thing was, and it had been bothering Jason for a while now, what if Mark wasn’t on the island? He wasn’t the only one to have asked the same question either.
“I don’t know, Rob, I honestly don’t.” It was the truth after all. If they didn’t find Mark, then he had no idea what they would do – none of them did. They would have to leave without him (if they ever got rescued, that was) and they would never find out what had happened to him. That thought alone was enough to make Jason want to get out there and start a search for Mark. The only problem was, with his ankle still on the blink, it felt, and the fact that sunrise was still a few hours away, all he could do was wait until morning and wait until Robbie and Gary got back from their search – hopefully with Mark in tow.
“He’s out there somewhere and we have no idea where he is or how he is.” Robbie said. “He could be injured somewhere, scared and all alone, and yet we have no idea where to even begin looking for him.
“Rob, there’s also a chance that Mark might be fine and just ended up on the other side of the island.” Jason told him, trying to be the voice of reason. He didn’t necessarily believe what he was saying himself, but someone had to try and keep the faith up. If not, then they didn’t have a hope in hell’s chance of finding Mark.
“I hope so.”
“Just don’t think about the worst yet. There’s still time to find him.” Jason gave Robbie’s shoulder a small pat before standing up, wincing as he put too much pain on his ankle.
“You alright? Ankle still giving you grief?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine though.” Jason gave Robbie a smile in the darkness. “Don’t worry about me, we’ve got bigger things to worry about right now.”
Robbie nodded and Jason gave him one last small smile before making his way back in the cave, leaving Robbie to continue staring out at the island. He hoped his friend would come back in and try and get some sleep; however, he didn’t see that happening just yet – maybe in a couple of hours or so.
Along with the sunrise came the heat. Wherever they were, it was awfully warm. Yesterday hadn’t been so bad, but today it was already heating up.
Howard awoke first, with Jason lying next to him. He sat up and stretched his back. Not that he was complaining or anything, but the ground was bloody hard and wasn’t in any way shape or form comfortable for sleeping on. But given the fact that he was no longer in the comfort of his own home, Howard was prepared to make-do.
Once he had finished stretching, he noticed that both Gary and Robbie were still asleep. He didn’t really have the heart to wake them, but he knew that if they didn’t get out and start looking for Mark now, then the heat would most likely get the better of them and they wouldn’t get anywhere.
He wanted to go with them, but he knew he couldn’t leave Jason on his own with his ankle. Maybe (God forbid), if they didn’t find Mark today, then he both he and Jason would be able to help them look tomorrow. As much as he wanted for that to happen so he could help, he wanted nothing more than for Gary and Robbie to find Mark before the day came to a close so they could starting thinking of a way off this island, knowing that all five of them were safe and alive. Was that so much to ask for?
It didn’t take long for all four of them to awaken from their restless nights’ sleep. Having whatever they had left over from last night’s ‘dinner’ for breakfast, the four of them sat down and explained their course of action for the day ahead.
“If you guys can, try and find something that looks edible for tonight. We’ll do our best to find anything small that we find on our way, but we can’t promise anything.” Gary explained on the subject of tonight’s food.
“Okay, we’ll do our best.” Jason nodded. “The old ankle’s feeling a bit better this morning so we might be able to go into the woodland area before you guys make it back.”
“Alright, but be careful. The last thing we need is one of you to get injured in such a way that you’re out for weeks.” Gary said. “Ideally, no injuries at all would be best.”
Gary looked toward Robbie sitting next to him. The younger man had barely said anything since waking up.
“Guess so.” Robbie nodded before standing up and making his way towards to exist of the cave.
Gary stood up, too, looking back towards Howard and Jason still sitting on the ground of the cave. “You two look after each other.”
“We will,” Jason nodded. “Just please find Mark and make sure he’s safe.”
Gary nodded before following Robbie out of the cave and onto the sandy beach of the island.
It was only when both of them had gone that Jason turned to Howard and told him his worry:
“How, I’m worried they might not find him.”
“I’m sure they will, Jay; just gotta keep faith.”
At least one of them was feeling optimistic.
“Where do you want to start?” Gary asked Robbie as the two of them made their way along the sand.
“I don’t know. I don’t know where he’d be.”
“Me neither.” Gary sighed; they were going to get nowhere if they didn’t even know which direction they were going in. “Tell you what, why don’t we search round the back where we haven’t yet been? I noticed where the slope to the top of the hill where you and Jay were originally there was some kind of path leading round the back.”
“That’s where Jay and I woke up. I’d’ve noticed something.”
“Did you get a chance to properly look?”
“No, I just noticed Jay next to one of the rocks.” Robbie told him.
“Well let’s just go back there and see if there’s anything you missed when you woke up. After all, Mark might be there now when he wasn’t before. He might be trying to look for us as well as us trying to look for him.”
Robbie nodded and led Gary the way to his first sighting of this island.
It took them a while to get there and, when they did, Gary thought he had travelled to an entirely different island altogether. Compared to where they had previously been and the part of the island he and Howard and woken up to, this was something else. Where he had been, the sand had been soft in ways and the sun had glistened the water, almost making it shine as though tiny crystals were what it was made of. This, on the other hand, was very different. The rocks were stone grey, with some being tinted green from the seaweed stains that lay across them. Even from where Gary stood with Robbie, the water looked dangerous as it hit the rocks with great force – a complete contrast to the calmness of the sea that he had first seen. It amazed him to see just how different one part of the island could be from the next. If Jason and Robbie had ended up here, then God knows what it was like where Mark had washed up. He just hoped this was the worst of it.
“God, Rob, this is awful.” Gary said. “I’m amazed Jay only hurt his ankle!”
“Believe me, so was I.” Robbie said. “It could’ve been a whole different story.” He sighed before taking a step down on to one of the wet rocks below him. “Come on, we better get a move on before the current gets too strong.”
Gary nodded, though he didn’t feel that this was safe. All he wanted to do was get back to what he assumed to be the safe part of the island – or, even better, to get off this island completely. But they were here for a reason and little bit of fast-moving, strong-current water wasn’t going to hold them back. They were just going to have to be careful.
They made their way across the rocky beach; each step a trial in itself. The wind had started to pick up now, and so had the waves. They had just about reached the halfway point on their trek when a huge wave suddenly came from nowhere, hitting them and the rocks with some force.
The water soaked them both through and Gary grabbed what he could of Robbie’s shirt to stop both he and Robbie from falling from the rock they were standing on.
Staying still for quite a few moments, the two of them continued their movements once the water had calmed down, making it safe for them to start again. As they walked, they kept an eye out for any sign of Mark, but they saw nothing.
Eventually, the two of them made it across the rocks and onto sand. The water was still rough and neither of them really knew where to go from here; but at least they were safe(r).
“Which way now?” Gary shouted at Robbie over the sound of the crashing water. He didn’t hear his friend’s reply properly, but saw through the mist of water in the air which way he was pointing. Off to the right-hand side of them was a slope. From this angle, it looked rather steep, but it was their only hope of getting off this part of the island that didn’t involve them having to go back the way they came. Besides, they couldn’t go back yet.
They helped each other up the steep slope and, with every step, Gary couldn’t help but wonder how on earth Robbie had managed to get Jason up here when they had first become aware of their situation.
Nevertheless, the two of them made it to somewhat familiar settings. They had both been in this spot yesterday and knew that the way in which they had gone from here hadn’t resulted in any sighting of Mark. Thus, they decided to go in the opposite direction and carry on across the sandy ground. From the look and shape of the forest they had found in the island yesterday and the way the rock seemed to curve round, Gary had concluded that the island must be some kind of horseshoe shape; meaning, that if they carried on this way, they might find slopes down to different beaches. Surely Mark must have ended up on one of them – right?
He groaned as he came around.
His first sensation of one of wet coldness.
This wasn’t the first time he had come around and the first feelings were the same now as they were the last time. Only last time, he had felt too weak to open his eyes and move. This time, he gathered up every ounce of strength he had left and forced his eyes to open and for his fingers – at the very least – to move.
His fingers moved first.
Stretching them out and then pulling them back, he heard the smallest of splashes as he relaxed his fingers. He tried to make sense of it, but didn’t have the mental strength to do so yet.
He was confused and tired but was determined to move.
Eventually, his eyelids started to part and the blackness that had been surrounding him suddenly turned in all different shade of brown. He had no idea where he was.
Gathering energy still, he tried to move his head up. He moaned in pain – his neck was stiff and sore and as the rest of the body started to awaken, aches and pains suddenly started to consume him from every angle you could think of.
Putting his head down, letting it splash in the shallow water below him, he tried to lift himself up with his arms. By now he had realised that he was lying in some sort of shallow pool, but where he was exactly was still a matter of discovery.
Eventually getting himself up on his knees, he lifted his head and jumped back in fear when his eyes focused on what was directly in front of him. His body protested as he did so and the pain rippled through his body, but the skeleton, chained against the wall – still intact in every way possible – made him put the pain to one side for a while.
He moved back, keeping his eyes on the body’s skull as he did; only realising he had gone too far when he suddenly found himself falling into the deeper water behind him.
Forgetting how to swim for a few seconds, he felt as though he was sinking in the water. He was so tired again all of a sudden and so opened his eyes to stop himself from falling asleep in the water.
And that’s when he came face to face with two hollow eye sockets.
Panicking, he desperately flapped his arms in order to get to the surface, getting himself out of the water as quickly as he could.
It was once he was on the side of the pool, soaking wet and breathing heavily, that he finally took proper note of his surroundings.
Everywhere he looked, he would see bones piled up against the bank and to the sides of the walls. Skulls, broken and in pieces scattered around; ribs here there and everywhere; arms still trapped within the grasp of chains; the completed skeleton on the wall next to him and the empty eye sockets staring at him from in the water. All of this so old, yet so frightening.
He looked for a way out and then realisation hit him.
These people had died in here for a reason.
The only entrance that seemed to remain in this dark cavern was the one he had been clearly lucky to survive entering in. And it was full of water. He made have made it in here alive, but the added energy of swimming, against a tide he could hear crashing against the rock, meant he would drown before he could reach the surface and the outside.
The dead surrounding him had died here because there was no way to escape.
There was no way out.
And now, Mark was going to die here, too.