Where Seagulls Dare

Flash Fiction Month 2014, Day 18

“There’s no escape, you know.”

Thomas put his head on one side, slapping the water out of his ear. “Sorry?”

“There’s no escape…from the island.” The heavily bearded man gave him a stare. “The same rocks that sank your vessel have defeated my every attempt at floating a raft.”

“Oh.” Thomas wasn’t sure exactly what one was supposed to say in this situation. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“There’s food enough to get by here, if you don’t mind bitter roots, insects, sour berries. That’s almost the cruellest thing.” Beneath his stitched-leaf hat, his eyes gazed out to sea. “Compared with the open ocean, this place offers a fair chance of survival. But can it really be called living? Trapped here…on the island?”

“I guess not.” Thomas stood and brushed himself off. “But the thing is, I don’t think it’s as hopel…”

“Shhh!” The castaway pressed a grimy finger to Thomas’s lips. “Hope is even crueller than…the island. Forty years I’ve been here, and I can tell you hope brings only pain. God, or fate, or something more terrible still, has us imprisoned here. For its amusement? Or through sheer indifference? None can say. For us there is only…the island.”

Thomas pushed the castaway’s hand away in disgust. “Phleh!” He rubbed his mouth on his sleeve. “Do you ever wash your hands?”

The man shrugged. “You’ll find no sinks on…the island.”

“And will you please stop saying it like that? …the island. You sound ridiculous.”

“Because I’ve come to appreciate the vast desolation that surrounds us? The deep isolation that, paradoxically, reminds us of the invisible forces uniting all things? The majesty of…the island.”

“Because it’s a peninsula!”

The castaway paused. “Say what now?”

“Seriously?” Thomas put a hand to his forehead. “You’ve been here forty years and you never noticed?”

“I thought if I stayed by the shore, I might catch a boat going past.”

“They’re going past constantly! Surely all those swan-shaped paddle boats were a clue that you weren’t exactly in the middle of nowhere.”

“I thought they were swans.” The castaway folded his arms. “We can’t all be ornithologists, you know.”

“And the big sign saying ‘Sunny Peninsula Boat Hire’ just over there?”

“Well sure, if you just happen to look precisely in that direction.”

“It’s a neon sign! There’s a unicyclist juggling flaming torches on top of it!”

“I think that’s a ‘today only’ sort of thing.”

“Whatever.” Thomas began to head off towards the boat hire place. His sodden shoes felt awful, his wet clothes three times their dry weight. “I’ve got enough to worry about: those guys are probably going to charge me a fortune for crashing that swan boat.” He paused. “Do you need me to, like, lead you off this peninsula or something?”

The castaway slowly shook his head. “Been out here too long now. Too long on…the peninsula.”

“Suit yourself.”

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from Flash Fiction Month 2012 and 2013 collected in OCR is Not the Only Font and Red Herring respectively.



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