Partners in Paradise
The island was not impressive in any one particular singular detail.
As islands go, it could only be said that it was pretty average with average rainfall, average humidity and average thickness of lush underbrush for small animals to hide eating the seeds from the trees and advantageous sheltering of the plants to take root and multiply.
On three sides, the island was buffered by a wall of coral that acted to keep the sea predators away from the slightly sloping terrain. Humans and animals including creatures of the deep dark bottom reaches could only make an inroad to reach terra firma along a short stretch of unbuffered beach that extended about a hundred meters from one end to the other. It was the open front door of the island and the surrounding reef insured there was no other entranceway.
When the exhausted and disoriented O'Keefe accidently floated into the narrow opening from a rough sea skirting a storm of some consequence, he was only semi-conscious and had no inkling of his good fortune. The supplies he towed behind him were connected to his waist with a sturdy rope from the rope locker were salvaged from the sunken torpedo boat that had disintegrated into splinters and quickly sinking bodies and other parts too numerous to mention.
He was nearly naked motionless and prone on the shell-littered shore and felt the sharp edges of the broken ones pressing into his sun damaged skin. The tail of supplies was still bouncing around in the surf and he pulled on the rope to drag it up to safety on the beach. He saw some birds up high in the trees and was surprised because to all intent and purposes this was a solitary island albeit in a scattered chain that stretched for leagues across many horizons.
A man now in his mid-thirties, Patrick O'Keefe was a sailor above all else. He had tried his luck on the mainland in various employments but had been unsuccessful in all.
When the long expected war came along, it was almost like a life preserver being thrown to him to pull him back into the middle of the empty blue sea. He felt like he had come home once again and that now he was here he would never leave again. It seemed almost like a stroke of good fortune that he was assigned to the torpedo boats. He liked their speed and their ability to move around the larger slower targets like a bunch of stinging bees protecting their hive. The guns made a satisfactory thumping sound that was more to his liking than the large guns on the big metal clad ships and the crew was so small that they were more like a band of brothers than anonymous souls thrown together to be maimed and die in relative distance of spirit.
Patrick was reasonably certain that the remainder of the crew were all in Davey Jones's locker buried at sea with the remainder of the broken little boat that had seen lots of action in the South China Sea.
The explosion had happened so fast that he still was in a bit of shock at the sudden change from being a member of an effective fighting force attacking the enemy fleet to a solitary man attempting to survive the shifting moods of the rolling seas and finding a friendly ship for rescue or a safe harbor to put down his anchor.
The wheeling birds settled down after seeing that this interloper presented no immediate threat to their pattern of life. The only sounds now were the pounding surf and the occasional cry of some tiny living creature hidden in the brush.
He saw that there were shelled fish and turtles on the beach and coconuts under the trees and felt that this island promised the survival he was looking for. Still, he was a "castaway" with slim chance of rescue and far from the channels that the opposing forces used to fight their give and take war of attrition. The regular shipping was curtailed to a mere trickle because the enemy gave no quarter to civilian vessels. The bottom of the shipping lanes was sprinkled with the carcasses of broken ships sunk without mercy.
Patrick started to drag the supplies up to a raised bluff a short distance from the beach. He figured it was close enough to make the availability of the shellfish, turtles, and fish his main staple of diet and he planned to set up a tarp to make a catch basin for rain water.
Things were looking up and his main concern was that he not be discovered by one of the enemy patrols that constantly scoured the islands looking for survivors just like him to torment and use for target practice. He knew that the orders of the fleet were to bypass all the small islands so his likelihood of rescue was almost non-existent. His best bet was to lay low and wait out the ebb and flow of the conflict hoping that it all passed him by and he might eventually be rescued at a later date.
The days seemed to blend into one another and he eventually lost all track of time. He remembered a tasty fish or some welcomed driving rain giving him the water he depended on for survival but unusual events were sparse and he was somewhat grateful for that because such things posed more danger than blessing.
He had a handgun with a grand total of six rounds of ammunition. Not exactly a deterrent of firepower to repel an invasion of enemy searchers. It was more of a comfort of possession than an expression of confident armed resistance.
He had only his skivvies, tattered as they were, left to cover his nakedness, but after discovering that the island had a sizable population of oversized rabbits, he felt their pelts would furnish clothing as well as an extended food supply. Patrick felt conflicted about taking advantage of his new neighbors in such a terrible way but he assuaged his conscience about the unfortunate doing in of his friendly island residents as necessary for his survival and a good conservation tool to keep the furry things from over-populating and stripping the island of all vegetation dooming themselves to extinction in the process. There was no telling where the little beasts had come from, but they were not a danger and seemed resigned to their fate with sad little knowing eyes that tended to disturb his sleep with regret.
Just as he remembered reading in a children's story a long time ago, he gathered a heap of dry fronds and other materials he found to put ablaze if a ship of friendly origin came within visual contact with the island. He had already seen a couple of smaller ships sail by slowly but he felt certain that they were enemy ships from the cut of the outlines and the way they sat real low in the water just like typical enemy ships. He had no desire to jump from the frying pan into the fire just to have human contact once again.
Rather than build a living quarters easily seen from a distance or from above should aircraft venture close to the island, he expanded the fissure in the sloping terrain almost in the center of the island to allow him to store his supplies underground and away from the elements of sudden storms or the view of enemy troops. It was tight quarters but it was decidedly safer in many respects and he often slept there on nights when he felt particularly uncertain.
Patrick spent a great deal of time cleaning and polishing his useless handgun knowing he relied more on the handmade spears and the hunting knife that he had managed to recover. It still gave him a sense of satisfaction to know he was "armed" and ready to take the fight to the enemy if that situation ever arose. It was foolish and he knew it but it was so ingrained in his personality that he ceased to question the logic.
One night, he saw the flash of long range artillery firing across the darkened surface of the sea almost on the edge of the horizon. All he could hear was a rumble that sounded more like some storm in the distance and not like a fight to the death for hundreds, if not thousands, of living human beings.
He slept on the beach that night too tired to hide in the cave and so depressed that he reached a point of not caring if the enemy did discover him and finish him off.
It was the glare of the rising sun that woke him to a scene of heaped rubble on the beach pushed there from the site of the battle by the currents that flowed in the island's direction. He gleefully ran down to the water and started to rummage like a boy in a candy store grabbing anything that took his fancy and dragging or carrying it back to stage at the edge of the brush leading to his hidden cave. Even the broken and crushed wood pieces were valued by him as building blocks or flammable sources of heat for warmth on a cold night or fuel for cooking his food. Of course, all of the heavier items were sunk to the bottom of the merciless sea.
He saw a lump of clothing right at the water's edge and he pulled at it only to realize it was clothing on a body that was unmistakably a female. Patrick crossed his chest in the age-old response when there was some indecision about the workings of the universe. The soggy dress was so drenched in the salty water that it actually ballooned up like some parody of clownish delight. He could see the woman's long hair flowing down and her pale white arm flung out in total despair.
Almost as soon as he touched her dress, the thing on the sand rolled over with her buttocks up high and vomited out a quantity of the briny foam like it was a meal she had eaten with too much gusto. Her eyes were still closed but her mouth was quivering with distaste at her unfeminine lack of control. He saw that her limbs were all in good working order and that her pretty face was fatigued but still expressive.
All he could think was that this was an unusual "Friday" to be thrown up on his beach but he had to admit she was one that he was pleased to see was not an enemy or some other person with dangerous demeanor.
She looked up at him through salt-encrusted squinting eyes and tried to speak but her lips were too dry from the salt to make any sense.
Since she was far too weak to make the journey to the cave, he lifted her around his shoulders and carried her off leaving a trail of wet sand like a leaky faucet in need of immediate fixing. He could feel the yielding softness of her female flesh surrounding him with a cloying prompting that disturbed him more than excited him considering the severity of their circumstances. He was glad she was a slender young thing with no excess weight to add to his burden.
When they arrived at the entrance to the cave, he sat her on the ground on her soggy haunches and brought her some of the rain water collected from the last heavy rainfall. She swallowed it all down with a grimace revealing how swollen her throat had become from the floating adventure on top of the plastic barrel that had been her lifeboat of sorts.
He could tell the heavy wet clothing was a problem. They probably weighted as much she did and he told her they had to go for the time being to dry out properly. He hoped she spoke English because it would be a difficult task to start stripping the girl without her knowing his purpose.
The fact she helped in the project convinced him she understood every word but was still unable to speak because of her temporarily damaged vocal cords. Apparently, her hearing was not affected at all.
They got down to her undies and she looked at him quizzically.
He shook his head in the negative despite the fact his libido was urging him to make her go all the way. That seemed to mollify her to the degree that she just curled up in her clinging undies and fell immediately into a sound sleep like nothing else was so important at that very moment.
Patrick stretched the clothing out on long palm fronds knowing that it would only take a couple of hours in the balmy breezes to dry them completely and then they could decide how to dress his new companion.
He looked down at her slender form curled up into a little ball and saw she was petite but sturdily formed and able to carry her weight in the business of staying alive.
The castaway warrior stood up on the top of the rain barrel and looked off into the distance in every direction. He could see the beach area and out to the horizon and saw that it was completely empty. Most of the rest of the surrounding sea was hidden from view by the sheltering trees but he would make a better scout in all directions before the sun went down just to make certain no vessels were approaching his place of sanctuary.
Right at the moment, he had the gut feeling that staying out of sight was more important than possible rescue.