Survival!

My earliest exposure to stories of survival was probably Robinson Crusoe. I never planned on writing tales like that, but as fate would have it, I’ve written several. There’s a scene in An Island Away in which Captain Nathan Beck is adrift in the Caribbean for nearly a week. He ultimately comes ashore in Savaneta, Aruba. Another one is in MacMillan Judge, Privateer and will be published in the future. Young Mr. Judge lands in Spain.

In the modern age, it’s hard to imagine being shipwrecked on a desert island, or lost at sea, or abandoned in a jungle somewhere. But it does happen. There was the tragic case of the scuba divers left behind, as well as incidents of plane crashes where a survivor managed to find his way out. I took the opportunity to watch a few episodes of the television programs on this subject. There are a couple of guys who are survival specialists who do everything from build a fire in the rain forrest to ice fish in the arctic. It’s quite impressive and a testament to human ingenuity that they can use their opposable thumbs and brains to come up with food and shelter.

Of course, the real solution is to avoid disaster in the first place. As the old saying goes: prior preparation prevents poor performance. It seems that some people go aboard boats, airplanes, or simply walk into the woods with neither the equipment nor skills to deal with what awaits them. This is simply idiotic. I’m not sure why people volunteer for misery. They apparently can’t get enough. Of course, the resources of the nation are then mobilized to rescue them. I’m short on sympathy in this case, especially when the rescuers have to risk their lives to save someone who did something moronic in the first place. The cost? Forget about it.

Anyway, like I said in an earlier post, fiction is a place where things can be pondered without anyone getting hurt. The real world on the other hand will inevitably teach the lesson you didn’t plan on learning. Be careful out there.

Published in: on September 24, 2008 at 1:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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An Island Away, Excerpt 4

Below is the 4th Excerpt from my novel, An Island Away. Captain Beck has survived the sinking of his tug, Patricia, and has been adrift for several days… page 45 …

When he first saw land, Beck had thought it was an illusion. It was dawn, and a mile or two in the distance he perceived what seemed to be cliffs. They stood above the sea, brown blotches with streaks of black among them. He stared with his itchy eyeballs for what felt like hours. When the cliffs grew bigger, he realized they were real.

He felt a smile crack the skin of his lips. He was close enough to swim for land. His muscles cramped, but he couldn’t scream through his parched throat. Thankfully, his life preserver kept him afloat, or he would have sunk to the bottom like a rag-covered stone.

The wind lent him its assistance. It pushed him in the general direction of the cliffs. The waves steepened as they approached more shallow waters that led to dry land. As his body hopped along with the waves, he did his best to steer toward shore. 

Late in the afternoon, he was close enough to see the surf pour over the rocks. Whether it was a blessing or a curse, he wasn’t sure, but the currents pushed him parallel to the boulders. He heard the noise of rocks blunting the ocean. He saw birds playing in the updrafts at the edge of the cliffs. What he did not see was an appealing beach on which he could land safely. Those rocks would have shredded a man in excellent condition. After a week at sea, he would have felt only the first blow.

In the final light of the day, he realized he was passing by the tip of an island. It had to be Aruba because Curaçao had a lighthouse at its southern tip and Aruba did not. There was a beach in the distance, but it was tucked behind that fringe of nasty rocks. He drifted along, unable to swim against the current. Salvation had come and now it was going. The devil was laughing into the wind. He could hear his cackle echoing over the deserted beach.

An Island Away, Excerpt 2

The second excerpt from my novel, An Island Away, posted here for those who would like a peek. A synopsis and more info is available at my website. The book is available at Amazon.com.

Chapter 5: Captain Nathan Beck has been adrift for more than five days. At last he has come ashore in Aruba…

Finally, he was head and shoulders out of the ocean. Only a few inches of water skirted the sand. The place he wanted to go was amidst a grove of low trees. He took another rest. It felt wonderful to be on solid ground. Looking at his bare feet, he wondered what the other parts of his body looked like. He had to be a fright for whoever was going to see him first.

He sat up and stared in the direction of the music. Between the trees he saw shapes dancing. A man leaned over a bar. Beer bottles clanked as two guys toasted one another. Just a few more feet and he would be there among them. He would be safe, alive to tell the tale.

Forgetting his previous failure at walking, he tried to get up again. He heard voices, a man and a woman, very close. He looked up and there they were, a couple dancing on the beach. They stopped and the man turned the young lady to face him. He kissed her. They were so close Beck could hear their lips smack. Why couldn’t they see him?

He wanted to find out. He struggled against the all-powerful force of exhaustion that pressed down on his shoulders. His vision blurred as he wobbled upright. A screeching roar filled his ears. The distorted view before him tilted one way, then the other. He went light-headed, dizzy to the point of retching. He put his arms out to break the coming fall.

He collapsed on the beach with his feet in the water. He caught a glimpse of the moon before it went black and took all the stars with it.

“I didn’t drown,” he whispered into the darkness.