The sand was hot and coarse, and as Jameson tried to pry himself off the ground, he felt a layer of sand try to come along with him. Both his arms wobbled and shook in a failed effort to lift himself before collapsing beneath his own weight.
Swimming across the Cilsian Ocean (or, at least that was what they called it in Auldrintown) must have drained his body in full. He must have blacked out at some point or another as well. The shock had whittled down his mind and wore out his brain, even when his body persisted.
Truth was, he could not remember finding an island, let alone swimming to it. Maybe he lost consciousness and the ocean did the rest, washing him up like it did hermit crabs or trash at the beach?
His daughter’s cries answered the second question he would have had. It was the only question that actually mattered, really. That she had survived. Against all obstacles, by merciful God, they had survived!
Her cries were soft and weak, barely mustering up more enthusiasm than a small whimper. It was a sad sound, but it was not a sad occasion. Not really, or, at least, it didn’t have to be a sad occasion.
In time, Jameson regained himself. He would be of no use in a scrimmage or a run, but he was able to stand again, at least.
His clothes were soggy and smelled like an aquarium, and his pant-legs felt heavy with every step he took.
Jameson looked out in-front of them and beheld the ocean in all its majesty. It went on for as far as the eyes could see. From what the eyes could see, the sea could make even the proudest man feel small and insignificant. He felt no tears run down his face, but he would have cried if he could.
The sun rose up from beyond where Jameson’s sight of the ocean ended, glistening off the waters he once fought for his life against. It was amazing how, after everything, after all he went through and how terrified he felt, it could all still look beautiful.
* * *
Jameson was a lot of things: a handyman when it came down to it, a college man with a doctorate that now served as a paperweight, and a decent enough father. As proud as he might have been of these things, they all did very little to prepare him for his situation.
When Jameson ventured out from beyond the short bit of sandy terrain at the shores of the island, he was swallowed up by a spacious and robust forestry. The greenery from the plants was like no other he had ever seen. Certainly not in Auldrintown, especially not after it was rung out of all its beauty and hung up to dry.
This would have been someone’s paradise under the right circumstances. Unfortunately, judging by the lack of nearby villages or civilians, it did not appear these would be the proper conditions for Jameson’s paradise.
He trudged forward, enthralled by it all in spite of how he felt. It really was beautiful. The flowers that nested themselves in the underbrush and the trees were such a lively, solid color that it made everything once deemed beautiful by Jameson feel like it was now up for review.
They needed shelter most of all; somewhere to set up camp so he could find his bearings around the island.
Jameson flinched for only a brief moment. It felt as though his body and mind were on guard to investigate every rustling leaf that neared them. When his eyes searched for an explanation, they were not fast enough to find the culprit.
“Hello, my name is Jameson Rodgers, I am stranded on this island with my daughter and I am in need of assistance, please! I am a doctor, if you have wounded that needed care for,” He shouted.
It was a foolish attempt on his own behalf. There were no humans wandering the island and, even if he did stumble upon a small tribe or village, there was no reason to think they would speak his language. In-fact, there was not even reason to think they weren’t savages that would have for a snack.
Jameson carried on through the forest and made a careful note of all his surroundings, trying to document anything distinct that could serve as a navigational landmark.
Many of the bushes sprouted berries and several trees hanged fruit. They weren’t anything he recognized. One tree carried fruit with a shape that best resembled a cucumber, with the difference being that they were yellow like a banana with spots on them about as red and as large as a cherry tomato. All of those fruits were edible, but it was anyone’s guess what was safe to eat on this island and what wasn’t.
He would have to be careful about the things he consumed and especially what he allowed his daughter to eat. His body would have to be the guinea pig, with proper precaution and boiling water, he would be able to stomach in small does what his daughter could not.
In time, he found what would likely be the closest thing they would be able to find to a sanctuary and it wasn’t much. It was little more than a small cave that burrowed into a mountain. By the looks of it, the hole had to have been man-made. No way it could have happened by itself. That was a good sign. This meant someone had lived on the island, at least at some point.
The cave ran about fifteen feet deep and was large enough for Jameson to walk into with his arms outstretched. It was an impressive creation, given the lack of resources. Jameson would have to do his best to put it to good use.
At the very end of the cave was a large hole at their feet. Jameson was surprised by it and took careful steps away once he noticed it. This must have led down to an abandoned mine of some kind, that was Jameson’s best guess, but he wasn’t interested in seeing for certain.
While his daughter slept, he did his best to afford her a level of comfort. It wasn’t the ritz, but it was important to him that she didn’t suffer if it could be prevented. He gathered a large elephant-ear shaped leaf for a blanket and stuffed his shirt with grass to create a pillow beneath her head.
This was a setback, but it didn’t have to be the end for either of their lives. Jameson held a stick in his hands and carved out a map in the dirt for his own benefit. They had left Auldrintown in the west and were meant to arrive at Tapoiville, but things clearly had not went the way they were meant to.
The storm couldn’t have sent them too far off course, however. On the map, between the marks left for Tapoiville and Auldrintown, he carved a question mark in the middle. He believed the current would have taken him north, but how far north, he was not for certain.
He needed to find out more information about where he was, and he needed to find a way to build a boat of some kind to leave from the island.
Jameson let the stick drop out from between his fingers, looking back at where Melodi slept from inside the cave.
They were so screwed.
He had no idea how to build a boat and hadn’t even the faintest idea on how to tell the directions. Leaving Melodi alone wasn’t an idea he fancied, afraid of whatever animals might be wandering around, and so, when he did, he did so in short intervals, finding supplies and bringing them back to the cave in small increments.
This included firewood, a few specially shaped rocks, some vines he peeled free off nearby trees, handfuls of fruit, and a large, sturdy stick. The rocks were intended to be broken down into bowls, whereas the vines were meant to be fashioned into baskets. If the baskets were formidable enough, then he would see about using the vines to bind together sticks for the boat.
The practicality of it all was under a certain level of scrutiny in-terms of its actual execution, however. Jameson may have had a basic understanding of survival, but that meant little when it came to setting everything in motion.
As what was left of the sun started to disappear behind the ocean, whatever second wind he had found since awaking on the beach had since left him. His body felt downtrodden and worn which only meant his daughter likely felt even worse than that.
Jameson held his daughter as they wandered the forest together. His eyes were attentive and she looked no worse for wear from the storm debacle of the night prior, except, perhaps, maybe, a little crankier than usual.
They approached a small river. Once more, it occurred to Jameson that it was something that could not have been natural.
Jameson followed the twists and curves that the river took. All of it was too precise and too deliberate. This was not an environmental anomaly, it was too exact and miraculous! This waterway had been made by man.
Jameson laughed with some relief, beholding the river in all its splendor. He dropped to his bottom and let his daughter’s bare feet touch the stream.
The water was crystal clear and cold to the touch. Perhaps he should have fashioned a bucket and boiled the water first back where they’d made camp, but his excitement had gotten the better of him. He cupped some water in his hands and took a drink.
It might have been because all the ocean water he gobbled up last night, but it was about the cleanest water he had ever tasted.