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The rain was pelting down on the little shack we called home. The wind was howling and whistling. That fatal wind was blowing the roof off of our poor little home.
My baby brother, my parents, and I cried, and feared for the unfavorable ending. The storm was at it’s worst, and it was thoughtless, heartless, and cruel. It was whipping big lawn chairs my momma used for tanning around like feathers. Our door and shutters were clattering when hitting the side of the house, letting cool whooshes of air in when they opened again. We have nowhere else to go, and the flooding had already risen to my toes.
“Momma, I’m hungry, don't we have any food left?” I asked.
I wanted to cry, my stomach ache was worsening, it felt like more nails are getting stabbed into my body. Everywhere. The only thing that could help me was nourishment. The only thing that could save me. The only thing that could save us. My family.
“Don’t worry sweetie, once this storm passes, we will be safe. And no, we don’t have any food, and if we did, we would give it to your mother, so she could feed baby Jake, Rachel Mae,” said my dad, sternly.
“I am tired of your whining, go to sleep,¨ Momma added.
¨Daddy, will we live? Will this storm ever run outta rain?” I cried, I wept.
The door slammed shut, for good. Baby Jake let out a small cry.
I just want to be out of this storm, and I don’t want to die.
“Yes sweetie, there's only a few days left of rain, soon this will all be over.”
There was a loud crack like an egg crack but a larger scale. Momma screamed and baby Jake cried like there was no tomorrow.
I screamed, and then water poured in like something was holding it back and it finally gave-in. I was thrust underwater with a jolting, heart-stopping thump. A large pain in my arm worsened, and my Ulna bone became powerless. Then came a hard hit to my head and everything went dark and cool as ice.
I was awoken by floating raft bumping the thing I was already on. I could see a dog swimming, but that was about it. My family were nowhere to be found, and I am clueless what to do. I figured I might as well stay on the raft thing and I’d be safer. The pain in my arm and skull became sharper, sharp enough for me to notice them. I need help, but I don't know how far away I am from civilization or my family.
“Hello?” I yelled, but figuring I’d get no response.
I was right.
Where is my family? Why did this have to happen? I miss baby and Momma and Daddy. I am only nine and all alone with nothing, but a dog in view and flat blue water.
The blue water was reflecting into my eyes, and I started to squint. Then I felt a pang of hunger and thirst. I couldn’t see land for as far as I could view from my placement on the raft. I sat up.
For my efforts, I was rewarded. I could see land, but it looked like a small deserted island.
I must get there, I thought. But how?
I shook my head, trying to ignore the fact that I was homesick, and my stomach ached. That ache when you’re so hungry it hurts. That ache when you miss your family.
All I want to do is go home.
Wait! Is my home still there? Is that little shack on 1943 Kinder Street, Fruitland Park, Florida, still there? For all I know, I could be anywhere near Florida, or faraway. I could be by California, I could be by Maine, I COULD BE ANYWHERE.
I know I must find food soon.
I found a board that isn’t attached to the raft that jolted me awake, and I used it as a paddle to push myself to get to that island. I’ve never used an oar before, so this is a learning experience.
“UGH!” I moaned, getting all the more frustrated with myself, because this paddle that doesn’t work at all!
After being at this for almost fifteen minutes, I figured I needed something wider and longer and strong… But what?
I searched through all of my “belongings” that included the clothes on my body and the two rafts, the one I was on and the raft that stuck by my side without being tethered because of the dead-calm sea.
I wasn’t having any luck finding a better thing to paddle with, so I decided to swim there, I hadn’t seen a shark or stingray, or any big fish. Or any animal at all. I took off my shoes and socks and jumped in.
I don’t know if I should go on. I believe myself as a very independent girl, but this time I really need help. If only you, my family, or someone else was here to help me.
The water felt amazing! I was relieved that I could slide into the cool water, and I shivered, suddenly chilled. To be relieved from that heat I was previously suffering to stay alive in was like God saved me. Now, I only had to swim one thousand yards. That’s not too bad. Except I can’t swim very fast.
“This is gonna take awhile. The while I don’t have.” I said, sighing.
I feel like this will take forever! I have the skill level of a five year old. I am a novice at swimming. My Daddy and Momma know I don’t like swimming a whole lot. I know Daddy would be saying, “This is good for you”, because I should learn to like this. Nope, not going to happen. Well, sitting here is not going to get me closer to the island. I have to keep swimming. Wish me luck.
Swimming was hard, because I could only kick. I gave up on trying to keep both rafts in line, so I took the stronger one. I used it as a kickboard and began approaching the island, slowly, but surely.I proceed swimming until nightfall and constantly check my surroundings. I scanned around and around until I was dizzy and climbed onto my raft. I fell asleep.
I woke up to sun shining and the birds chirping their morning songs like the finches and sparrows did back in Fruitland Park. I figured I better keep swimming, now being only 300 or so yards away.
After a hour, I weakly stood up on my shaky legs. My legs felt like Jell-O, like they would if you just ran a marathon. The beige sand between my toes was gritty and I could see little fish swimming around. The green trees had coconuts on them, but they were like twenty feet tall. I needed to find some other tree. There were banana trees too, but they were like twelve feet tall, and the mango trees were like 90 feet tall! All of these are inaccessible for me being only 5 feet, 4 inches tall, and 90 pounds.
I looked and could see a vine hanging low enough, I strolled over and grabbed it, and found a few more and made it like a basketball hoop but the bottom tied together. It is a fish trap. I ran around in the water, and the loud splashing caught the attention of a person.
“Excuse me, but what are you doing here?” a woman said. She was about 16 and her tattered and shredded clothes made her appear like she’d been here a while. She walked over to me, and smiled sweetly.
“I…. I am sorry, do you live he… here?”
“I have for years, nice to see some company.” she said, “Want some help catching those fish? Don’t worry, together we can survive.”
She was really nice! I am so excited to get to know her. I have always been kind of timid and shy, though. I wasn’t about to jump to being the first to speak.
There was a small awkward silence between us, but that was interrupted by Hailey soon afterwards.
¨What is your name? I am Rachel, Rachel Smith.¨
¨I am Hailey, nice to meet you, Rachel.¨
¨You too, Hailey.¨
¨About that fishtrap, this vine over here,¨ Hailey pointed to her right, ¨is better than what you've used. It´s okay, we will need to use what’s best if we want to eat.¨
Hailey took a knife and sliced through the vine like it was butter. She made a quick knot and pull them apart to see that it will hold up and be strong enough to stay knotted in the currents.
¨What kind of fish are we gonna catch?¨ I asked, a little worried of what I am going to eat.
¨Depends, but I know what fish humans can't eat and if it´s unidentifiable, then we will not eat it.¨ Hailey explained.
¨Okay,¨ Hailey exclaimed, ¨I think it is ready!¨
She help up for me to see what looks like a basketball hoop with a unopened bottom. It also had a stick attached, probably to keep it from floating away in the current.
¨How it works, is you put the stick in the ground and have the opening facing the current, and fish will be swept into it, and can't swim out if they are small enough.¨
We walked over to the water and shoved the stick in. I could feel the sand moving from underneath me, so the current was strong enough to push a small, young fish, I figured.
¨Now, we wait?¨ I asked, even though it was obvious the answer.
¨Yeah, but we could make an S.O.S. signal, and have someone see it.¨ Hailey offered.
¨Sure. How long have you been here?¨
¨Maybe a month. I’ve got a shelter built and we could both fit in it, so that's all taken care of. When we get fish, we have to eat them raw. It? a rainy island. Lucky for you, today it hasn't rained yet, but the clouds in the North look pretty promising. Rain will be here soon, let's get collecting any stones we see!¨
Once we had collected enough stones, we together started to form the S, then the O, and finally the last S, all about 4 feet long, and 2 feet wide each. We had to use all the stones we had with none to spare.
¨It? been 15 minutes, we should check out the trap.¨ I said.
We ran over to check out the trap we had made, and one little 6 inch fish was in it. Hailey got her knife and took out the parts that are not edible. We sat in peace enjoying the fillet we each got, thanking God and saying He was the reason we were lucky enough to catch this fish. My stomach ache started to let up. We set the trap, so while we slept, fish would get caught and we could have breakfast, too.
I didn't sleep that night, not at all. I closed my eyes, but then I´d here a weird noise like a slither or breaking stick or really anything abnormal, and my heart would race, then become normal, then I´d get scared again, and this repeated all over again.
The next morning I was drowsy, and felt sick to my stomach. I was really hungry and went over to check the trap, but Hailey was already holding up three fish! I was so excited, we cleaned the fish, and ate the fillets, three each, and then my pain went away and the nourishment made me feel really good. The only problem now was the fact that our SOS didn’t work.
“Our SOS didn’t work, what should we try now?” I asked, frightened of what we would do next.
“It rained last night, but we could try dry timber and see if we can get a spark. I’ll get timber, and you try to get two dry stones.”
Hours felt like days waiting for Hailey’s return. Her presence had made it so I could survive, but now what? It’s been a while, and looked at my stones and hit them together. I walked in circles, pacing, until I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to go find her.
I walked into the woods timidly, and reluctantly, but I figured I owed it to Hailey to at least try to find her. Hailey was gone. I missed her very bad, and I found a log and sat on it. My tears overtook my other emotions and I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore, like I had no more tears.
“Hailey!” I screamed. My heart was thumping and racing from being nervous. I figured she’d be fine, so I would make my own fire. Then wait for her return. I knew she would come back. I disserved the forest of some timber, figuring I could try making a fire myself. I left the heart of the woods with all the hanging vines and wildlife to do to the edge, where there was less viney plants and where “home” was. Under the protection of the leaves over the shelter, I sat down and rubbed the stones together. After the one millionth try, a flash of orange went straight onto the timber, and then I heard a whoosh and it went up in flames. I scrambled backwards. Then the heat was felt on my skin, and I was thankful for the fire I had made, but would the smoke signal help? I checked the trap again and took the fish we’d caught and inserted it onto a stick and fried it be be golden brown. Then I cut it to be in fillets, and forgot to save one for Hailey.
It became dusk, and Hailey still didn’t return. I will flat out say it. I was scared. I was powerless and I was unprotected. I layed in the shelter wide-eye all night, wanting to go home. The fire was barely burning, so I added timber to it. It quickly went up in flames, and the sudden warmth made me realize how cold I had been before. I shivered. It had been a while since i went to look for fish, so I walked over there, and there was two big fish that were unfamiliar to me. I wasn’t sure if I should eat these fish, because Hailey said some might be poisonous to humans, but Hailey isn’t here anymore. Hailey was nice to me, and I miss her a lot. I am very sad that I am all alone without her, and I want to got to my home and see my family safe and well. I want to get off of this island.
I decided I needed to eat, so I ate the fish. They tasted pretty good, and they were something I would eat at like a resturant. I fried them on my fire, and ate them slowly, so I could savor this moment of nourishment.
Sadly, the smoke of the fire didn’t alert rescue. I needed to find something else.
“Hey there,” a strange, but familiar voice said.
“Oh my God, Hailey it is you! I missed you so much!” I ran over and gave her a big ol’ bear hug. I loosened, and looked away, remembering that I ate all the fish.
“What’s the matter?” Hailey asked sweetly.
“I ate all the fish!” I cried, bursting into tears.
“Were the fish good? I mean, not poisonous?”
“I… I don’t know for sure. I mean, they were mostly red with brown and had big teeth.”
“Those are good fish, I can’t remember what they are called, though. Did they hurt you when you got them out of the trap?”
“No, I am relieved they are not poisonous. Hey, where have you been?”
“Well. I got a little lost, and couldn't find any fallen timber, but I see you found some. I found this guy dead, and you won’t believe this! He had a flare gun! We might be saved!”
“That is awesome Hailey! I am so happy! When can we use it? I hope it works!”
“I am pretty sure it will, the battery appears to not have acid out of it to get corroded or anything, so it should be fine! I think it will work good, now all we need is darkness.”
Hailey and I sat down and then laid out for a quick nap to make darkness come faster. The rain came down on us, but our shelter kept us dry. When I woke up Hailey was frying a fish, that looked big.
“We got a big one!” I exclaimed.
“Yeah, and we should be happy, this might be our last night on this island.”
“I sure hope so,” I added. I prayed, God help me off of this lonely island, and let me see my family again.
“Random question, Hailey. How did you get here?”
“Well, it began with this beautiful cruise, and the cruise went from bad to worse, when a lightning storm hit and we were thrown overboard, about 500 people, and I am the only survivor that was thrown. When I saw others go, I grabbed a life jacket, something everyone else wasn’t lucky enough to have. I fell asleep in that lifejacket after the seas calmed some, and I found myself here. I’ve been here for what I think has been 2 years. You’re the first person I have seen come here.”
“Gosh, I am sorry. Was your family with you?”
“I was taking a walk, so I got separated. When the storm hit, I freaked. I don’t think they went overboard. How did you get here?”
“My family is really poor, and we only have a shack. It got flooded, and I was swept away. I hurt my arm and skull, but I woke up on a raft and paddled here. I don’t know if my family is okay…”
“I am so sorry, but look, the sun is going down, we can signal soon!”
“Yeah, that will be good.”
The sun sank farther and farther down, until it was pitch black.
“You ready? Plug your ears!” Hailey slowly pulled the trigger of the flare gun, and it went off with a big boom.
“When we wake up, we will have to watch for a boat,” Hailey said. What she didn’t know, was I already saw a dim light across the water.
When we woke up the next day, Hailey and I high-fived, it had worked! The boat was coming, and it was getting bigger and bigger! I couldn’t wait to get on it, and couldn’t wait for our departure. When we went to bed that night, we didn’t sleep. We put out the fire and took the trap out of the water and waded into the water so it was deep enough for the boat. When the boat was really close, we set off the flare gun again, telling the captain where we are.
“Come here, come here! Climb this ladder. We can’t stay here forever!” said a guy with a British accent.
Hailey and I swam as fast as we could to that guy. We climbed the ladder onto a platform and filed our way into the boat itself. People surrounded us asking us questions, like we were aliens or something. I probably smelled like one. I haven't showered in months. Hailey and I ran to go to the bathroom to shower off.
The warm heat of the shower was familiar and soothing.
“How are you doing in there?” a woman asked.
“Very good, thanks. I’m almost done. Question, how long will we be on this cruise?”
“Only two and a half days, and lucky for you, since you probably have no money on you, it’s on the house. Everyone else is a paid customer.”
“Okay, I am done, thanks for the clean clothes and shower and bedroom. We appreciate you service and rescue. How could I ever repay you all?”
“Ah, well, no worries, we were glad to help, now I will leave you be to change in peace.”
“Thank you for everything.”
“You are very welcome.”
I changed into the provided pink floral dress, and fit into it with ease. I used to not be the skinniest person ever, but now being under the circumstances of little food, I lost weight and I am hungrier than ever. I popped out of the room and I saw Hailey. She looked stunning! Her blonde hair with waterfall curls ran down shoulder length, and her flowing dress made her look twenty. She looked ready for a big party or wedding.
“Oh my gosh, you look beautiful!”
“So do you, Rachel. Your curly blonde hair and light skin in that bright pink dress with purple flowers look well together!”
“Thank you! You’re the best!”. But where do we go now? I think going to a beach would be fun!”
“Or stay on the boat and eat something. I'm starving!” Hailey exclaimed, then ran towards the double doors separating the rooming area and the dining and public area. Hailey spun around quickly and bumped into me.
“I am so sorry!” we both said at the same time, and we giggled together. We continued down the hall to the cafeteria, and we sat down in a chair. A man in a big, fancy, black and white uniform greeted us, with a plate with a dome over a plate that had steam rising from it and a towel hanging off of the big plate the dome was on.
“Greetings, ladies. May I interest you in our homemade double fudge cake, with a strawberry filling, chocolate ganache, and vanilla bean buttercream icing?”
“Yes, you can!” I exclaimed, “Oh my, where are my manners? Thank you, sir, that sounds amazing!”
Hailey laughed as he set the plate in front of me, and I opened the dome lid, and wonderful aroma filled the air.
“Can I interest you in anything, ma’am?”
“May I get the same thing she has?”
“Sure thing, coming right up!”
A few minutes passed as we waited for Hailey’s desert to arrive, and once it did, we both dug in, almost automatically. There were a few others in the dining hall, and a lady I found out to be named Aliviah greeted us kindly. Aliviah had two kids, a seven year old boy named Austin,a and a ten year old girl named Emma. They were both very sweet, and were full of energy and positivity. There was another lady who was blind, named Clare, and Clare had a guide dog named Poko. Poko was the nicest chocolate lab I have ever met. Clare rewarded him lots, and he was very deserving of this rewarding.
Emma and Austin became good friends of mine, especially Emma, because we were close to the same age. My birthday is a month away and hers was this month, which is why they were on this Disney cruise line. Aliveah told me that their father wasn’t present, because he died in a plane crash when Emma was five and Austin was two. They were grown up with only a mom, and now I understand how good I’ve got it.
The two and a half days past quickly and I took a taxi from Miami where we were dropped off to Fruitport. Hailey had nowhere to go, so I invited her along, too. I figured Mom and Dad would be okay with that. After living on an island together, we were practically sisters. I was so thankful to see my home, and guess who greeted me! Mom and Dad and Baby Jake too! He could run now, and big, wet, and warm tears started streaming down my face. Tears of joy.
“Who’s this?” Mom asked.
“Mom, Dad, Jake, this is Hailey, and she is practically the reason I survived the flood. Sit down, I’ll tell you everything.”
From that point on, we all, including Hailey, who lived with us forever after that, shared a love and bond for each other stronger than any force or obstacle that tried to break it.