Stranded

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Twigs snap beneath my bare feet as I charge through the jungle. Vines grab my ankles as I race for my life. I sense my pursuer becoming closer with every step, every breath. Its presence is enough to give me chills along my spine. It seems as though it is breathing down my neck, causing the small hairs to stand on edge. I knew it was coming for me, but I never knew what enormous consequences one simple decision could have.

“I just need a break from school, mom. I’ll only be gone for a few weeks,” I explained.

“Emily, you can’t just pick up and leave in the middle of a semester, especially not to go to Hawaii!” my mom exclaimed.

“Well, I’m sorry but I need a break! I’m not capable of thinking clearly right now. I think this can help me. Besides, my flight leaves tomorrow,” I said as I finished packing my bags.

I woke up the next morning excited beyond belief to finally take a trip to paradise. ‘I deserve this,’ I thought to myself, ‘I am a straight A student and have been since middle school.’

I arrived at the LA International Airport at sunrise to check in my bags. The amount of people there was unfathomable. Everyone walking through the crowded corridors seemed to be a bit rattled because it was the anniversary of 9/11.

As I stood at the gate waiting to board, I noticed that the plane traveling to Hawaii was royal blue in color with a hibiscus flower painted in white on the side along with the words ‘Hawaiian Airlines’. While studying the vessel I saw an odd sight, the number 11. That was the name of the flight I would be traveling on.

The boarding process took longer than expected so the captains, trying to save time, rushed through their checklist before they left the gate. Going down the runway, there was a rattling noise under the plane. The other passengers noticed too. Once we were off the ground though, we shrugged it off.

Four hours into the flight, I had managed to doze off. I jolted awake as the aircraft hit a rough patch of air. The plane shook violently which caused one of the massive wings to break away. We swooped through the air like a hawk swooping down to catch its prey. An uproar of wind raced through the cabin as the tail broke away. It was a matter of seconds and the plane hit the water.

It was sunset when I came back into consciousness. Somehow, I was okay with only a couple a cuts and a few bad bruises. Though it took a minute or two to come to my senses and think logically, I looked around to get my bearings. Blue waves crashed onto a white sandy beach. My first priority was to build a fire, so I headed up the beach to the outskirts of the jungle that crept down the beach. Making sure to not travel too far into the unfamiliar terrain, I gathered the wood that was closest to the beach and retreated to the safety of the beach. The fire began to burn just as the last of the sun disappeared over the ocean and my mind drifted to sleep.

I awoke as the sky was turning a soft pink, and the events of the previous day begin to sink in. I was stranded on an island alone; no one else from the plane made it to shore. I knew I had to move forward and not dwell on the past if I was to survive.
Before I set out to find food and water, I started the fire again. This time though, it was not for warmth but a signal along with the ‘S.O.S.’ I drew into the sand with my foot. If a plane would happen to fly by, I knew they would see it and call for help. As I finished making the fire large enough to be seen from the air, I tentatively made my way towards the jungle again. My senses switched to high alert as I searched for fresh water in the jungle. Suddenly, a tiny animal runs from under a bush with vibrant red flowers. While watching it scurry away, I heard a splash. I quickly sprinted towards the sound to be greeted with a small stream of fresh water trickling through the roots of trees. I ran back towards the beach leaving a trail of trampled vegetation behind me. Once I was there, I dove into the ocean to look for big enough shells to collect the water with and collecting a couple of shellfish for dinner.
By the third day, the signal fire was no longer burning. I was filled with despair as it seemed as though my rescue would never come. I decided to explore the beach before the ominous ending I knew was right around the corner. As I walked along the white sandy beaches, I looked around to admire the scenery. I imagined myself in Hawaii lying under a palm tree sipping on a fruit drink while enjoying the sounds of the waves crashing against the shore. I snapped back into reality because something caught my attention in the sand… footprints. I followed the footprints up the beach into the thick, shady jungle with only one small winding path leading deep into the jungle. I questioned my sanity as I realized if I ventured deep into the jungle I would become a sitting duck for any predators that lurk in the shadows. Although it was risky, I knew it meant people are here. Disregarding my concerns, I plunged into the tangle of branches and vines.
Three hours later and dripping in sweat from the humidity, I saw a dark shadow slinking about me like a lion studying its prey before a kill. Suddenly, fear and paranoia took control of my body as I sprinted off the trail into the dense jungle. My decisions led to this very moment, fleeing for my life from an unknown predator.

It is becoming impossible to see through the jungle and the vines are slowing me down. As I splash through a shallow stream I reach an opening in the jungle canopy. I look around to see the same dark shadow still circling me. Slowly, it emerges from behind the tree line. With its sleek black coat shimmering in the moon light, the cat lets out a throaty growl. It is a staring contest between the beast, easily standing 4 feet tall at the shoulders with piercing green eyes, and myself. As I look closer I begin to see the true build of the cat, and I realize it is not a true beast but a panther. It looks frail, as though it hasn’t eaten in a week or two. Its paws leave delicate footprints in the soft jungle ground. This, I realize, is the culprit for the footprints I saw back at the beach. The cat takes one last look at me as it makes up its mind. With a quick shake of its head, its eyes light up from the adrenaline of the hunt already rushing through the cats veins.
Just as the panther is about to lunge forward to make the kill, I hear the all too familiar sound of a helicopter overhead. The rhythmic chopping of the blades frightens the big cat and he disappears into the thick brush. The sounds of my rescue are fading in the distance. I fear they have not seen me through the thick, green canopy. My instinct is beckoning me to run. I dashed for the site of my make-shift camp. When I reach the edge of the jungle I peer through the brush to a disheartening sight…an endless horizon.





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