The Signal

May 15, 2017
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The ocean is placid apart from the ripples generated by the bobbing canvas life raft.  One of the many duct tape patches reflects the new morning sun directly into one of the three castaway’s eyes.  John opens them with discomfort and parts his lips.  His dry, peeling mouth scrapes together, and his sunburnt body makes him wince in pain as he moves.  John reaches over to a canteen on the other side of the raft and in doing so he wakes Austin who begins to stir.  John opens the canteen and holds it over his head.  A single drop of burning water falls on his lips and he shakes it to no avail. 

“What are you doing?” Austin says.
“Just trying to get some water.”
“You know we ran out yesterday” Austin says
“I know, I just thought it was a nightmare.” John says disappointedly and looks out at the ocean with an empty stare.
Austin sits up lethargically and creates a major disturbance in the glass faced water. His faded Navy unifom has dried, faded blood caked on in splotches around his torso and his sleeves around edges. He reaches over for the raft manual placed by his feet and struggles to read its faded pages.
“God, how many times have you read that?” asks John
“I don’t know, and I’m going to keep reading it ‘till we get rescued,” Austin says.
Austin looks next to him at the pale, decaying corpse of Enzo.  His Navy uniform is also stained with blood surrounding a tear in his upper pantleg.  The skin is sagging around his eyes and he is just starting to emit a putrid smell.  Austin stares at Enzo with a detached, stare.  John looks over as if to say something, sees Austin looking at Enzo and then looks back out on the horizon. 
“What’re we going to do with him?” John asks, looking at Austin
“We are going to wait till someone finds us, then he will get a proper soldiers burial.” Austin relies briskly without breaking his gaze on Enzo.
“Austin, I know you guys were close but the smell is going to get really bad in not too long and seagulls will come.”
“I’m not going to just toss him over!  I have known him since second grade! Are you nuts!”
“Okay, Okay.  No need to yell, I can hear you just fine out here.”
~
The sun rises again in the East.  The water is more turbulent, with occasional shakes and quivers.  Small cluster of clouds has formed in the distance, and a few seagulls fly overhead. Austin wakes his lip now split is scabbing over.  The skin on his arms has started to peel along with the skin on his face.  He reaches back to his feet to grab the raft manual.  He sees Enzo’s body in the corner of his eye but ignores it.  The now potent smell of the body has permeated even the seamen’s clothes.  Austin reads the manual twice before John wakes up.
“Holy s***!” he plugs his nose
Austin continues to read the manual as if there was nothing wrong.
“Austin, we’ve got to do something about Enzo. Please, the smell is terrible”
“What smell? I don’t even notice it”
“Dude, we’re dump him over the side.  We can still give him the honor and dignity he deserves, but it has to be done.”
Austin meet’s John’s gaze, “I will absolutely, under no conditions dump his body over the side.”
“If you’re not going to do anything about it, I will”
John half crawls, half scoots over to Enzo’s body, all the while he holds his nose.
“NO!” Austin yells.  Austin gets up and shoves John down as John was picking up Enzo’s body, about to roll him off the side. 
“He’s my friend!” Austin says when on top of John.  Austin punches John in the face. John’s already scabbed lips split; blood falls down his face and on to the floor of the raft. 
“I know Austin, calm down… let’s do this together, give him some respect”
John attempts to free himself from Austin’s pin. 
“Come on, let me go!”
“He’s my friend!” Austin yells as he reaches for the red flare gun shoved under the crease of the raft, swiftly aims it at Johns head and pulls the trigger.
The flare bores a hole into Johns head and splatters some flesh on Austin’s face and clothes. The smell of seared flesh overcomes the smell of decay. John falls to the floor of the raft head fist; the flare dislodges from John’s head and burns a hole in the canvas.  Austin rushes for a piece of duct tape.  He moves Johns body and plugs the hole.  He scoops all the water that managed to get in out he sides with his hands and falls backwards.  He heaved a sigh and tears fell down the sides of his dirty face, however he did not sob.  Once on his back, he grabbed the raft manual and read.






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