Island is today’s prompt from KL Caley at New2Writing.com. I was still with Roscoe and Neville, so if you missed last week’s, you might like to nip back and read that one (500 words) before you tackle this week’s which ran to just under 1250 words.
“Roscoe! Roscoe, wake up!”
I shook his shoulders, and he shook himself. “What’s the matter?”
“The land’s disappeared!”
He looked around his sleeping patch, which didn’t help much, since he was facing a nice tall stand of grass. I let him come to his senses.
It was only dawn, but I’d been restless. Something had been whiffling through my brain while I slept. We’d been so tired, walked for so long yesterday, and the day before, but before that we’d found good places to stay the night.
Last night we’d given up looking for real shelter, and just tucked ourselves into this bank with tall tufty grass growing out of the top.
And when I’d stretched, and looked back the way we’d come, it wasn’t there.
A huge stretch of water lay between us and the next bit of land.
Roscoe was with it now. He was glaring at the water like it was a personal affront.
“What about the other side of this hill?”
“Well, I only peeked over the top…”
I was talking to his backside. Man of action, once he got going. I struggled up through the long grass to join him at the top. I had trouble seeing through my long hair which was whipping across my face in the strong breeze.
“Water.” Roscoe seemed astounded, as well he might.
“I’m sure it wasn’t there last night.”
“No, you’re right, Nev. This has definitely appeared overnight. We are surrounded.”
“What do we do?”
“Have a bite of breakfast, I reckon.”
He slid back down the way we’d come to the nicer grass hidden below this coarse stuff.
“Tastes funny. Not too bad, just…”
“Salty?” I suggested.
“Yeah, but only on the surface.”
“You don’t suppose this island’s going to get covered do you?” I looked at the water lapping below the dark edge we could see a few feet away.
He studied the banks of the land behind us, and then walked over to look at the edge. “What was the moon doing when we last saw it?”
“Um, heading towards full, but several days off, I think.”
“No, the day before.” Hadn’t he seen it too, or did he just want confirmation?
“Well, I reckon we’re safe for a couple of days, but I don’t want to be here at the spring tide.”
He wandered back towards the land we could see easily, where we’d come from.
“Oh, I see.” What did he see? “We must have come down that track over there, look.”
“But why didn’t we get our feet wet?”
“Must have been low tide, Nev. And low enough for long enough so the mud was dry and we didn’t feel it, even. Remind me not to walk in the deep dark again. My eyesight should have picked this up.”
“Do we just wait for low tide, then.”
“Aye, reckon. But… what are we going to do next? We have to go on, cross to the other side somehow.” He yawned. “I’m going back to sleep. Wake me when the tide goes down.”
He went back to the shelter of the tall grass.
I checked out our island.
On the far side, away from the way we’d come, was a huge expanse of water. I could just about make out the line of the coast on the other side, although it was easier to see the hills rising beyond it. In a good light it would have been pretty, but now it was dull, and I expected it to rain any minute.
A ‘plop’ and an apparition made me leap into the air and nearly run away.
It had a face, and it appeared to be swimming. It blew out and sprayed water everywhere, and glared at me with big round eyes. It was a dark, rounded shape, with no hair I could see, although later I realised it did have short hair, just when it was wet it stayed slicked to its head.
“How do,” it said.
“Er, hello,” I stuttered.
“Wocha doin’ here, then?”
“Um..” I shrugged and shuffled my feet, and then said, “resting.”
“Funny place to rest, on an island in the middle of the river.”
“Well, we walked on at low tide, in the dark. Didn’t realise…”
The thing threw open its mouth and laughed… and laughed. And splashed the surface of the water with a strange arm that was all flat with stubby knobs on the end where its toes ought to be.
“Oh, dearie me, that’s a good one, that is. I suppose you’re going south and now you don’t know how to get across.”
“Well, you could go back at low tide, and go upstream until you get to the new bridge, but it’s tall and wobbly and noisy and you might get involved with the traffic…”
“We wouldn’t want to do that.”
“Or you could go downstream and walk right along the spit and then hope to get across the final bit of the river by boat if somebody was there.”
“That sounds a little more hopeful.”
“Of you could pay my fee and I’ll take you across.”
I thought about that. Roscoe and I didn’t have much of what you might call resources for fees. And how did we know this person would take us across?
“I’ll check with Roscoe. Would you mind waiting here?”
He hauled himself up on the bank. Glancing back at him, he looked really strange: sort of lemon shape, lying out on the grass there, head and tail in the air, like a dark banana.
I explained the situation to Roscoe, and he came back with me to talk to the local.
Roscoe’s good at this sort of thing. Easy-going, gets on with everyone, and after five minutes you’d have thought they were best buddies.
I was still worrying about the fee, though.
A short while later, Roscoe and I climbed aboard this little circular craft bobbing on the waves, and the seal, because that’s what he said he was, pushed us out into the current, steering us with his nose. I was terrified he’d lose his hold on the little rope he had in his teeth, and we’d go sweeping off through the gap he’d told us about downstream, that led to the sea. Just because we’d paddled in the sea, it didn’t mean we wanted to go floating around on it.
But now, we neared the other side, Roscoe telling him about our journey, and them exchanging jokes like they were having a party, while I hunkered down and clung on for dear life.
At last we bumped up against land again. I jumped out as fast as I could, and held the tiny boat steady while Roscoe finished chatting and laughing and thanking him for his time.
Then he got out, and the seal went away with his craft, and we waved till we couldn’t see him any more.
“Well, that was fun,” Roscoe said. “Good thing I know plenty of jokes, eh?”
“Was that his fee?”
“One of the options. Now, he reckoned we’d be better going inland for a bit, up those hills, and then come back to the coast in a day or so. That way we miss the port and the oil terminal. Good idea, eh?”
Yes, I thought. And it’ll keep us from getting stranded on another island in the middle of the night too.
© J M Pett 2022