Today’s story comes to us from DG Knight, a young and previously unpublished author.
His Twitter handle is @DGKnightWriter.
Being in a plane crash was the best thing that happened to me. Every night as I watch the sun sink behind the dazzling blue ocean, I feel so thankful for sudden engine failure. Does that make me a bad person? I’m not sure it does. Maybe if I’d been conscious I’d feel worse about it. Sometimes I think about what it must have looked like. The burning, the screaming, bodies floating in the water.
I think of it the same way I used to think about any tragic event I’d see on the news. How sad, I’d think to myself over a bowl of cornflakes. How awful for the families. Then I’d get up and go to work and forget about it, because I couldn’t change it, and if I couldn’t change it then what good would it do to get myself all worked up over it?
And that’s why I focus on the good things in life. I survived; I guess that’s the main one. I’m thankful for the fact that I wake up every morning at whatever time I like and I don’t have to go in to the office any more. I spend most of the day gathering food: forest fruits, coconuts, sometimes a small animal that can last for days. I’ve gotten really good at surviving now. I guess I’d be dead if I hadn’t.
I’m thankful for the sun. I let it gently wake me as it rises, feel it warm my skin throughout the day, and then sit by the fire in the evening and watch it set, casting its orange light over the waves, wishing me a good night. The sun gives me life. I understood that before, but now I really feel it.
I’m thankful for the trees. The cooling shade, the coconuts, the leafy canopy that shelters me.
I’m thankful for the sea. It cools my skin, cleanses me. It protects me from the rest of the world.
Most of all, I’m thankful for the quiet. Apart from the chirping of bugs and birds and the whistling of the soft breeze through the jungle leaves, there is silence. Nobody to talk at me and make me pretend to be interested. Nobody to tell me what to do, to demand a report be on their desk tomorrow morning nine AM sharp. Nobody to laugh at me or insult me when they think I can’t hear.
I never got on with people. I could never figure out how to make friends; everybody I talked to just seemed to want something from me that I couldn’t- or wouldn’t- give. I was invisible to women. I guess I am now, in a more literal sense, but it’s a lot easier to ignore that when I’m not surrounded by them. The rest of my family died when I was a kid. I sometimes wonder if there’s a reason I always survive.
I turn the meat over in the fire, cooking it evenly. A turtle. I like the company of the turtles, when they sit on the sand with me or swim in the sea. I hate killing them. It’s one of only two things I can think of that I don’t like about living on this island. The other is that there’s no TV. Unfortunately, I have to eat, and as nutritious and tasty as the fruit and coconuts are, I need to get my protein from somewhere.
My mind goes back to school science lessons. I was nine years old, sitting in the classroom with all the pictures on the walls, all the kids’ art projects. Animals and monsters. Sequins and sugar paper. We were learning about the food pyramid and all the different food groups that the body needs to survive. I’m sure there are plenty of nutrients I haven’t had in months, but I feel healthier than I ever did before the crash. More alive.
I’m sitting on the sand, and the sun is getting lower and brighter. Not quite a sunset yet, but it won’t be long. The fire burns bright in front of me. I listen to the symphony of birds trilling in the trees behind me, bugs chirping in the grass, and the waves gently sweeping against the shore.
From the corner of my eye, I see movement. A small dark shape is moving in the sky. A plane. I get to my feet, and start to walk slowly backwards across the sand towards the jungle behind me.
I don’t want to be rescued.
I watch as it makes its way across the sky, from right to left. A light flashes. It leaves a thin trail of dark smoke. Gradually, the plane gets lower and lower. My heart races and I run out onto the beach. I get closer to the sea, and so does the plane.
My feet splash in the shallows. Tiny dots are floating down from the plane like dandelion seeds. Before long, I’m up to my chest in the water. The plane descends faster and faster until out of sight. I hear a distant, faint crash and see a plume of smoke. I feel like I might pass out right there in the sea.
There is nothing I can do. I stand there for a while as the waves push against me, and gradually the feeling of fear fades and I walk back to the beach. The sun is setting now. Later, at night, I struggle to sleep. There is nothing I can do.
It is dark and I am still awake, lying on the sand and staring up at the stars. I hear splashing, getting louder and louder. I look to see a shape rise from the water and approach me.
It moves into the firelight and I see a face. He is soaked and bedraggled. He splutters, and staggers over to me. He says nothing. There is only the sound of the fire crackling and the water dripping from his clothes onto the sand. He opens his mouth and tries to speak between ragged breaths.
“Please… help… there are others…” He points with a trembling hand towards the sea. There is fear in his eyes, and dancing firelight.
I stand, and all of a sudden, I am embarrassed that I am unclothed. He turns and staggers back toward the waves.
I walk with him across the sand, into the vast dark ocean.