Back to the Island (Flash Fiction)

It was a tragedy that became a miracle, or so all the talk shows that Bob appeared on said. The country and the world were eyes on when the terrible accident occurred, when an international flight fell from the skies over the balmy waters of Indonesia and disintegrated into the ocean. Twelve different countries searched for over three weeks trying to find survivors even though every analyst interviewed said that it was almost impossible there could be one.

But there was one. Somehow he had survived, and not only that, he’d drifted nearly a hundred miles south onto the shores of a remote island.

He didn’t really remember the crash that well, nor did he recall what he did to stay alive. It was night after all, and the storm blocked the moon and the stars. All he could remember was darkness and that horrible grinding metallic noice. There was a violent impact and then warm water. Since I made it out, I just assumed most had survived, Bob said.

Floating in that darkness was really the worst part of it all, not knowing what happened or what to do next. The storm raged for hours and hours and he soon heard the sound of ocean waves breaking. There was a shore somewhere, he could tell. His small preserver floated him right toward it. He banged his legs up pretty bad on the reef, but nothing too terrible. Besides, he’d just survived a plane crash. It’d be a bit silly to complain about that.

And then it was Bob and the island and nothing else. Lush trees and tropical weather and a smattering of debris from the plane. He waited and waited, but nothing happened. No one came. He ate coconuts and bananas and thought of finding a pet rock and naming it Wilson, but all it really came down to was waiting.

And did you think you’d be stuck there forever? they all asked him.

No, not really. There was this one afternoon, on the third or fourth day, where the sun was going down behind an array of fluffy clouds and the whole horizon was on fire with light and warmth and a steady breeze sifted through the trees and the waves glided across the sand, and I just thought maybe it’s better if I don’t go home again. Maybe this is what God wanted for me, to get away from the traffic and fatty foods and shitty job that were elevating my blood pressure and destroying my temper and making me yell at my own family. Maybe this was really what life was all about and not the hollow pursuit of money where you just worked harder and harder to buy more things that you really didn’t need. And when I heard the thumping of that chopper coming over the ridge, I almost hid. I even started up and hedged toward the lush trees, but I knew I had a family hoping, praying for me. I had to go home, but I really just wanted to hide. Deep down, I knew that island was the best thing that could ever happen to me.

Of course, he never told them that. He couldn’t. It didn’t fit the story.

So he went home and he went on TV and he told the nation and the world about how he’d found new meaning to life again and how sorry he was for those who had lost family and he signed a book deal that put a little money in his pocket. And then, like all things, he faded away.

But the island stayed.

One night, a hot night that boiled with humidity, he couldn’t sleep. He sat up and looked out his blinds and listened to the mechanical hum of the AC and thought of those waves, calm and steady and smooth, breaking on that empty shore. He remembered the sunset that stirred the depths of his soul, and he told his wife how he felt. He told her that they had to get away from the noise and the hate and the mechanical cold. They had to get back to that island if they wanted to really live, if they wanted to be free.

She rubbed his shoulder and said some comforting words and went back to sleep.

Bob lived the rest of his life, occasionally still stuck in traffic, still thinking of that island, wondering if the great tragedy of that plane crash was not that so many others had died but that he had needlessly survived.

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