My eyelids lift at the sound of sloshing ocean. My jaw pulses. A large lump on my right cheek feels like a throbbing mountain to even my slightest touch. Feels like I've been punched in the stomach, repeatedly. I raise my Hawaiian-style shirt to the sight of crimson bruises and lower it to discover droplets of blood staining the floral pattern. It's from my nose.
The passenger's luggage now looks like junk after the collision -- lots of clothes, several briefcases, papers, food and cans, even a few musical instruments, distributed to the trees, sand, and lapping tides.
Some of the fuselage rests in the forest tops, straggled along the canopy, hanging like ornaments in the tall verdure.
"Hey stranger," I hear Kendra's voice, shockingly seconds after turning to check things out.
I gesture with my eyes about our solitude, wiping my nose with the shirt. Since it's already bloody. "Where is everyone?" The pain in my jaw restricts me from asking more. I want to ask why she is unscathed. How did we survive? I assume we landed safely. Did the plane explode after from the fire?
“Life rafts took the other passengers to sea,'' she explains, losing her flicker of optimism she previously held from the sight of me.
“They didn't take you along?''I ask, through pain.
“Two had to stay,'' she urges, watching the sea with an unhappy expression.
I look at a winding trail swerving to where I rest.
“Did you drag me away from a fight?'' I ask, noticing dots of blood along the sand. ``Over the life rafts?''
“A couple guys kicked you pretty hard for winning the last coin toss. The final raft was yours. They wanted to drag you into the sea and drown you. I offered up the raft you won, for your life. We need a plan.''
“Well,'' I say off the top of my head, trying to convince her I'm not just some pansy who passes out at the first sign of trouble. ``I'll draw a rescue signal. It'll work.''
Soon as the fire caught my eye, slowly smoldering its way up the right-side wing like a caterpillar across a leaf, and toward my window view, my ability to breathe and remain alert whisked off like the orange embers springing to smoky sky. I missed the safe landing of the plane, its explosion, the fights over the rafts, and, she divulged, a conspicuous man's departure away from the group and into the jungle.
“What was the man wearing?'' I ask.
“You know,'' she looks toward the forest. ``I can't exactly remember. Shorts, I think. A white shirt and shoes. Sneakers, looking like Adidas.''
“Hmm. Do you know why there weren't enough rafts?''
She scratches her neck. Then slaps at a bug that flies off and toward the jungle.
“The pilot discovered deliberate gashes in the inflatable material on some of them.''
“Was this before or after that man fled into the jungle?''
I receive only a shrug of the shoulders as a response.
I wonder if he could have been responsible for the plane's conflagration. Was it a terrorist plot gone awry? At some point, hopefully after rescue, I'd get some more satisfying answers.
The next day, while we traversed the atoll, Kendra and I lent it the name, "Two-Mile," given its estimated circumference. If a plane didn't spot our S.O.S signal, eventually, one of the rafters would either make it to land, or the news of a missing plane would prompt a rescue team to find us. For now, we had to treat the island like it was our New Zealand trip. Two-Mile offered bushes, exotic trees, colorful, but potentially fatal fruit, the occasional charging feral pig, canvas-colored shores, yet, unfortunately, no bare-breasted female natives.
We stayed on the beach, camping by the light of a fire. We didn't want to risk the jungle at night. Too hard to see. Felt safer to remain visible and warm.
“Damn,'' I say, canvassing the sand for more kindle and branches. ``We're almost stick-free. The fire's dying.''
Kendra lifts her petite brown tits, so they jiggle like tiny water balloons in her dark cotton dress.
“It's going to get cold. Did you hear me?''
“I wish they were bigger,'' she says, scrunching them up and together.
I steal a stick from the fire, instead of respond, and stab tumbling papers. They're blowing everywhere, like leaves in Autumn.
Kendra kneels by a rock used to create the fire.
“I get hit on constantly,'' she says, lowering herself to a seated position, submarining her bare feet of caramel brown in the cold, bluish sand. She talks to the tits. "That's the thing. Men think I'm easy."
“A ring might help at the shift,'' I say, gyrating my lower jaw that feels broken. ``you might lose tips, though.''
“Yeah I would,'' she says, plucking a single hair off her dress along her boob. "Besides, I don't want to walk around pretending to be married."
"Let's get married," I say. "Our children could own Two-Mile, our grandchildren would build schools. Subsequent generations develop a way to connect to Internet."
She laughs a little. "Yes. Why don't we?"
“We should," I insist, laughing through pain in my jaw. "We'd breed stalwart offspring."
My stick pierces another page, and another, as easily as if it were a poker.
"I guess," she says. She picks up the tiny rock, holds it by her left tit, heaves a sigh, and pitches it into the fire.
I toss my poker in, along with its five or so pages, and sit in the sand watching the papers burn and disintegrate and become immaterial.
"You guess? Well, I know. With bad genetics, you wouldn't be able to hold trays for hours on end with drunks grasping for your ass. Only servers and trained altar boys possess that unique combination of inner and outer strength. "
She laughs, curls her bicep, signals for me to wrap my hand over the toned, yet boyish lump. "That's horrible. Just horrible. But not as horrible as those fucking wierdo priests are. The ones that do that type of shit are all going to hell, for sure. But come test my arm, if you want -- "
I slide over to her. “Hella solid,'' I say, squeezing lightly.
“Did you just say hella?" she repeats, studying my expression with intense focus. "Don't tell me you're from the Bay Area, too?''
“Carl, I grew up like five minutes from there. That's insane.''
“Eight months working together and we haven't had this conversation,'' I say, reflecting on things. "Why?"
“Yes,” she says, sharing a frown, and then pulls up a nostalgic look with a smile... “Strange.''
She skids her magazine-model thin waist so we're now hip to hip, setting a kind of motion to the waterfall of her waist-length hair, still wet from a wash in the ocean. When she turns away, toward the sea, her long, wet mane splashes my neck. The hair douses the upturned collar of my Hawaiian-style shirt; a faded fragrance of strawberry instantly shoots up my nose. My mood changes drastically, invigorated by the mild aphrodisiac.
“Our shoulders are touching,'' I say, with a cool grin.
“Gary said something to the effect of you having a crush on me? Is this true?'' she asks, looking to the foamy, dark green sea.
“First day we met,'' I say, sincerely. "In the IHOP kitchen. You were furious and cussing about some guy tipping you a nickel and pinching your ass. I was washing dishes and listening."
"When I said, 'you still look beautiful, at least,' you told me to mind my fucking business. You looked at the hanging knives, then back to me. And walked out the doors."
"I was a raging bitch, then. I'm sorry Carl. Accept my apology?"
“Absolutely. But look,'' I say, feeling like crap. ``You should know it was my fault.''
“What are you talking about?''
“The fact we are here.''
"Oh. That." She glares at my guilty countenance. "How do you mean?"
“Our tickets to New Zealand were bought in advance," I admit, finally, tossing a stick into our small orange fire. "We didn't win them. Gary lied to you, for me.''
"I know," she says, watching the fire pop and burst for a second. "Gary told me the day you told him. He wants to fuck me, I think."
My mind pictures Gary during the double-cross. He was shady like that, a fucking weasel manager, actually. "Shit. You knew this whole time? I should properly kill that piece of shit..."
She laughs, eyes leering toward mine, slowly nods once and tamps my mouth. ``Forget it ever happened, Carl. He isn't worth the stress or aggravation. It will make your pretty mug ugly."
Her hot-pink fingertips disengage and fall from my lips. I think about the way she said, "Carl", like we were about to do the nasty.
“So you were playing me, while I was playing you, eh?''
“I suppose.'' She stares at the protuberance along my right cheekbone. "Looks like you got what you deserved, though. We're even guy."
“And what of you - me?''
I'm light as a helium balloon after a quick peck on the side of my lips.
“I still like you,'' she says. "So, we begin with a kiss."
"Then we bump uglies?"
She brushes chapstick off my lips with her first and second fingers. Pauses, looks at me, then pokes the bump on my cheek.
"I'm not a whore, Carl."
I flinch and manage to say, "Shit hurts,'' before a sound is heard and in response she tamps my lips again in similar fashion.
“What's that?'' she asks, shortly after removing her hand and watching my blank facial expression.
A weighty man wearing cargo pants and an extra large dirty white shirt stalks out of the verdure, toward our direction. From the dim light of the fire, I can already tell he's injured in one leg. He struggles to walk regularly, favoring the left. It is possible that he was wounded during the fights over the rafts. My fears escalate at the notice of a knife -- eight or so inches of serrated steel, a dark handle, and curved tip -- that is recognizable as one that could have easily tore through the escape rafts. His darkly gloved palm grips the blade, which is carried by his waist, instead of sheathed and kept in one of the pockets of his cargo pants.
I want to yell, but by the time I figure it all out -- what he plans to do to her -- his enormous, sprawling hand already latches to Kendra's petite shoulder.
He ignores her several deafening screams for help. He swipes the blade over her lower neck, just above the collar bone and squeezes the shoulder blades to hold her body in limbo. Her shrieks continue, as her throat spreads apart like her mouth, each orifice spitting up a running faucet's worth of blood. The dark crimson fluid streams through her cotton dress, across the short length of her slender body, and drips in quick little drops to the violet sand by her kicking feet.
Before the man can scrape the knife across her soft brown gullet again, I throw a punch and crack his jaw, but he's got me by at least seventy pounds. His face only deepens with focus, and I become his training mannequin. He sticks me in the stomach, five or so times, the legs, eight to ten times, before finally shanking me a couple times directly through my left breast and into my heart. His intense eyes are bulging, reddish, and bright as light bulbs, near to the same as my own, I imagine, staring back into the killer's wide, stoic face, and we read each other for a brief, solemn moment. He retrieves the knife from my torso a last time, silently, adeptly, and I fall to the sand, back to the same position in which I had gained consciousness. He wipes the red off with his gloved first finger and thumb. Then turns from my bleeding, prostrate body, on his way back to the jungle.
Ryan Gregory Thomas was a film student, but after leaving school became a fiction writer. He will forever be a life-long resident of California, residing in San Diego mostly, and -- of recent -- Riverside, and plays in a band. He has been published at everydayfiction.com and firstwriter.com, and hopes to expand his writing resume with several more publications. Thanks for your time and effort!