Thursday, November 5, 2015


Joyce Sheldon felt desolation wash over her as the keel of the boat scraped the sandy beach. She and her husband, Paul, had been on the deck of the small touring boat when it was rocked by an explosion. Jim Stern, a member of the ship's crew, herded people into a life boat with help from George Clampton, an elder in one of those fundamentalist churches. Clampton had insisted they wait as long as possible before leaving the area, but they saw no other survivors.

"We must make our goal survival," stated Stern the next day. "We must not let any other considerations get in the way of it."

"I disagree," stated Clampton. "We must be concerned for what is just and for the welfare of the others."

"We must be pragmatic about this," said Joyce. "We should consider our current needs, not hoary conventions." Paul nodded in agreement.

"I agree," said Matt Peterson. "That stuff is outdated anyway."

Stern built a signal fire and insisted it be watched, especially at night when it was more likely to be seen. Clampton hiked around, looking for useful plants. Stern rigged a net to fish from the boat in deeper water. They began to built a hut. They had taken an extra oar and beaten the metal blade into a shovel shape to dig holes for posts to support the hut.

Four days later Paul told Joyce, "Mr. Clampton is dead." His body lay under a large rock, rolled down from the cliff above while he was looking over a plant nearby. But Joyce wondered why the rock had fallen just then. She told Paul of her doubts about the death that evening, but he shrugged it off.

One day, soon after they finished the hut, Paul had spend all day cutting wood. That night Stern found him asleep beside the fire, which was burning low. "That fire must not go out," proclaimed Stern to the whole group. "If anyone falls asleep again, there will be punishment.

A few days later Joyce was bringing a lunch to Stern, who was out in the boat fishing. Approaching, she saw the boat overturned in a shallow cove. Running up, she saw Stern's arm sticking out under the boat. It took exasperating moments to drag the boat off him. He was long dead. As she examined the body, she saw the skull was crushed in from the back, but could not see anything that could have caused it. Then she saw a trail where the sand was swept flat, leading to a medium-sized rock half buried in the sand. She lifted it and found on the bottom what she most feared, bloodstains.

She ran away from there as fast as her legs would carry her. Back toward the hut, toward Paul. And, she hoped, safety. As she neared the hut, she saw that the wood pile had fallen over. And underneath it lay Paul, dead.

As Peterson came around the corner, Joyce screamed, "You killed them, you killed them all."

"So you finally figured it out," replied Peterson calmly. "All of you fine reasonable people saying you would do whatever it takes to survive. But you never really meant it. I meant it. I had to get rid of Clampton; his morals would have been a hindrance. But the rest of you were useful for doing the work. Then Stern began taking charge, and I had no intention of letting him."

"Are you going to kill me too?" she asked, backing away toward the hut.

"Not unless you make me. I do not want to kill you. I want you." Peterson drew near, a glint of hunger in his eyes.

Joyce reached behind her, and felt the handle of the make-shift shovel. She grabbed the shovel and smashed it into his face. Almost compulsively, she hit him again and again. When the shovel finally fell limply from her hand, he lay dead on the ground.

It was almost a month later they found her staring out at the sea. On the hill behind the hut they found four graves. When they asked her about them, she just cried and cried.  

No comments:

Post a Comment