Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Spring 2012 24-Hour Writing Contest Honorable Mention


With blistered, salty skin and matted hair, they were down to their last sips of fresh water. A recreational day at sea had turned into a fight for continued existence. Slumped on the bow, searching for any hint of a breeze to soothe her burning face, her eyes widened when she noticed something fast approaching in the distance...

Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.

Length must not exceed 875 words.

"Lost in Thought"

Sienna spent most of her time tanning near the Pacific, although she was unable to swim and feared “yucky ocean things.” Her boyfriend Rick, a water enthusiast from San Diego had coordinated the entire tropical vacation. The boating adventure was his idea. Mark and Kelly reluctantly agreed to ride along, but made Rick promise to end the day at a restaurant with a well-stocked bar. Six strangers accompanied them along with a crew of two. The name of the boat had since taken on new significance. Lost in Thought, chartered out of Barbados, now sat half-submerged between reef and shore, stranded along with her battered passengers.

Seventeen brutal days elapsed since gale-force winds swept the catamaran into the path of a sudden storm. The twelve huddled in the heat with blistered, salty skin and matted hair. Biting sand fleas attacked up to the edge of shady jungle foliage where voracious mosquitoes took over. They were down to their last sips of fresh water. Mark busied himself assembling remnants of the shattered craft to catch rain and as a makeshift shelter. He delighted in the diversion and his own resourcefulness, and assumed it was just a matter of hours or days before they would find help or be found. The boat’s last GPS reading placed them on an isolated stretch of rocky shore somewhere between Guyana and Brazil.
Three injured passengers were in increasingly desperate condition, requiring attention from three others. Sienna mostly whimpered about being hungry. Rick’s initial bravado diminished, and his platitudes became less convincing, even edgy. He went on more frequent ventures into the jungle.

Mark organized the digging of Captain Ron’s grave, and was the first to cry when the body was rolled into the crude pit and covered with sand. The situation became real in those few moments. They were fighting for their continued existence.

Kelly searched for strength in meditation. She had a competitor’s ability to lie to herself, fully believing that she had the skills to surmount any problem. She focused on her new environment and quickly set about fashioning a longbow from available materials, based on what she remembered from a college archery class. She had seen rabbits near the beach. Hunger was weakening everyone. She had often wondered how she would fare in circumstances of survival, and found it sickly amusing that stories of stranded people so quickly deteriorated into tales of cannibalism. With little to eat other than coconuts for over two weeks, Kelly enjoyed a private thought that Sienna’s soft, tanned flesh was gaining the appeal of fried chicken as days passed.

Searing sun and relentless wind chilled burnt skin with a gnawing discomfort. Night was a primal time as darkness bonded the survivors closer together against a shared instinctive fear.

The unoccupied four were sent on short reconnaissance trips inland. As they succeeded, trips grew more frequent. Animals were spotted. Food. Fresh water brought back in empty Evian bottles harbored unseen parasites, and coconut milk was a mild laxative. Diarrhea further depleted their strength.

Kelly’s bow was surprisingly strong, strung with untwisted strands from a water-ski rope. Arrows were tipped with fragments of shattered fiberglass. Her aim was good. She relished the possibility of a successful hunt that would help them all.

Kelly struck off on the eighteenth morning. She took measured steps along the beach, near the edge of the trees and denser vegetation. Sweat stung her eyes and clouded her vision. She was lightheaded and feared collapsing, using the weapon as a crutch. Slumped on the bow, searching for any trace of movement that might signal prey, Kelly’s eyes widened when she noticed something approaching in the distance. She licked her blistered lips with a spitless tongue, shook her head and tried to focus on the shape ahead. Lifting the longbow gently off the ground she recited the steps she remembered from school.

“Nock the arrow.”
The animal moved slowly toward her along the top of a low dune. She had not been noticed.

“Address the target.”
She adjusted her stance slightly to straddle the shooting line.

“Draw to the face.”
A brief burst of adrenaline gave her the strength to draw the arrow back, maximizing its tension against the drawstring.

Kelly shook her head, attempting to clear her vision as the bow began to tremble.

“Loose the arrow.”
The arrow passed through rippling bands of sunlight and shade along the tree line on its trajectory to the target. As it streaked through the air, Rick crested the dune and cried out, reaching with his hand but unable to move as the arrow drove through his right eye and into his brain. He staggered slightly, knees locked and mouth open, dead on his feet before falling. Kelly screamed in a raspy, horrified breath.
She dropped to her knees and bent forward, gagging, but aware that any loss of body fluids would diminish her condition. Tears would similarly deplete her.

She crawled to Rick’s body, touched his face, and ran her finger through the blood on his cheek. She brought the shimmering red fluid to her mouth and tasted.

“Dinner,” she whispered, and laughed uncontrollably in an emotional release that would ensure her survival for another day.


  1. Oooh, so good. And this got only an honorable mention?? Tough contest.

    1. Thanks Kat. Yeah, this is challenging. And much respect for Jeff taking first when he entered.