By C.J. Marles
I could see Adam’s eyes fluttering as his head rested on the edge of the raft. The sun was forcing him awake, but I knew fatigue would pull him back to sleep. It was a feeling I had become increasingly familiar with. At last count we had been out here seven days. That may have been a few days ago. Maybe it was yesterday. The sun was draining on me, too, and keeping track had become exhausting. Continuing to mark the days had begun to feel like a countdown to death rather than an accomplishment of our survival.
The tarp we had laid out across the center of our raft still held a bit of dew from the morning. Carefully, I tipped the corner to meet my lips and drank what was left. My eyes remained focused on Adam, hoping that he wouldn’t notice. As the warm water hit my lips, I was torn between satisfaction and frustration. It wasn’t enough to sate my thirst. My stomach cramped with the reminder of what I really needed. A rogue wave rolled underneath the raft, ripping the tarp away from my lips. There were small chunks of my sunburnt skin stuck to the corner. They crumbled into flakes as I pulled them off. Crispy, golden flakes. Not as tasty as they appeared, but it would have to do with all of our rations gone.
Adam rolled toward me and opened his eyes, too tired to reach up and remove the salty crust that had formed around his lashes. “Lip’s bleeding.”
As he fell back to sleep, I had to wonder if there was a hint of desire in his remark. It made me worry. I had to toss Maynard off the raft a few days ago. I think it was a few days ago. Maynard was the first of us to give up the fight. Adam wanted to eat him. Now that we were here, lost at sea for god knows how long, I wondered if that was the right decision. Maybe if we had eaten Maynard there would have been more hope for Adam and myself.
My tongue ran over the spot where my lip had ripped, picking up the coppery remnants of dried blood. I laid back, hoping not to wake up with Adam looking over me like I was a cartoon ham. As my head settled on the edge of the raft, I could see a ship approaching over the horizon. Signaling would have been a waste of energy. The ocean had played these tricks on us before, showing off ships that weren’t really there. I closed my eyes and surrendered to the fatigue, damning my mind for the tease of rescue. The ship’s horn bellowed out to us. She was a tricky ocean, sending me off with such a realistic mirage.