by Jamie Cooper

When you wash ashore the morning after a lightning bolt split the mast of your little ship and sent your crew screaming into the drink, you wake up facedown on the sand and cough up all the seawater in your belly. You cough up other things too: tiny crabs, seaweed, an old skeleton key. You thank the island for being an island and not the sea.

But the sea is still inside you. You can feel its tides and swells with every movement. Your ears are like the openings of seashells. All you want to do is sleep, so you do. You lie back down in the sand and let the warm tide wash over you. When you wake, the bloated bodies of your shipmates have washed up beside you. Their eyes are as blue and clear as the water and the sky. When you wake again they are gone. It is dark, and you hear whispers.

You must get used to the island whispers. The whispers tell you things. They tell you things about the past and, more importantly, about the future. About your future. On the Island. And the future of the world outside the island. A future you will never see.

You must make your own future here. The whispers tell you that the island will sustain you. That everything you’ll ever need is right in front of you.

But later you start to hear new whispers. And they tell you that the other whispers are liars. You try to find where the whispers are coming from. You follow them to the top of a high cliff. When you get there, you can hear them back down below.

You follow the whispers into a cave. Inside the cave you find a man who looks very much like you, but older and bonier and with long dirty hair and a beard all the way to the ground. He walks in circles, muttering to himself. He says that he has been waiting for you for a very long time. He says he always knew you’d come. He says that together you can live on the island forever.

But you know he is a liar. So when he turns around, you pick up a large rock and bash his head in. When you leave the cave, the whispers go quiet. You sit on the shoreline for a very long time, until your lips are cracked and bleeding. You understand that the island wants to be worshiped, so you build a small temple in the sand. You rename the stars and constellations in its honor.

From above, the signal fire resembles a star that has fallen to the Earth. From above, it’s impossible to tell that there’s someone down there, waiting in all that darkness to be saved.

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