a short and thoroughly absurd venture.
|Nights were always the coldest on the island. It had been six, no, seven days since I washed ashore alone with nothing but a trashbag full of party supplies. The Island itself was nice enough. Some homey touches here and there, rocks piled in a charming way that reminded me of a couch, or a strange and friendly abstract weaving of palm fronds tangled here and there on the beach, but no signs of life.
I shivered and tried to light another trick candle, which fluttered and sputtered with the wind, but eventually caught enough flame to light the rest of the tinder. Good enough, as long as I don't freeze to death or die in an explosion.
Why couldn't I have been on my way to a survivalist camp or something? I rued the fateful choice to take a cut-rate island hopper to the beach party, but there was no use crying over more spilt cake. There was nothing left to tie me to that life now. I'd polished off most of the surviving dry goods, and though I was certain that the shore was close, I had no way of gauging just how close.
On waking the next morning, I surveyed the beach to see if any more wreckage from the boat had drifted to shore, and I came upon a small helium tank, slightly dented but completely water-sealed.
I tapped on it, perhaps to test its explosive properties, and when it didn't immediately explode I sighed with relief. Maybe this would be my way out. I grabbed my bag of party paraphernalia and dug out the sack of balloons and a roll of ribbon. Then I began inflating and tying off my escape raft.
Knowing the fickle nature of helium, I had to make my build quickly and take off-- a latex balloon was only going to retain enough helium for me to get away for a limited period of time. If I was going it would have to be soon. I began inflating and tying together great swaths of balloons into groups of twenty, then bundled those groups together, a hundred for each arm. I set up a few extras, and then tested it: the balloons would let me skim along quite a ways before I would, hopefully, hit land. At this point, I was willing to sacrifice the land currently underneath me to try to find more. I put the rusty pair of scissors into my ripped pants pocket after I liberated both bunches of balloons from their moorings and took off, slowly and somewhat hesitant, having a veritable Mary Poppins moment, but lacking the umbrella. I simply had a raft, a nest, of balloons to surround me.
The ocean below me looked positively tranquil and beautiful, but I shuddered when I realized its wrath would have kept me from home forever. I looked ahead and, provided wind conditions did not change, I would be in familiar territory before too long.
The beaches at Sandy Bay were just a little way down, to the north and west. If I kept drifting, I'd land smack dab there in, oh, say an hour or so. As I got closer to shore, though, trouble struck. A seagull, all beady eyes and curiosity, began attacking my silver and pink balloons. Finally, it popped a few with its beak and claws, and with a wild shriek it flew off, the rest of my balloon dinghy juddering but surviving the change in altitude. I'd need a way to get down anyway, but I had the scissors for that.
All other things seemed aligned, and soon I was floating close enough to the beach that I began cutting my balloons down. By the time I was low enough to jump safely, I had cut away about half of the balloons, selectively, for balance. I tucked-and-rolled, and let go of the rest of my balloon raft, which sailed away on the air like a strange rubber bird of my personal freedom. I watched it sail away, then began trudging my way home in my shipwrecked clothes.