Another large wave envelops Miriko as he fights against the undulations of the sea. His arms burn with each half-hearted stroke. He tries to kick his legs to keep his head above the water line, but it’s no use. He has no strength left. He gulps a half-lung full of wet air before he is again completely submerged. The deep green of ocean surrounds him, left and right, up and down. He is surrounded by the vastness. He thinks again about the possibility of sharks; of how it would be impossible to know if they are coming for him. It is a fear that visits him over and over again whenever his mind comes back to the here and now, though he realizes he no longer cares. Let the sharks come.
How long has he been out here? Hours? Days? He can no longer remember what it is like to be dry and comfortable. Not that he ever really knew true comfort. His birth came at the tail end of the Yugoslav Wars, and the next six years were spent hungry and cold. Always so cold. Miriko’s mother did the best she could for her boy, but the Serbian economy was complete shit for decades following that war. The best she could do was to guide western tourists when they came to Serbia for their Poverty Porn. While the Germans and Brits all would come and talk big about helping the needy, getting the country back on their feet, they were markedly thrifty when it came to paying for interpreters. His mother barely cleared enough to put some steamed potatoes and charred goat meat on the table. She learned that she could make far more money as a prostitute for the tourists.
Miriko did not meet his father until he was four years old. His father was an infantry soldier in the Yugoslav wars, and had been gone since before Miriko’s mother knew she was pregnant. His father saw the worst of the Bosnian conflict, not that he would ever speak of it. The only thing Miriko remembered about his father was that he was very tall and seemed incapable of smiling. Poor little Mariko wanted to impress the stoic man who was clearly so important to his mother, but every effort only seemed to invoked his ire. He only had to catch a backhand to the jaw twice before he knew to avoid his father. Then the drinking started.
Well, looking back Miriko realized that alcohol was likely always a factor, but it became glaringly apparent a year after his father came into his life. Was it that the man’s drinking got worse? Was it because Miriko had reached an age that he noticed such things? He did not know. What he did know is that his father became a terrifying element in his life.
There were many nights that Miriko would be awakened by his father stumbling around the cottage, shouting obscenities and breaking the dishes. Miriko’s mother would plead with him, “Please Slobodan, we can’t afford new plates.” This would only send his father into a violent rage. It was impossible to discern what his father said, as his words were warped by alcohol and sheer volume, but it was only a matter of minutes before his mother was shrieking in terror, crouching in a corner of the tiny kitchen, trying to block his father’s attack.
Miriko wanted to help his mother. He wanted to pull the terrible man off of her and make him leave the house. But he did not know how he could do that. All he could do was crouch under the table and hope his father didn’t notice him. Several times his mother caught the eye of her son as she lie on the kitchen floor in the fetal position, undulating with the kicks she received from her husband. Her eyes had a pleading quality, as though she needed Miriko to intervene on her behalf, but what could Miriko do? His father was a hulk of a man, and the boy was tiny even for his age. What did she expect of him? He only stared back at her, crouched onto his hams and gripping his ears with his little hands. The tension in the room filled his eyes, ears, nose, and lungs like water.
The wave that had washed over Miriko ebbs and he once again feels the cool air on his face. He gasps and chokes and sputters as he draws in another long, desperate breath. His heart races, the muscles in his stomach burn. He tries to stretch himself up, out of the water in order to hold his face against the air as long as possible. The waves seem to be coming more often and with more force than Miriko remembers. Perhaps he’s only imagining it, because he is so exhausted. That must be the reason.
He opens his eyes. The air stings like lemon juice. Miriko clenches and releases his eyelids ten, twenty times until the tear ducts finally engage and wash away the offending burn. Before him the sea spans on forever. There is nothing but gray-blue sky, dark green-blue ocean, and Miriko. He thinks he may see a bit of smoke lingering in the air where the ship once floated atop the water, but it may also just be a low-lying, rogue cloud. His eyes shift back to the sea just as another large wave slams into him.
He can no longer fight it. His legs feel like empty jeans ebbing and flowing with the shifting currents. Every joint screams for relief. He is exhausted, and he can feel his will to fight dissolving in the briny ocean waters. He stills his aching limbs. He sinks deeper beneath the water as he again remembers his mother.
What would she do without her Mišiću (little mouse)? He was the only one who would make sure she ate, make sure she had warm clothes in the winter. Miriko couldn’t depend on anyone else to make sure she was cared for, not even her own sister. When Miriko and his mother moved in with his Tetka, she made sure they never forgot that they were intruding on her life and were most unwelcome guests. And yet, every time Miriko and his mother made steps to leave his Tetka’s home, she would complain that they didn’t appreciate her hospitality, and only knew how to take, take, take! Miriko’s Tetka had been born bitter as sour grass, and only grew more concentrated as the years boiled her down. Miriko was so happy when his mother told him in secret that she had arranged to move to Belgrade. His mother had been working as an interpreter for years, and supplemented her income by turning the occasional trick, and she finally saved up enough to start a new life, a free life, a life where every opportunity would be open to them. Miriko could hardly hold his excitement or his tongue when his Tetka lambasted him for any number of small discrepancies.
But now what could he do? Once again he disappoints his mother. He cannot help her, he only causes her pain. Now she is left alone with that awful sister hers constantly reminding her that she is nothing but a burden. But what can he do? He is floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean without any help in sight. And he’s so tired. So tired.
Miriko realizes he is still holding his breath, for how long he does not know. He decides it is time to get it over with and end the pain of this ridiculous existence once and for all. "Take a breath" he tells himself, but his lungs will not comply. “Go on, let it out” he thinks. He opens his mouth to exercise himself of the demon of life, but only tiny bubbles of air that were trapped in his teeth manage to free-float from his mouth, in front of his eyes, and up, up, up to the surface of the water. "Come on! Just one lungful and it's all over." He chastises himself. Still, his body refuses to give in. His lungs are now burning, and his gut is tight with need. His body wants to breathe, it wants to release this lungful of waste. He is so close; he only needs to take one big inhalation of water–
His feet brush against something solid, a feeling that is foreign to him. His shins touch the object, as do his thighs and hip. The sensation startles him, as he had almost forgotten that he used to walk instead of float, and the world was most certainly solid rather than liquid. Miriko opens his eyes. He is hovering just above the sandy ocean floor. He looks skyward. The surface of the water is a mere two meters above his head. That's strange, he thinks, he is certain the ocean is much deeper than that. He looks in the direction that the waves are pushing him. The ocean floor, littered with kelp plants and round stones the size of Miriko’s head, gradually slopes toward the water's surface as it fades into the green haze.
Miriko uses what is left of his depleting strength and jettisons off the sea floor. His face breaks the water's surface, and he rejoices at the cool breeze on wet skin mixed with the warm rays of the sun. He gasps and gulps in lungsful of air. The cry of gulls and the sound of breaking waves hit his ears. He realizes he had been hearing these sounds for some time, only he was too exhausted to realize it.
The water around him once again swells with a tidal surge, lifting him up and propelling him sideways through the water. He's too tired to fight it, so he relaxes his body and lets nature do with him as it wants. The wave crests and folds over on itself. Miriko finds himself rapidly descending toward the water's surface. He takes a deep breath just before he crashes under. The wave presses him into the sea floor with such force that Miriko isn’t sure he will be able to hold his breath against the pressure of it. But before he can give up, the pressure lifts and Miriko is free.
Miriko stands. His head breaks the water’s surface if he stands on his toes. He sways with the movement of the water around him. He tries to focus his eyes in the direction of the waves, but his vision is burred with exhaustion and the burn of briny water. He thinks he can see trees, but isn’t sure. The gulls are screeching at one another and he can smell seaweed.
Another wave pours over his head, propelling him forward, tumbling and tossing, and depositing him, once again, on the ocean floor. The pressure ebbs away. He stands. The water line is at his armpits. His chest fills with emotion, but he can’t tell if he wants to laugh or cry. Both, he thinks. Miriko stumbles forward. His legs are shaking under his increasing weight. He doesn’t think he will be able to hold himself up. Another wave slaps him in the back, knocking and rolling him along the sandy bottom, scraping him against the occasional stone. The wave recedes.
Miriko lifts himself onto his knees. Even in this position the water only reaches his navel. He crawls away from the unrelenting ocean. A small but strong wave shoves into his ass and pushes him onto his belly like a high school bully. His face scrapes along the sandy bottom. He again lifts himself onto all fours, spits out the mouthful of grit, and continues to crawl away from the water.
The crashing of the waves sound like cannon shots in an echoing basilica. The cacophony overtakes everything else: the wind, the cry of gulls, and the heartbeat in Miriko’s ears. Miniscule waves wash up the beach bringing white, foamy water that surrounds Miriko’s hands, and removes sand from underneath him as they recede. His entire body burns like fire as he convinces himself, one inch at a time, to keep moving forward.
Finally, Miriko’s fingers touch loose, dry sand; warm and gritty and sticking to his sodden skin. Every muscled in his body quivers with the effort of holding his own weight. His stomach churns with want. He has nothing left. Miriko collapses onto his belly. Sunlight wraps around him like a warm comforter, but he cannot stop shivering. His eyes flutter and his vision goes dark. Miriko doesn't try to fight it.
Ugh! Gritty sand on moist feet has got to be the worst feeling in the world. Especially when said sand is trapped inside worn, tight, mostly wet deck shoes that, quite frankly, Elena never wanted in the first damned place. Her father wanted her to have these shoes because they “look smart” and not at all “slutty” like those three-inch heels she was trying to buy.
“But it’s my money!” Elena would whine.
“Oh, then why don’t you take your vast fortune and pay for your own college education?” her father retorted.
He was always doing that, holding it over her head that he pays for her tuition. Whenever she wanted to take an interesting class, or join an interesting club, or spend her spring break anywhere but under her father’s watchful eye, he would shove it in her face that he could take away her college education in a snap. It was so unfair. He never pulled this shit with Erik.
Her brother was the favored child, the eldest son… the only son. And the fact that he was born with a penis apparently elevated his status high enough to allow him a lot of independence from parental persecution. But Elena… ha! She had to be home by sundown, regardless of circumstance. She had to filter all of her friends and their parents through her father’s scrutiny before he would agree to let her spend any non-school hours with them. She needed to log her every movement with her father, even after she left home to attend college.
That was the way it was with all Chinese parents, or so Elena heard. Elena really didn’t know any other Chinese kids. Her school was pretty much all white, save for the occasional Hispanic here and there and, of course, Erik and Elena. But once she went to college she found there was a rainbow of diversity at her school. Still, she mostly hung out with the white girls. If it ain’t broke why fix it, right?
Elena turns at the bend in the shoreline. A large collection of flotsam is floating in a shallow tidal pool. It looks to be mostly bits of wood and fabric, probably from the interior of the ship. She approaches the debris pile but then it occurs to her that there might be a body floating amongst the debris. With a shiver and considers skipping this particular collection of wreckage, but then she remembers this is her job. She has actual responsibilities now, not just chores that her parents assign to her, but real duties to aid in the survival of herself and the others.
When the ship first sank, she ducked tried to use the ship as shield from the hail of bullets pelting the water and people around her. But the ship was sinking fast, and it was dangerous to stay to close to the vessel. When Elena heard a break in the wave of shooting, she took the deepest breath she could, dove under the water, and swam as fast and as far as she could away from the ship. When her lungs burned with the need for oxygen, she surfaced only long enough to take a breath. Well, to take a breath and to catch an eyeful of the sea of floating bodies. They were everywhere, and the water around her was ruddy with blood. She nearly retched while under water and drowned herself, but she managed to hold it in until she could get further away.
Eventually, the plane was gone and Elena swam far enough from the ship that she stopped running into corpses. She was totally alone in the vast ocean. She found a large piece of floating debris, perhaps a wooden door, or a dining room table, she wasn’t sure. She attempted to climb atop of the piece, but could only manage to get most of her torso on the plank before it threatened to overturn, so she decided that was good enough. She floated like that for about an hour before she heard her name being called. At first she thought it might be an aural hallucination, but then she realized it was her brother’s voice. Erik pulled Elena from the water, into a small dingy he had found after the plane retreated. He had been searching for survivors since. He only found Elena.
Erik likes to hone his survivalist skills in his free time because, well because he’s a weirdo. Who knew that any of that shit would actually come in handy? Anyway, he knew how to read the waves of the ocean, or the behavior of the birds or something to know when land was near, so he was sure they were probably close to something. And he was right, of course.
When they first landed on the island, it looked like they were the only occupants. It was a tiny piece of land, perhaps ten kilometers in diameter at most. It was thick with trees and large-leafed plants that ran all the way up the steep incline to around 20 meters at the apex. Elena could see that fruit grew abundantly on the trees, so that was good. At least they won’t starve. Erik told her they have to be careful what they ate, as tropical plants can be toxic.
A tall black man who was probably her dad’s age, but a whole lot cuter walked down the beach and greeted them. He introduced himself as Bradford Haines, the navigation officer of the Holliday cruise. Bradford informed them that he was one of four other survivors on the island. Elena and Erik made the total number six. He expected a lot more people to start drifting ashore. Some may be injured, so they should be ready for that contingency. However, three days has now passed and nobody else showed up. Bradford announced this morning that they may come across the occasional corpse. Elena nearly lost her lunch at that. But so far, she’s been lucky.
Elena sifts through the floating debris pile. Most of it seems to be broken pieces of ship or the lifeboats. It’s hard to say where it all came from originally, but it was all pretty much water-logged pieces of wood. Elena does find a few pieces of luggage in here, let’s see if there’s anything useful.
There isn’t much in the large, blue suitcase. There were some broken tchotchkies, a lot of sand. Elena does find a lovely brush and comb set, along with clutch full of hair ties. In the smaller, red bag she finds a plethora of cosmetics, including three mirrors of various sizes. The cosmetics themselves are water logged and ruined, but the mirrors will likely prove useful. She turns the case to dump the cosmetics into the pool, and places the mirrors and the hair set inside.
Under a large piece of wood, Elena catches sight of a shoe. She can only see the tip of the very spiked heel, but it definitely looks like it is one of a pair of shoes that would cause her father’s head to explode. She lifts the wood to find a long, black cocktail shoe, a Jimmy Choo! The mate isn’t here, not that she can find. Elena sits down into the sand and removes her deck shoe. She wipes away the excess sand and straps the prized shoe onto her foot. It fits… sorta… and it is gorgeous. Elena tries to stand, but the spike heel sinks into the sand and she topples onto her butt. Seeing the futility of it, she extends her foot out in front of her to admire her find.
She wonders what kind of woman owned this shoe. Probably a tall, gorgeous blond with large breasts and dramatic hip-to-waist ratio. She probably spoke three languages and with a husky voice slathered in a European accent. Elena imagines the woman had many paramours, but she reserved her favors only for those special chaps with a more than a few years in their rear-view, and more than a few million in their accounts. The woman was most likely a socialite, strong and desirable and… dead.
Elena had read in her pathology textbook that a body submerged in water would often slough their hands and feet. Did this shoe come directly from a waterlogged corpse resting in some coral reef? Ugh! Gross! Elena scrapes skin from her heel in her scramble to remove the shoe from her foot.
Elena shifts her focus to the vast expanse of the sea. There is no sign of the wreck now, besides the shit that keeps floating ashore. The smoke dissipated after the first night and whatever was left of the ship is likely resting at the bottom of the ocean. How deep is the ocean here, anyway? Elena once read that most modern-day shipwrecks happen because a ship runs aground of some unknown reef or atoll. But this one is different, one for the record books. It had nothing to do with nature or navigation error. This was on purpose.
Elena grabs the red cosmetic bag and continues down the beach. The sky is deep blue and clear and spans for an eternity across the ocean. Specks of sunlight glitters across the water’s surface. Gulls cry continuously to the beat of incoming waves. Elena once read that gulls had several distinctive cries to communicate to one another when they find food. She wonders what they were communicating now. What are they saying to one another? “Tasty treat! Right here!” she thinks.
“I found a school of fish!”
“I found a bunch of sea slugs!
“I found the bloated corpse of a socialite! Get it while it’s fresh!”
Elena rips her gaze from the birds and increases her pace down the beach.
She rounds another bend in the shoreline to the side of the island where the sun shines brightest. Elena has to shield her eyes from the glare of the sun so she can scan the shore for usable items. She has already amassed quite the haul. She found some sealed cooking pots, some umbrellas that lined the decks of the ship, and she found a huge pile of clothing for women and for men. This ought to keep the survivors in clothing for the foreseeable future. Elena tries not to think about the fact that the original owners of the clothes are now being picked to pieces by some ocean scavengers. She supposes the scavengers would go for the easy parts first. Like the eyes. Yes, she is sure they ate the eyes first.
Elena retches, but there was nothing to vomit. It feels like her entire chest is trying to invert itself, but still, nothing comes. She just spits onto the sand and continues her scan of the shore. There is something on the beach, a large pile of something. It is really high up on the sand, far away from the water, which is weird. Elena didn’t think the tide went that high. But she often finds flotsam higher up on the beach that she would have figured, due to the ebb and flow of tides and whatnot. She slows her pace and approaches the pile. It is weirdly shaped. The other day she found a bunch of wood and sand and stuff all wrapped up in a silk tarp. Bradford said it was probably a parachute left over from the pilot of the plane ejecting as it crashed into the ocean.
Wait… that looks like a person. She stops. Oh god, it’s a body! It’s a body and she is sure she will find it bloated and twisted with the eyes pecked out by the gulls. Oh god, oh god! Elena retches again, and starts to retreat. Bradford should handle this. He’s the professional.
One of the arms on the body shifts away from its side about ten centimeters, as if it were trying to find a more comfortable position. Wait…the wind isn’t strong enough to move a body around, right? She figures, even if it is, a body filled with water would be nearly impossible to move. Perhaps this one is alive? Elena approaches the body an inch at a time. It occurs to her that the body may have moved because the cavity is filled to capacity with fiddler crabs and whatnot, all scooping out what is left of the insides. Her stomach flips. She looks back at the way she came. Perhaps Bradford should be here, just in case.
The body then lets out a soft snort and fart. Wait… bodies do fart, she read about that in her pathology class, but do they snore? Elena is pretty sure that a body would have to be breathing in order to snore, which meant it isn’t a body at all, but a survivor! She hurries (with some reluctance) toward the body and leaned over to peer at its face.
It isn’t at all bloated or deformed in any way. It’s a man, probably alive, and rather burned from the sun. Elena squats onto her hams and gingerly pokes him. “Hey.” She nearly whispers. She pokes again, “Hey, mister.”
The man moans softly, but does not stir.
Elena puts her hand on the back of his shoulder and shakes him vigorously. “Hey, mister!” she says.
The man gasps, snorting in a nose full of loose sand, and then begins to cough and retch. Elena stands up and backs away. What if this is one of the bad men? She thinks to herself. It was a stupid thought, she realized. The bad men flew away. The man on the beach continues to choke and sputter until he expels what looks to be about ten gallons of water! He rolls over onto his back and barely opens his eyes.
Elena can’t tell if the man is looking at her or past her. His body relaxes, and he closes his eyes. “Mister! Wake up!” Elena shoves at him with her foot.
The man gasps and tries to sit upright, but only manages to put himself into an unsupported, reclined position. “Tetka, don’t do that, Mama is sick.”
“What?” Elena says. The man again started to slip back into unconsciousness. “No, mister! We have to get you off this beach. You look like a lobster.” She leans down and pulls at the man’s shoulders.
“No, Mama, lobsters are too expensive. Get the Hake; I will make you Pržen oslić.” The man is slurring his words, but Elena can still detect an accent.
“Sounds delicious, mister, but we gotta get you out of the sun. Come on, can you stand?”
The man fully opens his eyes and stares at Elena with the furrowed brow of confusion. Cerulean blue eyes pierce the air in between them; the dazzling effect is emphasized by the bright red of his skin. White sand clings to his cheek where he had been laying on the beach. His thin jaw and dimpled chin is gray with impending beard. His coal-black hair juts out from his head in every direction, like the physical manifestation of a scream.
“You are not my mother.” He says coldly.
“No.” Elena replies. She feels a bit apprehensive. What if this man is delusional, and dangerous?
“I do not know you.” Says the man.
“No.” says Elena.
His eyes shift to the surrounding landscape, but it seems he has more questions than answers, judging by the look on his face. “Where am I?” he asks quietly.
A burst of laughter rushes past Elena’s throat before she can suppress it. The man shifts his glare to her, and it frightens her. “I- I don’t really know, mister. Some island? In the Pacific?”
“Where is Aleksa?”
“Uh… I don’t know who that is. Listen, mister, we gotta get you into some shade. Can you walk?”
He looks around again, sighs, and says, “Only one way to know.” With Elena’s help, he slowly lifts himself to his feet. He sways and trembles under his own weight, so that Elena holds him around the ribs.
“Ugh!” he grunts, “This is hard.”
“It’s okay, mister, I will help you.”
“Mister, mister, mister. Why you call me this?”
Elena grunts with the efforts of walking for two, “Well, I don’t know your name.”
“I am Miriko. Aleksa knows me.”
“Uh-huh.” Elena grunts. Her breathing has become deep with the effort of holding up the man named Miriko.
“Okay, okay.” Miriko says, “I can do.” He pushes Elena’s hands from his body and stumbles forward like a toddler.
Elena walks next to him, ready to catch him if he should fall. “So… Miriko? Did you see the attack?”
Miriko stops and looks at her, “Attack?”
“Yeah, you know, on the cruise ship? Did you see what happened? I didn’t see, really. I was in my cabin when it started. But I heard it. I don’t see how anyone couldn’t have heard it, all the booming and creaking and screaming. It was nuts.”
“I did not see.” Miriko again stumbles down the beach.
“Yeah,” says Elena, “It all happened so fast. Bradford says we were attacked by planes. I looked out my window when it all started and I did see one of the planes. It was smoking and sputtering and it crashed into the water.”
“A plane?” Miriko repeats.
“Yeah, crazy right? Bradford says the pilot ejected before it crashed into the water. He landed in the water with the rest of us.” Elena shrugs, “He’s probably dead now too. Most everybody else is.”
Miriko stumbles and lands on one knee in the sand. Elena instinctively reaches out and grabs his forearm to steady him. Miriko steadies himself and regains his footing, “Is okay.” He says. He walks again, more slowly than before. “Who is this Bradford?” he asks.
“He’s one of the cruise ship guys.” She says. She again grabs Miriko by the forearm when he loses his balance. “Are you okay miste- uh- Miriko? Maybe I should go get Bradford.”
“No, is okay, I am just tired. Perhaps we can rest a bit.”
“Sure, if you need to. But camp is just around that bend, and we have a little food there.”
Miriko perks up at the mention of food, “Camp?” he asks.
“Yeah, that’s where the others are gathered.”
“Others? How many others?” Miriko asks.
“Not many.” Elena takes him by the forearm and guides him down the beach.
Miriko and Elena pass the pile of flotsam that Elena had earlier picked through to find the mirrors. She notices him staring at the mass of debris and says, “That’s just what’s left of the ship.” Miriko’s steps become increasingly unsteady as they progress, but he insists on pressing on. He needs food, he tells her, and then he will be much better. They turn the bend and are greeted by Elena’s brother, Erik.
“There you are!” Erik says, “I was worried you’d gotten hurt. Who’s this? Another survivor?”
“This is Miriko.” Elena says. “I found him on the sunny side.”
“Great, another mouth to feed.” Erik mumbles to himself.
“Erik! Don’t talk like that!” Elena chastises.
“No, you’re right. Sorry Elena. Sorry Miriko.” Erik hunches to look into Miriko’s downcast eyes.
Miriko’s collapses onto his knees, and he is panting. “Please let us rest, Aleksa. I am too tired.”
“Aleksa?” Erik repeats to Elena.
Elena shrugs, “He’s kinda out of it.”
Erik helps lift Miriko to his feet. He and Elena take him to a clearing among the tall palm trees and lay him down on a mat made from palm fronds.
“Is nice here.” Says Miriko as he falls unconscious once again.
Miriko is still asleep when Bradford returns from scouting up the mountain. Elena fills him in on the details of finding the “Russian guy” on the sunny side of the island. That was Elena’s name for that particular spot, which Bradford never missed a chance to inform her that it was a misnomer. It was sunny for the majority of the day, sure, but eventually the sun passed the apex of the big mountain that comprised the bulk of the island’s mass, and then it was the shady side for a couple of hours until sunset. Elena always just shrugged it off. We have to call it something, she says.
Though Bradford is nearly the age of Elena’s father, it was the only similarity they held. Bradford is a tall black man. He stands at an easy 6’2”, and is rather well-built. Clearly he works out. He is clean shaven, at least for now, and keeps his hair sheared tight against the scalp. He is an able communicator. His knowledge and experience, in addition to his being the eldest among the survivors, makes him the most natural person to step into the leadership role. He knows what needs to be done to ensure survival on the island until help arrives.
Elena’s brother, Erik, is naturally the second in command. Erik followed the stereotypical path for a Chinese-American boy. He worked hard, earned spectacular marks throughout is school career, and became a civil engineer with URS Corporation, the biggest engineering firm in the States. Of course, Elena also earned top marks in school, but it wasn’t as important for her, her father told her. She just needed to find a good, Chinese boy to marry. And Chinese boys like smart girls, so that’s why he was willing to pay for Elena’s tuition. Bah!
“What’s his story?” asks Bradford.
Elena looks up and realizes he’s looking at her, waiting for a response. “Huh?”
“The man you found? What’s his story?”
“Oh. I don’t know.” She sees Bradford’s face drop into stern disappointment. He told all the survivors the importance of gathering information whenever they meet another survivor. “I mean-“she corrected, “I asked, but he’s really out of it. I think he may have sun stroke, or something. He keeps calling me Aleksa and telling his mother he’ll cook her some fish.”
Bradford nodded and turned to Erik. “Let’s gather some water and some fruit for him in case he wakes up. I’m going to take a quick look over the ledge, see what’s on the other side.” Bradford points in the opposite direction from where Elena just returned. On that side of the beach lays a large ledge of sharp, black rocks. The other survivors didn’t want to risk climbing it (well, except for Trace, but little boys are like that).
“Be careful.” Elena pleas, “We can’t risk you hurting yourself.”