Darkness clings to me. It’s searing, suffocating. I’m lost. My heart dives. Where am I?
I catch my thoughts. I’m lying on my back. Can I move? Yes. I lift my right arm and don’t feel any pain. I repeat the exercise with my left arm. Right leg, left leg. I think my eyes are open, but this deadening darkness won’t leave me. I set my hands next to my hips and dig them into the sand. The sand? THE SAND?! Panic. I quickly sit up, and scuffle my hands across the surface below me and conclude that I’m surrounded by sand. If only this darkness would lift. It binds every breath and is scratching at my face. I lift my hands to my head. Cotton? I grasp at my face and for the first time realize what is causing this sorrow. I’m masked. The eye holes spun around on the back of my head which kept the sunlight from my eyes. I grab the bottom of the mask which rests at the base of my chin, and slowly pry it from my skin, sliding it gradually up my face, and eventually off of my head.
I have to squint. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust, and as the scene becomes clearer a sense of loneliness overtakes me.
I feel the sand. I see the jungle. I smell the ocean. I am on an island. I’m stranded. Lost. Alone.
Survival instincts kick in and I think of shelter and fire. I begin to stand up and notice two items nestled in the sand next to where I’m sitting. A coconut and a dictionary. These items, along with my body, were strategically placed in this location. There are scattered footprints, and a muffled trail showing that someone dragged me across the beach. Someone put me here.
Overwhelmed and thirsty, I grab the coconut and repeatedly bash it against a nearby rock until it’s milk starts to seep through a crack in the husk. I drink rapidly, trying desperately to quench my thirst. I’ll need shelter, fire, water, and food, yet something tells me to open the dictionary. Why!? I’m facing a very dangerous situation. What would a dictionary do for me now? These are just words! There is no story. There is no hope here. I grab a chuck of pages out of frustration, and hopelessly flip the pages over. I stand up, kick the sand, yell, fall back down into the sand, and softly begin to cry.
I look back to the dictionary and see that I’ve landed in the S’s. I look through the words and notice that this particular page is worn. The upper left corner is bent, wrinkled. I urgently search the page for a clue. A message.
SAVIOR. A person who rescues or delivers.
I’m in the middle of an ocean, on an unknown island. There is no savior here. I weep and stray into stressful sleep.
I only sleep for a short time and as I wake, I sit up and gaze out to the horizon. What is that?! I spring to my feet and sprint toward the shore not believing what I’m seeing. A boat.
What seems like hours pass and the boat finally arrives at my island. A native, grey bearded man steps out of the boat and makes his way through the sand over to where I’m standing.
“I want you to come with me. I am here to rescue you,” he says.
“How did you fi…”
“Silence, friend,” he interrupts. “Answers will come. For now, let us go. I am here to save you.”
I nod and begin to walk with the man. He grabs my arm and places it around his shoulders and helps me to his boat. It isn’t until we’re retreating from the island, making our way through the surf that he speaks again.
“I hope the mask, and coconut served you well?”
“Yes they di…how did you know about the mask and coconut?” I ask. My confusion is evident because the wrinkled man chuckles.
“Well, I gave them to you, of course. I am your savior,” he says calmly.
“Forgive me for not being more grateful. You’re a very nice man, but I don’t know you! If I had any other option I probably wouldn’t just climb into your boat!! BUT, as you can tell, I’m a little flustered and not in my right mind!”
Again the man grins and gently laughs.
“My friend, you were washed up on shore. How you arrived there is a mystery to me as well. I am a teacher on a neighboring island, and being a creature of adventure, I enjoy kayaking around the islands while I study.”
“When I saw you washed up on shore I came to your aid. You were breathing, but I couldn’t leave you lying near the water, and my kayak is not big enough for two, so I dragged you further up the beach and left with you a few items.”
“Why did you have a mask?” I asked.
“ I often stop off on various islands on my adventures and use it to protect my face from the insects. I figured it might protect you from the sun. I hope it didn’t cause too much panic.”
“A little,” I say. “The coconut makes sense. But a dictionary?”
“As I said, I’m a teacher, and the study of words is my passion. A word that is of the utmost importance to me, which I have underlined in my dictionary, was very appropriate to use in this situation.”
I begin to understand, so I chime in and finish his story. “You bent the corner of that page! The page that contained your favorite word. SAVIOR. You wanted me to find that word and know that help was coming.”
“Yes, friend. You are correct.” He shows his biggest smile yet.
“I must admit, I saw your underlined word, yet didn’t believe. I’m still struggling with it. It doesn’t seem believable.”
“But yet it happened, friend! I am here with you. You’ve been rescued.”
We grow silent. The only sound is the ocean’s foam against the boat’s aluminum siding.
“Thank you for saving me.”
“You’re welcome, friend. Even in the darkest moments, there are signs of hope all around you. After all, you just escaped an island with a mask, coconut and dictionary, my friend.”
“Escape? No. I’ve been saved.”